As she approached the small chapel, she heard voices speaking in a hushed tone. Checking the name in the placard on the wall in the hallway just outside the doorway, she confirmed that she was, in fact, in the right room. Quietly, she noted that a small group of five people, none of whom she recognized, were standing near the front of the chapel, talking quietly, so she turned and went back to the reception area to wait.
When Chloe saw Susan walking toward her, she felt some relief and took her first deep breath of the morning. Positioned at the entrance to the mall’s large, centrally-situated cafe, she watched Susan navigate the throng of window shoppers.
Chloe could not remember a time in her life when she had not known Susan. They met when Susan’s family moved into the house down the street from her family home in the summer of 1974. They were both three years old and immediately became fast friends. They attended the same local public schools until they selected different colleges and found themselves separated for the first time in their lives. They remained close, though, visiting each others’ campuses on weekends and spending breaks together back in their home town. When Susan married, Chloe served as the maid of honor and was thrilled when Susan asked her to be the godmother to both of her children. And when she divorced, Susan moved back to their home town to raise her daughters in close proximity to her large family.