But finally someone squealed. Mother grabbed us as we tried to slither out at noon to meet Charlie and she smacked me right royal. Damn near broke my nose. Blood ran down my face. Then Mother dragged me upstairs and she locked me in the attic for a week. That was that. We could not see Charlie anymore. Everyone cried. When I was finally released I punched Mary in the stomach and kicked her shins. Mary swore she was not the one who squealed. We fought each other while the little ones cried. Alex stuttered that Willie was having bad dreams again. Charlie sat under the covers, clutching one blanket like a security blanket, and sucked his thumb. It was like he was a baby again.
Charlie kept writing letters. It got so Maeve feared the double knock on the door and the postman delivering those sad letters from Charlie. After every letter Maeve would go out and buy another lucky charm from the neighborhood gypsy. How Charlie pleaded and pleaded, imploring us to come. Begging us. Crying out how lonely he was. Even his own family refused to open the door to him. Why was everyone acting as if he was some sort of leper or ghost or something.
Finally I walked to the park at dusk and there was Charlie. The moment he saw me he smiled and the charred ruins turned instantly into a cosy little park. How Charlie beamed. I held out my hand to shake hands but Charlie swept me up onto his arms and wept like someone desperately lonely. It was so hard. So very hard. It was so hard to tell Charlie he was dead. Poor Charlie. He did not know you see. That he was dead. He did not feel dead. He dead so full of life, dreaming dreams, working late so he could be successful so he could find someone and fall in love and marry and have children and the home and the happy-ever- after Dickens always ended his books with. I could not blame Charlie. So finally I hugged him one last time and then I put my hands over his eyes and I said “Charlie. Imagine a light. Far away. A beautiful light. Can you see it Charlie?”
“Yes John but it is far away. I want to stay here with you in our park. You are such an amazing child John. As anyone ever told you that? That you are someone who is very special?”
“Focus on the light Charlie. Let it reach out for you. Reach out for the light Charlie.”
“I see it. It is coming closer. It is warm. But our park is warm too. I want to stay here with you John. Don’t you want me? Didn’t you ask me to come? Didn’t you call out for me to come?”
“Reach out and touch the light Charlie.”
So Charlie gestured and reached out and he touched something. “I can feel it. It is warm. Like fingers. It …it…. it is Grandmother. Hello Nana! Oh John! It is Nana. It is my Grandmother! She has come to help me find myself.”
“Go with your grandmother Charlie” I told Charlie.
“But Nana is dead” Charlie said. “And I am not lost. I am with you John.”
“Go with your grandmother Charlie” I said again.
“Yes. Of course. I am lost. I should be someplace else. Not here. It is dark here. Dark and damp. Why did I want to stay here? It is dark and damp. Goodbye John. Thank you for understanding. I was just…..lonely. Goodbye.”
I watched Charlie walk away into the darkness and then I knew he was gone and I would never see Charlie Rose again. I carefully crossed the ruined lot and squeezed through the chained gate. I stood for a moment in the darkness and watched the moon glide over the charred ruins of Byrnes & Rose Importers & Exporters Ltd. Then I walked home. Mother beat me bloody.