In the end, she would know almost instantly how perfect a parting she'd won from that long, strange year: the swift acknowledgment; the silent bearing of her friends past the person who'd hoped not to see any of them; the freighted minutes spent only feet apart, at tables beside one another, her conversation kept as low as her companions' hearing would allow so as not to disturb his reading; the last wave; the exit. The lingering of the paid bill on the other table for the rest of the night.
And then, her voice rising back to normal in the darkening restaurant. The heaping, steaming plates of rice and meats and cheeses and vegetables and breads. The leisurely drive through their shared hills, the proud display of her new home, the earnest bending-together over a computer past its prime. And over and around it all--over and around the red walls, the orange woodwork, the recalcitrant computer, the piles of books, the consulted dictionaries, the praised artworks, the glasses of wine, the talking before fatigue's low summons--the steadfast, lightening joy. Of being with those who were always there. Of resting in the love of those who knew her, and cared, and stayed.