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"He had an accident today. Apparently, he couldn't handle the news of your running away," said Jerome coldly, as if to get even with his niece for her public display of affection at the nursing home, "and it aggravated his Alzheimer's. We had quite a time calming him down." Charlie's face fell. She wanted to cry, but the tears wouldn't come. Numbly, she followed Jerome down the sidewalk until they reached her new home.

It was nearing six o'clock, and since Daylight Savings Time had not yet taken effect, Charlie could still see Jerome's house against the dimming sky. It was a medium sized house made of red brick. There was nothing fancy about it, but the solidity of the masonry gave an impression of lasting durability. There were no plants adorning the tiny yard in front of the house, save two: an anemic tree and an enormous shrub that ran the entire distance of the right side of the house, completely hiding the red brick wall behind it. It looked like years since anyone had taken the time to acknowledge its untamed presence. For a brief moment, Charlie envisioned the great shrub slowly swallowing the entire house. She followed Jerome up the concrete walk to the house, taking sad note of the dry, yellow blades that made up Jerome's lawn.

Jerome opened the door and took off his jacket. Charlie followed inside and shut the door. Unlike the outside of the house, the inside had a homey feel. Things looked lived in and well cared for. The white living room walls were littered with pictures of the Overholt family. Charlie made a mental note to take a closer look at them when she had the opportunity. Charlie looked around while Jerome disappeared into a room. It looked like all the walls were white. The dark brown carpet that lined the living room, ran into a hallway and branched off beneath some closed doors. Beyond that, Charlie could glimpse the kitchen, and one or more rooms that she couldn't see from her vantage.

Suddenly, an old woman with light brown hair, appeared from the room Jerome had gone into.

"Charlie! You're in one piece!" exclaimed the woman, rushing to her and taking the girl's soft face between her aged hands. "Blessed child, how you've grown!" she exclaimed, this time giving her a hug. "Look at you, you're so thin! Well, I'll take care of that. They probably didn't feed you enough," she continued. "You look hungry. Did Jerome feed you?" she asked. Not exactly knowing what to think, Charlie shook her head. Who was this woman? And where was her father? "Oh, that son of mine," she lamented, walking to the kitchen, "sometimes I don't think he has the sense he was born with." Charlie followed the old woman to the kitchen.

"Grandma?" she asked, suddenly realizing that Jerome was her son. Vera looked up as she tied an apron around her waist.

"Yes, Pumpkin?" she replied, taking a casserole dish from the refrigerator. Charlie smiled contentedly. No one but her father ever called her that. This really was home.

"Where is Daddy?" asked Charlie, taking off her backpack. Vera looked up from the stove, sadly.

"He's had a difficult day, Pumpkin. He's been resting a lot. Jerome is checking Chuck right now, and if he's able, you'll see him in a minute. How much about his condition do you know about?" she inquired, turning back to the stove. Charlie eagerly looked down the hall. One of the rooms had a light shining beneath the door. Soon she was going to see him! Seeing that Charlie was too excited to answer, Vera dropped the question. The door soon opened, and a familiar face appeared.

"Daddy!" screamed Charlie in delight, running to him. Chuck received his daughter with open arms.

"Thank God!" he exclaimed, lifting her right up off the floor in a tender bear hug. "Are you all right? Please God, let her be all right!"

"I'm fine Daddy, just fine," she replied, burying her head into his strong arms.

"Thank God!" repeated Chuck, still unwilling to let his daughter down. "I never should have sent you away. Please say you forgive me, Charlie." In answer to his question, Charlie lovingly kissed her father on the cheek.
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