If I was a normal, God-fearing Indiana girl, I wouldn't be driving this eighteen-wheeler. I'd be settled, with kids and a husband to keep me tired, burying my wanderlust under piles of laundry and dirty dishes.

Lord knows I tried, it's not like I didn't. I tried the curlers and the make-up, the meatloaf and the apple pies. But it didn't take. And when Jim upped and left me for some girl with tighter skirts and longer eyelashes, I stopped trying. I got out my comfortable old jeans and plaid shirts and hit the road as I'd always wanted to do.

I'm not bitter, though my mother shakes her head whenever I'm home to visit. Jim did me a favor, really. If I happen to run into him and, what's her name, Charlene, at the IGA or the movie house, I always give them a warm smile. Thanks for leaving, Jim, I think, and giving me back my self.

It's not a soft life, pushing a big rig, but I love it. I love the freedom of the road, the asphalt stretching endlessly before me toward unknown wonders. I love the urgency, the need to put the miles behind me. I love the power. When I'm behind the wheel, rolling towards Chicago or LA, KC or Boise, no one can bring me down. With the Stones or George Thorogood blaring through my cab, I sweep past the sedans and SUVs and runty imported pickups like a queen. I honk at the other tandems and semis and they honk back. My brothers in arms. We own the road, and we know it.

My mother's sure that I sleep with every guy I meet on the road, but mostly I keep my distance. I'm a professional, and I take my work seriously. I can't afford entanglements. Or delays.

Sometimes on a Saturday night, though, after a week on the pavement, I'll slip on my heels and a skirt and sashay into the roadhouse in whatever town I happen to find myself. I didn't forget everything I learned when I was working on being married. I'll let some cowboy with a nice smile buy me a beer, and listen to his life's story. Then when he asks me what I do, I let my lipsticked lips curve up a bit and bat my eyelashes, and then tell him. If he doesn't faint or hastily excuse himself, I might take him back to my motel. Depends on my mood.

Most nights I spend alone. I'll lie in the bunk at the back of my cab with the window slid open, breathing the night air. Sometimes I'm parked in a highway rest area, and I'll be lulled by the traffic roaring along the interstate. Some nights, I'll be in the desert, or by some cornfield on a side road, and the only sounds will be those of the night creatures, the crickets or the owls. I'm almost never lonely. On those rare occasions when I am, a walk under the bright-burning stars is enough to set me right.

My usual schedule is three weeks on the road, one off. I drive for a medium-sized outfit in Fort Wayne. Bill, the dispatcher, was in my high school class. We have an understanding. He gives me the tough assignments, the long hauls that put on the miles and bring in the bucks. I get the goods delivered, on time, every time. I've got the best record in the company.

I don't want the other guys thinking that I get off easy, being a woman and all. I need their respect. It's a lot safer for them to see me as a hard-driving bitch than as fruit ripe for the picking. So, six months ago, in July, I came off the road and headed for home. Liberty Mills is west of Fort Wayne about forty miles, due south of South Bend. You might wonder why I stay in my hometown, why I don't get a place in Chicago or at least Indianapolis. I'll be honest. I miss my folks. I love my life on the road, but after a few weeks talking to strangers, I want the pleasure of seeing a familiar face. So I rent a two room apartment over the hardware store downtown, and spend a lot of time with my brothers or at my mom's.

I showered and changed, then rang my mother to let her know I was coming over. She met me at the door with a glass of iced tea.

"Franny, good to see you." Her disapproving eyes took in my baggy khakis and tee shirt, but she said nothing. What did she want? They were clean, at least.

"Hi, mom!" I took the glass from her, placed it on the bookcase, and gave her a big hug. She felt fragile in my arms. The smile on her thin face couldn't hide her weariness. Thirty-five years of wedded bliss and four kids had worn her down. "Where's Dad?"

She gestured bleakly toward the den. "Where else? I swear, since he retired, all he does is watch television or hang out at Sweeney's with the guys he used to work with. You'd think he'd be tired of them after all this time!"

"Well, at least he's out of your hair." I grabbed her hand and pulled her down next to me at the dining room table. "Let me get you some tea, and then you can tell me all the latest news."

There wasn't much. My oldest brother Richard had been promoted to foreman. Lisa and Joe, the brother closest to me in age, were leaving for a Florida vacation next week. Charlene was pregnant again. Mom looked at me anxiously as she shared this tidbit, as if worried at the effect it might have.

