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"We were right to warn her, but with him around, she wouldn't listen to us," continued Janice.

"If only you could have seen what was going on for yourself," said Angela, "you would know how right we were. Such a state! He was at wits end with Charlotte-- she was that out of control." Charlotte winced, for she had given her aunt reasonable cause for this particular accusation against her father. Charlotte vividly remembered her stubborn behavior the day Angela arrived in Montana to bring her back to North Carolina. How she regretted giving Angela and Janice a chance to put down her father!

"You've done wonders with that child," Janice commended her daughter.

"I've tried my best," conceded Angela. "You know, Chuck was so bad off, I almost felt sorry for him."

"Well, it's beyond me how he kept something so serious hidden from his own daughter," remarked Janice.

"He practically begged me to keep it a secret from her," continued Angela. Charlotte leaned as far forward as she dared, straining every muscle to get the best vantage so she wouldn't miss a word. "No one can say I haven't kept my promise."

"Serves him right, after what he put my Martha through," said Janice, vindictively.

"Even so, it's a dreadful thing to have," replied Angela.

"Do you remember Gladys Hopper's father?" asked Janice, her knitting needles clacking away furiously.

"The one from Philadelphia?" asked Angela.

"Yes, he's the one. Well, I hear he also has Alzheimer's Disease. Poor Gladys is beside herself about what to do. He requires so much of her time that she says she'll eventually have to put him in a nursing home," said Janice.

"Imagine that!" remarked Angela. "I guess it's convenient that Chuck's brother is so handy to take care of him at a time like this-- him owning a nursing home and all."

"His brother might be handy but I can't say the same for his choice of location," continued Janice. "Whoever heard of Twin Yucca, anyway?"

"Very true," agreed Angela. "But then, Southern California has beautiful weather. It probably helps to make up for its other deficiencies. After all, every community can't be as ideal as ours." Though the topic of discussion slowly changed, Charlotte's feet remained rooted to the floor. Was this true? Was her father really sick? Was that why he sent her away? She knew something had been disturbing Charlton, but until now, she had no clue as to what it was. Suddenly, her problems seemed unimportant.

"I've got to go to him," thought Charlotte, going to the girls' room and shutting the door behind her. "He needs me." Charlotte dumped the school paraphernalia from her backpack onto the bed. She quickly located one of the suitcases she had brought with, under her bed, and opened it. In the space of half an hour, she had every earthly possession that she valued most, (there wasn't room for everything), crammed into her suitcase and backpack. Charlotte opened the small purse Charlton had given her three birthdays ago, and counted what little money she had. There were two one dollar bills, one five dollar bill, and two tens-- plus three dollars in change. She let out a disappointed groan. Even though it was hardly anything, it would have to do. Knowing that Sherri could come home at anytime, Charlotte hurriedly cleaned the room, and hid the suitcase back under her bed. In order to sneak out of the house unnoticed, she would have to wait until everyone had gone to bed.

It was an hour before dinner when Sherri came home. She went to her room, which she was sharing with Charlotte, and took a quick shower before dinner. As she came out of the girls' bathroom, Sherri noticed Charlotte's suitcase slightly protruding out from under her bed. After checking to make sure her cousin wasn't in the room, Sherri pulled out the suitcase and opened it. Charlotte was planning to run away! Thoughtfully, she closed the suitcase and put it back. Ever since Charlotte had arrived a few weeks ago, Sherri had to share everything with her: her room, her school, her friends, and her privacy. The latest incident with Darren Hayes only proved to Sherri's mind that Charlotte's departure would be a desirable thing.
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