"Don't touch that!"
Lulu and Sally jumped away from the guitar. Lulu's eyes rounded while her sister's immediately filled with tears.
Lee stood framed in the doorway, scowling, looking down at the two girls who had edged away from the instrument.
"Ah...no. Don't cry!" A sharp blade of guilt stabbed him.
The girls' reactions had ratcheted up to fat tears rolling down their rosy cheeks.
He'd seen tears before. The little Italian kids, half starved and tattered, had rivulets of tears coursing down their dirty faces more often than not. At first, he had tossed chocolate bars and gum at them. After awhile, though, there had been so many damp faces, he realized no chocolate or chewing gum would make their world any better.
Lee allowed his humanity to surface.
"Two things," he said softly. "Two things are important right now."
Lulu wiped her eyes, leaving a wet smear. Sally blinked several times and sniffled. Their expressions were ten times worse than any little Italian kid's.
"There are two things you must know." He paused.
Lulu looked up, wiped her nose again. "What two things?"
Lee straightened, felt the cramp in his scar and chose to ignore it.
"Thing number one," he began, "is that the guitar, this particular guitar, is a very delicate musical instrument. It is not a toy. Only people who really know how to play a guitar should touch it. Gently. Carefully. Do you understand rule number one?"
They nodded, solemn as a pair of tiny nuns.
Lee choked back a chuckle and continued. "Rule number two: if you really want to learn how to play the guitar, meet me back here after supper and lessons will commence."
Lulu scrunched her nose. "Is that a rule?"
"Yes. Yes it is."