There were four tall people in the family and one short one, a child, all of them tanned and with their hair unruly and sun-bleached. The tallest one was staring right at Sinclar and Ainsley, looking through the leaves of the potted plant at them.
He raised his eyebrows, smirked, and crossed the distance between their “stoops,” as Ainsley’s parents insisted on calling that little tiled area outside each apartment.
“You’re the Nessons, right? The Biddles are on the other side…?” Up close, he was very tall, but looked not that much older than Sinclair.
Ainsley squeaked. Her sister saved her. “We’re the Nessons. The Biddles have two boys and a very young daughter.” She nodded her head in a polite greeting. “I’m Sinclair Nesson, and this is my sister Ainsley.”
“I’m Ted Jendrock.” He thrust out a hand to them, and then, seeing their confused faces, “what, people don’t shake hands in this place?”
“It carries germs,” Sinclair whispered. Ainsley, feeling brave all of a sudden, held out her hand.
“Oh, what’s a few germs between neighbors? Besides, we went through a whole lot of decontamination before they’d let us in.” He squeezed Ainsley’s hand and moved it up and down a couple times. “Pleased to meet both of you.”
“So you’re-” Ainsley swallowed. Her hand felt weird. “You’re really from the outside? I didn’t think people ever came in.”
“We didn’t think so, either. We also didn’t think people ever left.” His gaze was suddenly sharp, but Ainsley had no idea what he was looking for. “Anyway, we had a skillset that was needed, so here we are.”
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