Nurse for Galleon Key, A

Once the bus left Key Vaca, the knowledge that she was almost there took possession of her entirely. Simone began to tremble with it. A deep trembling that did not reflect itself on the surface; not in any visible unsteadiness of her hands, not in any perceptible quickening of her breath.

This place they had quit, this town called Marathon, was only seven feet above sea level — or so the guidebook open in her lap had assured her. Here ended the Upper Keys, part of the continental plateau stretching northward and westward from Florida for thousands of miles. From here on, the incredible bridge linked only true islands. And on one of them, one of the smallest of them, one of the most insignificant dots along this last lap of Route One’s coastal sweep from Maine to the Florida Strait, she would find Pete.

Galleon Key! she thought. And: Only a little farther now!

The watery world outside her window shimmered unstably, less as if it were actual waves and sunshine than as if it existed only by illusion, like a heat mirage on a melting black tar roadway. The big bus, a laggard through the towns of the upper archipelago, suddenly found wings. It hit Seven Mile Bridge with the rush of a balloon-tired tornado, seemingly intent upon gobbling the span’s entire length at a gulp.

The bus was filled, except for scattered vacancies. Simone herself sat beside one of those, in the second seat behind the driver but on the opposite side. Through the wide windshield, she had an excellent view of miracles to come; of miracles, if not of the most important one.

Pete…she thought. He might have been in the spare place beside her. He might have been holding her hand. He might have been — Pete!