9.5

Jessie barely waited for him to unbuckle her to run outside and into her grandmother’s arms.

“Goodness, Jessica. You’re bigger every time I see you.”

“Granny did you see our new ship? There’s more rooms now!” She started pulling the older woman towards the ship but Sam walked up behind her.

“There’ll be plenty of time for tours later, Jess. Go find your aunts and say hello.” He shooed her towards the house and she hurried off, disappearing down the driveway, “She’s barely grown an inch mother, I wish you wouldn’t lie like that.”

“She’ll grow, she’s only eight dear.”

“I hope so.”

“Samuel, you didn’t start growing until you were fourteen. Don’t think I don’t remember Sarah lording that over you. She’ll be fine.”

“Five minutes older and she never lets me forget it. Did they have any luck finding the vagrant?”

“Must you go straight to business? You’ve only just come home.”

“Mother.”

“Oh fine, yes he’s been retrieved. He’s proving uncooperative though, nearly bit one of the men’s hand off.”

“I warned you he was dangerous, hopefully he’ll be more amenable once he’s here.”

His mother reached up and grabbed his chin for a moment, frowning, “Enough seriousness. Get inside and cleaned up and say hi to your sisters.” She smiled at him and he sighed.

“Why do you always insist I shave when I come home? It makes me look like a kid.”

“Because you’re my precious little boy and I like seeing your handsome face.” She let out a soft laugh as he huffed, heading for the house with hunched shoulders.

***

“Out! Out both of you!” Sam barely missed being bowled over as two teenage girls ran out of the kitchen and away down the hall, giggling. His sister Sarah emerged from the kitchen, long blond hair falling out of her frazzled braid. She stopped when she saw him and smiled, “Sam! Where’s Jessie?”

“She was ahead of me so she’s somewhere in here. I’m surprised she didn’t say hi to you first.” He glanced down the hall and noticed a couple curious faces peering out at him, “Why are they looking at me like I’m a stranger?”

“Because you have serious beard going on right now. Go shave before dinner.”

“Ugh, you and mom both. Where are the others?”

“Elizabeth is in her workshop. Theresa, May, and Alice are shopping… You just saw Clarice and Mary running off. Judy and Emily are grounded, Abby and Molly are in the library studying… Heather, Jody and Linda are off on a school trip but they should be back by Jessie’s birthday. Oh and Rebecca is doing her long distance book club.”

“Book club?”

“Bunch of girls talking about romance novels really, don’t ask her or she’ll hide in her room for a week embarrassed.”

Sam frowned and she punched him in the arm, “Go clean up for dinner, mister. And if you can find your daughter tell her to come give me a hug.”

“And beating me up too, what a welcome home.” Sam rub his arm in mock hurt and headed downstairs to his room. He walked past Elizabeth’s workshop door and heard Jessie’s voice at the last moment.

“-ate my hair. Hi Misa!” She stopped whatever story she was telling to wave at him. Elizabeth glanced up from her work briefly.

“Hello Sam, welcome home. Jessie was just telling me about her little adventure.”

“Hello Liz. Jessie don’t forget to give Sarah a hug, she’s in the kitchen.”

“Okay Misa!” Jessie jumped down from the counter she was sitting on and ran upstairs.

“I missed that sound.” Elizabeth straightened up and put down her tools, “You look scruffy.”

“I know, I know, I’m going to shave now.” Sam grimaced and left her to her work, continuing down to his door.

Inside his room boxes and clothing were scattered about randomly, with only his good chair and the bed clear of debris. He hadn’t allowed anyone else in there for years so there was little point in cleaning the rest.

There was a sharp razor sitting in a cup in his bathroom, which was meticulously clean if cluttered. It took half an hour to clean his face up and he made a half-hearted attempt at straightening out his hair, knowing the girls would target that next.

There was one unwrinkled shirt hanging in his closet and he put it on, gathering up the rest of his laundry into a bin and tossing it into the laundry chute. He threw away a few bits of trash and sat down heavily in his chair, relaxing finally.

***

Jessie found Sarah in the kitchen and latched onto her leg without warning, “Aunt Sarah!”

“Oh no! I’m under attack!” Sarah shook her leg in mock panic and Jessie giggled, letting go and tumbling away, “Why Jess-a-belle, did you see the thing that had my leg just now?”

“Nooooo.” Jessie got up and gave her a proper hug, “What’s for dinner tonight?”

“Just a roast and vegetables, and some bread if Clarice and Mary didn’t ruin it by peeking.”

“Can we have cake?”

“No dessert tonight, not everyone is home.”

“Can I have cake?”

“Jessie.”

“Just one piece?”

“Here, have half a carrot cake.” She opened the fridge and grabbed something handing it to Jessie. Jessie frowned at the carrot.

“Aunt Sarah this is a carrot.”

“We have to work on your sense of humor, girly.” She patted Jessie on the head and the girl wandered out of the room again, taking the carrot with her and frowning.

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