He saw her at last—she was up on the grassy dune above the harbor, a pale shape cut out of the darkness.
How long had it been since X had seen her? He had no way of knowing. He’d been in his cell in the Lowlands, deep in the earth, where there was no clock, no sun, no future, only the dead and damned.
She hadn’t noticed him yet. She was searching for him, her eyes everywhere. He stood on the dock below her. It creaked and floated up and down, like the water beneath it was breathing.
“Here!” he called.
She turned toward him. She beamed.
“I know that face,” she said.
X spread his fingers, and a soft corridor of light appeared—a trail for her to follow to the water. She started down the hill too quickly. She stumbled, fell on her knees, pushed herself up without bothering to brush off the sand.
“Hi, I’m Zoe and I’m a runway model,” she said.
He smiled. He hadn’t in a long time.
“I love your voice,” he said, “even if your meaning eludes me on occasion.”
“My meaning eludes everybody on occasion,” she said.
He tried not to rush at her when she reached the dock. He was afraid he’d alarm her. She ran at him anyway. She kissed his cheeks, his chin, his forehead. He did the same to her, and they laughed at how frantic they were: they couldn’t find each other’s lips.
“How much time have we got?” she said.
“A few hours, at most,” he said. “Then I must return to the Lowlands with the soul they sent me to capture.”
Zoe slid her hands under his shirt. Something like silver spread through his chest.
“We need a boat,” she said. “I’m having a sudden urge to lie in a boat with you.”
“I would lie in a boat with you until the sun dried up all the sea,” he said. “When I was young—”
She breathed into his neck.
“Less talking and more boat-getting,” she said.
X scanned the harbor. There was a cluster of fishing boats. Otherwise the water lay empty. He peered at the end of the dock, where it seemed to narrow to a point in the dark, and saw an orange rowboat tied to an iron cleat.
Zoe stepped into it first, spreading her arms for balance as it rolled beneath her. A seat—a wide wooden plank—bisected the boat.
“We can’t lie down in here,” she said. “There’s not enough room.”
X shattered the plank with his fist, then tossed the scraps onto the dock.
“That’ll work,” said Zoe.
X laid his coat on the floorboards, and went to untie the boat. The knot was complicated, so he just yanked the cleat off the dock. Again, the sound of splintering wood ricocheted through the harbor.
“Man, they are never gonna give you a job here,” said Zoe. She frowned. “I’ve got to stop with the jokes. I just can’t believe you’re here—and by the time I do believe it, you’ll be gone.”
Whoever owned the boat had taken the oars. X crouched next to Zoe, and pushed the craft away from the dock with a superhuman shove. They flew backward so fast that the boat nearly left the water. Waves rose on either side, and spilled in around their feet.
X had a plan he longed to tell Zoe about, but he was impatient to feel her hands again.
“I beseech you,” he said, “do not darken the moments we can be together by dwelling on the moments we cannot.”
Zoe pulled him down by the front of his shirt.
“I like it when you beseech me,” she said. “Beseech me some more.”