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Thread: Second Chance:

  1. #21
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    Dialogue

    Some of the better dialogue I've read. Which is "A good thing," 'cuz the story is mostly dialogue.

    Please keep it coming. Lucky too.
    SamT

  2. #22
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    CHAPTER 12


    “Okay, that about does it for your written statement. Is there anything else you want to add?” asked Jimmy Kellogg.

    “No, I can’t think of anything,” said Cindy. “What happens now?”

    “Well, this in conjunction with the police report and request will get forwarded to New York. I’ll also take it in front of the judge here and ask for her permission to interject on your behalf and be declared a ward of the State. After that, I’m not sure,” said Jimmy.

    “What do you mean?” asked Charlie.

    “Well, there’s a good chance she will be sent back to New York. I mean, it’s only proper she be around them for additional interviews and for the reconciliation,” said Jimmy.

    “Cindy? Are you comfortable with that?” asked Charlie.

    “I want my family protected,” said Cindy, not really answering the question.

    “Once this gets into the hands of the New York State Police, it will be handled,” said Jimmy.

    “Okay, do I need to go see the judge or anything?” asked Cindy.

    “I don’t know yet. I’ll have to call and ask,” said Jimmy.

    “In the meantime, you’ve got my number, give me a holler is you need anything,” said Charlie.

    “Okay, Miss Grant, it was a pleasure to meet with you and actually do something out of the ordinary,” said Jimmy.

    “And you too sir. Thanks for all the help,” said Cindy.

    Charlie and Cindy walked out of the lawyer’s office and back to his truck. Once inside, he asked her what was really on her mind.

    “Okay, I know I’m young and all, but what happens if I don’t…I mean, what happens if the situation doesn’t solve itself?” asked Cindy.

    “Well, there’s always the FBI and other law enforcement agencies. But I’m sure the State Police up there will take care of you,” said Charlie.

    “I just want to make sure my family is safe,” said Cindy.

    “I’m sure that will be the first thing on their mind,” said Charlie.

    “I hope so,” said Cindy.

    “If you ever need anything, you call me. Understand?” asked Charlie.

    “I will, I promise,” said Cindy as they departed the parking lot. So much to worry about, but hopefully it was on the right track now.

    “Well, either way, in case you go in front of the judge, we need to get you a nice outfit,” said Charlie.

    “No, I can’t let you do that,” said Cindy.

    “I insist,” said Charlie.

    “I might end up leaving soon,” said Cindy, realizing it for the first time.

    “I understand that, but at the same time, we can’t have you going into the courtroom looking like a rag bag can we?” asked Charlie.

    “No, I suppose not,” she replied. “I guess I can’t sway you can I?”

    “I’m stubborn, remember?” he asked.

    “I suppose so. I guess if you are willing to spend money on me, I should be grateful,” she laughed.

    “You’re working for it,” he replied.

    “Yeah, that’s true,” she said. “So I guess it needs to be a really nice outfit then.”

    “How’s that?” asked Charlie.

    “Well, I’m working really hard, I was attacked by chickens, I was forced to split wood and I think I got a splinter or something and the cruel and unusual punishment of forcing me to try all these new and unusual food dishes in the South,” she said with mock dismay. “And now you are forcing me to pick out clothing! Oh the horror!”

    “Yeah, right. You like the chickens because they are cute, you volunteered to work hard and to split the wood and you like the foods you’ve been trying,” he said. “Nice try though.”

    “Okay, you got me. But I do have a question. What’s a Cheerwine?” she asked.

    “It’s kind of like a fizzy cherry drink. You haven’t tried it yet?” he asked.

    “No, probably won’t either. I don’t care for cherries,” said Cindy.

    “Okay, that’s understandable,” said Charlie.

    “So should I get like a dress or like a suit or what?” she asked.

    “Honey, you cannot ask my opinion on this. I have no idea what women’s fashions are all about,” said Charlie.

    “I was wondering since I’ve never been in court,” said Cindy.

    “Well, I haven’t…well, not in a long time that is,” said Charlie.

    “Uh huh, got some secrets do you?” she asked with a grin.

    “Everyone had skeletons in their closet. In my youth I was kind of a troublemaker,” he said.

    “But let me guess, you’ve been an angel since then?” she asked with a laugh.

    “Tried to be. Annie set me straight and boy that woman could light a fire under my butt with just a look. So yeah, I calmed down quite a bit once we got involved and more after we got married,” he said with a laugh.

    “I hope I didn’t bring up a bad subject,” said Cindy, getting serious for the moment.

    “No, it’s okay. It was a long time ago,” he said, still remembering the “look” he would get from his wife when he was not conforming to her socially acceptable standards.

    “Any place in particular you want to go shopping?” she asked, changing the subject.

    “What’s the best place for women’s clothing?” he asked.

    “I don’t know. I saw some things in JC Penny I liked,” she said.

    “I guess that’s where we’ll go,” he said.

    “It could get expensive,” she said.

    ‘Well, use your shopping sense and don’t let it,” he said.

    They pulled into the Johnson City Mall and parked at the store. Going inside, she made a beeline towards the women’s clothing and started browsing through the different outfits, looking for something nicer to wear in case she had to go into court. She picked out several different things before finally deciding on a conservative dress to try on. She headed into the dressing rooms and emerged several minutes later and asked his approval.

    “I think that works,” he said, giving a nod of approval.

    “Is it appropriate for the courtroom?” she asked, looking down at the outfit.

    “I don’t know, let’s ask someone else,” he said and found another shopper. “Excuse me ma’am. My niece got into a lot of trouble with the law and had to go before the court for sentencing. Do you think this outfit is appropriate to generate sympathy from a hardnosed judge?”

    Cindy’s mouth about his the floor at the announcement and she turned beet red. The woman looked at them like they had gone out of their minds, but looked over the outfit. “She’s going to jail?”

    “Okay, I’m just kidding. She actually has an interview to get into Yale. Do you think this is acceptable for that?” asked Charlie with a laugh.

    “Oh my, I thought you were serious! Yes, that’s a very nice conservative outfit for something like that,” said the woman.

    “Okay squirt, you can have it,” said Charlie. Cindy went back into the dressing room to change back out of the outfit.

    “That’s your niece?” asked the woman.

    “Yes,” said Charlie.

    “You all don’t look alike,” said the woman.

    “She’s adopted,” said Charlie.

    “Uncle Charlie! I wasn’t adopted! I was kidnapped by that traveling circus you were a part of, remember?” called Cindy from the dressing room.

    “She’s certainly joking,” said Charlie with a laugh.

    “I hope her interview goes well,” said the woman with a laugh.

    “She’s a smart one, that’s for certain,” said Charlie.

    “It’s nice of you to help your niece pick out a dress for her interview,” said the woman.

    “Yeah, I think she’s worth it,” said Charlie.

    “That’s nice to hear,” said the woman. “I’m Kathy by the way.”

    “Charlie,” he said and took her hand.

    “You look familiar, do I know you?” she asked.

    “No, I don’t think so,” he said.

    “Where are you from?” asked the woman.

    “Erwin, more specifically Unicoi,” said Charlie.

    “No, I don’t get over there much. You just have a familiar face,” said the woman. Cindy joined the two after emerging.

    “I get that a lot,” said Charlie.

    “I know I’ve seen you somewhere before,” said the woman.

    “I was a writer at one point in time,” said Charlie.

    “No, that’s not it,” said Kathy and suddenly a look came across her face. “You are over at the farmers market from time to time!”

    “That’s it,” said Charlie with a smile.

    “Thought I’d seen you before,” said Kathy with a smile.

    “I’m probably going to need a new pair of shoes as well,” said Cindy, interjecting into the conversation.

    “Forgot about that,” said Charlie.

