Today's Reading

2

Montauk, New York


Lucas Page was out on the deck, turning things over in his mind. It was past two a.m. but he had lost track of time to one of those warm fall nights that made him feel like winter might never arrive. He sat in the big cedar chair with a cup of coffee that had passed peak-consumption temperature hours ago. His beaten leather mail bag was on the deck under his chair, filled with term papers that he needed to go through, but his attention was focused on the broad misty strip of the Milky Way. The rhythm of the surf scratched at the beach and he suspected that this was as close to meditation as he could get—something the doctors, in the vague but polished nomenclature of their profession, had tried to convince him could be a useful tool during times of stress. But when the voices started up, there was no convincing them to be quiet; they operated on their own schedule. And the hour he spent watching network news earlier gave them all the excuses they needed for a little emotional mischief; there was nothing like a flashback to start the voices chattering.

His head was back on the big deck chair and he focused his good eye on the stars. Out here, beyond the visual noise of the city, he could get a pretty good view of the sky if the weather was in a giving mood. The telescope was out, but it was really for the kids, part of his oft too-aggressive attempt to teach them a little more about the universe. They had taken turns peeking up at the cosmos after supper, but Lucas was still thinking about the explosion back in the city, and the kids had eventually drifted back into the house. Evidently he was no fun to be around when he wasn't paying attention to them.

Lucas preferred the human eye over the telescope out here because it pulled focus and let him take in the Big Picture without zeroing in on details—a hard-wired problem with his thinking since childhood. His attention wandered from star to star, constellation to constellation, unconsciously and automatically mapping the movements as the minutes ticked by. He was staring at the Seven Sisters and could see five of the girls—not bad with the naked eye at this time of year—when Erin came out.

She sat down in his lap, careful to put her weight on his good leg. "Hey, Mr. Man. I thought you might have gone for a swim."

He smiled into the dark; the water out here was never warm, but this far into October it would be at hypothermia temperatures. Also, with or without his prosthetics, Lucas had all the hydrodynamics of a cast-iron sewing machine. "Can't sleep."

"So you're staring up at the sky?"

"I am."

She nodded over at the telescope. "Why aren't you using your fancy coatrack?"

"That's for the kids. I don't like it. Too much chromatic aberration."

"Of course. Chromatic aberration. Silly me."

He smiled and leaned forward, putting his face in the thick red hair that fell over her chest and the blue Wonder Woman T-shirt. She was warm and smelled of that Bvlgari perfume that was a big part of the mental snapshot he carried around. "I'm just thinking about things."

They had both been involved in a silent dialogue from the moment they saw the news, and even though things was not much of an answer, it was enough.

"How long will we be hiding out at the beach?" She leaned her head back on his shoulder and followed his line of sight up to the sky.

He reached over to the other chair and took the blanket off the back with his right hand, doing a decent job of covering her. "We're not hiding out."

"Okay."

"We're waiting. Events like this often come in multiples. Right now I'm more comfortable out here, where statistically there isn't much of a chance of our children being blown up."

Their silence indicated that they agreed on that one point.

Erin pulled her feet up onto his lap under the blanket. "The hospital hasn't called, which means we didn't get any of the survivors."

"That's because there weren't any."

By the way she stiffened, he could tell that she hadn't thought of that as an option. "How do you know?"
...

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