Chapter One, Section 1

THE FARMERS DAUGHTER Elizabeth Bouguereau 1887 oil on canvas

Elizabeth Bouguereau
oil on canvas

“Did you read mom’s email?” Cradling her cell phone, Charlotte Brooks buttoned up her white, fitted shirt.

“I’m still in shock,” Scott’s voice, on the other end of the line, sounded dazed. “I thought she’d be in that house forever.”

“What was with that ‘simplify my life’ stuff? I mean, how much simpler could her life be? She lives in Ipswich, where nothing ever happens.”

“I guess we’ll have to go back and find out.”

“Yeah, well, this is a really bad time for me to go  home.”

“Dear Charlotte,” her brother sounded droll. “Why can’t Mom adjust her life to your schedule?”

“I know, right?” Charlotte sat on her bed and laced up her suede running shoes.  “When you’re in TV production, you can’t afford to ever leave a job.”

“And freelance photographers are different?”

“Uh, yeah.” Charlotte hurried across her open living room and into the kitchen. “Plus you’re more established in your career.”

Scott grew serious. “Let’s get back to Mom. The thing is, we have to go.”

Snatching a yogurt from the fridge, she zipped off the foil cap.  “Can’t she hire movers?”

“Of course, but we’re going to have to sort through the family things.”

“I don’t want anything. You can have my third of the china.” Charlotte stirred her yogurt with gusto.

“What about the stuff in your room?”

“Everything will fit in one cardboard box. Two max.”

“Then it won’t take you long to pack.”

“Scott…” his sister began.

“Gotta go,” her brother finished.

Charlotte stared crossly out the window of her loft. Her building, at the crossroads of Sunset and Vine, had views of Downtown Hollywood and the nearby hills.  Two floors below, the morning commuters were gathering at the bus stop. There was the young bearded guy in the turban, the cluster of dark-haired housekeepers and a few students with backpacks. Everyone had ear buds on. To Charlotte, the sight of all the Vine Street regulars was somehow comforting.

The yogurt consumed, Charlotte grabbed her car keys and canvas tote and headed down to the parking garage. She started the motor, adjusted her Bluetooth, and then, after a hair-raising left turn across four lanes of traffic, calmly dialed her mother to explain: Packing up her old room and sorting through the family stuff was so not what she wanted to do right now.

*    *    *

“Mom? It’s me,” yelled Charlotte. To anyone outside the sky-blue hybrid, it looked like she was talking to herself. “Why didn’t you tell us you were selling the house?”

“Oh, a lot of reasons,” came the faint reply.

“You should have called.”

“Charlotte,” Amanda’s voice sounded stronger – and exasperated. “You know you never answer the phone.”

“Well, can we do this packing later?”

“How much later?”

“Thanksgiving vacation?”

“No, I have to be out by August first.”

Charlotte stomped the brakes. She’d almost blitzed the red light at Crescent Heights. “I can’t go back now – we’re just about to start shooting ‘My Fair Gangbanger.'”

“Can’t you get away for a weekend?”

“No, we shoot twenty-four-seven and my boss expects me to be around in case there’s a problem.”

There was a long pause.

“Mom?  Can you hear me?”

“Charlotte, a chapter of our life is ending,” Amanda’s voice came through loud and clear. “You may not realize it now, but it’s spiritually important that you say goodbye to the house. Please think about that. Now, I really must go. I love you!”

There was a click. Charlotte dropped her jaw. What was going on with everyone today?  Why didn’t they understand?  It wasn’t like she didn’t want to go back or she didn’t want to help out – it’s just her life was super busy right now.

Need more Chicken?  Section 2 is right here