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It soon became clear to everyone in the Charm household that little Marina was a very active baby. She wasn’t even a year old, yet and already, she was trying to crawl around and whenever Parker set her down on her feet, holding her waist, she would move her feet back and forth like she was trying her hardest to walk. Katie would laugh whenever she saw this.

“It looks like someone’s going to make good use of that treadmill in the hobby room when she gets older,” Katie teased. The treadmill had sat unused for almost a year now, collecting dust. Marcie was the only person who really used it, and since she had died, it had become a temporary clothes hanger for the housekeepers while they ironed and sorted out laundry. Parker chuckled and kissed his daughter’s forehead, scooping her up in his arms.

“Let’s just hope she doesn’t get distracted and press the wrong setting on it,” he replied. Marina’s attention span seemed to be the equivalent of a goldfish’s. She would often try to do something and half-way through become distracted, forgetting what she had been doing before. It was adorable to watch, but Parker hoped it was just with small things. He was terrified of his only child, his darling baby girl forgetting to shut the stove off one day and… Parker couldn’t even think the rest. He just snuggled his baby closer to him.

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Matilda stared out her window with a frown on her face. I’m going stir-crazy cooped up in this house, she thought. I really need a job; the only problem is, I don’t know what I want to do. I know I want to make lots of money and make this house even more luxurious than it is. Living in the lap of luxury, I guess you could call it, but I don’t know what career I want to take to get that. I know the Military pays a lot, but after what happened to Aunt Marcie, I never want to go within a hundred feet of the military base. Business seems so boring and I’m so sick of the media hounding me wherever I go; I don’t want to give them more of a reason to by going into the entertainment industry. Besides, my dad, grandma and uncle were all already in the entertainment industry. I want to do something different.

Matilda sat like that for a very long time before finally standing up and shaking her head. “Well, bottom line is that I’m still antsy cooped up in here. If I can’t decide on a job, I might as well go out for some fresh air,” she told herself. She walked downstairs to see her mother painting a portrait of Katie to hang up on the wall. Now that she was officially part of the bloodline, she was entitled to have her portrait hang beside her husband’s. Parker’s hadn’t been started, yet, but Matilda knew her mother was powering through them as fast as she could. Her mother had told her that she even wanted to repaint Matilda’s portrait if she had time, since she felt her first attempt was sloppy. “Mother, I’m going to go into town for a bit. I’m feeling restless stuck in the house,” she announced, grabbing her coat from the stand in the main foyer. Mandy smiled and nodded.

“Okay, Dear. Have fun and be careful. Maybe you’ll meet Mr. Right when you’re out,” she winked. Matilda stared at her mother with a flat expression.

“I’m not looking for ‘Mr. Right’, Mother. I’m just walking around for a bit to get some air,” she replied cooly, running out to the curb to flag down a cab. She had asked why her family didn’t own a car even though they were rich, and was told that they didn’t want to spend a tonne of money on a car when they didn’t have a garage, yet. Matilda had brought up the idea of building a garage to her brother, who nearly had a heart attack at the thought of spending money that didn’t need to be spent. He already griped about the bills being over a grand a month.

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Matilda decided to just walk around the town square and take in the sights. It was hard to do when she could plainly see the paparazzi hiding in bushes, snapping pictures of her. It was exactly the reason she didn’t go out much. She despised being famous. I wouldn’t mind talking to them if they would respect my privacy, she thought irritably to herself as she passed the theatre.

“Excuse me, Miss. I think you dropped an earring,” a man called out from behind her. Matilda whirled around to see a young-looking, balding man run towards her with something tiny glinting in his hand. Feeling her ears, Matilda noticed that her right earring was in fact, missing. He approached her with a smile and opened his palm to allow her to take her earring back, which she did with a polite nod.

“Thank you,” she told him, sliding her earring back into her ear with ease. The man squinted at her for a moment, then his eyes opened wide.

“Say… are you Matilda Charm?” he asked her.

Here we go again, Matilda thought to herself, but nodded. “Yes, I am.” The man let out a hearty guffaw with a look of disbelief.

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“Wow! Who would have thought, eh? I’m Ralph, nice to meet you,” he told her shaking her hand vigorously. Matilda was polite enough to him, but her heart was hammering in alarm. She didn’t like being approached by men she didn’t know. It made her uneasy. She kept her eyes narrowed, keeping her guard up.

“It’s a pleasure to meet you also, Ralph,” she responded cooly, returning the handshake, though it made her feel sick. She especially didn’t like men she didn’t know touching her. She tried to excuse herself politely on several occasions, but Ralph seemed determined to keep her there, chatting. He talked about his new house and his ex-wife whom he had divorced because he didn’t like being “tied down”, in his words. Matilda found she liked the man less and less, despite him being even friendlier than her. After they had been standing there for almost an hour, Matilda cleared her throat. “It’s been lovely chatting with you, Ralph, but I’m really in a rush. I may see you again in town. Have a lovely afternoon,” she told him monotonously, turning to leave.

“Wait!” Ralph yelled. As Matilda turned back around, a bright flash nearly blinded her, making her raise her hands in front of her face to shield herself. “Yes! The perfect candid shot for the front page tomorrow!” he grinned. Matilda scowled.

“You’re a reporter? You tricked me?” she demanded angrily, stalking towards him. Ralph backed away with his hands in the air.

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“Hey, I’m just doing my job,” he defended himself. At that moment, the paparazzi in the bushes decided to pop out and rush at Matilda, crowding her and wildly snapping photos until she felt claustrophobic, even though she’d never had a problem with having lots of people around before.

“Matilda, look over here! No, look over here, Matilda! Turn your head towards the light so we can get better shots!” She tried to tell them to go away and leave her alone, but her voice was drowned out by the clicking of cameras and people shouting at her. When she refused to show her face, she felt rough hands start to grab her, trying to pull her arms down. She thought her heart might explode from fear.

“Hey! Leave her alone! You’re going to suffocate the poor woman! Go on, get out of here you parasites! You’re scaring away all my customers!” an angry voice shouted. Matilda felt the mob around her disperse and much gentler hands leading her to a park bench to sit down. “Are you okay? You’re shaking. Geeze, those guys must have traumatized you. Just a second.” Matilda looked up to see a handsome young man in a Devisadero Budget Books uniform rush inside the bookstore and come out with a cold glass of water. He handed it to her with a smile. “Here. It might help you get rid of the shakes.”

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“Thank you. That’s very kind of you,” Matilda mumbled, taking a sip. The cold water was refreshing and did help her to calm down. “I apologize for turning away customers and losing your business. I can compensate you if you’d like.” The man laughed.

“You’ll do no such thing. First of all, it wasn’t your fault. Second of all, that was just a lie to get them away from you; in fact, a crowd of people started flooding into the store when they saw Matilda Charm was right outside, so really, you helped my business and I should thank you,” he grinned.

“It seems silly that you know my name, yet I don’t know yours. I like to know the names of people who rescue me, so I can thank them properly,” Matilda commented. The man laughed.

“Oh sorry. That was kind of rude, I guess. I’m Thaddeus. Thaddeus Corcoran. I just moved here with my wife, Lindy, and daughter, Juliana. She’s twelve,” he said proudly, though he got a slight frown on his face when he mentioned his wife.

Matilda and Thaddeus ended up talking on the park bench long into the night and into the next morning. Thaddeus had to run inside the bookstore to take care of customers and close up for the night, but he always returned to the bench to speak with Matilda. Matilda didn’t notice her father stepping out of a cab behind her to go to work, but he sure noticed his daughter.

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