5.1

“So I climbed up the tree cause the squirrel went up there but I didn’t change cause Misa says not to.” Jessie was leaning against the outside of Jerret’s cell, facing the opposite wall as she spoke.

“Uh-huh.” Jerret said, not looking up from his book.

“But I was wearing this dress with a yellow flower on the front that Aunt Sarah really likes and it got caught on one of the branches.”

“Is that so?”

“Yeah, so I’m most of the way up the tree and the squirrel just climbs back down and I’m stuck cause of the flower.”

“Hmm.”

“Aunt Sarah really likes that dress so I don’t want to ruin the flower so I try and just hold the branch and drop my legs so it gets unstuck.”

“Mhmm.”

“But then the bark was really rough and it hurt my hands and…” Jessie trailed off as Calvin entered, “Wanna hear about how I fell in a river, Mister Calvin?” Jessie clapped a hand over her mouth and looked over her shoulder at Jerret, “Oh no, I spoiled it!”

“Maybe another time, okay? Right now I need to talk to… Mister Jerret alone, if you don’t mind.”

Jessie stood up reluctantly and made a face at him.

“Just for a little bit, then you can come back and tell him a different story.” He waited until she left, then locked the door as a precaution.

“Please tell me you don’t also have a story to tell me.” Jerret shut his book finally.

“Talking your ears off, is she?”

“I’m not used to people, especially not children. What do you want?”

“Mmm…” Calvin hesitated, shifting from one foot to the other.

“If you aren’t going to say anything, I’m going back to my book. I’ve only got, what… one day left to read it?” He opened the book and a page fell out near the back, drifting to the far end of the cell. Jerret sighed heavily and reached over, barely grasping it with one hand. He checked the page number and was careful placing it back in the book when Calvin cleared his throat. “If you have something to say just say it, I’m not going anywhere.”

“Sure know just what to say to make me feel like an ass, don’t you?”

“It’s a gift. And I’m not making you feel anything.”

“People would probably be nicer to you if you weren’t so difficult all the time.”

“Oh I’m sorry, is kidnapping me proving a bit stressful?”

“Just…” Calvin stopped himself and took a deep breath, “One more day. You’ll have about ten seconds. That’s all I wanted to say.”

“And what’s that supposed to mean?” Jerret eyed him suspiciously. Calvin exhaled as if he’d been holding it in for a very long time and unlocked the door, opening it again.

“He’s all yours.” He gestured for Jessie to come in and she sprang up from the floor.

“I thought of another story, Mister Jerret!” She practically skidded to a stop outside his cell and resumed her previous position.

“That’s great, kiddo.” Jerret replied automatically, watching the door slide shut again.

“Are you ready?” She asked, looking back at him.

“Hmm?” He was startled out of his thoughts by her voice, “Sure, go ahead.” He opened his book again as she started telling her new story. Whatever the story was it didn’t seem to have a proper conclusion, and he only looked up again when he heard her yawn and realized the lights had dimmed. Jessie’s head had slumped down and she had stopped talking.

“Hey, maybe you should get to bed.” He reached out of the food slot to nudge her shoulder and she shifted, pinning his hand against her shoulder. He inhaled sharply and had to fight the initial urge to jerk his hand away, slowly sliding it free instead. He nudge her shoulder again and she jumped a little, shaking herself awake. “Get to bed kiddo, it’s late. You can tell me more tomorrow.” Saying that left a bitter taste in his mouth but it still seemed best to keep her in the dark. She got up, rubbing her eyes, and stumbled her way out into the hallway. He could hear the door down the hall open and close, and the lights dimmed further until the room was too dark to read even. He put his book down beside him and sat in the dark, knowing an attempt to sleep would be futile.

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