The somber crowd watched the girl in the formal black dress as she moved her hands carefully across her guitar. They would have understood if a tear or two leaked down her face as she played, understood that this was her final goodbye to her dear father. As the coffin was lowered into the ground, the sad wailing notes of the guitar did all the wailing that was expected of the child, as her face remained emotionless.
Inside her head, however, away from all the people, the music, and the graveyard, Charlotte was far from emotionless. She found that music was a great way to drown out the outside world so she could think clearly.
Change. She thought. This is a change. Not a particularly good one, she thought.
Traitor! A little voice insisted. Your father is dead and you're making light of the situation. There is no light in this. It's all dark. The least you could do is cry for your dear departed father. Allow yourself to feel the pain.
The poor thing's in shock, another voice whispered. Give her time.
Time to what? The first voice returned, to change? Her father changed and see where that got him. It's better to stay locked away than to open oneself to the changes that steal loved ones away.
The voices rose in argument, so Charlotte allowed the music she played to drown them out completely.
"Charlotte, honey, you've worn that outfit for days. Please wear something else today."
It had been a week, and Charlotte still wore the black dress she'd worn to her father's funeral. Her mother seemed to be fighting her to change things, but she didn't want any more changes. Losing her father was the last change she had to accept because she had still allowed changes then. But no more.
She ignored her mother and absently picked at her guitar.
"Charlotte, I understand it hurts, but you have to move on. Daddy would want you to."
Charlotte sighed. She knew her mother was hurting too, so why couldn't she understand Charlotte's decision? "I'm done with changes." Charlotte told her mother. "All of them. Change of clothes, change of scenery. Everything."
Her mother gave her a look. It was one of those 'oh no you don't' looks mixed with a bit of pity. "Charlotte, changes are a part of life." she started off gentle, but then her tone hardened. "Still. You can't go on wearing the same outfit forever. If you wanted to change into an identical dress every day, we could talk, but I want you to go shower and change right now. And then find me so we can talk about this."
Charlotte played a few more notes on her guitar.
"You can join a blues band afterwards." Her mother told her, "if you don't go now, I'll bathe you myself."
Charlotte put down the guitar and trudged slowly upstairs. Weren't parents supposed to be supportive?
Since it was summer, the next problem Charlotte ran into with her ‘no change’ policy was lunch. She came into the kitchen determined to show her mother how upset she was at being forced to change earlier, to find her mother at the stove working over that smelled like something from another world.
“Mom…” Charlotte took a deep breath. “What is that?”
“Oh. I decided to try something new. You want some?”
“No thanks. I’m not hungry.” Charlotte’s stomach grumbled. “I’ll just make a sandwich.” she amended.
“Charlotte, you can’t hide from food. That’s just one of the many examples of how everything changes. And that’s okay.” Mrs. Holmes wiped her hand on a towel and came over to watch Charlotte as she pulled out the manual can opener and the tuna. “You know we have an electric one, right?”
Charlotte ignored her.
“Change is important. It’s how you grow. You can’t very well force your body to stop changing. If you starve yourself, you’ll lose weight, and that’s a change too. Now, there’s growing physically, and there’s growing emotionally-” she stopped talking. Charlotte had taken her sandwich outside.
Day after day, one thing after another, it was Charlotte against the world. And then the leaves on the large apple tree in the front yard decided fall was coming soon enough. They started to collect colors. It was especially odd because the trees in Oregon don’t normally do that, even when it’s actually fall. Charlotte’s first instinct was to snap a picture for her to paint it later. But as soon as she took the picture, she deleted it. This was a blatant disregard for nature, and she shouldn’t support an unnatural change. Autumn was a big enough symbol of change without coming out of turn.
Deciding the best course of action was to pretend it hadn’t happened, Charlotte walked back inside, heading straight for her room. Those days she spent most of her days there, hiding from all the changes around her. As she pushed open the door, she instantly knew her mother had clearly been in her room. Charlotte took one look at all the things assembled on her desk. A similar picture to the one she had just deleted leaned against a brand new set of paints next to a canvas, a book, and a magnifying glass.
She hadn’t painted anything in a while, although her mother knew the kind of thing she liked to do. New paints were hard to refuse, but they were also changes. She turned to look at the book. The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. She opened the book and read the inscription in the cover.
To my dear Charlotte-
Although it seems like the only thing you have in common with
Sherlock Holmes is the last name, always remember that you can
find your own adventures. All you have to do is keep your eyes
open as you travel through whatever life throws your way.
Keep your head up,
After almost a month of hiding from herself, Charlotte finally broke down and cried.
Hours later, Mrs. Holmes found her daughter with her sleeves rolled up past her elbows, hard at work replicating the oddity outside. Charlotte had large splatters of paint on one of the black dresses she wore more days then not. Her curls were pulled back into a ponytail, but it looked like green paint was eating the reddish brown strands that dragged too low.
“You know,” she joked, “if you wanted to dye your hair, you should have just asked.”
Charlotte looked up, looking both startled and sheepish. “Thanks,” she mumbled.
As the sun slipped below the horizon, both mother and daughter were covered in paint and smiles. They’d finished the painting together, and although it didn’t look much like the original picture, it was beautiful.
Over a late supper Charlotte spoke up.
“I kind of saw a while ago that changes are pretty hard to avoid. Every single day things change. Basically, as odd as it seems, change is constant. So, I guess I’m okay with some changes now. I mean, it’s going to take some work, and I’m still going to miss Dad, but I guess some changes can be good. Or at least lead to good things. Right?”
Charlotte’s mother smiled gently. “Charlotte, I’m glad to hear that, because we have another change coming. I figured the best thing to help us both move on with life is a fresh start. Now, I understand that it’s not the best time for this, and I’ll try to get the whole thing over before the first day of school. That way it won’t be as hard to adjust.”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, I’m going to need to go back to work soon, and a friend of mine from my college days has helped me get a job over there. Plus, they’ve got some great therapists who could help us both. We could go together or separately…” Mrs. Holmes trailed off as she saw the look on her daughter’s face.
“What are you talking about?” Charlotte’s voice filled with dread as she started to grasp her mother’s meaning.
“We’re moving to West Virginia.”