Katie looked up from the journal she had been reading with tears streaming down her cheeks. She brushed the tears away quickly when she heard the sound of footsteps descending the steps. She gave Charles a smile relieved to see it was her nine year old cousin and not his parents.
"What do you need, Charles?"
"Mom and Dad said they're about to leave."
"Oh okay, tell them I'll be right up. Thanks, sweetie."
Katie smiled with a soft sob as he stomped up the wooden steps. He was such a rambunctious boy, but then so was his daddy so Katie expected no less. It was going to be an interesting month babysitting. But if she had truly found what she thought she had, the month could go by real fast. How had Will come by these things?
"Katie." The sound of her name called somewhat urgently brought her from her thoughts.
"I'm coming Will." She gently gathered the aged journal, flipped the light switch and ascended the stairs. She and Will had run up and down these stairs when they were kids, too. Once Katie had fallen down and broken her collarbone. She had been about three and Will about nine, Will had not let her forget it either for years. Every time she'd come over with her mom and dad, Will would tease her about being careful on the basement stairs.
"What were you doing down there, Kat?"
"I was reading this journal. Have you ever read it?"
"No, I haven't. I didn't even realize I had it. What is it?"
"Well, I think it was in a box of your grandfather's things."
"That could be. We have a lot of his things stored since he had to move from the house into the condominium last year."
"Oh yeah, that's right I remember now. Anyway, it's nothing important I just got lost in reading."
"You were always a dreamer, Katie. I would pick you to get lost in a journal probably written years ago over anyone else I know." Katie felt the heat rise to her cheeks from a blush at Will's words. He smiled at her though so she knew he wasn't teasing or ridiculing her.
"You guys have fun and don't worry about a thing. Charles and I will be just fine."
"You have our numbers right for both the hotel and our cell?"
"Yes, Will, I do. Go now before Gwen beats me up for keeping you too long."
Will laughed and kissed Katie on the cheek. "I really appreciate you doing this, Katie. You're the best and when you have kids of your own I'll repay you in kind."
"I know you will, Will. Thanks. Bye now, have fun, and you can call anytime you want to talk to Charles." She walked outside with Will in an attempt to urge him to the car faster. Charles ran down the stairs almost colliding with Katie on the front stoop.
"Are they leaving now?"
"Yes, Charles, sweetie, it's just me and you now."
She and Charles waved to Charles's parents as they drove away.
"Can I stay over at Keith's house?"
Katie lowered her hand to her side, Will and Gwen now out of sight. "I don't know, is Keith someone your parents like?"
"Yeah, sure, he's my best friend."
"Well, let me talk to his mother to make sure it's okay and that she knows your mom and dad are gone. Okay?"
"Aw, Katie, do you have to?"
"Yes, sport, I do. I want to make sure she knows and that you're not an imposition."
"I'm not, I swear."
"I know you're not and I'm sure Keith doesn't think you are either, but that doesn't mean his mom doesn't have something else to do tonight but watch two nearly ten year old boys."
"All right," he said somewhat downtrodden. He ran indoors, returning a few minutes later with the cordless phone. He punched in Keith's phone number on the touchpad and handed the phone to Katie.
"What's his last name, Charles?"
"Huh," he asked his focus now on the basketball he was bouncing in place. "Oh, Adler. Bonnie Adler."
"Thanks," Katie whispered just as someone on the other end of the line picked up. "Yes, I'd like to speak with Bonnie, please." She heard a loud ‘Mom' called out after she was told to hold on followed by a loud clamoring that sounded like a phone being set on a counter. Not long after there was more clamoring as the phone was picked up, Katie hoped by Mrs. Adler.
"Yes, Mrs. Adler, my name is Katie Strong, I'm Charles's cousin and am watching him while his mom and dad are in Europe for the month."
"Yes, sure, I remember they were going to be gone."
"Well, Charles waited until after Will and Gwen had driven off to mention he wanted to spend the night at your house. I just wanted to make sure that it was all right with you and that you knew his folks weren't in town."
"Charles's welcome here anytime, he's such a good boy and he helps keep Keith in line to be honest. So sure, send him over. I'll cook him dinner so you don't have to worry about that. One more plate on the table doesn't matter when I'm feeding six to begin with."
"Are you sure?"
"Of course I'm sure, Katie, is it? Charles's a dear, send him over anytime and I do appreciate you called. It's nice to know people are concerned about these type of things today."
Katie couldn't help but smile. "Thanks Bonnie, I'll send him over in a little bit. Is there anything I should send over with him besides his pajamas and a toothbrush? Can I send over some popcorn or a movie or anything?"
"No, we've got it all set. The boys will probably play basketball or football in the backyard."
"Okay, well I'll be home all evening should you need anything or if he becomes a bother just give me a call."
"Okay. Enjoy the peace and quiet." Katie could hear her light laugh through the phone and couldn't help but smile. "Good bye now, we'll look for Charles in a few minutes."
"Bye," she said and then disconnected the call. "Okay, Charles, go on up and get your pajamas, toothbrush and clothes for tomorrow packed up."
"Thanks Katie," he said his back already to her as he ran into the house.
Katie couldn't help but laugh. She wondered if Charles knew he was named after his great great great great grandfather. Katie certainly hadn't known until reading part of that journal. Katie thought it sad that the first Charles Hamilton had died without knowing his son. She found it interesting that the son, Wade Hampton Hamilton, had been named after his father's commanding officer. It was tradition apparently, one Katie was glad was no longer followed. Wade wasn't so bad a name, but Hampton was a silly name Katie thought.
Katie wondered if even Will knew he had named his son after a distant relative. He had said he didn't know about the journal, but she wondered if he had found out some other way. She hoped, for her younger cousin's sake, that this generation's Charles Hamilton had a longer life than the first one had. He was dead before he reached twenty-one. She wasn't sure what the legal drinking age was during the Civil War, but she knew what it was currently. A person dying before reaching the age of majority died way too soon as far as Katie was concerned.
It didn't take Charles long to assemble his over night bag. Katie checked it just to make sure he'd packed his toothbrush and something to sleep in. She trusted Charles, he was almost ten, but she didn't want his friend's mother to think she was irresponsible if he did happen to forget something.
She kissed him on the cheek and ruffled his hair. "You have fun, Charles, and I'll see you tomorrow. Maybe we can take Keith and go to a movie or something."
"Yes, really. Go have fun and we'll talk about it tomorrow. Good night and please behave for Mrs. Adler."
"I will," he said his hand already on the handle to open the screen door.
Katie watched as Charles walked across the street and two houses down to the Adler's house. She closed the front door when she could no longer see him. Katie did not need to worry about Charles, this was a safe neighborhood but she still wanted to see he had made it across the street safely.
She walked to the kitchen and began to make herself a cup of tea. Gwen always had the most interesting and sometimes exotically flavored teas. Katie had no thoughts of what to do with her evening but sit on the oversized arm chair in Will's family room, drink her tea, and continue reading her great great great grandmother's journal. What an interesting person her mother, Katie's great great great great grandmother and Will's great great great great great grandmother, must have been for Ella to sit down and write about her life.
Story ©Susan Falk/APCKRFAN/PhantomRoses.com