Necromancer Chronicles

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Chapter 4

“Surprise!” my half-sister shouted before she tried to squeeze the life out of me. Her grip was oddly strong for such a small girl.

“Madison...,” I sighed, “What are you doing here?”

“You gained weight,” she cheered avoiding my question. Madison was the last person on earth that I expected to follow me to Dumont. I hadn’t told her or anyone else where I was going on purpose. How did she find me out here? Madison must have picked up on my irritability and started to become defensive. “Please don’t be mad at me Charlie,” she whined. “You didn’t call me when you left the hospital so don’t blame me for worrying about you. You didn’t think I wanted to see you?”

My sister wasn’t here a minute and already giving me a guilt trip. I couldn’t be angry at her for missing me, but I was still wondering how she knew I would be here. I didn’t even tell my mother where I was going.

“I’m not mad at you, Maddie,” I said softly, “I can’t be upset that you care about me that much. You could have warned me you were coming.” I pointed behind me. “I’m a guest here, too.”

Madison looked down at the ground. “I’m sorry, Charlie,” she apologized, “I was scared that you wouldn’t want me here.”

“Fear of rejection is a commonly used defense mechanism,” I mumbled to myself. “Don’t worry about it now,” I said louder. “How did you find me?”

“Your grandmother left a voice mail for mom the day you got here,” She explained. “Can’t say I enjoyed the bus ride.” She rubbed at her heavy eyes. “I was too scared to fall asleep so I drank like four lattes to stay up. Remind me to find another way home.”

My sister slid into the punk scene since the last time I saw her. Her phases of style were short lived and quickly replaced by the next. Before punk, she was a preppy. Before preppy, she was a hippie. Her trends could change with a song or a television show back in reruns. Everything in Madison’s life had the potential to change at a moments notice. It was my sister figuring it all out. I remember doing the same thing to an extent.

“Charlie, who was at the door?” My grandmother called out. I pushed Madison over to the living room and introduced her to my grandmother.

“Madison, this is my grandmother, Sylvia Kane. I call her, Nunny. Nunny, this is my sister, Madison Saunders.”

“It’s a pleasure to meet you,” my sister sincerely said. “I’m afraid Charlie hasn’t told me much about you.”

“I only just met her,” I answered with frustration. “Last week, actually.”

“In your brother’s defense, he’s told me all about you,” she said with a smile. “My god, you look so much like your mother, its uncanny. I hope you don’t mind me saying, but she’s quit a beautiful woman, your mother.”

“Thank you, Nunny,” Madison said using my grandmother’s nickname. “What was my mom like when she was with Charlie’s dad? Was she overly neurotic then as well?”

Madison came to visit me in the hospital more than anyone else. She looked out for me, even though she was my younger sister. I din’t know if it was out of pity or guilt for what my life had become. When I was hospitalized my sister kept me grounded. Madison was more nurturing than our mother in almost every way. I could count on one hand the times my own mother visited me in the two years I was hospitalized. Madison came to see me at least once a week, if not more.

I hadn’t forgotten to tell my sister where I was going. I didn’t tell her on purpose. I didn’t want her or anyone else following me here. I wasn’t sure what I would find, and didn’t want to get my hopes up in front of anyone. I didn’t want to suffer the embarrassment. Now that wasn’t a problem anymore.

Nunny took Madison upstairs to get settled into her room. Of course she had already decided to let my sister stay. There was no question about it. They would call my mother in the morning and Madison could stay the entire winter break if she wanted.

I knew Madison was having problems at home, so I was happy when my grandmother showed affection towards her. As happy as I was to see my sister, I was still upset that she followed me here alone.

“What are you really doing here, Maddie?” I asked from her doorway of the bathroom as she washed her face. “Do you know why a twelve year old girl shouldn’t be traveling by herself? It’s dangerous out there.”

“I’m thirteen, Charlie,” she stomped. My birthday was last month. And I can take care of myself. I’ve been by myself plenty of times. Mom ignores me as much as she ignores you.”

“Don’t change the subject,” I shot back. I was pretty embarrassed that I forgot her age. She was five years younger than me, but she was more mature than most of the girls I knew. I didn’t want to get into a fight, especially when it was so late. “Does mom know you came here all by yourself?” I asked with sincerity.

“Of course she knows I came here alone,” my sister said. She wasn’t looking me in the eyes. Her tell, avoiding eye contact when she lied. She wasn’t telling me everything.

