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chapter five | breakfast and our new principal's weird husband

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When Jean-Luc woke up the next morning, it was closer to lunch than breakfast. The suns were shining strongly, unhindered by clouds and rain.

The shutters had been opened to allow entry to the sunlight and the morning air, which wafted in small bursts, cooler than one would expect.

Julienne and Andrè were still sleeping, the bed too small to give them the room they were used to. As Jean-Luc worked to untangle himself from the sheets, Andrè stirred and blearily blinked at his brother.

They both crept out of the room with surprising stillness, leaving behind a soundly sleeping Julienne.

The kitchen was something directly out of a painting. Rays of sunlight filtered through the window, yellow curtains pulled to the side and flowers waving through the window. The aroma of eggs and bacon lingered in the air.

Michele and Lise were catching up with hurried words and loud laughter, sympathetic pats and whispered condolences. The latter's firstborn had died during childbirth, the foremost had lost two children to the outside world.

"Mama?" called Jean-Luc, while Andrè just marched into the kitchen and wrapped his arms around his mother's waist.

She ruffled his hair. "Hello, boys. Is Lenni still sleeping?"

The both nodded, Andrè curiously blinking up at Lise and Jean-Luc leaning against the wall. Michele stirred the bacon once more before she pulled it off of the fire-fueled stove.

"You two can take a seat at the table after you greet Mrs Taillier."

Lise laughed. "That makes me feel so old. We should've known each other well enough so that they could call me 'Aunt Lise.'"

"They still can, Lise," Michele assured her with a grin. She urged them towards their table and then hurried up the stairs.

Jean-Luc watched the now-empty staircase for several long moments after, trying to reconcile the fact that his mother wasn't wearing skirts. She was wearing loose brown trousers and a fitted white shirt, similar to what Lise wore.

Lise finished cooking breakfast, humming to herself. She was a short woman with hair the colour of faded wheat and freckles that dotted her exposed skin. Tanned from all her hours in the sun, she was toned and carried herself with a cheerful confidence and a constant smile.

"Your mother and I," Lise started, drawing the attention of Andrè and Jean-Luc with the strange lilting way she spoke. "We enrolled you at the school here in town. Your dad is out with Alec, finding somewhere for you all to stay for the next while."

Jean-Luc fiddled with a spoon. "We're staying here for a while?"

"Yes," Lise glanced at the little boy with a reassuring smile. "I teach at the school, so you'll see me around. Your father will most likely start work with Alec, and we're trying to find something for your mom."

"Tell them what you teach," Michele's feet tread lightly into the kitchen, bouncing Julienne slightly in her arms. Julienne was too big to be carried but that didn't seem to hinder her mother.

Setting the breakfast dishes on the table, Lise answered, "I teach the art of combat. The very early stages of training."

Jean-Luc and Andrè's mouths dropped open simultaneously.

"You teach fighting?" asked Andrè, almost knocking over his glass of orange juice as he reached for the bowl of sausages that had been fried to perfection.

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