Chapter Thirteen

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Matilda glared at me as though she wasn't quite sure if she should speak to me or slap me and I wouldn't blame her if she did slap me, not that I would have taken it easily. Her parents and Robert and left the shop leaving her with me, though I didn't know why they would do such a thing seeing as Mrs Ealing still didn't like me and I knew Mr Ealing wouldn't have been able to convince her. I didn't even know why Matilda had decided to stay. She had barely even looked at me, and yet she wanted to talk.

James lingered awkwardly in the corner and I knew that if she so much as raised a hand to me he would have jumped in to do something about it. The dinner may have helped to ease the tension between all of us, but it hadn't been resolved in its entirety. We all knew there would always be underlying tension since the way I left the Ealing's service hadn't been in the best circumstances. Anything could tip the scale back into the place it had been before the dinner or the explosion. Matilda might be the thing to tip the scale.

"I can ask her to leave if you feel uncomfortable," James said as he brushed my past on a fake trip to the chest of drawers.

"No, we're fine."

"If you're sure. Feel free to use the office so you don't scare off the customers."

"You're the only scary thing around here."

He nudged me in the side and walked to the drawers, though I knew he was waiting for Matilda to do or say something that would cause him to step in. She just continued to look at me though, not saying a word. It didn't even look as though she was breathing but her eyes moved whenever I made the slightest movement. If I went to brush a strand of hair on my forehead, she immediately stared me down.

I wished she would say something, anything so I wouldn't feel quite as awkward or uncomfortable. That appeared to be her intention though. She wanted to stare me down so whatever conversation or disagreement she wanted to have fell more on her side. In truth, Matilda had never intimidated me as much as she thought she did. Even when she was determined to make my life a misery, she had never been as frightening as the foreman.

She looked at me, dropped her folded arms to her side and sighed loudly. James shifted from one foot to the other and Kitty had made a rather fast get-away to the side room to make tea. One thing I had noticed since leaving the factory was that people had a habit of making tea when a situation became awkward. I didn't quite understand it, but I didn't like tea.

"Are we just going to stand here, or can we go somewhere your brother won't overhear us? I want to discuss a private matter."

"We can use the office. If we close the door, they won't be able to hear us."

"Very well, lead the way."

I turned back to the room I had just come from and motioned her to follow, she did so and rather quickly. Whatever it may have been she wanted to talk about, she was in a hurry to do it. I don't think I have ever seen her move as quickly as she did to walk into the office. James looked as though he was about to say something as Matilda walked into the office after me and I started to close the door. He backed off after I glared at him.

Matilda watched me close the door before sinking into the chair that sat opposite the desk. I never asked why James needed two chairs in his office since it was just one person in the office at a time. Perhaps James liked to talk to his imaginary friend when he was alone in the office. Still, it helped in this instant and I walked around to the other side of the table and sat down.

"Are you sure no one will hear us?"

"Not when the door is closed."

"Good. I don't want us to be overheard." She shuffled slightly in her chair. "When you were first offered a permanent place with us, I made you promise something. Remember?"

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