"Congratulations, Helen!" Charlotte cried happily, throwing herself into Helen's arms. She pulled away and excitedly thrust at her the massive bouquet of flowers she and Lewis had picked out that afternoon. It was Helen's closing performance of The Importance of Being Earnest, and Lewis had been sure to make it a full family event. Jack had willingly agreed to go to the performance, but had arrived with only moments to spare, and Charlotte had barely gotten a chance to see him before the show had started. But he did look handsome, in a crisp gray suit with a smart black tie, his hair even neatly combed to the side. He looked very different than how he had at the gala, the first night Charlotte had been to the theatre.
"Thank you, darling!" Helen said with joy as she admired the bouquet. She kissed Charlotte on the cheek. "Next time, it will be you who we're giving flowers to!"
"I hope so," Charlotte admitted. "If I don't turn out to be too terrible!"
"I don't think that's possible," Lewis told her with a smile. He passed in front of Charlotte to kiss his wife and embrace her. Sensing that they needed a moment alone, Charlotte backed away.
"So did you enjoy it just as much as the first time?"
Charlotte gasped in surprise, whipping around to find Jack standing right behind her.
"Oh, you startled me!" she cried, putting a hand to her chest. After regaining her breath, she nodded. "Yes, of course. Helen is an absolute enchantress when she's onstage. How can you not get sucked under her spell?" Her cheeks blanched when she realized how silly her words must sound to Jack. "Did you enjoy it?"
"Oh, yes," he nodded. "I've always loved Oscar Wilde's work."
"Really? I didn't know you read plays," Charlotte commented.
"Charlotte," Jack said with a little laugh. "My father is a playwright and my mother is an actress. Of course I like to read plays. I grew up on them, like other children grow up with fairy tales."
"Oh," Charlotte said, surprised. "I suppose I just don't know enough about you, still."
"I don't think we know very much about each other, still," Jack replied with amusement. Charlotte smiled. It was unusual to have such casual, comfortable conversations with Jack. She enjoyed it.
"Hello, beautiful," Wesley said with a grin, coming up to Charlotte. He took her hand and kissed the top, in his usual gentlemanly way. He looked the part, too, with his jet black suit and white tie, his hair expertly slicked to the side. Charlotte's cheeks flushed the moment she saw him.
"Hello, Wes," she replied with a grin. During the past days, Charlotte and Wes had grown closer, spending breaks between scenes getting to know each other. They kept making plans to have dessert or dinner after a rehearsal, but somehow the plans were always cancelled due to schoolwork or other commitments. Wes had made it a joke that it seemed as if Charlotte were avoiding him, but this was definitely not the case. Even Emilie approved of Wes, and had given him one of the biscuits that her mother always sent with her to rehearsals, which were usually only reserved for Emilie and Charlotte.
"How are you this evening?" Wes asked politely.
"Very well, thank you. I had forgotten you would be here tonight," Charlotte told him truthfully. "Did you enjoy the show?"
"Very much." Wes nodded eagerly. "And Helen is of course always a treat to watch onstage." He then turned to his cousin. "Hello, Jack. It's nice to see you after so long. How are you, cousin?"
Charlotte looked at Jack tentatively. She had never seen the two interact before, but after everything she had heard, she didn't expect a warm response.
But instead of reacting violently, Jack nodded curtly. "Hello, Wes. It's good to see you, as well."
"Wesley!" Helen cried, breaking through their trio and embracing her nephew. "Oh, I'm so glad you were able to come tonight! How wonderful that the entire family is here. You all mean so much to me." She pecked Jack on the cheek, and he laughingly shoved her away.
"Helen, dear," an elegant woman in fur said in a rich voice as she came up and took Helen by the elbow. "I hate to interrupt your evening, but I've been dying to come over and meet the big star." Then, to Charlotte's surprise, the woman looked straight at her with piercing green eyes. "Is this the little French girl we've all been hearing so much about?"
