Week 11: Monday

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Mandy looked at her husband at the breakfast table with an expectant smile. He squeezed her hand and smiled back with a slight nod. She cleared her throat, catching the attention of her family seated at the table. “Everyone, Frank and I have some very exciting news to share with you all,” she announced.

“Really? What is it? Are we all going on vacation? Are you adding to the house? Oh oh! The balcony! The balcony’s finally getting built, right?” Christopher guessed eagerly. Mandy giggled and shook her head.

“No, nothing like that. Even bigger than that,” she assured him. She smiled at everyone around her. “Frank and I are going to have a baby,” she announced. Everyone around the table dropped their utensils and grinned broadly. Marcie stood up to hug her sister.

“That’s great, Mandy!” she smiled. “Let’s hope it’s a girl to carry on the family legacy,” she said, patting her sister’s slightly protruding belly. Mandy laughed and nodded. She really wanted a girl, too. Frank came up behind his wife and put his arms around her. Mandy stole a glance at Josiah. As she expected, he had a look of sadness in his eyes, but he was smiling just as broadly as the others. Her heart gave a tug. If only things had been different… maybe I’d have Josiah’s arms around me instead and I would be truly, completely happy, she sighed to herself.

The carpool honking snapped Mandy out of her thoughts. Marcie grinned and hugged her sister again before running out to her carpool. Marcie was delighted to see that her carpool was all shiny and fancy now, at least compared to the other carpools. It was thanks to all of her promotions.

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“Dad? Are you excited about the new baby?” Mandy asked, rubbing her father’s hands. Christopher seemed to snap out of a trance, startled for a moment, then smiled and nodded.

“Oh yes, Marylee. Marcie and Mandy will love having a new baby sibling to play with. I hope they all get along,” he smiled pleasantly. Mandy bit her lip, fighting back tears.

“Dad… I’m Mandy. See? I’m all grown up and so is Marcie. I’m having a baby, not Mom. Mom’s gone. This baby’s going to be your grandchild. Don’t you remember, Daddy?” she whispered, her bottom lip trembling. Christopher frowned and shook his head.

“N-no… my little Mandy’s just two years old. She’s my little baby. Marcie’s ten. Where are my little girls? Where’s Marylee? Where’s my wife? Who are you people?” he demanded, backing away from Mandy into the wall. Josiah gently pushed Mandy out of the way and approached his father-in-law.

“Dad, we’re your family. I’m your son-in-law. Frank here is your son-in-law, too. This is your daughter, Mandy. You know all of us, you’re just a little confused right now,” Josiah said gently, attempting to take the man’s hand, but Christopher slapped it away.

“No! Stop saying that! Mandy’s two! I’m her father! I know how old my babies are! Where are they? What have you done with my children?” he screamed. Josiah nodded to Frank and the two men forcibly grabbed Christopher and took him upstairs. “Get your hands off me! Who are you?” Christopher shouted, struggling the entire way. They finally got him into bed and Frank gave him his medication. Soon, Christopher fell silent and was asleep. Mandy was sobbing by the doorway.

“He’s getting worse… I just don’t know what to do,” she wept. Frank and Josiah both walked over and hugged her. Suddenly, she gasped and doubled over, clutching her belly.

“Sweetie, what is it? What’s wrong?” Frank asked with alarm.

“The baby… it hurts…” Mandy gasped. Josiah knew the signs of a possible miscarriage. He had dealt with them when Marcie was pregnant.

“Frank, the same thing happened with my wife,” he told the father-to-be. “She could miscarry if she doesn’t rest and calm down. Get her to a bed and rub her belly, whisper to her, sing to her… anything to calm her. I’ll get some decaf tea for her,” he said. Frank nodded and led his wife to their bedroom, laying her on the bed.

“I’m scared…” Mandy whimpered. Frank stroked her hair and kissed her forehead.

“Don’t be, Honey. It’s going to be okay. Just relax,” he whispered, rubbing her belly, talking to her and humming softly into her ear, just like Josiah had suggested. Josiah returned with some tea for Mandy and assured her that it was decaf and the herbs in it were safe for her baby. Mandy took a sip and seemed to relax a bit before she sighed.

“My mom, my sister and now me… I think difficult pregnancies are a hereditary thing among the Charm women,” she whispered. Josiah and Frank nodded in agreement.

“Just try and keep your stress levels down and it’ll be okay, Mandy,” Josiah assured her. Mandy snorted. Her? Calm? It was unheard of, but she would try her best for her baby’s sake. She knew exactly what calmed her and she stood up, but both men panicked and started trying to force her to lie back down. Mandy sighed.

“I’m just going to paint. That always relaxes me, and I need to finish Josiah’s portrait, anyway, so I can get started on Frank’s.”

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Mandy went downstairs and finished Josiah’s portrait, hanging it on the wall. She thought it came out just a little splotchy, but she thought it was still pretty good. Just then, her cell phone rang. It was Marcie, telling her she was going to the library to study handiness after work and not to wait for her to serve dinner.

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Josiah came downstairs at that moment, also on his phone. “I guess so, but make sure your homework still gets done, and remember your curfew’s at eleven,” he said. “Okay, bye.”

“Was that Christopher? What did he want?” Mandy asked, cleaning up her paintbrushes.

“He wanted to go over to a friend’s house after school,” Josiah explained. “Some Jimmie Schmid kid. Apparently, they’re good friends, but I’ve never met him,” he frowned, a little puzzled. Mandy smiled and gave a small chuckle.

“You know how teenagers are; all secretive and distant. I wouldn’t worry too much about it,” she assured him.

