Charlotte quietly walked into the dining room, looking about at her surroundings. The dining room was painted a deep red and decorated with golden frames and trinkets. It reminded Charlotte of a king's palace from one of her books. The large, heavy oak table sat in the center of the room, surrounded by a dozen and a half chairs. Charlotte could only imagine the dinner parties her mother could have held in a room such as this.

The Careys sat together at the table, the man at the head and the woman to his left. He looked up as Charlotte entered the room. He was even more handsome than in her mother's photograph, with sparkling brown eyes and chestnut hair, combed to the side. He looked kind, but his thick glasses gave him a certain air of intelligence.

"You must be Charlotte," he said kindly, his voice smooth as butter. He gave her a smile. "It's wonderful to finally meet you. I'm Lewis Carey. This is my wife, Helen."

Helen's photograph had not done her justice, either. Her blonde curls were styled to perfection and her blue eyes were bright and alert. She was perhaps the most beautiful woman Charlotte had ever seen, even including her own mother.

"We're so glad to have you with us," Helen said in a baby soft voice, soft and sweet. Although they shared a profession, Helen's voice sounded nothing like Charlotte's mother's, which had been strong and unsettling.

Helen looked Charlotte up and down, as if examining her. "Oh, Charlotte. You look just like your mother. Beautiful."

Charlotte was surprised at this. "Thank you," she finally replied, finding her voice. "I haven't heard that very often. My brother Luc looks just like my mother. Everyone always says so. They say I look more like my father."

"Oh, you do," Helen replied quickly. "You have his hair and his eyes. But you remind me so much of Marie. How she acted, how she moved. When she was your age, of course."

"You knew my mother when she was my age?" Charlotte asked in surprise. Her grandparents had died long before she was born, and her mother had no brothers or sisters who could speak of how she had been when she was young. "What was she like?" Charlotte asked, greedy for details.

"Why don't you come sit?" Lewis asked, pulling the chair on his right for her to sit. "We can explain everything."

Charlotte went to sit beside Lewis at the table and smiled gratefully as he served her a plateful of the dish they were eating. Across from her, Helen clasped her hands on the tabletop, her delicate bracelets clattering against each other. Charlotte was at once glad she had dressed so nicely for dinner, noticing the Careys' elegant attire.

"Would you like a glass of water?" Lewis asked, gesturing to the cut-glass pitcher.

"Yes, please," Charlotte replied. She looked up at Helen. "Helen, how did you meet my mother?"

Helen cast a quick glance at Lewis before telling Charlotte in a very serious voice, "I met her when I was nineteen years old. I was cast in my first big theatre tour, performing A Midsummer Night's Dream in France. I played Helena, and your mother Hermia. We grew very close during our time together that year. I was heartbroken when we were parted. But I had been cast in one of Lewis' plays here in London, and your mother chose to stay in France with the man she loved-your Father."

"My mother stayed behind to be with my father?" Charlotte asked in surprise. She had never imagined that her parents' relationship might have begun so romantically, like something from a novel.

"Oh, she was quite taken with your father," Helen said with a smile. "He was still a medical student at that time. He came to a performance one night in Paris and absolutely fell in love with Marie. He begged to be let backstage to meet her. At first she was a bit taken aback, but finally agreed to go on a date with him. And they fell in love."

"I never knew," Charlotte remarked thoughtfully. She couldn't imagine her conservative father begging to be allowed to meet an actress, or her mother going on a date with a stranger she knew nothing about.

Helen nodded with a smile. "They seemed to be the perfect couple. Anyway Charlotte, when I moved back to London, your mother and I attempted to maintain our relationship. I would visit your mother and father in France and we had wonderful times together. But then, when I married Lewis and settled down," she smiled sweetly at Lewis and took his hand, "and your mother had her own children, we began to drift apart. But I have always considered her one of my greatest friends and there was no question in my mind when I received her letter, asking if me and Lewis would care for you during the war." Helen reached across the table and gently took Charlotte's hand. "We really are glad to have you here, Charlotte. Your mother was so wise to send you when she did. She loves you very much."

Charlotte felt her eyes fill with tears. She shook her head. "No. She doesn't. At least she probably doesn't anymore. I said some terrible things to her and Papa before I left." The guilt had been weighing on her ever since she had left France. She couldn't believe that she was here in London, safe, in a beautiful house with maids and a chauffeur and everything she could have possibly wanted. But meanwhile, Charlotte couldn't even imagine the kind of trouble her parents and Luc could be in at that very moment.