"Yes," Lewis said proudly, coming to stand beside Charlotte and putting an arm around her shoulders. "This is Charlotte Martin. Charlotte, this is Clarice Hilden. She's been a patron of the theatre for many years."
"Charlotte, darling," the woman said grandly, taking her and kissing each of her cheeks. "I've heard so much about you. Oh, you're so beautiful! You'll look so lovely onstage. Is it true that she inspired the entire play, Lewis?"
"Every bit of it," Lewis said honestly. "When I met Charlotte, I just knew there was something different about her. The character she portrays is not exactly like how she really is, but she inspired the story. And then it just took on a life of its own."
"Well then. She must certainly be a very special little girl," Clarice said with a wink.
"She very much is." Lewis looked down at Charlotte with a kind smile.
"Damn," Jack muttered under his breath, running his hands through his hair. Charlotte could tell he was frustrated by his red cheeks and blazing eyes. "Excuse me," he said rudely, beginning to push between the group to leave, but hesitated for a moment and turned to Clarice. "Oh, hi. By the way, I'm Jack. Helen and Lewis' son. But don't worry, I'm sure you wouldn't have known that, anyway. Since it's been made pretty obvious to everyone that they don't even care." He brushed away angrily, leaving Clarice looking rather shaken.
"I'll go see if-" Charlotte began, starting after him, but Lewis took her arm and halted her. She could tell that he was angry with Jack, and angrier than she had ever seen him.
"I'm so sorry for his behavior," he told Clarice apologetically, his voice tense. "My son sometimes forgets how to be a gentlemen. I hope you'll forgive all of us." He stalked from the room, after Jack. Charlotte began to follow him, but Wesley took her arm.
"Maybe it's best if Lewis goes after him, Charlotte," he told her quietly.
But she couldn't stay behind. She cared too much about this family. She needed to go to Jack. Charlotte shook her head at Wesley and pulled away, following Lewis from the room and outside onto the balcony, back to the first place where she really talked to Jack that night so many ago. That terrible night when the bombs first fell. The realization of this shook Charlotte a bit, but she pushed those memories aside and followed out onto the balcony.
Jack stood at the balcony, draining a glass of alcohol. Lewis approached him with anger, snatching the glass from his hand.
"Hey!" Jack cried angrily.
"What was that in there?" Lewis asked, ferocity in his voice like Charlotte had never heard before. His dark eyes, usually so passive and calm, were bright with anger, in a way that reminded her so much of Jack. They were like mirror images. "How dare you act so disrespectful to such an important patron of the theatre. I would like to think your mother and I raised you to be better than that. You may not have known Ms. Hilden personally, but you can bet that we would have introduced you, just as we've introduced you to every other person you've ever encountered at the theatre," he snapped angrily.
"And you introduce me with drawn faces and regretful tones," Jack countered. "Don't act like it's some big reward for your friends to meet me. We both know that they've heard the stories and know my reputation. We both know that I'm known as the troublesome misfit child of the Careys. But it's all right. Everything will be better now, because now you have a new trophy child to parade around to all your friends. I'm sure Charlotte will make far better small talk and produce polite fake laughter better than I ever could."
Lewis just looked at his son for a moment with wide eyes. But then they narrowed. "Is that really what this is all about? You're jealous of Charlotte?"
Charlotte began, "Lewis, I don't think-"
But Jack didn't say anything. He just kept glaring at his father.
"Jack, how could you really be so ungrateful?" asked Lewis. He now sounded truly disappointed. "How could you be jealous of Charlotte? A girl who has been taken away from her family, taken away from her home, uncertain when she'll see either again? What did you expect your mother and I to do? Did you expect us to keep her in the attic? To not spoil her with the same treats that we give you? Or did you expect us to leave her in France and not help her at all? Is that what you expected from us?"
"No! No!" Jack blurted, frustrated.
"Then what?" cried Lewis, clearly not understanding. "What did you expect from us, Jack?"
