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"Absolutely." She put out her hand. "Thank you again,I think it was a very successful visit, and I can't wait to start reading the applications."

"Yes. And one or two I'll be writing to you about."

"I'll look forward to it."

He waited to wave as she drove away, a piece of arcane protocol about how the departing representative of the desirable college must be the one to break contact. Portia knew it had nothing at all to do with her. Their interaction had been thoroughly predictable, professional, impersonal. Only a couple of times, in fact, over sixteen years had Portia felt any real connection with the college advisers she'd dealt with, and both times the locale had been thoroughly remote, both in the geographic sense and in terms of Princeton's reach. The first was in the Central Valley of California, where the overwhelmed guidance counselor was herself newly graduated from community college and responsible for nearly six hundred seniors, many of them the kids of laborers or Hmong immigrants; the second took place in Sitka, Alaska, where she was the first Ivy League admissions officer ever to materialize, and the effusive guidance counselor had roused the entire PTA to throw a potluck in her honor, complete with dried bearded seal meat—an indelible culinary experience. (Portia could only imagine the potluck they must have thrown five years later, when the student she'd recruited on that trip had won her Rhodes scholarship.) Those two counselors had both moved on to other jobs, but Portia still thought of them. There had been time for human contact in their conversations, in their inelegant cinder-block offices, on rickety folding chairs, across laden Formica desks. She still remembered their names and didn't doubt those women could produce her own. But William Roden would retain only one fact about her from this meeting: that she represented Princeton. She might have been lacquered in ivy and leading a tiger, Portia thought, driving west from Deerfield and winding north into the woods. He would not remember her face, or the fact that she had grown up nearby, or indeed anything personal about her. It was a good thing she had given him her business card. When it came time to get in touch on behalf of those "one or two" students he'd mentioned, he would undoubtedly need to reacquaint himself with her name.

© 2009 Jean Hanff Korelitz Posted with permission of the Hachette Book Group

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