“You know I can tell when you’re lying, Maddie.”

“Don’t call me Maddie, you know I hate that.” She stood up from the table for effect. “My name is Madison, and just for the record I’m not a little kid anymore. I’m fine. I got here in one piece. Mom knows I was traveling alone.”

Was it possible my mother let her get on a public bus to cross state lines by herself? Travel around alone and in the middle of the night? I didn’t think even my mother could be that irresponsible. No, she wasn’t. There was something Madison wasn’t telling me.

“For frack sake, Madison,” I called out in frustration. “I know you’re lying. Stop bull- shitting me. Where does mom think you are?”

Madison was quiet for a moment and then nodded her head. “I’m supposed to be with my dad in Las Vegas.” Tears rolled down her cheek but her voice didn’t waver. “We planned this really cool weekend together. It was supposed to be just father and daughter bonding time. He even got us tickets to Cirque, and I was finally going to see the Vanilla Bean Team.”

“What’s the Vanilla Bean Team?”

“A punk band dad promised to take me too,” my sister explained, but added, “I haven’t seen him in a long time so it didn’t matter what we did, just as long as I got to be with him.”

“So, why didn’t you go?”

“He canceled on me last minute. Had his receptionist give me a lame excuse about an important business meeting. I didn’t bother telling mom, because she would make me stay home. Don’t you think she would drag me to all of those charity functions. I didn’t want to stay home all vacation, so I came to see my big brother instead. Got on a bus and followed you down here.” She smiled. “You can’t deny you aren’t happy to see me. Come on, I know you’re excited!”

“Don’t you have to be sixteen to buy a bus ticket?” I was happy to see her, but I couldn’t let her off that easy. What she did was stupid and put her in a dangerous situation. All just to see me. I was flattered and angry at the same time.

“I tried telling the ticket salesman I turned sixteen, but didn’t have time to get my license. No one has a car in the city so why would anyone have a license? In the end he didn’t really care how old I was. He didn’t even listen to the story. Sold me the ticket, just like that.”

I could put up a fight, possibly ending with Madison back in New York. She would hate me for a while, but would get over it eventually. Or I could be a cool big brother and let her stay here with me. Didn’t she deserve the tranquility of Dumont?

If she wanted to get away from home that badly, it was probably because of our mother. My mother could be harsh, but my sister could be stubborn. I decided to wait until the morning to make any kind of decision. I was too tired to be rational and she seemed genuinely happy to be here. Did I really want to take that away from her?

It wouldn’t hurt if she stayed for a bit. I bet it would be nice to have my sister around. I couldn’t remember the last time we hung out outside of the hospital.

“Let’s call it a night,” I finally said to my sister. “I don’t know about you, but I’m beat. Long day.” I gave Madison a hug. “We’ll deal with this in the morning. Right now I’m going to get some sleep.”

“Thank you, Charlie,” my sister smiled, and then added, “It’s good to see you.”

“It’s good to see you, too,” I said when she walked to her room.

I went into the bathroom to brush my teeth and get ready for bed. Looking at the mirror I noticed my skin had taken on a darker shade from when I arrived. My skin had lost the pasty peach color and took on a much more healthy glow. I was still pale, but appeared more alive. I was looking less like a waxy corpse lying in a casket and more like the pale funeral director that shows you to your seats.

As I spit out the remainder of the tooth paste the mysterious hum started again. This time I found the tune that sounded oddly familiar and hummed along. I washed my face and then got into bed. I hummed along in my head. I listened and followed the tune until I fell asleep.

As comfortable as I was I couldn’t escape the nagging feeling I had to make a choice in the morning. Around two I woke up and fell back to sleep after looking at the clock. I tossed and turned the rest of the night trying to decide what to do about Madison. I woke up every hour with a different answer. I went from yes to no at least a dozen times, but I think I finally made up my mind around five thirty. I decided to let my sister stay in Dumont with me. Not that I could make her leave if I wanted too.

“It’s cool if you stay,” I told my sister when I met her downstairs in the living room before breakfast. “We haven’t had much time together these last couple of years. It might be nice having you around until you have to go back.”

“I didn’t think you would let me stay,” my sister replied. “Thank you for wanting me to stay. It does mean a lot.”

“So what anything you want to do today?”

She smiled and nodded yes. My sister wanted to go to a place, called Rosie’s, for breakfast. We were going to meet up with a girl named Sara my sister got a ride from the night before.

