"You’ve got troubles then, Lottie? Is it work? I thought you were going to take things easier at that new job of yours. Don’t tell me Will is wearing you out thin."
"He’s bein’ good t’ me, Momma A. I promise you that. But - it’s kind of something we’re working through and - I’m not really supposed t’ tell anyone yet but you’re family to me and I’m really confused and it’s not an easy time and - if I told you would you a. promise to not hate me and b. you’ll keep it between us?”
Chris silently sat in his chair, ignoring the clearly venomous tone his sister was using. He deserved it, he knew that. He had no reason to snap and admit that she was being a brat - she had every right to have not shown up today but there she was, sitting in the sunlight looking more and more like the young, scared girl he grew up with.
"I was actually thinking of trying the Greek Salad today, but that’s probably what I was going to get anyway. You know me far too well," Chris laughed softly before taking a sip of the wine his sister had ordered for him already. The silence that fell between them felt more like daggers than just an awkward silence.
"Charlotte I - I owe you an apology," Chris started, licking his lips and looking down to his plate for a moment before looking back up at her with solemn eyes. "I’m so sorry for trying to control you. I should know better. You’re a grown woman who is allowed to make her own decisions I - I just still see you as that little five year old I had to carry home from school one day because you had fallen asleep between the tree outside of my school waiting for me to come outside," Chris swallowed hard.
"I just love you and want what’s best for you and I was convinced I knew what that was but, Charlotte I don’t. I don’t know what’s best for you and if you’re in love with Will — so much so that you want to have a child with him then there’s nothing in this world I want more for you.”
"Well, I guess I know you better than you know yourself. Oh, wait, no - that’s your job. To know me better than I know myself. Sorry, sometimes I forget that,” Charlotte grumbled before taking a bite of the free bread at the table.
Charlotte sat quietly as Chris spoke, smiling softly at the mention of that sunny day where she had fallen asleep waiting for Chris to come home from school. She had gotten out of her class nearly two hours before he did and she always liked to wait for him so they could walk home together. The other kids in her class thought she was weird, but Charlotte didn’t really care. She only wanted to see her brother. That day though Charlotte wanted nothing but to see her brother. You see, one of the boys in Lottie’s class used to pick on her for wearing clothes that were far too big and clearly hand-me-downs from one of Charlotte’s many cousins, and on this day he decided to pour finger paint on her pretty yellow dress — one of the few items of clothing that wasn’t actually a hand me down but something her Dad bought for her while he was visiting London for work. Her teacher promised it would come out (and it eventually did) but it didn’t matter. Charlotte was heartbroken and needed to see her brother. So after school she headed for the tree and hid beneath it, waiting for Chris and by the time he got there she was fast asleep. When she woke up she was laying on the couch, changed into her pyjamas, and cuddled up next to Chris.
"You can’t always take care of me, Chris," Charlotte said softly. "You can’t always be the hero and you can’t always save me from everything. You of all people should know me better than to think you can come walking in and save me from everything. I’m a walking disaster area and I make more mistakes than I have hairs on my head, but it’s my life and they’re my mistakes,” she sighed.
"You don’t know how hard it is to hear from your older brother and the person you hold deepest in your heart that they think you’re making a huge mistake and ruining their life. I’m not ruining anything, Chris. For the first time in my life I’m in a healthy and happy relationship with someone who cares about me and wants everything you do for me. Christopher he loves me. I promise you he does. He’s told me in a thousand ways that aren’t even words. And Chris, I’m scared right now. I’m scared out of my fuckin’ mind. I’m goin’ to have a baby who relies on me for everything and that’s terrifying and wonderful at the same time but — I want you to be there for me because I’m gonna need you and I’ve thought about this in a thousand different ways without you being in my life anymore and it’s not an option, Chris. Not for me. I can’t do this without you and I don’t want to, but if I have to I will.” Charlotte added with a heavy sigh before looking Chris in the eyes and biting at her lip. “Please, Christopher, don’t leave me stranded without a lifeboat. You remember what Da always said.”
Chris walked to Manducci’s as soon as his shift at the hospital ended. The day? Uneventful, if one truly cared. He hadn’t much to do, really. The hospital had a slow day and he spent most of his time chatting with some of the older patients, especially Mr. Hannity. Mr. Hannity was Chris’s favorite patient, a calm and quiet old man who practically lived a the hospital now. Chris opened up to Mr. Hannity who told him that he needed to make this situation with his sister right, no matter what it took. Pride was irrelevant at this point — what mattered was repairing the bond that Chris had severed, albeit unintentionally.
