It Takes a Village; finished 3/30

[I]Most of the stories I write are somewhat on the literary side. Of course, most of the stories I write are never finished. This is in fact a complete story of about 12.5K words and, unusual for me, it’s actually a bit on the schmaltzy side. My son labeled it “ABCFamily, which is both good and bad.” I think he is correct. Nonetheless, I like it, so I’m placing it here as an initial story for that reason. Also because it’s the only one I currently have that contains any diaper content. To be truthful, though, the diaper content here is sort of tangential, which is rather the point: it was my intent to compose a mainstream story with an incontinent character. I guess you’ll have to let me know what you think of the result.


[/I]It Takes a Village


There was something about the sky that always felt as if it were actually smiling to Charlotte when her family came here to the lake, and now she was smiling back as her mother glided toward her through a sunlight so startling she needed to shield her eyes.

Raising her hand to her forehead, she could see her mother clearly though she was still closer to the house than to the dock where Charlotte sat. Everything about her mother shimmered: her softly swaying hair, her blue and green beach covering, whatever skin was showing: everything. A trick of the sun, which was so bright it hurt.

“If you’re coming out to sit, I hope you used lots of sunscreen,” she called out. “It’s a beast today.”

Her mother smiled, her face still shimmering, as she joined her near the dock, taking the chair next to Charlotte and sitting down. “I’ve raised you well,” she said.

The compliment was nice, but Charlotte failed to grasp its meaning. She turned toward her mother.

She was gone.

Charlotte leapt from the chair so quickly that she knocked it over. “Mom?” she called out. “Mom?”

There was no answer other than the sound of waves hitting against the dock. She cried out louder, “Mom! Where are you?” Only the waves, thwacking the dock on their way to shore.

But that too wasn’t right: the lake should be calm on a sunny day. She turned and saw that, for some reason she didn’t understand, it was indeed churning almost violently. Why? She hadn’t heard any speedboats pass that would account for it. And anyway it wasn’t only here; the whole lake seemed to be full of waves as if there were a storm coming.

Suddenly she realized: there was a storm coming. Something enormous, sitting out on the lake. She screamed again for her mother, but her voice was lost in the wind that had come out of nowhere, blowing the chairs across the lawn, smashing their boat against the dock, practically lifting her right off the ground as she fought against it on the way back to the house.

Her father stood on the porch. “Charlotte!” he yelled into the wind. “Charlotte!”

He tried to edge out into the yard toward her but the wind was so strong he couldn’t; it pushed him back as it was pushing her back. And she realized…it was blowing both ways. She was never going to be able to fight this thing. In a moment, it would just…take her.

And then she was there again, like a beacon: her mother. She was standing, somehow untouched by the demon wind, just ten feet away.

“Come to me, Sweetheart,” she said. “I’ll keep you safe.”

But as Charlotte struggled her hardest against the fierce wind, desperately striving to make it to that oddly calm place, she felt her strength giving way.

“Mom!” she hollered. “I can’t make it! Help me!”

But her mother stood there, arms out, waiting for her.

“I’m not going to make it, Mom!” she screamed into the roaring winds.

As Charlotte finally gave into her growing weakness and let the wind carry her away, three things happened. First, she watched the calm pocket containing her mother vanish as easily as it had appeared. Second, she heard, over the howls of the winds, her father desperately crying her name.

Third, she woke–as she always did–in her bed, in her room in Evanston, breathing heavily and wearing a wet diaper. The nighttime incontinence had been an emotional by-product of her mother’s drowning; she was used to it by now, and the soggy garment didn’t bother her half so much as the fact that she’d had that damned dream again.

Re: In Her Wake

It’s early yet to say much, but I like it so far, and you have my attention when you post more.

Re: It Takes a Village


Her mother had always promised to keep her safe. She’d told her that, no matter what, she would be there to keep her safe. Well, she wasn’t going to be. Charlotte was twelve years old and had no one to keep her safe.

OK, that wasn’t totally true. She had her father, but sometimes she felt he was more of a wreck than she was. And she was smart enough to know she was a wreck. Hell, she was supposed to be some kind of genius. Last year, in sixth grade, she had the best grades in the class. This year, though, she found she just didn’t care. Her friends, especially Abby and Marianne, had really tried to be supportive, but she was such a mess that even they were slipping away. She hardly saw them outside of school anymore, and she wasn’t sure she cared about that, either. She hadn’t even cared about the nighttime protection. That probably should have been emotionally devastating; logically, she knew that. But whatever. She could need them all day long and she still wouldn’t care. Her mother was dead. There was nothing left to care about.

As to her father, he had retreated into a world of miniature trains and villages. Once, this had been just a small hobby for him; they had always had a little train running around the Christmas tree. But since her mother Emily died, Robert had immersed himself in his made-up world. At first it was just a way to ease the pain and fill a void of time and energy in his life: browse websites and order things; put them together.

Then it became something else.

Now it was December, five months after the accident, and he had become a god. He had created a universe at one end of their double-sized living room. It had begun, of course, with the trains. Two trains, running on separate tracks, ran simultaneously around and through a wintry landscape that he had meticulously created. Even at that early point it was far more elaborate than the simple set-ups that he’d used at Christmas. But Robert was not through.

Buildings sprang up along the tracks. At first the buildings related to the train: stations of one sort or another. But it didn’t take long until a small village blossomed near the largest station, complete with commerce and people to create that commerce. He’d decided from the beginning that the village would be modern; its style matching the trains he’d started with. Still, it was going to be Christmastime in his village, so a bit of retro flair—horse-drawn carriages and the like—would not be out of place.

