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The bus from Boston dropped Aisha at the Weymouth station and departed with a loud whoosh of brakes and a gust of hot exhaust fumes that might have fluttered her clothes and hair if her clothes hadn't been so limp and wrinkled and her hair so sweaty and tangled.
She was wearing a long Indian-print skirt that clung sweatily to 'the backs of her legs. Her sleeveless white blouse had started out crisp and snowy, but now it looked like a used dinner napkin.
Aisha didn't care.
She walked slowly toward the ferry landing. She felt something on her cheek and touched her face absently. A tear. She flicked it away. She had been doing that for hours, producing one or two tears every ten minutes without even being aware of it. Not actually crying, really, but enough to make her look especially pathetic, she supposed.
I wonder how long this will continue, she thought. Maybe it's lifelong. Hopefully by the time I'm fifty, I'll be used to it.
She had to run the last few steps to catch the ferry. Her sandaled feet slipped on the metal deck as the gate clanged up behind her. She moved toward the railing.
Even on the ferry there was no breeze. Aisha piled her curly dark hair on top of her head and held it there. Her black eyes were distant and preoccupied.
She was leaving for college in a week. That meant she had to avoid Christopher for several hundred hours. Aisha's tired mind considered this. She once read that the average woman spent seventy-two hours shaving her legs over the course of a lifetime. When she first read that, Aisha thought, That's not even possible-nobody's that vain, butlater she did the math during a particularly boring history class and it actually only worked out to something like forty-five seconds a day.
Okay, so she would fill forty-five seconds every day by shaving her legs. She was sure that if she stretched it out, she could make it, last at least fifty-seven seconds. Another eight hours per day sleeping. Except that Aisha wasn't sleeping too well these days. But she could at least stay in bed for eight hours. Another two hours per day eating. Except ... well, Aisha wasn't eating very well, either. In fact, she'd lost four pounds in the past two days, and her already thin figure was beginning to look gaunt.
Aisha let her hair fall back onto her clammy neck and felt her protruding collarbones-with her fingertips. I have to get away, she thought. I have to somehow fill up this last horrible week, and then I can escape off to Princeton and never look back.
Another tear slipped out of her eye. She caught it while it was still on her lashes. Who is this man I was going to marry? she wondered. She just didn't know anymore.
The ferry pulled up to the North Harbor landing, and Aisha automatically moved forward. Although she was grimy and sticky, even the thought of a long hot shower wasn't inviting. Nothing sounded appealing to her.
Aisha sighed. I used to love baths, she thought. I used to love sleeping and eating, for that matter I used to take pleasure in all sorts of things before Christopher ruined it all. Oh please please please let me leave without seeing him again.
Claire sat at the breakfast bar in the kitchen, eating an apple and drinking a glass of milk. Her sister, Nina, and father, Burke Geiger, were sitting at the table. Claire's stepmother, Sarah, was upstairs getting dress .
"I don't know how you can eat that," Burke said, watching Nina add sugar and honey to her mashed banana. "It's so--sweet."
"That's basically the point, Dad," Nina said. Her wide gray eyes were still sleepy, and her short, reddish brown hair stuck up in spikes. "I don't know how you can eat that," she went on, indicating his bran flakes. "It's so--healthy."
Lying in front of Claire on the breakfast bar was a book tided Captain Jack's Book of Self-defense. Although book was probably overstating the case somewhat. It was more like a leaflet, considering that it was stapled, not bound, and it had a lot of typos. But it was the only book on selfdefense that Claire found at the Weymouth public library.
Claire was writing an imaginary letter to Captain Jack.
Dear Captain Jack, it began. I am only one chapter into your book and have already concluded that you are a sexist pig....
It said on the back of the book that Captain Jack was a former marine. Claire guessed that he had been too busy learning ways to kill people to participate much in the feminist movement.
"Claire, what are you doing today?" Burke asked.
"Shopping," Claire answered automatically. "I needsome more stuff for school."
Nina made a little moaning sound.
"Imagine," Burke said. "Next week it'll be just you and me, Nina."
Nina moaned louder.
Claire continued.... The term is women, for your information, unless you are speaking about a young child, and then the correct term is girl. "Gal" is grammatically incorrect and offensive. "Little lady" is just as obnoxious....
"Are you going to drive down to Cambridge with Claire and me?" Burke asked Nina.