Secrets: Chapter 27

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Chapter 27

On Sunday the twentieth of December, four days after meeting with James, August woke to light creeping into her eyes and finally felt like getting her life back in order.

Snow dusted the ground, a white world, blindingly brilliant. An hour's jog cleared her head. The cold burn in her lungs and hot pounding of her heart made a pleasant contrast, shaking free some of the negative mood that had been clinging with dark claws since forever. A shower on returning to the apartment had her feeling almost like a person.

Soon, this phase of her life would come to an end. Whatever James decided, whatever they did or didn't discover, everything would be over. She made peace with that. This ending was no different from the ones that came before and would come after. The only final ending was death.

That made August think about James, and about his mother. What had happened to Hanako Kirkpatrick's life? Had she moved on to wherever she was intended to be? Was she lost somewhere out in the world, unable to return and unable to move forward?

How could August feel sorry for herself when she was 25 and healthy and hearty and strong?  She could build something. Somewhere, somehow. It would be lonely to start again, but she was used to lonely.

She ate a cup of yogurt and a piece of fruit and felt stuffed. Her appetite had diminished lately. Her prized feminine curves were in danger. After ten minutes she forced herself to eat a granola bar as well.

Then her phone rang, and the number belonged to James. The granola nearly came back up. August took a deep breath, then two more, then closed her eyes.

"Hello?"

"I want to show you something. I'm coming over."

"You're ... what? Right now?"

"Unless it's a bad time."

"No. Um, now is fine."

"See you in twenty."

He hung up.

August stared at the phone for almost two minutes, then burst into action. She put on makeup, messed with her hair, then decided to change clothes. When the knock came, she had to hop into the living room while pulling on the other leg of her khakis. She smoothed everything down, then pulled open the door.

"Hello," she said.

"Your shirt's on inside out," James said.

August looked down. Not only was it inside out, it was backward. The tag was hanging off the front.

James peered at the label. "Wash in cold water. Do not mix colors."

Good bloody God.

"Excuse me. I'll be right back."

August walked at measured pace through the kitchen and into the bedroom, shut the door gingerly, and leaned back against it with her eyes closed for ten seconds before pulling the shirt off and switching it around. Then she took it off again and put on a dark cotton long-sleeve that she checked twice to make sure was facing the right direction.

"Sorry about that," she said, emerging into the kitchen. Her face was flushed, but there was nothing to be done about it.

James turned from the window wall at her approach. "It's different now?"

"Rather put off by that one."

At last James let out a breath of laughter. "If that was a way to break the ice, you're even more dangerous than I gave you credit for."

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