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"It's disgraceful, if you ask me," the woman at the counter was saying. "If she were my daughter, I'd get her away from that cradle robber as soon as I could! I don't care how wealthy he might be! No daughter of mine would throw herself at someone old enough to be her father! Did you see the pictures of that big wedding on television? Why, Wallace Shipley should be clapped in irons and made a public spectacle for marrying someone under eighteen!"

"I'll be with you in a minute, miss," said the cashier.

The gossiping woman turned to look at Charlie, and then returned to her conversation, saying things more vile and wicked than at the first. Charlie recalled how she had told Mae that she had an easier time of people accepting her relationship with Adam because he was famous! The ridicule of the woman at the counter flushed Charlie's face with shame. She had just spent long private days with Adam doing things she would never tell another living soul, and the woman ahead of her was turning it into something evil and perverse. Charlie ached to speak up, but knew she could not without revealing her identity.

When she left the store, Charlie felt sick inside. She quickly made her way down the road and back to the rear gate. As she approached the main house, Charlie saw Adam talking to Uncle Rick and Mae, intent in conversation.

As she approached the threesome, Mae looked at Adam and then back to Charlie. Adam followed Mae's line of sight and turned to see a frizzy redhead awkwardly waiting for him to say something.

"Are you trying to tell me that that's Charlie?" he asked Mae in disbelief. "Tell me that's a wig!"

"It is," answered Mae.

Adam turned to say something to Uncle Rick before speaking to Charlie. Seeing her opportunity, Charlie discreetly slipped the pregnancy kit out of the bag and tucked it into her back pocket, for she had made a promise to Mae. Then Adam drew her aside. To Charlie's dismay, Uncle Rick was still within earshot.

"Where on earth have you been?" demanded Adam. "Mae says you went to the pharmacy of all places!"

"I had to get something," she stammered, suddenly feeling very much like a child.

"What for?!" he exclaimed incredulously. "What was so important that you had to dress up in that ridiculous disguise and risk being recognized for?"

Charlie stupidly stood there, unsure how best to answer him and yet still tell the truth.

"Adam," intervened Mae, "It's my fault..."

"I had to get something," interrupted Charlie, trying to keep Mae's secret.

Adam grasped the pharmacy bag from Charlie's hand and pulled out a bottle.

"Herbal growth hormone?" he asked in a dazed voice.

Charlie could feel her face turn red. Of all the products in the store, she would have to pick that! Even Mae looked surprised.

"It's not what you think," she hesitated.

"Charlie," said Adam, his voice lowering into a whisper, "is something wrong? Am I somehow failing you?"

"It's not for you," consoled Charlie, seeing that Adam was becoming troubled and confused by her seemingly inexplicable behavior. "It's not a big deal, really. I'll explain later, but not here."

"Charlie," he whispered, "you don't need this, either."

"I have to go change clothes," sighed Charlie, half wanting to cry and laugh at the same time. "Mae, could you help me?"

"I can do that," offered Adam.

"Please," requested Charlie, "wait for me at the cottage. I'll be there as soon as I can, and I'll explain everything."

Mae stepped forward and walked Charlie into the main house where Charlie had left her "normal" clothes. The young woman was feeling very embarrassed, for even Uncle Rick had heard the conversation.

"Thanks for not telling," whispered Mae, as they went into the master bedroom and shut the door. "Why did you get herbal growth hormone?"
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