Chapter no 35 – A Silver Tray of Honey Cakes

The Midnight Library

It was wild to think of this life co-existing with her others in the multiverse, like just another note in a chord.

Nora found it almost impossible to believe that while in one life she was struggling to pay the rent, in another she was causing such excitement among people all over the world.

e handful of fans who had filmed the tour bus arrive at the hotel were now waiting for autographs. ey didn’t seem too bothered about the other band members but they did seem desperate to interact with Nora.

She looked at one, as she crunched over the gravel towards them. e girl had tattoos and was wearing an outfit that made her look like a flapper girl who had somehow got caught up in a cyberpunk version of a post-apocalyptic war. Her hair was styled exactly like Nora’s, complete with matching white stripe.

‘Nora! Noraaaah! Hi! We love you, queen! ank you for coming to Brazil! You rock!’ And then a chant started: ‘Nora! Nora! Nora!’

While she was signing autographs in an illegible scribble, a man in his early twenties took off his T-shirt and asked her to sign his shoulder.

‘It’s for a tattoo,’ he said.

‘Really?’ she asked, writing her name onto the man’s body.

is is the highlight of my life,’ he gushed. ‘My name is Francisco.’

Nora wondered how her writing on his skin with a Sharpie could be a highlight of his existence.

‘You saved my life. “Beautiful Sky” saved my life. at song. It’s so powerful.’

‘Oh. Oh wow. “Beautiful Sky”? You know “Beautiful Sky”?’

e fan burst into hysterics. ‘You’re so funny! is is why you are my idol!

I love you so much! Do I know “Beautiful Sky”? at’s brilliant!’

Nora didn’t know what to say. at little song she had written when she was nineteen years old at university in Bristol had changed the life of a person in Brazil. It was overwhelming.

is, clearly, was the life she was destined for. She doubted that she would ever have to go back to the library. She could cope with being adored. It was better than being in Bedford, sitting on the number 77 bus, humming sad tunes to the window.

She posed for selfies.

One young woman looked close to tears. She had a large photo of Nora kissing Ryan Bailey.

‘I was so sad when you broke up with him!’

‘I know, yeah, it was sad. But, you know, things happen. It’s a . . . learning curve.’

Joanna appeared at her arm and gently guided her away, towards the hotel.

When she reached the elegant, jasmine-scented lobby (marble, chandeliers, floral displays) she saw that the rest of the band were already in the bar. But where was her brother? Maybe he’d been schmoozing the press somewhere else.

As she started to move towards the bar, she realised that everyone –concierge, receptionists, guests – was looking at her.

Nora was about to finally seize the opportunity to ask about her brother’s whereabouts when Joanna beckoned over a man who was wearing a T-shirt with THE LABYRINTHS printed on it in a retro sci-fi movie font. e guy was probably in his forties, with a greying beard and thinning hair, but he seemed intimidated by Nora’s presence. He did a tiny bow when he shook Nora’s hand.

‘I’m Marcelo,’ he said. ‘anks for agreeing to the interview.’

Nora noticed another man behind Marcelo – younger, with piercings, tattoos and a big smile – holding recording equipment.

‘We’d reserved a quiet space in the bar,’ Joanna said. ‘But there’s . . . people.

I think we had better do this in Nora’s suite.’ ‘Great,’ said Marcelo. ‘Great, great.’

As they walked over to the li, Nora glanced back at the bar and saw the other band members. ‘You know, maybe you’d like to speak to the others too?’ she said to Marcelo. ‘ey remember things I don’t. A lot of things.’

Marcelo smiled and shook his head and delicately said, ‘It works better this way, I feel . . .’

‘Oh, okay,’ she said.

Every eye was on them as they waited for the li to arrive. Joanna leaned into Nora.

‘Are you okay?’

‘Of course. Yeah. Why?’

‘I don’t know. It’s just, you seem dierent tonight.’ ‘Dierent how?’

‘Just . . . dierent.’

As they got in the li Joanna asked another woman, one Nora recognised from the coach, to bring some drinks from the bar – two beers for the podcasters, a sparkling mineral water for Nora and a caipirinha for herself.

‘And bring them up to the suite, Maya.’

Maybe I am teetotal in this life, thought Nora, as she walked out of the li and along the plush salmon-pink carpet to her suite.

And then, as she entered it, she tried to act like this was all perfectly normal. is gigantic room, leading to another gigantic room, leading to a gigantic bathroom. ere was a vast bouquet of flowers for her, with a note signed by the hotel’s manager.

Wow, she resisted saying, as she gazed around at the lavish furnishings, the sweeping floor-to-ceiling curtains, the pristine white bed the size of an acre, the TV the size of a small cinema, the champagne on ice, the silver tray full of ‘Brazilian honey cakes’ as the card informed them.

‘Don’t suppose you’ll be having any of these,’ said Joanna, taking one of the little delicacies from the tray. ‘Now you’re on that new plan. Harley said I had to keep an eye on you.’

Nora watched Joanna bite into one of the cakes and wondered how good any plan could be if it didn’t involve eating something so clearly delicious as a Brazilian honey cake. She had no idea who Harley was, but she knew she didn’t like them.

‘Also . . . just so you know, the fires are still going on in LA and they’re evacuating half of Calabasas now, but hopefully it won’t get as high as your

place . . .’

Nora didn’t know whether to be pleased at the idea of having a house in LA, or worried that it was about to go on fire.

e two Brazilian podcast guys took a few moments to set up their equipment. And Nora sunk herself into the vast sofa in the living area as Joanna – attending to a few rogue crumbs around her mouth with a heavily manicured finger – explained that their music podcast, O Som, was the most popular in Brazil.

‘Great demographics,’ Joanna enthused. ‘And the numbers are stratospheric. It’s totally worth doing.’

And she stayed there, watching like a hawk mother, as the podcast began.

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