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as they hauled the insensate Leo fully into bed. Sheila pulled off his shoes, and then put a blanket over him. "I'll talk to him in the morning," she said, "when he wakes up."

"Okay. I've got you a place to stay.. .."

"I think ... maybe I'll stay here."

He looked at her in surprise. "This is a fast turnaround."

"It's not a turnaround of anything. But if we just leave him on his own, when he gets up he's perfectly likely to just head back out and drink some more. What would be the point of that? By the time we catch up with him he'll have crawled back into a bottle. I think that if it's the first time that we've exchanged words in twenty years, he might as well be sober when we do it."

"If you're here in the morning, he'll be sober but hungover."

"Hungover I can deal with." She stood up on her toes and kissed Alex on the cheek. "You're a good brother, Al."

"And you're a great woman, Sheila." He paused, seeming as if he wanted to say something else but was unsure of how to doit.

"What?" she prompted him, sensing it.

"Ah, what the hell," he said. "It was so long ago, who cares now, right? Right. But I was just thinking that sometimes I think the reason Leo was so convinced that you and I were having an affair was because, deep down ... I sure wouldn't have minded it."

"Aw, Al ... that's so sweet." She squeezed his hand affectionately. "Good night."

" 'Night, Sheila," he said. And as she headed for the couch, to try and find someplace comfortable on the cushions, he added, "You did a good thing by coming here."

"I got a feeling, Al," she said, "that how good or bad it is, is going to be decided by how it turns out."

"True," he agreed. "But that's not all that different from life, is it?"

"Except life always turns out the same: we die.
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