Homes sprang up in the outcroppings of the little universe, as did small businesses like gas stations, restaurants, and similar independent places, and a few other little enclaves in random corners of the huge complex. People build where they build; he wasn’t going to stop them. And by December his universe was humming along, full of people and life and whatever comes with it.

Like his own life, though, that of his universe was of the still variety.

He did what he needed to take care of his daughter. Or anyway he tried. Her bedwetting had surprised him; she’d never done that before. But the child psychologist he’d taken her to after being assured by her doctors that nothing was physically wrong told him that it wasn’t uncommon for children to react in many different ways to such traumatic losses. The shrink had suggested using protection to limit the mess. Robert really thought Charlotte would fight him on that, but she’d agreed without even a word.

She saw the shrink every two weeks alone, and every week with him. He wasn’t really sure if the therapy helped either one of them, but he knew he would try anything, and he knew he couldn’t do it alone. It was so hard to help her when his own world was so shattered. Emily had been that world since the day he’d met her. She’d been standing outside of Second City, this beautiful redhead just desperately trying to get rid of two tickets for that night’s show. So he went up to her.

“How much?” he asked.

“Oh God,” she laughed. “At this point, I don’t even care!”

He joined her laughter. “Well,” he said, “you really are not a very good negotiator. Tell me, why are you giving them up?”

She shrugged. “My boyfriend turned out to be a dipshit, so I got stuck with these.”

He thought for a moment, and then said, “Tell you what. I’ll buy both of them at face value if you’ll use the second one and see the show with me.”

She shrugged again. “Well, you can’t be any more of a dipshit than he turned out to be, and at least I get sixty bucks and a show in the bargain.”

They’d both gotten much more than that. Until last summer, when…

Robert looked across the living room at his daughter, glumly seated on the couch with a book perched in her lap, a nearby lamp illuminating her, pretending to read.

“Charlotte?” he said.

She looked up.

“I was thinking: want to put up Christmas decorations?”

In truth he really didn’t want to; it was something that reminded him too much of Emily. But he thought Charlotte should have something normal.

She shook her head. “Not really,” she said.

He looked down at his village. There was a large parcel in the east side he could do something with. The O’Deans might want to move out of the apartment they were sharing with her mother, with the baby on the way. Maybe they should build a house just out of town, and if he put up a new subdivision?

He shook off the thought. Focus on Charlotte.

“Why not, Honey? You usually like putting up decorations. It would be fun.”

She didn’t even hesitate. “It won’t.”

“Come on, Char. We can light some candles to get that nice Christmasy smell we like, and I can drag up all of the decorations to put up, and—”

“NO!” she practically screamed, cutting him off in mid-thought.

For a beat, there was silence. He looked at his daughter and saw, in the lamplight, that her eyes were damp. “No,” he repeated. And then, though he already knew the answer: “May I ask why not?”

Her small voice filtered across the room. “Because it was Mom’s thing.”

With that, she got up and quietly walked down the hallway to her bedroom, closing her door behind her.

Re: It Takes a Village

I love the story so far. It’s sad about her mothers death but a well written story.

Re: It Takes a Village


In her room, she found that she was too keyed up. She was angry, and she didn’t want to be. A glance at her clock–9:35–told her it was late enough to go to bed if she wanted to, so she decided just to power down for the night.

In her bathroom, she brushed her teeth and took her nighttime pills. Staring at the bottles, she decided to add a Xanax. She didn’t take them regularly, but tonight it would calm her down, help her to sleep.

Going back into her room, Charlotte changed into her pajamas. As she got out her diaper, she had two sudden thoughts: the first was how bizarrely routine this nighttime ritual had become for a twelve-year-old girl. And the second, immediately following it, was how likely the thing would be needed, especially with the Xanax.

When it was all done, she crawled into her bed and curled up, cuddling her polar bear Pringles, which was more than half as tall as she was. It helped to cuddle Pringles; he had been part of her life as long as she could remember, a birthday gift her parents had given her a long time ago, when things were…right.

After a while, though, it seemed that even Pringles and the pills would not help her tonight. Pulling the covers back and sliding the bear out of the way, she reached over, turned on a small light, picked up her diary and started writing; nothing, however, seemed to make any sense. She was definitely angry, but she didn’t think she was angry at her father. Offering to set up decorations was a bit stupid, but he meant well. It’s just that she didn’t want to do…anything. He should have known that by now anyway: her world died with her mom.


Why in the world had she gone kayaking that morning? She knew the weather forecasts; they had joked about it the night before.

“What does she mean by heavy weather, Mom? How can weather be heavy?”

She had smiled. “I don’t know,” she said, “but look at that skinny girl. I’ll bet it’s all heavy to her!”

Still, she went out. Alone. Before Charlotte and her dad were even awake. And when the storm began, they didn’t even know to look for her. Charlotte had been first awake and was watching TV. Robert had decided to sleep in; nothing to do in a storm anyway. It wasn’t until he came downstairs and Emily wasn’t there that they realized she wasn’t home, that there was something to be worried about.

Why the hell did she go out? She swore she’d always be there, but she went out into a storm and now she wasn’t. And she never would be again.

“I hate you,” Charlotte said aloud, surprising herself. She didn’t know where it had come from. It wasn’t a thought she’d ever had before. She turned it over, considered it. She thought of the nightmares, the incontinence, the fact of her life now. She tried it out again.

“I hate you.”

