Kindle Author Sponsor: Robyn Bradley
A Touch of Charlotte—A Short Story
“When an author is skilled enough that you, the reader, step inside of the mind and heart of one of his/her characters, not just observe them from the outside, this is brilliant writing. Touch of Charlotte left me disturbed, uncomfortable in my own skin, immersed in an insanity as comprehensible as if it came from my own brain, as I emerged from the pained world of Anne, the main character. If this were a story you heard on the news, you could never understand it. Reading it from inside the character's mind, you do. Beautifully written, leaves me itching for more. A must read.”
—Robin Chapman, Amazon Review, 5 stars out of 5
“I read A Touch of Charlotte in 10 minutes. I couldn't put it down. I could feel the pain of the mother and the presence of Charlotte as if it was my own experience. It is a beautifully written story. The reader is instantly pulled in. I read all the time and my favorite authors are the ones that pull you into the story/characters right away and leave you still in the characters when you finish. Robyn Bradley does that every time. Looking forward to more by this author!”
—BookLover, Amazon Reviewer, 5 stars out of 5
Winner of the 2007 Short Story Award from The Center for the Arts in Natick (TCAN)
Anne is convinced her dead twin daughter, Charlotte, has reached out from beyond the grave. Will Anne do anything to make Charlotte happy, even if it means killing her surviving little girl?
Book Excerpt from A Touch of Charlotte—A Short Story:
Charlotte starts talking to me at 3:07 on a Tuesday morning while I rock Emily and check my e-mail. What else is there to do in the middle of the night with a nine-month-old baby who refuses to sleep for more than two hours straight?
My inbox is full of subject lines promising me bigger pen*ses, cheaper Rolexes, and mortgage approvals that I never asked for. I’m ten steps beyond exhausted, and I need something interesting to read that’ll keep me awake. Finally, I spot an e-mail from my friend Leigh with a subject line that says Check out this blog! I click on the link, and it brings me to a site called "Post Secret," which has homemade postcards with handwritten confessions sent anonymously from people around the globe.
I scroll through and read the postcards. Some are funny: I need to be naked when I poop! Others are sad: I knew you were gay before I married you. But one makes me stop and suck in my breath. It’s a sonogram—one of those ultrasound images where you can make out the baby’s head, just like the one we had on our fridge almost a year ago. Across it are these words scrawled in black magic marker: This is the only picture that will ever be taken of you.
I know what most people are thinking. They’re thinking that the woman who sent in the postcard had an abortion or a miscarriage. They might be right. But something else could have happened, especially if this particular sonogram is showing two babies. And it’s precisely when I think this that I hear a baby girl’s voice say, "Mommy."
I know it is.
Swiveling in the chair and careful not to upset Emily who’s finally asleep, I search for her in the darkness. The light from the monitor casts the room in a funky blue glow, and the old digital clock on the opposite wall reads 3:07.
"Charlotte?" I whisper. Nothing. "Charlotte," I say a little louder, reminding myself that no one can hear me but Emily, since John’s asleep in our bedroom upstairs. "Charlotte, sweetheart. Mommy’s here." I look down at Emily. "And Emmie’s here too. We’re both here."
Just thinking about Charlotte makes my heart hurt. The tears come, and I close my eyes and let them fall. I picture them running down my cheeks, my chin, my neck, my breasts, and onto Emily’s face, drowning her.
"Bug," the voice—my Charlotte’s voice—whispers. She sounds so close, as if she’s right next to me.
"Bug?" I repeat. I open my eyes and try to see through my tears. Everything blurs before slowly giving way to focus.
"Bug! Bug! Bug!" Charlotte’s words resonate through my head, and suddenly I’m outside my body, watching myself as I hold Emily. And that’s when I see it—the bug on Emily’s mouth.
It’s a stink bug—a dirt-brown, shield-shaped insect that smells like rotten eggs. Except this one is five times bigger than a normal stink bug.
"Jesus!" I hiss. I try to flick it off with my index finger, but it won’t budge. It’s heavy and locked into position. I grab it by the antennae, and pull—gently at first—and then I tug harder and harder. The bug is moving! No—it’s growing. It’s covering Emmie’s mouth and nose.
"Put down," Charlotte commands.
I still can’t see her, but I know Charlotte’s here in the room, and I’m thankful for that. I kneel on the floor and place Emily on the blue shag carpet. The bug is smothering her mouth, her nostrils, her eyes. I need something strong enough to bat it off her. I jump up and feel around John’s desk. I grab his heavy-duty stapler—the one he uses to fasten twenty-five pages together.
"Kill it," Charlotte says.
I stand over Emily—the stink bug has engulfed her entire face—and I lift the stapler above my head.
"Kill it!" Charlotte screams.
I squeeze my eyes shut and take a deep breath. Yes, yes. Kill it, kill it, kill it, I think. Kill it, kill it, kill it.
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