“So. You don’t remember any of us? For real?”
Gansey gave the other boy—Noah, his mind supplied, helpful for the first time that day—a long look. Noah was taller than Gansey, but had a much smaller presence, making him seem like he was even smaller than the girl trailing around with them. It didn’t help that Noah was currently curled up on his side on Gansey’s hastily made bed, looking up at him. He seemed altogether too comfortable in that position, and Gansey did not want to ask why.
Gansey himself sat cross-legged on the bed, his journal—full to bursting with information written in his hand, but all new to him—laid open in his lap. His head was splitting, as it had been since he’d woken up on a threadbare floral couch to see an autographed photo of Steve Martin leering at him. In the grand scheme of the evening’s events, that wasn’t very strange, but it was the thing that stuck out in his memory.
“No,” Gansey said, realizing that he’d never answered the other boy. Noah hummed, a noise that seemed more non-committal from him than it would from other people. “The last thing I remember is coming home from Europe. When I was fifteen,” he added, because he could have been to Europe a number of times in the past two years.
“Wow,” Noah said. “Even I didn’t see that coming.” There was a hint of dry irony to his tone. Perhaps he was psychic, like the women at the Steven Martin house. Noah reached out and tugged Gansey’s hand away from his ear, threading their fingers together. “We’ll figure it out,” he said. “We always do.”
The word we stuck in Gansey’s chest, painful and sharp in how much it suggested a belonging that Gansey could no longer remember. Noah brought their joined hands almost to his lips, and stopped, squeezing Gansey’s fingers and letting them go instead.
“What happened, Noah?” Gansey asked. It wasn’t the first time he’d asked this, but the psychic’s house had been overwhelming with the number of unfamiliar voices shouting over each other.
“You saved us,” Noah said.
When Noah said it, it seemed undeniable.
When Gansey thought about it later that night, listening to the light snores from Noah’s room and the thrum of bass from Ronan’s, he wasn’t so sure.
Henrietta was dear to Gansey. That much had been clear as soon as Gansey had walked through the door of Monmouth Manufacturing to find a knee-high model of the city made out of cardboard boxes dominating the open space.
The detail was so attentive and exact that Gansey knew without asking that it was a map of the town, and that he had created it. It had to be a replica because Gansey did not create—he found things, he copied them, and he kept them close for further study and obsession.
Creation took more fire than Gansey possessed. Creation took someone like Ronan Lynch, who Gansey had already come to realize was a wild, barely tamed thing. He was a sharp contrast to Adam’s quiet reason or Noah’s gentle smile—though not such a contrast to Blue’s fiery temper, which he’d only encountered once, so far.
After he had successfully learned how to navigate his phone, he’d scrolled through the pictures from the last two years. The closer he got to the time he remembered, the more photos there were of Ronan. Most were of Ronan as he was now—a shaved head, dangerous tattoos, black tank tops, and wicked scars to match his wicked smile. But farther back—after Adam and Blue began to disappear from the photos—Ronan was younger, brighter, with a head full of curly black hair and a fearless grin. The Ronan of now, even with his narrowed eyes, seemed lighter than the Ronan of a few months ago, but Gansey was still wary of knowing the cause of such a drastic change.
Now, Ronan slammed into the common room of Monmouth and tossed a set of keys at Gansey’s face. Gansey caught them deftly from where he sat cross-legged on Main Street, raising an eyebrow. “You remember how to drive.” It should have been a question, and Ronan’s face seemed to expect confirmation, but it wasn’t said as such.
“I can drive,” Gansey said. Sullenness snuck into the edge of his tone. It was akin to being asked if he remembered how to ride a bicycle, or if he still knew what the internet was. He was fairly certain that wasn’t how amnesia worked.
“Stick?” Ronan narrowed his eyes.
“Yes, I remember how to drive stick!”
Ronan shrugged on his jacket, apparently satisfied. “Good. I don’t need three of you fuckers stalling my car.”
“Where are we going?” Gansey still hadn’t managed to exhaust the resources at Monmouth. He’d started to shuffle through the notes at his desk, and while they were very informative about the progress he’d made on finding Glendower, they were decidedly less helpful about his new friends.
Ronan nudged at one of the buildings in the cardboard suburb, enough to make it wobble but not fall over. “To Nino’s,” he said.
This answer did not clarify much, and Gansey was sure that Ronan knew it.
“Y’all have got to stop dragging me here on my days off.” Blue’s nose and cheeks were bright red from the cold, despite the bulky, uneven scarf that she’d wrapped herself in.
Noah slid into the booth next to Ronan and immediately curled into Ronan’s side, flushed face pressing into his shoulder. “It’s so cold,” he said. Gansey couldn’t tell if his tone held more awe or annoyance. It was as if Noah had forgotten it was January—his t-shirt was nothing against the brisk chill outside.
Ronan shot a glare at Blue and Adam. He wrapped an arm around Noah’s shoulders, his expression daring any of the other inhabitants of Nino’s—largely comprised of boys in navy, raven-breasted sweaters and the annoyed waitstaff—to question the motion.
Adam rolled his eyes, seemingly unruffled by the loaded look Ronan had given him. “He left it at the store. He can go back and get it tomorrow.” His jacket was also thinner than the weather required—barely more than a hoodie—and Gansey stifled the offer to buy them both new jackets. Whether that was muscle memory or newly developed common sense, he couldn’t be sure.
Blue nudged at Gansey, the heel of her hand to his shoulder, until he scooted sideways in the booth, leaving her and Adam room to sit down. They brought with them the smells of wild flowers and gasoline, a combination that evoked such a sense of happiness that Gansey had to close his eyes for a moment to settle himself.
When he opened his eyes, the others were focused on the waitress—the tall, pretty girl who had welcomed Gansey and Ronan earlier—and Noah had, for the most part, disentangled himself from Ronan. Once the waitress had been dispatched with their order, four faces turned to Gansey, and it took every ounce of good will in him not to grimace.
“Down to business, then,” he said, going for genuine but landing closer to wry. Blue gave his wrist a light squeeze, her hand tiny on his. He looked down at her, ignoring the warmth in his face. “Do you really work here, Blue?”
“We can’t all live off of our trust funds,” Blue said. It sounded like a tired response. Gansey wondered how many times they’d had this sort of conversation. The empty two years in his head had never felt like more of a void.