It should have hurt, but it didn’t. She said it louder. “I hate you!” Finally, she searched her soul for all of the pain she could find, all of the emptiness, all of the dreams of who she should have been, and she screamed as loud as she could manage: “I HATE YOU!!!”

Then she collapsed onto the bed.

“Charlotte?” Her father opened the door a crack. “Do you need me to come in?”

She was silent for a moment before she softly answered, “No, I’m going to sleep” and let him leave. There was nothing he could do anyway. He and his train village. He was so obsessed with that thing that he hardly even noticed how much she was hurting anymore. Hell, he was in so deep he talked to it. He had named the residents. She even knew some of them; you could hardly help knowing if you lived with him. McKenzie the baker, Miller the cop, Benny and Will over at the coffee shop, Charlie the cabbie, etc. And each of them had full background stories as well. It was nuts, but at least he had an outlet.

She hadn’t been able to find anything at all. She’d tried. The shrink had suggested all sorts of things. Drawing. Sports. Writing. Walking. Yoga. And Abby and Marianne tried, too, while they still came around, but nothing stuck. The truth is, she thought, she just didn’t want to do anything. What she wanted to do, if she really admitted it, was to die.

Why not? Without her mom she was dead anyway. Just waiting for the real thing to catch up. She had no interests anymore, no friends anymore, no life anymore. Her father was living in a fantasy world of miniature trains, towns, and people. She was exhausted. She was tired of waking up to wet diapers caused by terrible nightmares. She was tired of living as one of the walking dead. Far better to be one of the really dead. Then at least she could be with her mother, if that was really a thing. Probably wasn’t, though. But whatever. Anything was better than this.

No one would miss her anyway, except her dad. And he’d get over her quickly enough. He’d probably name someone in his village for her, just as she knew he’d done with her mom.

She knew exactly how to do it. The drugs her shrink gave her for her depression: she just needed to take the whole bottle. It was a fresh refill, so there were lots of pills. And if she did it when she went to bed on a weekend night, her dad wouldn’t find her until…well, heck, maybe not until the body started stinking.

She smirked. It was a gross thought. And it was unfair to her dad. Probably.

Charlotte got up and walked into her bathroom. She picked up the tiny bottle of pills and examined it: full nearly to the top. It’s Friday, she thought. I could do this tonight. It was suddenly so tempting a thought that, for the first time in what seemed forever, the tumult in Charlotte’s head glossed over. Where there was usually the ache of emptiness and the horror of loneliness along with the pain of abandonment and the misery of lost love, there was now…nothing. A calm. A way out.

She walked back into her room. She realized she should probably leave a note, not that it wouldn’t be obvious, so she opened her laptop and typed:

Dear Dad,

I’m sorry. I really am. You did your best but I just couldn’t take it.

Love, Charlotte

She stared for a moment at the screen as if it were some kind of talisman. Finally, she stood up, catching sight of herself in her full-length mirror as she did. Her eyes went to the small bulge in her pajama bottoms, and she suddenly thought it was a good thing she was “protected” after all. She’d read that dead bodies evacuated their waste; she was glad to be prepared.

Am I really going to do this? she silently asked no one at all.

“I don’t think you should,” came the completely unexpected answer.

Re: It Takes a Village; Ch 3 now posted 3/10

I want to make a nice comment, but I’m not quite sure where to go with it. You’ve kind of left us hanging with that chapter ending, but I can’t argue that it isn’t a perfectly normal and reasonable writing choice.

Re: It Takes a Village; Ch 3 now posted 3/10

I tend to like somewhat cliffhanging endings, and an answer to an unasked question when no one is even in the room seemed to qualify. :slight_smile:

Re: It Takes a Village; Ch 3 now posted 3/10

It certainly does that. And of course, now I want more, right now :slight_smile:

Re: It Takes a Village; Ch 3 now posted 3/10

Well you certainly have my attention as well.
For lack of flaws, I have no critiques. And because this is so early-on, I’ll just quote Ally, in lieu of speculation.

Re: It Takes a Village; Ch 3 now posted 3/10

This only has eleven parts; as much as I’d like to spread it out, the sections are short (especially this one) and I keep thinking I should post a new one every few days. So anyway…[SIZE=2]


Whirling around with a speed she’d forgotten she had, Charlotte searched her room for the source of the response. At first, she saw nothing, and the only sound she could hear was the magnified echo of her own pounding pulse.

“Is someone…here?” she asked aloud.

“Of course,” said Pringles.

She stared at the stuffed bear sitting on her bed. She’d never read that Xanax caused hallucinations, but

“You’re not hallucinating, Charlotte,” said the bear. “I’m talking to you.”

This time Charlotte saw the bear’s mouth move, saw his eyes twinkle and his head nod, saw his arms and hands gesture. Wait…not hands…paws.

She leapt away quickly, realizing even as she did it that she was feeling frightened of Pringles. What was going on here?

The bear smiled. “It’s actually pretty simple, Charlotte. I’m not really Pringles. I’m just appearing to you in the most comforting form I could find in your mind.”

The not-Pringles bear continued to smile, as if that totally explained everything, as if she’d be perfectly happy that something had possessed her teddy bear. Or whatever was going on. Charlotte backed farther away. Suddenly the bear grew anxious.

“Oh, no,” said not-Pringles. “I see that didn’t really…I was trying to help you to…oh darn it!

Not-Pringles had completely lost his smile. He rambled on, talking more to himself than to her. “This always happens. No matter what I’m supposed to do, I somehow mess it up. And now you’re too scared of me for it to work.”

