Charline (and some Benjamin)
Now I'm not going to be an optimist about this
Wed Jul 16, 2014 15:17

He returned to her with stubble on his chin.

The dust from the cookies had settled there, when Charline, wiped them aside the crumbs felt rough against her skin. She chose not to chide him for the indulgement. It would be a wasted moment and he was generally a good boy when it came to treats, not often did she find him with both hands in the cookie jar. The man inside was to blame, he had stolen her brother and as an added insult, returned him to her with a sticky cookie melting into his palm.

I’ll let him have it. Just this once.

And so Benjamin kept his cookie.

Despite having had her ear molded to the door, Charline had not caught a word of the conversation which had taken place so closeby. Her mind itched with the knowledge that centimetres from her feet, they conspired against her. It was after a short pause and a little munching that she finally blurted out, “Well? What did he say?”

Benjamin swallowed the last bite, looked her in the eye with a strange level of self-confidence, and answered in his native tongue, “You may ask Herr Tennant, yourself. He wants to speak with you now.”

His new poise screamed victory and his triumph was the greatest defeat for Charline. The duck would stay and she- what about her? Why did he have an interest in Charline all of a sudden? She balked at the possible explanations. She could picture few good outcomes- just poor ones for herself or Benjamin. Perhaps for both of them.

“Don’t look so pleased with yourself until I return. You haven’t won anything yet,”she turned and pressed down on the handle but then her resolve flickered, “ will wait here for me?”

Benjamin licked the last smudge of chocolate from his lips, slid onto the seat and reassured her, “Of course I will- stupid.”

There was a silly smile on his face and it weakened her, so that she felt no desire to hit him for the remark. Each of the Adlers managed to make it out of the encounter unscathed and as she returned to the office, Charline was wishing her approaching confrontation might end as amicably. This time she offered no words of greeting to the man and simply sat down on the seat closest to him, resigned to the unfairness of society. He held all the cards.

You can then imagine her surprise at Tennant’s words. Hope gathered within the girl, she leaned forward in anticipation, expecting to hear a detailed plan for Hubert’s removal. She was to be disappointed.

“Do you look after him a lot at home, too?”

Charline understood, even as the suspicion was cultivated in her head, that she was overreacting. Tennant meant nothing by the inquiry, it was an innocent enough question. But it prodded at a tender place in her history.

Charline had never wanted to go to Rocky Mountain International. One of her many fears in those early times (for there had been a list of phenomenal size devoted to these fears) was to leave Benjamin alone. She had never felt similarly about Magdalena, whilst the little child had inherited a place in Charline’s heart it was difficult to feel strong affection for someone you hardly see and do not know. In contrast, from a young age Charline had felt responsible for Benjamin. The immediate years following his birth had been some of the more trying times for the Adler family, although given his general naiveté and youth at the time, Benjamin was still substantially ignorant of the difficulties Ulrich and Clémence had faced. She began to feel responsible for his failures, his successes and his happiness. If he let Papa down, then by default so had Charline. Generally, Charline did not think she was too harsh on Benjamin rather, he ought to be grateful for her input in his life. The Lyra was sure that without her influence he would be even more messed up today- and that was a scary thought- even if her involvement in his life at home and at school was beginning to dwindle. She was in the height of her teenage years and as might be expected, Charline was deliberately distancing herself from direct contact with ‘the dreaded family’. All of whom she accused of being embarrassing, controlling and the great crime of not understanding her.

There was a short silence before she gave the answer to Tennant’s question, “Yes. Of course I do, he’s my brother. Is it not required of an older sibling?”

She raised a pale eyebrow, not aware of the direction in which he was steering the conversation.

  • How am I gonna be an optimist about thisGaren, Thu Jul 3 18:42
    Garen Tennant breathed an internal sigh of relief as Charline exited with minimal resistance. He was dividing and conquering, as it were. Not that he expected particularly productive conversations... more
    • Now I'm not going to be an optimist about this — Charline (and some Benjamin), Wed Jul 16 15:17
      • Aw, why not?Garen, Sun Jul 20 02:27
        For the briefest instant, Garen had hoped for a conversation that wasn’t like pulling teeth—that Charline might not return every question with another question, and that they could both feel it was a ... more
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