    “Oh, there are the cutest shoes over on the display rack. Dark blue ones that would go well with that,” said Kathy.

    “Awesome,” said Cindy.

    “Are you looking for a suit as well? They have some nice ones on clearance,” asked the woman.

    “No, this is just for her. I’ve got a few suits already,” said Charlie.

    “Well, best of luck to you,” said Kathy.

    “Thanks, come on Uncle Charlie, let’s go look at shoes,” said Cindy with a tug at his arm.

    “Nice to meet you,” said Charlie.

    “And nice to meet you too,” said Kathy as they departed.

    “She likes you, or is at least interested enough to want to talk more,” said Cindy after they were out of earshot. “And she’s cute.”

    “Nah, she was just being polite,” said Charlie.

    “She was flirting with you,” said Cindy knowingly.

    “You think so?” asked Charlie.

    “Yeah, gave you the ga-ga eyes and everything,” said Cindy with a giggle. “You didn’t notice?”

    “Nah, thought she was just being nice,” said Charlie.

    “Didn’t see a ring either, so she’s single,” said Cindy. “You should go after her.”

    “I’ve got to buy your shoes,” said Charlie.

    “You really didn’t notice she was being more than polite?” asked Cindy.

    “Didn’t really put that much thought into it,” said Charlie.

    Cindy decided to let the matter drop since he was either being dense about it or just didn’t want to notice the attention he was getting from the lady. Cindy went over and started browsing the shoe section. Before long, she was joined by a newfound “friend.”

    “Thought I would come over and show you the shoes I was talking about,” said Kathy as she rejoined the two.

    “How thoughtful,” said Cindy and looked at Charlie.

    “I hope you don’t mind?” asked Kathy as she looked at Charlie.

    “Not at all,” he said and had a seat on the chairs.

    Kathy pointed out the shoes she had mentioned to Cindy, but kept peeking at Charlie the whole time. Cindy got the shoes from the saleswoman and tried them on, finding them to fit perfectly. While they were away, Cindy turned to Kathy.

    “You know, my uncle’s single,” she grinned.

    “He’s cute, but I don’t really know him,” said Kathy.

    “I can prod him to give you a call if you want,” laughed Cindy.

    “No, I’m involved at the moment. But thanks for the offer,” said Kathy.

    “Okay, thanks for the advice on the shoes,” said Cindy.

    “No problem, hope your interview goes well,” said Kathy as she departed once again.

    “Almost had you a date,” said Cindy after Kathy had walked away once again.

    “You playing matchmaker?” asked Charlie.

    “Nah, I’d let you decide, but I was going to get her number for you,” said Cindy with a grin.

    “Come on monkey girl, let’s go check out,” said Charlie with a roll of his eyes.

    Cindy and Charlie headed over to the open checkout counter and were waiting in line behind one other person. A lady in front of them had handed over a credit card and was waiting for the transaction to go through. The cashier took the card and ran it through the machine before looking at it strangely.

    “I’m sorry, but this card is expired,” she said and turned back to hand it over. The lady looked at her with a blank expression and at the card. She saw the cashier shaking her head and attempting to hand the card back. The lady took the card with a puzzled expression on her face.

    “Do you understand?” said the cashier. “Cardo no worko.”

    The woman looked at her like she had lost her mind and motioned with her hands, attempting to give the card back again. The cashier looked at her and decided to give her a piece of mind since this was something she had dealt with far too often in recent memory.

    “You come into my country and the least you can do is learn my language! You want to come in here and buy things, fine, but at least have the common courtesy to be able to answer simple questions when I tell you I cannot run that card!” she said in a voice bordering on hostility.

    The woman in front of the line looked at the cashier with a hurt expression and motioned with her hands again, slightly shrugging her shoulders. She was about to pull out a notepad when Cindy intervened.

    “Ma’am, I can help,” she said.

    “If you can speak her language, go right ahead,” said the cashier disgustedly.

    I can understand you, Cindy said with her hands in American Sign Language.

    What is wrong, asked the woman in return.

    Your card is expired and she cannot run it, Cindy signed.

    “Oh no, she’s deaf?” asked the cashier.

    “Yes, some people cannot understand no matter how bad your Spanish might be,” said Cindy with a frown and her eyes narrowed.

    “Oh my Lord, I’m so sorry! I didn’t know!” said the cashier to the woman to her front. “Can you tell her I really am sorry?”

    The woman made the appropriate hand gestures before Cindy was able to start. “She said she can read lips but you weren’t facing her when you told her the card was expired.”

    “That’s right, I wasn’t facing her when I said that,” said the cashier nervously.

    The woman made additional hand gestures before digging into her purse and getting another card out and handing it over.

    “She said she got a new card in the other day and forgot to take the old one out,” said Cindy. She motioned back to the woman and they both shared a silent laugh. The woman returned a comment and silently laughed as well.

    “Please tell her I’m so sorry. I normally have the utmost respect for the handicapped and I didn’t know!” the woman exclaimed.

    The woman told Cindy and had a big smile when she was done. Cindy laughed and returned the appropriate comment. “She said she isn’t handicapped, everyone else is since they can’t speak correctly,” said Cindy with a laugh.

    “I suppose so,” laughed the woman. “I wish there was a way of taking back what I said.”

    The woman told Cindy another message to be translated and Cindy laughed. She returned a response before they both grew large smiles and the woman nodded her head. “She says you could take fifty percent off the price. That would be an acceptable apology.”

    The cashier looked at them both with a look of horror before Cindy explained. “It’s just a joke. She was kidding.”

    “Oh my, I thought she was serious. With all the lawsuits these days, one never knows,” said the cashier and looked to her side. “I’ll tell you what though. There was a sale that ended yesterday…but I think we can extend it for a day just for her.”

    “Just her?” asked Cindy with a playful smile.

    “Maybe for you as well,” laughed the cashier nervously.

    Cindy told the woman she had twenty percent off her price and the woman signed back her approval. The new card was swiped and the transaction went through without a problem. The woman turned to Cindy and signed once again.

    Thank you for your help, she said.

    It’s no problem. I haven’t used it in a while so it was good to get back into practice, Cindy said.

    You do it very well, said the woman.

    I’m afraid I might have a New England accent in my signing though, Cindy said with a laugh.

    Yes, I can hear your accent, laughed the woman.

    And you sign slower here in the South, much like people talk, said Cindy with a smile.

    The woman silently laughed and thanked her once again. She collected her bags and went out of the store, her day brightened just a little bit more. Cindy stepped up and put the outfit on the counter and Charlie paid for the items with the discount. Cindy was again thanked by the cashier for her assistance and exclaimed once again about how foolish she was.

    As they were leaving the store, Charlie turned to Cindy. “Full of surprises aren’t you?”

    Cindy gave half a grin before shrugging her shoulders and ****ing her head slightly. But her eyes told him she didn’t quite consider it a small issue. She was very proud at that moment, being able to help someone in need. However, she recognized Charlie’s “sign language” as well when he raised his eyebrows slightly and ****ed his head to the side.

    “My sister is deaf,” she explained. “So we learned ASL from a young age. Tended to make conversation at the dinner table entertaining on pizza night.”

    “I didn’t know that,” said Charlie.

    “Never came up before and I never thought to mention it. I guess it’s like when you know a foreign language, you don’t even think about it until you hear it,” said Cindy.

    “I’m impressed,” he said as they departed the store.


    Two days later


    “Looks to be everything…statement, report, request forms, got the meeting with the judge ready to go. It would be nice to have a psychologist talk to her as well. Someone besides your girlfriend,” said Jimmy.

    “Fianc

  3. #23
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    keep it comin, can't wait to see how them southern boys deal with those creeps from up in new york.
    "If you will live like no one else, later on you can live like no one else." -- Dave Ramsey

  4. #24
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    CHAPTER 13


    “Charlie Gray?” asked the physician’s assistant at the Unicoi County Memorial Hospital. “You’re ready to be seen by Doctor Chase.”

