When Jesse was through, Hannah must have dozed a bit, because when she got up and slipped out it was starting to get light. She couldn't believe she'd drifted off like that, just turned everything off. Already she could hardly even remember what happened, it was a mosaic of moments, single impressions, pictures that followed each other according to their intensity and not their chronology, images that had nothing to do with her; she was watching herself, a character in a film. And the pictures after Jesse closed the door were especially hazy.

Walking through the deserted, half-lighted streets, it occurred to Hannah that it was probably dangerous. Something could happen to her. But hardly anything that hadn't happened already.

What exactly had happened? A name for it flitted across the surface of consciousness only to dive back down to the depths. She was burned out, and the appropriate word had vanished. Mostly she felt guilty and disgusted with herself. Why hadn't she screamed or something? But they'd been screaming at each other on the stairs and everyone had avoided the stairwell. They probably heard every word, but it wasn't their business. And it had been in the house, not even on the porch, like when Jesse threw the black guy out, and she wasn't a stranger either, Jesse's friends knew her, and they knew Jesse, they told her how he sometimes got violent when he got drunk. Only she didn't believe them. Until last night, he'd had such gentle blue eyes.

Hannah's thoughts continued to revolve around the incident; over and over again, going in circles, never getting anywhere, making her dizzy. They weren't good company. But apparently they were enough--or the empty streets were just safer than a house packed with people she knew.

By the time Hannah got back to her little apartment, the sun was seeping slowly back into the sky, creeping through the streets and transforming the cityscape from black and white to cinemascope. Hannah could have cared less.

That evening, Jesse showed up at her door looking gentle and handsome; slightly comical even with the remnants of the silver sprinkles still dusting his hair and traces of mascara around his eyes. When she saw him she felt tired. She didn't scream or kick or scratch his eyes out. Instead, she stood there looking at him, unfocused, unbelieving and drained, and finally smiled wearily. "What could you possibly want now?" she asked, not letting him in.

Jesse objected, a puzzled look on his face, but gave in with a show of good grace. "What's the matter, girl?" Hannah winced. "Is it really that serious?" he asked, leaning against the door frame.

"Yeah, it's serious."

"What's all this about some fight we had on the stairs? Is that it?" He was smiling down on her benevolently. "Ted's been bugging me about it all morning, wondering why you were mad at me."

"You don't remember?"

"Not a word. I don't even remember how I got to bed last night."

"Oh."

"What did I do?"

"It doesn't matter now."

"Do you want to come over for dinner tonight?"

"No."

"Then how about tomorrow?"

"I don't want to see you anymore, Jesse."

"Aw, come on, girl. It can't be that bad."

"It is."

"Well, then, at least tell me what I did."

"Look, I don't want to talk about it. Ask someone who was at the party."

"But I want to know why you're so mad. I have a right to know."

"Please go."

It took a fair amount of quiet determination, but finally he did go. He called later that night, and Hannah hung up. He called again the next day, and Hannah talked to him, but he didn't seem capable of listening. He wouldn't let up, wouldn't let go. Hannah was his girl, his Oregon girl, and he saw no reason for that to change. No matter that Hannah did; she was just being moody, just like a woman. She would come around.

Hannah felt impotent. Jesse obviously didn't understand a word she said. He called again and again, and when she wouldn't answer, he would come by. She considered going to her mother, only, unfortunately, her mother had been right. She couldn't go to her mother.

But she had to do something. Jesse's auditory faculties were selectively faulty and wouldn't pick up what he didn't want to hear. He was deaf and determined, insensible and inflexible. It was a killing combination.



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