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by Shaara
Rated: 13+ · Book · Sci-fi · #1820930
A time-travel story and a love story
#738039 added October 29, 2011 at 2:00pm
Restrictions: None
Chapter Two
Mama, had apparently not yet gone through the line. After a glance at me, she got behind Charlie. When it was her turn, she shook the minister's hand and told him how much she admired his words,

I'd taken after Harry, as usual, nabbed him by the collar, gave him permission to head over to his best friend's house. Momma wouldn't like it. She wanted all of us to dine together on Sundays, but I knew Harry's restlessness. He'd behaved well in church -- for Harry. I watched him take off at a run, forgot about his Sunday clothes. Whoops.

I felt Charlie's eyes on me, turned, saw Mamma talking with him again, hopefully inviting him to dinner. His eyes scanned me, sent the same silent communication we'd exchanged inside the church, then nodded. All about us, people chatted, but I didn't hear, tuned them out, wished I could hear exactly what Charlie and my mother were saying.

Apparently Charlie satisfied the customs of courtesy because Mama was smiling big time. Yet Charlie never broke the link between us. Did his eyes stray even once? He must have looked at my mother, yet it seemed as if the two of us stood alone within the crowd. Just Charlie and me. Under the sunshine of that August morning. A hot wire of electric current sizzled between us.

Mrs. Martin bumped my elbow. Her glasses reflected light like mirrors, obscurred her eyes, yet I felt her interest, knew she stared at me with intent.

"Clever child," she said. "Reel this one in. He's taken with you. Wants to settle down. Play him, girl. Don't heed what your momma says. Don't let this one get away, hear me?"

I fiddled with my purse a moment, not sure how to respond. I couldn't be rude to Mama's friend. Yet what did one say to such sentiments?

Mrs. Martin patted my arm, moved away. Released from politeness, I turned to see what Mama and Charlie were doing. They'd arrived at my side, Mama smiling, Charlie'e eyes well-pleased . . . Had he heard Mrs. Martin's words?

I opened my mouth to say something about the asters in the concrete planters. The church women had planted them during the week on three side of the courtyard. Their scarlet blooms made the narthax cheerful.

"You're new in town, aren't you?" Barbara said. She'd somehow foisted herself right between Charlie and me. The loss of our connection hit me like a pin prick. I gasped at the sharpness of its point.

I don't know if Charlie heard the gasp. Cordial, he moved to accomodate Barbara's presence, volleyed the right words back at her, then politely turned away, his body facing me once more.

Mama's smile opened wider then. Charlie didn't know it, but he'd just passed her test, ignored Barbara's flirtateous cooing, her flapping eyelashes, the way her hands seemed to pet her body with invitation. Mama placed her hand on Charlie's shoulder, nodded once, then said, "Tell you what, Charlie. Since you're new in town, why don't you just follow us home. We don't want you getting lost when you come to supper. The meals not for another hour, but I bet you wouldn't be against a sun-drenched peach straight off our backyard tree. I'm sure that wouldn't spoil your appetite, a big fellow like you."

Charlie grinned a full mouth of teeth. "I'd be honored," he said, then like an old-fashioned gentleman, offered an arm to each of us.

Leaving the crowd of chatting after-churchers, the three of us walked down the concrete path of the yard and out onto the main road. Mama cast her glance about, looking for Harry. I explained what I'd done. Her face showed displeasure for a moment, then she shrugged. "Just as well," she said. "That boy has too much energy, hope he'll get rid of some of it before he comes pouncing back into the house."

I knew that Harry and Joey planned to spend the day making puppets for a show they wanted to invite the whole town to see. I don't know if they'd written a script for it yet, but I heard from Harry they were going to get rich off the proceeds. As we walked along the asphalt, I told Mama and Charlie all about the boys' latest business venture. Mom laughed, said they'd probably forget about the idea before the show ever took place. "I bet they end up in a sword fight with tree branches or challenge each other to races," she said, wrinkling up her nose.

She paused a moment, looked up at Charlie. "I do love that boy, but he exhausts me. The good Lord must have known I'd have Laurie here to spell me some. I'd never have lasted if I didn't."

We continued on, the conversation turned to Charlie's childhood, but Charlie said he didn't remember much, said he spent more time reading books than was good for him. Of course Mama got all excited then, wanted to know his favorite. When he confessed he'd always loved The Secret Garden I almost died. It was my favorite book, too, as a child. I told him so.

"I know," he said.

Mom and I exchanged a look, but didn't question him. It seemed an odd comment to make when we'd just met. I supposed he meant that he figured it was so because of the look we'd shared before. But that didn't make sense either. Later, I understood there was a lot more to it than that, but that was a darkness I didn't know about at the time, wouldn't have believed even if he'd told me.

Apparently, he realized how odd it sounded. He grew loquacious then, mentioned how he'd memorized facts from The Swiss Family Robinson and later decided to become a pilot after reading about the Wright Brothers.

Mamma, Charlie, and I chatted on about books for a long while. It seemed so natural, us talking like that. But how was it possible? A stranger showed up yet seemed almost instantly like family, like someone we'd known all our life?

That Sunday was a perfect day for a walk. The trees held birds like Christmas ornaments, each limb full of song. No conductor around to lead them yet a harmonious blend. The sun, high in the sky and warmly pleasant dropped elongated shadows across the road. Shade and warmth. Shade and warmth. With Charlie standing so close to me, his body felt like an anchor of strength and heat even in the shade moments.

We hadn't walked far when St. Mary's steeple burst forth with its full-throated Westminster Chime. We stopped to listen. When the the tune ended, we moved on. The echo left an imprint that still danced in our minds.

At Mr. Shokum's house, his little dog came pouncing off the front porch, yapping with a high-pitched bark. "Shush up," Mama said. The dog whiffled a couple of times, as if wanting to finish off its complaints, but the ferociousness ceased, its tail flapped harder than a banner blowing in the wind.

"Do you like dogs?" I ask Charlie, looking up into his face so I could read his eyes.

He matched the smile, leaned in slightly and whispered loud enough for Mama to hear. "I love dogs as long as your mother is here to prevent it from biting us."

Of course we laughed. "Oh, you!" Mom said, then disconnected from Charlie's arm so she could reach down and pet Brownie. I noticed afterward she didn't take his arm again, but strode forward as if to speed us up. But I kept thinking -- she likes him. She wants me to lag behind, to get better acquainted. Happiness welled inside me. Charlie seemed every bit as nice as he was handsome.

When we entered the house, I took Charlie in to say hello to Dad. My father preferred a good morning of reading to the minister's sermons. Usually I wished I could stay behind with him, but that morning I was glad I hadn't.

Dad lolled in the brown recliner, his feet up, his eyes poring over a book. When I introduced Charlie, Dad got up, shook his hand, made a big production over getting to know him. Within minutes the two began a debate over Fords vs. Chevy's. I sighed, shook my head, and backed away, ready to see if Mama needed help in the kitchen.

"What about that sweet peach I was offered?" Charlie said. His eyes tugged my thoughts back, taut as an extended rubber band. Without thought, my feet paused in midstep, turned, faced me in his direction.

Dad laughed. "Go on, you two. I've got reading to do. Nice meeting you Charlie. See you at the supper table."
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