Chapter 11: Applause

Twenty-two years later, Jake and Kate went backstage after the late night talk show host had thanked them for their time, and Jake immediately headed for the green room where a banquet of dinner rolls and a glass of water was waiting for him. He had gone on for so long that his mouth was dry. He was certain the show's editors would've had a field day chopping his story up into a nice bite-sized synopsis taking no more than five minutes to tell. He shrugged. That was fine by him.

Kate joined him in the green room a few minutes later after she had stopped to talk to the A-list celebrity who had gone on before them. The actor was briefly interested in collaborating with her to tell another one of their many crazy photography stories, but the conversation had died the moment he saw an intern walking by with a pizza and he insisted on grabbing a piece. When Kate entered the green room, she told Jake what had happened and that she didn't think anything would come of the new project. Jake confirmed her belief with a nod.

"So, are you glad we did this?" she asked, after loading up her plate with dinner rolls.

"A little," said Jake.

"You know it's gonna boost our twenty fifteen calendar sales significantly. Especially if the movie does well."

"Yeah, I suppose that's nice."

She studied his face. Then she sat beside him and stroked his knee. She was careful not to dump her plate of rolls into his lap.

"Honey, I think you can stop worrying. No one's gonna figure out your secret. You've kept it for this long."

He shrugged.

"I guess. But someone's gotta at least be suspicious. Especially after telling them about my, er, encounter."

She smiled.

"You didn't know what it was, you still don't know what it was, and I promise you that they won't know what it was, either. You might get a couple of scientists sniffing around, but I think if they haven't come around after the book, and now the movie, they're not going to."

He stole a dinner roll off her plate.

"I hope you're right."

Once the evening was over and the talk show's crew thanked them for stopping by, they headed out into the street to catch a cab. But after five minutes of waiting by the curb, Kate suggested they walk.

"The hotel's just ten minutes from here," she said. "Maybe we can grab dinner on the way."

Jake's stomach was rumbling. The plate of rolls was nice, but not nearly enough to satisfy. He was more than happy to find a place to grab a real bite to eat.

They started walking west, keeping an eye open for any establishments that struck their fancy, doing their best not to make eye contact with the people who shared the sidewalk with them. They did not think much about fame, and they were certain most people out there would still have had no idea who they were, so they were unconcerned about getting recognized. They just chose to avoid eye contact for the simple reason that it was polite.

If they weren't looking into the windows of passing eateries, then they were looking into the void. Kate generally walked with her head down; Jake usually walked with his head toward the sky. They hadn't kept track of when these involuntary patterns of motion had started: ever since they'd hit forty, much of their actions and physical traits had taken sharp turns into unfamiliar directions, Jake's especially so. But these unconscious actions were the ones that had formed the greatest risk of getting them into trouble.

Jake hadn't noticed the buildings shrinking slightly around him until he'd heard the applause. And because she was too busy looking ahead for the next great restaurant they would likely skip, Kate hadn't noticed the change in his step, either, not until she searched around for the subject of the cheers. When she did, she smacked Jake on the thigh.

"You're doing it again, you show-off," she said. "Stop before you attract the wrong kind of attention."

Jake looked down and realized he was standing almost two feet higher than her. When they both stood side-by-side with their feet flat on the ground, Jake was about two inches taller than her. But when his feet were floating in midair, as they were right now, their height difference was much more significant.


He forced himself to land beside her.

He was nervous about the attention he was suddenly given, especially now that half the people around them had their iPhones out in an attempt to capture what they'd just seen, but he tried to pass it off as nothing more than a sample trick for an upcoming magic show. He even announced the time and venue for the people to come see him, but he figured it was their problem if they showed up to an empty warehouse on a Thursday night because they didn't fact-check.

"For someone who's nervous about attention," Kate said, "you sure aren't shy about attracting it."

"Was distracted. Didn't mean to."

She reached out and squeezed his hand.

"I know, honey. It's just that in a world where everyone is a photographer, we have to be more careful about what we do in public. Try to stay more focused. You're not among wolves and muskoxen anymore. These people can ruin our lives if we let them."

Jake paid more attention to how he was walking now, and he managed to keep his feet touching the ground as they finally found the right place to eat. But he enjoyed those moments when he could give himself a bit more lift. The higher vantage point was great for his photography, and he had been outperforming Kate's calendars for several years now as a result. As long as he didn't attract the attention of scientists or politicians, he was in pretty good shape to continue on this course of improvement. He was taking it on faith that none of them watched late night talk shows.