The lock clicked in a different way when it was opened with a key. It was a simple and steady motion as the key pushed the tumblers in place, rather than the slight hesitation between each pin. Even though Angel and Oliver had gotten pretty good at picking the lock on the front door—they weren’t as fast or smooth as the key, as Jennifer’s key.
The children all looked at each other, and then at the room around them. If Jennifer’s key was already in the lock it was too late to try to clean up or hide everything they had gotten up to since the last time that Jennifer had been home. Still, they all pulled themselves quickly to their feet, trying to pull their clothes as straight as possible and tying their hair back as tightly as they could, to put up some level of present-ability.
Jennifer came in, turned the lock the door quickly behind her, before turning to smile at the line of children in a sharp row. Her smile only faltered a little as she looked around at the various art projects and destruction of small electronics and what looked to be a small failed chemical experiment in one of the corners. “We’ve been busy while I was away, haven’t we?” she said weakly, turning from the mess back to the six children in front of her.
“Yes Ma’am,” they all answered in unison, each trying to figure out in their own ways just how mad Jennifer actually was.
Jennifer made a show of counting the six of them slowly and pointedly. “Six, all under eleven summers old. We appear to be missing those two who were supposed to be taking care of you all.”
The six children all shifted back and forth on their feet before Margaret—the oldest and bravest of the little ones—spoke up. “They left a couple hours ago,” She informed Jennifer in a clean soprano, “They went out. Together.”
There was a lot of giggling behind hands now. Jennifer crossed her arms over her chest. “What’s all this now?” she asked in her slightly stern voice.
“I saw them,” Benjamin—the youngest, four summers old Jennifer guessed, “They were…kissing.” He whispered the last word as if it was a swear, and the other five children burst into giggles.
Jennifer sighed. It was only a matter of time. Her son Oliver had developed a crush on Angel all those years ago when she first came to stay with their family—the first of the little orphans Jennifer couldn’t help but bring into her home when she found them alone on the streets. She didn’t care if they were together as long as they were both happy. But she did care an awful lot about them neglecting their duties to be together.
“Very well. What’s say we get to cleaning this place up right now, and I’ll have a talk with Oliver and Angel later, yes?”
“Yes Ma’am,” They call chorused again, before heading away to start the cleaning process following their well-practiced routines. Jennifer pinched the bridge of her nose almost unconsciously, before sighing. It was bad enough now that just the two of them were teenagers. What in the world was she going to do when the six little ones were teenagers too?