When Charlotte's father came home from work, he was surprised to see the dinner table set for three. Estelle hadn't mentioned a guest, and he couldn't remember the last time Charlotte had stayed home for dinner.
He looked in through the kitchen doorway and saw Estelle as she mashed the potatoes. Her back was ramrod straight, and she was attacking those potatoes like she hated them. Not a good sign. When Estelle turned around, her expression told him that he was not in for a good evening.
Mark washed up and sat at the table, a burning glow of heartburn throbbing in his oesophagus. When Charlotte carried in the potatoes and vegetables, he knew that she had done something wrong - again. She rarely helped with dinner.
He had tried to discipline her from infancy, but she was so headstrong that none of the usual punishments worked. Ground her, and she snuck out. Cut off her phone privileges, and she'd use it on the sly anyway. She was more interested in boys than anything else.
They had even bought one of those newly invented television sets, hoping to keep her home, but that didn't work either. He had run out of privileges to limit. Short of beating her, they had tried everything to make her behave, but she had grown up spoiled, secretive and unmanageable.
Dinner was eaten in silence. Charlotte got up in the middle of it to run to the kitchen sink, to wretch. He worried that she had contracted some flu or other bug from the boys she ran around with. He was surprised that Estelle didn't go to her.
Mark gave Estelle a questioning look.
"What's going on, Honey? "
He asked as he watched Charlotte run in to the downstairs bathroom.
"Charlotte is pregnant, and she wants to get an abortion."
Estelle never was one to beat about the bush.
Mark put his head in his hands. As a train engineer for CNR, he had seen a couple of train wrecks that were less of a mess than this situation.
"That's not going to happen." He said, determined. "I'll lock her in the basement before I'll let her murder our grandchild."
Charlotte came in to the dining room, her face pale, her eyes puffy from weeping. She had heard her mother tell her father, and she knew that she was in the biggest trouble she had ever been in.
"That won't be necessary. I'll go to Vancouver to have the baby." She said, as she sat down wearily.
Surprised, but not trusting Charlotte's word, they waited for the other shoe to drop.
"You'd be willing to let us adopt the child?" Mark said, rubbing his chest where the heartburn was getting worse.
"On one condition. I want to go to Los Angeles after it's born. I'll need at least 50 thousand dollars to live on, while I take acting lessons, and go to all the auditions. You know I've had all the leads in all the plays since I was 14. My drama coach says I'm a natural star! You give me the money, and I'll give you the baby. It's as simple as that."
That was the defining moment in Mark and Estelle's lives. That was the one moment that they stopped caring what happened to Charlotte.
She was selling them her baby!! That was the very second that they fell out of love with their only child. Their grandchild would be their focus now.
Without even discussing it, Mark started to figure out how to come up with the money. He knew that Estelle would make any sacrifice to save that child.
"we'll take out a mortgage on the house for 25 thousand, and we'll give you the contents of your entire education fund. "
"We took it out when you were born. We put all your baby bonuses in it, plus we've been adding every year on your birthday. There's about 27 thousand dollars in it.You can have it all, but there is a couple of conditions from us."
Mark said sadly, looking wearily at his daughter.
"What's that dad?' Charlotte said, brightening up.
"After the baby is born you will sign adoption papers giving us full unconditional custody of him or her."
"Done." Charlotte said without hesitation. "What's the other condition?"
"After the baby is born we don't want to see you ever again. You will no longer be our daughter. Agreed?'
"Agreed." After a moments reflection, she said,
"I'll need some maternity clothes mom."