    “Actually, my niece is being seen,” said Charlie. “The reservation was booked under my name.”

    “Of course, please come this way miss,” said the assistant as she led her away.

    “Standard physical?” asked Cindy as they entered the exam room.

    “Yes, Doctor Chase will be checking you over,” said the assistant. “But in the meantime, we’re going to be doing out standard tests and background since you haven’t been seen here before.”

    The assistant went over her medical history, some family history, checked her blood pressure and drew blood for standard lab work. After about twenty minutes, the standard tests were out of the way and the doctor entered the room. She was an attractive woman in her early 30s with piercing blue eyes.

    “Hello, I’m Doctor Erica Chase. How are you doing today Miss Grant?” asked the doctor.

    “I’m doing okay. I don’t like hospitals though,” said Cindy with a laugh.

    “Good thing for you I don’t either, so we’ll keep this short,” laughed Erica. “Blood pressure is outstanding, weight is normal for your age and height, you are also taller than girls typically are at your age and the blood work is being analyzed at this time. Anything specifically wrong you know of?”

    “No, I can’t think of anything,” said Cindy.

    “No history of medical conditions over the past year?” asked Erica.

    “Just my annual cold at the beginning of winter,” said Cindy.

    “Let’s listen to your breathing,” said Erica. “Please pull up your shirt.”

    Cindy did as requested and flinched at the cold metal instrument on her back. “Sorry.”

    “Don’t be, it’s my mistake for not warming it up beforehand,” said Erica. “Breathe in…exhale…inhale…exhale…and one more time…where’d you get the marks on your back?”

    “What marks?” asked Cindy.

    “There’s evidence of bruising on your back. Most likely from a belt or other object about that thick. Has someone been abusing you?” asked Erica.

    “I uhh…” started Cindy.

    “Listen, it’s okay to talk about it. I’m a doctor,” said Erica.

    “It’s just…you know, I’m embarrassed,” said Cindy.

    “Nothing to be embarrassed about. Sometimes it happens,” said Erica.

    “It happened with my father. I was being disrespectful in his words and needed to be taught my place. He used the belt to whip me to teach me a lesson,” said Cindy, blushing up slightly.

    “Just your father? There is evidence of different types of bruising,” said Erica, who had seen the pattern before.

    “No, he got help that last time,” said Cindy.

    “Your father had others help him abuse you?” asked Erica with raised eyebrows.

    “Yes, other members of the community helped,” said Cindy.

    Erica had been briefed about this beforehand, but the revelation of additional people assisting in the physical abuse caused a stir in her emotions. While the Hippocratic Oath stated for Doctor Chase to do no harm, Erica Chase wanted to get the father by the ears and knee him in the face right then.

    “Charlie wasn’t one of them was he?” asked Erica.

    “Charlie? No! Absolutely not!” exclaimed Cindy.

    “Again, if he’s helping abuse you, you can stay in here until the police arrive,” said Erica.

    “No! He is in no way, shape or form helping out! He’s been better to me than all the men combined over the past three years!” exclaimed Cindy.

    “So what is your relationship with Charles Gray then?” asked Erica.

    “Does the doctor patient confidentiality thingy work with this as well?” asked Cindy.

    “It certainly does,” said Erica who knew it didn’t since it was her duty to report suspected abuse cases to the police. But then again, she had been contacted by the Sheriff and advised this would probably be the case.

    “Charlie isn’t my uncle,” said Cindy.

    “Okay, what is your relationship then?” asked Erica.

    “He picked me up on the side of the road and offered me shelter. He’s the one assisting in getting things resolved with my family…more specifically my father,” said Cindy.

    “So, no relation to him?” asked Erica.

    “No, just a good guy who wanted to help me out,” said Cindy.

    “Charlie is a good guy, I will say that. But you aren’t lying to me about him abusing you are you?” asked Erica.

    “Unless you count providing me food, clothing and a place to stay in his spare cabin, no. Well, he did make me try all sorts of weird foods,” laughed Cindy.

    “Such as?” asked Erica.

    “Well, like something called ramps, hominy, peanut butter and banana sandwiches, fresh eggs, sweet tea. Even threatened me with something called crawdads,” laughed Cindy.

    “No cornbread?” laughed Erica as she saw Cindy was joking. Laughter was a good sign.

    “Yeah, that too. Never had it made from scratch before and I must say it’s ‘good eatin’ as Charlie would say,” said Cindy with a smile.

    “He’s old fashioned, that’s for sure. Like an old country cook,” said Erica.

    “You’ve eaten at his house before?” asked Cindy.

    “Church picnic. He and I go to the same church,” said Erica.

    “He does pretty well in the kitchen for a guy,” laughed Cindy.

    “Yeah, he’s an all right guy,” said Erica. “He’ll make someone a good husband one of these days.”

    “Well, he’s single,” said Cindy with a twinkle in her eyes.

    “As most of the women in this county know,” said Erica, blushing up slightly as if Cindy figured out she thought more of Charlie than she let on.

    “Okay, enough of Charlie,” said Cindy, letting her off the hook for the moment.

    “Anything else you want to talk about?” asked Erica.

    “I spoke with a lady State Trooper the other day, Sarah Brock,” said Cindy. “Pretty much told her everything.”

    “Is that Mitch’s new fianc

  5. #25
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    Great tale you are spinning, Grand!

    Keep up the good work, can't wait for more! please don't make us wait too long.....

    Jim

  6. #26
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    As stated in the other thread, I'm on leave (vacation) in the States right now and I'll try to get more up if I get teh opportunity to.

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    CHAPTER 14



    A car rolled into the driveway and honked the horn. Charlie and Cindy were out in the barn working on various parts for the engine and peeked outside to see who it was. Charlie immediately recognized and waved at the man.

    “Cindy? Mind grabbing some of that tea and coming out to the porch?” asked Charlie.

    “We have guests?” asked Cindy.

    “It’s the minister,” said Charlie. “You’ve got a smudge on your face. Might want to clean that up before you come out.”

    “Okay, I’ll get changed into my proper clothing,” said Cindy.

    “Don’t bother, it’s just a social call. Unless you want to clean up,” said Charlie.

    “He formal or anything like that?” asked Cindy.

    “Nah, just a normal guy,” said Charlie as he wandered towards the house. “Afternoon.”

    “Charlie, sorry I hadn’t been out here sooner,” said Pat Brown, minister of the church Charlie attended.

    “No worries, I’ve been pretty busy this week,” said Charlie. “Mind if I excuse myself for a second? Need to wash up.”

    “Take your time, I’m intruding on your time here,” said Pat.

    “You never intrude. Have a seat on the porch and I’ll be right out,” said Charlie.

    Charlie went in and washed up his hands and forearms from the dirt and grime collected from working on the engine. He also grabbed another shirt and quickly changed, but the dirty blue jeans were acceptable for the unplanned visit. He met Cindy coming in just as he was grabbing the tea and glasses before heading out.

    “No, I’ve got this. Go entertain the guest,” said Cindy as she shooed him away.

    “You sure?” asked Charlie.

    “Yeah, go ahead,” said Cindy as she got into the freezer for ice. She had changed her shirt as well since it had gotten dirty and she wanted to look somewhat presentable. Charlie opened the front door and saw the minister sitting on one of the rocking chairs gently rolling back and forth waiting on him to appear.

    “How are you sir?” asked Charlie as he shook the man’s hand.

    “Pretty fair. I was out on this end of the county and decided to drop by for a visit. I would have called, but I forgot my cell phone at the house,” said Pat.

    “No big deal. We were ready for a break anyway,” said Charlie.

