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chapter eight | the quiet days that leads up to a whirlwind snow storm in the middle of summer

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Standing on the porch, waiting for the family to unlock their front door, while freezing rain attacked your skin, was not the most enjoyable experience. Jean-Luc was ready for it to be over.

When Lise finally swung the door open, she ushered them into a warm foyer where the smell of freshly baked bread permeated the air. The door closed, Johnn nodding at Lise in a greeting.

"Why is your sword out?" asked Lise immediately, her eyes sweeping over the children, searching for injuries. "Where is your wife?"

"She's at home," Johnn replied, sheathing his sword. A sword none of the children had known he owned, much less knew how to wield. "I need the children to stay here for tonight. I know we've only been back three weeks, but..."

"Any day," Lise said with such fierce determination, Jean-Luc studied her expression. She was tense, the features of her face relaxed, but her shoulders set and her stance mirroring the one she hammered into the minds of her class.

This is how you stand the most securely, she had told him, again and again. This is how you get ready for a fight. Feet wide, firmly planted on the ground. It helps you be steady, strong.

"Thanks, Lise. Say hello to your husband for me." Johnn knelt in front of Andrè, pulling him into a tight hug. Julienne received a kiss on her cheek and Jean-Luc just offered his papa a wave. "What? No hug?"

Jean-Luc sighed, a long-suffering exhalation of impatience, and quickly embraced Johnn. After a final goodbye to the slightly clingy Andrè, he slipped out the door and left them in silence.

"Well." Lise clapped her hands together. "Life was never dull with your mother around, I can tell you guys that."

Julienne stuck close to Lise's side, one hand fingering the object that had uprooted them so quickly. Again. "What do you mean?"

Lise laughed. "Your mother was always... involved in everything. At school, she knew everyone and had so many friends, it's a miracle our friendship is as close as it is. She has a habit of balancing her life on the edge of a knife."

They trooped into the kitchen, where Lise pulled on her apron and tied it behind her back. "You kiddos take a seat at the table. I have some warm muffins that you need to test for me."

"Test? For poison?" asked Andrè, so seriously, it took Lise two seconds to realise he was joking.

She laughed. "Definitely."

"No, silly," Jean-Luc sighed tiredly. "To see if we like it or not."

"Yeaaaah," Andrè drawled, in a low, mocking voice. "I know that."

"How's school going, Andrè?" asked Lise, interrupting a fight that was the effect of exhaustion. "And what would the rest of you like for dinner?"

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School was cancelled for the next day.

A young boy brought the news at breakfast that morning, claiming that the storm was why the principal had cancelled school for that day, but the suns were shining so brightly, no one completely believed it.

The children of Fontein would be out in the fields, or in the bakery, or wherever their parents were working, learning the family trade.

Emmy was laughing with her older sister as they measured a lady for her new dress. Sebastian was seated at Emmy's father's desk, pouring over the finances and calculating the costs.

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