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.


3. The Third Sunday

Not only had Charlie failed to respond to any of my texts, my parents discovered who it was I spent the last Sunday with.

“Why?” my father demanded. “I told you he’s a troublemaker.”
“He’s misunderstood,” I argued. “He’s had a rough past and I think it’s sad people hold that against him and don’t give him a chance to prove himself.”
“I don’t want you talking to him again,” my mother waggled her finger at me and I stomped my foot in frustration.
“We got to Church every Sunday and listen to messages of love and acceptance and you guys won’t even give a fellow Christian a chance because of their broken pasts. I’m sorry, but I think you’re both hypocrites and whether you like it or not, I’m going to see him next Sunday and have lunch with him and the pastors like a real Christian would!”
They didn’t bring up Charlie again after that, but I certainly got the silent treatment. Only Jen listened to my raves about him and the fun I had last Sunday. Still, every time I glanced at my phone, I felt a little heartbroken. Why would he give me his phone number with no intention of responding?
“He’ll have a good reason,” I told myself.

Though it felt almost like forever, eventually Sunday arrived again. Nerves clawed at my insides as I dressed in a basic outfit of black jeans and a red and white striped top. It was a month of festivities and while Jen rolled her eyes at my appearance, I enjoyed how joyous is made me feel, even amongst the nerves.
When we pulled into the parking lot, I didn’t pause to let mum and dad say anything, but rather threw myself from the car. As I made my way through the solid wooden doors, I saw Charlie sitting on the edge of a pew, staring intently at a piece of paper.
Though I still felt rejected by his unanswered texts, I put on a smile and marched over to him. Screw the old gossiping ladies. 
“Hey Charlie,” I sat down beside him and he smiled up at me.
“Hey, you. Why didn’t you text me your number?”
I frowned.
“I have texted you my number,” I frowned and after a pause decided to confess. “Actually, I texted you multiple times.”
“I didn’t get any,” he told me quizzically and pulled out his phone. “Did you send it to the right number?”
Pulling out my own phone, I read his number back to him and he chuckled.
“The two should be a seven.”
“No, you wrote two,” I argued back, smiling. We were attracting a few gazes now as people began to shuffle into the seats. I saw my mum watching us with pursed lips, but I made myself look away.
“I think I’d know my own number,” he rolled his eyes. “Give me yours.”
After swapping numbers, the service began and rather than go back to sit with my family, I spent the time beside Charlie. Each time Pastor Gerard read out scripture references, we raced one another to see who could find it first. For the first time in a long time, the service went quite fast. All too soon, it ended and Charlie had to leave to help the old ladies with the hot water system.
As I made my way out of the pew, I found myself next to my sister.
“Are they mad at me?” I asked her quietly and she shook her head.
“I don’t think so. I think you really made them question their selves.”
“I hope so,” I murmured. 

Charlie was on serving duty so we couldn’t talk until after everyone had left. As I sipped my coffee, pretending not to stare at Charlie, my mum placed herself beside me. We waited in silence until she cleared her throat.
“I suppose if you’re going to be going off with this guy, I should meet him first.”
I nearly spilt my drink out of shock, but I tried to maintain composure.
“Is that really necessary? I’m going to Pastor Gerard and Lynn’s.”
“Yes it’s necessary,” she told me firmly. 
 I didn’t want her to change her mind so with a sigh, I agreed.

