In Irene's Eyes

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THE DIGITAL CLOCK ON THE microwave oven showed 9:50 a.m. Soft sunlight coming through the kitchen window lit up the room. In the garden, birds were chirping loudly in the magnolia tree.

Sitting at the kitchen table, I was writing an essay on a yellow notepad. The house was quiet; I could even hear the grandfather clock's ticking in the living room. I enjoyed the quiet because I could think without interruption.

When the grandfather clock chimed ten times, I heard the front door open and close again, followed by footsteps on the travertine tile in the living room. The kitchen door opened after a few beats, and a willowy blonde lady in jeans and a light-yellow blouse walked into the room.

"Hi, Luna," she greeted me, putting her backpack on the chair across from me. "How's your essay going?" Her eyes looked down at my paper as she settled into the chair next to mine.

Exhaling, I dropped my pencil and buried my face in my hands. "Y—you should let me t—type the essay in m—my ThinkPad." I muffled my stammered voice with my palms.

Tilting her head, she said, "Shouldn't you have said, 'Hi, Audrey, how are you?'"

I grunted and looked up at her. "H—hi, Audrey, how are y—you?" My voice sounded flat.

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