"Gee, Mom, that's great. Jim must be thrilled." Once again, I thanked my lucky stars that I had been rescued from Charlene's fate. "Any mail for me?" I still use my old home address.

My mother handed me a fat packet bound with a rubber band. "Looks like mostly bills or junk," she observed. "But there's a letter from an address in Omaha that I didn't recognize."

I mentally forgave her for scanning my mail as I leafed through the pile, looking for the mysterious envelope. The handwriting was not immediately familiar. I tore it open. A faint hint of some floral scent tickled my nostrils.

"It's from Aunt Sybil!" I raced through the brief note, admiring Sybil's precise hand and expensive peach-hued stationery. "She wants me to come visit her in Omaha, next time my route takes me that way."

"Omaha, huh? Last I heard from her, she was in Albuquerque. Won't that woman ever settle down? She's darned near sixty-five at this point."

In my mother's voice, I could hear the whole sad history of her and her older sister. Disapproval, scorn, longing, and regret. Aunt Sybil was the black sheep in her generation, the way I am in mine. She wasn't satisfied with Liberty Mills. She wouldn't settle, wouldn't marry or take a job as a secretary or a shop girl. Instead, she ran off to Las Vegas to become a dancer.

My grandparents were mortified. She'd send back autographed photos of herself in her lavish, skimpy costumes. She wanted them to be proud, the way she was. But they just hid the pictures away in a box in the coat closet.

I found that box once, when I was about fourteen, rummaging around looking for a sweater. She was stunning, glittering and glamorous, her beautiful face framed by a blond halo. The way she smiled at the camera, so warm and inviting, you felt that she was smiling especially for you.

Sybil rarely came home, only for the funerals really. Mostly folks didn't invite her to the weddings. She came to mine, though, wearing a purple silk suit with matching shoes and hat. She kissed my cheek and looked deep in my eyes, telling me that she hoped that I'd be happy. Despite her encouraging words, she looked as though she had some doubts on that score.

"Well, I'm really pleased to hear from her." I ran my eyes over the note again. "She included a telephone number, if you want it." Mom was silent. "I'll call Bill tomorrow, see if he can get me a load headed to Omaha or Lincoln, then give her a ring to tell her my plans."

A week later, I parked my rig at a WalMart and walked three blocks to a neat brick apartment building on an Omaha side street. I had changed to a skirt and blouse; my still-damp curls tickled my neck. I rang the bell marked "S. Connor", and waited, a bit nervous. I hadn't seen Aunt Sybil since that wedding, nearly five years ago.

A diminutive, smiling figure crowned by a cloud of silver hair opened the door. Before I knew what was happening, I was swept into her arms. She hugged me energetically; her perfume made me a bit dizzy.

"Frances, dear! How good that you could come!" She pulled away and held me at arms length. "You look wonderful, so grown up. Not to mention happy," she added slyly. Sybil was the only member of my family who wasn't dismayed by my divorce.

"You look wonderful, too," I replied. It was true. Her face was as gorgeous as ever, practically without wrinkles. Of course she was wearing makeup, but applied so skillfully that except for the crimson of her lips, you could hardly tell. Her gray satin blouse and charcoal slacks draped over a figure that was still trim and voluptuous. As she led the way into the living room, I was impressed by the grace she managed on her four-inch heeled mules.

"Want a drink?" she asked. "If you recall, I make a mean gin and tonic."

Suddenly that sounded incredibly refreshing. I nodded. "Sure. Not too strong, though. I've got to drive back to the motel later."

"Nonsense! I want you to spend the night here. I've got a guest room, and I can lend you some pajamas. We can stay up late, talking girl talk."

I felt valued and sheltered, then, enveloped in warmth and caring. I was so glad I had come. We sipped our drinks, giggled and gossiped about the family and the old home town. She told me stories about her life in Vegas. I told her tales of my life on the road.

She made us another round of drinks and we laughed some more. When we got hungry, she brought out some snacks, smoked salmon and crispy flatbread and goat cheese, stuff I'd never eat at home, and we just kept talking. We didn't really begin to wind down until about eleven PM.

Sybil gave a little sigh. "It's so fantastic to see you, Franny. But I had a special reason for asking you to come."

Her light-hearted manner had evaporated. She suddenly seemed tired and sad.

"Of course, Aunt Sybil. I understand. What is it?"

