10.3

Granny Mitchell watched from the second floor of the library as a few of the girls disappeared on the far end of the stacks searching for Jessica. Once they were long gone she checked that nobody else was around before heading for the far back corner, where a particularly sunny window frame waited.

“Jessica, why don’t you come out and talk to Granny?” She looked up at the nearest bookshelf and after a moment a feline head poked around the corner timidly, “It’s alright, dear, nobody else is here.”

Jessica hopped down from the bookshelf and trotted up to her feet, meowing up at her.

“Come here, poor thing.” She scooped the child up in her arms and stroked her fur gently. Jessica purred and nuzzled against her arm, melting into her in the way only a cat could, “Why don’t we sit down and talk for a bit?” She walked over to a comfy chair against the opposite wall and sat down, still holding her granddaughter, “Everyone was worried when you disappeared at lunch. They always think you’ll get lost in a vent or stuck in the walls.”

Jessica looked up at her and meowed softly.

“Of course Granny knew better. You always go to your favorite sunny spot when something upsets you.” She fell silent for a moment, scratching behind Jessica’s ears as she purred loudly, “Your father feels terrible for shouting at you I’m sure. He just worries so much.”

Jessica yowled and wriggled free, crawling into her lap.

“Well if you’re ready for a proper conversation there’s a change of clothes in the side table on the other side of that bookshelf.” She made a mental note to replace that outfit soon, along with a few others Jessica had used up around the house last visit. The girl reappeared a moment later and crawled into her lap again, leaning her head against her grandmother’s chest. “Feeling better, dear?”

“No.” Jessica shifted a little to get comfortable.

“Well what’s bothering you?”

“Misa wants to get rid of me cause I’m trouble even when I try not to be.”

She hesitated to respond, stroking the girl’s hair softly, “Sweetie if parents got rid of their kids just because they were trouble I would’ve given your father up before he could walk. Your father loves you and would never give you up.”

“But he keeps getting mad…”

“Jessica he gets mad because he cares.” She held the girl close and could feel her purring again, “Besides, I’d have his hide if he tried to get rid of my beloved granddaughter. Now why don’t we go let everyone stop worrying about you. Hopefully your father will have cooled off.”

Jessica slid off her lap and held out a hand for her. The two of them headed downstairs to the kitchen to find someone to call off the search.

***

Calvin stared out the window as the sun started going down. The lights were chattering excitedly about the coming night and turning on. The heating system complained a little about a few open windows and how cold it was getting, stopping to note that someone had finally closed one of the windows.

It made no sense how much the house wanted to talk to him. Houses didn’t get like this without a technopath and they had made it sound like none had ever been there. The constant chatter had made Jessie’s brief secret visits a relief. Focusing on her chatter instead let him block out the noise in his head.

The thought of Jessie set the house off again, everything talking about it’s favorite resident and how she’d been hiding in the library today. He tried to block it out again but he’d been stuck inside his own head for so long he couldn’t yet.

Calvin tried to say something out loud again, anything to silence the chatter. A weak grunt came out like the other day but the rest stayed internal. The little robot made a worried noise and he patted it reassuringly. It wasn’t a complex machine, conversation with it never got past talking to an animal, but the little robot was all he had left of his ship.

The house settled down at that thought, everything falling silent. The house knew what had happened. Somehow the silence was worse though. He tried making a sound again and managed a longer noise. His nose started itching and he reached up to scratch it, feeling moisture on the sides. The house could see him crying, and several monitors attempted to console him while the lights dimmed in an uncomfortable silence.

He lay down and pulled the covers up over his head, trying to block everything out again and failing miserably.

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