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chapter eleven | we meet an old grouch named 'pops' because i don't want to disclose the confidential information that is his real name

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Jean-Luc woke to the sound of someone banging on a nearby door and Lise shouting, "Bayard! The girl is missing!"

Scrambling out of bed, he peeked his head around the corner just as Bayard swung his own door open and leaned against the frame.

"Yeah," he shrugged, blinking down at his mother. "She does that. She's probably not dying in a ditch, so there's no reason to worry."

Lise rubbed her forehead, looking tired and worn in the middle of the hallway. "I need to get the boys to school and teach this class. Are you staying for a bit?"

"I could," Bayard's eyes flicked over his mother's face. "I don't need to leave right away."

Lise nodded with a sigh, straightening up. "Come downstairs for breakfast in ten minutes. Dressed, please. I don't want three boys walking around shirtless."

She turned away, meeting Jean-Luc's gaze and offering him a smile. "I was just about to wake you. We need to go to school and there's still snow on the ground, so you'll need some extra layers."

"Mom?" Bayard called as she reached Jean-Luc. She turned to face him, hand settling on Jean-Luc's shoulder. "Thank you. For patching up... the girl."

Lise chuckled. "Just clean up your bloody clothes. The hallway floor is not the laundry basket"

She then guided Jean-Luc into his room, greeting a waking Andrè, and pulling clothing out of the drawers for them to wear. While they got ready, she drilled Jean-Luc with questions regarding his upcoming test.

Breakfast was only announced when she was satisfied they were prepared for the day.

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"Where's Julienne?"

Jean-Luc's head jerked up as he entered the school, snow falling off his shoes and melting on the stone floor. He was surprised Emmy would ask, had been so absorbed in what had happened last night that he had succeeded in forgetting.

She was standing next to Sebastian, wringing her hands nervously as she studied Jean-Luc and waited for his answer. Sebastian was oblivious, eating an apple as he read an in-depth historical text on the first war of Dutkans.

"She, uh... They left last night," Jean-Luc told Emmy, fiddling with the books in his hands.

The three of them started a slow walk to their first class. This school was so small, their grade fit in one class. It had been one of the many adjustments, the smaller class sizes and the universal schedule.

Emmy bit her lip. "Is it just you staying? Or Andrè, too?"

"Both of us," Jean-Luc replied, not meeting her gaze as he watched the subdued hallway around them.

"So did your parents both take Julienne away?" Emmy seemed sad, as if she'd lost a friend, even though she'd known Julienne only for an afternoon.

Jean-Luc nodded. "We're staying with the Tailliers."

"Why?" asked Emmy, finally, as if that was what she'd been wondering all along. "Why just take Julienne? Why did both of them leave? Why did they have to leave?"

Sebastian and Jean-Luc blinked at Emmy's outburst, the three of them frozen in the middle of the hallway. They exchanged a look, Jean-Luc not quite knowing how to balance his answer between defending his parents and the fact that he didn't know. He'd been too shocked to ask questions, the night they left.

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