Wilom was rereading ledgers when Cathlin and Jilli came home. He was knocked out of his distracted reverie by the shutting door and the sound of their argument.

“But Mama,” Jilli complained. “You said I could help you!”

“You can, honey,” Cathlin said. “But you know you get bored when you have to go to these meetings.”

“I’ll try harder this time!”

“You said that last time, too,” Cathlin said, “Since you can’t come to the meeting, why don’t you do some thinking about the shop yourself? You could come up with some ideas about how the shop should be organised, and how we can advertise, and when I come back, we can talk about them. We’ll have our own meeting.”

“Mama, you use that trick all the time.”

“Well, you’ve got a choice. You can do that, or when I can get back, we’ll have dinner and play forts. I’m happy to do either, but you’re not coming to the meeting.”

Jilli huffed and folded her arms. She stomped over to the couch and sat down with impetuous violence.

Cathlin looked at Wilom. “Sorry,” she said. “I hate to have to leave her with you like this.”

“Not a problem. I’ll have fun, even if she refuses to.”

Cathlin gave him a quick smile, picked up her bag again and headed out the door.

“Hungry?” Wilom asked lightly.

“No,” Jilli said, as though the answer should have been obvious. “We had lunch.”

“Alright.” Wilom sat down next to her and started on his own sketch.

He could see Jilli glancing up at him occasionally, but he didn’t acknowledge it. It was not a good drawing. He hadn’t drawn since he was eight. He erased the face and tried again.

Finally, Jilli came over. “What’s that?” she asked.

“It’s a boat on a river.”

“Is that you rowing it?”

“Yes, that’s me.”

Jilli picked up a pencil and a piece of paper.

“What are you going to draw?” Wilom asked.

“I’m going to draw a castle,” she said.

Wilom gave up trying to draw the face, and erased the entire figure. Instead, he began to draw the ferryman’s cloak. Much easier.

Jilli didn’t say anything for a while, and Wilom was too involved in drawing to really pay attention. When he looked up, the castle was finished, and she was sketching a something on the side.

“What’s that?”

“It’s a dragon,” Jilli said.

“Is it attacking the castle?”

“Yes. And it’s winning.”

She drew the fire coming from the dragon’s mouth. Then scribbled all over the castle, and got another piece of paper.

“Drawing another castle?”

“No, this one’s the shop.”

“Oh, I see.”

“And it’s not a drawing, it’s a floor plan.”

That seemed to keep her occupied for a while, erasing and labelling and drawing people shopping into it.

She turned the piece of paper over to write a list. When Wilom glanced up, she covered it with her arm.

“Sorry,” he said.

“You can’t read it because it’s a business secret.”

“OK. I promise not to read it.” The cloak wasn’t working, either. He rubbed out the arm folds, and tried again.

Jilli was still working on her list when Marc came home.

Wilom stood up. “Need some help with dinner?”

“I should be alright … unless you particularly wanted to.”

“I’d like to stand up and move around for a while. What am I making?”

“It’s shepherd’s pie night. How’d you and Jilli go?”

“Not too bad. We’re not allowed to read the list, because it’s a business secret.”

“Oh, I see.”

Marc sat down and compared the picture of the boat to the drawing of the castle. “She’s better at drawing than you.”

“Most people are.” Wilom began to dice potatoes.




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