Lying on my bed, looking out the window, I can remember it like it was
yesterday. Dad had just moved us into this house. Mom had been gone for
a little more than six months, and Dad wanted us to all have a fresh,
new start. I remember how he had Lenora decorate my room the same way
that Mom would have decorated it. Lenora is our housekeeper, and she
lives with us. But honestly, Lenora is much more like a mother to me
than a housekeeper. She has been with us since before Jack was born. Dad
always wanted Mom to have help around the house so that she could focus
on us kids. Jack is my eldest brother, followed by my brothers Eric and
James and, finally, me, Charlotte. It’s not always easy having three
older brothers, but I wouldn’t trade them for anything.
Dad had our rooms all set up before we moved in. My room was absolutely
beautiful. It was exactly as if my mother had come back from heaven
herself to decorate it. Dad was so pleased. I was only five years old at
the time, so this was twelve long years ago. I remember sitting on my
window seat, high atop a pillow topper Lenora had designed out of
Mom’s fabrics that she had left behind. I could still smell my mom’s
perfume on the fabric, and I sat there looking out the window and
feeling so alone. I turned to look up at my sparkling crystal
chandelier, and it reminded me of my mom. She loved beautiful, sparkly
things. I missed her so much.
There was just no way around it. We all did. Dad was quiet and hurting,
and he let Lenora handle most of the house stuff as well as the kid
stuff during that time. My brothers had gone out to play with some
neighborhood kids. I could hear laughter and yelling from my bedroom
window. That was the first time I ever saw him.
Jack, Eric, and James had met some neighborhood kids. They were all
playing baseball out in the street. Everyone was laughing and having
fun. A boy went up to bat. Some of the kids started teasing him, saying
that the outfielders may want to back up, and everyone was laughing. He
enjoyed the teasing; I could tell right away. He was the youngest of the
group but somehow didn’t require any special accommodations. He
strolled right up and grabbed the bat while my brother Eric got ready to
throw him his first pitch. The ball met the bat with a loud crack and
went sailing through the air. Everyone, including my three brothers,
watched in absolute awe as the ball passed overhead. His name was
Daniel, and he lived right across the street. I stared at him through
the window as the kids lifted him up to carry him on a victory march in
the street. He had a magical smile—even back then.
My brothers brought some of the kids over for cookies and lemonade.
Lenora makes the best cookies I have ever had. People always rave about
her baking. My brother Jack called me downstairs to meet some of the new
neighbors. I was nervous as I approached the kitchen. I preferred to
stay up in my room and observe the fun from my safe little window seat.
I met Preston and Devon, who lived across the street with their younger
brother Daniel. They were the same ages as Jack and Eric, who were ten
and eight years old at that time. They all seemed very excited about
having new kids in the neighborhood. I also met Sam, who was closer to
my brother James’s age, and he lived five houses down on the corner.
Sam was seven years old, and James was six years old. Everyone seemed to
have found a new friend. That’s when he came out of the bathroom.
“Wow! Your bathroom smells like flowers,” he announced, and everyone
laughed. That was Daniel; he could always make a room laugh. He was five
years old, just like me. He would be starting kindergarten with me in a
couple weeks, and he would become my first real friend.
When he noticed me, his smile grew even larger. He said, “Hi, I’m
Daniel,” and he beamed his pearly white teeth at me.
He asked my name, and I responded with a single word: “Charlotte.”
Sometimes when I would speak, people had to lean very close to me
because my voice was soft and quiet.
He paused for a moment and said, “Like the web?”
He was silly, and I liked it. I hadn’t had a lot of silly in my life
for a while, so it was warm and welcoming.
“Charlotte’s Web was my mom’s favorite book. That is why she named
me Charlotte,” I said quietly.
Daniel oozed warmth, even when he was just a five-year-old kid. He gave
me a smile, and I could tell by the look in his eyes that he already
knew about my mom and how she had gone to heaven, and he felt bad about
it. Daniel wanted to be my friend.
He beamed, “I like the name Charlotte, and I don’t know any other
girls named Charlotte.”
My brother James walked up and said, “We all call her Charlie. Like
Charlie Brown.” Everyone laughed with him.
Daniel turned and smiled at me. “If you were named after Charlotte in
Charlotte’s Web, then I will call you Charlotte.”
That moment with Daniel Hollingsworth marked the beginning of a
friendship that would steer the rest of my life.
chapter one: best friends
“Charlie! Where are you, little sister? We’re home!” Jack called
enthusiastically from downstairs.
