"I'll give you my opinion when I'm good and ready."

"Subversive women rule the world... in secret."

"You said something interesting? Sorry, I must have been yawning."

Clara sipped her coffee, making her way down Aunt Maureen's living room wall and checking out the quirky cross stitch pieces that covered it. At first she wasn't sure if they were Aunt Maureen's work or just pieces she'd bought at a craft show – but once Clara read that last one, she thought, "Yep. That's her all right."

Offbeat sayings in a classic stitched typeface, nicely framed – they really were subversive. This town suited Aunt Maureen perfectly. She'd told Clara that Breach Point had a thriving art scene, and if this was the kind of work she was selling at shows, she wasn't exaggerating.

Clara turned on the monitor of Aunt Maureen's faded decade-old computer. She logged into a few sites but didn't see any new messages. Aunt Maureen had gone to bed early the night before, so Clara took the opportunity to e-mail Lilianne, inviting her down for the festival this weekend. If she'd had her phone, it would have been a simple text instead. The lack of access to modern technology was growing increasingly frustrating.

Clara hoped Lilianne would think to check her e-mail. She'd enjoy Breach Point, and even though Clara looked forward to seeing Nicholas again, having a friend with her wouldn't hurt – especially if Nicholas didn't show up. No, he would. He seemed like the kind of kid who actually kept his word.

Clara flipped off the monitor and took another sip of her coffee. Ew. Why did she think this was a good idea? She'd tried coffee before, but never really hot, never in the morning, and she'd never made it herself. Maybe she'd put too much in the pot. If she had the guts to try again, she'd have to remember to use less. Clara wished that Aunt Maureen had one of those single-cup coffee makers. But that really wouldn't suit her. Too modern and not quirky enough.

Today would be Clara's first day working at Fogelsang, and somehow she'd got it in her head that coffee would make her more alert than her usual groggy morning self. Bad idea. Her parents usually seemed miserable when they went off to their jobs – why aim for that? She walked over to the coffee pot and dumped the rest of her nasty black brew into the sink, rinsing the basin so Aunt Maureen wouldn't catch her error in judgment.

"Did you find everything you needed?" Aunt Maureen asked as she walked into the kitchen. Clara was startled and the cup slipped from her hand, banging against the metal sink. "Stupid," she thought. "It's not like she could even see what I was doing."

"Yes I did," Clara answered, trying to cover her nervousness. "I'm just not sure if I used too much..." she couldn't remember the right term.

"Oh, the grounds?" Aunt Maureen said. "You probably did. I like that brand, but my girlfriends think it's much too bitter. There's another kind I buy whenever I entertain. I'll pick it up next time I'm out."

Clara nodded, taking three pieces of shortbread from an open package on the counter and putting them onto a small plate. She sat in the little dinette area, catching her reflection in the chrome edge of the table. Her eyes were flat and puffy at the same time. How is that possible? She rubbed them, hoping it would make an improvement by the time she got to Fogelsang. She didn't want to be known as "Flat Puffy Eye Girl" to her co-workers. Nicknames tend to stick.

"I like what you're wearing," Aunt Maureen said, looking over Clara's fitted blue top and khakis. "It's very... very snappy." Aunt Maureen seemed to relish terms like "snappy". It was her kind of word – vintage and corny, but still with its own flair.

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