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"We can get married this summer," continued Adam. "I'd love to do it today, but we need more time to be sure that this is what we both want. I still don't want to rush you into marriage."

"Oh, Adam, I love you so much!" she cried, her heart overflowing with joy, till it spilled over into warm tears of elated bliss. This was a happiness she knew she didn't deserve. Oh! How God had blessed her with such an understanding man, as this!

"There, there," soothed Adam, "you don't want Shirley to see you crying. Just be honest with her, and try to remember that even though I'm a year older than her, Shirley has always treated me as a 'little' brother. Keep that in mind when she acts overprotective. And when she asks about our relationship, tell her we're engaged. She'll have a harder time dismissing you, after that. Do you want me to call her, and break the news, myself?" he volunteered.

"Do you think it would make any difference?" asked Charlie.

"No, not really," admitted Adam.

"She's already here at my house," said Charlie. "Providence says that I'm the one to tell her. There, I'm ready." She dried her face and inhaled several deep breaths to steady her breathing.

"Call me back when she leaves," requested Adam.

Shirley Garner didn't know what to expect. Constance had told her of the Christmas concert, and how Charlie's face was shown on the large screens, as if Charlie and Adam had had a romantic relationship. The last straw came, however, when a reporter from Raleigh called, wanting to know how long Adam and the young woman had been going together, for an article he was writing. Shirley's first reaction was to come to the Overholt house, to talk to Charlie. She knew that where the teenager was concerned, her brother was soft, and lacked the resolve required to silence unfounded gossip such as this.

Charlie walked down the hallway and stepped into the living room. Vera sat quietly in one corner, knitting away. However, to Charlie's trained ears, she noticed that the clicking of the knitting needles were moving slower than usual.

"Charlie," greeted Shirley, politely, "I came to speak with you about Adam."

Charlie sat down opposite to where Shirley was seated, and calmly heard her out.

"I came here to ask a favor of you," Shirley began. "My brother is sometimes too kind for his own good. He's always helping those less fortunate than himself, and because of this, is sometimes subject to people who take advantage of his generosity." Shirley paused. "There have been unsettling rumors concerning you and my brother. In the past, I've asked Adam to not let his kindness toward you, get in the way of his better judgment. There are those who do not understand such a... a unique friendship as the one you and my brother share. I was hoping that your friendship would not be taken the wrong way-- but clearly, it has. Since Adam will refuse to do anything about it, I must insist, as his sister and as a responsible adult, that you cease being around my brother. I've asked your grandmother to order you to do this, but for some reason, she feels she hasn't the right. So, I'm here to do what no one else will." Shirley was adamant, and fully expected Charlie to cooperate. After all, Charlie was a "child," and Shirley was the "responsible adult"!

Charlie now fully understood why Adam had wanted her to be able to say that they were engaged. With firm insistence such as this, how could Charlie have withstood such opposition?

"Well?" pressed Shirley. "What do you have to say?"

Charlie heard Vera's knitting needles come to a complete stop.

"I can appreciate your concern," answered Charlie, in a voice so confident, that Shirley was a little unnerved. "You obviously love your brother very much. I'm afraid, however, that I am unable to do as you ask."

Shirley was shocked at the defiance of the teenager! Who did Charlie think she was?!

"You see," continued Charlie, "Adam and I are engaged."

Vera let out an inadvertent cry of surprise, her knitting yarn tumbling from her lap and onto the floor. Now Shirley was stunned speechless. For several moments, Adam's sister just sat on the couch, unable to speak.

"And when did this happen?" Shirley asked, when she had finally found her voice.

"We talked about it yesterday, but he proposed this morning," replied Charlie.

Vera cupped a hand over her mouth, in order to smother any visible signs of pleasure from Shirley.
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