We move quickly down Congress Avenue.
I’m trying to get back to our hotel room on the other side of the bridge. I
need to get us somewhere private where we can collect our things and I can
gure out the fastest way out of Austin.
“What happened in there?” Bailey says. “Was he going to hurt you?”
“I don’t know,” I say. “I don’t think so.”
I put my hand on the small of her back, steering her in and out of the afterwork
crowd—couples, groups of college kids, a dogwalker handling a dozen
dogs. I move sideways, hoping to make it harder for Charlie to follow us—in
case he is trying to follow us—this man who was so angry at seeing a photograph
of Owen that he exploded.
“I’m going as fast as I can,” she says. “What do you want me to do? It’s a
She isn’t wrong. Instead of the crowds letting up as we get closer to the
bridge, there are more people, all clamoring to get onto the bridge’s narrow
I turn back to make sure Charlie isn’t following us. Which is when I see him
—several blocks behind. Charlie. He is moving at a fast clip but he hasn’t
spotted us yet. He looks to the left and to the right.
The Congress Avenue Bridge is straight ahead. I grab onto Bailey’s elbow and
we head onto the bridge’s walkway. But the foot trac is moving slowly, if at all,
the entire walkway jammed up with people. It’s good in the sense that it is easier
to blend in, but everyone seems to have stopped moving.
Mostly everyone on the bridge is at a standstill, many of them looking down
at the lake below.
“Did these people forget how to move?” Bailey says.
A guy in a Hawaiian shirt, carrying a large camera—a tourist, if I were
guessing—turns back and smiles at us. Apparently, he thinks Bailey’s question is
directed at him.
“We’re waiting on the bats,” he says.
“The bats?” Bailey says.
“Yeah. The bats. They feed every night right around now.”
This is when we hear, “HERE THEY COME!”
And—in a bright ood—hundreds and hundreds of bats start to y up from
beneath the bridge out into the sky. The crowd cheers as the bats move in an
almost ribbonlike formation—an enormous, orchestrated beautiful swarm of
If Charlie is still behind us, I can’t see him. He is gone. Or we are gone, two
revelers observing the bats take ight on a pretty Austin night.
I look up at the sky, ooded with the bats, moving as if in a dance together.
Everyone applauds as they disappear into the night.
The guy in the Hawaiian shirt angles his camera to the sky, shooting pictures
as they depart.
I slide past him and motion for Bailey to keep up. “We have to move,” I say.
“Before we get stuck here.”
Bailey picks up the pace. And we make it over the bridge, both of us breaking
into a jog. We don’t stop until we turn down our hotel’s long driveway. We don’t
stop until we are in front of the hotel, the doormen holding the door open.
“Just wait,” Bailey says. “We need to stop for a second.”
She puts her hands on her knees, catching her breath. I want to argue. We are
so close to being on the safe side of the hotel’s doors, so close to the privacy of
our small room.
“What if I told you I remembered him?” she says.
I look over at the doormen, who are chatting with each other. I try to meet
their eyes, get them to focus, as if they will keep us safe.
“What if I said I know him, Charlie Smith?”
“I remember being called by that name,” she says. “Kristin. Hearing him say
it, all of a sudden I remembered. How do you forget something like that? How is
that even possible?”
“We forget all sorts of things that no one helps us remember,” I say.
Bailey gets quiet. Silent, actually. Then she says it, the words both of us have
avoided saying out loud.
“You think that woman Kate is my mother, don’t you?”
She pauses on the word mother, like it has re in it.
“I do. I could be wrong, but I do.”
“Why would my father lie about who my mother is?”
She meets my eyes. I don’t try to answer her. I have no good answer for her.
“I’m just not sure who I should be trusting here,” she says.
“Me,” I say. “Just me.”
She bites her lip, like she believes me, or at least like she is starting to believe
me—which is more than I could hope for in this moment. Because you can’t tell
people to trust you. You have to show them that they can. And I haven’t had
The doormen are looking at us. I’m not sure they are listening, but they are
looking. And I feel it. I feel how much I need to get Bailey out of here. Out of
“Come with me,” I say.
She doesn’t ght me. We walk past the doormen and into the hotel lobby,
head to the elevator bank.
But, as we step inside, a man gets on too—a young guy who I think is looking
at Bailey strangely. He wears a gray sweater vest, piercings covering his ears. I
know it is paranoid to think he is following us. I know it. If he is looking at
Bailey, it is probably only because she is beautiful.
I’m not taking that chance though, so I move us o the elevator, and toward
the back staircase, heart pounding.
I open the door, point toward the staircase. “This way,” I say.
“Where are we going?” she says. “We’re eight oors up.”
“Just be glad it’s not twenty.”