Craig leaves, swearing he will do something about Claire’s father. Polly says she wishes that Claire had told someone, but Jane mentions that Claire’s father threatened to hurt her little sister. Cast in a more heroic light, the group find themselves more willing to help Claire.
Maddie sighed. It wasn’t that she was tired or even sad. In fact, she was content for the first time since this trip began. Clayton had always been her buddy, but he’d shown her just how good a friend he was. And Gabe—She couldn’t finish that thought. She wasn’t sure how she felt about him. He was strong, handsome, brave and outgoing. She caught him looking at her when he thought she wasn’t looking. There was longing in his eyes that she’d never noticed in a man before. She had no idea what that meant and wasn’t sure whether she wanted to find out or not. It was thrilling, exciting and terrifying all at once.
They ate a good breakfast and everyone went to bed. Leslie advised them not to sleep too long, or they would be complete wrecks the following day. He set an alarm noon and promised to wake everyone. Without bothering to brush teeth or wash faces the group took to their sleeping bags.
Noon seemed to come far more quickly than anyone liked. Leslie woke them as promised, smiling brightly. He’d been up for an hour and prepared a meal and a pot of coffee. Everyone slowly made their way to the kitchen and ate, savoring the food. Leslie had made mini-quiches with flaky homemade pastry.
Claire came home shortly after noon. Polly helped her inside and she immediately went upstairs. She didn’t come down for dinner. Polly and Jane ate with her. When the others got upstairs, they found Maddie and Patti’s things in the big room with the other girls. Claire and Polly had moved into the nursery room.
Although Patti and Maddie understood the change, they would have liked to be consulted. It bothered them that someone else touched their things without asking them. Neither complained, but they talked about it together when they were in the downstairs bathroom. They had taken to using it because there was far less traffic.
No one saw Claire at breakfast the next day, but she did come out for the work detail. They continued plastering the torreón. There were more of the local men hanging about. All of them looked like retired military and Maddie wasn’t sure, but she thought that a few of them were armed. They did a little work, but mostly they watched.
Maddie couldn’t explain it any other way. These men were hyper-vigilant, watching the group and their surroundings carefully. Jose had more than one hurried, quiet conversation with them. They would speak and scurry off. Maddie cornered Gabe after lunch, determined to get some information.
“What’s going on?”
“We’re plastering the playhouse,” he said with a chuckle.
“You know what I mean. Why the extra people? And the guns.”
He cut his dark eyes at her, curious. “You saw that?”
“My dad wasn’t always a drycleaner,” she replied. “He was Army when I was little.”
© 2015 Dellani Oakes