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When Anthony Schmidt of all people proposed to her in front of her parents, Charlotte had been so surprised that her answer had been a soft cry of disbelief, which Mr. and Mrs. Duval had interpreted as an ecstatic “yes”. Right then and there, her parents started making wedding arrangements, and Charlotte knew that it would be hopeless to interrupt when her mother was in one of those moods talking about ice sculptures and receptions. Besides, Charlotte was always the disappointment, the middle child, so it was about time that she did something right.

The day she stepped in the white gown and walked down the aisle, Mr. and Mrs. Duval couldn’t have been any happier. After all, they wanted the best for their middle child, who they felt had always gotten the short end of the stick throughout her life. So what else could they have wished for other than Charlotte finding happiness, marrying a rich man and perhaps even raising children of her own? Thus, Charlotte’s brief moment of hesitation before saying her vows and the hint of melancholy in her eyes throughout the ceremony was missed.

The newlyweds’ honeymoon was enchanting – a month long trip to Paris. Anthony was the one who made all the plans; he was the one that suggested places to visit and activities for them to do together. Sometimes, midway through speech, Anthony would notice Charlotte sitting at the window of the lavish hotel room and just staring absent-mindedly. When he asked what was wrong, Charlotte would have a look as though she didn’t know why she was there, but that look of bewilderment would be quickly masked with a soft smile and a simple “nothing”. The couple would then head out to explore the city, having no choice but to forget their troubles under the Parisian air thick with enchantment and romance.

Charlotte drifted through one year of marriage in a similar manner, always the sweet, gentle and quiet wife who went along with what her husband suggested. Anthony would occasionally spot her staring distractedly through the window, but Charlotte was getting better and better at concealing this habit from him. When their anniversary came, Anthony surprised Charlotte with a trip to New York, to which Charlotte had taken care to respond with great enthusiasm.

On the first day of their trip, Anthony proposed a visit to the local zoo, renowned in the US as the best zoo in the country. The couple strolled through the exhibits of exotic animals in contentment, Anthony chatting amiably as Charlotte responded with “ahh” and “that’s nice” at the appropriate pauses in his speech. When Anthony’s speech began to dwindle, Charlotte quickly turned to the nearest exhibit and pretended to show great interest in the animal in the cage without even knowing what it was.


Joining her at the exhibit, Anthony began to speak about the Arctic wolf (so that was what was in the cage), the fact that it was endangered and the conservation efforts throughout the country. Charlotte listened with mild interest, while her eyes followed the lone wolf as it skulked about in a rather sorrowful manner. An odd part of her wanted to mention this to Anthony, but she knew that he would say, “You have quite the imagination Charlotte dear, but wolves don’t skulk. ”

With the dialogue in her head, Charlotte had failed to notice that Anthony had finished speaking a few minutes ago and was expecting an answer from her. When Charlotte turned around, Anthony was looking at her with a rather resigned expression.


Anthony placed both of his hands on Charlotte’s shoulders and looked into her eyes as if he would find some explanation there. After about a minute, he sighed to himself and broke off. Charlotte did not know how to respond, so she simply waited for him to ask her what was wrong once again.


“I’ve seen you, you know. I’m not as easy to fool as you think that I am.”


Charlotte crossed her arms and waited, shielding herself from the inevitable fight that she sensed coming up. Their fights so far had been of the same nature, Anthony noticing that something was wrong, Charlotte simply listening and apologizing, which was often enough for him.


“If you want to leave, then why don’t you say so?” Anthony inquired. This time, he meant business.


“Of course I don’t want to leave. What makes you think that I want to leave?” Charlotte’s voice felt weak and unconvinced. But she had to stay with him. What would her parents say when she didn’t even know herself why she felt this way sometimes?



“You just look so broken sometimes.” Anthony turned away at this point to stare at the wolf. Charlotte followed his gaze. Uncharacteristically, she drew close to Anthony and put an arm around his waist.


“You’ve just been worrying too much and working too hard. Just relax and everything will work out. Don’t worry about me, I’m fine. After all, I have an amazing husband who spoils me rotten, and we will start a family soon, so what more could I want?”


Anthony responded to her speech with an unreadable expression and stared into her eyes for the longest time. Charlotte returned his gaze with the same intensity. When Anthony looked down, he released another deep sigh. He then wrapped an arm around Charlotte’s shoulders and the couple walked on, the tension from the conversation rendering Anthony to grip Charlotte with a steel grasp. Charlotte smiled sadly to herself and returned Anthony’s iron grip, quickening her pace to match his.



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ProseThis teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. said...
Jul. 2, 2012 at 4:57 pm:

Charlotte's weakness and strength are perfectly balanced.

I loved it!

 
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