"The Greatest of These"
A Contemporary Romance
By Judith Bronte

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Plot Summary

Love is the greatest of all...

Charlotte Overholt is used to responsibilities in her teenage life, but they're quickly multiplied when she learns her father has Early Onset Alzheimer's Disease. As "Charlie" adjusts to these changes, she becomes acquainted with her father's good friend, Adam Clark. When Charlie's friendship with Adam blooms into something unexpected, Adam suddenly finds himself in a situation he never dreamt possible.

Middle-aged Adam Clark is a confirmed bachelor, settled in his ways with no hope of ever changing. But this unassuming Master Plumber has a big secret that not even Charlie can anticipate, and when it comes to light, no one in their small town will ever be the same again.
The Greatest of These : Chapter 1 : Page 1
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Chapter One
Family History

That the generation to come, "might not be as their fathers, a stubborn and rebellious generation; a generation that set not their heart aright, and whose spirit was not stedfast with God."
~ Psalm 78:8 ~

Time may heal all wounds, but the scars can last a lifetime. Whether physical or mental, we all carry the baggage of the past with us into the present.

However, there are people who do not have the burden of baggage. Two days after Jerome Overholt's thirtieth birthday, his fifty-two year old father was diagnosed with Early Onset Alzheimer's disease. Like a burglarized house being stripped of its valuables, the memories that Arnold Overholt had accumulated over the fifty-two years of his lifetime were slowly being cleared away. There was no cure. With only the faint hope of some unforeseeable breakthrough in medical science that would halt his descent into madness, Arnold Overholt and his family prepared themselves for the unthinkable.

Charles Dickens once wrote, that "time and tide waited for no man." The same could be said of Arnold's family. Life ran its course, even though the world seemed to be an alien one. Vera, Arnold's forever-timid wife, now fought with the insurance company to pay for her husband's expensive medication. Jerome, their eldest son, was actively pursuing his career in the health care business back East, a desire he had since graduating from college. Jerome dreamed of bettering America's failing health care system-- a dream that would tarnish through the coming years.

Three years after Arnold's diagnosis, Charlton, the Overholt's only other child, married Martha McEntire. Charlton and Martha settled in Los Angeles, California. Since Arnold and Vera had lived in Southern California for most of their married life, the proximity of their youngest son was a great comfort to them both.

God always does things for a reason. Nothing ever happens without one. Two years later, though, Charlton no longer made the pretense that he believed in providential reasons. He had endured his father's heartbreaking diagnosis and remained close to home so that he could help his parents. All this he felt could be endured. Then Martha died an hour after giving birth to their only child. Before dying, she had named the new baby girl after him. His daughter, Charlotte, had come into the world at the cost of his wife's life. Charlton never blamed Charlotte. No, he blamed God instead.

After Martha's funeral, Mrs. Janice McEntire, Charlton's mother-in-law, insisted that Baby Charlotte should return to North Carolina to be raised by herself and Mrs. Angela Goodman, Janice's surviving daughter. Mrs. Vera Overholt disputed that the baby's place was with her father's family, while the McEntire family and the Goodman family disputed otherwise. Angela Goodman had a daughter that was one year older than Charlotte. The two girls could be raised together. Martha, they insisted, would want it. The families stood divided. Jerome, who had flown in from the East for the funeral, ducked and ran for cover whenever anyone asked for his opinion on the matter.

Feeling as though the only remnant left him of his wife, was now trying to be taken from him, Charlton packed up Baby Charlotte and moved to Butte, Montana. There they lived for the next fifteen years, until God, once again, stood in Charlton Overholt's way.

Charlotte Overholt, now fifteen, unlocked the apartment door and dumped her school books on the sofa. Exams were tomorrow and she had a lot of cramming to do. Last week, Charlton had pulled her out of school and taken her with him on a camping trip with his group that lasted for five days. The group consisted of six stressed out city people paying a total stranger to take them out to the middle of nowhere, in hopes of forgetting their troubles. Charlotte usually enjoyed these camping trips with her father, even though she was expected to cook for eight people. Lately, however, Charlotte had noticed that her absences from school were biting deeper into her grades than she had previously thought. Charlotte arranged her books on the kitchen table and tried hard to concentrate on the text before her.

Charlton glanced up at the clock over the store counter. It read four fifty-two.

continued on next page...
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