Charlotte was slightly less scared by now than utterly confused, so she asked, “For what to work?”

The white bear looked up at the girl. “For me to help you. Of course.”

They stared at each other for what seemed to each of them to be a very long time before Charlotte replied, “Of course.”

Tentatively, not-Pringles started speaking. “May I–may I try this again?”

She nodded, uncertain of what other response she could possible give.

The bear sighed. “Have you ever heard of a guardian angel?” he asked. Another nod. “Well, I’m one. I’m yours. And I’m sorry: I haven’t done a very good job so far.”

She considered that statement for a moment. “No,” she said, her voice glossing over with her normal dull pain. “No, you haven’t.”

“Wait,” the not-Pringles bear angel said. “Please. Hear me first before you go where you’re going. I know you have every right to be mad at me, at Fate, at Heaven, at the Universe, at everything. You’ve had terrible things happen to you. I couldn’t stop them; that isn’t the job of a guardian angel.”

“Then what the hell is?”

“Helping you through the inevitable pain that comes from being alive. And that’s where I’ve really let you down. I haven’t found a way to slice through your pain.”

Charlotte stared at the bear. “Maybe I just don’t want you to.”

The white bear looked sad. “But you need to, Charlotte. It’s part of being human. It’s part of being alive.”

She shook her head. “I stopped being alive when my mother died. I’m no more alive than the people in Dad’s village.”

Not-Pringles looked up, thoughtful. “That could work,” he said.

“What could work?”

For the first time since this Alice In Wonderland lunacy had begun, the bear stood up. Now he could look her directly in the eyes, and when she looked back she saw that there was something very peculiar going on there. Pringles’ eyes were made of some shiny marbles or something, and they looked dark and glistening. But not-Pringles’ eyes were…she didn’t know what they were. Looking into them was like looking into the night sky. Stars and planets and comets swirled in spirals and patterns within his eyes. She couldn’t take hers away. And slowly she just felt herself melting into them.

Re: It Takes a Village; Ch 4 now posted 3/12

Hmm… A guardian angel in her bear. I like it.

Your experience proofreading as a teacher plainly shows, in that I haven’t found even one lousy typo to point out. Even here, that qualifies as exceptional on that score.

Re: It Takes a Village; Ch 4 now posted 3/12

[QUOTE=ally;67950]Hmm… A guardian angel in her bear. I like it.

Your experience proofreading as a teacher plainly shows, in that I haven’t found even one lousy typo to point out. Even here, that qualifies as exceptional on that score.[/QUOTE]

Well, I can’t promise to maintain that level of perfection. The fact is that I’m a lousy typist. I just try to proof everything many times and hope I catch it all. :slight_smile:

Re: It Takes a Village; Ch 4 now posted 3/12


The swirling patterns congealed into glowing, twinkling lights surrounding her every side, and she suddenly realized she was sitting in a gazebo. It was a great white gazebo in the center of a town square, sparkling with Christmas lights. Casting her glance around the square, she saw that the entire town was similarly decorated, and people were walking about everywhere: happy people stopping to talk to each other, wandering into stores, sipping what looked like coffee or hot chocolate from a kiosk at the edge of the park.

She seemed to have somehow materialized right in the middle of an episode of “Gilmore Girls.” Charlotte found herself looking for familiar characters or places, but there was no Lorelei, no Luke’s. It wasn’t Stars Hollow; it was…she didn’t know what it was.

What the heck was going on?

How had she gotten here? Where was her bedroom? And where was that stupid bear?

She looked down at herself for the first time. She was dressed pretty much as everyone else she could see, though there was nothing she was wearing that she actually recalled owning: boots, leggings, skirt, sweater, warm jacket, hat, gloves, scarf, all in Christmasy colors.The temperature wasn’t actually all that cold; in fact, everything seemed perfect. She slipped one of the gloves off and reached under her skirt, confirming what she already knew: she was wearing her diaper. Why? She was outside, awake. She didn’t need it when she was up.

Charlotte stood in the gazebo, taking in the town as far as she could see it. At one end of the square stood a lovely white town hall. It looked like every other town hall she’d ever seen. Clearly it was kept up well: it had a new coat of paint on it, the statues near it were clean and devoid of graffiti or pigeon droppings or whatever, and of course the omnipresent Christmas lights and wreaths decorated its entrance.

At the other end was an old fashioned movie theatre, one of those places you just knew had been around when the movies Dad loved watching–Casablanca, Singing in the Rain–were playing first run. She liked Singing in the Rain; it was really funny. They had seen the musical theatre version of it last June, before–

She shook the thought off, continuing her visual journey around the square, which seemed oddly familiar though she couldn’t remember ever having been here, when she suddenly realized that music was playing from speakers in poles throughout it. Right now the song was “Carol of the Bells,” her mother’s favorite Christmas song. Crap, she thought. Just when I’m trying to stop thinking of her, that comes on. No choice but to wait it out; there was nowhere to go to escape it. Thank goodness it was a short song. But no sooner had she thought that when she heard something in the music that told her that this specific version was a mix that would likely be much longer than usual.

Feeling tears slipping down her face, she sat down and closed her eyes.

Hark how the bells, sweet silver bells, all seem to say throw cares away…

Her mother’s sweet voice singing along as she made cookies, the house filling with the chocolate chip smell she loved so much. Charlotte standing below her, sneaking a fingerful whenever she could from the mixing bowl, receiving a teasing admonishment whenever she was caught. The two of them, when the last of the cookies were in the oven, sitting there on the kitchen stools, greedily eating the rest of the raw dough, laughing.

