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He Wasn't Going To Like It. He Hated The Ritual of the formal family picture, but the time was right. In four short days, his only child was leaving the nest,breaking out of her chrysalis into an exciting new world. If ever there was an occasion to mark, this was it.
Starting college was a rite of passage, a beginning.
It was also an ending, one Emily Arkin had been dreading for years. Prior to kindergarten, Jill had been all hers. Then she was gone three hours a day. Then six. Then seven, then eight.
College was twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. It was a springboard to adulthood and total Independence.
"How do I look?" Jill asked, joining Emily's reflection in the bathroom mirror.
Emily lost a moment's breath. She always did when Jill came upon her unexpectedly. That this striking young woman was her daughter never faded to amaze her. She had Emily's dark hair and hair skin and Doug's height, but the features came from earlier generations, and what was inside was pure Jill. She was sweet, sensitive, and smart. She was innocent, yet sophisticated, the product of growing up in a small town, in a shrinking world.
Emily didn't want the innocence lost. She didn't want the sophistication honed. She didn't want Jill hurt. Ever.
"Mom," Jill pleaded softly.
Emily made a helpless sound and reached for a tissue. "Sorry. I didn't mean to do that."
"If you cry, I will, too, and then we'll both look a mess. Dad's on the phone." She paused, cautious. "Is he going to be angry?',
Emily forced a bright smile. "What's to be angry about? He's already dressed for the cook-out. In ten minutes, the pictures will be done and well be on our way." The doorbell rang, in old age more a clang than a chime. "There's the photographer," she said and took Jill's face in her hands. "You look beautiful. Come."
The sun was failing in the west, gilding the edges of the broad-leafed maples that stood on the front lawn, and the peaks of the white picket fence beyond. Leaving Jill there, Emily went to the door of the small den that was Doug's home office and caught his eye.
He held up a finger and continued to talk.
Stomach jangling, as always when she couldn't gauge his mood, she waited, watching him. At fortyfour, he was even more athletic of build than he had been at twenty-two. Then, sheer physical labor had kept his body in shape. Now, daily workouts at a health club did it. His stomach was flat, his back straight, his shoulders broad. He wore his clothes well.
They were fine clothes. He shopped when he traveled, and he looked it. The pleated slacks and open-neck shirt that he wore today spoke more of Europe than of a small town in the northwest corner of Massachusetts.
Emily half-wished she had bought something new to wear for the pictures, to look more sophisticated beside Doug. But she, hated spending money on herself, when there were other bills to pay. Better a new muffler for the wagon than a silk something she would never wear again.
Doug hung up the phone. "Who rang the bell?"
She slipped a cajoling arm through his. "Larry Johnson. He's new with the Sun. A photographer. He's good, and very cheap. I asked him to take a few pictures before we leave."
"I know. You hate having pictures taken, but Jill's leaving In four days, four days, and then our lives will be changed forever."
"Maybe, if she'd been going to D.C. like Marilee. But Boston? It's barely three hours away."
"She won't be our little girl anymore."
"She hasn't been that for a long time."
Together AloneBy: Barbara Delinsky