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Seven of seventy six
Second Street

Part Seven

Tuesday came way too soon but Charlie managed to get up and be on time for work. Christmas was just ten days away and the students were excited. He did manage to burst their bubble by giving them a pop quiz. When he announced it there was a communal groan.

I’ll make this easy on you, he said, just a little creative writing exercise. I want two full pages on “Your responsibility To Your Fellow Man”, or woman he added looking at his little teachers’ pet sitting in the front row.

Her name was Charlotte and had the biggest crush on him. She blushed at his notice of her in particular. He loved the fact that she had this crush and toyed with her all the time. She was exceedingly bright and exuberant. The idea for this quiz had come from his conversation the previous evening. He was curious to see what the kids would come up with.
Most of them were pretty bright and this wouldn’t be a struggle for them. He left them to their own devices while he went to check his mail and grab a coffee from the vending machine.

Upon his return he announced that they could leave as soon as they were done. One by one they came to the desk handing in the assignment. Charlotte was the first one done and of course had done more than the required two pages.
As she handed him the paper he gave her wink and naturally she blushed. This was a three day week since they were going on Christmas break. He gave the same assignment to all his classes.

This was going to be a great deal of reading for him but he could take his time over the break. For some reason the day rushed by leaving him with the feeling of having worked a half day but already time to go home.

His return home uneventful for once and he was glad for that favor. He even got to park in his own driveway. This had been a good day. He found some chicken in the fridge and did not remember buying it. He unwrapped the package and gave it a real good sniffing.

Didn’t smell too bad so that was to be dinner. He found some canned beans and put a potato in the oven with chicken. He poured himself a tall one and sat down with the papers he had collected from the kids.

The oven timer buzzing brought him from the kind of trance he had been in, reading the papers. He got up and got his dinner, another Jack and sat back down to read more while he ate. He was so proud of these papers. These kids really had a true grip on things and had written very adult and cogent thoughts.

There wasn’t a bad one yet. He read a bit more, did his dishes, took a shower and went to sleep early. The next day was the last of the week and nobody was really in the school mood, all thinking about Christmas and all kinds of winter activities. He was done for the year.

Last night’s dinner reminded him that there was hardly any food left at home and his supply of Jack was perilously low. So off to the Safeway but this time he was far more relaxed and took his sweet time.

He meandered all through the produce department, stopping to look at things that he had absolutely no idea of. Smelling melons and fishing through the apples and oranges for just the right one. This time he even bought some fresh vegetables.
As he wandered through the store he started to take notice of all the pretty women all about him. Suddenly shopping wasn’t so bad. He thought to himself, I’ll have to shop more often. He visited the liquor department Got a gallon of Jack and spent time looking over the wines. He wanted to get some nice wines just in case he had a visitor.

Last week brought him two and he had made a new friend because of it. Maybe the spirit of the season would bring more he thought. Upon leaving the store he saw the stand of spruce trees for sale, big, small and everywhere in between. Every year before, his ex had taken care of the tree stuff.

He wandered over and walked among the isles of great smelling trees. He decided he wanted one and found a small one that he could transport on his car. He paid the man and together they managed to get it tied to the roof. He drove home as slowly as he could get away with for fear of losing his new prize.

He pulled into his driveway and started to unload his bags. He thought to himself he had never seen this many groceries at one time before. He smiled and his third trip out found Andy out in the yard with the dogs. He gave her a hello wave and she returned it with a large smile and wave.

Got yourself some Christmas spirit she said, pointing to the tree. He looked back at the tree and then back at her. Yeah, he said, Had to have it, would have been my first without. Tomorrow l’ll have to buy all the stuff that goes with it. My ex has all that stuff.

Well if you want any help I’m available Andy said. Charlie said, I sure could use a woman’s eye to pick out the right stuff, you mind going with me? Hell no she replied. Danny will be working and gives me a chance to get out of the house.
Well good, how about nine or so? Sure. I’ll show up at your door, Andy said. Great! Do you want a hand with the tree, she asked? He thought for a second and said absolutely. Let me put the dogs away, I’ll be right back. She got the dogs corralled and brought them in and cleaned them off.

Charlie grabbed the last of his bags from the car just as she returned. One sec, he said, unloading the bags on the kitchen counter. They went outside and untied the tree. Charlie took the heavy sticky end of the tree and she wrangled the top. He backed up the stairs and they managed to bring it in without too much damage. They laid it on the floor since he had no stand.

Can I get you something he asked? Coffee, Jack, wine? She took a quick look around and replied, I would love a glass of wine. Red or white he asked? Are you going to join me? Of course he said, then how about red? Red it is. He was glad now he had stopped at the market, just never thought it would be needed so soon. I’m sorry, I only have water glasses, is that ok? She sat back in her chair and let out this great laugh. Fine, I left my silver spoon at home with Danny!
You have been working on this place she said, looking around. Yeah, it has been a battle but I’m getting a handle on it. Andy told him she had been inside a few months ago showing the place and thought it would never be rented due to the poor condition.

It is looking pretty good. I like the new paint, pretty color. You really think so, Charlie said? He poured two glasses half full and handed one to her. She took it and had a good long sip. Nice, she said. Yeah it is isn’t it?

So what do you want to get tomorrow she asked? Well I need stuff for the tree and I am afraid if I go alone it will be the world’s ugliest tree. She grinned, don’t worry it will be just fine. I don’t drive she said, and am stuck at the house all day; it will be so nice to get out. You won’t mind if I do a few errands when we are out, would you. Of course not Andy, take all the time you want. I have zero plans and it will be a pleasure to help out a new friend. She smiled and thought to herself how badly she had misjudged him.

He asked why she did not drive. Well I just get so nervous with all the crazy people on the roads. I have a hard time driving with Danny. He is so aggressive. I’ll drive nice Charlie said. She laughed, and the sound of a happy woman just thrilled him.
They were quickly becoming at ease with one another. It was still fairly early, she looked at her watch and then at the almost empty glass all the while giving him the put some in the glass sign. He got it and poured more wine.

Danny won’t be home for an hour or more. I just want to tell you how grateful I am that you took the time to listen to me the other night, she said. Listen Andy, keeping that all bottled up inside you is a killer. It was my great pleasure to listen. Remember, you ever need to talk I’m here.

So tell me about this ex I hear about, unless it troubles you? No it’s fine. We were together four years. I thought we had a good thing. Just goes to show you how wrong one can be. I woke up one day and she had decided I was not the one and within a week I was gone. I had no idea what happened. It really threw me. It was so unexpected. Andy looked at him with soft eyes and said, Charlie, listen to me. A woman has made up her mind about these kinds of things long before you ever notice.

You were taken by surprise but she left you months before you actually moved out. She was over you before you had your bags packed. I’m so sorry to be so blunt about this but that is the truth.
He took a huge gulp of his wine and the blood seemed to drain from his face. Her words had shaken him. She could see that she had rattled him. She reached out and put her hand on his. He just kind of shook his head and depression came creeping in.

She changed the subject immediately to try to snap him out of it. She felt so bad she had wounded him. She never had such an intention and never realized the depth of feelings he had for this woman. She had been mistreated and maligned for so long she had forgotten what real feelings were like.

Charlie, I’m sorry.

No its ok he told her. Guess I am just a fool at this love game. So what else are we going to do tomorrow? Shall we have a nice lunch she asked? She was hoping she could redirect his thinking. Yes, that would be nice but only if you let me treat he said. I wouldn’t have it any other way! She finished her wine and bid him goodbye until the morning then? Yes Andy, I’m looking forward to it. She left and he started drinking Jack.
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