There are no strangers in Arlen. Bo knows Abe knows Kate knows Sherry knows Crane. Jonathan. Etcetera. You talk to some people, not to others. It's the way of things. It's immutable.

Great-grandmother Keeney likes to imagine he's one of the local delinquents and has strict rules regarding when he should be home, who he shouldn't be seen with, all the disgrace that remains unacceptable in this household. Jonathan tried to explain the situation to her once (who wanted anything to do with a scrawny, nearsighted creep?) and found himself in more trouble for lying than he would have been in for keeping silent. Ungrateful filth defending his friends. Ha.

Either way, he usually does his homework in the library so he can walk back to the house alone. Avoid classmates, avoid uncomfortable glances, avoid Granny just long enough to matter.

Sherry doesn't sit next to him. She picks a table just past his and slightly to the right. They're not even facing each other.

It isn't terribly unusual. They work separately and in silence.

For a while.


He doesn't lift his head, barely registers that she's spoken at all, stays focused on numbers in front of him and problems he can solve.

"Hey, Jonathan."

He freezes. He looks up.

There she is.

Sherry crooks an eyebrow. Her mouth tilts up, higher. A collection of amused puzzlement he finds himself mesmerized by.

"You're good at this shit, right?"