Prologue

Dedication

For

Dick & Eloise

Rudy & Myrtle

Quote

“The mind is its own place,

and in itself can make

a heaven of hell,

a hell of heaven.”

—John Milton, Paradise Lost

Prologue

The city surrounds me. A panorama. With arms outstretched, I can’t help but spin, taking it all in. Enjoying the view, knowing fully well this may be the last thing my eyes ever see.

I stare at the four metal steps before me, aware of how frail and broken-down they look. They’re orange with rust, paint flaking, some of the slats loose so that when I press my foot to the first step, it buckles beneath me and I fall.

Still, I have no choice but to climb.

I pull myself back up, set my hands on the rails and scale the steps. The sweat bleeds from my palms so that the metal beneath them is slippery, slick. I can’t hold tight. I slip from the second step, try again. I call out, voice cracking, a voice that doesn’t sound like mine.

As I reach the roof’s ledge, my knees give. It takes everything I have not to topple over the edge of the building and onto the street below. Seventeen floors.

I’m so high I could touch the clouds, I think. The sense of vertigo is overpowering. The ground whooshes up and at me, the skyscrapers, the trees starting to sway until I no longer know what’s moving: them or me. Little yellow matchbooks soar up and down the city streets. Cabs.

If I was standing at street level, the ledge would feel plenty wide. But up here it’s not. Up here it’s a thread and on it, I’m trying to balance my two wobbly feet.

I’m scared. But I’ve come this far. I can’t go back.

There’s a moment of calm that comes and goes so quickly I almost don’t notice it. For one split second the world is still. I’m at peace. The sun moves higher and higher into the sky, yellow-orange glaring at me through the buildings, making me peaceful and warm. My hands rise beside me as a bird goes soaring by. As if my hands are wings, I think in that moment what it would be like to fly.

And then it comes rushing back to me.

I’m hopelessly alone. Everything hurts. I can no longer think straight; I can no longer see straight; I can no longer speak. I don’t know who I am anymore. If I am anyone.

And I know in that moment for certain: I am no one.

I think what it would feel like to fall. The weightlessness of the plunge, of gravity taking over, of relinquishing control. Giving up, surrendering to the universe.

There’s a flicker of movement beneath me. A flash of brown, and I know that if I wait any longer, it will be too late. The decision will no longer be mine. I cry out one more time.

And then I go.

Acknowledgments

First and foremost, thank you to my smart, savvy and thoughtful editor, Erika Imranyi, for always having faith in me and my books, and for helping take my rough drafts and transform them into something that shines. I’m so proud of the work we do together and know with confidence that my novels are far better after you’ve left your mark on them.

Thank you to my wonderful and always encouraging friend and literary agent, Rachael Dillon Fried, for having my back, for knowing just what to say when I’m in need of reassurance and for always seeing the positive in everything I do.

Thank you to everyone at Sanford Greenburger Associates, Harper Collins and Park Row Books, including my publicity team of Emer Flounders and Shara Alexander; Reka Rubin for sharing my novels with the world; Erin Craig and Sean Kapitain for another gorgeous cover design; the copy editors, proofreaders, sales and marketing teams, and all those who play a role in getting my story into the hands of readers. I couldn’t do what I do without any of you. I’m forever grateful for your diligence, enthusiasm and support.

To my wonderful friends who do not (I promise!) provide the inspiration for my less savory characters, but always supply an abundance of encouragement throughout the process, thank you! To the booksellers, librarians, book bloggers and the media who read and recommend my novels to your customers, patrons and fans, you are amazing! And to my readers worldwide, you’re the reason I keep writing.

Lastly, thank you to my parents, Lee and Ellen; my sisters, Michelle and Sara; the entire Kubica, Kyrychenko, Shemanek and Kahlenberg families; to my husband, Pete, and our children, Addison and Aidan; and to Holly, who kept me company while I wrote—there will always be a spot for you by my side.