She is pieces, she is a collage, she is simply remnants of everything that came before and touched her, or kept her at arm's length, as the case may be. She feels, sometimes, that she is not herself, because to be herself, she would need to be a million different people at once. Sometimes, she thinks she is.

Tonight she doesn't think at all. She smiles and drops her eyelids and it's seductive, she hopes. And the man across from her, never blonde, never with innocent blue eyes like the ones she sees at night after she finishes with the endless stream of men who all seem to be named Matthew or James or Robert and who never want an interesting nickname. The man apparently believes in her power of seduction, faint and fleeting as it may be, because they call a cab together. He thinks she's drunk, probably, because he didn't hear her whisper "virgin" when she ordered a strawberry daiquiri. He was probably too drunk, anyway. That doesn't matter.

It doesn't matter.

They go to his apartment, because she never does this at her own. She needs somewhere to return to, she needs a safe haven. She'll never find that in her series of bar-men.

The act itself is quick and she thinks it rather boring. She's had better, but as drunken guys go, she'd put him in the seventy-fifth percentile. She thinks for a moment that maybe she should start trying sober ones again, but she stops herself. She's not thinking tonight.

Tonight, she's forgetting.

The morning is inconsequential, because she does feel powerful when she leaves before he wakes up. She slips back into her skirt, long, but with a slit up to the knee so that it's daring in all the right places, and her shirt, low-cut enough to cause a drunken illusion, and walks back home. She loves the feel of the cool New York City morning breezes against her skin. She feels at home on the street as she traces a path back to her apartment, stopping briefly to buy chestnuts. Her one guilty pleasure, she thinks. She is not ashamed of loving them.

She is not ashamed of anything.

At home, she listens to her messages. There's none from Elijiah and it's a mixed blessing, but she's still not thinking. Annie called and so did her sister, but all she wants to do is sleep. She makes her way to the bedroom and falls between the electric blue silk sheets, exhausted. She sleeps, and the eyes are blue. She can't remember the name of the man from last night, and it doesn't bother her.

The blue eyes do, though.

She wakes up again when her cat nudges the sheets. She sneezes. Athena wants food. Such simple sustenance, she thinks as she walks across hard wood and plush carpet and feeds her gray kitten. It's got blue eyes, too, but it's never broken her heart.

Such simple sustenance, she thinks again, and stops herself. No thinking. She looks at her answering machine. Three flashes. Annie and her sister and she know it was Elijiah.

She checks. It was the car insurance company. She goes back to sleep easily. It's easy to sleep when you forget everything that keeps you awake.

She drifts awake again later in the afternoon, to a symphony of sirens and car horns, and there's nowhere in the world she loves as much as New York. She sighs and listens to their music for exactly fifteen minutes. Then she get up and takes a shower, singing all the way. She only sings Better than Ezra songs; she cannot sing, but if she could, she would sing those songs. Kevin Griffin is amazing. He writes the songs, I write the stories, she thinks, and she lets herself.

She fixes herself up, makes herself beautiful, and straightens her red hair. It feels wrong going out and sleeping with random men when she looks cute, with shoulder-length curls.

She finds a different one tonight, and when he kisses her, he murmurs, "Ashley."

That's not her name.

It doesn't matter, though, because when she was kissing him, she was thinking of the blue eyes again. She's just too tired to say it.

She's too tired to say anything, anymore. When she goes home the next morning, Annie sounds frantic, although Annie should know by now that she won't be home for a few days after Elijiah calls.

She doesn't blame Annie for not knowing any more than she blames Elijiah for calling. She thinks that maybe she's expected to blame herself, but she doesn't. Not her mom or her dad or God or that guy she slept with, the one who tried to forget Ashley. She bets he didn't.

She doesn't blame anyone.

That's a lie; she blames the first person who ever wrote "happily ever after" and hopes that he never got one.

She surely isn't.

The next night is boring; she stays in. She watches her city from her window and feels her heart stop every time a blonde man walks by. I need to get over this, she thinks, and closes the blinds. She doesn't sleep that night, but it's all a part of the cycle. She never does.

Two days, she tells herself, and then it's over. She thinks, she sleeps, and she tells herself not to. I wish I was an alcoholic, she muses. This would be easier.

The forgetting would be easier.

Another man the next night, and his eyes are hazel, so close to the right color, so close.

But they're not right. They're never right. She tries not to mind.

It's getting closer.

And at last, she cries, because that's what happens. It's something that just happens, and then she calls Annie, and everything's alright. She finds herself smiling more, and she's glad for it, glad for Annie, glad for bars and men, but she'll never tell Annie that. Annie doesn't know about any of it. She always tells Annie that she had to go out of town and visit with her editor.