Gaily they ring while people sing songs of good cheer: Christmas is here…

Coming downstairs on Christmas morning to a mountain of presents, both parents following groggily behind before heading into the kitchen to make some coffee. Their sweet laughter as they spoke of yet another year gone by, telling all of the stories of Christmases past. The one where she knocked the tree down. The one they spent in Hawaii. The one when the cat–remember Crystal?–climbed inside the tree and refused to come out. So many fun stories, and they laughed and laughed.

On on they send, on without end, their joyful tone to every home.

Her tears were falling freely now; she wasn’t even bothering to wipe them off anymore. And by the time the song ended, she wasn’t even surprised to discover that someone had been watching her as she sat alone in the town gazebo crying amongst all of this gaiety. It was another girl about her own age. She had walked up onto the stairs of the gazebo and stood there, a respectable distance away, but now, with Charlotte no longer openly sobbing, the girl decided it was OK to speak.

“Are you all right?”

Charlotte scanned the region around the square and found what had to be the girl’s parents watching them.

“I’m…fine,” she said.

The girl shook her head. “No, you’re not. I can always tell.”

Doesn’t take a genius right now, Charlotte thought, but said nothing. The girl was being nice. There was no reason to be mean. She looked down.

“No, you’re right. I’m…not fine.”

“Thought so,” said the girl, without any note of satisfaction. “What’s wrong?”

What isn’t? My mother’s dead, I’m having awful nightmares that make me wet the bed, I’m hallucinating talking bears, and now I’m…I don’t know what this is.

All she could manage to say was, “I’m just sad.”

The girl looked at her. “You shouldn’t be sad around Christmas. Where’s your family?”

Charlotte snorted. “Good question.”

“You’re lost?”

She shrugged. “I guess you could call it that.”

The girl smiled. “Well you can’t just sit here in the gazebo all night. Come home with me and my parents. They’ll call the police and we’ll all sort it all out tomorrow.”

Since she had no better ideas, Charlotte went with the girl, whose parents turned out to be just as nice as she was. They didn’t ask her any questions, seeming to sense that she didn’t want to talk. Instead, they stopped at the little kiosk and bought both girls hot chocolates so that not talking wouldn’t be so weird. Then they slowly made their way home.

Re: It Takes a Village; Ch 6 now posted 3/18


“Yes, Officer Miller. She was just sitting in the gazebo. Well, it’s a bit late tonight, don’t you think? No, it’s not a problem. Good. First thing tomorrow then. We’ll see you around 9.”

The woman, whom Charlotte had learned was named Mrs. Jenkins, hung up the phone.

“The police will come by in the morning to try to figure out where your parents are, Sweetheart.”

Charlotte nodded. She’d said so little since joining them that she was beginning to feel a bit rude to this pleasant family. Grace, the girl who had come to her in the gazebo, was just so nice that it almost made her feel uncomfortable; there was no way for her to return that. Not now. Maybe she’d never been able to. But certainly not now.

“Can you tell me anything about where you last saw them, Honey?”

Charlotte sighed. She could volunteer at least that much. Maybe they’d leave her alone.

“I’m really not sure. And it’s just him. My mother is dead.”

Mrs. Jenkins nodded her head, a sympathetic gesture, but something in her daughter’s eyes suddenly changed, grew curious.

“When did she die?” she asked, looking at Charlotte more intensely than before.

Her mother gave her a sharp look. “Grace Jenkins! If our guest wants to talk about that, she will. And I think it’s clear she does not want to tell us personal things, at least not yet.”

Charlotte blushed. She was keenly aware, as were they, that she hadn’t even told them her name. She looked at Grace. “No, it’s…OK. She died in the summer.”

Grace’s eyes widened. “How did it happen?”

Her mother was almost apoplectic. “What is wrong with you, child? The girl was crying alone tonight! She’s lost! We don’t pry about personal matters!”

But Grace persisted. “No, Mom, it’s important! Please…can you tell me how she died?”

Confused, Charlotte said, “She…she died on a lake. She drowned.”

Grace turned and looked at her mother as if communicating something silently. Her mother’s eyes no longer reflected anger; she was registering the same surprise as her daughter. She said to her,

“You have a picture, right?”

Grace nodded.

“Bring it out here.”

Grace left and went to her room, leaving Charlotte completely confused. When she returned, Grace showed the picture to her mother, whose eyes grew as wide as her daughter’s.

“What?” asked Charlotte. “What’s going on?”

“I’m sorry,” said Mrs. Jenkins. “Your name…is Charlotte Merriman, isn’t it?”

Everything started swirling around Charlotte. She had not told these people her name; how could they possibly have known it? What on earth was happening here? She started to stand, but the woman reached toward her, placed her hand over Charlotte’s gently, calming her at least for a moment.

“I understand you’d be confused, Honey. Frankly, so am I. Grace, how did you know?

“The details and that picture. We’re studying it in school!”

It was all too much for Charlotte, who suddenly burst out: “What is the picture?”

Slowly, Grace pushed it toward her. Trembling, she flipped it over: it was a lovely photograph of her, not even a year old. She recognized it; it was the one from the last photo session the whole family had done together last spring. Her mind raced. What did this mean?

“What…how…where did you get this?” she stammered.

“School,” Grace answered, but that made no sense at all. That picture…we’re studying it in school. What was going on here?

