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Danielle Steel

After dark, she stood at the window, watching the snow fall gently onto the streets of New York. There were already three or four inches sticking to the ground. It was beautiful, and made her suddenly want to go outside and take a walk. She needed to get some air and get away from her own thoughts. The visions in her head were oppressive, and she knew the cold and snow would distract her and clear her head. She could stop and get something to eat on the way back, since she hadn’t eaten all day. She wasn’t hungry but knew she had to eat. All she wanted now was to get out of the apartment and away from herself.

Ginny put on two heavy sweaters, jeans, hiking boots with warm socks, a knitted cap, and her parka. She pulled the hood over the cap and grabbed a pair of mittens out of a drawer. Everything she owned now was functional and plain. She had put all her jewelry from Mark in a safe deposit box in the bank in California. She couldn’t imagine wearing it again.

She put her wallet and keys in her pocket, turned off the lights, left the apartment, and took the elevator downstairs. And a moment later she was walking through the snow on Eighty-ninth Street, heading east toward the river, taking deep breaths of the freezing air as the snow continued to fall around her. Long plumes of frost sailed into the air when she exhaled. She walked along the overpass to the river, then stood at the railing looking at the boats drifting by—a tugboat and two barges, and a party boat all lit up for someone’s Christmas party. It looked festive as it went by, and she could hear music and laughter in the crisp night air.

There was almost no traffic on the FDR Drive while she stood looking down at the water, as images of Chris and Mark forced their way into her mind again and she thought about what her life had become since their deaths. It was a life that she had dedicated to others, a life that served someone at least, but, as her sister had guessed, she hadn’t cared if she lived or died, and had lived accordingly, taking outrageous risks. People thought she was brave, but only she knew how cowardly she was, hoping to get killed so she wouldn’t have to spend the rest of her life without her husband and son.

As she looked down at the water shimmering beneath her, she thought about how easy it would be to climb over the railing and slip into the river. It would all be so much simpler than living without them. Feeling strangely calm, she wondered how long it would take her to drown. She was sure that there were currents in the river, and with her layers of clothing on, she would be pulled under quickly. And suddenly the idea seemed immensely appealing. She didn’t think of her sister or father. Becky had her own life and family, they never saw each other, and her father wouldn’t understand that she had died. As she mused about it, it seemed like the perfect time to make an exit.

She was considering climbing over the railing when a sudden movement in her peripheral vision at her left caught her eye and startled her, and she turned her head to see what it was. The hood of her parka partially blocked her vision, and all she saw was a flash of white dashing into a small utility shed as she heard the door slam. Clearly, someone was hiding inside it, and she wondered if whoever it was had been intending to attack her. Jumping into the river and drowning seemed simple and reasonable to her in her current state of mind—getting mugged by a hoodlum hiding in a utility shed seemed more unpleasant and she’d still be alive, presumably, at the end of it. But she didn’t want to leave. She had her plan to carry out, to jump into the river, and she didn’t want to wait until the next day. There was something poetic that appealed to her about dying on the same day they had, even if it was three years later. Her sense of good order dictated that she should kill herself tonight. It never occurred to her that her thinking was distorted, her judgment paralyzed by grief. It all made perfect sense to her. And she didn’t want to run away and give up her plan just because someone was hiding in the shed. In fact, it was annoying her that whoever was in there didn’t come out but continued to hide. She stood waiting for someone to emerge, so they couldn’t startle her or attack her. And she refused to leave and stood her ground, determined to carry out her plan. Having made the decision gave her a sense of relief from pain. She had chosen a way out.

It seemed very silent in the shed, and then she heard some shifting around and muffled coughing. Her curiosity got the best of her. If they were coughing, maybe whoever it was in there was sick and needed help. That hadn’t occurred to her before. She stared at the shed for long minutes, and then boldly walked up to it and knocked on the door. She wondered if it was a woman after all, although she thought she’d seen a man out of the corner of her eye, but whoever it was had moved very quickly into the shed and closed the door.

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