    “I noticed you have one of your workers out here,” said the minister.

    “Well, she’s not really a worker so to speak,” said Charlie.

    “Oh?” asked Pat.

    “Long story short, I’m serving as a foster home for the moment to her. She’s from New York and is waiting on…some legal issues to get worked out,” said Charlie.

    “I see,” said the minister, wondering what else was not being said.

    “And if you hear folks refer to her as my niece, just go with it please,” said Charlie.

    “Kind of mysterious, but I’m sure you have a good reason,” said Pat. “You get over your stomach bug?”

    “Yeah, worked its way out I suppose,” Charlie lied.

    “Charlie, you know you couldn’t ever lie worth a darn,” said the minister.

    “I don’t feel right lying to you,” admitted Charlie.

    “Don’t want to talk about it?” asked Pat.

    “Can’t really talk about it so to speak,” said Charlie. “The less you know the better for the moment.”

    “I can accept that,” said Pat as Cindy came out. “Good afternoon.”

    “Hi,” said Cindy in her typical greeting. “I’m Cindy.”

    “Pat Brown,” said the minister.

    “Nice to meet you Mister Brown,” said Cindy properly and served up two glasses of tea and poured the bottle of Diet Pepsi into her cup. The minister thanked her as they all got comfortable in the seats.

    “Nice day out today, not too hot and not too humid,” observed Pat.

    “Yeah, forecast is for rain tonight, so I figure the humidity will pick up in a little while,” said Charlie.

    ”Everyone needs it,” said Pat. “I assume I’ll be seeing the two of you tomorrow?”

    “For certain,” said Cindy before Charlie had the chance to answer.

    “We’ll be there,” said Charlie.

    “And at the picnic?” asked Pat.

    “Yeah, I completely forgot about that,” said Charlie. “Who’s got the list again? I forgot what I was signed up for.”

    “Erica Chase. Just give her a call,” said Pat.

    “And it’s at Rock Creek Park, right?” asked Charlie.

    “Sure is. Picnic starts at around 1:00 with a nature hike for the youth group up to the falls,” said Pat. “Just some other stuff between then and an early evening service by the pool.”

    “Sounds like a really good time,” said Charlie. “I can’t believe I forgot about it.”

    “We all have things that divert our attention from time to time,” said Pat.

    “Yes, that we do,” said Charlie, thinking of the situation he was in.

    “But we do want you to speak about something that has come up recently though,” said Pat.

    “Which is?” asked Charlie.

    “A few members have wanted to become more prepared for emergencies. Maybe you could give a short lecture on how to better prepare ourselves for a crisis if it happened,” said Pat.

    “I suppose I could come up with something,” said Charlie.

    “Just a generic briefing on what we could do to help ourselves instead of relying on others to help us. I mean, we can help each other, but at the same time, God helps those who help themselves,” said Pat.

    “Which I do remember isn’t in the Bible anywhere,” said Charlie.

    “No, but a good lesson on life. I mean, we can’t sit back and expect God to do everything for us,” said Pat.

    “Okay, I’ll give you that,” said Charlie. “Just a simple brief?”

    “Nothing complicated. We can always do more if the desire is there,” said Pat.

    “Yeah, I’ll do up something tonight,” said Charlie. “Probably add in some government websites along the way. FEMA actually has a pretty good plan on it.”

    “Whatever you think is best,” said Pat.

    The remainder of the visit was spent going over small talk and general chit chat. Before the minister left, Charlie offered him up some things out of the garden as he typically did. The minister accepted and Cindy grabbed one of the baskets out of the shed to grab some things with the minister. They walked over together to the garden where he picked at some random samplings.

    “How long are you going to be staying with Charlie?” he asked as he cut a cucumber off the vine with a pocketknife.

    “Don’t know for certain,” said Cindy.

    “Charlie’s a good guy. You couldn’t ask for anyone better to take you in during a time of need,” said Pat.

    “I keep hearing that,” she said.

    “You object to staying with Charlie?” he asked.

    “No! He’s a great guy!” she exclaimed.

    “Working you out here on the farm while he has you?” asked Pat.

    “Yeah, sort of, but more like I’m badgering him to work more. I like getting physical and doing work,” said Cindy.

    “Certainly sets you apart from a lot of other teenagers,” said Pat as he looked through the green peppers before picking one.

    “Yeah, I’m not normal,” laughed Cindy. “We don’t have any onions out here, pulled them this morning.”

    “Which kind?” asked Pat.

    “The red ones and the…Valdosta ones I think they are called,” said Cindy.

    “The Vidalia onions you mean?” asked Pat.

    “Yeah, I seem to forget the name,” said Cindy.

    “I think this is okay for the moment,” said Pat. “Please tell Charlie I’ll get the basket back to him tomorrow.”

    “Okay, see you in the morning,” said Cindy as she handed the basket over. After the minister departed, she went back to the house to find him typing something up on the computer. “Are we calling it a day?”

    “Probably so, but we have a little problem,” said Charlie.

    “Which is?” asked Cindy.

    “You don’t have a Sunday dress,” said Charlie.

    “Which means?” asked Cindy.

    “Well, depends on if you want to look nice for church,” said Charlie.

    “Sure,” said Cindy. “Mind if I look through your wife’s things?”

    “If you feel comfortable with that,” said Charlie.

    “I just don’t want you spending any more money on me,” said Cindy.

    “What about shoes?” asked Charlie.

    “I’ll see if something matches the shoes you picked up for my other dress,” said Cindy.

    “Okay, come on up,” said Charlie as he led her upstairs into the spare room. Most of the Sunday dresses were hanging on portable garment racks and covered by old sheets to protect them from dust. Charlie pulled the sheets back and let her take a look at the dresses underneath. Cindy looked over the two racks and tried to find something that would be “church appropriate.” She finally found something in the same shade of blue as the shoes and wanted to try it on.

    “Sure, the spare bedroom is across the hall. You are more than welcome to try it,” said Charlie.

    Cindy bounced over and shut the door before trying on the dress. It was a conservative cut, but fairly stylish for being eight years old. After slipping it on and getting it zipped up, she saw it was slightly loose, but otherwise acceptable for a loaner dress. She came back out and decided to get Charlie’s opinion on the matter.

    “Am I socially acceptable?” she asked.

    He hadn’t been paying attention but was gathering up the bedding to wash from his bed. Turning around, he saw the dress was slightly larger than her slender frame, but as she had noticed, was acceptable.

    “Looks perfectly fine to me,” said Charlie after looking her over.

    “What kind of church is it anyway?” asked Cindy.

    “Southern Baptist,” said Charlie.

    “We went to one of those before,” she said. “They were pretty fiery from what I remember.”

    “We are a little tamer than other Southern Baptists, but we do get in some guest ministers from time to time that bring the fire in,” he chuckled.

    “Are you planning on Sunday school?” she asked.

    “I had planned on it,” said Charlie.

    “I won’t know anyone,” she replied.

    “No different than moving to a new school. I think there are some kids your age as well,” said Charlie.

    “Hopefully not the twins,” laughed Cindy.

    “No, they are Methodists,” said Charlie with a laugh.

    “Okay, I’ll give it a whirl,” said Cindy.

    “What do you want for dinner tonight?” asked Charlie.

    “I was thinking something Italian. Is that okay?” asked Cindy.

    “I think that’s perfectly fine. So you plan on cooking?” he asked.

    “If you want me to,” she said. “But I’ll need to see if you have the stuff.”

    “Yeah, you might want to check depending on what I have or don’t have,” said Charlie.

    “Okay, let me get changed out of this dress and take a look. Might mean a trip to the store,” she said.

    “Just a quick trip if you don’t mind,” said Charlie.

