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Cast of Thousands, Chapter 11

The class was late enough in starting and rowdy enough in singing that they barely got through one song before the bell rang to let them out of school. Jess managed to slip out far ahead of the three brats behind her, and disappeared into the bike racks.

She figured she needed some time to cool down, and rode right past her house and on to the library.

The library was blessedly cool and quiet. Jess had practically grown up there, and knew it as well as she knew her own bedroom. She gently rubbed the outline of the bright yellow library card in her pocket, and made a beeline for the children's room. Soon she was happily ensconced on the floor, re-reading old picture books and giggling to herself. The bright colors of the pictures lulled her into a happier place.

She looked up at the clock and suddenly realized it was nearly six. Squeaking, she leapt up and ran for her bicycle.

Joy sat back on her heels, examining the bookshelf in front of her. She had been experimenting with curves, making shelves that undulated like waves along the wall and a chair whose back looked like fronds of seaweed or leafy tree branches waving in the wind.

This bookcase was more ambitious, because it had to curve without taking up too much space or leaving gaps where books could fall down between it and the wall. She rubbed the edge of a shelf with sandpaper, admiring the way falling grains of sawdust caught the afternoon sunlight, glittering.

It must be about time to take the potatoes out of the oven, she thought. Joyce believed in hearty meals, and she had been roasting potatoes and butternut squash all afternoon. Maybe some of that accordion pasta that Jessie liked would be a good main course.

The kitchen clock notified her that it was already a quarter to six, so she quickly filled a pot with water and set it on the stove to boil. Missy, anticipating food, ran in and bounded onto the kitchen table.

"Hey, stinker," Joyce greeted the cat, scritching its head lovingly. "Have you been scaring Jess' friends off with your butt-bombs?"

Marcy hadn't come back over since that first visit the week before. But Joyce wasn't sure whether that was because she was too uncomfortable with them to come back, or whether it was simply a seventh grade scheduling problem. Jess had been over to Marcy's house for a few hours to do homework earlier that week, so Joyce supposed it couldn't be that serious.

She set a lid down on the pasta pot and turned off the oven, peeking in at the vegetables.

Jess flung open the garage door and made a dramatic entrance, waving her arms at the stove. "Bubble, bubble, pasta pot, make me pasta nice and hot... um... something, something, I don't know what," she rhymed flippantly.

"You really should go out for that play," Joyce opined. "You'd be great in it."

"Aw, mom, auditions aren't even for a couple of weeks yet," Jess said, wriggling out of her backpack and throwing it on a chair.

"Is that where that lives? I ask you." Her mom took the lid off the pot and poured a bag of radiatori pasta in. Jess picked it up with her best classic sarcastic teenaged eye-roll and sigh, and removed it upstairs. Joyce snickered to herself.

Chapter 12?