My sister was able to make friends anywhere. Having only been in Dumont for ten minutes, of course she would already find a friend. I on the other hand needed a much longer time to even consider talking to a random person. I avoided people for the most part. It had been a week and I was still no closer to finding a friend of my own. I thought it would be good for me to get out and socialize with some people who hadn’t been with me in the hospital. It was nice having Madison here already. She will help me branch out and get out of my comfort zone. My comfort zone was on a couch with a good book. Her’s was gabbing away with a complete stranger.

When we entered Rosie’s, Madison made a bee line for a yellow counter and sat next to an attractive girl, with platinum blond highlights. My sister introduced me to Sara after they said their hellos. Sara asked me the basics about being in Dumont and than we sat down to look at the menus.

Sara called over to Diana, a young waitress behind the counter. Unlike Sara, Diana’s dirty blond hair wasn’t dyed or enhanced in anyway. She wore a minimal amount of makeup, but just enough to highlight her features. She was unbelievably pretty, but her green eyes were what drew me in.

She was breathtaking and I knew instantly I wanted to know her. I hadn’t believed in love at first sight until that very moment. My pulse was speeding when Diana came over to take our order. My palms started to sweat and my stomach tightened. My heart was pounding and my hands wouldn’t stop shaking. She should have been going to modeling auditions, not wasting away in a crummy old diner in the small town of Dumont.

“Hey sweetie,” Diana said to Sara when she had time to come over. “Who are your new friends? Don’t think I’ve seen either of you two before.” Sara embraced Diana over the counter and then introduced us.

“Diana, this is Madison and her brother, Charlie,” Sara said as she studied the menu. Without looking away from it, she added, “They’re staying with Charlie’s grandmother at the Sunnyledge.” She emphasized the bed and breakfast’s name. There was something about the way she said it. Like a small amount of stress was cracking between the syllables.

Diana changed the subject for us and took our order. I asked for an omelette but when I tried to add a side of bacon, Madison took to her soap box.

“Do you have any idea what those poor animals go through in those slaughter houses? It’s very cruel, Charlie.”

“I’ll give you a couple more minutes,” Diana said as she walked away as I cradled my forehead in my hand. I forgot how easy my sister could embarrass me in public. As soon as she opened her mouth the trouble started. I looked over at Sara, but she didn’t seem to mind Madison at all.

My sister was passionate, and when she took up an issue she really took to the cause. There was no way I was going to win. I just wanted her to settle down.

I thought the customers around turned to stare, but that could easily be my paranoia. I wish I wasn’t embarrassed by my sister so much, but I was. She had no filter and I was worried we would be asked to leave. We would run out of restaurants we could eat at by the end of the day.

“Do you have any idea how they treat those animals?” My sister wouldn’t shut up now. Her voice growing in volume by the second. “It’s disgusting. Cows, chickens, and even pigs, no way I’m eating them. Not after that cruelty they have to go through.”

I wanted to die right there and then from massive embracement. I was hoping no one was paying attention to my sister’s ramblings, but I couldn’t be sure for certain. I looked around for Diana, but she was taking someone’s order on the opposite end. A sense of relief washed over me, but I still had to get Madison under control before she really made a scene.

“Could you please keep those types of comments to yourself, Madison?” I calmly asked. “I don’t know these people yet and would still love to make a good first impression without you grossing them out.”

She didn’t even hesitate. “Do you have any idea what goes on in a slaughter house? It’s like mass murder at those places. These poor animals get a bolt to they head one after the other. Their whole life snuffed away...”

Three minutes later she was still going on about cruelty to animals and why she wouldn’t eat meat. I zoned out a couple of times, wishing no one was listening.

“I’m a vegetarian.” Madison said taking a sip of iced tea, “I don’t eat anything with a face.”

When a couple of plates of food came I was relieved when I saw my order had not been taken hostage. A side dish with three strips of bacon made my mouth water. I held up a piece and took a giant bite, hoping to gross out my sister in the process.

“My cousin is a vegetarian,” said a sweet seductive voice from a few feet away. Diana had walked over while Madison was at the end of her rant. I realized there was still a piece of bacon hanging out my mouth. I quickly shoved the food in, hoping Diana hadn’t seen it.

“I think it’s noble to stand up for what you believe in,” Diana said to Madison. “You still have some food on your lip, Charlie,” she added after filling my coffee to the top.

