An angry murmur arose from the crowd, which didnt appreciate the interruption or the sentiment. Nearly the entire police force was present at the ceremony, and after a moment of uncertainty, several officers began moving toward the interlopers. Chief Rogers was onstage, and just as Kevin rose to consult him about the wisdom of provoking a confrontation, Nora addressed the officers.
Please, she said. Leave them alone. Theyre not hurting anyone.
The cops hesitated, then checked their advance after receiving a signal from the Chief. From where he sat, Kevin had a clear view of the protesters, so he knew by then that his wife was among them. Kevin hadnt seen Laurie for a couple of months, and he was struck by how much weight shed lost, as if shed disappeared into a fitness center instead of a Rapture cult. Her hair was grayer than hed ever seen itthe G.R. wasnt big on personal groomingbut on the whole, she looked strangely youthful. Maybe it was the cigarette in her mouthLaurie had been a smoker in the early days of their relationshipbut the woman who stood before him, the letter N raised high above her head, reminded him more of the fun-loving girl hed known in college than the heavyhearted, thick-waisted woman whod walked out on him six months ago. Despite the circumstances, he felt an undeniable pang of desire for her, an actual and highly ironic stirring in his groin.
Im not greedy, Nora went on, picking up the thread of her speech. Im not asking for that perfect day at the beach. Just give me that horrible Saturday, all four of us sick and miserable, but alive, and together. Right now that sounds like heaven to me. For the first time since shed begun speaking, her voice cracked with emotion. God bless us, the ones who are here and the ones who arent. Weve all been through so much.
Kevin attempted to make eye contact with Laurie throughout the sustained, somewhat defiant applause that followed, but she refused even to glance in his direction. He tried to convince himself that she was doing this against her willshe was, after all, flanked by two large bearded men, one of whom looked a little like Neil Felton, the guy who used to own the gourmet pizza place in the town center. It would have been comforting to think that shed been instructed by her superiors not to fall into temptation by communicating, even silently, with her husband, but he knew in his heart that this wasnt the case. She couldve looked at him if shed wanted to, couldve at least acknowledged the existence of the man shed promised to spend her life with. She just didnt want to.
Thinking about it afterward, he wondered why he hadnt climbed down from the stage, walked over there, and said, Hey, its been a while. You look good. I miss you. There was nothing stopping him. And yet he just sat there, doing absolutely nothing, until the people in white lowered their letters, turned around, and drifted back into the woods.
Excerpted from The Leftovers by Tom Perrotta. Copyright © 2011 by Tom Perrotta. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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