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back to Gary. It was time, and it saved Ceci the burden of having to be the one to confess she was still thinking about it.

purse. I caught a glimpse of my reflection in it. I had died my hair two weeks earlier, and it still looked too dark. I was going for chocolate, but it had turned out ashy, almost green in some lights. I clipped at least two barrettes in it every day to give the impression that all had been intentional. My face looked even thinner in the reflection, the product of distortion on cheap metal. I wanted to see the rest of me in the clasp, the not-thin parts, all the rest of my parts. When I looked up, Ceci was chewing on her fingernail with her front teeth, grinding away like a squirrel. Her hair trembled.

take her in. “You could stay in hotels for a while.” “You don’t have any idea what you’re saying.”

“He’d come after me.” This was the time when I knew I should offer to

Ceci looked down at the shining clasp on her “You know you need to leave him,” I brought it

Street. A black truck followed, identical lights flashing in unison with the truck ahead.

paths, which happened to coincide with our walk back to the office. When we rounded the corner, we could see three more trucks squeezed onto the narrow street. They looked like too big children competing for space in line. Big red and black children with angry flashing lights. They were all trying to get into our office building two blocks away.

but we walked slower. There was a lot to take in. Motorcycle police in black helmets, firemen in big rubber capes, men with huge squawking Walki-Talki’s in padded vests, the entire accounting department from the eighth floor, all pantyhose and sensible pumps, oxfords with rolled sleeves, and a slew of interested spectators from the café across the street. Three cops with nightsticks were trying to shove the crowd away from the building, but there were only three of them, completely outnumbered.

She laughed, but it sounded more like a bark, unsmiling but showing all of her teeth. She was tempted, but the idea deflated every time. She could hold it for maybe three seconds before it ran out of air.

insurance,” I persisted. I knew I was pushing it. I didn’t usually take it this far.

just confessed something awful, something I’d done years ago. She was embarrassed for me.

she loaded her garbage onto her tray. She wouldn’t even look at me.

“You have your own credit card. He’s on his own “Abigail,” she said, and she looked at me like I’d

“I was just trying to –” “What time is it? Don’t we need to get back?”

it from the hooks of my fingers. On the street outside, cars hustled by, water from the gutters cracking under their tires. A cab edged too close to the sidewalk, and Ceci flinched like she thought it might jump the curb. I was ashamed for making her so jumpy. We were supposed to be having lunch. She didn’t need this from me. None of it was real anyway.

overcame us from behind, and I squinted against the wailing. When I opened my eyes again, Ceci was standing a few steps behind me. I watched the fire truck’s flashing lights round the corner onto Sansome

6 Soon, the thick sound of an approaching siren I grabbed her purse for her, and she scooped

know existed on the side of the building clanked open, and Marketing from the twentieth floor poured out onto the street, looking confused about how they’d gotten there. They barely had time to get out of the way before Legal from the twenty-fifth floor shot out behind them.

a tan suit asked, and we all seemed to think that was a pretty good question.

One of the three cops ushering people away

scooped a big crowd into his arms, his reach extended by his nightstick.

you can to Market Street. We’re going to Market, come on.” The cop sounded scared. I saw his face up close, and he couldn’t have been more than twenty-five. How did a kid like that get a job like this?

Market Street for a fire? Where is everyone else?” the same lawyer asked, but by that time, we were tired of his smart questions. We were ready to start speculating.

asserted. “Did you smell smoke?” “Can’t be a fire,” a woman in a purple cardigan

“You don’t always smell it. They could have closed it off on one of the nearby floors,” answered a man wearing a tie with pigs on it.

“Why the fuck are we going all the way to “Let’s go, people, we need to move. Go as fast as “Where’s everyone else?” one of the lawyers in When we finally got there, a door I didn’t even We probably should have run to the building,

“That’s Bomb Squad,” Ceci said behind me. We picked up our pace and followed the trucks’

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