Annie always believes her, and she doesn't feel ashamed. It's not the first lie she's told, and it won't be the last.

It's not that she's scared of the truth. It's just that everyone else it.

Again she is pieces, and she wonders why Elijiah does this to her, because he is the glue for her pieces. She was strange before him, similar parts floating in tandem, and he put her back together.

Before he took her apart. She's a reversed fairy tale, and all the king's horses and all the king's men don't care enough anymore to even try. They all left to lay the king's daughters and get cut up and put in Happy Meals.

I didn't used to be this cynical, she thinks. But she knows it's only one of her (many) pieces.

Her other pieces are less cynical, and some are optimistic, but none of them are indifferent. She's lazy and she knows it but she's never too lazy to think. She's thinking again. She loves the feeling; almost as if she can feel her brain moving, wheels turning, feel it in her mind of minds.

She loves her brain, she thinks, because it's a hell of a lot better than her heart.

She takes a walk in Central Park because it's Central Park in April and because she can. If she's got the luxury, she'll take advantage of it.

One of her pieces is romantic, and she wishes for light snowfall and a carriage ride and the blue eyes. Her other pieces argue, because she hates the cold and she hates the snow and she's scared of horses. She sighs, frustrated, and several people look at her. She doesn't even want to tell them to fuck off because she's so tired.

She wonders aloud if she will ever become a whole. Then she glares at her spectators and goes home.

After two years in New York, she gave up hoping that one day Elijiah would show up on her door step, blue eyes shining. That's something on which all her parts agree.

She doesn't hope about it, anymore, and she doesn't dream about it, and she won't write about it. She's grown up and she needs to live a grown up life. She needs to…

She needs to get over it.

But she won't. Not until he does come to her doorstep with blue roses and "I love you" spilling from his mouth in his low, smooth voice.

He won't.

And neither will she.

She has a revelation one night.

New York City, her New York City, is pieces, too.

She feels less alone.

And another one of her parts aches with added severity.

She is less and more alone, at once, and she loves a man who lives in California, and every month she sleeps with three strangers because it hurts her so much that he has sun when she has rain and he has beaches when she has Central Park. She has a best friend and she has a million dollars times some number too large for her to bother to think about and she has published five books. They've all been best sellers.

Sometimes, she reminds herself, it's good to take an inventory of her life. And other times, she wishes she were someone else.

But that's all a part of being pieces.

It's different this time, she thinks, when the caller ID reads Jannsen, E and she picks up the phone. It can be different this time.

"Hello?" she asks, and she feels herself smiling.

"Hey, Addy," Elijiah replies. She sees his blue eyes shining, and she thinks, this is good enough. He doesn't have to be at my doorstep. I just want him to sound happy.

"What's up?" she questions easily, with a grace she only feels when she talks to Elijiah, because when she talks to Elijiah, she is not pieces. Elijiah is her glue.

Such simple sustenance, she thinks to herself wryly.

"Nothing over here. How 'bout you, Cosmopolitan?" he asks her, because she's been on the cover of magazines and because she knows she has custom-ordered electric blue silk bedsheets.

"The Bronx is up," she giggles.

"Is the Battery still down?"

"For now." She laughs again, because it's easy when she's whole. "When I was little, I thought that just meant that they were running out of electricity because New York City has so many lights."

He laughs, in the way she knows he finds it adorable. She joins him.

"I should call you more," he says. "I haven't laughed enough since…the Kevin thing."

She knows all about the Kevin thing. "You never laugh enough, Eli."

"Well, you make me laugh."

"I'm glad." There's a pause, there's always a pause, and she remembers something about different. She knows that she wouldn't change it, though. She wouldn't really.

Why change the only thing that made her pieces go away?

"I got to go to the Radiohead concert," he teases.

"Oooh, how luck, you got to see a spazzy guy play a keyboard," she teases back.

"It's a really big keyboard," he fires back.

"It's a god damn keyboard!" she laughs.

He laughs back, and she hears a voice in the background call his name.

"Shit. I gotta go, Addy, I'll call you sooner. Goodnight!"

"'Night," she says before the phone slams down.

She sighs. She remembers something about different, again, and wishes for it back.

Again, she is pieces.

The man sitting across from her has dark eyes, and they're so far away from the ones she really wants, but tonight she wants to forget that she wants them.

She leans across the bar to whisper, "Strawberry daiquiri, virgin," to the bartender, and he quickly complies.

She looks at her drink and at the man, and she thinks, Jakob Dylan said, "It's where I'm from that makes them think I'm a whore, I'm an educated virgin."

If he knew from where she was, he wouldn't think anything, because small, boring towns in upstate New York tend not to breed whores.

She thinks that maybe she should tell him, but she doesn't.

She stops herself.