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I I I
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She was alive.
Miles could hardly believe what he was seeing. He tried to focus, to force his mind into a tunnel, a narrow beam of concentrated thought. He failed; the exercise was futile in such a disorienting hurricane of sensation. The whiskey sloshed through his brain, rocking him like a ship in unsteady waters. He was confused, disoriented, struggling for balance. But he knew this was real – this was more real than anything Miles had felt in a long time. She was alive.
Yet he could fathom no reason why she would be here. But he was drunk; he knew he was drunk. Reason was not something coming easily.
For a moment he swelled with hope – a desperate hope that somehow he’d prevented the accident – but she lashed out with such violet anger, and as she struck him he saw her memory: he felt her weeks alone in the hospital, felt the panic and disbelief as the painful sinking realization that her husband and her children were gone was and were never coming back, felt the boiling rage that collapsed into bleak depression when she realized that she was completely alone and her life had fallen apart. Each blow was a burst of new memory, still fresh like a recent burn.
He could feel the anger boiling up in her; the terror and desperation and despair pummeled him in great bursts, like heaving, violent waves crashing on a beach. He was barely aware that she was striking him. She had abandoned the bottle when he collapsed; she was beating him with her tiny fists, a near futile effort if not fueled by her venom and fury. She clawed his face, her fingernails leaving a surprisingly deep cut that welled up and dripped bright red blood down his cheek. She kicked him, hard, and he doubled over in pain. He made no move to defend himself; he just lay there, limp, and finally her will was exhausted, her fury abated. Karen looked down at him, deflated, looked at the pitiful heap of a man, and slumped over in the ragged wicker chair on his front porch. She began to cry, quiet sobs, and tears streamed down her cheeks. She clutched herself, rocking back and forth, her chest heaving under her frail arms.
Miles waited a moment, then gently pulled himself to his feet, glancing once at Karen before limping inside.