The Alphabet Stories: Yes
Story by Liane Carter
Illustration by E.J. Klepinger
Amanda left Ben’s door open so her dog could wander in and out to the garden. She hadn’t had Poppy long and sometimes - like Amanda - the dog got nervous. She didn’t want Poppy to pee on Ben’s carpet. Amanda caught Charlotte’s gaze.
“Charlotte, you’re staring at me.”
“Sorry. I was thinking.”
“That I’d like you to meet my brother.”
Amanda leaned away, confused. In the last few days, with the encouragement from Jon in her sessions with him and how well she was doing, she’d decided to say yes to life and embrace things, but not …. She had felt an instant trust and fondness for Charlotte when she had met her. They’d gone out for lunch with Ben and Edward on the day she’d been reunited with Ben, then they’d picked up Poppy and gone to the park. Ben had wanted to hold Poppy’s lead and Amanda had been glad. She wanted her brother and Poppy to like each other, and they did. So Charlotte and Amanda had walked on ahead, arm in arm through the park, chattering away about books and life and giggling at their similarities.
Amanda had wondered what it would be like to have a sister, and Charlotte had always wanted one. They felt like two jigsaw pieces who had finally found each other.
Since that first meeting, they’d met for coffee and walks a few times. She’d even dared to trust Charlotte and tell her who she was interested in. Her heart did a little leap when Charlotte reckoned he felt the same way about Amanda.
“I don’t understand. You … want to set me up with your brother?”
“No. You’re not his type,” Charlotte said.
Amanda felt her eyes widen.
She felt tears rise to her eyes. They came so easily lately. She tried to blink them back.
“What?” Charlotte said. “Oh, God, no. I didn’t mean that it’s anything to do with you.”
Amanda waved her away.
“It doesn’t matter. I know I’m no catch.”
Charlotte rushed over and flung her arms around Amanda.
“Ah, yes, actually. I’ve just caught you and you are quite the catch.”
Amanda smiled into Charlotte’s shoulder despite herself. Charlotte made her smile a lot. It felt good.
Charlotte pulled away still holding Amanda’s arms.
“Amanda, my brother, Frankie, he’s gay,” Charlotte said. “That’s why I meant by you not being his type: you’re not a man.”
Charlotte looked into Amanda’s eyes.
“I want us all to be a family. He’s been through hell too. I also know he will love you like I do. He’s gentle and sweet, although nervous. I think … I hope you’ll like him.”
Amanda took one of Charlotte’s hands from her arm and squeezed it. Saying yes to life meant giving back, especially when she was receiving so much.
“I’m sure I will.”
She watched Charlotte’s shoulders relax.
“When do you suggest?” Amanda said.
“Tonight? But it’s already 7.”
“I … might have already arranged it. A bit of a party.”
Amanda stepped back and her hips hit the kitchen counter. She shook her head.
“I’m not a party person, Charlotte, and I have Poppy here. I don’t know how she’ll be with lots of people.”
“Well you and Poppy know everyone except my brother - and he’s as nervous as you are - and they are all coming here.”
“Me, you, Ben, Frankie and Edward.”
“I’ve never been big on people either. That is a party to me.”
Amanda felt her own shoulders relax. “That doesn’t sound so bad.”
“Bad? It’s going to be great. Edward is bringing the food.”
Amanda raised an eyebrow. “Does he cook?”
“Not well. I think he’s trying to impress you, so try not to break any teeth.”
Ben walked in.
“Should I ask what you two are giggling about?”
“No,” they both said together, looked at each other and started laughing again.
Amanda caught Ben’s eye and he smiled at her. She could see her brother’s joy about her own. He had said she could hug him whenever she wanted, and she had to fight not to hug him all the time. She still couldn’t believe she’d found him after all these years. And Charlotte encouraged the hugs, and kept hugging her too.
Amanda glanced at Charlotte.
“Oh, yeah.” Charlotte said. “Watch out, Ben. Here we come.”
They laughed and raced to him. He fell backwards onto the sofa, and the two of them hugged him and each other.
“This,” he said, “is family.”
“Hey,” Edward said, “Don’t leave me out.”
They all scrambled to their feet.
Edward raised his arms carrying two bags.
“I ordered food. Mine is … much like the remains of a fire, which I hope will be magically cleaned up by the time I get home.”
Amanda bit her lip to stop from smiling, and didn’t dare look at Charlotte.
Ben helped Edward sort out the trays of food.
“Knock, knock. I’m saying it because the door’s open.”
Amanda looked up and saw a wounded human. He tried to sink within his slight frame and hid his hands under the sleeves of his sweater. Yes to life. She walked up to the front door.
“You must be Frankie. I’m Amanda, Ben’s sister. Do you want to shake hands or hug?”
She couldn’t believe what she was saying. She could almost feel the pride emanating from Charlotte and Ben behind her.
Frankie blinked then smiled.
“Well if you’re already calling me Frankie, definitely a hug. I’m a hug sort of person.”
“No wonder we’re family,” Amanda said, and took him into her arms. He smelled a bit of peaches like her mum, but she threw the association aside. She didn’t want to ruin her new life when it had only just started.
“What do people normally call you then?” she asked, after they’d hugged. “I thought Charlotte said-”
“Frank. Only Charlotte calls me Frankie.”
“Oh. Frankie suits you.”
“Then Frankie it is.”
“Come and meet my dog, Frankie,” she said. “She’s nervous meeting people.”
“Aren’t we all?” he said.
She smiled. Yes, she could see why Charlotte thought she and Frankie would get along. She led him into the garden and Poppy looked up from sniffing a hedge.
“Oh, she’s a red setter,” Frankie said. “She’s gorgeous.” Tears sprung in his eyes. He spread his arms and upturned his palms and squatted for her to come and investigate him. But Poppy - like she’d just met her long lost brother and had never been nervous of humans in her life - charged. She launched at Frankie and he fell backwards onto the grass. Her front paws pinned Frankie to the ground and she licked his face like an ice-cream. Frankie began giggling. Amanda had never heard such a lyrical laugh. Frankie rubbed Poppy’s sides and she lay on top of him nuzzling and knocking his chin with her head.
“I don’t believe it,” Edward said.
Amanda turned to see Edward standing on the patio staring at her.
“It looks like,” he said, “everyone is getting a hug today except me.”
Amanda felt her cheeks flush.
Ben walked out and rushed behind Edward and grabbed him.
“Here’s your hug.”
Edward laughed and grabbed Ben’s arms.
Amanda thought a thank you to her big brother for saving her. She was saying yes to life, yet one step at a time.