Chapter 11:

An old love story

The Stray Princess

In a blink of an eye three months have passed, it took only two weeks for the old man to discover that his wife took some sort of ownership over the dog.

“Ha! I knew it was your writing” Said the old man one day arriving at the old lady’s store and finding her patting Charlotte.

But at the end he fell for the dog’s charm and both of them made her a small mattress with yarn and filled with cotton so she could stay keeping company to the old lady. When time to close the store came, they started leaving the roll-up door not fully closed so Charlotte could enter at night and have a place to sleep.

The entire market started calling her by the name on the collar but not everyone knew where she got it from. With the continuous eating, she gained a little more weight and that combined with how she already was from her bread diet in the city, made her look really fat.

The old lady, her husband and her grandson became the people that Charlotte most interacted with. The grandson only comes on weekends to help his grandfather to restock the tubers store that are grown in the little farm that the old couple has in a nearby town.

“Grandma! How are you doing today?” Says the grandson while stepping inside the store one day and seeing his grandmother in the usual rocking chair “Hi Charlotte” He moves his hand like expecting a response from the animal.

“Sonny, am I glad to see you. It’s a slow day as usual” The old lady’s store is not the most popular in the area even if it was many years ago, but this issue doesn’t worry her, the owners of this big market don’t charge the people for selling their products or using space.

“Grandma, have you ever thought of leaving this place? You could come and live with us, mom and dad wouldn’t mind”

“But I would mind my dear. First of all: I hate that big city, it’s full of cold-hearted people, and second: I’ve been in this store since I was 15 and learned to knit from my granny, thanks to that I was able to afford a place to live and give your mother and uncle proper education. Well, your grandpa helped too with his carpenter's workshop… So I will feel like a burden if someone takes care of me, I can do it by myself” She moves her arm and touches her bicep in a pose that looks like a vintage poster.

“Grandpa’s workshop? Hasn’t always been a potato store?”

“Please call them tubers when you are in front of him, otherwise he would talk to you for four hours about each one of those roots and potatoes” She laughs “But yeah, he had this beautiful workshop when we first met. He was such a hunk with the typical lumberjack look, but really shy and sweet for someone his size and that made me fall for him. On our first anniversary as a couple he chopped an entire tree with his shirt off and used that wood to remodel this store you see. The floor, the shelving, everything”

“Even the rocking chair you like so much?”

“Yes, but not with the same tree. Both rocking chairs were the last things he made in the workshop before closing almost thirty years ago”

“Both? Hhmm… I assume he also remodeled his actual shop, that explains why they both look so alike. But why he had to close?”

“Yes, he made his shop look like this one. Sadly, he had to close when the arthritis began, also his sight started going all blurry and working with wood in that state is very dangerous. The small store here in the market was only a display of what he could do, his brother was in charge of it when he was alive. With the money we got from selling the house where the workshop was, we could buy the farm we have right now, and then he really got into those potatoes so is now what he sells… But you know… He doesn’t want to admit it, although I know that he doesn’t really care about selling tubers, he just needs an excuse to bring me to and from the market every day. He is the best husband I could ever asked for”

“Wow grandma, it really surprised me to know how skilled was grandpa”

The old lady makes a really proud expression and says “He is still really skilled, just out of practice. By the way, how is your job hunt? Found anything interesting?”

“Oh, didn’t I tell you?” The boy makes a huge smile “I finally got one!! Well, I’ll start on Monday but I’m very excited”

“Oh, how wonderful! I knew you’ll find something in that design of the Internets”

“It’s web design actually, but yes! My boss is a nice lady that is just a couple of years older than me, and she is starting a homeless shelter in the city. There is still a lot to do to get approval as a nonprofit organization, but I feel so good knowing that I’ll help people”

“A homeless shelter? In that heartless city?” The old lady’s tone shows that she is really surprised “I’ll be damned, maybe there is still hope after all. And what are you supposed to help with?”

“Well, she has the place already… Now the project that she has in mind, or at least the one that I know, is to first have a website to show the facilities, location and contact numbers. In the near future when the nonprofit organization approval arrives, she wants a new website that works as a directory for all the homeless shelters in the country. I like her way of thinking, so if everything goes okay, I’ll be busy for a while”

“I’m glad to hear that sonny, I don’t get very well all that computers stuff but I’m proud of you. I assume you’ll be busy then; I’ll miss you around here”

“Oh, don’t worry grandma. I’ll keep coming to keep you company and to help grandpa on weekends, unless I get really busy”

“Thank you so much” The old lady’s wrinkled face draws a smile filled with joy and gratitude “Better go and help your grandpa”

“On my way, see you later grandma” The boy kisses his grandmother’s forehead “Bye Charlotte” He crouches and pats the dog’s head.

