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by Christi


“Frances, dear, that’s quite impressive work,” Sue remarked as she slid a perfect Boston Cream Pie onto the work table.

Looking down at her knitting, Frances had to smile. The pattern she had found for knitting your own fishnets had been a serendipitous find. “Thanks. You know, lacework isn’t nearly as hard as I thought it would be.”

“Show off,” Andrew muttered from across the table, throwing down his own tangled project in favor of cutting the cake.

“Now Andrew, don’t sulk. Everyone learns at their own pace,” Sue consoled him.

“Your pace just happens to be slower than everyone else here,” Kate added absently.

“Somehow, I don’t think he needed to be reminded of that,” Frances pointed out through a grin.

“I hate you all,” Andrew groaned.

Frances wasn’t worried – he declared the same thing at least once a day. Twice, since Sue had started her most recent lessons on lacework. “Masochist.”

Andrew eyed her funereal garb and shot back, “Well, you would know.”

Irritated, she glared at him. “Real nice. You’re such a little-“

She was interrupted by the cheery ring of the bell hanging on the doorframe, and they all lost the train of their conversation when they saw Jack walk in. “Anyone ever tell you that your timing is impeccable?” Frances asked, genuinely glad to see a different face in the store for a change.

Jack blinked. “Hardly.” His tone was blacker than the yarn she was working with, which Frances seemed to remember being a reoccurring theme in his visits lately. “Sue, please tell me there is cake.”

Sue smiled. “Will Boston Cream Pie do?”

“Absolutely,” Jack said emphatically, flopping into the last available chair.

“Boston Cream Pie is cake, after all,” Kate pointed out absently.

“Um, the word pie is in the name,” Andrew argued. “Thus, it’s pie.”

“Don’t be so literal,” Frances felt the urge to chide him, still irritated about their earlier spat. “It’s made from two layers of cake, after all. I think Kate’s right.”

“Well, that just makes you both wrong.”

“Does it matter?” Sue interjected as she cut a sizable piece for Jack (suspiciously, his pieces were usually bigger than everyone else’s). “It tastes good either way.”

For his part, Jack seemed content to eat it in silence and stay out of it. Previously, he had always jumped on any opportunity to join in on their harmless and empty bickering, seeming to enjoy the triviality of it all. Lately, though….

“So, where’s Cassie?” Frances asked, curious.

If anything, Jack’s expression became even stormier. “I wouldn’t know. She has decided to hate me.”

“That seems unlikely, dear,” Sue remarked soothingly.

“She’s refusing to hang out with me - or hell, even speak to me for longer than necessary.”

From what little she knew of Cassie, Frances thought this to be bizarre. Anyone with eyes could see how much the kid doted on the Colonel – almost as much as he doted on her. “What did you do?” Frances asked bluntly.

“And you all call me rude,” Kate griped from the corner.

“It’s just common sense and you all know it,” Frances defended.

Their communal silence was a bit condemning and had Jack shifting defensively in his seat. “I didn’t do anything!” he insisted.

“Cassie is a very sensible young woman,” Sue ventured.

“It follows that she wouldn’t just stop talking to you without good reason,” Kate agreed.

“And yet, she did,” Jack insisted more than a bit petulantly.

Of course, there was an easy enough way to settle this. With a shrug, Frances put down her knitting and dug out her cell phone. “What are you doing?” Jack asked dubiously.

“Getting the story from the horse’s mouth,” she said shortly as she scrolled through her contacts list.

“You have Cassie’s number?” Andrew squealed with a fiendish sort of delight.

“Have for awhile,” Frances confirmed.

“Why?” Jack demanded, perturbed.

Mostly just because they got along – all things considered, Cassie was a cool kid. But it was much more fun to say, “In case of a yarn-related emergency.”

It had the added benefit of also being true.

Enjoying her moment of fun, Frances went ahead and put the phone on speaker. It rang a few times before Cassie’s voice answered cheerily, “So, Jack the Grouch finally made his way over there, I’m assuming?”

“Is that what we’re calling him now?” Frances asked with a laugh.

