Now, as I stare down at the page, I consider burning it. (Of course Owen didn't just burn the ledger; he burned the rest of the ledger to cover the fact that this page was missing.) The thing is, Owen was so wrong about so many things.
But I don't know if he was wrong about everything.
I want to believe in the Archive. I want to. So I don't know whether it's doubt or fear, weakness or strength, Da's voice in my head warning me to be ready for anything or Owen's telling me it's time for change, or the fact that I have seen too much tonight, that made me take the paper from Owen's pocket.
I should burn it, but I don't. Instead I fold it very carefully-each time pausing to decide if I want to destroy it, each time deciding not to-until it's the size it was before. And then I pull The Inferno from my shelf, slip the square of stolen paper between its pages, and set the book back.
Maybe Owen was right.
Maybe I am a bringer of change.
But I'll decide what kind.
They warn you about sequels.
They tell you to stock up on caffeine and pajama pants. They tell you to strap yourself down against the storm. They tell you that it will all be worth it in the end. That you'll get through it.
But they never tell you how.
People who keep you grounded. People who keep you sane. Who talk plot. Talk pacing. Talk character.
People who answer hypothetical questions about really strange things without looking at you like you've lost your mind.
People who steal the delete key from your keyboard when you decide at two a.m. that maybe you should hold it down.
People who know when you need to be left alone and when you need to be dragged from the computer into the light of day (or the darkness of a laser tag arena).
People who care. Who believe. Even when you don't.
This was not an easy book, in any sense. It fought back. It dragged me through mud and thistle. There were casualties. Hours. Drafts.
But I had people.
I had my mother, who reminded me to eat and breathe, and my father, who reminded me to swim until the world felt small enough again.
I had my NYC housemates, Rachel and Jen, who knew when I needed noise and when I needed quiet (and when I needed to watch cartoons).
I had Carla and Courtney, who hauled me to my feet and dusted me off and squared me on my path.
I had my agent, Holly, who told me I would find a way, because I always did.
I had my editors, Abby and Lisa, who believed in the books, and in me.
And I had you.
VICTORIA SCHWAB is the author of several novels, including The Near Witch-which Kirkus praised for its "shivery horror tang" and "extraordinary sense of place"-and The Archived, of which The Horn Book said "[Schwab] writes of death, sorrow, and family love with a light, intelligent touch and inventive vigor, and provides romance with a pleasing edge of unpredictability." When she's not wandering through foreign countries, Victoria can usually be found tucked in the corner of a coffee shop in Nashville, sipping tea and dreaming up monsters. Visit her at www.VictoriaSchwab.com