Once people had begun to leave and Charlie was finishing up packing the paper cups into a bin bag, I brought my mum over.
“Charlie,” I said evenly, “this is my mum, Evelyn.”
Charlie straightened up and held his hand out, an amused smile on his face. He shook hands with her warmly and exclaimed how wonderful it was to meet her.
“It’s my understanding that you’re taking Clara out to lunch, is that correct?” 
“With Gerard and Lynn,” he added, but after my mum stayed quiet, he nodded. “Yes, that’s correct.”
My mother pursed her lips again for a moment before relaxing into a smile.
“That sounds quite lovely, as long as you don’t bring her home to late.”
I groaned under my breath.
“And,” she continued, “I was wondering if next Sunday, you’d join us for Christmas.”
My mouth practically hit the floor and Jen, who had come up beside me let out an audible gasp. This was quite a change in my mother since our argument Wednesday night. I fixed my eyes on Charlie who looked quite surprised himself.
“Umm,” he stuttered. “Wow.. that’s.. that’s very sweet of you to ask.”
My mum waited patiently for him to continue.
“I would be happy to join you and your family,” he finally managed to say and my insides leapt. I was going to have to ask my mum what she was on about later though because, at that moment, the Pastors appeared.
“All done are we, Chap?” Gerard slapped Charlie on the shoulder who nodded quickly, scooping up the last plastic cup.
“All done, sir.”
Gerard turned to my sister, mother and I and smiled warmly. 
“It’s so lovely to see you all today, although, where’s Doug?”
I had forgotten about my dad until that point. I guessed he wasn’t too happy about my mum’s proposal to Charlie, though now it was given, he couldn’t possibly make her take it back.
“He’s just waiting in the car,” my mum told him warmly. “And on that note, I should probably take my leave as well.”
While Charlie helped Gerard and Lynn lock up, I stood on the Church steps watching my family drive away, my sister waving enthusiastically.
Charlie brushed up beside me.
“That was nice of your mum.”
There was a question in the statement, but I merely shrugged.
“My mum’s great.”
“She is,” he affirmed.

I drove to Gerard’s and Lynn’s in the backseat of their car with Charlie beside me. I asked Charlie where his was and he explained that it was just cheaper with fuel to accompany them to and from Church. His car was at their home.
When I stepped through the front steps of the house, I was reminded of the time my family visited two or so years ago when mum and dad joined them for a weekly Bible Study. I couldn’t remember why they had stopped going, but the ornate kitchen table, the comfy lounge chairs and the bright, lit kitchen were all familiar and welcomed sights. 
It wasn’t as awkward as I thought it would be. They asked questions about my family and what I was up to and they mostly let Charlie and I murmur amongst ourselves while they did the same. Lynn had cooked a yummy roast and vegetable meal that I thought could compete with mum’s and to top it off, there was a cream and jam sponge cake for dessert. The good company and the good food helped me to relax easily.
After lunch, Charlie and I sat on the front step of the house, watching the wind blow through the stark trees with hot drinks in our hands to keep us warm.
“Why did your mum introduce herself?” he asked simply, but out of the corner of my eye, I watched him inspect his nails. Having taken a class on body language out of pure interest, I knew this was a tell-tale sign of a deeper question. 
“I don’t know,” I swallowed. “She just told me she wanted to meet you.”
“Does she think we’re dating?” he asked without meeting my eyes. I smiled to myself, but shook my head.
“I don’t think so. I’m not really into dating.”
Charlie’s head shot up and he frowned at me with confusion.
“Why not?” he demanded, perhaps a little too forcefully. “You’re smart, friendly and… pretty.”
I bit my cheek to stop my smiling, but there was nothing I could do to stop the heat creeping up my neck.
“I’ve been asked,” I shrugged. “But I’ve never met someone I’d say yes to.”
“I’d say yes to you,” I wanted to add, but kept my lips firmly closed. 
Charlie let the subject go though and we relaxed into a comfortable banter. It wasn’t until some time later, that the conversation turned dark. 
“I got a job offer,” he told me casually and went back to inspecting his nails.
“That’s exciting!” I exclaimed, but my stomach twisted at the same time. Some bad news was coming.
“In Queensland,” he told me before I could think too hard about what it might be.
I turned my gaze downward, making sure not to meet his gaze in case the pain I felt was obvious.
“This is ridiculous,” I told myself. “You haven’t even known him a month.” 
After a moment, he placed his hand on my shoulder and I shivered on contact.
“I’m not sure if I’ll go yet,” he reassured me. “And even if I did, we’d still be friend’s right?”
“Yeah,” I said glumly. “We would be.”

That conversation left me feeling downcast for the rest of the day, but I tried to smile a lot when saying goodbye to Gerard and Lynn and even more so when in the car with Charlie. He didn’t try to interrupt my racing thoughts. Maybe he was doing the same.
When he dropped me off, I made sure to meet his gaze.
“We’ll message, yeah?”
“Yes,” he nodded. “You need to tell me what your family would like for Christmas.”
After promising to do so, I jumped out of the car and watched him drive off. 
As I turned to the door, I gave myself one more moment to feel upset about the possible impending doom before forcing a smile on my face and a skip in my step as I went to see my family.

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