Chapter no 143 – Sea of Flames‌

All the Light We Cannot See

It is surfaced by hundreds of facets. Over and over she picks it up only to set it immediately down, as though it burns her fingers. Her father’s arrest, the disappearance of Harold Bazin, the death of Madame Manec

—could this one rock be the cause of so much sorrow? She hears the wheezy, wine-scented voice of old Dr. Geffard: Queens might have danced all night wearing it. Wars might have been fought over it.

The keeper of the stone would live forever, but so long as he kept it, misfortunes would fall on all those he loved one after another in unending rain.

Things are just things. Stories are just stories.

Surely this pebble is what the German seeks. She ought to fling open the shutters and cast it down onto the street. Give it to someone else, anyone else. Slip out of the house and hurl it into the sea.

Etienne climbs the ladder to the attic. She can hear him cross the floorboards above her and turn on the transmitter. She puts the stone in her pocket and picks up the model house and crosses the hall. But before she makes it to the wardrobe, she stops. Her father must have believed it was real. Why else construct the elaborate puzzle box? Why else leave it behind in Saint-Malo, if not in fear that it could be confiscated during his journey back? Why else leave her behind?

It must at least look like a blue diamond worth twenty million francs. Real enough to convince Papa. And if it looks real, what will her uncle do when she shows it to him? If she tells him that they ought to throw it into the ocean?

She can hear the boy’s voice in the museum: When is the last time you saw someone throw five Eiffel Towers into the sea?

Who would willingly part with it? And the curse? If the curse is real?

And she gives it to him?

But curses are not real. Earth is all magma and continental crust and ocean. Gravity and time. Isn’t it? She closes her fist, walks into her room, and replaces the stone inside the model house. Slides the three

roof panels back into place. Twists the chimney ninety degrees. Slips the house inside her pocket.



Well after midnight, a magnificent high tide arrives, the largest waves smashing against the bases of the ramparts, the sea green and aerated and networked with seething rafts of moonlit foam. Marie-Laure comes out of dreams to hear Etienne tapping on her bedroom door.

“I’m going out.” “What time is it?”

“Almost dawn. I’ll only be an hour.” “Why do you have to go?”

“It’s better if you don’t know.” “What about curfew?”

“I’ll be quick.” Her great-uncle. Who has not been quick in the four years she has known him.

“What if the bombing starts?”

“It’s almost dawn, Marie. I should go while it’s still dark.” “Will they hit any houses, Uncle? When they come?” “They won’t hit any houses.”

“Will it be over quickly?”

“Quick as a swallow. You rest, Marie-Laure, and when you wake, I’ll be back. You’ll see.”

“I could read to you a bit? Now that I’m awake? We’re so close to the end.”

“When I’m back, we’ll read. We’ll finish it together.”

She tries to rest her mind, slow her breathing. Tries not to think about the little house now under her pillow and the terrible burden inside.

“Etienne,” Marie-Laure whispers, “are you ever sorry that we came here? That I got dropped in your lap and you and Madame Manec had to look after me? Did you ever feel like I brought a curse into your life?”

“Marie-Laure,” he says without hesitation. He squeezes her hand with both of his. “You are the best thing that has ever come into my life.”

Something seems to be banking up in the silence, a tide, a breaker rearing. But Etienne only says a second time, “You rest, and when you wake, I’ll be back,” and she counts his steps down the stairs.

You'll Also Like