The Orphan Boy

My entry to the Christmas Advent Competition! I'm entering under the Christmas calendar romance option. The Orphan Boy follows the romance between Church goer Clara Dawkins and orphan boy Charlie Birch. Each chapter is a new Sunday leading up to Christmas, but also a new Sunday for them to get to know one another a little more and perhaps embark in a Christmas romance.

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1. The First Sunday

It was just another old day Sunday n Church when I noticed the orphan boy sitting in the pew opposite the aisle. He looked to be about my age, seventeen, with black, ruffled hair and tattered clothes. At the time I didn’t realize who he was. It wasn’t until the final song that my older sister, Jennifer or Jen as we called her, leaned in to whisper into my ear.

“Stop staring, you’re being rude.”

“Do you know what that is?” I asked, curiosity dripping in my voice. It wasn’t every day new people joined us, even if it was the month of Christmas. Especially people that looked like him.

“That’s the orphan kid. You probably can’t remember him, but he went to school with me for a year or two before he was taken away to another city. I guess he’s come back.”

The ladies located in the pew in front of us looked over to scowl in our direction, and we quickly settled back in our seats to focus on the sermon. I could barely concentrate. All I could think about was the countless conversations my family had, had over the years around the dinner table, talking about the Birch family; the family this boy belonged to. His parents were murdered during a midnight robbery, but the rumor was their son was out partying with some friends, only to come home and find the bodies. At just 15, he was an orphan. Funnily, though, no one had ever mentioned his name. To us, he was just the orphan boy.

The sermon ended and I jumped to my feet, my sister following close behind.

“What are you doing?” she asked as I gripped her arm.

“Introduce me to him,” I told her as I stared at the boy's back. As if sensing my gaze, he turned around and I mimicked quickly, not wanting to be caught.

“Why?” suspicion dominated her voice. “No one talks to him.”

“Don’t you think that’s a tad hypocritical? We’re in Church.”

She paused for a moment, before nodding slowly and after a deep breath ,quickly followed him down the aisle where he was making a break for the door. People were jumping out of the way, like he was a disease and that only made me want to talk to him more. Jen was just reaching out to tap him on the shoulder when one of the elder ladies, grabbed her arm.

“How are you, my dear?” Mrs. Walters asked, oblivious to my sister’s intentions. Sighing, I knew I’d have to go in alone.

After making my way through the crowded Church and out the back doors, I spied the orphan boy seated under one of the willow trees the Church had planted for kids to climb and play in. Nervousness clawed at my insides, but I made myself approach him.

As I got closer, I watched him look up, his hazel eyes meeting mine warily.

Pausing in front of him, I managed a strangled greeting.

“Hello,” he responded hesitantly. “Do I know you?”

I shook my head and made myself sit down in front of him to hold out my hand.

“My name’s Clara Dawkins. My sister, Jennifer, said she spent a year of school with you.”

“The name doesn’t sound familiar,” the boy frowned, but proceeded to shake my hand anyway. “I’m Charlie.”

I was relieved to finally know his name and I offered him a smile as we lapsed into an awkward silence which, of course, I had to break.

“What brings you back to Liberty Cove?”

“Back?” he picked up on my keyword and frowned. “I should have guessed you knew who I was.”

“I’m sorry,” I mumbled. “I didn’t mean to offend you.”

After a moment, he offered a sigh and an answer.

“It’s okay, I’m just tired of everyone seeing me as the poor old orphan boy, but I guess people don’t know me enough to see me as anything else.”

“Why don’t you let me get to know you?” I didn’t know where all this boldness was coming from, but I liked it. As the corner of his lips lifted into a shy smile and warmness stirred in my chest, I was thankful for the boldness.

“You seem like a very nice girl,” he stated and I shrugged.

“Everyone sees me as the nice girl, but I guess people don’t know me enough to see me as anything else.”

He chuckled at my use of his words and I joined in a little.

“I think I might just take you up on your offer,” he paused then and his face fell a little. “I can only make it back on a Sunday though.”

“Do you come in for Church?”

“Essentially, yes. I’ve been reconnecting with Pastor Gerard and Lynn and they offered to pick me up. It’s nice to be back.”

“Then I guess we’ll have to make the best of next Sunday,” I tell him as I climb to my feet and offering him a hand, pull him up as well. “I can’t stay today, but I’ll make time for after Church next week.”

We gazed at each other for a moment before Charlie dropped his gaze, a smile on his lips.

“Your sister is coming.”

Whirling around, I spied Jennifer making her way away from Mrs. Walter, two cups of coffee the Church provided after the service in her hand. When I turned back to say goodbye, Charlie was already gone.

Feeling a bit dazed by our conversation, I took the coffee from Jennifer and sipped at it gratefully. The liquid burned my throat, but I didn’t mind. I’d take coffee at any temperature.

“How’d you go?” she asked me. “He’s all grown up now.”

“He’s nice,” I told her assuredly.

“And cute,” she nudged me and I rolled my eyes. “Did you find out the orphan boy’s name?”

“It’s Charlie,” I told her, perhaps a bit too harsh because she paused for a moment. “Sorry, I just think it really bothers him that people call him that.”

“Charlie it is then,” she nodded before gulping down more coffee. “Come on, we need to get going or we’ll be late to grandmas.”

I tried to find Charlie again after that, but it wasn’t until we were leaving the Church-yard that I spied him in the branches of the willow tree. He was watching me, a friendly smile on his lips, and offered me a friendly wave. I waved back and followed after my sister, my heart soaring with possibilities of the next Sunday. 

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