Chapter Fourteen

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After a long day of delivering packages, I was grateful to come home, change into my spare dry clothes, and eat a hot meal.

Mr. Best and I dined in relative silence. My mind was spinning, thinking about the book, thinking about Sutton's rage. Thinking about Marigold.

She'd said not a single word to me all day, though we'd worked near and around each other the entire time. Once, she held the door open for me as she saw me struggling with it and a heavy load of packages, and she got a tongue-lashing from Mrs. Wilson for her trouble. Afterward she stayed on the opposite end of the store from me, no matter what happened.

"You're quiet tonight," Mr. Best observed. "Rough day?"

"Yes."

"Tough to be an outsider in this little town," he observed, finishing his food. "I think that's why they never stay long. We're just a stopping point they have no choice but to go through on their way to someplace better."

"It's not necessarily better," I replied, thinking of the world from which I'd come, with homeless people, nations at war, unspeakable crimes happening every day. "Just different."

"Hmm." He rose from his chair and cleared the dishes.

"Tonight, I insist on helping you with the washing up. We have a lot to get done before we can get to sleep," I said, and I stepped up to the sink.

He didn't argue. "I thank you, Mr. Wainwright."

He washed the pots and dishes; I dried and put them away. I'd already learned the layout of the small kitchen, the whole place, really, as there wasn't all that much to it.

Afterward we went down into the jewelry store, each hauling boxes of ornaments and garlands from the attic above my room.

He had a ladder in the back room of the shop, and there was a fresh cut tree, small but dignified, waiting to be decorated near the front door.

He lit the lamps and we began the task of sorting which ornaments he wanted to go where: then I set about climbing the ladder and hanging the garlands as he directed.

"A little to the left. Secure it there," he said, as I held up one end and prepared to attach it to a nail already in the wall just beneath the ceiling.

It seemed he put them in the same place every year. I wrapped one end of the garland around the nail and then moved on, sliding the ladder over and finding the next nail.

Soon the store was looking much more festive, even if neither of us felt like celebrating.

He decorated the cases with small ornaments dispersed between the trays of necklaces, rings, and watches, then moved on to doing the front windows.

He hesitated when he got to the tree.

"Would you?" he asked. "I would appreciate it, greatly."

"Of course." I walked toward the little tree. "Any specific order for the ornaments?"

"Just whatever you think looks best," he replied. "The tree was Sarah's favorite thing to decorate. This..." he paused. "This is the first year I've had one since she died. Usually, I have avoided it and just used the rest of the decorations. But I think...I think it's time."

"I think she'd be glad, sir."

He nodded, eyes reddening beneath his round spectacles. "Oh, I forgot her favorite part, the angel for the top! I'll just go and fetch it."

"I'll be here," I said, stringing ornaments up by small hooks on the tree. I tried not to think about last year, when Grandfather's health was failing, yet he still directed me just how to decorate the tiny, depressed looking tree we had in the apartment.

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