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Vera Overholt placed her carryall by the front door. She made her way to the kitchen, and began to prepare lunch. As she passed through the hall, she noticed Chuck's bedroom door was ajar. Thinking nothing was out of the ordinary, Vera went about her business. However, as she opened the refrigerator and took out a jar of dill pickles, she heard a low moan, coming from Chuck's room. The dill pickle jar fell from her hands, crashing into large shards of broken glass on the kitchen floor.

Vera ran to Chuck's room.

"Chuck!" she called, while opening his bedroom door, "are you all right?" To her horror, Vera found Chuck lying on the floor, unconscious. Vomit covered his face. With a cry of fear, Vera got to her knees and cleared the throw-up from his breathing passages. "Chuck!" she cried, "Chucky, speak to me!" screamed Vera, slapping his face as hard as she could. Suddenly, Chuck coughed and gasped for air.

"I... I must have blacked out," he muttered, trying to sit up.

"What happened?" asked Vera, pulling a handkerchief from her pocket and wiping the vomit from her son's face.

"I don't know," Chuck replied, looking about himself to gain his bearings. "First I felt nauseous, and then dizzy. Never experienced anything like it in my entire life."

"Why didn't you call for help?" Vera cried, still trying to recover from the shock of seeing her youngest son, unconscious on the floor.

"I did," replied Chuck, using a nearby chair to help himself stand up.

"But Charlie," said Vera, "Charlie is here. Why didn't you call her?"

"I did, Mom," he replied. "I'm really sorry about this mess."

"Never mind that," Vera said, "as long as you're all right, that's the important thing." Chuck was still feeling a little woozy, so Vera helped him to the bathroom to clean up.

When Charlie returned ten minutes later, she found vomit on the floor of her father's room.

"Daddy?" she cried, looking about the room for Chuck.

"In here," came a response from the bathroom. The young girl found Chuck sitting on the clothes hamper, using a damp hand towel on his pants. He looked up with a pleasant smile when he saw her face in the doorway.

"Hi, Pumpkin," he greeted her.

"What happened?" asked Charlie, seeing Vera washing Chuck's shirt out in the sink. Vera made no response.

"I just had a little accident," Chuck explained, not wanting to scare his little girl. "Everything is all right."

"Everything is NOT all right!" exclaimed Vera, directing her displeasure toward Charlie. "Where were you? I left you in charge of him while I was away!"

"It's okay, Mom. Really," said Chuck, trying to step in.

"Do you realize he could of choked to death on his vomit while he was unconscious?" exclaimed Vera, pointing a soapy finger at Chuck. "You just can't walk off and leave him alone! I told you not to leave him by himself-- I told you this before I left!"

"I forgot," Charlie whimpered.

"She's not used to this," excused Chuck. "Besides, she doesn't need to hover over me twenty-four hours a day!"

"I came too close to burying my son this morning," replied Vera, looking sharply at Charlie. "I've been through this before. Both of you haven't!"

"She's only fifteen, Mom," Chuck interceded again. Charlie hung her head. She knew it was no excuse.

"She may be, but she's got to grow up! I can't take care of both you and your father at the same time! I'm only one person!" Vera exclaimed, slapping the soapy shirt back into the sink.

Large tears rolled down Charlie's frightened face. The similarity between her father's ordeal and Darren's, terriffied her. Both had lay in a pool of vomit, in an altered state of consciousness; and both, she felt certain, had been her fault. She purposed in her heart, then and there, to never endanger her father, again-- no matter what it took. She would do anything to ensure his safety and happiness. Charlie felt the roll of parent and child was reversing. The feeling scared the young girl, for who was going to take care of her? However, she was becoming grown-up enough to have such an important responsibility; she was the caregiver of her Daddy. The sensation made her feel independent and terribly lonely at the same time.
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