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.But he made a promise to my mother to bring me home safely that night.She’s the only person who can help him now.It’s not forgiveness he wants from her, or to explain himself and offer up excuses.He’s too honourable to shift the blame.No, he believes there is still a way to keep his promise.The slowly fading Mr Emerson says Levi remembers something most people forget.21In town, on the way to a parting lunch with her mother, Julie catches herself checking out her new haircut in the rear-view mirror.Her attempt at appeasement backfiring, she had found herself sitting like a brooding adolescent while the hairdresser styled her hair according to her hovering mother’s directions.During lunch, she keeps reminding herself that ‘in less than an hour this will be over,’ the same technique she uses at the dentist.As soon as they are finished her mother will be on her way home to Vancouver.“You should consider what I said, before too long,” Doreen says, putting down her fork after her last bite of Caesar salad.“I can’t imagine how you must be dreading winter, let alone the drive all the way back out to that place today.”Julie bites her tongue.Fifteen minutes.“Just think, you could go back into real estate, or accounting, even return to university if you wanted,” her mother says, watching Julie over the rim of her coffee cup.“There’s nothing to stop you now.”Julie believes there is no real intention of being cruel, but she sometimes wonders if she can hear herself.She’s about to ask, then decides it isn’t worth the effort.In the parking lot she waves her mother off with relief.Then, fully aware that she is still in childish mode, she goes on a spending spree.By the time she’s finished, her purchases fill the back seat.Among them is a professional digital camera and accessories, photography books, and a backpack with a built-in iPod and speakers.Before heading home she makes a hurried trip to the grocery store, the danger zone in a small town, where you’re more than likely to run into someone you know.She dreads the change in expression when someone recognizes her: their panicked look of not knowing what to say; the averting of eyes in pretence that they hadn’t seen her; the flooding of sympathy when they do.And worse yet, is that look of fear she often encounters, as if tragedy is contagious.She rushes through her shopping with the sad realization that she has become less afraid of meeting wild animals in the bush than she is of running into old acquaintances.She almost makes it, but in the fresh produce department she hears someone call her name.Turning slowly she finds, standing behind her with a grocery basket on her arm, Valerie Ladner.The last time Julie saw her was as a blur at Darla’s funeral.Before Julie can respond she feels Valerie brush her cheek with a kiss.She lets herself be hugged, the awkwardness of the embrace double-sided.“I never had the chance to tell you how sorry I am,” Valerie whispers.As she pulls away Julie senses that the woman’s apprehension is about more than sympathy.“I’ve always felt bad about that night,” Valerie tells her.“Perhaps if I hadn’t taken up Ian’s time.” her voice cracks on the words and her eyes cloud over.Julie hardens herself; she could not abide to see this woman’s tears.Yet in Valerie’s tortured expression Julie reads the need for redemption, the need to purge herself of guilt.Julie is about to snap, You give yourself too much importance, but something stops her.She reaches, pats Valerie’s hand in a forgiving gesture and turns and walks away.Pushing her cart toward the checkout tills, Julie feels an unexpected lifting of her spirits.On the way out of the store she glances across the street just as Virgil Blue comes out of the medical clinic.She holds back and watches him walk slowly to his pickup truck.His dog, waiting patiently with his head hanging out of the driver’s window, jumps over to the passenger seat as his master climbs in.Julie waits until Virgil has driven away before heading out to her own car.22During the night an early frost settles on the valley leaving notice that autumn is close behind.In the morning the brittle grass sparkles with hoarfrost, a crystalline carpet spreading down to the shore.Out on the lake, one by one, loons appear like apparitions in the fog-like grey mist hanging over the still water.From her kitchen window Julie counts six of the water birds who, as certain as the coming of winter, are gathering to fly south.She wonders how soon they will leave.Used to their concerts of tremulous calls, she can’t imagine not hearing them before she goes to sleep each night.A melancholy sadness floods through her at the thought of their departure.How empty the lake will be without them.Like the curious emptiness in the house this morning.She turns her attention back to the breakfast dishes thinking how ironic it is that, as relieved as she was to see her mother leave, in a strange way she now feels her absence.Perhaps it’s because during her visit she had served as a kind of buffer.Now that her mother is no longer in the house, the space between her and Ian seems expanded, a gulf impossible to breach.They eat breakfast in silence, neither attempting to resume their interrupted conversation from the day her mother arrived.Whatever his reasons for avoiding it—anger at her for returning to the guest bedroom?—Julie feels relieved.She doesn’t want to revisit the conversation about Levi Johnny, or about talking to his mother.In the living room Ian opens the fireplace doors to throw another log in.The sound of crackling wood fills the house [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]