Chris entered the restaurant and spotted his sister already sitting in the corner next to the window, the light hitting her in just the right way that she looked as she did when she was five and sitting next to him on the swing set after her first day of school and telling him all about her day in painstaking detail - somehow brushing over the fact she came running out of the classroom and grabbed him tightly because she hadn’t seen him all day and she couldn’t be without him.
It had been nearly three days since Charlotte had seen him and in those three days, the roles had become reversed - this Christopher knew. Chris wanted nothing more than to see his little sister’s face again while he knew damn well she could go centuries without seeing his face which was no longer home.
"Hey," he whispered after finally gaining enough courage to walk over to where she had been seated.
Lottie had been nauseous all day long. It had a little to do with the fact she was 11 weeks pregnant and a lot to do with the fact she hadn’t spoken to her beloved brother in nearly three days. It’d been incredibly hard on Charlotte — the fact she hadn’t gone three days without seeing Chris in her entire life was weighing heavily on her shoulders. She made a pact years ago to never go more than one day without seeing him and — well, perhaps if he hadn’t overreacted about her living her own life, she wouldn’t have had to do so.
Sure, was having a kid at this point in her life the best decision? Probably not. Was it her decision? Yes. Yes it was. She didn’t have to keep the baby. She knew that. She considered it, sure, but it wasn’t her choice. She knew it would be hard and she knew she’d be scared half to death most of the time but she knew she wouldn’t be alone. She had Will and she had Rosie and the rest of Will’s family — she had her friends. — Charlotte wasn’t alone.
Though right now, Charlotte felt more alone than ever. Perhaps it was because the one person she loved and admired more than any one person on this earth didn’t support her when she needed his support more than anything.
Charlotte told Will she was leaving early and she kissed him goodbye before grabbing her rain coat and walking off into the rain before arriving at Manducci’s. She was at at a corner table near the window and watched as the rainclouds seemed to disappear and the sun begin to shine directly in her eyes as she heard a voice quietly whisper from ahead.
"Hi," she said with a weak smile, watching as her brother sat before her. "I ordered for you. Chicken Parm with extra sauce on the side and bowtie pasta. What you always get, I figured it wouldn’t change, much like your viewpoints on what I’m allowed to do with my life" she said before taking a sip of water.
I wouldn’t have the heart to kick you off even if I wanted to, darling. Though I’ll have to be somewhat terrible to you as well, to avoid the appearance of favoritism with respect to my other sisters. I’m quite fair that way. [laughs semi-maniacally] You should think better of yourself, really. I wasn’t half as sensible or capable at your age, and I certainly couldn’t distinguish between which of my relationships were terrible and which weren’t. In retrospect, I’m pretty sure all of them were terrible. Well, almost all. You deserve to be loved, Charlotte Moore. Hold on to it with everything you’ve got.
Doubt you’ll be as horrible to me as my own brother’s bein’ right now. -shrugs- I’m trying to hold on to it as tightly as I can. I mean, there’s always days I forget how loved I am but then I call Will or I knock on Regan’s door and I remember that. It’s hard to remember it but I do. You’re loved too you know. Very much so. Rosie loves the hell out of you and your sisters do too, even though you’ve mentioned you don’t have the best relationship. Trust me, sometimes the families with the tightest relationships are the ones with the most problems.
I’m not really uncomfortable? I guess I just wasn’t thinking about it but actually it’s not totally surprising, especially after a long time with my older brother—I’m feeling kind of silly for asking, but he always has called me Captain Questions, so I guess I can’t help it. Sorry. [laughs awkwardly] How awesome for you, congratulations! You sound excited, I hope it goes well for you!
Well, I’ve got an older brother too so - you don’t need t’ worry about that. I just didn’t want you to think of me as some kind of - weirdo or somethin’. As for the questions, I’m cool with it really. My little brother keeps t’ himself a lot but once he gets t’ know you he’s a mouth full of questions for days and days. Never ends really. -smiles- Well, I dunno when it’s happenin’ but it’s going to. One of these days. He tol’ me it was going to happen but said he’d be askin’ a very particular question quite soon but…he won’t tell me the date.
And now I know why the all the trees change in the fall
I know you were on my side even when I was wrong
And I love you for giving me your eyes
For staying back and watching me shine
And I didn’t know if you knew, so I’m takin’ this chance to say
That I had the best day with you today
"Oh no, don’t beat yourself up. You would have figured it out, I just couldn’t keep my big mouth shut."
"Nah, I’ve not been all there recently. Got a lot going on, you know. Life’s busy and all that and the first thing that goes is my knowledge of anything I enjoy.”
"Usher. Number 10 across on your crossword, it’s Usher. The Fall of the House of Usher- it’s a short story by Poe."
"Sorry, I didn’t mean to read over your shoulder. It’s an awful habit."
"I knew I could count on you, A. I should have probably known that but alas, here I am.”