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Mark, Charlotte's Uncle, was the next to arrive home. He disappeared into the bathroom, and reappeared ten minutes later in a black T-shirt and a favorite pair of shorts that had palm trees printed all over them. Angela hated those ugly shorts, but Mark insisted on relaxing in the evening, his way.

Charlotte sat at a small desk in the girls' bedroom, waiting and dreading for Sherri to come home. Sherri had a life. Sherri was out with her friends. The fact that Sherri wasn't home yet, and Charlotte was, embarrassed Angela. But, Angela reminded herself, things were looking up. Just wait till she had a chance to tell Mrs. Horace across the street about Charlotte's date! Who would get the last laugh then!

"I'm home!" yelled Sherri, slamming the front door. Charlotte groaned and hid her face behind her history book. From where she sat, she could just make out her aunt's voice talking to Sherri in the kitchen.

"Who is Darren Hayes, dear?" asked Angela, busily preparing dinner.

"He's only, like, the most unpopular boy in school," replied Sherri, in a voice suggesting that her mother was stupid for asking such a dumb question. Charlotte heard Angela slam the stack of plates she was holding onto the kitchen table.

"Charlotte!" she called, angrily. Charlotte reluctantly dragged her feet into the kitchen. "You don't honestly think I'll let you go out on this embarrassing date, do you?" demanded Angela. Sherri, who just now realized what was going on, suddenly visualized her social life going straight down the toilet.

"I'll say you're not!" Sherri yelled. "Mom, don't let her!"

"Don't worry, dear," Angela soothed her daughter. "Charlotte, you call that boy right now! Tell him you just remembered that you have prior commitments," directed Angela, placing the receiver in Charlotte's hands. Charlotte's emotions may have been numb with anger, but her mind was in full operation. Charlotte punched in some numbers, held down the plunger, and made believe that she was speaking to Darren.

"Hello, Darren? It's me. I'm sorry, but I can't make it Friday night. I just remembered a prior engagement. (pause) I'm sorry too. Good-bye," said Charlotte, hanging up the receiver. She turned to face her tormentors. Sherri looked relieved, but Angela still looked angry.

"I don't want one word of this to escape this house," Angela ordered. "Do you understand me?" Charlotte nodded, soberly. Why did Sherri have to come home and spoil everything! Just when it looked like she was going to have some peace, Sherri tears it apart with just a handful of words.

Dinnertime at the Goodman's house primarily consisted of three stages: Angela fixed the dinner, Sherri and Reggie gulped down their food and rushed out the door, and the adults finished their meal in silence. Conversation was never a high priority with the Goodman's. They grudgingly put up with each other, and in return, expected to be left alone. Charlotte was unaccustomed to such an acrid atmosphere. When Charlton came home from the store, she would make dinner, and they would talk about their day. As she sat there, slowly chewing her spinach in silence, she could hear her father's laughter, just as if he were sitting across the table.

"Hope deferred maketh the heart sick."
~ Proverbs 13:12 ~

"Better is a dry morsel, and quietness therewith, than an house full of sacrifices with strife."
~ Proverbs 17:1 ~

end of chapter
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