Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Chapter 3

"Boss, you sure you don't need us to hang around?"

Sloan growled and said, "Get lost Dan."

Dan snickered and I was really glad I was still in the kitchen cleaning up the pile of dishes that had been made. I was doubly glad when one of the boys asked, "Why do we have to take a bath and go to bed Uncle Sloan? We never go to bed this early."

"'Cause I said so. Now move your butts. I've just about had all I'm gonna take tonight. Got it?" I heard feet stomping up the stairs and I shook my head. If my brothers had ever acted that way Dad would have taken their heads off at their ankles. Dad was all about respect ... of course he earned it and didn't have a problem giving it when it was earned.

I'd nearly dropped the last pan to be washed when I felt a hand touch my shoulder. "You're jumpy."

"Not usually," I told him.

"Something about today?"

I shrugged and answered honestly, "Something about tonight."

"You ... er ... wanna wait?"

I glanced at him and saw it was an honest offer. I shook my head. "Like I said, I made the bargain ... just don't expect fireworks or whatever is supposed to happen."

"I take it you read your sister's books too?"

"Lord no. I tried a couple of times but they always gave me the giggles or embarrassed the heck out of me. Hannah caught me sneaking a book back into her room and when Mom found out what we were fighting about Hannah got in trouble for reading what Mom said was no better than porn. Then right after that they got sick and never ..." My throat closed up and I stopped talking.

"How old were you when the virus hit?"

"Fourteen when the first wave hit. That took my grandparents. Second wave less than a year later eventually got my Mom and Sister. Dad and the boys - my brothers - went a little crazy there for a while."

"Are you really seventeen?" he asked out of the blue.

I turned to look at him and said, "Yeah. I know I don't have the polish the town girls do - my brothers told me that often enough I was too much of a tomboy - but I probably know more about reality than a lot of those girls do. I'm pretty sure I'm not going to go screaming into the night like a ninny so long as you don't do something to scare me on purpose. If you do all bets are off."

He snorted in surprised and then shook his head. "OK. Deal." He was quiet for a moment then said, "I need to finish bringing my gear in. I need a place to put it."

I put the pan into the dish drainer and then gave it some thought. "Don't take what I'm going to say the wrong way but ... my bed just isn't going to work." I stared off through the window above the sink rather than look at him. "And the ... well ... no ... don't get mad but I just can't do this in my parents' bedroom. I haven't even ... even cleaned it out yet." I swallowed. "You want upstairs or downstairs?"


"Then ... yeah, that's probably best. C'mon and I'll show you."

I walked down the hallway and opened the door onto a fairly large bedroom with a big sleigh bed and a fireplace on the exterior wall. "This was my great grandparents' bedroom while they lived. Gran called it the guest room but since we never had guests it never got used. But the mattress is the newest one in the house and it should be long enough that you won't have to sleep kitty corner to keep from hanging off."

"Is that a comment about my height?" he said with a smile, trying to break the tension.

I shrugged. "Well you aren't exactly short. You're about the same height as my brother Jason and since you are let me warn you there are probably a couple of door frames upstairs you are going to bang your head on if you forget to duck. The main part of the house was built in the 1850s when most people were shorter than they are today. The rest of the house has just been built on around it and is more accommodating."

"Really? Doesn't seem like the house has been added on to from what I've seen."

"That's the point. So ... the only thing is there isn't a closet per se ... there is a chiffarobe."

"My aunt used to call 'em clothes presses."

"You lived in an old house too?"

He shook his head. "Mom and I lived in a little trailer a ways off from the Big House."

I heard a story in there but I was too nervous to ask. I turned to walk out and Sloan stopped me with a hand on my arm. I straightened my spine and turned around trying not to let him see how I felt. He then patted my shoulder. "This is a good deal for both of us if we just ..." I nodded. I don't know what he would have said after that because we both herd a crash and tore up the stairs.

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