Saturday, October 18, 2008

Charity's Shadow Part V

With this final chapter, we bring the story of Ben and Charity to a close. Thank you for your patience. I miscalculated when I first divided the story for posting, which caused me to drag it out a little longer than necessary. I hope no one was injured!


Charity's Shadow--The Finale

On Monday morning, Ben arrived at work early as was expected of him. Edna was busy sweeping and failed to notice when he walked in. When she saw him, she screeched and clutched her chest. “Sweet Moses in the river, you gave me a start.”

Ben was standing taller than before. “Sorry, Edna. Are you okay?”

She pressed imaginary wrinkles from her apron. “That’s a question everyone seems to be asking me these last few days. So, how was your date?” On cue, he turned and let her see his right cheek and the shiner he sported. “Merciful Heaven. What happened?”

Ben gave a Reader’s Digest version of what happened to him, politely eliminating any references to their osculatory behavior. He explained how Rocky attacked him and then proceeded to pummel him until Chasity could get between them.

Edna frowned. “Ben, I’m old fashioned, and I don’t understand why you didn’t try to defend yourself.”

It was Ben’s turn to frown. “It’s because I drank that iced tea. They must have put something in it that affected me. I was feeling pretty good, but I had almost no control over what I was doing.” He sat on a stool near the refrigerator that housed the roses. “I was in way over my head. I didn’t belong to such a fast crowd. I feel as though I’m lucky to be standing here.” His lips curled in distress. “It was exciting, and I almost got swept away with the excitement, but I didn’t belong there. My mother raised me better than to go drinking and carousing.”

“And fighting,” Edna pointed out with a mischievous smile.

“And fighting.” Ben stood and stretched. “Man, Rocky could hit like a pro. I must have looked like a fool laying there getting beaten.”

Edna was discontent. “I just can’t imagine Charity behaving like that. She seems like such a sweet girl. I’d never have guessed she was so racy.”

“Well, I’m done with women. They are just too painful.”

The grandmother in her reached out to him. “Now, now. Let’s not throw the baby out with the bath water. We just misjudged the qualities of that woman. We’ll find you another.” She turned to her clipboard. “I have a delivery over at the hospital. Could you run this one over to room 549? It’s for a friend of mine who has cancer.”

He reached for the potted plant in her hand. “I’ll be right back.”

A few minutes later, Charity stepped through the door and lingered over the daffodils on the counter. “These are so pretty,” she mused.

Edna looked up when she heard her voice. “Had a good time this weekend, did you?”

Charity smiled and didn’t seem to notice the icy tone in her voice. “I did!” She quizzically glanced at her. “How did you know?”

Edna frowned. “Ben told me.”

Charity tilted her head. “Ben? I didn’t know you knew Ben.”

“Of course I do.” Edna moved to the counter and picked at some yellow leaves on an ivy. “Don’t you feel bad about what happened?”

“With Ben?” She was almost sarcastic. “He deserved to get beaten like that.”

Edna was stirred to anger, but held her tongue. “Deserved?”

“Why, he was strutting around, telling everyone that he was the king of the hill. I had to put him back in his place.” She laughed at the memory. “You should have seen him a few minutes later. That boy never saw it coming.”

“That’s the truth. But did he deserve to be humiliated?”

Again, a silly smile brightened her face. “You should have heard him bragging about how good he was. Why, when I delivered that first ringer, he was shocked. He knew then it was over.”

Edna faced her with hands on her hips. “What? It was you who beat him?”

“Of course it was me. That’s what’s funny about the whole thing.”

“But,” she stopped to think. “But he said it was your boyfriend.”

“Edna, you know I don’t have a boyfriend.” She lifted her eyebrow. “What made you think it was my boyfriend?”

Edna stopped to consider that. “Well, it’s what he said. Ben told me it was…” She lifted her hand to her mouth. “I can imagine how embarrassing that must have been. He was beaten by a girl.”

Charity playfully flexed a muscle. “And severely beaten, I might add.” She glanced at her watch. “Oops, look at the time. I better get to work.” She stepped onto the sidewalk and yelled over her shoulder. “I’ll see you in the morning!”

Edna turned to her stool and leaned into her knees in deep thought. “Why would Ben lie to me about what happened? Was he ashamed that he was beaten up by a girl? Or, was he simply being a gentleman and refused to strike a woman?” She heard his shoes shuffle on the sidewalk as he returned from his delivery. She saw him glance over his shoulder and linger by the door for a moment. He seemed lost in thought a moment, unaware that he was being observed. “Are you okay, Ben?”

Her question brought him back to himself. “Yes. Your friend said to say hello to you.”

“Mr. Jameson and I grew up together. I’m sorry to see him suffer so.”

“He had a good attitude about his condition. I sat with him a few minutes.” He smiled to Edna. “I hope it was okay to do that.”

“Of course.” She waved him off as if his concerns were unfounded. “I’m sorry about Charity. I heard the truth about what happened.”

He was silent a moment. “So, she came by again?”

“Just as she does each morning. Why didn’t you tell me that she was the one who hurt you?”

He considered her words. Was it Rocky who hurt him, or the fact that Chasity and Rocky reunited while he lay on the ground with a bloody nose? Perhaps it was the humiliation of being left lying in the sand while his date affectionately greeting his tormentor. Either way, he couldn’t think about Chasity without recalling some level of pain. “Well, women are mean,” he said dismissively. “Either way, I’m through with women.” He smiled weakly. “My museum job will offer better company, so long as it’s full of mummies.”

