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II: HER WORDS • Fiction


is Whittier. I like her much better than Daniel White. She beams at me as she looks around the room and remarks on how wonderful everyone here is. They’re all so kind and caring and have so much faith in her, she says. She has only had one person like that before, apparently, but he is gone now. He probably left like my mother, but I don’t say that. I listen to her in awe of how


much she has to say. Calverton is just the greatest little town and the Grand Canyon is even more beautiful than everyone says. She just stood and looked for hours, unable to keep her eyes off. She says the world is full of places like the Grand Canyon and she wants to see them all. I don’t think I believe her, but I want to come with just to make sure. Her rapid, non-stop words start


to slow and I sense a change in direction.


________ “What about you?” There it is. I don’t know the


answer to her question and I don’t know how to tell her that without sounding like a loon. Though I suppose that’s what we both are. I decide on a half-hearted shrug and a sudden extreme interest in what is being served for lunch today. Mac and Cheese. I pass Larry on my way to our usual table. He sits alone at one of the empty ones. I can’t help but feel somewhat responsible. I want to sit with him, across the table and two seats to the left, just like he likes. Until Darby walks by and nods her head for me to follow. Larry is an adult, after all. Darby studies the room as


though she is seeing it for the first time. I follow her eyes and think that maybe I am too. There is a table of fifteen or so rowdy teenagers laughing and playfully shoving one another. None of them


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could be more than a few years older than me. Certainly they’re all new. To their left, a striking woman with long, pitch-black hair sits very close to a lanky man with a scruffy half-beard. It’s like I’ve never seen people happy before. The whole room is full of them. I look back to Darby and her eyes are no longer wandering. They are fixed on me and her usual grin has turned to a look of somber interest. I allow her eyes to hold mine as we eat, again in silence. ________


“We have a newcomer, so let’s give her a warm welcome this afternoon.”


I’ve never heard someone talk so


much. There are ten of us. We’re supposed to talk for about five minutes each. It’s all carefully planned on the piece of paper we get at breakfast each morning. Today’s is green because it’s Thursday. Darby doesn’t seem to have read through it. She tells everyone else about the


Grand Canyon, too. And about her road trip to Alaska with her RV and her friend who I don’t know is a boy or a girl because Baylin isn’t a real name. Her mother is an airplane pilot, so she didn’t see much of her growing up. She was raised by her father and people think that’s why she doesn’t like dresses and heels, but really she just feels uncomfortable in them and doesn’t understand why someone would pretend to be taller than they already are. You’re just lying to every person you pass. It’s four o’clock before anyone


else has the chance to speak. There are a few groans, but I don’t think most of us care. The doctor is scribbling notes furiously as we all move quickly to the door. It’s free time and if you don’t get in there fast enough, there are no couches left in front of the TV. ________


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