Chapter Thirteen

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I woke up breathing in Owen's scent. I reached for him, but the bed was empty. A note rested on Owen's cold pillow.

M.-

Sorry I left. Had to go to work. Next time we'll make mallorcas.

Let's talk soon.

Owen

I set the note on the nightstand next to my crystal quartz necklaces and told myself not to feel so upset. He owned his own business. I was sure he had to work odd hours sometimes, including Sundays.

Besides, it wasn't like we'd talked about it. Maybe he'd expected a chaste kiss and goodbye promptly after dinner. Instead, I'd unzipped my dress on his kitchen counter. We'd only just met; we'd only gone on a few dates, if you could call them dates. And yet it had all felt so right. What he'd said to me afterwards had been so sweet.... I'd thought maybe he was falling for me. Even though I knew better.

I slid out of bed and almost stepped on my dress, which was folded neatly on the floor, on top of my shoes. My handbag sat beside the little bundle. He must have gotten my things together before he left for work, so I wouldn't have to go hunting around his house. He was being nice. He was definitely not trying to get rid of me.

Really.

I pulled on my clothes and tiptoed across Owen's plushy beige carpet. On the landing, I hesitated, staring at the door to Suzanna's room. Its brass doorknob gleamed against the dark wood, drawing me in. My hand seized the knob, and, before I realized what I was doing, I turned it as hard as I could.

The door popped open, and I stumbled inside with a gasp. As hard as I'd turned it, I couldn't have broken it, and Owen was too careful to ever leave this room unlocked. I jiggled the knob, but it wouldn't turn. It was locked... still? Again?

I shouldn't go in. Even though he'd shown me what he kept in here, going into this room without him violated his trust. It was wrong. Beneath me.

Still, I stared into the empty room, biting my lip. The heavy curtain hid all signs of morning light. It was so cold in here I half expected to see my breath. It was as if I'd opened a door to the night sky.

I set my handbag on the floor as a doorstop and edged into the room, shivering in my short dress. Instead of going straight to Suzanna's portrait, some impulse drew me to the cello in the corner. Only a few specks of dust marred the striated reddish-gold varnish on the cello's scroll. Unable to resist, I plucked a string. The warm, rich tone reverberated in my bones. I was not much of a musician, but even I could tell that Owen tuned this. I knew how meticulous he was, so I shouldn't be so surprised. But from the way he'd talked about giving up playing the cello, I'd thought that this was the cello's final resting place.

I sat down on the floor beside the cello, imagining Owen sitting behind it with his long legs stretched out to either side. He would make even a huge instrument like this look small. I could imagine him bowing his head, as he turned each peg, bit by bit, to tune each string—until it was perfect.

All the while, Suzanna's hazel eyes would stare down at him.

I looked up at her from where I sat by the cello, my hands curled in my lap. I could see her perfectly from here. Owen must have set the room up like this on purpose.

Three years. I absorbed Suzanna's clear eyes and shining mouth. Even in the darkness, she was striking.

They dated for three years.

Owen kept her portrait here, in this locked, cold room, because he had loved Suzanna while she was alive, and he still loved her.

I scrubbed my face with my hands. I knew that. I'd known that from the moment I first walked into this room. But I'd thought... maybe he could find a way to care about me anyway. He'd told me it was easy being with me, that he forgot himself around me. He had whispered into my skin at the beach: it is so good. And last night....

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