Christopher and Jimmie sat in front of the television at Jimmie’s house, watching a romantic comedy. They had discovered at school that they both secretly enjoyed them, but would never say so in front of their other friends. The two of them had met in their biology class and had become good friends. They were always partnered up for class projects and spent all of their lunch breaks and spare periods together.

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When the movie ended, Jimmie and Christopher went into Jimmie’s room to hang out. Jimmie flopped down on his bed and stared at the ceiling. “That was a good movie,” he said. Christopher nodded.

“Yeah, I didn’t think it’d be good, but Sandra Bullok was actually funny for once,” he replied through a mouthful of chocolate bar. “Ryan Reynolds is a pretty good actor, too.” Christopher looked up to see Jimmie still staring into space on his bed. He walked over and sat down beside him, poking his shoulder. “Hey, what’s up? You look… I don’t know… distracted or something,” Christopher said. Jimmie sighed and sat up.

“Chris, can I tell you something? You can’t let anyone know about it. It’s eating me up keeping it in,” he said. Christopher sat up straighter and nodded.

“Of course. You’re my best friend,” he assured him. Jimmie smiled weakly and took a deep breath.

“The truth is, I’m not like most guys at our school. I mean, I am, but… there’s something different about me. I’ve known it for a while now, but I haven’t told anyone. I’m scared to,” he muttered. “I’m… gay…” he finished, saying the last word as if it didn’t fit right in his mouth, like he was still getting used to it. Christopher blinked in surprise.

“Oh… well, that’s not such a big deal. At least, not to me,” Christopher replied. “You’re still the same Jimmie I’ve always known,” he shrugged. Jimmie smiled and nodded.

“Exactly. I wish everyone else saw it that way, too,” he said.

“So… how long have you known?” Jimmie’s eyes shifted uncomfortably to the floor.

“Uh… since I got to know you…” he mumbled awkwardly, his face turning a deep scarlet. Christopher got the hint. He cleared his throat and stood up.

“Jimmie… you’re my best friend. I don’t want that to change, but you’re just my friend. I’m not gay,” he tried to explain as kindly as he could. Jimmie stared at him intensely.

“Are you sure about that?” he asked, and suddenly, Christopher wasn’t so sure anymore. He was suddenly very aware of the fact that he had never had a crush on a girl before, and that on more than one occasion, he had felt a warm affection for Jimmie that he had always passed off as just friendly, and that Jimmie never cared about his slobby habits or any of his other flaws. In a way, they were kind of… perfect for each other.

“I- I have to go…” Christopher mumbled, tripping over Jimmie’s schoolbag as he backed out of the room. He hadn’t realized how late it was until he stepped outside Glancing down at his watch, he saw that it was past midnight. “Crap! I should have been home over an hour ago!” he muttered to himself. With a frustrated sigh, he raised his hand to wave down a taxi, but a police cruiser pulled up to the curb instead and a stern-looking police woman stepped out of the car.

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“Christopher Charm?” she asked him. Christopher numbly nodded. “Your parents called us reporting you had gone missing. You shouldn’t be out past your curfew. Come with me,” she ordered, opening the back door for him. With a groan, Christopher climbed inside and buckled himself in.

They’re going to kill me… he thought to himself as the police officer drove him home. His conversation with Jimmie was still running through his mind, too. What if he’s right? It makes so much sense and I care about Jimmie a lot… but I never thought of it as anything more than friendship. I’m so confused…

When the cruiser pulled up to the house, Marcie was already waiting for him on the sidewalk. Christopher groaned and tried to sink further down in his seat, but the police officer opened the door and ordered him to get out. She turned to Marcie with Christopher trying to look small behind her. It didn’t work very well. Christopher was a rather big guy and the police officer was slim. “We found him on the other side of town, Ma’am. He’s safe and doesn’t appear to be under the influence of alcohol or narcotics,” she assured him.

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“Oh thank the Goddess!” Marcie wept. It looked like she had been crying for a long time. “Thank you for bringing my son home safe, Officer. I’ll take him from here.” As soon as the police officer got back in her cruiser and left, she turned on her son. “Do you have any idea how worried we’ve all been?” she hissed. Christopher had never seen his mother so angry and shrunk back from her wrath. Her glare was sharp enough to slice his skin to ribbons. “You could have been mugged! You could have been hit by a car! You could have gotten hurt with no one to help you! You could have been killed! Did you know they’ve found that Lucy Silvermoon’s body? She was hit by a car and left to die in a ditch! I can’t imagine what her family’s going through right now! Do you want to end up like her?”

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“No, Mom. I’m sorry…” Christopher mumbled, but Marcie wasn’t finished yelling at him on the front lawn. The neighbours were peering through their windows, trying to see what all the commotion was about. It was humiliating.

“Your aunt was in hysterics all night over you! She loves you so much and you nearly gave her a heart attack tonight! I can’t believe you would put your poor pregnant aunt through that. You know she’s having a difficult pregnancy! Your father and uncle are upstairs with her now, trying to keep her calm so she doesn’t lose her baby! How could you be so selfish?”

“I said I’m sorry, okay? Just leave me alone!” he shouted, stalking into the house. He did feel bad that he had stressed out his aunt so much, but he couldn’t stand there and listen to his mother guilt trip him for hours. He was way too preoccupied with Jimmie to deal with anything else.

I’ll just forget it happened, Christopher told himself that night in bed. I’ll pretend that nothing’s changed and if Jimmie tries to talk to me about it at school, I’ll find some excuse to leave and I won’t go over to his house anymore.

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