I went bounding down the stairs to see the boys. I loved it when they
came home from college and the house was full of noise again. Since
James left last year, it’s only Dad, Lenora, and me now. Jack left
first to go to Notre Dame, and two years later Eric joined him and then,
finally, James. I like that all of my brothers are at least together at
the same school. I don’t worry about them as much because I know that
they will watch out for each other. They do come home often because
it’s not too far of a drive. It’s just not often enough for me.
When I hit the bottom step, Jack came charging at me and threw me over
his shoulder. I didn’t even get mad at him because I had missed his
teasing and playful ways while he was gone.
“Put me down, you big baboon!” I squealed.
Eric gave me a big hug; James messed up my hair, and I gave him a giant
hug too. I was always happy when we were all together in the same house.
My dad had a big smile on his face. He was happy to see all of his kids
in one room. We sat down in the kitchen, and I listened to their stories
about school and all of the fun that they had been having together.
“James is afraid to pledge the frat house, Dad,” Jack announced,
James looked very irritated and responded, “I’m not afraid, I just
don’t know if I want to join a fraternity as a freshman.”
Eric burst out laughing. “You know you’re a little worried about
what we’ll do to you because you’ll have to do whatever we say
during initiation,” he said and continued laughing.
Dad told them all to knock it off, so the boys went upstairs to unpack.
They had come home for the three-day Labor Day weekend and would be back
in three weeks to see my first race of the season. The boys always made
it to as many of my races as they could. They loved to cheer me on, and
it was important to Dad that they supported me.
I had been running since I was a little girl. I am not sure if I started
because it was just in my blood or if it was just something that was
expected of me. Either way, running was definitely my thing. I ran
year-round on my high school cross-country and track teams. I was
entering my senior year at St. Viator’s High School, and I had won the
Indiana state championship my freshman, sophomore, and junior years. A
lot of people were wondering if I would be able to pull off a four-year
streak, and I was hoping I could do it, but I was always aware that my
competition would be tough.
My mom had been a runner, but I don’t do her justice by stating it
like that. My mom had a full-ride scholarship to Stanford University for
cross-country and track. She was a three-time national champion in
cross-country, and she set a national record for the mile in track her
senior year in college. She was expected to go on to the Olympic trials
right out of Stanford, and many people had expected her to be on the
She met my dad in college, and they fell in love. My dad loved to watch
my mom race. He was her biggest fan. They were married during their
senior year of college, and they were very much in love. Mom found out
that she was pregnant with Jack right before the Olympic trials, and the
Olympics never happened for Mom. My mom was thrilled to start a family,
and as she explained in her many journals that she left behind for me to
read, her desire to go to the Olympics just wasn’t there anymore. My
dad always felt guilty for taking her off her path, and my grandfather
didn’t help with the situation. He felt that Mom got married much too
young and that she lost the chance to go after her dreams. He blamed my
dad for that and held that against him.
So there you have it. Mom went on to have a fourth child, a daughter,
and everyone saw a mini version of Mom. They had me in sneakers and
running down the street when I was only three years old. That was right
around the time that Mom became ill. I didn’t understand what cancer
was at that time, but I did understand that it made Mom really sick. She
battled her disease for almost two years before her life was taken away
at a young age. Ever since that happened, it was just known, or
understood, that I would go on someday to run for Stanford, and maybe I
could even attain Mom’s Olympic dream.
Everyone was supportive of my running, and, in a way, I think they felt
it was like supporting my mom at the same time. The only person that I
could ever talk to about this was Daniel. Daniel and I both had that in
common. Daniel’s life was also planned out for him long before he was
able to decide what his dreams were on his own. He understood everything
that had happened to my family. Daniel was also the only person who
really understood my need to please my father and my desire to do
everything in my power to ease the pain that my family had experienced
from the loss of my mother. I always hoped that I could give some joy
where there had been so much sadness. Daniel was my best friend, and he
knew me better than anyone.
“Where’s Daniel? I thought he was coming over for dinner?” Eric
griped as he joined me in the kitchen.
We were getting ready to have a big family barbeque, and Daniel never
missed a Ford Family Barbecue or any chance to see my brothers.
“He’ll be over after football practice,” I said.
“Oh man, are they doing the deadly ‘two a days’ right now?”
James inquired as he joined us.
