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Adam was silent. He felt that he was unfairly being torn in two directions at the same time, and being asked to make a choice between Charlie's family and his sister's.

"I need to finish Villa Rosa so they can come live with us," continued Charlie. "If that's not possible right now, then maybe we could go live with them. Grandma is old, and Daddy is my responsibility."

"You mean, leave Shirley?" he asked.

"Just how long were you expecting us to stay here?" wondered Charlie.

"I don't know," replied Adam, "long enough to make sure that they're all right without Thomas. My family is going through a lot right now, Charlie."

If Adam's intention had been to make her feel guilty, then it was working. Still, Charlie felt that Adam was being unfair. After all, she hadn't asked that they not help Shirley, only that they do it from another house.

"You never asked me if it was okay that we live in Shirley's guest room," reminded Charlie, resentment creeping into her voice, "and I didn't hear you say one word to me about staying indefinitely."

Adam was beginning to lose his patience.

"Charlie, I'm doing the best that I can," he argued. "What do you want me to do-- turn my back on my sister?"

"Adam, that's not fair!" retorted Charlie, tears beginning to wet her face. "I never said that, and you know it!"

"I can't talk to you if you're going to be unreasonable," he replied impatiently. "I'm sleeping on the couch downstairs." When Charlie voiced no objection, Adam climbed out of bed and grabbed his pillow and one of the blankets. "I'll see you in the morning," he mumbled under his breath.

Adam tramped down the stairs to the living room and tossed his bedding on the sofa. He had never had a fight with Charlie before-- at least, none where he had walked away from her. With a grumble, he tried to get comfortable on the stiff couch cushions. Why wasn't she being reasonable? Couldn't Charlie see that he was trying to hold together his family? As he mulled over this thought, another quickly followed. Charlie was his family, and her responsibilities had become his. Shirley was his sister, but Charlie was his wife. Adam sensed that it was time to reorder his priorities. Just then, he heard sounds coming from the kitchen, and got up to see what it was.

Shirley looked up from the refrigerator to find her older brother standing in his pajamas in the kitchen doorway.

"I thought you'd already gone to bed," she said, pulling out a bowl of leftover chocolate pudding and placing it on the countertop. "What's the matter-- couldn't sleep, again?"

"Charlie and I had a fight, so I moved to the couch," he confessed.

Shirley sighed.

"I left her upstairs, crying," Adam further admitted.

The look his sister gave him only confirmed what he already knew.

"I know," he sighed, "I shouldn't have."

"Charlie may be young," said Shirley, "but she's trying very hard to please you, Adam. This evening, I felt so sorry for that poor child!"

"What are you talking about?" he wondered, for this sounded like a new offense.
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