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Rose intended not to look back, but her hand slipped on the doorknob and gave her one last involuntary look at her mother’s kitchen. The floor needing washing. She wouldn’t have chosen that for a last memory, but it would remain stubbornly in her brain like the half a dozen commercial jingles, and memories of most of the embarrassing things she ever did, the usual things that came to mind just before she drifted off to sleep.

Forget it, just forget it, Rose thought, knew that it was way too late for wishing, and stood on the back steps a moment, watching the weak autumn morning sun make crystals of the dew on the clotheslines, the shed roof, the bare gray tree branches. The back yard had wall-to-wall carpeting of wet, once beautiful maple leaves she had not raked. She pulled the back door shut with a defiant, heavy slam, jiggled the doorknob to check the lock, and wished once again she had not punched her sister in the nose yesterday and knocked her unconscious.

Refusing to dwell on anything anymore, she hefted her two suitcases, put them in the car, and drove over the speed limit, over the state line.

Massachusetts became Connecticut.

“Connecticut Welcomes You.” Rose read the sign out loud, as she always did, in a ritual as equally comforting as it was stupid, and would inevitably announce in a clear, strong, TV announcer voice, “Massachusetts Welcomes You” on the other side of the divided highway on the way back, if there was any way back, which at this point in November 2002, seemed unimaginable.

The highway led to Bradley International Airport. She left her car in the long-term parking lot with a long goodbye look the way some people leave their dogs at the kennel. The little American flag taped to the antenna, shredded by the wind, looked as battle torn as if it might have been placed on the parapet of a tiny Fort Sumter. She noticed this for the first time, out of the corner of her eye as she walked to the shuttle bus. Like the floor that needed washing and the leaves that should have been raked, the flag begged for her attention. Determined to ignore all demands upon her, she would think only about going forward for as long as momentum carried her.

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