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On the day she had been ordered to return, Anna took one last walk through the rooms she’d just begun to think of as her own. Everyday accouterments of human existence – the eggplant purple chenille throw,  blow-dryer, scratched travel mug – had blended in her mental image of the house. She couldn’t remember which items legitimately belonged to her and which had been strategically placed by the owners to make it feel “homey.” It made packing slow and disorganized. For days she’d thrown one random object at a time into her suitcase as she walked past it only to remove it again later on. Everything had fit in the end. She left the bicycle in the shed and lined the books she had bought and read during her stay on the shelf for the next occupant, though she didn’t like the idea of someone else moving through this space.

As instructed, she’d unplugged the appliances, switched off the hot water, and closed and locked all the windows. She checked it all again, finally dropping the key in the clay bowl on the kitchen table. For almost a year, she had cherished the quiet of the house. Without the refrigerator’s white hum, the silence deepened and pressed against the sealed interior.

“Anna.” She said aloud, startled by the volume of her voice, “Anna.” There had been no need for honesty here among the local strangers. She’d grown accustomed to her pseudonym. In their kindness, they’d accepted it and used it to greet her when she rode into town for errands.

When she opened the back of the rental car, delivered the previous day at no small expense, it rose on chrome pistons and made a noise like a slow, preparatory breath. One suitcase and her shoulder bag only filled a fraction of the trunk. She had gained nothing here, paid cash, grown accustomed to an unarmed existence.

With its dozens of buttons, backlit in blue and red, the dashboard looked more like a cockpit. She adjusted the heat, flipped down the visor and looked herself in the face. Her hair was in a braided loop, concealed under the beret she’d knitted herself with wooden needles. Although it was only four o’clock, the sun was low and bright in her eyes. It filled the car with orange light that glared on the leather seats.

“Anna.” She reminded herself with a frown. They were expecting her, after all. She wiggled the strange shifter into gear and eased around the familiar maze of potholes down the narrow road until she reached the main drag that would take her south to the appointed place at the appointed time.

“Evangeline.” She smiled, turning north instead.

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Kate has a Master’s of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from Lesley University. She enjoys all the equipment on the writing playground, evidenced by her many simultaneous projects. She is a freelance writer and editor, author of the poetry collection How to Love an Introvert, and is working on a piece of non-fiction while dabbling in children’s books and flash fiction. She’s the Platform Manager at Mash Stories and the owner of Black Squirrel Workshop LLC.

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