    “I’ll know here in a minute,” said Cindy as she bounced down the stairs and into the kitchen. She looked around and didn’t find anything she needed to cook up the meal for the night and went into the basement to check as well. The shelves in the basement were full, but not what she was looking for. She came back up the stairs to find Charlie waiting for her.

    “Find everything you need?” he asked as he was looking through the phone book.

    “Actually, didn’t find anything I needed. Have to make that trip to the store,” said Cindy.

    “What are you planning?” he asked while writing down a number.

    “It’s a surprise,” said Cindy with a grin.

    “Okay, grab your goodies and we’ll head on out,” said Charlie.

    Cindy bounded out of the house once again and back to the cabin where she grabbed her wallet and the little money she had. She found Charlie getting everything ready to go.

    “Can I drive?” she asked, with a smile, but halfway serious.

    “Not on your life. But if we get the chance next week, I’ll give you a few lessons,” said Charlie.

    “Way cool!” she exclaimed and headed towards the front door. They decided to head to the local Wal-Mart instead of going into town. She grabbed a shopping basket and headed towards the food aisle. Charlie tagged along behind her but was stopped.

    “No, go away. It’s going to be a surprise,” said Cindy.

    “And how are you going to pay for this?” he asked.

    “I’m going to use my hard earned money,” she said.

    “The same money you stole?” he asked with a grin.

    “Yeah, it was hard work getting that,” she said. “But anyway, go away…go look at guns or something.”

    He shook his head slightly and wandered off in the direction of the sporting goods. He knew there wasn’t much they had on the shelf he wanted, but there was always a possibility of a new shipment of ammo that came in. He hadn’t been shooting like he normally did and needed to get back out on the range sooner rather than later. He picked up some bulk pack pistol ammo and another carton of .22 ammo as well. He figured .22 was something you just couldn’t have enough of, no matter what. He also browsed the other sections taking a look for other items but not finding anything he needed to pick up. Paying for the ammo, he was approached by Cindy after she had completed her purchases as well.

    “Have any left over?” he asked and peeked at the bags.

    “Yes and no you can’t see what’s in them,” she said with her silly grin.

    “I’m probably going to be slightly scared of what is in there,” he said.

    “Nah, I won’t kill you,” she said. “But it’s not Southern.”

    “Bet it’s not worth eating then,” he laughed.

    “Hey! At least it’s not those crawdad things,” she said. As they walked towards the front of the store, a voice stopped them.

    “Hello you two,” said Erica Chase.

    “Hello, I was going to call you later to figure out what I signed up for tomorrow,” he said.

    “Well, that’s why I’m out today. I have to get the stuff for me. But lucky for you, I have the list with me,” said Erica as she dug in her small purse. She scanned over the list and found his name. “Looks like you signed up for the baked beans.”

    “Yeah, that’s right. I was kind of ordered to,” he laughed.

    “Everyone loves your baked beans,” said Erica. “And how are you doing?”

    “I’m good. Nice to see you again,” said Cindy.

    “Well, I typically wait until the last minute before cooking anything up,” said Erica. “You are going tomorrow as well?”

    “Yes, certainly,” said Cindy.

    “It’ll be a good time. I’m leading the hike up to the falls with the teen group,” said Erica. “Are you going to be going with us?”

    “How far is it?” asked Cindy.

    “Oh, not far, maybe four miles. But it’s pretty,” said Erica. “Maybe you can drag Charlie along with you.”

    “I was asked by Pat to give a lesson in preparedness for the congregation,” said Charlie. “I trust you’ll keep her out of trouble.”

    “I’m never any trouble at all!” exclaimed Cindy theatrically.

    “Well, either way, you are more than welcome to join us on our hike and in Sunday school tomorrow,” said Erica.

    “I’ll be there,” said Cindy.

    “Charlie, can I get a copy of whatever you’re briefing on tomorrow?” she asked.

    “Of course. I’m planning on printing out some generic pamphlets in the morning,” he said. “But I did forget to grab the stuff for the beans as well.”

    “Well, you’re at the store, I’m sure they have what you need,” said Erica.

    “Yeah, but Cindy was the one that needed to come here. She’s apparently cooking up something special tonight,” said Charlie.

    “Which is?” asked Erica.

    Cindy leaned over and whispered in her hear. Erica leaned back and gave an “mmmm” of approval.

    “I’m coming over and eating at your place tonight,” chuckled Erica.

    “You are more than welcome to if you want,” said Charlie.

    “I would, but I have to get the chicken done for tomorrow,” said Erica. “But I’ll take a rain check if the offer is on the table.”

    “Absolutely. Doctors make good friends and it’s worth keeping you happy,” said Charlie.

    “Sometimes we make more than friends,” said Erica and stared intently at Charlie. Charlie picked up on the not so subtle hint there and gave her a smile as he typically did. There was an uncomfortable pause before Cindy prompted the two.

    “We probably need to get going, but I’ll certainly cook that up again in the future if you would like to try it,” said Cindy.

    “Absolutely,” said Erica as she shifted uncomfortably with her basket. “Until tomorrow then?”

    “Yes, see you in the morning,” said Charlie. They walked back towards the front of the store and grabbed another hand basket for the items for the baked beans.

    “You just have women all over the place don’t you?” asked Cindy with a silly grin.

    “Oh hush,” said Charlie as he headed into the grocery area and grabbed the items to fix his baked beans. There wasn’t a lot to them, but the way he mixed in the various spices made them very good. They went through the checkout line once again and he paid for the items while showing his receipt for the other things along with Cindy.

    “She practically ripped her neck off trying to get a look at you,” said Cindy once they were outside.

    “Who did?” asked Charlie.

    “Doctor Chase. She was heading down an aisle when we came in. She made a point to check on something so she could see you again,” said Cindy.

    “How do you know that?” asked Charlie.

    “Because she was supposedly looking at Depends undergarments for men,” said Cindy with a laugh.

    “Yeah, I suppose those weren’t for her,” laughed Charlie. “She’s a nice lady.”

    “She seemed like it,” said Cindy, not wanting to say anything more since the subject was a little touchy with him.

    “Okay, you ready to cook monkey girl?” he asked as they got into the truck and headed back towards the house. It was a strange feeling being with her, like she was family. He knew the day would come when she would go back home or to another home if things didn’t work out, but at that moment in time, he felt like she was a part of his family he never really had.

    After they got back in the house, she put the items away and headed back to the cabin for a quick shower. After finishing up and getting changed, she headed back to the house to find he had done the same.

    “Now stay out of the kitchen until I call you,” she ordered.

    “Yes ma’am,” he said and hopped on the computer to get the news while she was busy banging pots and pans around in the kitchen. While looking through the news, a thought struck him and he opened a new window. Suddenly his hands started typing and the words flowed onto the document like they had in years past. He had no idea where the thoughts came from, but they continued to come and form in his head. He lost track of time before Cindy politely cleared her throat behind him.

    “I’ve never seen someone type so fast before,” she remarked.

    “Yeah, but my spelling is atrocious,” he laughed.

    “That’s what they make spell check for. You ready for dinner?” she asked.

  8. #28
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    CHAPTER 14 CONTINUED


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    I'll try to get a chapter put up in "Lucky" in the next day or two

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    CHAPTER 15


    Cindy woke up to the sounds of Charlie moving around in the downstairs in the kitchen. Stretching out her arms over her head, what should have been unfamiliar feelings of sleeping in another strange place were absent this time. The floor was slightly chilly so she pulled the socks she had been wearing back on before stomping down the stairs as she typically did. He heard her coming well before her arrival and chuckled at the heavy footsteps of the smaller girl.

    “Morning,” he said as he sipped at a cup of coffee and stirred at the gravy in the pan.

    “Hi,” she said and immediately took her place at the side of the table where she typically sat while he was cooking. The smell of the coffee was stronger this morning and she wondered exactly what it tasted like. “Can I have a cup of coffee?”

