Through the Roof

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Chapter 22: "You first, little brother, you first."

Officially Mayfield’s opens at nine o’clock. Unofficially Mayfield’s opens when Charlotte opens it. Other than on rare occasions the shoppers don’t appear until ten or ten-thirty. Charlotte’s routine was to get to the shop sometime before ten and put a different item on display out front. She would also put a different quote on a chalkboard out front. After that was all set, she’d lock the front door again and take a leisurely stroll down Main Street to greet her neighboring shop owners and get a cup of coffee.

I got to Mayfield’s in time to see Charlotte putting her chalkboard on the seat of the rocker she had placed in front of her shop. The quote of the day was by Albus Dumbledore. I stood behind her as she squatted adjusting the angle of the sign. “It takes a great deal of bravery to stand up to our enemies, but just as much to stand up to our friends.”

“Who’s Albert Dumbledore?” I asked.

She turned her head slowly and gave me one of those you-moron looks. “It’s Albus, not Albert. Don’t you read?”

“What did he write?” I asked.

“Do you know who Harry Potter is?”

“I thought a woman wrote that.”

“Yes. J. K. Rowling wrote the Harry Potter series. Dumbledore is one of her characters.” She stood up next to me. “I’ll bet Atreyu can tell you all about him. You should ask him.”

“Maybe I will,” I told her, but I doubt she believed me. “You know why I’m here, don’t you?”

“You’re buying coffee this morning,” she guessed as she locked her front door.

As we began walking toward the diner, I said, “I’m officially telling you that as far as I’m concerned, you can hire anyone you want.”

Charlotte slid her hand under my arm as we walked and leaned into me as she laughed. “You know, I don’t need your permission.”

“I know,” I said. “I also know that you don’t even want my permission, but according to Kelly, her mother won’t take the job unless I tell you it’s okay with me. So that’s what I’m doing. Okay?”

Charlotte looked straight at me and raised her hands, palms out. “As far as I’m concerned, I’ve offered her a job. Now it’s up to her to take it or leave it.”

“Well, you can tell her it’s fine with me.”

She shook her head no. “I’m not telling her that.”

I could feel my face scrunch together as I leaned away from her to get a better look.

“I’m not telling her that,” declared Charlotte with a snap of her head. “Whatever this thing is between you, your ex, and your daughter, I’m not in the middle of it. So if she needs to hear that you won’t get all old woman on us, then she needs to hear it from you.”

I exhaled. “Maybe that’s just her way of saying she doesn’t want the job.”

Poking me with her finger, she said, “If you really believe that, then tell that to your daughter.”

I stared down at where she had poked me.

Poking me again in the same spot she said, “I dare you.”

“You act like you think I’m afraid to talk to her,” I said.

“You act like you’re afraid to talk to her. Actually, you act like you’re afraid to say her name. But it isn’t fear, is it?”

“Do you and Kelly ever consult with each other, you know, to compare psychotherapy notes?”

“Oh yes, of course. In fact, that’s all we ever do.” Batting her eyes and tilting her head she said, “We just live to talk about you.”

“Get a life,” I said, attempting to match her sarcasm.

“You first, little brother, you first.”

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