‘It seems like a good way to burn off excess energy,’ I agreed. Not that that was a problem I suffered from.
As the men talked, Andrew took stock of their surroundings. They were in a bedchamber—nothing large or luxurious, but as best as he could tell, tidy and clean. The decor was a step or two above what one might find in a posting inn; whoever lived here had a small measure of wealth.Andrew caught a few words from the conversation—money, man, woman . He thought one of them might have said seven , although he wasn’t sure what that might be in relation to. And maybe it wasn’t that, at all. It was entirely possible that the only reason he’d recognized man, woman , and money was because he’d been expecting to hear them.
He thought he heard these words too.Abruptly, the men turned toward them, and one of them flicked his hand in their direction as he barked out an order.He wanted them to move. Andrew nudged Poppy with his shoulder, and they edged backward until the backs of their legs hit the bed.
Poppy looked at him with wide, apprehensive eyes, and he gave his head a tiny shake. No questions. Not yet.The men grew animated as they spoke, and then Andrew saw the glint of a knife.
He didn’t think.
He didn’t have time to think. He just leapt, trying to cover her body with his own. Except that with his hands bound, he was clumsy and off-balance. Poppy let out a grunt as she stumbled back onto the bed, and Andrew fell to the floor, feeling the veriest fool.He taps the stack of flyers on the counter. See you Friday. He gives me a single wave as he walks out the door.
I bite my lip and stare at the toad on the paper. I need a new outfit or a new haircut. Something new. I make sure no one is coming through the front door then go into my mom’s office to see if she’s written my paycheck yet. She usually leaves it in an envelope in her desk. It’s not much and I’ve told her a million times I feel weird about being paid, but she insists.In the right-hand drawer is the balance book, bulging with receipts and loose papers. I pull it out and flip to the end where I’ve seen her pull my paycheck from several times. There’s nothing there. I start to shut the book but a flash of red catches my eye. Scanning down the page, my eyes stop on the last number, a red 2,253.00. That’s more than we spend in a month. I know. I do the bills sometimes.
My heart thumps out of control and guilt constricts my breathing. Here I was rooting around for my paycheck and my mom can’t afford to pay me. We’re beyond broke. No wonder my mom’s seemed stressed recently. Does this mean we’re going to lose the store? For just one second I think of a life without the doll store.For that one second I feel free.