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Another factor which caused Charlie's hasty retreat were the eight inquisitive eyes of the other four strangers. They unashamedly eavesdropped, intently listening to every word. Hushed whispers didn't seem to discourage them. They would only crane their necks all the harder. There was no limit to their curiosity. However rude the old men appeared to be, Charlie's indignation was really ignited when they stared at her father when he wept. Their blinking eyes observed every tear and every heaving sob. Understandably, Charlie didn't like her father to be the gazing stalk of four total strangers.

"Med cart coming through," said a black woman pushing a small cart as she brushed past Charlie leaving Arnold's room. The outside of Room 3 differed very little from the inside. Two or three male residents sat in wheelchairs, on either side of the main hall. One man was slumped over, another's hands and waist were tied to his chair, and the third was staring straight at her.

"How well do you play chess?" he asked, his wrinkled face kindly beaming at her. Charlie looked around, to see if he was speaking to her or someone else standing nearby.

"Who, me?" she asked. The old man's shirt pocket bulged with a small box. A white cord ran from the box to his left ear. When Charlie spoke to him, he took out the box and fiddled with its dial.

"When my hearing began to fail, they gave me this contraption," he said, placing it back in his pocket. "Sometimes, it doesn't work very well." Seeing that the young woman was about to escape from him, he plied the question once more.

"I haven't played chess in years," replied Charlie.

"Why?" the old man asked. Charlie couldn't help noticing how lonely he looked.

"Well," Charlie responded, "I used to play with a good friend. But, when she died, I quit."

"How old was your friend?" he continued, hoping to draw the young woman into a conversation.

"Donna was sixty-two when she passed away," replied Charlie, noting how eager the old man was for someone to talk to. "She was a retired Latin teacher who worked as a librarian at the public library. She loved chess-- among other things," smiled Charlie. "Donna was the most intelligent person I have ever known. She loved crossword puzzles, (the harder the better), reading, and..."

"And you," finished the old man, beaming.

"She was my best friend," remembered Charlie.

"You can always tell the character of a person by the people they love," he remarked. "How long ago did Donna pass on?" he asked.

"Three years," said Charlie. "We were good friends since I was eight."

"You must have been very lonely," guessed the old man.

"Why do you say that?" asked Charlie.

"You were eight years old and your best friend was fifty-eight," he pointed out.

"That doesn't mean I was lonely," disagreed Charlie. "I've always had friends who were older than myself."

"Then, I must be one of them," smiled the old man.

"I would like that," replied Charlie, shaking the wrinkled hand he held out.

"My name is Skip," he said, introducing himself. "What is yours?"

"Charlie," replied the girl.

"An odd name for a young woman," replied Skip.

"Charlie is short for Charlotte," explained Charlie. "I was named after my father, Charlton Overholt." Skip raised his eyebrows in surprise.

"Why, you're Jerome's little niece, aren't you?" Skip asked, his voice filling with indignation.

"Yes, I am. Is that a crime?" she asked, wonderingly.

"I guess none of us can help who we're related to," Skip conceded.
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