“Lena is sure that other people don't have many selves. She is terrified that she doesn't have a core self, an essential Lena. She feels that she used to but that she lost it along the way, that at some point it became buried, suffocated, and died, because when she looks beneath the chattering of the selves, nothing is there. Maybe the fractured feeling is taking hold because something is dead inside her, or missing.”
“Lena's real mom, Emily, knew that this was not the truth, but she also knew that Vaclav was not lying.
Vaclav knew that he was telling the truth.
Lena knew that it was a lie, but she loved it and believed it, like a fairy tale, like a song, like a bedtime story, like a magic trick.
She loved Vaclav until it became the truth and so it was.”
“Maybe this is how it always is. Maybe someone always wants more. Maybe everyone has a time when they realise that they've been accidentally lying when they say I love you, I miss you, you're pretty, you're the prettiest one, I never want you to leave. Maybe this time ends and it all becomes true again, as true as you ever thought it was. Maybe this time does not end. If this time ends, it would be a smart decision to wait it out. If it does not end, then perhaps you should not wait, and you should find another person to whom you can say these things without lying. But perhaps it always happens, no matter which girl or boy you are trying to love, in which case you might as well stay where you are because you would repeat the same process with anyone else.”
“. . . and Vaclav's special new shoes with the lights on the heels and the Velcro everywhere, because in America no one, not even small children, has time to tie his own shoes, and everything must have flashing lights.”
“Vaclav has said goodnight to Lena every night since the night she went away. Out loud. In a whisper. [...] He filled the words with all his love and care and worry for Lena and launched them out to her, and like homing pigeons, he trusted them to find her.”
“[Vaclav] thinks sometimes you know that it is a very long road to become a famous magician, and sometimes you have to spend your last dollar on buying a soda so that you have something to be grateful for that day, even if it lasts just one small piece of time.”
“Lena sapeva che era una bugia, ma le piaceva tanto e ci credette, come se fosse stata una favola, una canzone, una storia della buona notte, un trucco di magia. Amò Vaclav finché diventò verità, e verità fu.”
“Decide di dare una risposta falsa, perché lo imbarazza dire che cosa salverebbe davvero da un incendio. La cosa che davvero salverebbe in caso d'incendio è Lena.”
“She is not ok. She feels something, and it is bad. She feels as if she has unzipped herself from her belly button to her throat and found nothing inside. The feeling is like reaching for an orange and finding it hollow, rotted out, giving sickly beneath your fingers.”
“Lei, in prigione, gli mandò un ultimo messaggio per dirgli che era incinta, di te. Il messaggio diceva: Saremo insieme, nelle stelle, nell'erba, nel cemento, nel suono degli alberi di notte, in nostra figlia. Lui le mandò un ultimo messaggio. Diceva: Ti amo. Ho vissuto la vita più bella che si potesse mai vivere. Loro non possono portarci via niente; abbiamo avuto tutto.”
“This is what men do, they die, long before women. This is how it is meant to be, so that women can finally rest.)”
“Vaclav is always telling his father that the word in English is bladder, and his father always responds that learning how to name piss and shit is not why he came all this way from Russia.”
“Vaclav pensa em como, às vezes, quando está frio lá fora, você pode se sentir aquecido porque há pessoas ou lembranças de pessoas que o aquecem como uma fogueira, ou fazem você se sentir como um esquimó que não se incomoda muito com o frio extremo, mesmo que você sinta um frio extremo. Outras vezes você pode sentir que tudo no mundo inteiro está frio por certo motivo, e que está frio só para você, e você vê todas as pessoas com um fogo para aquecê-las, e você tem a sensação de que vai sentir frio para sempre. Ás vezes a gente pode sentir um frio assim até no verão.”
“No one knows how smart Lena is, because she doesn’t answer questions in class, and the teachers always frown at her, and she is always the last to finish her worksheets.”
“Andrew was smiling, but Neil knew his cheer didn't mean he was going to play nice. He'd been smiling when he smashed a racquet into Neil's stomach, too. Nicholas”
“Fearlessness in those without power is maddening to those who have it.”
“It’s dark as a tomb in here,” she said, unable to see more than shadows. “Will you light the candles, please,” she asked, “assuming there are candles in here?”
“Aye, milady, right there, next to the bed.” His shadow crossed before her, and Elizabeth focused on a large, oddly shaped object that she supposed could be a bed, given its size.
“Will you light them, please?” she urged. “I-I can’t see a thing in here.”
“His lordship don’t like more’n one candle lit in the bedchambers,” the footman said. “He says it’s a waste of beeswax.”
Elizabeth blinked in the darkness, torn somewhere between laughter and tears at her plight. “Oh,” she said, nonplussed. The footman lit a small candle at the far end of the room and left, closing the door behind him. “Milady?” Berta whispered, peering through the dark, impenetrable gloom. “Where are you?”
“I’m over here,” Elizabeth replied, walking cautiously forward, her arms outstretched, her hands groping about for possible obstructions in her path as she headed for what she hoped was the outside wall of the bedchamber, where there was bound to be a window with draperies hiding its light.
“Where?” Berta asked in a frightened whisper, and Elizabeth could hear the maid’s teeth chattering halfway across the room.
“Here-on your left.”
Berta followed the sound of her mistress’s voice and let out a terrified gasp at the sight of the ghostlike figure moving eerily through the darkness, arms outstretched. “Raise your arm,” she said urgently, “so I’ll know ‘tis you.”
Elizabeth, knowing Berta’s timid nature, complied immediately. She raised her arm, which, while calming poor Berta, unfortunately caused Elizabeth to walk straight into a slender, fluted pillar with a marble bust upon it, and they both began to topple. “Good God!” Elizabeth burst out, wrapping her arms protectively around the pillar and the marble object upon it. “Berta!” she said urgently. “This is no time to be afraid of the dark. Help me, please. I’ve bumped into something-a bust and its stand, I think-and I daren’t let go of them until I can see how to set them upright. There are draperies over here, right in front of me. All you have to do is follow my voice and open them. Once we do, ‘twill be bright as day in here.”
“I’m coming, milady,” Berta said bravely, and Elizabeth breathed a sigh of relief. “I’ve found them!” Berta cried softly a few minutes later. “They’re heavy-velvet they are, with another panel behind them.” Berta pulled one heavy panel back across the wall, and then, with renewed urgency and vigor, she yanked back the other and turned around to survey the room.
“Light as last!” Elizabeth said with relief. Dazzling late-afternoon sunlight poured into the windows directly in front of her, blinding her momentarily. “That’s much better,” she said, blinking. Satisfied that the pillar was quite sturdy enough to stand without her aid, Elizabeth was about to place the bust back upon it, but Berta’s cry stopped her.
“Saints preserve us!”
With the fragile bust clutched protectively to her chest Elizabeth swung sharply around. There, spread out before her, furnished entirely in red and gold, was the most shocking room Elizabeth had ever beheld: Six enormous gold cupids seemed to hover in thin air above a gigantic bed clutching crimson velvet bed draperies in one pudgy fist and holding bows and arrows in the other; more cupids adorned the headboard. Elizabeth’s eyes widened, first in disbelief, and a moment later in mirth. “Berta,” she breathed on a smothered giggle, “will you look at this place!”
“There is always a use for everything, Victor had told him. Even pain.”
“Music (is) woven into the fabric of the corporeal world.”
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