The Winchesters summer in the Hamptons every year without fail. They have a home next to the Rothschilds who come from Greenwich. Their eldest child, a son named Thatcher, decided to stay at boarding school for the winter holidays. This left their youngest, Charlotte, to fend for herself and deal with Mother’s vacillating between simply tolerating her children and wishing they had never been born.
This is the second year Thatcher stayed at his Swiss boarding school. His girlfriend, a French poodle named Sascha, convinced her parents to let them weekend at the family chalet which is 25 miles north of the historic academic institution. Last year, Charlotte howled and whimpered in protest, embarrassing her controlling mother who sent her to her room without any purified spring water.
This year, however, Charlotte had some semblance of hope. The Rothschild had hired a new nanny to help with their four Doberman pups. She was a pit bull and beagle mix from Brooklyn. Mrs. Rothschild was mortified at having a dog in her house that, not only wasn’t certified, but wasn’t even a purebred. Mr. Rothschild only cared that his children were finally listening to someone which left him more time to secretly watch cat videos online.
River was everything Charlotte thought she wasn’t. Beautiful. Confident. Funny. Ambitious. Able to handle anything she came up against. Charlotte had spent the previous summer holiday watching River take the Rothschild children to the beach. She never introduced herself, though, and regretted the missed opportunity when the families parted ways at the end of the summer.
Determined not to make that mistake again, Charlotte waited until her mother had gone to “sleep off the stress of having such an impertinent child” and went outside. The Rothschild children (Asher, Laine, Jamison, and Rebecca) were playing in the snow while River dutifully watched close by.
Charlotte took in a deep breath and regretted it immediately. The sharp winter air stung in her lungs and she coughed in response. This was not the way to make a first impression.
“You should really dress more warmly if you’re gonna be outside, Charlotte.”
Charlotte was stunned. She knew that voice but had never heard it say her name. She didn’t even know the one it belonged to knew it. Slowly, she raised her head to make sure she wasn’t hearing things.
River stood before her handing over a homemade rainbow scarf. “Here. This should help.”
Charlotte blinked but was still too stunned to move.
River laughed. “I know we come from different worlds, girly, but I’m pretty sure yours has scarves. Here, let me help.” Then, ever so gently, River placed the scarf around Charlotte’s neck.
Had the temperature gone up? The temperature must have gone up. Charlotte’s cheeks felt warm and the feeling continued to pass over the rest of her. She managed to stutter a “thank you” before tripping over her front two paws.
River laughed again as she helped Charlotte up. “Seriously, Char, how have you been able to manage without me this long?” She smiled and winked and led Charlotte to the outdoor couch under the awning, so they could watch the children.
Charlotte realized her paws must feel sweaty and tried to apologize, but she was having a hard time with words. She was captain of her debate team. She was student body president. Charlotte had many difficulties, but finding her words was never one of them. But, now, next to River, flirting with River – at least she hoped this was flirting – all her words seemed to disappear.
“Thanks. Oh, yeah, I said that. Um…I’m Charlotte. My house is next door. Ugh! But you know that, too.” Charlotte put her face in her paws and tried to disappear. “I guess I’m kinda bad at this.”
River learned over and playfully whispered, “I can’t imagine you being bad at aaaaaaanything”. Then, she sat up and waited for the full meaning of her statement to register in Charlotte’s brain.
Charlotte sat up and realized that River was offering her a space under the blanket. Suddenly, she was thankful that her brother was on the other side of the world.