Jack didn't say anything. His eyes wandered, and then fell to his feet. He put his hands in his pockets. He looked like a little child, reprimanded.
"It's the play," Charlotte finally murmured quietly.
"What?" Lewis asked, only just remembering that Charlotte was even there.
"It's the play, isn't it, Jack?" Charlotte asked him. He looked up at her, his eyes so childlike, so helpless. "Lewis, everyone keeps going on about how I inspired your play. It's all anyone talks about. And I can't speak directly for Jack, but if my father had written a play inspired by my brother, and there was no mention of me...I can't say that I wouldn't be upset. In fact, I'd probably feel very upset. Maybe like Jack is feeling now."
Lewis looked at his son in surprise. "Is this true, Jack?"
Jack sighed. "Dad. Charlotte has been here mere months. And suddenly everyone is talking as if she inspired the next great English play. It's all a bit...much."
"Jack," Lewis told him seriously. He closed the space between him and his son and put a hand on his shoulder. "I have been a playwright for far longer than since Charlotte has been here. And I don't mean to sound conceited, but I've written my fair amount of good shows. The two just don't correlate. I've had my inspirations from many people." He looked his son in the eyes. "And Jack, I've been your father for eighteen years now. And in those past eighteen years, every single show I've written has been inspired by you. Every single role. You're my son, my one and only. How could I not be inspired by you every day?"
Charlotte tried to gauge Jack's response, but his face didn't change. He just stared at his father, perhaps in awe, perhaps in surprise. Lewis pulled him into an embrace, and Jack held back tightly. Charlotte envied them, wishing she were still able to hug her own father. She wrapped her arms around her stomach, wishing the emptiness would leave.
But then, over his father's shoulder, Jack looked up at Charlotte with his piercing gaze. There was a moment of understanding between them, as if he were inside her mind telling her, I never hated you. I never did. All I felt was anger, that you seemed to be the one thing my parents needed and never got from me. But it was never about you.
Later that evening, as Charlotte tried to fall asleep, she heard the door quietly creek open. As Jack climbed into her bed, she could feel his soft pajamas against her skin and smell his musky soap. These were the scents and feelings she usually associated with her tears, when he would crawl into bed to comfort her. But this time, nothing was wrong. This time, they both slept peacefully.
"You didn't make me one of those?" Jack asked Charlotte as she passed him in the hallway a few days later, a sandwich in one hand and a glass of milk in the other. She had been kept so busy with rehearsals lately that is seemed her life was a regimented schedule. Topher drove her home from school, she ate a quick dinner while pouring over schoolwork, before changing out of her uniform and rushing to the theatre for rehearsal. By the time she got home in the evening, all she wanted to do was sleep. She barely had the energy to even read. She would just slip into some light pajamas, perfect for the June heat, and crawl under the covers of her bed. Sleep instantly overcame her.
"You can make your own sandwich, Jack!" Charlotte told him pertly. "Do I look like your wife? If you're hungry, you can make something yourself."
"Ah, sounds like too much work for me," Jack joked. "So I suppose I'll have to find one of these so-called wives. They sound as if they're a pretty good investment." Charlotte liked Jack how he was now-like a teasing brother. He was still grumpy in the mornings and sometimes drank at night, but everyone had their faults. Charlotte was just glad that she finally knew more of his attributes.
"Good luck finding one with that attitude!" Charlotte teased as she walked into her room. "No girl is going to want a husband who only wants her for her cooking!"
"An ugly girl would!" she heard him yell back from the hallway. Charlotte laughed and shook her head, setting her plate and glass on her desk. From the hallway, she heard the telephone ring. After a moment, Jack called for her.
"Charlotte, it's for you."
Charlotte sighed and went back out to the hallway, where Jack was holding the telephone out for her. "Who is it?" she asked, already presuming that it was Celia.
But Jack made an odd face. "It's Wesley," he replied, sounding less than amused.
