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"I'll go to a private school," she whispered, her eyes wet with frightened tears. "I'll go anywhere you want me to. Just feel better. Please, feel better." Chuck kissed her hand and closed his eyes.

Charlie sat on the edge of his bed and watched him rest. What was this monster who was turning their lives upside down? Her father never needed to take a rest because of an argument, before. Why, he could hike for hours, and still not be winded. She remembered the times when he would purposefully slow his pace, just so she could keep up. Now the roles were reversed. She had to slow down so that he could keep up with her.

Vera softly opened the door and motioned to Charlie. Charlie quietly tiptoed from the room and shut the door.

"Better let him rest, Pumpkin," admonished Vera. "Don't worry, he'll feel better after he wakes up. I remember your grandpa went through the same thing. He almost always felt better after a good nap." Vera had said this to assure Charlie that everything was going to be all right, but to Charlie, it didn't feel like encouragement. "Why don't you go outside for a while?" suggested Vera. "A change of scenery will do you some good."

"What if he wakes up and needs me?" asked Charlie.

"I'll stay here and keep an eye on him. Only, be sure to come home by lunchtime," instructed Vera. "Your father has an appointment with Dr. Gillis at two o'clock. He might be able to prescribe something to help Chuck. After lunch, we'll all go down there and see what can be done." Charlie smiled optimistically. It wasn't much, but it was something positive to look forward to.

Charlie stood on the front step, trying to decide whether or not she would need to put on her sweater. As she was about to make up her mind, an elderly woman across the street, who was watering a cactus garden in front of her house, shouted, "Hello! Welcome to the neighborhood! I'm Mrs. Jacobs! You're Jerome's little niece, aren't you? Yes, I can see the Overholt resemblance! I was sorry to hear about your father. Two people in the same family! I can't imagine! But then, my sister in Topeka knows a woman in her quilt guild who has two nephews that have Alzheimer's, so I guess that's just the way things work out sometimes." The woman paused, as if to get a better look at her new young neighbor. "I guess you'll be enrolling in school, soon?" she asked.

"I guess so," Charlie shrugged.

"Well, I hope so!" Mrs. Jacobs exclaimed, emphatically. "I know a woman who used to live in Twin Yucca about eight years ago, and she had a daughter who dropped out of high school. The foolish child married some no-account and got herself pregnant. When she started showing, he left her high and dry! Imagine that! Now she's a waitress in some dingy cafe, just because she dropped out before her education was complete! Now, you don't want that happening to you, do you?" she asked, almost accusingly.

"No, I don't," responded Charlie. Silently, she was trying to think of an excuse to extricate herself from this conversation.

"I should hope not!" said Mrs. Jacobs. She was about to add more, when Charlie hastily waved good-bye and made as rapid of an exit as she could manage, without breaking into an all-out run.

"We would have to live next door to a neighborhood gossip," complained Charlie, slowing her pace now that she was out of Mrs. Jacobs' range.

Charlie soon discovered that there wasn't much to see in the neighborhood, since most of its residents were retired and old-- nothing really appealing to a teen out to see the sights. With this in mind, she headed into town.

The lifeblood of any city, is its commerce. Twin Yucca was no different. As Charlie walked down the sidewalk, she read the signs: "Logan's Garden Nursery, open 7 days, 8am to 5pm. Fertilizers, shade trees, roses, herbs, vegetables, pottery, patio furniture," read Charlie. "Megan's Blinds and Draperies, custom and commercial draperies, pillows, etc." Charlie passed a few more stores, looking for more interesting signs. "Dean Electric, breakers and fuses replaced. Clark Plumbing Service and Supply...," Charlie paused. This must be where Mike Garner worked. "Family owned and operated, open Monday through Friday, 8am to 5pm. Emergency repair service available on weekends." Charlie peered in through one of the large plate windows that were located on either side of the door. A slouched man sat in a chair beside the counter, fast asleep. Charlie sighed, disappointedly. It was only Adam Clark.

As Charlie made her way further up the street, she paused at a rather beat up bus stop. Twin Yucca looked like it was a well kempt city, but this bus stop stuck out like a sore thumb. The sign looked as though it had been pummeled multiple times by rocks, and the bench was covered in graffiti. While Charlie was making these observations, a woman in her early forties took her place beside the sign, waiting patiently for the bus. Charlie couldn't help noticing the dark navy cap the woman was wearing. It read, "Dairy Cream, since 1952." Charlie followed the woman's expectant gaze up the street. No bus was in sight.
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