A Secret Space

Two weeks after she and Mark were married, Hannah fell in love.

It was her first morning back in the office after the honeymoon, and a man she had never seen before was in the kitchen of the interior design studio where she worked, waiting for the kettle to boil. Although he appeared to be in his midtwenties, he still carried an awkward lankiness in his limbs, as if he hadn’t yet outgrown his teenage shape. This impression was supported by the gray jeans and faded black T-shirt he wore, with some band name or another displayed in gothic letters across the front. But it was his hands that caught her attention. The slow way he unfurled the filter, spooned grounds into the machine, then folded and refolded the open top of the foil bag to pinch it closed between his thumb and forefinger. When he offered her a cup, she realized she’d been holding her breath and exhaled slowly, afraid he would notice.

Hannah was holding the latest Architectural Digest, which featured Philip Johnson’s Glass House on page 53. On the train into the city that morning, she had photographed the page and texted the image to her husband, with the caption Like living inside a work of art.

“Did you see the article on Philip Johnson?” the young man in the kitchen asked, gesturing toward the magazine in her hand.

“Yes,” Hannah said.

“Living in his houses must be like living in a work of art,” he said.

“Yes,” Hannah replied, “exactly.”

The summer after she graduated from design school, Hannah backpacked around Europe with a friend. They rented bicycles to explore the side streets of Amsterdam, where they rode past gabled homes awash with summer blooms and greenery that dripped to the pavement. Bikes were stacked two-deep against the brick facade of the coffee shop where Hannah waited while her friend picked up their order. A passing woman, dressed neatly but with unkempt hair and wild eyes, grabbed Hannah by the arm and spoke urgently to her in Dutch. A man reading the newspaper at a nearby table said, “Negeren haar, ze is gek.” Ignore her, she’s crazy.

The woman repeated herself, this time in English: “You will fall in love with a man whose name begins with B.

A decade later, sitting at her desk while her PA filled her in on the young man with the careful hands—he’s a summer intern, a student from the art school, he was born in Australia, he’s twenty-four, his name is Brandon—Hannah recalled that distant exchange in Amsterdam and thought, Well, here he is then.

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