The phone rang and Edna took another delivery order, which she handed to Ben. “This is going to the hospital to a young lady admitted over the weekend. Before you go, I have to make a confession. Would you sit down for a moment?” She waited until he was settled in and she had his attention. “When I hired you, it was just so you could meet my friend. I’m sorry that didn’t work out. I had a good feeling about you two, but I have learned my lesson. Unfortunately, I can’t afford to keep you on at 12 dollars an hour. My profits are already small and I simply can’t afford you. I’m sorry to do this while you’re down, but I have to let you go.” She reached for his hand and affectionately patted it. “You can finish the week and then that will be the end.”

He nodded. “Well, it was understood that this was a temp job when I agreed to work for you. I understand.” He squeezed her hand in return. “I appreciate you trying to fix us up. I know you meant well.”

She had a tear in her eye. “I did. And, I’m sorry.”

He stood to his feet. “Well, if it’s okay with you, I’m going to make this delivery and then I’ll clock out. I just don’t have the heart to be here any longer.”

“I know.” She watched him make his way out the door and onto the sidewalk. “Yes, I’ve learned my lesson. I’ll never interfere with matters of love again. I’m just not good at it.” She picked up a package of baby’s breath. “Some things weren’t meant to be.”


Ben made his way into the hospital and stopped by the information desk to ask for directions. “Pardon me? Could you tell me which room a C. Wilson is in?”

The gray haired lady paused a moment and glanced through a chart. “I have a man and a woman named Wilson. Both have an initial of C. Do you know which one it is?”

His forehead wrinkled as he tried to remember what Edna said about the delivery. “I think it was for a young lady who just arrived a day or two ago.”

The woman nodded and said, “I have one who was admitted Sunday afternoon.”
“That has to be her.” He examined the sticky note with the room number written on it. “That will be the elevator in the west tower?”

“Yes.” She pointed across the lobby. “The west tower.”

When he found the second floor, he noticed that he was just down from the intensive care unit. He walked to the end of the hall and double checked the sticky note. “232. This must be it.” He knocked on the door and no one answered, so he cautiously pressed against the large frame until the door slightly opened. The room was empty except for the lifeless form lying on the bed. He tiptoed around the bed and placed the vase on the windowsill and turned to leave. He stole a glance at the young lady in the bed and stopped cold in his tracks. It was Chasity.

He was forced to do a double take as he considered the girl lying before him. It was definitely his former date. She appeared to be sleeping, so he tiptoed out of the room and almost tripped over the nurse carrying a tray of bandages. The nurse asked him, “Are you a family member of Miss Wilson?”

He shook his head. “No. But I did know her. What happened?”

“It’s so sad. She was brought into the ER yesterday from an overdose of crystal meth. She and a friend of hers.”

“A man or a woman?”

“A woman. There were three of them and they were doing drugs early Sunday morning and one of them noticed that the other girl was not moving. They checked on her and she didn’t respond. They called 911. By the time the ambulance arrived, all three of them were unconscious. The girl who was unresponsive died last night. The other two were very sick, but they will probably recover.”

“Are they going to be okay?”

“Who knows? They will likely have some brain damage.”

“Thanks. Have a nice day.” He nodded to the nurse and began to make his way down the hall. When he saw the waiting room on the right, he faltered a moment, and then collapsed into a chair. His hands were quivering and his breathing was labored. The enormity of what happened to Chasity was overwhelming him. The longer he considered that he could have been in that hospital bed near her, the more distress he felt. Would he have done the drugs with them? Who knows? He was certainly playing along with them. By the time they got the drugs out, he might have been so drunk that he would have tried anything.

After a moment, he collected himself and stood to his feet. Apparently, he was unsteady, for the next thing he knew, a pleasant and friendly voice was directing him to sit back down. From his chair, he looked up and gasped. It was the girl from the street, the one he watched walk past his house every morning.

She observed his reaction and thought it odd. “Are you okay? You look as though you saw a ghost.”

“More like a shadow.” He smiled. “My name is Ben.”

She returned his smile. “Pleased to meet you, Ben. My name is Charity. I like the name Ben; it’s my brother’s name.”

He hesitated a moment. “Listen, I don’t want to seem like a weirdo, but I’ve seen you before.”

“Where?” Her eyes were friendly and inviting.

“I live just down the street, kind of across from a little flower shop on the corner.”

Her face brightened. “Do you mean Edna’s flower shop? I stop in there every morning a smell the flowers.”

He blinked rapidly a moment. “Every day?”

“Practically.” She laughed to herself. “That sounds a little strange, doesn’t it?”

He shook his head. “Not at all. I’ve wanted to meet you for a long time, but I never had an opportunity to say hi.”

“Well,” she blushed shyly. “Hi.”



“Would you join me for a cup of coffee?”

“I’d love to.”


Alison Bryant said...

Drat! I was wrong on both of my twist predictions. You have a way of keeping us guessing.

Travis said...

What was your prediction?

Rosslyn Elliott said...

Very interesting twist!

Travis said...

I'm still wondering what Alison predicted for the story.

Thanks, Rosslyn. I try to keep people guessing. You know how hard it is to keep an audience, eh?

Alison Bryant said...

I'm still wondering what Alison predicted for the story.

Yeah, me too! I wonder what's up with her.

sharilyn said...

ok. i hate to admit it, but i was very confused by the story and had to read it twice. granted, once was after midnight, so perhaps, i didn't have all of my brain cells functioning... but i was confused by the names. i wasn't sure if you had just typo'd 'charity,' and then it happened more than once? so, when i got to the end, i was just lost. normally, i'm not so lame! anyway, after rereading it just now, i get it...and i liked it. i do think, however, that having the girls' names be so close makes the twists more difficult. i think it would have worked with them being similar names not so much the same. (i don't think edna ever uses the name 'charity' when speaking to ben, does she?)

all that to say, travis...i think it was a clever story (just a bit too confusing for late-night reading). i look forward to reading more of your stories!