"Really?" Charlotte asked, taking the receiver from his hand. Jack nodded, but stayed where he was. "Really, Jack, are you going to give me any privacy at all?"
"This hallway is for everyone," he protested. Charlotte shot him a quick glare. "Fine," he scowled back at her. "But don't take too long."
Charlotte rolled her eyes as he retreated back into his room. "Hello?" she asked into the phone.
"Hi, Charlotte? This is Wes."
Charlotte smiled just hearing his smooth, calm voice. "Hi, Wes. How are you?"
"I'm doing well. And my mood is even better since I heard the good news."
"What good news?" Charlotte asked excitedly.
"Mr. Danube has come down with a terrible case of the flu. So I suppose that it's not very good news for him, but wonderful news for us since it means a break from rehearsal! I asked Helen if I could give you the good news myself."
"No rehearsal tonight?" Charlotte twirled the telephone cord around her.
"Nope. You sound a little disappointed, Charlotte," Wes told her.
"It will be nice not to have to rush to finish everything tonight," Charlotte admitted. "But I have to say, I am a little disappointed. I love going to rehearsals. I love seeing everyone and seeing how the play is coming together."
"Normally, I'm exactly the same way," Wes told her truthfully. "Why else do you think I wasn't able to stay away from the theatre while I was at University? But I have to say, I do have an ulterior motive. I've been dying to take you out, Charlotte. Do you think we might be able to tonight? Please, you've left me waiting for so long."
Charlotte smiled. It had been ridiculous how many times they had already put off their first date. And she did wanted to go with Wesley...even if he made her nervous and excited both at the same time.
"Yes. Let's go out tonight," she agreed. "Who knows when we're next going to have the chance?"
"Perfect," Wesley exclaimed, a smile in his voice. "Don't rush, at all. I'll come around at about seven o' clock to give you some time to finish your schoolwork and get ready. There's this restaurant I really want to take you to, and I'm positive you're going to love it."
Charlotte laughed. "All right, I'll see you then. Goodbye." She hung up the phone, grinning.
"So are you going to go?"
Charlotte turned to see Jack leaning against the wall. "I really can't get any privacy around here, can I?" she asked, brushing past him to walk to her room. "But if you really want to know...yes. Wes is coming for me at seven." She walked to her wardrobe and pulled open the doors, trying to imagine what she could possibly wear that evening.
"Do you even know much about him, Charlotte?" Jack asked, standing in her doorway. "I mean, you've known him for a couple of weeks. How could you really know who he is?"
"Jack, remember how much I knew about you two weeks after we met," Charlotte pointed out.
"Exactly!" Jack exclaimed. "I could still have been an ax murderer for all you knew."
Charlotte sighed and walked over to Jack. "I highly, highly doubt that your cousin Wes is secretly Jack the Ripper," she told him pragmatically. "But if he does turn out to be an ax murderer, I will take full responsibility for my actions."
"How could you?" Jack asked smartly. "You'd be dead."
Charlotte scowled at him. "Goodbye, Jack!" she called, shutting the door on him.
"At least make sure I'm here when he comes to get you!" Jack called through the door. "Helen and Lewis are going out for the evening and someone needs to make sure you're safe!"
Charlotte rolled her eyes. It really felt as if Jack were her brother-her very overprotective, annoying brother. But it was still nice to feel taken care of. "Fine," she finally agreed, and continued to get ready for the evening.
"You look nice," Jack told her as she stepped out of her room later that night.
"Do you think so?" Charlotte asked, looking down at herself. She had fussed for over an hour on just her hair alone. During the months since she had been away from France, her hair had grown past her shoulders, and her fringe brushed the tips of her eye lashes. After quite a bit of time, she had figured out how to use the hair curler she had found in the bottom of her vanity, and had managed to coax a bit of wave into her straight hair. In her wardrobe, she had found a new dress, no doubt which Helen had made for her. It fit like a glove, the wide neck hugging her collarbone and shoulders nicely, the sleeves like a second skin, reaching to her mid-forearm. The waist was slim, and then the skirt billowed down past her knees, flaring out in a very satisfactory way. She had slipped into some shiny black and white heels, which had made her feel taller and more elegant. She felt pretty. But hearing it from Jack just made everything better.
