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"Do we understand each other?" asked Angela, firmly. The slap hurt, but Charotte didn't feel it. Deep down, she had to admit that she had it coming. Even so, Charlotte felt that an injustice had just been committed. Up till then, her father had been the only one to really discipline her. This usurper of authority was taking her father's place. When that realization sank in, Charlotte finally understood. Her father was giving her away-- as if she was no longer his daughter anymore. Charlotte had secretly hoped that her father would change his mind. Up till then, she had refused to believe he would do this to her. But the finality in Angela's voice deflated that hope like air rushing from a popped balloon.

"Do we understand each other?" repeated Angela, after seeing Charlotte's hesitancy.

"I understand," mumbled Charlotte. As far as she was concerned, it was the end of the world-- at least the way she knew it.

"Good," said Angela, her voice taking a lighter tone, "now we can get to work." Charlotte reluctantly obeyed her Aunt as they gathered up her belongings, one by one, and packed them into suitcases and bags for the trip to North Carolina.

"Your father has already sent me your records, so you will start school right away," said Angela, emptying Charlotte's sock drawer into an open suitcase on the bed. "You will be attending the same high school as your cousin, Sherri," continued Angela, "so you will make new friends in no time. In fact, Sherri will be sharing her room with you. I just know my two girls will get along famously."

Every sentence sounded like a death knell on Charlotte's ears. Life was changing too rapidly to keep up with the emotions attached to it. Despair was the only reaction her numb heart could conjure.

Frank looked up from the magazine he was reading and smiled when he saw Charlton standing behind the counter.

"Couldn't stay away, not even on your day off, huh?" Frank laughed. Charlton smiled lamely.

"Needed to get out of the apartment for awhile. How's business?" asked Charlton, running his thumb along the edges of the store's "Venture Outdoors" flyers on the counter.

"It's been slow today," replied Frank, popping open a can. "Charlie giving you a hard time?" asked Frank, tossing Charlton a refreshment.

"You have kids," began Charlton, "tell me, how do you know if you're doing right by them?" Frank raised his eyebrows. He really didn't know how to answer his friend's question.

"Look," explained Frank, "I've tried to instill the same values I have into my kids. They seem to be turning out good anyway," laughed Frank.

"But how do you know if you're right?" asked Charlton, his voice growing urgent.

"What's with the twenty questions?" asked Frank. "You and Charlie have a fight?" he asked. Charlton silently took another drink from his can. "Am I glad I don't have any daughters," sighed Frank. "Boys I can handle, but girls? I'm doing good if I can make sense of my wife half the time."
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