For the first time since I arrived, I thought that she almost looked her age. She gazed at me silently for a long moment, then shrugged.

"There's no easy way to say it," she said. "I'm dying."

"No! Are you sure?"

She nodded. "Breast cancer. Metastasized. The doctor tells me that I've got six, maybe eight, months left."

"But... what about treatment? Surgery? Chemotherapy? Surely it isn't that hopeless!"

"Too late for surgery, even if I could convince myself to give up my tits. And chemo would increase my chances only marginally. You know me, Franny. I couldn't bear to lose my hair, to feel nauseous and become a bag of bones. It's not worth it, just to add a few percentage points to the odds."

I felt numb, shocked by her news. Sybil was so alive; I couldn't imagine her any other way. My distress must have shown in my face, because she suddenly beamed that showgirl smile at me and swept me into a hug.

"Don't be too sad, Franny. I've had a great life: freedom, fun, love, recognition, self-satisfaction. So it's going to be a bit shorter than I might have wanted, but can I really complain? We're all dying, from the day that we're born. The Lord determines the timing; it's up to us to live each day as if it were our last."

I found her philosophy hard to stomach. It seemed so unfair. My eyes screwed shut, I tried to hold back the tears. One salty drop escaped, making its way down my cheek and onto my lips. I hoped that Sybil wouldn't notice.

She still held me in her arms, against those full, traitorous breasts of hers. She spoke softly in my ear. "There's a favor that I'd like to ask, Franny, something that would mean a lot to me."

"Of course, Aunt Sybil. Anything."

"Take me to Las Vegas. We can have a few days together on the road, then I'd like you to leave me there for a while. There's someone there, a man, that I want to see one more time."

"Sure, I can do that. I'd love to do that, to spend some time with you. But who is this mysterious man that you are going to visit?"

Sybil grinned at me, the sparkle back in her eyes. "I'll tell you the story while we're driving."

I knew that Bill typically handled the late shift on Fridays. I called him to arrange things, told him that I had a family emergency to deal with and needed a few days off, keeping the truck. "Your mom?" he asked, concerned.

"No, my Aunt Sybil." He was silent on the other end of the line. He had danced with Sybil at my wedding. I still remembered how she had kept him laughing through the whole waltz.

"Go ahead, Franny, take as long as you need. I'll square it with the boss. Give your aunt my love."

"I will, Bill. Thanks a million."

The next morning, I was up at seven, as usual, and ready to roll by seven-thirty. My aunt was another story. I woke her as soon as I got out of the shower, but it was nearly nine before she was dressed, made up, and ready to go. I sat in the cab waiting, trying not to be impatient. After all, this was her trip. And she was the one who had the time limits, not me.

When she finally emerged from the building, I had to work to keep from laughing. Her costume was like something from a 1950's garden party: floral, full-skirted dress with a flattering, low-cut neckline, straw hat, white pumps. And white gloves! Her lips were cherry-red. She batted her thick eyelashes and twirled around on the sidewalk.

"What do you think?" she asked. I couldn't bear to disappoint her.

"You look lovely," I told her. "But we won't get to Vegas tonight, maybe not tomorrow night either. You might want to wear something more comfortable. It's a long drive."

"I am comfortable," she insisted as she removed her hat and hiked herself into the passenger seat. I took her suitcase and stuffed it into the storage hatch behind us. "Full skirts let my legs and thighs breath, you know!"

"Whatever you want, Aunt Sybil. Let's hit the road!"

We stopped at the motel to pick up my duffel. Before long we were spinning along on Interstate 80 toward Grand Island. Sybil seemed excited, sitting up high and watching us leave the other traffic in the dust. Her eyes were shining.

"This your first time in a big rig?" I asked.

"Actually, no. I hitched to Las Vegas with a truck driver, once, years ago. He was a real gentleman. Tony, his name was. He never tried to touch me, the whole long trip. Just played the country western songs on the radio and told me stories about the trucker's life. That was before cell phones, or computers, or even CB. He was so lonely, just wanted someone to listen to him."

"Want me to turn on the radio?"

"Not now, honey. I want to tell you about the man I'm going to see. Hank, my old flame."

I braked sharply as some bozo in a VW Beetle cut in front of me. "Whoa, sorry! Your old flame? I always assumed that you had lots of lovers."

She smiled wistfully. "Well, I had a few. But Hank was different. With him, it was the real thing."