"I think so," Jack said honestly, observing her in a way that made Charlotte feel a bit silly, as if she were some pretty little doll. "I think you'll have to keep Wes in check tonight."
"Is he here?" Charlotte asked.
"He's sitting in the parlor with some coffee," Jack told her, leading her down the stairs. "But don't worry, I already told him you had to be home by ten tonight."
"Oh, Jack!" Charlotte cried. "Please don't start acting like my father. I'm almost seventeen years old! I don't need a curfew. I can take care of myself."
"Oh, I'm sure you can," Jack told her with amusement. "I'm just not sure what you'll be doing to Wes. Don't break his heart too badly, now."
"I'll try not to," Charlotte assured him as she walked into the parlor. Wes was sitting before the fireplace in a smart suit. When he saw her, he stood straight with bright eyes.
"You look beautiful, Charlotte," he told her, extending his hand to her. His smile was enough to melt her heart.
"Thank you," Charlotte smiled, taking it. "You do, too." Her insides squirmed with butterflies as she felt the warmth of his palm against hers. All she wanted to do was pull closer to him, to feel his warmth, to smell his familiar scent, to hear his heartbeat. He made her feel nervous like no one else ever had.
"So," Jack said, interrupting by clearing his throat and stepping between the two. "Charlotte, you're going to be home in a few hours, right? I don't need it on my shoulders if Helen and Lewis come home late and you're still out."
"Jack," Wes told him with a small smile, "I hardly think Lewis and Helen will mind very much if I'm the one she's out with..."
Jack cast Wes a sharp look. "Still, all the same. She still has school tomorrow. So just don't get her home too late. And...be careful," he finally added, looking strangely serious.
Charlotte smiled at him. "Stop worrying, Jack. Everything is going to be fine." Without hardly thinking, she reached out and hugged him and pecked him on the cheek, as if he really were her brother. But as soon as she did, she realized it didn't feel right. He wasn't her brother. It didn't seem right. And by the look on Jack's face when she pulled away, she could tell that he thought it was strange, too.
"Yes, well," Jack said, clearing his throat uncomfortably again. He walked the pair to the door and opened it for them. "Have a nice evening," he said in a clipped voice.
"Thank you, Jack," Charlotte told him gratefully. "I promise I won't be home late." She gave him one last smile before heading out the door with Wes.
Wes had been right. The restaurant he took her to was beautiful and elegant. Charlotte pictured people like her parents dining at its classy, dim-lit tables, garnished with candelabras and bouquets of roses. She couldn't help but feel very mature and glamorous, especially as she sat across from Wesley, who was the epitome of class.
She did everything right. She gracefully sat in the chair that Wes pulled out from under the table for her, and crossed her ankles delicately. She gently laid the cloth, embroidered napkin across her lap. She made pleasant small talk and ate in small bites, sipping politely from her water glass. And of course, Wesley was the perfect gentleman that she could always count on him to be.
That was maybe what she admired most about Wes. He was always charming, he was always generous, always pleasant. There were no surprises with Wes. He was exactly what he was at face value. And Charlotte appreciated that more than she would have ever expected to.
Later that evening, they walked along the London pavements, eating ice cream from a little shop that Wes knew about. Charlotte was enjoying this part of the evening best. She enjoyed walking beside Wes, close enough so that their hands brushed one another's once in a while, while they casually talked about anything and everything that was on their minds. But especially about theatre. Charlotte was glad that it seemed someone else loved theatre as much as she did. But one topic was still haunting her mind.
"Wes," she said, finally summoning the courage to ask. "Why doesn't anyone ever talk about your relationship with Jack? Why is everyone always so quiet on the subject?"
