The Alphabet Stories: X-ray Vision
Story by Liane Carter
Illustration by E.J. Klepinger
Charlotte tried to concentrate on her book, but she couldn’t. She kept glancing out of the car window towards Jon’s office. How was Ben doing in there? She wished she had X-ray vision and could see through walls. Sure, Ben had Edward with him, and she knew Edward thought the world of Ben, but she couldn’t help worrying. She knew how sensitive Ben was, and he was still healing from so much of his past. Would his sister open old wounds and set him back? Was his sister angry at him for leaving her when she was a child? How would Ben deal with it if Amanda was? Would it trigger memories of the violence he’d endured from his parents? He’d told Charlotte they never hit Amanda, only Ben.
Charlotte wished it had been the same in her house, that the older sibling received all the blows. But when Charlotte’s mother had died, her dad had turned to alcohol, and violence - mainly at her younger brother - and the worst injuries Charlotte had suffered were when she intervened. Her dad had given her two concussions and a broken collarbone. Her hand raised to her shoulder, and memories flooded into the forefront of her mind. She shuddered. Poor Frankie. Her brother wouldn’t have survived without her. She’d gotten them both out, as soon as she was old enough to work and take care of them, but then she’d chosen bad boyfriends - drinkers like her dad. She’d not thought of Frankie enough, early enough, to break the pattern of following in her mother’s footsteps. She’d received help - maybe not as good as Jon, who worked miracles with Ben - but it had helped her. After all, she was with Ben now. She wouldn’t have chosen a gentle guy before. And she’d never loved this deeply before. She wondered if Frankie might consider seeing Jon. She had enough saved for a few sessions maybe. She guessed he wasn’t cheap, but she didn’t know. What she did know was her brother carried as many scars inside as you could see on his skin, and she wanted to help him remove that pain.
She imagined Ben in there, meeting his sister. Did his sister remember the horrible things they had done to Ben when he was a boy? Or did Amanda just remember that Ben had run away, which meant she was taken into care? How would that experience have affected her? Charlotte was smart enough to know everyone remembered the past through a distorted lens. Her heart ached for Amanda. Charlotte had always wanted a sister, was so excited to meet Amanda, but now, sitting outside in the car for a few hours, her thoughts were doing all they could to terrify her.
Amanda might hate Charlotte or resent her. Frankie liked Ben, yet her brother was probably so relieved Ben was a gentle guy, and what was not to like? Ben was likeable. But was Charlotte? A few of her friends had been sensible enough to release her from their friendship due to her poor choice in men. And maybe Amanda didn’t want a big sister, or a friend.
Charlotte couldn’t help herself: she looked up and tried to look through the walls of the building again. She gasped. Edward was coming out of the door. Ben followed holding Amanda’s hand. Charlotte didn’t know if she should look away so she didn’t appear nosy, or if looking away might look like she didn’t care. She felt the smile on her lips to see Ben holding hands with his sister, but her stomach somersaulted. She shouldn’t have come.
Ben caught her gaze, grinned and beckoned with his free hand. Charlotte was excited a few hours ago. She wanted a little sister. She wanted to be friends with Amanda. Hadn’t she gone on and on about it to Ben?
She took a deep breath and stepped out of the car. All she could do was be herself and see what happened. Her legs wobbled and her stomach still churned. She reached them and Edward patted her on the shoulder. She smiled at him.
“Thanks,” she said.
“Charlotte,” Ben said. “You’re shaking. Are you all right?”
She felt ridiculous. She shook her head, studying the asphalt between them.
“No. I was so excited, but I’m nervous.”
She forced herself to look up.
“Oh. You have Ben’s beautiful eyes,” she said to Amanda.
Amanda blushed and stifled a smile.
“Amanda,” Ben said, “This is Charlotte. Charlotte, Amanda.”
Charlotte opened her mouth, yet no words came out.
Amanda extended her hand.
“Nice to meet you, Charlotte.”
Charlotte glanced at Amanda’s hand.
“Uh, do you think we could hug instead?”
Amanda’s eyes widened, and so did her smile.
Ben grinned and stepped back, and Amanda and Charlotte hugged.
Charlotte whispered in Amanda’s ear.
“I was so nervous to meet you.”
“Me too,” Amanda said. “I wanted to be able to see through the walls to check you out first.”
They both giggled in each other’s arms, and hugged each other harder, both giving some of what they could feel the other needed.