    “You drink coffee?” he asked.

    “I want to try it,” she said.

    “The way you’re typically hyper, I probably shouldn’t introduce caffeine to your system,” he chuckled. “Use one of the tea cups and only try a little.”

    “Why just a little?” she asked.

    “Because if you don’t like it, I don’t want to see a whole cup go to waste,” he said.

    “You could drink it if I don’t like it,” she said and involuntarily stomped over to the cupboard to retrieve one of the smaller cups. Her heavy footsteps were typically a morning thing and not indicative of her mood.

    “And get your cooties? Absolutely not!” he exclaimed without turning around.

    “I don’t have cooties! I got my shot last year!” she played along and went over to the coffee pot. She poured about a quarter of a cup and smelled at it before blowing to cool it off slightly. After taking a small sip, the face she made was priceless as she exclaimed “Ewww!”

    “Not what you thought it was going to be?” asked Charlie.

    “Absolutely not! How can you drink this stuff?” she asked and looked at the remainder of the small portion.

    “It’s an acquired taste,” he said.

    “Must be,” she said and tossed the remainder into the sink while getting a cup of water to wash the taste out of her mouth. “What’s for breakfast anyway?”

    “Biscuits and gravy, eggs and sausage,” he said as he continued to stir the gravy so it wouldn’t scorch.

    “Old Southern recipe?” she asked.

    “You know it,” he said.

    “What time is church anyway?” she asked. “And for that matter, what time is it?”

    “Church starts at ten and it’s around six-thirty,” he replied.

    “What time did the power come back on?” she asked with a yawn, still waking up.

    “Around three or so,” he said. “The cabin power is back on and the water should be warm by the time you need to shower.”

    “Speaking of showering and changing and everything. What should I wear to this picnic?” she asked.

    “Well, it’s in a park, but like a wooded park. For the hike I would suggest some of your work pants, but for the lunch, probably a pair of shorts and shirt would be okay,” he suggested.

    “The church isn’t strict about shorts and all for women?” she asked.

    “No, and yours are acceptable,” said Charlie. “Ready to eat?”

    “Starving!” she exclaimed. Charlie set out the table and grabbed the biscuits out of the oven. He turned down the temperature to the appropriate setting for the beans which would be slid in before they left. Everything else was almost ready to go as he put the scrambled eggs on the plates and the sausage out of the pan.

    “What kind of gravy is this?” she asked as she looked into the bowl.

    “Sausage gravy,” he said. “Ever try it?

    “Not that I can remember,” she said as she portioned out a little bit for one of the biscuit halves. The remainder of breakfast passed in small talk as she found the gravy was another Southern thing she liked a lot. Everything was finished up and the dishes were put off on the account of church that morning, but did put some of the pans down in the water to soak while they were gone. Seeing everything was okay in the kitchen, she grabbed everything to go to the cabin to shower and change. She thought about how inconvenient it was and decided to ask Charlie to move up to the house full time if it was okay with him. She didn’t have a problem with it, but wasn’t sure if he would go along since he was still trying to be the proper single host with her.

    She checked on the time and went ahead and laid out her things to go to the picnic that afternoon. The hiking items were tossed into the old pack she had brought out with her and set beside the door. There wasn’t much more she could do so she decided to go ahead and get showered and changed. Everything was already laid out and she was somewhat anxious about heading back into church. She hadn’t been in a Christian church in some time and was slightly apprehensive about it. And along with sitting in a Sunday school class with a group of teenagers she didn’t know was on her mind as well. But she pretty much knew she wouldn’t be getting forced into marriage by anyone that day so she attempted to put the nervousness into the back of her mind.

    After showering and getting cleaned up, she applied some of the makeup she had bought. Not too much as she didn’t want to overdo it and it had been some time since she had been able to do such a thing. She halfway remembered the lessons from her mother from some years ago and was able to bring out her natural highlights fairly well for being out of practice. After finishing everything up, she grabbed the pack with her clothing and headed back towards the house. She found Charlie was a quick changer as well and was already busy at work finishing and printing the pamphlets he had been typing up.

    “I wondered if you forgot about that,” said Cindy as she walked in.

    “Yeah, got it done this morning,” he said.

    “No tie for church?” she asked as she looked over his apparel.

    “Not yet. I hate ties and it’s the last thing to go on,” he said. “You cleaned up nicely.”

    “I try,” she said and looked over the pamphlet as it printed out on the larger printer. “Why do you have such a large printer?”

    “For when I was writing books. It pretty much paid for itself when I was printing copies for the editor,” he said.

    “Why not like Kinkos or something?” she asked.

    “Because it was cheaper to buy a larger printer and go that route than getting it printed every time. My editors were ruthless and I had several revisions,” he chuckled as he finished everything up and grabbed at a stapler. “Want to help?”

    “Sure, you have another stapler?” she asked.

    “No, just organize them please,” he said and showed her the order they needed to go in. While she put them together, he added in two staples at the edges and folded them over. She quickly finished up organizing them and took over the folding duties while he stapled. Everything was finished up and he put them into a Tupperware container for later. “Okay, we’ll get headed out here soon.”

    “I’ll be right here,” she said as she plopped down in a chair and read through the pamphlet. Charlie reemerged after several minutes wearing a nice tie to go along with his shirt as well as the jacket which matched his pants. “You clean up okay as well. Planning on impressing someone?”

    “Nah, this is how I normally look,” he said, looking down at his suit.

    “I think you are trying to impress Doctor Chase,” she said with a sly grin.

    “I think you are far too young to be worrying about my love life,” he said with a shake of his head, a roll of his eyes and half a smile. “But one more thing you need this morning.”

    “Which is?” she asked.

    He went over to a bookshelf and looked momentarily before finding a newer looking Bible. It had seen some use, but looked relatively new. “For Sunday school and the main service.”

    She took the Bible from him and looked it over before saying a soft “thank you.”

    He saw her expression and wondered what she was thinking right then. “Something wrong?”

    “No, it’s just been, well, I’ve never really had a choice in my religion,” she said.

    “If you want, I can go alone,” he said, not thinking about the issue of leaving her behind.

    “No, I want to go. And I guess that’s the big difference,” she said. “You ready?”

    He looked at his watch and decided it was close enough time to drive to the church. Nodding his head towards the door, he grabbed his wallet, keys and other items before slipping them into the various pockets. After they departed out the door, Cindy asked another question.

    “Are you carrying a gun into church?” she asked.

    “Won’t confirm or deny,” he said as he walked around the mud spots to the truck and hopped in the driver’s side. She did much the same before getting in and folding down her dress. The drive took them into Erwin before he parked in the parking lot and saw others heading in for the services. Charlie saw Erica Chase and waved at her before heading across the parking lot to make sure Cindy knew where to go.

    “Good morning,” said Erica with a smile.

    “And to you, ma’am. Can you take Cindy down to Sunday school with you?” asked Charlie.

    “Of course,” said Erica. “Want to come with me?”

    “Sure,” said Cindy and wandered off in the other direction.

    “I hope the power outage in Unicoi last night didn’t spoil your supper?” asked Erica.

    “Nope, got everything in before the power went out,” said Cindy. “What are we going to be talking about this morning?”

    “Ongoing lessons about different things. Today happens to be about helping ourselves and helping others,” said Erica.

    “Sounds good,” said Cindy, still a little apprehensive about the Sunday school since she didn’t know anyone. At least in the main church service she could be somewhat anonymous, but in the smaller class, she would stick out far more than she wanted for the moment. But she made a promise and she hoped she could find a spot to fit in. After entering the church, Erica led her to the classroom and showed her inside where Cindy found a somewhat familiar face.

    “Hi,” she said to Toby Reynolds as she saw him sitting in the chair.