Charlotte closed her eyes and slowly counted to ten before opening them again. Everything was the same. It was as if the others were trying to figure out how to proceed.

Finally, it was Grace who did. “This is amazing. You’re Charlotte. The Charlotte.”

“The Charlotte? What does that even mean?”

Mrs. Jenkins grabbed a newspaper and showed it to her: The Charlottesville Gazette. “The whole town is named after you, Honey. You didn’t see tonight because it’s dark, but most of the shops are, too. You’re…the Founder.”

“None of this makes any sense whatsoever,” Charlotte said. “I’m just a girl from Evanston.”

Grace looked at her, puzzled. “What’s ‘Evanston’?”

“My town. It’s near Chicago.”

“What’s ‘Chicago’?”

Now Charlotte looked puzzled. “Wait: how can you never have heard of Chicago? I guess…um…look it up online?”

Grace was still drawing a blank. “What’s ‘online’?”

“My God!” Charlotte cried out. “You don’t know the internet?” She turned to Mrs. Jenkins and said, accusingly, “Why don’t you let your daughter online?”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” she replied. “I’ve never heard of this ‘internet’ thing.”

Charlotte drew in her breath. “What about–?”

“No, I’ve never heard of Chicago either.”

Charlotte sat back, trying to take it all in. “So where exactly am I?”

It was Grace who answered. “Charlottesville.”

“Right. And what state is that in?”


Somehow she had expected that answer. “And I’m…”

“The Founder.”

“Right. And you study me in school.”


“What do you learn about me?”

Grace now went into good student mode, as if she were remembering her studies for a test. “Well, let’s see. You were born to Emily and Robert Merrimann on May 15, 20–”

Charlotte interrupted. “I know the basic biography stuff, Grace.”

Grace laughed. “Oh, right. Of course. Well. After the death of your mother Emily, you were very depressed and needed an outlet. So you started building a village as a tribute to your mother. It was very meticulous, down to the flowers on the trees and the working streetlights. When it was complete, though, your father, Robert, wouldn’t let you name it after her because he was still in so much pain, so he insisted it be named after you. And one day, we learned, you would appear here with us, for some very important reason. And here we are.”

In the silence that followed, Charlotte considered. “So…we’re in the model village in my living room?”

Mrs. Jenkins replied, “That about covers it.”

“And I built it.”

“Again, yes.”

“And I didn’t name anything after my mom?”

Mrs. Jenkins smiled. “Well now, you know you did, Charlotte, you little subversive. Like the mail service is called Emily’s Post. Things like that.”

Charlotte had to admit that did sound like her. She knew about Emily Post from conversations with her mom.

She shook her head. “This is so insane. If this is the village in my living room, where are the trains? It should have trains.”

Mrs. Jenkins smiled. “We have an ordinance that they don’t run at night. Noise thing.”

Charlotte stared at both of them, wondering when they’d let her in on the joke. “ Come on! How can you expect me to believe this is that village?”

Grace and Mrs. Jenkins looked at each other. “Charles?” the latter called in to her husband, who had gone in to watch some game when they’d arrived, “We’re going back out for just a little while. Be right back.”

All bundled up again–for what reason, Charlotte didn’t know, for the outside temperature and the indoor temperature were pretty much the same–they moved back out into the now-silent town. When they got to the square, the only large open site, Mrs. Jenkins stopped them.

“OK,” she said. “Somehow I suspect this is not going to be quite what you’re used to.”

“What?” Charlotte said.

Mrs. Jenkins smiled. “Look up.”

Charlotte obeyed. Instead of the usual pattern of stars, or even a covering of clouds, there was…something else. High above them, almost invisible it was so stratospheric, was a casual white layer. She could swear she saw something swirled into it, but she wasn’t certain that it might not be a trick of the eyes. There was nothing between them and the white layer, which caught the village’s lights and bounced them back down.

Suddenly, in the distance, at its edge, the layer lit up dimly. It remained lit for a few minutes, then just as suddenly became dark again.

“We don’t know what that is,” Mrs. Jenkins said. “Some believe it has to do with God.”

Charlotte believed it had to do with her dad turning on the kitchen light to get a late-night snack, but she didn’t say anything. She needed time to process all of this. Somehow she really was in her father’s village. And the people here were alive…and they thought she was the one who had created it.

Grace tugged at her coat. “So why are you here?”


“When you come, it’s supposed to be for a very important reason.”

Charlotte looked at Grace, whose innocent eyes expected so much from her at that moment. Behind Grace was her mother, equally interested in the answer. But all Charlotte could do was shake her head and mutter, “I have absolutely no idea.”

Re: It Takes a Village; Ch 6 now posted 3/18

This has a wonderfully Christmasy feeling to it. I love the premise.

Re: It Takes a Village; Ch 6 now posted 3/18

I’ve only read a few parts so far, but I just wanna say. Hot damn! This is some excellent writing! Thoroughly enjoying the story and the world you’re weaving. This is as good as anything I’d find on a shelf in a bookstore. :smiley: You’ve got fully fleshed out characters, you let them show us who they are so that gets us readers emotionally involved and you’ve got an interesting plot.

Re: It Takes a Village; Ch 6 now posted 3/18

Thanks. Means a lot, especially from the author of my current favorite story. :slight_smile:

Re: It Takes a Village; Ch 7/11 now posted 3/21

​We’re officially closer to the end than the beginning now: this is Chapter 7 of 11.


