In Love and War

Truths were bitter. Truth. Sophie was dead. Truth. I was not going to be happy for a long time.
Truth. I was going to be sent far far away.

After losing her best friend, Charlotte moves away to forget her, to forget that the drama and the tension. Of course, she could never expect that the things waiting for her at the place she ran away to, would be far more painful.

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3. Farewell

            As soon as she got home she headed up to her room. Her mother was busy on the phone. She took the advantage to head upstairs to her room and lock it. Her room was the only room in the house that she could call her own. Everything else was dominated by her mother’s expensive taste.

            She had an old suitcase stowed away in the corner of her closet, and she dragged it out. Her clothes would be the first to go. She didn’t wear many of the clothes she had, something that Sophie used to gripe about. She shoved them into the suitcase, leaving only the worn jeans and t-shirts that she wore everyday still on the hangers. Her books were essentials.

            Charlie knew her father would have an impressive library in his house in New York. It was one of the things that had been their uniting points. Their love for books. When he had moved out, he had taken all his books with him except the handful that she had kept. And her mother had turned their library into a home gym.

            She fingered the cover of the old hard-cover book longingly, Jane Eyre. It was the first classic book that she’d read. Later she’d read Pride and Prejudice, and Shakespeare, the true romances. But Jane Eyre was the closest to her heart.

            She placed her books on top of her clothes in the suitcase gently, and surveyed her room for any other things she wanted to take. Her laptop would have to come along, which held all of her pictures of Sophie. Charlie desperately looked around for anything more that she couldn’t go without. There was nothing.

            It bothered that six years of her life, all the memories she had could be put into a suitcase. She had been in her room for only ten minutes, and already she was packed. There were no childhood teddy bears, no meaningful snow globes. Most of the things that she had spent her life amidst, meant nothing to her.

            It would be days until her dad came by, but that didn’t stop her heart from beating faster with anxiousness. She felt like a fledgling bird whose mother was pushing it out of the nest, for its first flight. Whether she would actually fly, or plummet, was yet to be decided.

            She spent most of the next week in her room, browsing through the web, talking on the phone to Seth. She visited Sophie’s house once, where a tearful Rachel had hugged her endlessly and made her promise to visit.

            Then, doomsday arrived. It was a Tuesday, a perfect sunny day that she would’ve spent indoors reading books and drinking chilled water. She sat by the window of her room, occasionally looking out. Her father’s car pulled into the driveway. It was shiny and new, and so different from the battered sedan that he’d driven off in all those years ago.

            Her dad stepped out of the car and surveyed the surroundings gingerly. He saw her face in the window and frowned. Of course, he wouldn’t have recognized with her newly brown hair. Her mother had hated it, and that made Charlotte love it even more.

            She bounded down the stairs, stumbling a little at the last jump, as her the front door clicked open and she heard the quiet voice of her mother. She waited in the kitchen, not wanting to see the ice cold interaction between her parents. They would exchange pleasantries and pretend that everything was peachy, with wooden smiles on their faces and clenched fists.

            An unfamiliar voice surprised her. Her father’s voice wasn’t heard anymore, and he came into sight, giving her a lopsided smile. Taking a seat on the bar stool next to hers, he sighed out.

            “So, want to tell me why you’re coming to live with us?”

            “Do I have to?” she asked.

            “No,” he breathed out. “Not if you don’t want to.”

            “Jenny’s here, isn’t she?”

            Charlotte had nothing against the woman. She’d only met her once, being in New York for a week for their wedding. Despite her being a stranger, she had been one of the bridesmaids. Jenny had fussed over her and pulled her cheeks. But that was what all child-crazy woman did to cute little blonde girls. Now Jenny had two little girls of her own. Girls that Charlotte had never even met.

            All she knew about them were the pictures on Facebook. She prayed they weren’t little demon girls that were innocent and sweet in front of adults and then morphed into little destruction machines when they were unsupervised.

            “Charlie?” her father asked. She blinked and looked at him. She had spaced out completely, and realized that while she was busy in her thoughts of little girls wielding pitchforks against a backdrop of black flames, her father had asked her something.

            “Are you packed?”

            “Yeah,” she answered. “I’m going to bring everything down.”

            Three black bags stared back at her in her room. She could easily take them all down in one trip. It was just a large-sized suitcase with her clothes and books, a duffel bag that she’d oddly put all electronics in, and a large purse.

            She lugged them downstairs where her father took them from her and headed out. She meekly followed him into the foyer where Jenny and her mother were chatting like the best of friends. Although Jenny’s smile seemed genuine, Charlotte could see the vein in her mother’s forehead. Jenny didn’t have her mother’s height, or her blonde hair, but she was undeniably beautiful. Her chestnut brown hair reached only to her shoulders and was let loose. She had a round face, and it made her look younger. Although her flowery sundress wasn’t the fashion of the present, it was pretty.

            “Yes, and I cannot describe how it made me feel,” Jenny said with a sigh. “All those adorable faces, so happy.”

            Charlotte tried to analyze what Jenny was saying. She never paid attention to what the woman did. Kindergarten teacher? Librarian? Social worker? She abandoned the guesses. Jenny smiled at her as she stepped out from behind her father.

            “Hi,” she said silently.

            “Hey Charlie.”

            The informality in her tone was new. But it was refreshing and warm. Charlie didn’t remember much about Jenny from the wedding years ago. But back then, she had seen Jenny in her Bridezilla avatar. She unconsciously smiled and stepped closer.