My face suddenly felt flush. I could feel the heat running to my cheeks. I watched Diana walk away, but couldn’t take my eyes off her. Her hair was up in a bun. I wondered what it would look like down. I imagined her hair was soft and smooth like silk. I imagined the smell of her neck and her long seductive neck.

“Earth to Charlie.” Madison was waving her hands in front of my face. I could smell maple syrup directly below me. Diana set two more plates down and I hadn’t even noticed. “Anything you want to share with the rest of the group?” My sister giggled.

“Cut it out,” I demanded.

“You were ignoring me.”

“No, I wasn’t,” I blatantly lied. I blushed and turned away and I had the feeling that Diana did the same. Then I leaned towards Madison and said, “Just remember that I can still call mom any time I want.”

“Whatever,” Madison went on and turned to her friend. “Sara, oh my god,” her voice rising in pitch. “Slaughterhouse 4 comes out this weekend. We should totally go see it. It’s supposed to be, like, ten times crazier than the third.”

“I loved the last one,” Sara squealed with joy. “We can see it over in Springdale. They’re going to have it in 3D. Billy and Stan will be in, Charlie you want to come?”

“Slaughterhouse was a classic. I loved that movie,” I said while gesturing with my fork. “You know it’s rumored the director started a cult shortly after filming the first one. It was campy, but it didn’t take itself too seriously. Great film. The sequels are crap compared to the original. The others were just gore fest knock offs to gross out an immature audience.” I know I was a film snob, but I loved movies. Not much else to do when you were sick. Of course I wasn’t allowed to watch those kind of films at the hospital. It doesn’t mean we didn’t smuggle some stuff in over the two years I was there.

“Okay, so no Slaughterhouse 4 for Charlie,” Sara replied. Madison whispered something into Sara’s ear and the two girl giggled. “Diana!” Sara yelled across the bar.

“What!?” Diana mimicked Sara’s tone of voice as she came closer.

“You want to see Slaughterhouse 4 with us this weekend?” Madison asked.

Diana pondered it, “Well, I’m a not a huge fan, and I kind of get freaked out, but I’ll go.” As she filled my coffee for the forth time she asked, “Charlie are you coming with us?”

“Yes,” I quickly said changing my answer without ever thinking about it. Sara and Madison laughed, but when Diana walked away I added, “I will go anywhere that girl goes.”

My sister rummaged through her purse and pulled out a pill bottle. She shook it while she listened for the rattling. She shook her head. “Charlie, I’m out of my medicine.”

“Okay, call mom and tell her to send you more.”

“That would be counterproductive, Charlie,” my sister explained. “Mom is not supposed to know I’m here with you.”

“Nunny called mom first thing this morning,” I replied.

“You really think so?”

“I’m certain of it,” I answered.

Madison shook her head. “That doesn’t change anything.”

“Why is that?”

Madison became rigid and mumbled low so only I could hear it. “Mom, doesn’t know I’m taking them.”

“What do you mean she doesn’t know you’re taking them?” I called out louder than I wanted. I lowered my voice and asked again, “Why doesn’t she know, Madison?”

Sara turned away, while Diana went to help other customers, giving us some sense of privacy. Madison spoke in a low quiet voice, while she locked her eyes on to mine. “Even before you went to the psych unit at Jefferson, mom wouldn’t acknowledge I had problems. I was breaking down at home all the time. Mom didn’t want her perfect little girl sharing in on the family’s mental health problems so she ignored me.”

“Why didn’t you let me know?” I quietly asked.

She started to swivel on her chair, breaking eye contact in the process. Her focus moved to her food and she began to eat, but continued to talk. “There were problems at school. Some girls in my class started to mess with me online. Mom ignored it, but it got to me. I found one of the doctors mom had you see at first. I’ve been seeing a psychiatrist for the last eight months without her knowing.”

“Doesn’t she get the insurance statements?” I asked.

“I’m on my dad’s heath insurance. Every bill and explanation of benefit goes straight to him. I don’t think he cares enough to read them. It’s been eight months and he hasn’t said a single thing about it to me.”

“What are you seeing the psychiatrist for?” I asked.

Sara poked her head over, “It’s nothing to be ashamed about Charlie,” she said. “Everyone has a therapist these days. People don’t stigmatize going to a therapist or psychiatrist anymore.”

“Do you see a therapist, Sara?” I asked.

“I do,” she confirmed.