“Oh my gosh,” said Officer Miller (Miller the cop, Charlotte thought). “It’s really the Charlotte? Well…we’re not likely to find her parents, are we–sorry, Love, I mean your Dad’s Up There and your Mom’s, well…so what are we going to do?”

Charlotte had not wet her diaper overnight for the first time in months. Maybe she didn’t need it here in Whoville. She’d taken it off and stored it away, hiding it behind a dresser, in case she ended up staying another night. Why am I here? How can I find out? She borrowed Grace’s clothes and got dressed. Amazingly, they all fit perfectly.

The policeman rambled on. “…tell the Mayor, of course, and the Chief. Maybe there should be a holiday or something. Founder’s Day was May 15, but we can always have another one.”

“May 15?” asked Charlotte.

“Of course,” he said. “Your birthday. But that doesn’t mean–”

Mrs. Jenkins cut him off. “Thank you, Officer Miller. I’m sure you’re right. We’ll take her to see the mayor this afternoon.”

He seemed extraordinarily pleased, and Charlotte thought that perhaps Officer Miller did not receive praise very often.

After breakfast, bundled up once more, Charlotte, Grace, and Mrs. Jenkins took a horse-drawn carriage ride (really? thought Charlotte; he really added these?) that took them into the little town. She had to admit the carriage ride was fun, and it was weird that everyone they passed waved hello to her, calling her by name in such happy tones that she got swept up in their joy.

At one point, she asked Mrs. Jenkins if they could stop for a hot chocolate and a donut at the local coffee shop, and when the carriage pulled over, the owners themselves (Benny and Will, of course) came out, bringing her the best cocoa she’d ever had and telling her how happy they were that she had stopped at their shop. It was pretty ridiculous, she thought: it was as if she were the Queen of England.

They passed the train station, where she noted without surprise that the signs on the platforms read “to Charlottesville” in both directions. They continued around the square, passing all kinds of waving people, until they were directly in front of the movie house. As the carriage paused so that people could cross in front of them, Charlotte noted the coming attraction placard in the window: Amelie.


“Charlotte, are you all right?” Mrs. Jenkins was speaking, but Charlotte barely heard her. All she could concentrate on was the placard.



Suddenly Charlotte leapt from the carriage and bolted across the square. She had no idea what she was doing or where she was going; she just needed to run, run, run. If she stopped running, the pain would start again, and she couldn’t let it, so run. She had the vague notion that she was being chased, but she didn’t care. Without direction, without goal, without a notion in the world of why she was really doing it, she just…ran. Until she couldn’t run any longer. Until her legs gave out and she fell to the ground, sobbing.

A hand reached down to her. A man’s hand.

“Miss? May I help you?”

A slightly Southern accent. Friendly. She didn’t know the voice, but somehow she knew she could trust it. She looked up to see the face. The man was middle aged, clean-shaven, a little overweight. His graying hair was covered by the kind of hats the kids wore in Newsies. His expression was concerned, but friendly.

“Are you all right? May I help you up?”

She became aware of a crowd of people standing around them watching all of this. She refocused on the man.

“Please,” she said.

Lifting her to her feet, he helped her clean herself off a bit and then smiled. “Looks as if you really needed to run something off there.”

Charlotte smiled. “I guess so.”

“My name is Charlie,” the man said. “I drive the local cab. I’m completely at the Founder’s service, but today I just saw a girl in trouble. Are you sure you’re all right now?”

She smiled again. “Yes I am. Thank you, Charlie.”

Charlie looked out into the crowd. “Who is Charlotte staying with?”

Mrs. Jenkins, who had by now managed to get to the front, told him that Charlotte was with them and thanked him for his help. Then, along with Grace, she and Charlotte walked off away from the direction of the crowd.

Once they were a sufficient distance away, Mrs. Jenkins asked, “Do you feel comfortable talking about that?”

Charlotte shook her head, but Grace immediately chimed in. “It might be important. It might help to figure out why you’re here.”

They walked silently for several minutes until finally Charlotte said, “It was the placard at the movie theatre. Amelie.”

Mrs. Jenkins shook her head, confused. “What about it?”

“Well, first of all, it was Mom’s favorite movie. We must have watched it together ten times. I could practically understand the French.”

“Oh,” said Grace, understanding. “That makes sense then.”

“No, no,” said Charlotte quickly. “That’s not it though. Well, not all of it anyway. I mean, yeah, it’s true I’ve avoided that movie since she died and all, but when I saw the poster I suddenly realized something else. Amelie is a movie about an intelligent young girl whose mother dies. Her father is so broken that he basically confines himself to his home and spends all of his time working on a monument to his wife.”

“Oh dear,” said Mrs. Jenkins. “That’s so…”

“Yeah,” said Charlotte. “Anyway, everything Amelie could have been is lost, all because she and her father could not get past the death of her mother.”

“That sounds terrible!” Grace said.

Charlotte smiled. “Well, it would have been, but Amelie meets someone and weird things happen and she gets pulled out of her solitary life. And then she manages to pull her father out of his too.”

Mrs. Jenkins lit up. “Well, that’s certainly more appropriate for children than the film you were describing at first.”

“Yeah, I guess so,” said Charlotte. “But anyway I flashed on all of that in an instant when I saw the placard. I saw what was happening to my life. Like Amelie, I’ve given up.”

Grace clapped her hands. “Yes! That has to be it! You’re here to start to move on! You built Charlottesville so we could help you figure that out!”

She grabbed Charlotte and hugged her, starting an impromptu dance in the street. Mrs. Jenkins joined them, and before long they noticed that pretty much everyone who could be seen was dancing as well.