Wes was quiet for a moment, but to Charlotte's relief, he didn't seem at all put off by the question. On the contrary, he seemed quite pensive. "What did Topher tell you?" he finally asked Charlotte. "I'm not quite sure where to start."
"Only a little," Charlotte told him. "But I'd rather hear the entire story from you."
Wes thought for a moment, eating a bit more of his ice cream. But then he began, very quietly, very matter-of-factly.
"My father was a soldier in the Great War," Wes told her. "He was very young, but very passionate about it. He wanted nothing more than to go off to war. He was only sixteen when he enlisted. And he was immediately sent to the Battle of La Somme, in France." He looked at Charlotte. "While he was there, he fell in love with a young French woman named Sylvie."
"Sylvie," Charlotte whispered. "Just like-"
"Just like your play," Wes smiled. "Lewis named the play after my mother."
Charlotte shook her head. "I never knew."
"Not many people do. Not many people know my story," Wes told her with serious eyes, as if telling her that she had to be a special person to be able to hear it. "My mother had lived in nearby France and wanted to help the English. She offered her services to the English, to help nurse the wounded soldiers. She and my father met when he was shot in the side. They fell in love as she tended to him. When he was sent home to recover from his injuries, he insisted she come back to England with him, where she would be safe. And she agreed.
"He recovered at Helen and Lewis' home, with my mother by his side the entire time. And when he felt well enough to go back to the war, both Lewis and my mother protested greatly. They didn't want more harm to come of him. But he was adamant. This was what he wanted to do.
"He was killed in June of 1918. They brought his body back home, but it was so badly disfigured that it was barely recognizable. I don't think it would have even been brought here if it weren't for Lewis, who had insisted so much. My mother was a complete mess. She didn't want to do anything or go anywhere. But it was becoming painfully obvious by the day that she was pregnant. I was born on November 11th-the very day that armistice was called and the war ended. And I think that must have just added salt to her wounds, to have her fatherless son born on the day the war that killed him ended."
Charlotte shook her head in sympathy. "I wouldn't have been able to bear it. But at least she had Helen and Lewis to help her through everything."
"But that's one of the worst parts of the story," Wes told her with a grim smile. "My mother adored Lewis. But she fiercely hated Helen." Seeing Charlotte's shocked face, Wes nodded. "Helen was the closest person my father ever had. She was born mere months before him. They did everything together and grew up side by side. And when he wanted to go to war, Helen supported him. She encouraged him. And when he wanted to go back the second time, she still stood by his side. When he was killed, my mother blamed her for everything, saying he wouldn't have gone if Helen hadn't encouraged him to. And she may have been right. But Helen never forgave herself after that. No matter what she did-dedicated performances to him, hung his portrait over her hearth, named her own son after him...it never seemed like enough. She still hates herself over it."
"But then how did you ever come to live with the Careys?" Charlotte asked. "If your mother hated her so?"
"Because she was the only one my mother could turn to, and know that she wouldn't be refused." Wes looked down at his feet. "I was only six months old when my mother caught the Spanish Flu. She knew she couldn't take care of herself, or me for that matter. She went to the Careys looking for help. They took her in. She lasted only a week before she succumbed to it. And then the Careys took me in as their own."
"Before Jack was even born?"
"Before Jack was even born," Wesley repeated. "So you see, Charlotte. He was never the spoiled only child that everyone makes him out to be. On the contrary, he took on the role of the playful, frisky, second-born who could never amount to enough in everyone's eyes, because he was in the shade of two great shadows."
"And Topher's," Wes added. "You wouldn't think it, would you? But from a very young age, Topher excelled in school. He could have gone to any school in the country for University. He was accepted to Cambridge, you know. But the scholarship wouldn't cover all of the costs, and although the Careys gladly offered to pay the bill, he couldn't accept it. He wanted to be a self-made man like his father had been, not someone who had to rely on others to get where he wanted to be in life." He sighed. "And then there was me. Not particularly extraordinary at any certain thing, but well-behaved, well-mannered, diligent in school, friendly, careful. But when Lewis and Helen expected these same things of Jack...I don't think he could handle those expectations. So he rebelled. But the problem was that he didn't just rebel against his parents, he rebelled against his life. He was just as smart, just as quick as Topher, and could be just as charismatic as I could. But he hated being compared. So he made a new name for himself.