“Me too,” Diana said keeping her glowing smile. “Keeps me balanced. I look at it like yoga. Yoga is for the body and therapy is for the mind.”

I turned back to Madison, “What do you see him for?”

“You want me to say it in front of all these people?” She said sarcastically. “I will not talk about my sexual problems with you, mister,” she called out. Several customers turned our way, but Sara and Diana were both laughing so I assumed it was okay. I still wanted to put a muzzle on my sister, but was glad they got her sense of humor. I never knew what she would say next.

“I’m kidding Charlie, I see one for O.C.D and depression,” she said in an inside voice. “You need to relax big brother. Everyone in the world has problems they need help with. It’s only a sensitive subject if people think it’s not normal.”

My sister was a little girl, yet wiser than a Jedi master. She was taking care of herself and not relying on our mother for help. I had to respect my sister for that. It was easy to go against a parent, but to seek mental heath without one was very difficult. They usually held the insurance cards and the money for the co-payments, but Madison had found a way around that. I was extremely proud of my little sister for that.

“You should see my guy while you’re in town,” Sara said.

“That would be really cool,” Madison gleefully replied and Sara sent the contact info in a text message.

Madison insisted to go see him right away. I barely got to finish my omelette before she dragged me out of the Rosie’s. I wanted to stay at the diner and talk to Diana, but Madison promised she would put a good word in for me if I helped her.

We walked over to a three story office building on Canal Street two blocks away from the diner. While I read the directory it seemed a majority of the town’s professionals had an office in this particular building. There were lawyers, chiropractors, accountants, and a long list of doctors. We checked to see where the psychiatrist’s office was and took the elevator up to the second floor.

I knocked on the door and we waited, but no one answered. I turned the handle and was surprised to find the door unlocked. We found a small waiting room with a row of five chairs lined against a wall. Piles of magazines were sprinkled around the room on side tables and chairs. Each table was cluttered with brochures, like the ones at the hospital. Each brochure was on different psychological condition like depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder. They were helpful pamphlets for introductions to a number of mental illnesses.

“Hello?” I called out. I walked over to the closed door. “Dr. Gibbons, are you there?”

“Be right with you,” a calm male voice called out. “Just take a seat and I’ll be out soon.”

I sat next to Madison in the waiting room and picked up a magazine. I just wanted something to do. Thankfully we only had to wait for five or six minutes when the door opened.

Dr. Gibbons was a thin man in his mid-sixties. He was bald except for a horse shoe shaped ring of hair around the back of his head. His thinly framed glasses balanced on the lower bridge of his nose. “What can I do for you?” He asked with a certain amount of patience only a therapist could retain.

“My sister, Madison, needs a refill on some medicine she’s taking.” I said. “She’s seeing someone in New York, but we can’t get in touch with them. Would you be able to see her sometime today?”

“What are you taking, Madison?,” he said, and added, “I can’t prescribe pain killers so best not even ask.”

“Klonopin, Zoloft, and Wellbutrin,” she happily declared as if winning a prize. She handed the man her empty pill bottles.

Dr. Gibson eyed the little black haired girl with visible blond roots. I had seen enough doctors to know he was eyeing her up, making observations, and making a quick judgement. Dr. Gibbons gladly took Madison right on the spot as his next patient. I remained where I was and proceeded to search through the medical brochures. Each one explained in detail the condition’s symptoms, causes, and possible treatments. I took one of each pamphlet, collecting seven different illnesses. I had only enough time to read through dementia and depression before my sister was finished with her first session.

After a quick exchange and a script for medicine we were on our way. Madison had a standing appointment once a week for as long as she stayed in Dumont.

“How long do you plan on staying here Charlie?” My sister asked while we walked back to the truck.

“I haven’t decided yet,” I answered. “I think it’s too early to tell.”

“I want you to come home,” my sister whined. My face contorted in frustration. “You can’t blame be for asking. It sucks without you. I have to deal with her all by myself.”

“Mom can’t stand me, Madison.” I said. “Why do you think I’ve been in a mental hospital the last two years?”

“Charlie, you have to admit you have certain problems that need constant attention. I’m not saying mom was right at all, but she’s worried about you. She just shows it in a weird way.”

“But that’s the thing, I feel better. Whatever it is about this place I feel amazing. I don’t want to jinx it, but I think I might be getting better. She kept this away from me for so long. Instead of letting me come here with my grandparents she kept me locked up.”