"He managed the nightclub at Caesar's Palace. I worked there, first in the chorus, then later as a featured performer. I remember the first time I saw him. It was dress rehearsal for my first show. I was struggling to remember the steps and avoid bumping into the girl next to me. He came into the club to watch. I couldn't keep my eyes off him."

"He was tall and lanky, with dark hair and eyes that seemed to look right through me. Even from across the room, I could feel those eyes, surveying me, caressing me. Something inside me trembled. The room seemed to spin, and the next thing I knew, I had tripped and tumbled off the stage."

"I wasn't hurt, but I was horridly embarrassed. Here I was, the new girl in the show, trying to prove I could be a dancer, and then some guy gives me the once-over and I fall all over myself. I lay there in a pile of crumpled ostrich plumes like some flightless bird. Hank came over and offered me his hand."

"My cheeks must have been crimson. I'm sure that I looked anything but graceful and elegant. Nevertheless, Hank was impeccably polite. He seemed concerned as to whether I was injured. When I assured him that I was fine, there was genuine relief on his face. That, and something else. The purest desire that I have ever seen in a man's eyes. I blushed again, hotter than ever, as I felt my own answering desire."

"Hank left, and the rehearsal resumed. This time I managed to make it through the routine without mishaps. I looked around for him afterwards, but there was no sign of my mysterious admirer. That night, though, after the second show, I found that he had sent a lovely bouquet to the dressing room. 'Glad you didn't break a leg,' the card read. 'You did a great job.'"

"Eventually, I found out who he was. I tried to find excuses to put myself in his path. It seemed that he was trying to avoid me. I was frantic, wanting him desperately even though I wasn't sure exactly what I wanted."

I felt myself blushing as I kept my eyes on the road. "You were a virgin?"

"Oh, yes. Despite what the family might have thought about me, I was quite scrupulous during my teenage years. At that point, though, all that I wanted was to give my virginity to Hank. But for some reason he wouldn't take it."

"I knew that he wanted me. Whenever he looked at me, I saw that same fire smoldering in his gaze. I knew that if I could find a way to be alone with him, he wouldn't be able to resist me."

I could picture Sybil, in her late teens or early twenties, innocent but full of energy and passion. "So, did you succeed?"

Sybil gazed out the window for a moment before she continued. "In a way. One night, I pretended to be sick for the second set. When I didn't show up on stage, Hank came around to the dressing room, concerned. He found me stretched out on the chaise wearing a slinky silk robe and nothing else. He could see immediately that I was perfectly well, but he didn't leave."

"I reached for his hand and placed it inside my kimono, on my bare breast. His eyes burned into me, but he didn't take his hand away. Encouraged, I threw my arms around his neck and kissed him feverishly. His lips opened, his tongue twined with mine for a moment. I was in heaven. Then he pulled away."

"'No, Sybil. We shouldn't,' he told me. There was anguish in his face."

"'Don't you want me?'"

"'Of course I do, girl, you know that. But it's wrong. I'm the manager of the club; it would be taking advantage of you. Plus I'm a married man.'"

"I let my robe slip open. I felt his eyes raking over my flesh as if they were claws. 'Please, Hank,' I pleaded. 'Take advantage of me. If you don't, I don't know what I'll do. I can't stand it any more, I want you so much.' A tear rolled down my cheek. I was not acting; I really was desperate."

"Hank still resisted, but I could detect a swelling between his thighs which suggested that I was having some effect on him. Amazed at my own daring, I reached out and placed my manicured hand on that bulge. Then I looked into his eyes, putting all my yearning into that gaze. 'Please...' I whispered."

She was silent again, lost perhaps in the recollection. "And then?" I prompted her.

"He took me. We made love, there on the sofa, abandoned and tender, salty and sweet. I was deliriously happy, completely fulfilled. It was everything that I had ever imagined in my heated teenage dreams, and more."

She sighed. "That was the first time, for me. And that was the only time, for us. Hank couldn't forgive himself for his lapse. He never let himself touch me again. I had other boyfriends, over the years. But I never forgot him, my stubborn, principled, old-fashioned first lover."

"So, you're going to Vegas to see Hank?"

Sybil nodded. "When I found out about the cancer, I made some inquiries, trying to find him. He's still there. His wife apparently died some years ago. He's alone now. I really want to see him one more time before I leave this earth."

"Does he know you're coming?"

"Of course," said my aunt. "I wouldn't just show up on his doorstep. It wouldn't be polite. I called him last week to ask if I could come, assuming I could get a ride with you."

