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And this then was how it had happened.
They had gathered in the entryway beneath the Christmas wreaths and the construction-paper cut-outs (H-A-P-P-Y B-I-R-T-H-D-A-Y hung in alternating purple and pink) to put on their coats and say their goodbyes before heading out to their cars and off on their own separate ways, when the matter came up of directions.
Mrs. Brubaker started it.
“Now how is Amy getting home?” she had asked no one in particular. “Didn’t she follow Jenny here?”
She had, and Jenny was going now not home but to spend the night at her mother’s house which, in fact, she had known would be the case all along.
“Does she know her way back? Where does she need to go?”
“Vinings,” she had said.
“Vinings? That’s far.”
Linda pursed her lips and shifted Cody from one shoulder to the other.
“This time of night? That is far.”
“What time is it?”
“What’s that drive, about an hour?”
In the corner by the stairs Greg had stopped putting on his coat. Alex stepped back into the room from the door.
“Amy,” Mrs. Brubaker said, “why don’t you and Jonathan just sleep here tonight. We’ve got plenty of space. I can make you a bed in the spare room. You don’t need to be out on those roads in the dark trying to find your way home.”
She had demurred. Mrs. Brubaker cocked her head and gave her a worried look.
“Well let us get you out to the highway, at least.” They’d all opened their bodies to face her.
“You could just go straight down Collins Mill,” Alex suggested. Dale had turned to Linda and asked if she thought they should ride with her to 285. “Look,” Ken said, “she can just follow me. I’m going that way anyway.” Mr. Brubaker had run upstairs to see if he could print out some directions from the Internet.
“You’re good to drive, right?” Melissa asked her.
She meant the wine. She was fine, she said.
“Amy? You were drinking wine? Really? When? Are you sure you’re okay?” Mrs. Brubaker redoubled her look of concern.