Reconstructing Charlie

Fifteen years old traveling alone for the first time, I headed for the restroom. A sign said the bus to Chicago would leave in a half hour. Locking the stall, I counted money.; my money. Didn’t come to much; two hundred twenty three dollars and forty cents. Bus ticket, snack, cab drive to Lake Shore Drive, wherever that was and sounded beautiful. When I got to Chicago, I’d change into mom’s dress, clean up to make a nice impression on Aunt Eleanor and Uncle Stuart. but what if they hate me and slam the door in my face? Not possible, kid. You’re dynamite. Ever since you started school, teachers talked about you; Smart, they said; Lots of potential. Walking tough, I stepped close to the ticket window, lowered my voice and asked for a one way to Chicago. A ticket came through the bottom of the cage after I paid less than expected. I climbed on, took a seat near the front and kept my gear at hand, pleased no one tried to sit next to me, the tough kid in the second seat. I munched on a granola bar and drank a bottle of milk. Dinner. I felt like a thief opening mom’s letter to her sister but I couldn’t resist. Mom hadn’t sealed the envelope.

Dear Eleanor, I’m so sorry I didn’t listen to you and Stuart, I was pregnant with the young woman standing before you. Please embrace her and make her your own. You won’t be disappointed. My husband is dead and now my family and I will be fine. She’s called Charlie and it suits her. I send my love to you and Stuart and hope we meet again. Your sister, Elizabeth.


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