"And what was his reaction?"

"He sounded happy to hear from me," she replied. There was a pause. "I didn't tell him about the cancer."

Silence hung between us, louder than the roar of my engine. There was nothing more to say at the moment.

Sybil shook her head as if to clear away a fog, and smiled at me. "Why don't you turn on the radio? Maybe we can find a good country station." We sped down the highway together, listening to wailing guitars and mournful tunes of unrequited love.

At Ogallala, I switched to I-70, heading for the Colorado border. I glanced over at my aunt. She was napping. In the relaxation of sleep, her face looked much older, ashen and shrivelled. I shouldn't push her too much, I reminded myself. She's not as young as she seems, and she's sick. Somehow I still couldn't believe it.

By the time we pulled into Sterling, though, where I planned to spend the night, she was awake again, animated and cheerful. Everything delighted her: the mountains in the distance, the twin beds in our simple motel room, the charred steak we shared at the brightly-lit truckstop diner. On the way back to the motel, we passed the neon-lit Double-J Saloon. Her eyes sparked.

"Let's go dancing," she said, mischief in her voice.

I could feel the heaviness in my limbs from the day's long drive. "Are you sure you're up to it? You seemed pretty tired this afternoon. And we need to get up early tomorrow if we plan to get to Vegas by nightfall."

"Come on, Fran! The day I'm not up to dancing is the day I die." She ignored my pained reaction to her flippant reference. "If you don't have anything to wear, I'll lend you something of mine. Let's show the guys in this town what it means to have some fun."

How could I refuse her? I even donned the leather miniskirt and fringed vest she offered me, and put on a bit of makeup. Meanwhile, she wore a glittery dress that hugged her curves, and dangling silver earrings that brushed her shoulders.

The clientele at the Double-J noticed us when we arrived, I can tell you that. Before long, Sybil had most of the guys in the joint throwing quarters into the juke box and shaking their booty with her.

I was surrounded by admirers, too, and did my share of dancing. At first, I couldn't relax; I was too worried about Sybil. But she seemed fine, lively and full of energy. It felt good to move after being cooped up in the truck all day.

Later, a sandy-haired fellow in a plaid shirt held me close as we swayed to some romantic ballad that I didn't recognize. There was comfort in his strong arms, in his male smell. He ran calloused hands down my hips, cupped my buttocks and pulled me against his hard body. His message was clear even before he whispered in my ear.

"I can't," I told him, with some regret. "I've got to take care of my aunt." I gestured toward her. She had her arms around a burly fellow with black curls.

My partner laughed. "Your aunt! I thought she was your girlfriend! I'd say your aunt is doing very well taking care of herself." Sure enough, Sybil's companion was making as free with his hands as mine was, and she seemed to be enjoying it.

"No, thanks," I said firmly, calling on my inner discipline. "We've got to get going. We have a long day tomorrow."

"Well, thanks for the dance anyway, darlin'. Maybe next time."

"Maybe," I said with the most coquettish smile I could manage. I called out across the dance floor. "Aunt Sybil, we've got to be going. It's nearly one AM!"

Gradually, Sybil extricated herself from her partner's embrace. She smiled up at him, a smile that would make any man melt. "I'm so sorry, but my niece is right. I have to go. Thank you so much for the dance."

We didn't get to bed until nearly two. Sybil was wired. She wanted to talk, about the bar, about the route tomorrow, about my love life. I was exhausted. The combination of the driving, the dancing, my worries about Sybil's health, and her damned unrelenting personality conspired to drain me of all energy. I was asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow. I didn't wake until ten the next morning.

When I opened my eyes, I discovered that my aunt was already up and dressed, in an elegant beige pantsuit and matching heels. "Good morning, sleepyhead!" she laughed.

"Damn, what time is it?" I cursed again when she told me. "We'll never get to Vegas today."

Sybil cupped my chin in her hand and looked into my eyes. "Don't worry, Franny. One day more or less doesn't make any difference. I want us to enjoy this time together, not to feel pressured or rushed. The journey is as important to me as the destination."

She sounded like some self-help book. I cursed a third time, this time to myself, and headed for the shower. When I emerged, she was all packed and waiting. We grabbed a quick breakfast on the way out of town. By late afternoon, we were climbing into the mountains, threading our way through the pine-clad slopes of western Utah.

