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Smith stopped the car at the edge of town and got out, looking inward for the first time in his life. It looked so different from out here, sleepy and content in the slow shadows of sunset. He hadn’t felt any of that contentment when he’d been growing up; to him the town had been slow and behind-times, too small, too boring, holding him back. It beckoned to him now, with the promise of a break from city life, the promise of home.
It had been home for eighteen years, but now it was strange. Or he was strange, seeing as he drove a clean foreign car and had a college degree carefully packed in his bags. The houses sat around the heart of town, houses whose families he had known his whole life. His father’s, the Spreens’, the Davids’. The Noor and Jackson farms were still there, way in the distance against the hilltops. Most all of the town was dark, but he could see the bonfire on the Noor property. It would be the first night of the summer festival, then-‘the dance.
He drove into town, seeing nobody, and left his car at his parents’ to walk up to the Noor barn. For all he was an adult now, city-educated and his own person, something about the town where he'd grown up made him uncomfortable, made him want to fit in.
The dance was in full swing when Smith arrived. He stood in the doorway for a moment, unnoticed, and looked around. He knew all the faces: many of them older, some all grown up, one or two just the same. Even Blair David was there, also back from the city. His best friend standing off to the side for a moment, looking winded, his arm around pretty Shannon Miller, the daughter of the sixth grade teacher. Seeing Shannon made him think of Sarah, and he looked for her on the dance floor. There was no way she’d ever sit out.
And there she was, long hair hanging loose, flying over the ground in a maroon and yellow dress that drew attention, the attention of him and many of the other unattached males. Sarah David had grown up with a vengeance. When he looked at her face though, he was forced to revise his impression. As fine a body as she might have, the light in her eyes and the total abundance of life in that wide, wide smile were hypnotic and earth-shattering. She was beautiful, and she had been in love with him.