    He looked up and gave her a shy smile of greeting before looking away. It made Cindy a little uncomfortable, but she decided to press the matter slightly and went to the empty chair beside him. “May I sit here?”

    “Please,” he said shyly before shifting over to the right just a little.

    “Do I make you nervous?” asked Cindy as other youth started to come in.

    “No,” he said with the same shy smile.

    “Just don’t talk much?” asked Cindy.

    “No,” he said with another shy grin.

    “I guess this is a start of a wonderful relationship,” she said with a grin.

    After several more minutes of silence between the two, Erica closed the door and got started. “We have a visitor this morning. Want to introduce yourself?” she asked as she looked at Cindy.

    “Hi, I’m Cindy and I’m Charlie Gray’s niece. I’m from Ohio originally and just visiting,” said Cindy after standing up. Various looks came from around the room and nods were seen. Cindy hadn’t expected anyone to jump up and shake her hand, but the silence didn’t help her anxiousness at all. But Erica started the lesson soon after going from the book her class used. Erica had forgotten to grab a spare copy and Cindy ended up sharing off Toby’s book. The lesson was about the Christian values of helping those in need and Cindy thought it was utterly appropriate for her situation. Several verses backed up the lesson and were discussed by the class. For the most part, she remained silent, not knowing when to jump in and help out. She knew of more verses to use in this situation, but again, wasn’t sure of jumping in the conversation. So she decided to remain quiet for the most part while reading along with Toby.

    The class finished up after close to a half an hour, cut short because of the planned outing of the church that day. Before leaving, Cindy gave Toby another smile and thanked him for letting her read from his book in the class. He gave her another smile and a polite nod of his head. She gave up on the lost cause of talking to him at any length until she could figure out a way of breaking through his shyness. Walking upstairs, she found Charlie sitting midway in the main sanctuary talking with someone in the pew behind him. She slipped in and took a seat to his side before being introduced to the man behind her. After the courteous introduction, she scanned the room and didn’t see anyone else she knew except Toby and a few people she had been introduced to at the supermarket the other day. The room rapidly filled up and the sermon got underway. The hymns were sung and the opening prayers were given by various members of the church until the last song was sung and the minister took his place in the pulpit.

    “We all know of the picnic planned for today, so this sermon will be a little shorter than usual,” said the minister. “So my wife will get her wishes for me to shut up for once in my life.”

    Polite laughter was heard as the minister got into the main sermon, a continuation of helping each other as well as helping themselves. More verses were quoted from the Bible, ones that Cindy remembered and the overall impact was positive. The sermon took on more of a community oriented preparedness aspect before coming to a close. Communion was served and although Cindy had been baptized as both a Catholic and as a Christian, she didn’t feel comfortable partaking since it hadn’t been her choice. She remembered her lessons from the Bible well and knew it was a personal choice rather than a forced decision for her. Charlie didn’t react when she passed the tray on down the pew to the next family.

    After the official sermon ended and church as ready to be let out, the minister took the pulpit once again and made the announcement on the picnic that day.

    “Everyone as well as friends are invited. Plus, we will be doing the evening service at the park, so please don’t show up tonight here. I’m afraid you will pretty much be alone. But either way, services will be conducted after the picnic and this afternoon’s services,” he said. “Eating will start around 1:00, so we’ll hope to see you there.”

    The congregation rose for the last hymn as the minister walked out towards the front door to shake hands on the way out. Cindy and Charlie were somewhat around the rear of the group and walked slowly towards the door in line with the remainder of the congregation. Once they shook hands and departed, they both headed towards the truck and hopped in.

    “You need anything else?” he asked as he quickly shed his tie and jacket.

    “No, just to get into some comfortable clothing,” she said and slipped off the shoes.

    “Bad?” he asked.

    “Not broken in,” she said.

    “Easy enough. What’s going to happen with your feet on this hike?” he asked.

    “Boots are probably going to be different. The shoes cramp my toes,” she said.

    “I see,” he said. “But I thought they were ‘cute’ or something.”

    “They are cute, but until they are broken in, they aren’t quite so cute,” she laughed.

    “Well, we’ll get you into something more comfortable soon enough,” said Charlie.

    “What are you wearing anyway?” she asked.

    “Shorts and a polo,” he said. “Why?”

    “Just wondering,” she said and looked out at the scenery as they drove along. All traces of the rains from the night before were gone and the day was sunny and clear. But not too hot in the lower 80s that afternoon. After arriving, he hung up his jacket and tie before checking on the baked beans in the oven. They were almost ready to pull out but it gave him more than enough time to change into his clothing for that afternoon. Out of habit, he grabbed a pair of pants and another shirt in case he decided to join the nature hike and set them on the table beside the door. Cindy came tromping back into the house from where she changed after heading out to the cabin. The dress was back on a hanger and she took it back upstairs to hang up, not having soiled it for the brief period she wore it.

    “Is there I place I can charge this?” she asked and held up an iPod.

    “Where did you get that?” he asked, pouring the baked beans into a metal container for transport.

    “I forgot I brought it with me. It died before I got here and I packed away my hiking stuff in the pack I had and it fell out,” explained Cindy.

    “I don’t have a wall charger. I don’t own an iPod,” he said.

    “No, I have the computer plug that recharges it, but I wasn’t supposed to have it to begin with since it had that ‘devil music’ on it. I was able to keep it hidden away from my father for the most part,” she said.

    “Devil music?” asked Charlie.

    “Nothing bad, I promise you. But anything pop, rock, country or with women singers is devil music to him,” she said.

    “Okay, yeah, you can plug it into the computer,” he said. “Does it work when the computer is powered down?”

    “I don’t know. I never tried it that way,” said Cindy.

    “We’ll give it a shot while we’re gone,” said Charlie as he grabbed a can of Sterno to keep the beans warm while they were waiting for everyone to arrive. “I need to change right quick.”

    “I’ll be waiting,” said Cindy as she plopped down at the computer and plugged in the device and saw the computer was already running. She wondered if he would mind if she found some new music to download since she had heard several songs on the radio lately that caught her fancy. He reappeared several minutes later and had packed a small bag as well and was carrying his hiking boots.

    “You going with us on the hike?” she asked.

    “I don’t plan on it, but just in case,” he said. “You got your stuff ready?”

    “Yeah, but I didn’t have a t-shirt to wear except the old work shirts,” said Cindy.

    “Easy enough,” he said and went back upstairs one more time and returned with a synthetic shirt. He handed it to her to put into her bag and collected up his items once again. It took two trips to gather everything, but they were settled and finally ready to go. They drove to Rock Creek Park and found they were somewhat the first ones around after parking at the pool area and getting everything ready to go. With the weekend coming to an end, many campers were leaving and pulling out of the campground, politely waving as they departed the area. Charlie and Cindy helped out with setting up the tables and chairs that were being unloaded from trucks parked in the other parking area. Eventually everything was set up and others were arriving and putting out their foods on the serving tables. Charlie set up the pan of beans and lit the Sterno fuel and placed it underneath.

    “Charlie, we really appreciate you making it today and especially bringing your baked beans,” said Erica as she walked up with a large aluminum baking pan full of fried chicken.

    “The same could be said of your fried chicken. It’s some of the best I’ve ever had,” he replied with a smile.

    “As a doctor, I should warn folks about the dangers of the fat in fried chicken, but everything in moderation,” she smiled back and pulled the cover to observe what was inside.

    “Do I get a taste test?” he asked with a grin.

    “Nope! You have to wait like everyone else,” she said with a laugh. They talked for several minutes as others were coming in and setting up their dishes. After a half an hour, everyone was in place and the minister said the blessing and everyone lined up and made their way through the serving line and went over to the various tables set up to eat at. Friends and family sat with each other and caught up on social times. Charlie and Cindy made their way over to the table where the Reynolds family was sitting.

