All Washed up

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I kicked up great splashes on the surface as I headed for it, and with great relief got my free hand on the floating bottle. Something strange had happened to my flesh in the water. Usually, when the weather is frigid and even warm winter clothes aren’t enough, the fingertips and toes go numb first, followed by the whole of the hands and feet. But when they pulled me out, I could still feel my fingers, but the skin of my upper arms and chest had lost sensation, so that I barely felt the edge of the deck as many hands pulled me ungracefully onto it.

She was thin and had that tentative, nervous kind of beauty that seems proprietary to blondes, but today, and probably most days, she hadn’t chosen to accentuate her looks save for some dark-brown mascara and a little bit of concealer under the eyes that didn’t erase the shadow of a poorly slept night. She wore jeans and a softball shirt—the kind with a white body and colored long sleeves, blue in this case. A plain silver band rode her right hand; a very small diamond solitaire the left. “I think my sister is probably in town somewhere,” she said, when I’d gotten her settled before my desk with a cup of coffee.

My feet were braced and I could lean back against the webwork. “That’s not an easy climb for a grown-up,” I told her. There were times when I liked being five-foot-eleven, but this wasn’t one of them. ” she asked. “Your sister came to see me yesterday,” I said. ” Ellie glanced up and toward the road, from where Vignale and I had both come. I couldn’t tell if she was hopeful or unhappy at the prospect. “Uh, no. But she’s in town,” I said. Ellie looked down again, toward the water. ” “We both just want to know what’s bothering you,” I said.

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