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Thursday after school, Trey and Gene were waiting for Marina and Dot in their booth at Kresge's. Marina had said nothing to Dot about Gene's feelings for her, but Dot was noticeably more peppy all day and less inclined to flirt with anybody not named Gene. She wasn't flirting with Gene, either. Marina couldn't tell if Dot was in love with Gene or not, but she sure was happy to see him and the fact that she didn't notice his change in demeanor was telling.

"Hello, boys," Dot said gaily as she stood at the table waiting for Gene to slip out of the booth and allow her in.

"Ladies," Trey and Gene said at the same time.

"Hi," Marina said softly as she slid into the booth Trey had vacated and patted the seat.

"Hi yourself," he returned just as softly.

Dot and Gene were paying no attention whatsoever after Gene asked how her day had gone and he listened attentively. It might have seemed like an act, but Dot could make a study hall of one sound like a grand adventure.

"How's your hand? You aren't wearing a bandage anymore."

"Better," Trey said, holding it up and flexing it, albeit slowly and with a grimace. "More aspirin, I suppose."

"How was your day?"

"You have good days and bad ones. Had to pay out on a policy today."

"Oh, I'm sorry. Was it a lot of money?"

"I don't care about the money. A family was put out of their house and their baby died. There is no amount of money in the world that can make up for that."

Marina clapped her hands to her mouth, horrified. "Oh my. Oh, goodness gracious."

He nodded soberly. "That is the worst part of my job, watching people's lives get wiped out. Could be anything. Their pipes could burst and flood their house. All their whatnots and pictures and memories, gone. Robberies. That's usually just stuff, but having someone break into your house disturbs your peace. You can't replace that, either."

His sorrow was real and deep, and Marina felt it. Gathering all the courage she could, she reached out and took his hand. He wrapped his other one around hers and gave it a little squeeze and a smile. "Thank you." He paused, then said, "You're a good woman, Marina."

It was said so sincerely, she swallowed her hurt and pain and envy at the compliment. "Thank you," she murmured.

His brow wrinkled. "Was that ... wrong? I meant it, I truly did."

She smiled. "I know you did. Thank you. I appreciate it."

"Please don't fib," he said lightly. "Tell me why that upset you."

Marina bit her lip and again had to swallow but now because she couldn't seem to speak. She didn't want to tell him but he was too perceptive and persistent. They'd been meeting every day for a little over a week but the fact that he knew she was distressed made it seem like they knew each other far better than they did.

"Hey, why don't we head outside again?"

Marina exchanged glances with Dot, but she knew what Dot wanted: to be alone with Gene. A walk around the block was acceptable and proper. Dot was here. Marina wouldn't be more than a quarter mile away, as people were leaving work to go home. And they'd already done it once.

"Sure," she said softly, and allowed him to pull her out of the booth.

The day was warm when they emerged. Trey put on his fedora after Marina positioned her stylish wide-brimmed sun hat on her head. They turned right and headed to Petticoat Lane as they had the day before. He didn't take her hand again, which disappointed her a little and he kept a respectable distance between them.

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