Just breathe. Breathe. You don’t have a final diagnosis—yet. Emmie
turned the key and the engine purred. Maybe she would head west and keep
driving. Perhaps if she kept moving, this wouldn’t be real. Lurching to
a stop at the garage attendant’s booth, she paid and eased into traffic.

Other drivers whizzed past her as if she were standing still. The drive that
normally lasted ten minutes, took her twenty-five. She parked in her
driveway and sat for a moment, staring at the fence.
I need to paint the
fence this summer.
A laugh escaped at the incongruity of that thought, as if
painting the fence would set her world right.

When she opened the back door of her house, a fly buzzed past her and
made a beeline for the window above the sink. She didn’t have the heart
to chase it down and kill it. Tossing the car keys onto the kitchen table, she
dropped her purse in a chair. The red light on the answering machine
blinked, but she ignored it. She wandered through the house, trying to
decide what to do first. Tears threatened when she thought of telling her
daughter, Lisa, this news.

Tension crawled up her spine, across her shoulders, and into the base of her
skull where everything knotted together. She walked to the kitchen and
parted the mini-blinds, looking beyond her car to the next driveway, hoping
to see her sister-in-law’s SUV parked there.
She must have stayed after
school, probably monitoring detention.

Her eyes filled and the need for comfort chilled her. Emmie wrapped her
arms across her chest, her fingers grasping just above each elbow. The
empty embrace made her feel even more alone.

Panic gripped her. She swallowed hard and ran to the bathroom, heaving,
but nothing came. Rising, she studied herself in the mirror. Her hair that
had grown back curly and a darker shade of brown. She sank her fingers
into the thick curls as tears spilled down her cheeks.

She closed her eyes, taking in deep breaths to hold back the terror that
threatened to suffocate her.