character absenteeism? Or this glaring reminder that not all of us live the life of Pepsodent and Chevrolet commercials? Four stitches, five cartons of Salems, two bottles of Dewar’s, and nine days later, Rachel awoke in the middle of the night. She reached for the personal rosary she’d fashioned from her grandmother’s earrings and her brother’s Army dog tag. After several Hail Marys, she got up to put an ice compress on her face. She heard voices. Harry’s and Sophie’s bedroom doors were open. Instinctively she crept down the basement stairs. Harry was inside the Answer Box, humming to create an “idle” mode. Sophie sat near the Speak Here window. Clearly she was old enough to know there was no magic in that cardboard container; that it was only her younger brother she accessed. Nevertheless, Sophie murmured long sincere questions. “How could someone say he loved you, but hurt people you love?” A pause. “And if grown-ups say they love each other when they get married, how come marriages don’t always work? If Daddy …” Rachel couldn’t tell if the moisture on her face was melted ice or tears. The day before Thanksgiving the school principal asked her to stop by for a talk. Stan Rendell’s suit jacket was open, stomach threatening to pop the buttons of his white shirt.
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