Charlotte was all the time resting on her mattress moving her eyes and looking at whoever was talking, when she felt the boy’s hand decided to go out for a stroll to stretch a little walking after him.

“So... Charlotte, do you want to visit grandpa too?” The boy asks the dog as they walk around the hallways “Damn, what have you been eating girl? You look huge”

After a couple of minutes, they arrive to the old man’s store.

“Grandpa! I’m here!”

Charlotte passes the boy and enters the place before him, at one side of the rocking chair there is a mattress almost identical to the one in the old lady’s store. She moves in circles around it and then lays down.

“My boy! Welcome!” Says the old man coming out from the room in the back “Oh, you are also here Charlotte”

“Sorry for the wait, I was at grandma’s” The boy smiles “What do you need me to do today?”

“No problem sonny, I appreciate that you spend time with her. Today we need to wash some tubers before leaving them in their respective boxes”

While removing dirt from some potatoes the boy talks with his grandfather about the chat he had with his grandmother.

“Oh, yes. The old workshop, ah good times” The old man scratches his chin “Your grandma came to that place with a broken chair asking if I could repair it… I lied to her by saying that it was possible, but actually I had to made a new one” He laughs for a moment “I wasn’t after her or wanted something in return, I was just confident in my work and a proud man. Around our second anniversary I told her and she felt the need of compensating me, I couldn’t say no to that stubborn woman but what I got in return became my favorite shirt. Back in the day I had to buy many shirts because my muscles kept tearing them, sometimes it was better to work with no shirt at all” He flexes his arms as a bodybuilder and from his wrinkled body some muscles appear “The shirt that she gave me never tore, not even once, its color wore off as time passed and then my body began to shrink”

“So, is that shirt still somewhere today?”

“Yes” The old man points at the rocking chair “The cushion you see on the chair was once my favorite shirt. If you notice, your grandma has the same cushion on hers, that’s because the shirt was big enough for us to share when I did these chairs. Oh! In fact, her chair was once the one that I did for her when we first met… I just modified it a bit, and then I made a similar one for me”

“How long has it been since you two are together?”

“It’s been 55 years, 50 since we married but it feels like we have only been one week together.” The old man enters the back room and comes out with a portrait “Look, here I’m wearing the shirt your grandma made for me”

The boy grabs the picture and looks at it, it’s one in a sepia tone with two people in the center of it. One tall man with big muscles, a long beard and short hair wearing jeans and a lumberjack shirt that is hugging a voluptuous woman with long hair and a white shirt. Both are hugging each other with one hand and flexing the other one, the woman doesn’t have muscles as big as the man but even so she has some really notorious biceps.

“This is from the time we won the national lumberjack games, they stopped doing them 5 years later”

“Wow! Grandma used to be so pretty” The boy was amazed looking at the photo.

“Used!?” The old man grabs the portrait and looks at it “She’s the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen in my life” His voice is soft and gentle “I have aged, but she’s still as gorgeous as ever. I’m so lucky that is always by my side even after my strength and vision are not the same as before. Did you know that your grandmother could have followed a famous modeling career? She was second place in the miss universe pageant 51 years ago, because the judges were blind and couldn’t see she will always be number 1. But even if she didn’t win, there were many agencies that reached to her and she worked with them for some time. Our relationship was going through a difficult moment since we couldn’t be together as much as before, at the end she couldn’t handle it anymore and left that world behind.” He scratches his chin “I remember it pretty well; I was at my workshop like any other day then someone knocked at the door very loudly. I opened and it was your grandma, she told me that I was her entire world and that she didn’t want to be in a place where she couldn’t kiss me every day… and then she proposed, obviously I accepted immediately and one year later we got married”

“I had no idea about all that grandpa”

“Oh right, the miss universe era is supposed to be a secret even for your parents… so please keep it that way” The old man covers his lips with one finger.

His grandparents always tell him stories from the past, usually how they lived, how hard was to raise their children or similar ones. This was the first time that the boy heard their love story, obviously Charlotte did also hear it but she doesn’t care or understand it. The only thing in her mind right now is being able to sleep close to one of them, her two favorite humans in the market.

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