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Chapter Twenty-eight
Secrets and Announcements

"A talebearer revealeth secrets: but he that is of a faithful spirit concealeth the matter."
~ Proverbs 11:13 ~

Charlie's first Christmas Day in Twin Yucca was solemn and uneventful; Jerome, who controlled the family finances, had declared that they didn't have money for gifts, or any more fancy meals. By this, Charlie understood that Jerome had disapproved of the Thanksgiving meal she and Maggie had prepared. Charlie, who was now making a generous sum from her housekeeping, was prepared to make up for the lack with her own money. However, when she saw the hurt look on Chuck and Vera's faces when she offered, Charlie quickly downplayed her disappointment at not having a traditional Christmas celebration. Chuck felt badly that he was unable to give his daughter the Christmas she deserved, while Vera, in her unwillingness to judge her son for what he was, did her best to justify Jerome's motives.

January slipped by Charlie in a daze of daily routine and endless homework. All seemed to Charlie to be stuck in predictable cycles of sameness, until one day, early in February.

Charlie had been dusting in Adam's living room, when the phone rang. Adam's answering machine beeped and waited for the caller to leave their message, but instead of talking, the person hung up. Thinking nothing was out of the ordinary, Charlie went back to work. Again, the phone rang, and again, the caller hung up instead of leaving a message. This happened six more times. Charlie was tempted to answer the phone and tell whoever it was to stop it. Just when she finally decided that enough was enough, the calls stopped. Charlie later told Adam what had transpired, but he didn't seem affected.

The next few days seemed to be normal again, until one day, while Charlie was housekeeping for Adam, the phone rang. The machine beeped and the caller hung up. Knowing Adam was in the next room, Charlie thought it strange that he hadn't answered it himself. The phone rang again, and again, the caller hung up. Charlie laid aside the kitchen broom, and went into the living room where Adam was, curious as to what was going on.

She found Adam, at his desk, staring at the phone. His face looked grave, and troubled-- yet Charlie thought she observed one other emotion she had never seen in Adam before: pain. Charlie wanted to say something comforting, but she didn't know what to say. Instead, she straitened the books on the coffee table and went back to the kitchen, grieved that her friend seemed to be so troubled by something he wasn't willing to talk to her about.

The phone rang again. Charlie held her breath, waiting to see if Adam would answer the call, or not. This time, she could hear Adam pick up the receiver. She tiptoed to the kitchen door and pressed her ear against it, straining to hear what he was saying. Most of the conversation was muffled, but near the end, she heard Adam's voice pleading with the caller. She could make out the words,

"Please, don't do this to me!"

Charlie wanted to march into the living room, pry the receiver from his hand and make the caller stop torturing Adam. The receiver hung up, and Charlie realized that she had lost her opportunity.

Inching the kitchen door open, Charlie peeked through the crack to see what Adam was doing now. When she saw that the desk chair was empty, she opened the door all the way and looked about the living room for the plumber. He was nowhere to be found. Concerned, she searched the bottom floor, and then proceeded to go upstairs. Charlie stopped in her tracks when she noticed a light from under the mysterious locked door. Afraid that the door might suddenly open to find her gawking, Charlie proceeded no further. However, even from where she stood at the top of the stairs, she could hear Adam sobbing. Distressed and confused, Charlie silently retreated.

continued on next page...
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