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He carefully eased open one of the nearly floor to ceiling windows in his living room and stretched his long frame out on the carpet, hoping against hope that some hint of a breeze would slip in under the draperies and cool him off enough to sleep a couple more hours.

***

Gray Peterson woke in a strange hotel room. It was dark and dirty and smelled of continuous use and disinfectant. As usual, he woke with his heart pounding in his ears. He was in a puddle of sweat and the less than sanitary sheets clung to his clammy body. He hated waking up like this. For the first few weeks it had been all right, he thought he could count on people to keep an eye out for him, and he wouldn’t wake up to any unpleasant surprises. But then he got nervous again, especially after that cop let it slip that people from his old home town were asking questions about him.

He rolled over and out of bed in one clumsy movement. He shrugged on a shirt and groped around for his pants. Only a few weeks ago, he would have recoiled in horror at the notion of wearing the same shirt for more than a few hours. He’d been in this shirt for three days.

***

Keith and Paula sat on the sand at the Hollywood Riviera Beach, digging little burrows with their bare toes as they talked. They made plans bigger than the ocean before them. Paula rested her head on Keith’s shoulder. Keith’s heart swelled proudly. Paula trusted him. No one had ever trusted him before. As he watched the white crested waves sweep toward them, he smiled, and he felt like a man.

***

Kendra stepped off the airplane and was nearly slapped down by the wall of heat and smog built up on the tarmac. She coughed and blinked her eyes rapidly. This was her first trip to Southern California, and she hated it already. If she were at home, she would be just sitting down to a pleasant little breakfast, on the delicate china she had inherited from her grandmother. Her cat at her feet, Brahms’ Academic Festival Overture, Op. 80 exploding from her kitchen radio, it would fill the room and herself with a pleasant sense of ambition for the day and goodwill for all mankind. Later, she would be driving downtown to do her shopping and meet with a girlfriend for lunch.

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