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Finley stepped out of the terminal and caught the smell of the Atlantic even before the glass doors had fully closed behind her. She looked down the line of cars parked in the arrivals pick-up zone and spotted her father’s long-time driver, standing on the curb beside an enormous black government-issue SUV.
“Welcome home, Miss Throop.” He started walking toward her, a little slower than she remembered, but already spreading his arms and giving her that grin that had been as reliable as his insistence on calling her “Miss Throop”, even back when she’d only come up to his kneecaps.
“Hi Dewey.“ Finley laughed and hugged the old driver before allowing him to take her wheeled carry-on and hanging bag.
“You sure don’t have much luggage. The governor said to pick you up in the Death Star here, because you’d probably bring half of California with you.”
“Nope– not staying that long, no matter what my father might have said.”
Finley opened her own door and slid into the front passenger seat, causing the driver to do a stutter-step before he shrugged and walked around to load the bags into the back. Moments later, he was behind the wheel and steering toward the highway on-ramp.
“Don’t get too much company up here in front these days. It’s good to see you again. Been a long time, Miss Throop.”
“I know it. It’s good to see you, too, Dewey. How’s your family?”
“Oh, my girls are grown and gone now. Joanne’s still puttin’ up with me. She’s your biggest fan. Every Friday night she makes sure we’re right in front of the television at ten o’clock.” Finley saw a furrowed brow replace his beaming smile, as he remembered the reason for this joyful reunion. “Guess you won’t be on this week, huh? I sure am sorry about your mamma.”
“Thank you. What’s the latest? I was in the air for last five hours, and I haven’t heard anything since my layover.”
“As far as I know, it’s still the same– critical but stable. Still unconscious.”
“How are the boys handling it?”
“Oh, the usual. You’ll just have to see for yourself. I’ll take you home first to freshen up, then drive you and your brothers up to the hospital to see her. Your dad’ll probably meet you there.”
“Where is he?”
Dewey hesitated, keeping his eyes trained on the road and flexing his wide, leathery fingers on the steering wheel. “He took his own car this evening… some kind of fundraiser, I think.”
“Of course. Wouldn’t want to let down those loyal supporters. Or their checkbooks. Well, I can’t wait to see the boys. This whole thing is godawful, but at least I get to sneak in another visit with them a lot sooner than I expected. I’ll bet they’re a foot taller than they were last summer.”
“Yep. Monsters. Wicked huge monsters, those two guys.”
“Lord help us.” Finley paused and bit her lip, but couldn’t stop herself from asking. “How‘s… everyone else?”
“Well, Tabitha’s still going strong, keeping the place running, taking care of everybody as usual. And… if you’re wondering, Nolan–”
“No– I’m not. Wondering. I didn’t ask about him.” Her fingers curled tightly around the leather armrest, and she stared through the windshield at the peeling URI Rams bumper sticker on the minivan ahead of them.
“I know you didn’t.” Dewey chuckled softly. “Okay then, let‘s get you home Miss Finley. You might enjoy the view on the way. Little Rhody‘s changed a lot in thirteen years.”