“Well, I’d call him something else, but it would probably get me grounded,” Cassie replied.

Throughout this exchange, Jack seemed to be doing his best to pretend none of it was happening, instead focusing with unnatural intensity on his cake.

“Any idea what the problem is, dear?” Sue chimed in.

“I could guess, but that way lies nothing but irritation,” Cassie cleared her throat before continuing, “Come the end of the day, I can’t change his mood, but I can choose not to hang with him until he stops brooding. Thus, you get a pouting colonel. Not attractive, I’m sure.”

“Hey!” Jack objected here.

“I’ve seen worse,” Andrew seemed compelled to reassure him.

Cassie just laughed. “Still, I’m sorry for foisting him on you guys.”

“Nice, Cass,” Jack interjected, obviously annoyed.

“Hey, I call it like I see it. Act like a cranky two year old and that’s how you’re gonna get treated.”

“I am not cranky!” he insisted in a distinctly sour tone.

“You’re kinda making my point for me, Jack,” Cassie said lightly. “Look, I love you, you know that. And I know things can suck occasionally – sometimes more than occasionally. But no one wants to deal with your crap if you’re not actually going to do anything about it. Besides, I’m not supposed to have to constantly be subject to yours and Sam’s crazy dance.”

“As a minor, she’s right,” Kate pointed out.

“Wait, Sam’s?” Frances said, the whole situation becoming clearer. “She’s part of this…whatever?”

“Isn’t she always?” was Cassie’s bemused reply, to which all four heads turned to stare at the colonel.

“You know,” Andrew leaned toward him, “I don’t mean to overstep our friendship. But hasn’t it been like…five years that you and this ‘Sam’ have worked together?”

Jack stood and grabbed the cell phone, “You know, this is so none of anyone’s business.”

“I’m just saying,” Andrew continued, “Maybe you should talk to the guy about what’s going on.”

Jack blinked and Cassie’s voice chimed, “Sam is a woman, Andrew.”

Andrew waved a hand in dismissal. “Not in my head.”

“Andrew!” Sue scolded as Frances snorted and Jack’s stance shifted.

“See, things could be worse,” Kate offered by way of comfort.

“Speaking of,” Cassie interrupted, “Sam’s calling me on the other line. I’ll talk to you guys later. And Jack?”


“Chill out and remember that everything will work out. Love you!”

With that, the line went dead.

“She is creepy wise,” Andrew offered.

“Tell me about it,” Jack agreed, dropping back onto his chair.

“Too bad we don’t have Sam’s number,” Francis offered. “We could pull a repeat performance with the woman of mystery herself.”

Jack’s posture straightened in alarm, and Sue moved around to pat him on the shoulder soothingly. “Leave the poor man alone, all of you.”

“Thank you, Sue. You know, you’ve always been my favorite,” Jack breathed.

“Oh, you don’t get off that easy,” Sue replied. “That young woman is right. Now get your butt out of my shop and either talk to this Sam woman or get your head screwed on correctly without her.”

Jack’s mouth opened and then closed, obviously at a loss for words. Of course, in a case of spectacular timing, that was right when his cell phone started to ring. “Thank god,” Jack muttered as he opened his phone. “O’Neill.”

Frances watched him carefully as he wandered out the shop with a hand raised by way of goodbye. “He worries me,” Sue fretted from her chair.

“He’s lonely,” Frances ventured.

“He doesn’t have to be,” Andrew joked.

She rolled her eyes and picked up her knitting once again, trying to refocus. “Somehow, I don’t think you’re quite the cure he’s looking for.”

Andrew wrinkled his nose at her reality check. “You know, it occurs to me that you’re in college. Shouldn’t you be studying or something?”

“Please. Knitting is a much more productive use of my time,” Frances scoffed. “Besides, Kate’s a lawyer and I don’t see you bugging her to go do work.”

“Because I don’t want her to implode from the sheer pressure of it all.”

“Much appreciated,” Kate answered with a tight smile. “Besides, work is why I have an assistant.”

I miss The Yarn Shop people. Do you? You don’t? Well…too bad.

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