"Oh don't cry, darling!" Helen jumped from her seat and went to embrace Charlotte. "You're safe now. And your parents are smart people-they will keep themselves, and Luc, out of trouble. And as soon as they're able to, they will join us here in England."

"We're doing everything we can to make sure they're able to come," Lewis insisted, looking at Charlotte with his calm, serious eyes. "We're going to take care of your family, Charlotte."

"I miss them so much," Charlotte cried, tears rolling down her cheeks. "Especially Luc, my brother...he's my best friend...he's the only..."

"Oh I know, dear," Helen murmured, clasping Charlotte tighter. "I know how brothers are. They're like a part of you, aren't they?" Charlotte just managed to nod as she tried to wipe her face clean.

"Is there anything we can do for you?" Lewis asked concernedly. "Anything we can do to make you feel any better?"

Charlotte shook her head again. "You're already doing so much," she cried.

"How about this," Helen proposed, brushing a loose strand of hair from Charlotte's face. "How about we go on a bit of an outing tomorrow, just you and me? We can take a shopping trip in the city, have lunch together..." Helen looked very solemnly at Charlotte. "Charlotte, I know I'm not your mother and I could never replace her, but I'd really love for us to have a relationship. I've always wished for a daughter, and Lewis has, too. I'd so love to have this relationship with you."

It now dawned upon Charlotte. She now realized that this was the true reason for the fashionable clothes, the glamorous room, the elaborate dinner...Helen had wanted a daughter of her own, to spoil and dote upon. But compared to what Charlotte was used to back home-spending countless nights alone, reading herself to sleep while her mother performed night after night, hardly casting a glance at her daughter when she finally returned home-maybe pretending to be Helen Carey's daughter for a while wouldn't be the worst thing in the world. In fact, it seemed to be what Charlotte had always wished for, what she'd always dreamed of on the nights when she'd cry herself to sleep.

"That sounds wonderful, Helen," Charlotte replied truthfully, smiling.

"Is there anything else we can do for you?" Lewis asked again. Charlotte imagined he could have been a wonderful father for someone. She wondered why the Careys had never had children, while her own parents had. The Careys seemed so much more parental than Charlotte's parents ever had been. "Anything we can do to make you feel more at home? We do want this to be like your home, Charlotte."

"My cat, perhaps?" Charlotte asked hopefully. "Could I keep him? I brought him from France. My parents thought he might make me feel more at home here. He's good and sweet, I promise! I know everyone seems to have the superstition about black cats, but-"

"Actually, black cats are meant to be very good luck around these parts," Lewis told her with a smile.

"Lewis has always wanted a pet, but we never had the time to train one," Helen said. "Your lucky cat is probably a blessing in disguise for our family. Of course you can keep him."

Charlotte grinned and began to eat her dinner, feeling lighter than she had in years. For once, everything seemed to be as she had always dreamed it, as if straight out of a book...

After a lovely dinner with the Careys, with more conversation than Charlotte and her own family usually had, she happily made her way back to her room. But something caught her attention as she walked down the hallway-a half-open door, streaming with light.

Charlotte had never been one to curb her curiosity. Without even a glance around, she opened the door and stepped inside.

It was a library, so wonderful that it took her breath away. It was probably the biggest one she had ever seen, apart from the one back at school. Charlotte couldn't conceal her grin as she turned in circles, looking up at each and every shelf. She could only imagine what stories these shelves held.

"I see you've found my hideaway."

Charlotte gasped and turned in surprise. Lewis stood in the doorway.

"I-I'm sorry," Charlotte stammered.

"Don't be," Lewis told her, walking forward with his hands in his pockets. He was taller than Charlotte had thought, and leaner. He looked around at the library, smiling, then said to Charlotte, "These books are my most prized possessions. Apart from my wife, of course," he added with a grin and a wink. "I'm a playwright, if you didn't already know, Charlotte. I always loved to read from a very young age. Books were my companions. Books are special," he continued, a glorious look passing over his face. "They can take you to places you've only dreamed of, introduce you to people you're idolized your whole life, and take you on adventures of a lifetime. All without leaving your seat."