            Her mother opened the door, a clear sign that the sooner they left the better. Jenny and Charlotte walked over to the car with the luggage as Charlotte’s father spoke with her mother. Charlotte knew it was custody details. Her mother was washing her hands of her.

            She looked back, knowing full well that it would be the last time in a long time that she would see her mother. She didn’t regret it. She didn’t wave to her mother, who stood in the doorway like a statue.

            Getting into the car, her phone rang out. Jenny raised her eyebrow at the Bethoven ringtone, and smirked. Charlotte didn’t understand, but picked up the phone without looking at the screen.

            “Aren’t you forgetting something blondie?” a voice asked her.

            “Seth?” she asked. It was a stupid question. No one else on the planet called her blondie, and no one else would now since she was a brunette. She mentally thought over all the things she had packed. Maybe he was messing with her- oh crap. She had forgotten the most important thing in her life, a machine that Sophie had often described as an extension of Charlotte’s arm.

            She hadn’t seen it in two weeks, since the night Sophie died. Which meant…

            It was in Sophie’s room, a place that she had avoided like the plague. Everyone else did too. She knew the room would be undisturbed, none of Sophie’s things would be moved even an inch. It would probably still smell of her girly flowery air freshener.

            “I brought it for you,” Seth asked. “I’m waiting for you at the supermarket.”

            “Okay,” she answered. “I’ll be there in five minutes.”

            “Excuse me,” she said. “Could we stop at the supermarket? My friend’s there, and I forgot something.”

            Her father nodded. The supermarket was on the way out of town. Charlotte twiddled with her fingers as she looked out the window, taking in everything of her surroundings. It helped her take her mind off her life, paying attention to things that no one else did.

            The car’s interiors were expensive, and it still had that addictive new car smell. It was the kind of car rich business people used. However, the little furry toys behind her head obviously spoke of children often riding it. She leaned back and relaxed, preparing herself for a very silent drive. The car pulled into the parking lot, and she saw Seth’s tall figure in the distance near the exit. Her father stepped out of the car, but Jenny stayed behind.

            She walked over to Seth and smiled, seeing the square black bag in his hands. He held it over his head and she looked at him questioningly.

            “Seth, just give it to me,” she said. “We’re on a tight schedule.”

            “Actually, we have all day,” her father said from behind her. She shot him a look.

            “See, blondie? See if you can reach it,” he said. He was a human bean pole. She was vertically challenged. But she jumped away. He would only give in if she made a fool of herself.

            After failing miserably and running out of breath, the black bag appeared in front of her eyes. She grabbed it immediately and clutched it to her chest.

            “Thanks, Seth,” she whispered out loud. She hugged him tightly and let go.

            “Bye blondie,” he said back. “I’ll miss you.”

            Charlotte knew he wasn’t doing as well as her, losing his sister and now her, who he thought of as nothing less than a sister.

            “Bye bro,” she said to him, walking back to the car. He stepped back into the market as her father started the engine. Looking out the window, she unconsciously kissed the black bag. When she looked up, Jenny was looking at her with a strange look.

            “So, was that your boyfriend?” she asked with a twinkle in her eye.

            Charlotte stared at her.

            “My best friend’s brother,” she answered. “My brother.”

            The look on Jenny’s face was nothing but priceless. Embarrassed, confused, and slightly lost. Charlotte couldn’t help but laugh. Jenny blushed. Charlotte didn’t realize that adult women blushed. It just seemed to her that most people would be all blushed out by the time they graduated college.

            “It’s my camera,” Charlie explained. To anyone who knew her, it was enough of an explanation. She was a photographer. She loved capturing moments. It always bothered Sophie that she was always the one taking pictures, never the one in them. And it was exactly that thing that Charlotte loved. She wasn’t the star, she was the one backstage making sure no one tripped up.

            She carefully unzipped the bag and took it out. It wasn’t one of those tiny cameras that advertised portability. Piper was chunky and barely fit into her tiny hands.

            “This…” she said, motioning towards the behemoth of a camera in her hand. “Is Piper.”

            “You named your camera?” Jenny asked. She seemed amused. If she had introduced Piper to her mother, the reaction would be less amused, more condescending. Jenny’s amusement and her smile, there was nothing negative there, no mocking.

            “Yes,” Charlotte answered. She refused to be embarrassed.

            “You know,” Jenny said. “I named my coffee maker-”

            “You still have Angel?” she asked. The memory was fuzzy, but she would never forget it. The night of Jenny’s bachelorette party, when she crawled back home with a neon pink cow-boy and a feather boa, only to hug the coffee-maker to chest and bawl that they were going to have a date tomorrow.

            “You remember that?” she asked.

            “The effects of your bachelorette party,” she said. Jenny blushed again, and Charlotte snorted. “Definitely.”

            Jenny turned to Charlotte’s father. “She’s more like you than you think.”

            Charlotte started at that. Her father, as far as she knew him, was meek. He didn’t joke, only laughed at them, whether they were funny or not. She was usually like that. But with Jenny she didn’t have to mask her feelings, didn’t have to think before she spoke.

            He only shrugged. Charlotte turned to the window, taking advantage of the temporary silence to take pictures from the moving car. Most of them came out as blurs, but she could still recognize everything. The diner on the outskirts of town, the ice-cream truck that she was a prize customer for. She was bidding farewell to all of them.

            She leaned her head against the window and looked out, capturing it all as much as she could. But soon she had nothing to capture. The car turned onto the highway, and that left her eyes with nothing but trees and tarmac.

            She stared through the back window of the car.

            So this is farewell, she thought.

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