Chapter Eighteen

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A pounding at the back door called for our attention.

"Father?" Marigold started to shake, and she rose from her chair, backing toward the corner of the room.

My heart split at the sight; no girl should ever be so terrified of her father. It might be true that my Dad and I didn't see eye to eye these days, but at least I'd never been afraid of physical harm from him.

Mr. Best parted the curtains in order to be prepared.

"It's your brother," he replied, sounding greatly relieved.

He hurried down the back steps to let Sam in out of the cold. Marigold and I followed.

This would be my first interaction with Sam, directly. I'd seen him from a distance but never spoken to him, and he had seemed in no hurry to speak with me when he'd had ample opportunity. My guess was his family told him, as well, to steer clear of the 'out of town visitor'.

"Come in, Mr. Sutton," Mr. Best said, and Sam wiped his feet as best he could before just barely stepping inside.

He was holding a small mound of snow to his lip with one hand, and in the other hand he held a single suitcase.

"Oh no, Sam, he didn't throw you out too?" Marigold asked with anxiety.

"No," Sam said, wincing in pain from his split lip. "He caught me leaving the house with this for you, though, and gave me something to think about for my trouble."

"You shouldn't have, Sam," Marigold said, reaching up and touching her brother's cheek.

He shrugged her hand away. "It's not right, him sending you out into the world with nothing." He held the suitcase out before her. "I don't know if I got any of this right, I just grabbed one dress, some...things from your dresser," he blushed, "shoes, and a few items you had left out around your room."

"So he hasn't softened and changed his mind about having her back?" Mr. Best asked, growing angrier by the second.

"On the contrary, he is more certain than ever Marigold shouldn't be a part of the family. Says she is a bad influence on the rest of us."

"My fault," I whispered, and groaned. "All my fault. That damned note..."

"Yes, your fault," Sam moved toward me and looked down upon me, ready and able to inflict bodily harm. He was almost his father's equal in height, though he was thin as a rail. "I ought to take you outside and give you what you deserve for dishonoring my sister."

"If offering an apology for the pain she suffered because she was kind to me equals dishonor in this society, then I don't know how anyone is fit to live in it." I stood as tall as I could and stared him down. "Fine. Let's take this outside. Do your worst."

"Please, no!" Marigold got in between us and pushed Sam back with both hands. "Leave now, Sam. Thank you for what you've done, it's all you could do. Now go home."

He stared at me a long moment, considering. "All right, Marigold." He looked at his sister sadly. "Take care of yourself, please. I'll worry about you."

The door slammed behind him, and he hurried down the stairs, disappearing into the early morning snowstorm.

Marigold clutched the handle of her suitcase, but neither spoke nor moved.

"I'll have to close the shop for a few hours," Mr. Best said suddenly. "Until we get Miss Sutton settled in with my sister-in-law. It's not that I don't trust you to mind the place, Mr. Wainwright, I do. But you don't know where anything is, and I have to teach you where all the keys and things are before you can serve the customers. So we may as well all go together."

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