At four-thirty Kathryn chose a last CD and put it into Ben’s stereo. Low, gritty guitar chords burst from the speakers, the speed of a terrified heartbeat. She eased herself onto his beanbag chair, her head knocking time. I have a present. It is the present. You have to learn to. Find it within you. She loved this song, the hard, repeated chords, the singer’s hoarse voice. Usually she couldn’t really enjoy the last CD, she was so busy dreading the moment when she’d have to stop for the day: five-fifteen, five-twenty at the latest, in order to be downstairs before Lainie got home from track practice, followed just a little later by Dave returning from work. Today was different, though. Both of them were going out tonight. Kathryn would be back up here by seven-thirty, and then she’d have hours. A vast opportunity. A bonus. A reprieve.

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