    “Mind if we grab a seat?” asked Charlie.

    “Yeah sure,” said Mack.

    “Charlie, good to see you,” said Jennifer Reynolds.

    “And you too Jen. Haven’t seen you in a while,” said Charlie. “This is Cindy, my niece.”

    “Nice to meet you,” said Jen and took her hand. “Didn’t know Charlie had a niece.”

    “Yeah, he abducted me from the traveling circus,” laughed Cindy.

    “So this is the one that Toby mentioned,” said Jen, making her son blush up.

    “I’m sorry?” asked Cindy.

    “Toby said he met you the other day. This is the one right?” asked Jen. “She is as pretty as you said she was Toby.”

    Toby was blushing up, but managed to shake his head at his mother. The adults in the group saw the fact he had been caught and probably liked Cindy a little more than he let on. But such was young love as he was fairly bashful about it and hoped his mother would stop the questioning and prodding. And they also saw Cindy blush up as well. While she had put the stop to the Jones brothers rather quickly, she liked Toby a little as well, although not really showing it. The small talk continued as everyone started digging into the food. They were joined by another member of the congregation after a couple of minutes.

    “Can I sit here?” asked Erica as she walked up with a plate of food.

    “Sure, we’ll slide down,” said Charlie as he started sliding down the table a way. They continued eating and passing the time with small talk. Toby passed more than a few glances at Cindy, diverting his attention whenever she would look his way. But apparently she was oblivious to his looks and was silent for the most part until she was asked a direct question.

    The fellowship continued as Erica jumped into the ongoing conversation, currently discussing football. Charlie was surprised to find Erica was a diehard Volunteer fan and followed the school’s sporting programs almost religiously.

    “Never knew you were a Tennessee fan,” said Charlie. “I knew there was something I liked about you.”

    “Are you kidding me? I even have an orange bathroom!” exclaimed Erica.

    Cindy looked around and saw one of the girls she had been in Sunday school with kept giving her nasty looks. She was a pretty girl, although a little slender, but more like an athletic build. Cindy had no idea why she was getting the looks she was getting from her since the girl hadn’t spoken to her at all that morning in church. She didn’t seem to have any family around and was with another girl at another table shooting glances her way. From time to time, they would lean over and whisper something while looking at Cindy. She decided to ignore the two and went back to the conversation at the table. Eventually everyone had enough to eat and pushed back away from the table to continue talking.

    ‘When are we going on the hike?” asked Cindy.

    “Probably another half an hour or so,” said Erica. “Did you bring a change of clothing?”

    “Yes, it’s in the truck,” said Cindy.

    “Hike?” asked Toby.

    “Yes, we’re going to the Falls. I mentioned it a few times,” said Erica. “You’re more than welcome to come along.”

    “You’ve got your work boots and a pair of pants in the truck Toby,” said Mack.

    “So I can go along?” asked Toby.

    “Absolutely. I could use a good country boy like yourself out there. Now if I could only get Charlie to come along as well…” said Erica with a laugh as her voice trailed off.

    “I would, but who would give my lesson today?” said Charlie.

    “Another time then,” said Erica.

    “Absolutely,” said Charlie. “You want to go ahead and get changed?”

    “Sure, you have the keys?” asked Cindy. Charlie dug into his pocket and handed over the truck keys so she could grab her bag and change in the nearby bathroom. She found a stall and started removing her outfit and putting it up on the hanger she brought with her. After getting unpacked, she changed into the outdoors outfit and found the t-shirt was very comfortable. She knew it had probably been Annie’s at some point in time, but didn’t feel as uncomfortable wearing it as she was before. After changing, she put the bag back into the truck and retrieved her backpack before starting to walk back to the group. As she was headed that way, she was stopped in the small copse of woods between the parking lot and the pool.

    “Hi,” said a girl as she walked up to Cindy. She recognized her as the same girl who had been giving her dirty looks during lunch.

    “Hi,” said Cindy back as she turned. “I don’t think we’ve met. I’m Cindy Grant.”

    “I’m Portia,” she said.

    “Nice to meet you,” said Cindy, being friendly.

    “I’ve got a question,” said Portia without any additional pleasantries.

    “Okay,” said Cindy.

    “Is Toby your boyfriend?” she asked bluntly.

    “No, I wouldn’t even say he is a friend. We kind of met the other day,” said Cindy.

    “So he’s available,” said Portia.

    “I guess so,” said Cindy.

    “Okay, I was wondering since you two were sitting together,” said Portia.

    “Our families shared a table, nothing more,” said Cindy.

    “So he just happened to be there?” asked Portia.

    “Yeah, more or less,” said Cindy, wondering where the underlying hostility was coming from.

    “Okay, well…Toby is a cute guy and if you aren’t his girlfriend, do me a favor and stay out of my way. I’m going to ask him out and I’d be really happy if you weren’t in the picture. So do me a favor and just go away,” said Portia.

    “Excuse me?” asked Cindy.

    “As in don’t be where he happens to be. I don’t need some ugly new girl thinking she can just come in here and take the cute guy away,” said Portia very snidely.

    “I can be wherever I want to be,” said Cindy.

    “Do yourself a favor new girl; leave Toby to someone who is way prettier than you are. You don’t deserve him,” said Portia.

    “I think he can make up his own mind,” said Cindy.

    “Listen, this is the way it works. Toby is a football player and a hot one at that. I’m a cheerleader and football players date cheerleaders. Sorry farm girl, but you aren’t good enough for him,” said Portia. “So leave him alone or else.”

    “Are you making a threat?” asked Cindy through gritted teeth.

    “Oh, I would never do anything like that!” said Portia very innocently. “I’m just saying you aren’t good enough for him. I mean, let’s face it, you just aren’t that pretty and Toby deserves a pretty girl like me.”

    “Maybe you aren’t that pretty either,” said Cindy, not coming back with anything constructive to say in her defense.

    “Oh, but I am and you just aren’t. Toby just doesn’t need some ugly girl hanging around trying to catch his attention,” said Portia with a fake smile and walked away. “And besides the fact he’s too good for you. Have a nice day.”

    Cindy didn’t know why the situation had just happened and went away with tears in her eyes. Since she had been sheltered for some time, she wasn’t used to the way teenage girls treated each other. She had no idea why the situation just happened since she wasn’t really interested in Toby and had only just met him. She wouldn’t mind having Toby as a friend since he didn’t really pay her any mind and didn’t give her the leers like other boys his age, but a relationship was out of the question right then. She stood in the woods for several moments to compose herself before heading back to the table. But her mood must have shown on her face as she plopped the pack on the ground and slammed into the chair. Erica was busy lacing up her hiking boots and immediately recognized the look on Cindy’s face.

    “Something wrong?” asked Charlie.

    “No,” she said with a quiver in her voice while she avoided his stare.

    “You sure?” he asked.

    “I don’t want to talk about it,” said Cindy and turned away to keep him from seeing the look on her face. She knew she shouldn’t be upset since she wasn’t seeing Toby, but the girl had upset her more than she ever had been before. She felt the emotions running back into her head once again and she almost started crying.

    Erica saw the signs and had seen Portia giving her the stare while they were eating. She knew it had to have been the issue since Portia had proceeded Cindy out of the woods moments before Cindy had reappeared. A slight shift of her head at Charlie made him get up and walk away to leave the two to discuss whatever was bothering her. He knew sometimes women could communicate far more effectively than men and figured teenage girl relations was far out of his scope.

    “What’s going on?” asked Erica.

    “Nothing,” said Cindy as she sniffed a little.

    “It’s just us two. We can have girl time if you want,” said Erica.

    “No, I’m okay,” said Cindy as her voice quivered slightly.

    “It’s Portia isn’t it?” asked Erica.

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