10.8

Sarah was beginning to question the wisdom of letting Rebecca come with her as the girl hid slightly behind her walking down the hall. She’d promised though, and Mr. Jerret had been mostly well-behaved so far. She could hear grumbling from inside and knocked on the door softly. The grumbling stopped and after a moments silence she knocked again.

“It doesn’t lock.” It sounded like he was in the bathroom.

She forced herself into a cheery smile before opening the door, “Good afternoon, Mr. Jerret. We’ve come to see if you’ll be joining us for lunch.”

She could see he’d attempted shaving before he even turned around. He’d done a rough job of it and clearly nicked himself several times but it was an effort. A couple nasty looking scars along the side of his face now stood out more prominently and she forced herself not to look at them directly.

“Not used to sharp razors.” He mumbled, wiping his hand across one of the nicks. He glanced at his hand as she moved closer.

“I suppose that wouldn’t be something you’d usually have access too. Did you try using the foam?”

“The what?” He moved to the side quickly as she reached for one of the drawers and she tried to ignore the flashing on her wrist. She pulled out a bottle and shook it, dispensing a bead of foam on her hand.

“This stuff, it makes your hair stand straight so it cuts easier.” Sarah wiped her hand off and backed away again to let him out of the bathroom.

“I do fine without it.”

“You are still what I would describe as scruffy, but I suppose it’s fine for lunch. This is my younger sister Rebecca, by the way.” She gestured to the girl to come in out of the hallway as Jerret frowned at her. “She assisted me with lunch today and will be joining us, along with Sam, Jessica, Mr. Sutro and Elizabeth.”

“Hello.” Rebecca barely entered the doorway, standing quietly by the window and blushing horribly.

“Hi.” Jerret frowned slightly but his monitor wasn’t even blinking anymore.

“Well you’ve kept up your end so shall we head to lunch?” She gestured to the door and Jerret grunted a little.

“Ladies first.” He gestured back at her and she could see a hint of a sarcastic smirk. As much as it annoyed her it was a good sign so she let it slide, guiding Rebecca back out into the hallway to lead. Mr. Jerret followed at a short distance, and she could hear his footsteps occasionally falter and start up again. She glanced back at the door to the library just as he was looking away from a painting on the wall. He met her gaze and caught up quickly.

The library stopped him cold again and Sarah stopped after a few steps as he stood in the doorway, looking around.

“Are you alright, Mr. Jerret?”

He stopped staring at the shelves and cleared his throat, scratching at his chin, “‘s a big room. Lots of books.”

“Well yes, that’s what libraries tend to be… did you not notice as you came in?”

“Came in the back way.” The man’s brow furrowed a little and she turned to Rebecca, who was staring at her feet nearby, trying to be invisible.

“Go on ahead and get the table ready, alright?” Sarah said, shooing her away. Rebecca nodded quickly and scurried off towards the kitchen, “I’m sorry, I forgot Sam brought you in the back way. If you’d like you can have a quick tour after lunch, and you’re welcome to read anything you like.”

Jerret frowned up at the tall shelves, “That’s… um, thanks.”

“Let’s hurry on for now though, lunch is waiting.” She gestured behind her towards the kitchen and started walking backwards. He pulled his eyes away from the books reluctantly and followed her, head down, towards the rest of the house.

When they joined the others Rebecca was serving everyone and quickly placed plates for them. Sarah took her place at the head of the table and Jerret took one of the two remaining chairs, placing himself between Calvin and Sam and opposite Sarah. Rebecca finished serving and sat between Sarah and Jessie, casting a nervous glance across the table.

“Work off the table Elizabeth.” Sarah frowned as Elizabeth hurriedly removed the plans she’d been explaining to Calvin in hushed tones and stuck them under the table. Jessie and Sam were making faces at each other but stopped and focused on eating once she turned her frown on them. “Alright everyone eat while you socialize. I won’t have you all sitting here all day while your food gets cold.”

Sam and Jessie continued to eat with only the occasional giggle or hushed joke between them. Rebecca alternated between eating and glancing at Mr. Jerret, who ate slowly and silently. Elizabeth continued to dominate Mr. Sutro’s attention, although he occasionally glanced nervously at Mr. Jerret when the conversation lulled.

The pasta was a bit salty this time, and Sarah made a note to check the herbs and see if they’d gone stale. When she looked up again Jessie had climbed into Sam’s lap and was speaking to him and Mr. Jerret in turns. Her plate was empty so Sarah resisted correcting her behavior, instead attempting to listen to the conversation quietly.

“Misa always looks funny without a beard too. You have more scars than him though. He’s just got one behind his ear on his head.” She paused while Sam managed to take a bite of food over her head, looking up a little to watch him. Jerret was grinning a little between bites and nodding slightly, “Misa had to cut his hair too cause Granny says he looks unexpectable.”

“Unrespectable, Jess, and that’s a bit too much sharing.”

“Yeah that… but it’s important Misa! And I don’t get why Granny wants my hair long but not yours. It’s hard having long hair, it takes forever to get the tangles out and it pulls on my head.”

“You’re grandmother has her own ideas of what’s appropriate and when we’re home we follow her rules, remember?”

“Yeah but… Are you gonna hafta cut your hair, Mr. Jerret?” Jessie leaned over to ask him and he swallowed, coughing a little.

“I guess so?” He muttured, glancing at Sarah.

“That’ll be weird, I’ve never seen you with ‘spectable hair.”

“Respectable, Jessie, and it’s rude to say that.” Sam grimaced a little.

“I said that, and why’s it rude? It’s what Granny says.”

“That’s not what…” Sam stopped and sighed, “Never mind, it kind of is.” He grinned apologetically at Jerret, who shrugged and continued eating.

“Aunt Sarah, was that rude?” Jessie turned to her suddenly and Sarah sat back, realizing she’d been staring, “Misa always says things are rude then doesn’t tell me why.”

She hesitated for a moment, gathering her thoughts, “You didn’t mean it in a rude way, but it could be considered rude.”

“If I didn’t mean it rude it shouldn’t count.” Jessie sulked a little, sliding out of Sam’s lap and climbing back into her own chair. Sarah noticed Mr. Jerret frowning as he watched her move, but he noticed her gaze and quickly went back to eating.

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