Charlotte laughed. The Founder has great power.

Re: It Takes a Village; Ch 8/11 now posted 3/23

As we near the end of Charlotte’s tale, I’ll probably post every couple of days. This is Chapter 8 of 11.


The parade, Charlotte thought, was way over the top. It was like every Fourth of July parade she’d ever been to rolled into one, and it was all in honor of her. When the Mayor heard that the Founder was actually in Charlottesville, he pulled out all the stops. He closed the schools, ordered the town’s restaurants to provide parade route refreshments, got the high school band to play, pulled the last parade’s floats out of storage and set 100 volunteers to work hastily remaking them for the occasion, and basically did everything he could to insure that it would be the Grandest Occasion in town history.

When Charlotte’s float, having rolled through the town to nonstop cheers, finally arrived at the town hall, he awarded her the key to the city, though he jokingly noted that she could probably get into anyplace she wanted anyway, since she’d built them.

The whole thing, to Charlotte, was nuts. No one at all questioned how their entire world could have been constructed by a 12-year-old. No one wondered how they had lived their entire lives, and their ancestors’ lives, since last summer when her mother had died. To them, this was Life As Usual: Charlotte Merriman had built this town and everything in it, and she mattered to them.

Charlotte Merriman mattered. She was important. People cared about her. They loved her. When she was in a crowd, they noticed her…and in a good way. It was more than she could ever want.

But it was all a lie. That was the only way she could matter: based on a lie.

Back at the Jenkins’ house, Charlotte was tired. She went into the room she was sharing with Grace and didn’t say a word. It all felt so wrong, so dishonest. She knew she had not invented the lie, but she’d gone along with it; wasn’t that the same thing? But, she thought, it made everyone here so happy. What does it really matter if it makes everyone happy? It clearly makes them happy to pretend entire lifetimes can be lived in six months, so why not?

But she knew she lacked the capacity for self-delusion that these people, who after all were the products of her father’s inventive mind, possessed. A lie was a lie was a lie. And, yes, she’d had actual fun today. And, yes, for a while she’d even forgotten her pain. But that was a lie too. Anything based on a lie is also a lie.

She knew what she had to do.

The next morning (dry again!) she found all three Jenkins at the table eating breakfast when she awoke. It was funny, she realized, she hadn’t talked much to Mr Jenkins since she’d been here, had hardly seen him, but now here he was. As she looked at him, she was stunned by his appearance: he looked so much like Dad! It unnerved her for a moment, and she ended up asking something she hadn’t intended to, once the morning niceties were out of the way.

“Why haven’t I seen pictures of my parents anywhere? I mean there weren’t even any at the parade.”

The Jenkins looked quietly at each other and kept eating.

“Did I ask something wrong?”

Finally, Mrs. Jenkins said, “We celebrate you, my dear. The way you intended it. You didn’t put any of those pictures into the town.”

Charlotte closed her eyes. Her father had not only built this entire town to immortalize her, to make her young life have meaning, to make sure she could never fade from existence like her mother, but had done it so selflessly that he’d erased all traces of himself from it?

Not on her watch.

She looked at her hosts. “I didn’t,” she said.

“What?” they all responded, confused. Mr. Jenkins added, “You didn’t what?”

“I didn’t intend anything. I didn’t build Charlottesville. My father did.”

The room grew still. Then, slowly, all three of her hosts’ faces opened into great smiles. The sunlight, which had been sifting gently into the space, burst forth in full noontime blaze. From everywhere, Charlotte heard the sound of trumpets blowing, sending a call into what passed here for the heavens. The Jenkins had stood and come to her side of the table, surrounding her. They were all hugging her, all talking at the same time.

Charlotte had never been so confused in all of her life.

“What’s happened?” she asked.

Grace held her and smiled. “You’ve done it, Charlotte. You’ve done it.”

Charlotte watched them all laughing and dancing around her as if they’d suddenly been zapped with one of those comic book weapons that steals your senses.

“Done what?” she asked.

And Mr. Jenkins, so reminiscent of her father, spoke now in a calm voice. “You acted in a selfless way, Sweetheart. You’ve been so miserable for so long. You could have just let yourself be happy, which for a little while you actually were, even though you didn’t deserve it. But instead you let the real architect have the credit.”

Charlotte paused. “You all…knew?”

“The whole town was designed for this moment, Charlotte,” said Mrs. Jenkins. “Your father knew your pain, and he couldn’t get through to you Up There, so this is how he chose to help.”

Grace let out a small laugh. “We’re all so relieved, to be honest. We were worried you wouldn’t make it.”

“Make it?”

Mrs. Jenkins joined in. “It’s the second day, and tonight is the third night. I don’t know how many stories you’ve ever read about mystical occurrences, but, well, you don’t get a fourth night.”

“Yeah,” said Grace. “If you hadn’t figured it out today, it all would have been for nothing.”

“Does that mean I’m–?”

“Going home tonight, yes,” Grace answered.

Charlotte shook her head, realizing she’d been doing a lot of that since she got here. “But how? I don’t even have a clue about how I got here in the first place!”

“Well, I think I can help with that,” came a voice behind her.

She knew that voice. She turned, and standing on the floor behind her was a three foot tall stuffed polar bear.

Re: It Takes a Village; Ch 8/11 now posted 3/23

I got a chance to read some more of this- I started part 6- and I’m loving it! I loved the interaction with the guardian angel and showed how the angel has a fallible side instead of being a perfectly heavenly being. :wink: