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Circle of Grace: A Novelby Penelope J. Stokes
Synopses & Reviews
The Persistence of Memory
Grace Benedict was fifty-two years old, and she still hated going to the doctor. Avoided it at all costs. But this time she had no choice. Two weeks ago a long-overdue mammogram had revealed a suspicious spot on her right breast. Probably nothing, the doctor assured her. Most likely just a cyst; women got them all the time. After a needle biopsy and a battery of other tests, they had called her back in to discuss the results.
No, they couldn't talk about it on the telephone, the nurse had said. Better for her to come in and see the doctor personally. They scheduled the appointment for her lunch hour, promising it wouldn't take more than thirty minutes.
Have a seat, Mrs. Benedict, said the young woman behind the glass-paneled counter. The doctor will be with you shortly.
Not Mrs., Grace thought. But she didn't bother to correct the receptionist. Instead, she left the counter and parked herself in a cracked vinyl chair in the corner of the waiting room. To her right, a bubbling aquarium, its back wall lined with a garish shade of blue, housed several brightly colored tropical fish.
Grace picked up a dated, dog-eared copy of U.S. News from the coffee table and tried to ignore the whining child a few seats away. ELECTION RESULTS STILL IN DOUBT, the cover proclaimed, the words superimposed over photographs of George W. Bush and Al Gore. And in smaller letters underneath: What went wrong in Florida?
Grace tossed the old magazine back onto the table, but her eyes continued to fix on the words: What went wrong?
She pondered the question--one that had haunted her for nearly three decades. And there was only one answer, which was no answer at all: Everything.
Thirty years ago, she could never have envisioned the future that awaited her. A future riddled with mistakes and heartbreak and--
Well, better not to think about that.
She shifted in her chair and watched out of the corner of her eye as the frazzled young mother tried in vain to comfort her daughter. The little girl, who was perhaps five or six years old, curled up on her mother's lap and whimpered fretfully. It'll be all right, the mother shushed, pushing back a damp strand of hair from her daughter's forehead. The doctor will give you some medicine to make it all better.
Grace bit her lip and averted her eyes. If only there were such a medication, something that would make it all better. But no wonder drug could fix a life, and even if such a miracle had existed, she wouldn't have been able to afford it.
A nurse wearing pink scrubs with Beatrix Potter bunnies printed on them came to the door with a clipboard and looked around the waiting room. Mrs. Bennett?
Benedict, Grace corrected, then turned to the young mother. Unless your name is Bennett?
The woman shook her head. Whitlock, she said.
Grace got up and went toward the nurse. I guess you must mean me, then. Grace Benedict. She forced a smile. Like the traitor.
Whatever. The nurse looked at her blankly and shrugged. Follow me.
Grace followed to Examining Room 3. Have a seat, the nurse said. The doctor will--
I know. The doctor will be with me shortly.
The second attempt at humor fell as flat as the first. The nurse shoved the clipboard into a plastic holder on the wall and pulled the door closed.
Almost as soon as the door clicked shut, a soft knock sounded. The doorknob turned, and a man entered. He was small and dark, with dense, close-cropped black hair and deep-set eyes. The name Sangi was embroidered in red over the pocket of his white lab coat. Grace had never seen him
Having remained in touch with one another through a shared journal since college, best friends Grace, Liz, Tess, and Amanda meet for an unplanned reunion after a personal crisis leads to the discovery that Grace's colorful life is a fabrication. By the author of The Blue Bottle Club. Reprint. 17,500 first printing.
PENELOPE J. STOKES is the author of nine novels, including The Blue Bottle Club. She lives in Asheville, North Carolina.
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