Saturday, September 28, 2013

Boone's First Conversation with Charity from "The Christmas Daughter"

Now available for Kindle or in paperback.
I don't think I've ever written a story that affected me like this one is. In this scene, Boone has driven to southern New Jersey following a call from an old girlfriend, Luna, who is dying. She tells him he is the father of a 12 year old girl named Charity and she wants him to take care of her. Charity is very small, malnourished, and has been neglected most of her life. They are in a hospice run by nuns and Luna has just passed away. Dresden is the undertaker for the hospice:

In the hall long shafts of sunlight seemed out of place to him, out of place and wrong.
What he'd said to Dresden was true—he did have feelings that he was previously unaware of and now they bunched in his throat and behind his eyes as he walked slowly toward Luna's room. The door was closed and, as he got close, he saw that Charity sat alone on a bench. Her feet barely touched the floor and she sat leaning forward, her arms wrapped around her knees. It seemed impossible that anyone could be so little. Her dark brown hair fell forward and she had long bangs that covered her eyes when she tilted her head down as she did now. She wore blue jeans that were too big for her and a yellow sweatshirt that was clean but worn through at the elbows. Boone thought he had never seen a sadder sight.
“Hi,” he said.
“Hi.” She didn't look up.
He hunkered down in front of her and studied her face. There were no tears in her eyes but she was visibly trembling.
“I'm very, very sorry about your mother,” he said. “I wish she'd called me a long time ago so I could've taken care of both of you.”
She looked at him from under her bangs. “Now I have to go live with you,” she said it as though it was the most frightening thought in the world.
“I'd like it if you would.”
She sat still for a long time. “What else could I do?”
“Can I sit beside you?” He nodded toward the bench and she shrugged in reply. “I just talked to the undertaker and made arrangements to have your mother's remains sent to me. That way we can bury her in Marienstadt and you'll be able to go to the cemetery to visit her. Is that all right with you?”
She shrugged again, then nodded. He sighed trying desperately to find words.
“I want to show you something.” He took his cell phone from his shirt pocket, tapped through until he found its photo gallery, and selected a picture. “See this.” He held the phone out. She looked at it keeping her eyelids lowered. “That's my mother—your grandmother. She's so happy that you're coming to live with us.”
Charity looked at it but said nothing.
“And this...” He swiped the screen to the next picture. “That's the restaurant and hotel your grandma and I own. It's a really nice place.”
She watched as he swiped through pictures he had taken with the intention of putting them on the web site.
“This is the strudel shop downtown. The lady who owns it makes wonderful tarts and pies. We get muffins and strudel every morning to serve our guests. And this is our Town Hall. There's a big park across the street and in the summer every Saturday morning ladies set up tables and sell cookies and candy and sandwiches. And here...” He saw that she was watching closely. “This is called Pistner's Run. It's a real nice stream where people can go fishing.”
“Where is that?” she asked at last.
“It's just outside of a town called Marienstadt in Pennsylvania. It's a nice little town.”
“Where are the other buildings?” She tilted her head as though by doing so she could see around the corner.
“Well, our hotel and tavern and the house we live in are in the country but it's only about a mile into town. There are lots of stores there. Here...” He swiped through more pictures. “See this, that's Saint Walburga's Church. That's the church we belong to. They have a grade school and a middle school. You can go to school there, or you can go to the public school, whichever you prefer.”
She took the phone from him, studied the photo, then with her small finger swiped through more pictures, pausing occasionally to examine one.
“What's that?” She showed him the screen.
“Let me see.” He leaned closer. “I took that behind our house. Those are white-tail deer. We see a lot of them. They come out of the woods to feed in the backyard. Haven't you ever seen them before?”
“In pictures,” she said. “They won't hurt you, will they?”
He smiled. “No. They're big scardey-cats. They run away as soon as they see people.”
She swiped through a few more pictures, studying them intently.
“You can come in now.” Sister Dolorosa appeared in the doorway. When she saw Boone sitting beside Charity, she smiled and nodded approval.
He stood and reached to guide Charity but she scurried ahead and took Sister Dolorosa's hand as though she were a little child. Now available for Kindle or in paperback.

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