We didn't talk much. We just sat together, feeling the miles flow by. We didn't even listen to the radio. We could sense our destination getting closer.

We stopped for the night in Kannaraville, just south of Cedar City. Sunday night in a quiet town, in a Mormon state. We didn't feel like dancing, anyway. We found a little Italian restaurant with surprisingly good cacciatore and shared a bottle of wine. Sybil told me stories about my mother, how she had won awards for her drawing, how her poems had been published in the local paper. My mother wrote poetry? What else didn't I know about her?

After dinner we took a walk along the deserted main street. The air was cool and clear, redolent of pine resin with a hint of woodsmoke. If you listened hard, you could hear the roar of the traffic on the interstate, a mile to the east. The stars were points of fire overhead.

"Are you nervous?" I asked, finally breaking the silence.

"About seeing Hank? Hell, yes! I hate to think of how I'll look to him, old and dried up and wrinkled."

I had to laugh. "You know that you don't look old. You're incredibly beautiful. You just want to hear me say it."


"But anyway, I didn't mean about Hank. I meant, about the cancer. About dying."

"Well..." she paused to consider the question, scanned the empty sidewalks, sniffed the breeze. "I suppose I'm nervous, of course I am. I'm afraid of pain. I'm afraid of the unknown." She looked me in the eye. "But then I remember how nervous I was the first night I was in the chorus. And that worked out all right."

What could I say? I was nervous, myself, thinking about losing her after finding her again. How would I bear it?

We were up at dawn the next morning and on the road by seven. Route 15, headed straight for Vegas. The air dried up; the pine scent evaporated. We drove through barrenness for several hours, until we came upon the shock that is Las Vegas.

First there's just the desert hills, bare and brown. Then suddenly, tract houses, surrounded by impossibly green lawns that you know are stolen. Finally, the city itself, grimy old lowrises on the outskirts, then the main boulevards with their tall, glittering houses of chance.

I've always thought that Vegas was pathetic in the daytime. Without the flashing lights and the glamor, the desperation of its pilgrims is all too plain. They've tried in recent years to turn the place into a twenty-four-hour resort, with golf courses, spas, huge swimming pools gleaming like desert turquoise. But the heart of the city is still a pair of dice. The fatal lure of chance, the insatiable craving for that one big break. What an odd place to find love, I thought, as we pulled up to the address Aunt Sybil had given me.

It was a boxy, modern apartment complex, a dozen floors surrounding a pool and tennis courts. The air shimmered with the heat as we walked up the path to the entrance. Sybil hesitated before ringing the bell. "How do I look?" she asked, sounding seriously worried.

"Gorgeous, as always," I replied. I was telling the truth. She was tasteful and restrained in a teal linen dress and jacket that highlighted her platinum hair. She nodded, turned, and resolutely pressed the button.

The intercom crackled. "Hello. Who's there?"

"It's me, Hank. Sybil."

"I'll be right down."

He was still tall and rangy, with thick white hair and wireframe glasses. Behind the spectacles, I could sense the intensity in his gaze. He opened the door, ushered us into the air-conditioned foyer.

"Hank," said my aunt, offering him her hand.

"Sybil..." Hank almost choked on her name. He stared at her for a long moment. Then he pulled her into the most passionate embrace I've ever seen.

I stood there awkwardly, while they kissed and caressed each other. Finally, I turned to leave. "I'll be back later," I said, "to see how you're doing." I found a parking lot for my rig and then spent the afternoon playing the slots and meditating on the nature of love and fate.

When I returned in the evening, my aunt was glowing. Hank was gracious and apologetic. He took us out to dinner. Though he tried to include me in the conversation, he couldn't take his eyes off of Sybil.

I left the next morning, headed to Reno to pick up the load Bill had found for me, and then east. It's expensive to drive an empty truck. Kissing me goodbye, my aunt held me for a long time. I wanted to stay there in her sheltering arms forever. "Have a good journey," she said, finally releasing me. "I'll let you know when I want you to come back and get me."

The tears in my eyes made it hard to see the road, the first mile or two.

Six months ago, that was, and now I'm on that road again, going back to Vegas to collect Sybil. Her will specified that she wanted to be buried in Liberty Mills. She left me all her clothes, her jewelry, and her collection of photographs.

The night before I left, Bill called me to offer condolences. He told me that he planned to come to Sybil's funeral. I am gladder than I should be at this news.

Maybe I'll wear that purple silk suit.

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