“Yes, he has to go twice a day right now, but you know Daniel, he’s
the only one on the team who actually looks forward to ‘two a
days’!” I laughed.
“He’s a beast,” James laughed. “I can’t wait to have him at
Notre Dame with us!” Daniel would play football for Notre Dame, just
as his two older brothers were currently doing. Preston and Devon were
also impressive players, but Daniel was the star of the family. He was
good at everything, but football was his passion. He was a quarterback,
and he loved the game. I loved to watch him play. He came alive during
games, and he handled the pressure like a champ. Daniel and I never
missed each other’s games and races. We always made that effort
because that’s what friends do.
I heard the front door open, and then I heard loud banter, teasing,
laughter…Daniel was definitely here. He was close to my brothers, and
he was like a part of our family. He came bounding into the kitchen and
grabbed me, planting a big kiss on the top of my head. Then he kissed
Lenora on the cheek and asked her if she had made any of his favorite
chocolate chip-oatmeal cookies.
She smiled and messed his hair up, handing him a cookie. “Just one
before dinner, Daniel,” she said.
Daniel was beautiful. He had such a presence. He stood
six-feet-two-inches tall, was very muscular and lean, and had big, green
eyes and brown, wavy hair atop his handsome, fair-skinned face. His
cheeks were always flushed and pink, and he could charm just about
anyone, and he usually did. No one made me laugh like Daniel. He loved
to tease and could always brighten a room.
“How is Charlotte today?” he asked with a big smile.
“I’m good. How was practice?” I responded as I chopped the
cucumbers for the salad.
“Same ol’, same ol,’” he chuckled. “Everyone is complaining
about the running we’re doing because they don’t run with the famous
Charlotte Ford all summer, so they don’t handle it as well as I do,”
he said, smiling at me.
“Oh, I’m famous now, am I?” I said, biting my lip. Daniel could
always embarrass me with his flattery.
“The only person who doesn’t think you’re a big deal is you,
Charlotte,” he chuckled, “and stop biting your lip, you’re going
to hurt yourself.”
I shoved a cucumber in his mouth and continued chopping.
“So, Daniel, is St. Viator’s going to take state again this year?”
“Oh, hell yeah! We have such a strong team this year. We’ve all been
working hard, and we want it real bad!” He winked at me.
“I saw your bros yesterday, but they said they couldn’t come home
this weekend because they had to help Preston’s girlfriend move into
her apartment,” Jack said.
“Yeah, Preston is totally whipped over this girl, isn’t he,
Charlotte?” Daniel said, looking at me.
“Yes, they are super cute together. I never thought I would see
Preston in love, but it’s nice to see him so happy,” I said.
Preston was handsome like Daniel. He had been the quarterback for Notre
Dame the last four years, and he had no problem getting female
attention. Girls were always trying to get his attention, just as they
did with Daniel. Devon looked like his brothers as well, but he wasn’t
as tall and lean, and he was a running back for Notre Dame.
The Hollingsworth boys were famous at Notre Dame. Daniel’s dad had
been the quarterback at Notre Dame when he was in college, as was
Daniel’s grandfather. Their family lived and breathed for the fighting
Irish. It was so fun to go to games with them and to watch the Irish
play on TV when you were at their home. Daniel’s dad, Tom, lived for
football, and his mom, Grace, became a fan over time watching her boys
Grace and I were very close. She filled in as a mother to me when
needed, and Daniel said that I filled in as the daughter she never had.
Grace was the perfect mom; she was everything I imagined my mother would
have been if she was alive today. She was quite the homemaker, always
cooking and bustling around her house. She loved her boys and was very
proud of them. Tom and Grace were very good friends of my dad as well.
We all grew up together and had been close since we were young. Daniel
and I were the closest for sure. We always had been, since the first day
that we met.
“Hello!” Grace called as she and Tom came through the front door.
Grace had made two salads to share, and they would be joining us for
My dad sat around gabbing with Tom while Grace, Lenora, and I visited
about the new school year and the boys played basketball. They laughed
and tormented one another until dinner was ready. We all ate together at
our large table out back. It was a perfect Indiana evening.
Lenora began cleaning up after dinner. My dad sat out back, drinking
wine with Tom and Grace, and my brothers went out to see some old
Excerpted from "Charlotte's Tangled Web" by L B Pavlov. Copyright © 2012 by L B Pavlov. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Excerpts are provided solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.