Book Lovers by Emily Henry



            “Oh, Nora.” Libby squeezes me to her as we come to a crosswalk, and I bask in the closeness. No matter how hectic life and work sometimes get, it’s always felt like there were some internal metronomes keeping us in sync. I’d pick up my phone to call her, and it would already be ringing, or she’d text me about grabbing lunch and we’d realize we were already in the same part of the city. The last few months, though, we’ve been ships passing in the night. Actually, more like a submarine and a paddleboat in entirely separate lakes.

            I miss her calls while I’m in meetings, and she’s already asleep by the time I call back. She finally invites me to dinner on a night I’ve promised to take a client out. Worse than that is the faint, uncanny off feeling when we’re actually together. Like she’s only halfway here. Like those metronomes have fallen into different rhythms, and even when we’re right next to each other, they never manage to match up.

            At first I’d chalked it up to stress about the new baby, but as time has worn on, my sister’s seemed more distant rather than closer. We’re fundamentally out of sync in a way I can’t seem to name, and not even my dream mattress and a cloud of diffused lavender oil are enough to keep me from lying awake, turning over our last few conversations like I’m looking for faint cracks.

            The sign has changed to WALK, but a slew of drivers rushes through the newly red light. When a guy in a nice suit strides into the street, Libby pulls me along after him.

            It’s a truth universally acknowledged that cabdrivers won’t clip people who look like this guy. His outfit says, I am a man with a lawyer. Or possibly just I am a lawyer.

            “I thought you and Andrew were good together,” Libby says, seamlessly reentering the conversation. As long as you’re willing to overlook that my ex’s name was Aaron, not Andrew. “I don’t understand what went wrong. Was it work stuff?”

            Her eyes flicker toward me on the words work stuff, and it triggers another memory: me slipping back into the apartment during Bea’s fourth birthday party and Libby giving me a look like an injured Pixar puppy as she guessed, Work call?

            When I apologized, she brushed it off, but now I find myself wondering if that was the moment I’d started to lose her, the exact second when our diverging paths pulled just a little too far from each other and the seams started splitting.

            “What went wrong,” I say, recovering my place in the conversation, “is that, in a past life, I betrayed a very powerful witch, and she’s put a curse on my love life. He’s moving to Prince Edward Island.”

            We pause at the next cross street, waiting for traffic to slow. It’s a Saturday in mid-July and absolutely everyone is out, wearing as few clothes as legally possible, eating dripping ice cream cones from Big Gay or artisanal ice pops filled with things that have no business being anywhere near a dessert.

            “Do you know what’s on Prince Edward Island?” I ask.

            “Anne of Green Gables?” Libby says.

            “Anne of Green Gables would be dead by now,” I say.

            “Wow,” she says. “Spoiler.”

            “How does a person go from living here to moving to a place where the hottest destination is the Canadian Potato Museum? I would immediately die of boredom.”

            Libby sighs. “I don’t know. I’d take a little boredom right about now.”

            I glance sidelong at her, and my heart trips over its next beat. Her hair is still perfect and her skin is prettily flushed, but now new details jump out at me, signs I missed at first.

            The drawn corners of her mouth. The subtle thinning of her cheeks. She looks tired, older than usual.