"I love books," Charlotte told him. She ran her fingers over the spines of a few on a nearby shelf, admiring them. "I used to read all the time back home. There wasn't much else to do, except for schoolwork and listening to my mother complain. It wasn't a very exciting life."

Lewis smiled at her candor. "Well let's see what we can do about that," he said, taking off his suit jacket and rolling up his sleeves. He mounted a ladder that reached to the highest books and began to pull them off their shelves.

"I think some Shakespeare would be beneficial to you, seeing as you're the daughter of a Shakespearean actress," Lewis said, accumulating a stack already. "Mark Twain and Oscar Wilde are wonderful reads. And how about some Victor Hugo for our little French-girl? Surely you've read him before? Ah, and perhaps some childhood favorites-did you enjoy Alice in Wonderland and Peter Pan?"

"Yes, both!" Charlotte exclaimed. "Peter Pan was always mine and Luc's favorite! We used to spend hours and hours pretending to be Peter and Wendy!" She blushed a bit after divulging this childish antic. "I suppose playing characters runs in the family."

"I'm counting on it," Lewis said. He smiled and handed Charlotte the stack of books. "Here you are. These should keep you occupied for a while."

Charlotte's eyes widened. "Do you mean..."

"Take them back to your room. Take your time with them and give them back when you've finished. I know most of them by heart now, anyway."

Charlotte looked up at Lewis admiringly. "Thank you."

"Don't mention it," Lewis replied with a smile and tousled Charlotte's hair. "I'm glad to share my collection with another avid reader. But you should be getting to bed. You've had a long day."

"Yes," Charlotte nodded. She could hardly believe that only earlier that day she had been standing in her bedroom back in France. She looked up at Lewis one last time. "Thank you, Lewis. For everything." She gave him a quick grin before running upstairs to her bedroom.

Shutting the door behind her, Charlotte excitedly ran to her bookcase and carefully arranged her new selection, admiring each and every one. Anxious to begin reading, Charlotte shed her evening dress and stepped into the new linen pajamas that Helen had bought for her. They felt as smooth as silk against her skin. Finally, she grabbed Lewis' copy of Romeo and Juliet and curled up on her window-seat, cracking open the pages. She smiled when she noticed a sweet dedication written on the inside cover in elegant script.

To my dearest Helen, the love of my life, on your opening night as Juliet:

May you steal the audience's hearts, just as you've stolen mine.

With all my love forever,

Lewis

Charlotte grinned at the sweet message and leaned back against the window frame with a sigh. If only she could someday have a love just like Lewis and Helen's-still so sweet after so many years together-then she would die happy. But where could she possibly find someone as wonderful as Lewis was? One thing was for certain, Charlotte decided as she flipped to the opening pages of her book-she did not want to end up like her own mother and father. No matter how passionate their love had supposedly been when they met, it had certainly withered and died over the years. For as many times as Charlotte had seen her father glance at her mother lovingly over the dinner table or after she returned home late at night, she had never seen her mother return the affections.

Charlotte tried to shake these thoughts from her mind as she began to read the first lines of her book, but noises outside distracted her from her reading. Peering out the window, Charlotte saw a shiny black car pull up to the curb, stock full of unruly boys. They must have been drinking, she thought sourly, remembering the boys from her class in France who would sneak drinks for fun and think they were wise for it. Charlotte scoffed as the boys in the car gabbed and laughed for a few minutes before one of the young men finally stumbled out of the far and said goodbye to the others. Charlotte tried to get a look at him, but all she could see was that he had dark hair and a lean frame, as well as a wide smile. She took a drag from the cigarette hanging out of his mouth and waved to the other boys. And then, surprisingly, he turned and walked through the front doors of the Careys' house.

Charlotte frowned and sat back on the window-seat. Was there another manservant at the house? Mrs. Gates had said Topher had been the only one. And anyway, there couldn't be any reason why the Careys would employ a drunk in their household. So who was this mysterious young man who lived with the Careys?

Charlotte left the window and turned on her bedside lamp. She curled up under the covers of her bed with her book, preparing to read herself to sleep as she had for so many nights back home. But unlike at home, she was going to sleep with a smile on her face, reading the glorious words of Shakespeare, and wondering about the strange boy who would be living with her.

Thank you so much for reading the past three chapters! I really hope you are enjoying the story and I'm excited for you to meet Jack in the upcoming chapter :) thank you again for reading and if you have a moment, please vote or leave a comment! I'd love to hear advice from veteran writers!