“Charlie, I know you’re upset with her, but she’s still your mother. She loves you. You have to know that.” I didn’t want to hurt my relationship with my sister so I kept quiet. “She’s a mess, Charlie. Every day is a roller coaster ride with her. She feels so guilty about sending you away, she’s falling apart.”

“She has a weird way of showing it,” I added as we got into the truck. “My own mother had me committed. I wasn’t crazy, Madison!” My voice roared louder than the engine. My sister jumped in her seat, frightened at my sudden outburst. “Tell me why she left me.” I wasn’t mad at my sister, but I was taking it out on her. A tear rolled down my sister’s cheek. I realized I went to far. “I’m sorry, Madison, I shouldn’t yell at you.”

“It’s okay,” my sister responded with compassion in her voice, “I’m not going to defend how she’s treated you, but she really thinks she’s helping you. She’s under the impression she’s protecting you by keeping you at Jefferson. She didn’t visit often, I know, and you can be angry at her for that, but she couldn’t bare to see you like that.”

“I feel better here,” I snapped back, instantly regretting my reaction. I took a deep breath and let it out. “I’m sorry, but that woman kept me from my own grandparents because she couldn’t get over my father leaving her.”

“I’m telling you it’s not as easy as that,” Madison pleaded. “It never is. I bet if she knew you would feel better in Dumont she would have brought you here a long time ago. She didn’t want me coming here either, but not because of your grandmother.” Madison was serious, with not an once of sarcasm. “She’s scarred of this town, Charlie. I don’t know why, but I know she is.”

We picked up Madison’s prescriptions from the corner pharmacy and drove back to the Sunnyledge. I was a little perturbed at my sister, but I knew she was just trying to help. Couldn’t Madison understand how I felt, though? Her father practically did the same thing to her. Moved to China for a job and a new life without her. Was I going to bring that up now? No. Was I going to bite my tongue? Yes.

I parked in the garage and we ignored the last thirty minutes of our lives. Madison went to check her e-mail, while I went to check on my grandmother. I found Nunny in the laundry room. She was standing over a table folding towels.

“Nunny, do you need any help?” I asked hoping she would. There was something that was bothering me since Marcus Buffet first mentioned my dad.

She waved me in with a smile, “You like folding laundry, Charlie? I got a whole lot of it. Did you get those replacement hinges for the back door? Looks like we might need to replace them sooner than later.”

“I’ll take care of those first thing tomorrow,” I said. My grandmother smiled and went back to folding linens. “Nunny, could I ask you a question?” My grandmother nodded. “Was my dad a good person?”

She stopped folding and looked up into my eyes. I wondered if my grandmother would tell me the truth?

“What would prompt you to ask me that, Charlie?”

“When I was in town the other day I overheard some stuff, but I didn’t know what to believe. I can barely remember my father at all. The only reason I know what he looks like is because of photographs. So, I want to know, was my dad a good person? Or did he hurt people?”

“Your grandfather should talk to you about this, not me,” my grandmother said under her breath. “Of course your daddy was a good person. He was rebellious as a young boy, and maybe a little reckless as a teen, but your father was a decent man, a good man. He was an honorable and caring man, and most importantly he loved you more than anything, Charlie.” My grandmother used a towel to wipe the tears from her face. “He only wanted you to be safe.” We worked in silence for a moment until my grandmother spoke again, “I didn’t get to see your sister this morning, did she sleep well?”

“She did,” I answered. “Why are you so concerned about how everyone sleeps?”

“I own a bed and breakfast, Charlie. I want to make sure my guests are always comfortable. Will she be staying around or are we sending her home?”

“If it’s okay with you, I would like it if Madison stayed. I can do her load of the work if you want me too.”

“Of course she can stay, Charlie. She’s your family. I’ll call your mother and let her know she’s staying.”

I finished folding the rest of the pile of towels, while Nunny called my mom about Madison. Something she said caught my attention. She mentioned keeping me safe. My sister and mother said the same thing. Safe from what, I wondered.

“Nunny, am I a guest here?” I asked when she was finished with the phone call. I needed to know where I stood.

My grandmother thought about her answer as she finished her own pile of towels. When she was done she set them back into the basket.

“No, you’re not a guest,” she smiled. “You were never a guest here. The Sunnyledge is your home.” My grandmother handed me the laundry basket to take up to the linen closet. “Now, finish your chores,” my grandmother said with a smile.

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