Fandom: Pushing Daisies
Summary: Life changes, not always for the better, but there are comforts still to be found.
Author's Notes: Happy belated birthday to mercurybard! I hoped this would finish sooner, but then, I also expected it to be much shorter. In any case, I hope you like it. :)
In the beginning, the world of Charlotte Charles was clear and good and bright. Charlotte's father, Charles Charles, offered piggyback rides and bedtime stories, and Charlotte's friend Ned shared secrets and a love of running through sunlit meadows. The Charles' house smelled of Pine Sol, cookies, and Brut aftershave, while Charlotte's friend smelled of earth and grass—of the outdoors and all the adventures to be found.
But one day, when the sun was shining and the honeysuckle hummed with bees, her father suddenly died. A part of Charlotte's childhood died then too, and yet another when she lost her friend as well.
While everyone left, Charlotte stayed in the house where she and her father had lived. Her aunts came to care for her, sisters of the mother she never knew. One was fragile, the other brittle, and neither spoke more than twenty sentences a day. Charlotte wandered the rooms downstairs and wondered where the sun had gone and why everything smelled of cheese. She climbed the stairs to where her father's handkerchiefs slept in a drawer, and lifting them to her face she would breathe in the memories of all she so sorely missed.
In the company of her aunts she grew brave again, for they loved her though they knew little about raising children. Charlotte would crawl into the closet of colorful sequined clothes and bury her face in the nylon and gauze, dreaming of the secret lives those clothes had lived. For years, she was bewildered by their sharp alien smell, until a trip to a school friend's swimming pool settled the question once and for all. Afterwards, new questions rose up to take its place.
Vivian and Lily, who were not the maiden aunts they had seemed, unrolled their past one evening over cocktails and gruyere croquettes. The two sisters had toured the country in a glamorous and chlorinated spectacle billed as the Darling Mermaid Darlings, a water revue of synchronization and satin. Charlotte was so entranced with the photographs of this other life that Vivian and Lily decided retiring for Charlotte's sake was not necessary after all.
The revue resumed.
On weekdays, Charlotte and her aunts went about the daily duties of school and housecleaning and grocery-shopping, with occasional costume-sewing and repair. The sisters rehearsed their performances and created new routines during school hours. Evenings were a miasma of cocktails and homework. But on weekends, the Darling Mermaid Darlings went on tour, thrilling audiences in nearby states. Summers were reserved for cross-country travel.
Charlotte loved those trips, and the parade of motels, restaurants, and adoring crowds. The motel rooms often carried hints of stale cigarette smoke and freshly-bleached linen, but to Charlotte those were the smells of adventure.
In her teen years, Charlotte sometimes thought of those distant cities and the glimmering azure waters that were her aunts' second home. Devoted to her studies, she rarely traveled by then, but she remembered the excitement of new places and people fondly. Her college years afforded little change.
It was afterward that the opportunity finally presented itself. Charlotte had no duties or deadlines standing in the way, no term papers or tests to prepare for. She arranged for a vacation of her own, a chance to find out who she was and who she wanted to become. She hoped the cruise ship tour she had booked would bring the new perspective she was seeking.
Bidding her aunts farewell, Charlotte boarded the ship, marveling at its gleaming white hull and the hundreds of windows opening onto new horizons. For days it journeyed into open waters, toward new lands and new possibilities. Charlotte strolled the upper deck in sandals and a sundress, enjoying the beauty of the crisp blue water and dreaming of all the wonders that lay ahead. On the third night, she dined with a retired couple from Richmond, who were art and opera enthusiasts. Then she went for a walk in the moonlight, intoxicated by the salty scent of promise in the ocean air. Little did she know that within minutes, her journey would to come to an end.
The facts were these…
Deedee Dunfield, of the Boutique Travel Travel Boutique, had bestowed the cruise upon Charlotte at no cost, in exchange for transporting a pair of plaster monkeys. Underneath their dull exterior, the smuggled simians were in fact made of gold. The persons who wanted them were willing to kill Charlotte, and later Deedee, in order to obtain the illicit goods. And in fact, they did.
Charlotte awoke in a box, staring at the ceiling of a room she did not recognize. The overwhelming scent of flowers flooded her senses, more flowers than actually belonged indoors and this wood-paneled place was certainly no greenhouse. Something was amiss.
That something most likely was not the man leaning over her just then. He had a most sincere face, and he seemed like someone she remembered from long ago—the childhood friend who had cherished her with those same kind eyes.
Charlotte's head was awhirl, lying in that strange place under unknown circumstances. But just then, she caught the faint aroma of something different, something that almost smelled like pie.
In that moment, Charlotte Charles knew that no matter where she was or how she came to be there, everything would somehow be all right.
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