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Just then, Uncle Rick appeared from the orchard carrying a shotgun. He pulled the trigger, scaring the California black bear out from the tree and into the wild beyond the apple ranch.

"If the bears become too accustomed to human contact," explained Mae, "then they might have to be put down. If you ever run into a black bear, don't make eye contact and get away as safely as you can. Most bears won't hurt you, but it's best to play it safe. Come on, my caramel pool is hardening."

Charlie spent the morning helping Mae with the candied apples and then helped her to prepare lunch.

"Are you ready for life as an age gap wife?" asked Mae, curiously.

"What do you mean?" wondered Charlie, setting the table.

"When Rick and I first got married, people would mistake me for his daughter," smiled Mae. "I can laugh about it now, but it was hard on me at first. When we leave Oak Glen, that still happens sometimes."

"That hasn't happened yet," replied Charlie. "When people recognize Adam, they know immediately who we are and that we're together."

"Ahhhhh, the privileges of fame," laughed Mae. "I suppose the public conception is that the rich and famous can do what they like-- no offense intended."

"None taken," replied Charlie. "I've often thought that if Adam wasn't famous, then we probably would have a harder time being together."

"It took a long time for my parents to come around," sighed Mae. "But when they got to know Rick, and how great a guy he is, they finally accepted him into the family. Our age differences can make things a little weird, though. I mean, Rick has nephews older than I am!"

"Same here," smiled Charlie. "Adam's youngest nephew is only a few years younger than I am! I still don't think he's quite gotten over me, yet."

"When I first met Rick's Mom, she offered me chocolate milk, and served coffee to everyone else," laughed Mae. "I was so humiliated! We're pretty good friends now, though."

"Adam's mom passed away last year," said Charlie, "but I like to think she'd approve of me."

"Have you two thought about starting a family?" asked Mae.

"Adam can't have children," confided Charlie, "but, please, don't tell anyone but your husband. I don't want to embarrass Adam."

"You can count on me," assured Mae. "In exchange for that secret, I'll tell you one of my own. This morning, I missed my period for the first time. I'm not sure it means what I think it means, but if it does, then I guess I'm pregnant. How do you know for sure or not?"

"I don't know," replied Charlie. "I suppose you get one of those testing kits-- you know, the ones you see on television?"

"When we go shopping today," whispered Mae, "would you buy one for me? If I pick one up, Rick will hear of it before I even know what the results are. I'd hate to get his hopes up before I'm even sure or not."

"This had better be one good disguise!" exclaimed Charlie. "I can see the headlines now: 'Wallace Shipley's Teenage Bride-- PREGNANT!'"

Mae laughed and set the salad bowl on the table.

"Honey!" called Uncle Rick in a louder than usual voice from outside the front door, "we have company!"

"Quick, hide in the bedroom!" whispered Mae, rushing her famous guest to the master bedroom. "Don't come out until I give the all clear," she added before going.

Charlie held her breath and listened at the door until the minutes ticked away and there was still no sign of Mae. The young woman sat down on the bed and sighed. It was an hour before Mae opened the bedroom door and pronounced that it was safe to come out.

"I'm really sorry," she apologized to Charlie. "It was Megan, one of my oldest friends, and I couldn't get rid of her any sooner. She kind of invited herself to lunch-- I mean we usually do that-- but I couldn't tell her that she couldn't stay because Wallace Shipley's wife is hiding in my bedroom!"
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