"As the years continued, he continued to push away from his parents, while I held on. I needed them. Especially since I always felt the absence of my own parents. So naturally, as time went on, Helen and Lewis began to feel they had a more close relationship with me than with Jack."
"But Jack didn't like that," Charlotte said quietly, remembering what Topher had told her.
Wes smiled at Charlotte knowingly. "Despite his rebellions, Jack gets surprisingly jealous. And he was jealous of me, for the attention I got from his parents. So when I went to University, it was agreed that I give them some...space...to maybe make things better between them and Jack. But I'm not sure if it all was worth it," he chuckled. "Because I'm not so sure that he's ever changed."
"So..." Charlotte said slowly. "You've never really had a good relationship with Jack?"
Wes shook his head. "Never. I always loved him like a brother, but I don't think he ever liked me. We could never talk to each other. And even now, it's odd seeing him. He's like a stranger, who I've lived my entire life with." He frowned and shook his head again. "But I'm not willing to give up Helen and Lewis. They're all I really have left. I can't lose them now, because of my cousin." And then he was silent.
Charlotte looked at Wesley. She had never seen him so quiet, so upset. All she wanted to do was comfort him, to tell him that someone was there for him. But she couldn't find the words.
"I'm glad," she finally told him. "I'm glad that I, out of everyone who could have, is paying this tribute to your mother, in the play that's named after her." Wes looked up at her. "She probably wouldn't even care," Charlotte said with a laugh, shrugging her shoulders, "that some silly little French girl who has barely a care in the world will be playing her role...but I'm glad."
"I'm glad, too," Wes said with a smile. "And I think you're wrong. I think she would be very glad that you're playing the role. And I also think she'd find it funny that history is repeating itself," he said with a coy smile.
"What?" Charlotte laughed.
"That her very own son is so intrigued by a young French girl, just like my father was."
Charlotte blushed, but her smile grew uncontrollably. She looked down at her feet, trying to hide her grin.
But then, softly and gently, she felt Wes take her hand in his, slipping his fingers between her own. She looked up at him in surprise, in genuine happiness, and found him looking down at her with the very same expression. And in that moment, everything felt right. In that moment, it didn't matter that he had a tragic family life, or that her brother was still in France. For she had found someone who made her feel like she had never felt before.
He was still the perfect gentleman. He walked her up to the door and said goodbye, said that he had loved the time they had spent together, and gently kissed the back of her hand, looking up at her with his sincere brown eyes. He didn't try to kiss her on the lips. He seemed as if he didn't want to spoil anything, after their perfect night.
Charlotte could have leapt with excitement, with joy. Wes just made her feel perfect, as if she was doing everything right. She ran up the stairs gleefully, dancing and swirling all the way, imagining that this must be exactly what all girls felt like when they were in love.
That stopped Charlotte right in her tracks. Could she be in love with Wesley? She had barely known him for two weeks. Could that even be possible? Could all of the Romeo and Juliet myths be possible?
Charlotte pondered this as she made her way to her room, but something stopped her. There were strange sounds coming from Jack's room. Curious, Charlotte crept toward his door, telling herself that it was alright, after he had snooped in on her telephone call that evening. She peeked through the crack in the door, and caught the strange sight of Jack, sitting in his desk chair, with her own friend Celia nearly on his lap, as they kissed passionately.
Charlotte bit her lip. She wondered what it must be like, to kiss someone that fiercely, with such passion. She wasn't mad at Celia. She wasn't angry with Jack. She was just surprised. Quietly, Charlotte backed away from the door and went to her own room, with these strange and new feelings clouding her mind all at the same time.