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It was only after Adam had made her promise to stay and eat with them, that he allowed Charlie to make a list of everyone's order. Then she and Gary went out the back way to avoid most of the reporters. Twin Yucca was a small town, so walking from place to place was not unusual.

"Listen, Charlie," began Gary, after they were clear of the house, "Adam has already been through a lot. He doesn't need any extra complications in his life."

"What do you mean?" asked Charlie.

"I'm talking about you and him," continued Gary. "The press would have a field day with that one," he mused, sarcastically. "I can see the headlines now, 'Wallace Shipley's Affair with an Underage Girl.'"

"That's not true!" exclaimed, Charlie, indignantly.

"Of course it isn't," replied Gary, "but you can't tell the press what to believe. You tell them one thing, and they're imaginations will fill in the rest. Look," said Gary, pulling Charlie aside, "I can see what's coming. Adam is constantly calling you, or you're calling him, and everything is getting much too intimate. He may not see the forest for the trees, but I can!"

"But," replied Charlie, feeling more candid than usual, "I love him!"

Gary paused for a minute.

"So it's already come to that, has it?" he muttered. "You know, he doesn't love you-- not in that way," said Gary.

"I know it," replied Charlie, quietly. This was the first time she had spoken her feelings out loud.

"How old are you, again?" asked Gary.

"Sixteen," answered Charlie.

"Sixteen!" groaned Gary, throwing up his hands. "I've told you how it is," he said. "I can't force you to do anything you don't want to do. I'm only asking that you consider Adam's position, before you act."

"I don't want to hurt him," replied Charlie.

"Well, that's something, anyway," said Gary, resuming the walk. "I don't suppose you could just give him up?"

"I think it's too late for that," smiled Charlie, a little embarrassed. "Are you going to tell him?" she asked, curious what Gary was going to do with this knowledge.

"Are you kidding?" he replied. "If anyone's going to upset the apple cart, it won't be me! Just for the record, I must tell you that such a relationship doesn't have a snowball's chance in hell!"

The lunch turned into a hero celebration for Charlie. After that, she was accepted as, more or less, one of the guys. Even Gary seemed to tolerate her presence.

That evening, Shirley invited her brother and the guys to dinner. Charlie stayed home, having not been invited. She told herself that it was only natural for Shirley not to include her, (for it was the truth), but Charlie wanted to be near Adam as much as she could before he left again. She didn't have long to wait, however, for at about seven o'clock in the evening, to Charlie's delight, the satellite phone rang.

"I'm back from the family dinner," said Adam. "I was about to go for a walk, and wondered if you and Chuck wouldn't want to join me?"

"Thanks," replied Charlie, "but Daddy doesn't get out much, anymore. I'd come with you, but Grandma is out with Mrs. Jacobs, so I have to stay and keep an eye on Daddy."

"Could I come over, then?" asked Adam. "Maybe we could watch a movie, or play chess."

"All right," answered Charlie, happily. "I'll pop the popcorn!"

When Adam arrived at the Overholt house, he found Chuck sitting in his favorite recliner, blankly staring at the TV. He heard Charlie in the kitchen, making the popcorn.

"Hi, Chuck," greeted Adam, sitting down on the couch.

Chuck remained fixed on the TV. It was hard for Adam to see how much his friend had changed. The man who had constantly asked Adam questions about God and religion had disappeared; no more was there talk about "my Charlie" and what would become of her; and no more evening visits from Charlie and Chuck in Adam's garden. Adam longed for the simplicity of the yesterdays he had left behind.
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