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"Why don't you two get married?" suggested Shirley, as if this were the first time she had brought up the subject. "Constance is beautiful, intelligent, loyal, trustworthy..."

"Sis, you make her sound like a dog!" laughed Adam.

"I'm only trying to say, you're never going to find anyone better suited to you than Constance," reiterated Shirley. "Why don't you ask her to marry you?"

"I'm not ready for marriage."

"You've been seeing each other for eight years!" Shirley exclaimed. "Is it going to take another eight before you propose?"

Adam didn't have an answer.

"Very well," she replied, throwing up her hands in disgust, "have your own way! But, if you wind up alone in your old age, don't say I didn't warn you!"

"May I bring them?" he repeated.

"Bring the entire neighborhood!" replied Shirley, dramatically. She gave her brother a loving hug, which he returned in good humor. He considered her interference to be interference, but understood that it came from a loving and caring heart.

For the next few days, whenever Jerome dropped off his niece at home from school, Maggie could be found waiting for her on the front steps. She followed Charlie around the house getting underfoot; she talked when Charlie studied, and ate dinner at the Overholt house almost every night!

What made circumstances even more difficult for her was that Charlie had been reading books about Alzheimer's Disease in her spare time. She waded through various descriptions of dementia, digested the progression of the disease, pondered what she could expect, struggled through medical jargon concerning AD and heredity, and tried to memorize helpful suggestions that others had found useful in their experience with the disease. The culmination of all this material had a depressing effect on Charlie. She learned that while AD was not contagious, it could be inherited (just as Jerome had confirmed). The fact that only five percent of AD is familial, had little comfort for her. She remembered how many members of the Overholt family had the disease. Charlie also learned from the books that emotional or physical distress may quicken the progress of the disease. She made a mental note never to tell her father about Darren Hayes, or that terrible night. His life must be as carefree as possible.

The certainty of doom that the Alzheimer's books predicted, kept pulling Charlie's spirits down. It was a struggle between faith and the seeming certainty of sight. The thought to ask someone for spiritual help crossed her mind more than once, but the pastor of their church was away, and he didn't even live in Twin Yucca! She thought about talking to her father, but the caution that emotional distress could hasten the AD, kept her from it. The teachers and faculty members at school didn't feel close enough to confide in, so she remained silent.

Then there was Adam. Ever since her conversion, she had shied away from him. The fact that such a personal and private event had been shared by Adam Clark, made her feel embarrassed. She couldn't explain to herself why, but it did.

Charlie was a new Christian, and a teenager who had suddenly found herself with a great deal of responsibility thrust onto her shoulders. It would have been wiser if she had talked to someone, but she didn't. Charlie was unwittingly setting herself up for disaster. However, the most important person she didn't talk to was God. She said her prayers and read her Bible, but that alone was not enough. She did not cast her burden upon God and give it to Him. "Casting all your care upon Him; for He careth for you." (1 Peter 5:7) She was too busy trying to carry the burden, herself. And so the weight steadily grew, until the day before Mike's birthday.

Friday evening found Charlie doing her homework. Maggie, as usual, was talking about this and that, making conversation since her young friend remained silent.

"I had a favorite doll named Lucy," Maggie was saying, "and I went everywhere with her; I wouldn't go to school without her. One day, I couldn't find Lucy. Mom said it was time to go, but I couldn't leave without my dolly." The simple story briefly diverted Charlie's attention away from her homework.

"Did you ever find Lucy?" asked Charlie.

"Yes, I did," replied Maggie, surprised that Charlie had been listening. Charlie nodded and returned to her homework. "Don't you have any favorite dolls?" asked Maggie.

"I threw away mine when I was twelve," informed Charlie, in a grown-up voice.

"Oh," replied Maggie, remembering her large collection of dolls at home. "What DO you like?" she asked.
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