For Jack Pendarvis


I guess I always knew, in some subterranean way, Diane and I would end up back together.

We are bound, ankle to ankle, a monstrous three-legged race.

Accidental accomplices. Wary conspirators.

Or Siamese twins, fused in some hidden place.

It’s that powerful, this thing we share. A murky history, its narrative near impenetrable. We keep telling it to ourselves, noting its twists and turns, trying to make sense of it. And hiding it from everyone else.

Sometimes it feels like Diane is a corner of myself broken off and left to roam my body, floating through my blood.

On occasional nights, stumbling to the bathroom after a bad dream, a Diane dream, I avoid the mirror, averting my eyes, leaving the light off, some primitive part of my half-asleep brain certain that if I looked, she might be there. (Cover your mirrors after dark, my great-grandma used to say. Or they trap the dreamer’s wandering soul.)

So, even though I haven’t seen her in years, it isn’t truly a surprise when Diane appears at the Severin Lab, my workplace, the building in which I spend most of my waking life. Of all the labs in all the world, she had to walk into mine. And everything begins again.

The strangest part is how little we actually know about each other. Not our birthdays, our favorite songs, who made our hearts beat faster, or didn’t. We were friends, if Diane is friends with anyone, only for a few months and long ago.

But we do know the one thing no one else in the world knows about the other.

The only important thing.


Deepest thanks go, foremost, to Reagan Arthur, the ne plus ultra of editors, for whom I am grateful every writing day.

And to the wondrous Sabrina Callahan and all my heroes at Little, Brown: Craig Young, Ashley Marudas, Katharine Myers, Alyssa Persons, Joseph Lee, and so many more. And my lifesavers, as ever, Peggy Freudenthal and Tracy Roe.

By the same token, I am so grateful for the wise and wonderful Francesca Main, Paul Baggeley, and Emma Bravo at Picador.

To Dan Conaway, as stalwart, steadfast, and true an agent as one could hope for, and to Taylor Templeton, Maja Nikolic and, more largely, to Writers House.

And heartiest thanks are owed to Sylvie Rabineau and Jill Gillett.

To Jessica Malberg, for her invaluable fact-checking and question answering. And to Heather MacLeod, for providing a key early assist.

And personal thanks to my dad, Philip Abbott, who inspires and encourages me with every conversation, and my mom, Patricia Abbott, whose own creative daring is a marvel to behold.

To Josh, Julie, and Kevin, whom I treasure and adore, and to the kindhearted Nases: Jeff, Ruth, Steve, Michelle, and little Marley.

To that stalwart and sneaky genius Alison Quinn, and for the eternal friendship and grand company of Darcy Lockman, Lisa Lutz, the FLs, and my beloved Oxford, MS, friends (Jack, Theresa, Ace and Angela, Bill and Katie, and Jimmy) who save my life all the time.