Chapter Three

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I stuffed the drawing into my pocket before James could see it and cleaned up the rest of the paper and pencils. Throughout my time away from the Ealing's and even in the build-up to my exit, I never once thought about the twins or how it would affect them. The night I left I wrote three letters to those who my leaving would impact the most and I didn't write one for them. I left them without a goodbye, without so much as telling them where I was going and if they would see me again. Out of everyone, my going would have hurt them more.

Their question wasn't an easy one to answer, how was I to tell a six-year-old that the fault rested with their own mother? That I had been forced out by someone they loved? Would they even understand? Probably not. They were too young to understand any of it so I couldn't tell them the truth even if I wanted to, and I didn't want to. I didn't want to be the one to shatter the perfect image of their family, of their mother. If the twins really wanted to know why I left without saying goodbye, I had no choice but to lie to them.

Lies seemed to follow me everywhere. I had lied to the Ealing's about the factory, I had lied to them about how my knee had been injured and I had lied about why I left them. No matter where I went, no matter who I was with the lies followed me and I couldn't escape them. Mother always said that a lie would come back to haunt you no matter who you told. The factory lie had caught up to me, the others had yet to, but if Mother was right, they would in the end. Would telling another lie just end up making things worse?

"You're in deep thought over there," James said, flicking a pea in my direction. He missed.

"Thinking about how to steal the rest of your biscuits." I flicked a pea at him in response.

"I don't think that's quite true, is it?"

"Today was long, that's all. I'm just tired."

"Did I miss something today? You've all been acting, how shall I put this, odd," Christopher added.

"The Ealing's turned up at the shop today." James took a swig of water from his glass.

"The Ealing's as in give-an-infraction-for-saving-their-child's-life Ealing's?"

"Uh-huh, the very same."

"What did they want?"

"Outfits for Christmas, though I doubt that was all they wanted considering a lovely piece of information Mrs Ealing gave us about Robert potentially marrying Maisie Blacklock."

"I wouldn't marry into the Blacklock family for toffee. Mind you, I wouldn't marry into the Ealing family either."

"Can we not talk about it anymore?" I pleaded.

James and Christopher glanced at one another out of the corner of their eyes but neither of said any more than they already had. Both of them had already had their say about the Ealing's long before they had shown up at the shop handing out more information then I wanted to know. Neither had been happy with the Ealing's for the way they had treated me, and they didn't even know the truth about my knee. They had asked, but I never told them. My knee had healed as much as it would, and I certainly didn't want to send all three of them to the Ealing's door threatening acts of violence for what happened. All of three of them had made threats to the foreman and they couldn't get to him. The Ealing's they could deal with.

Not only that but I didn't want to discuss what had happened that day until I had had time to think about it and decide just how I wanted to handle the situation. They were free to have their opinions and they were certainly free to tell me how I should deal with it and they could hate the Ealing's as much as they wanted. Yet there had always been a difference between me and them, and the Ealing's made that difference clearer to see.

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