When Charlotte Mason was eight, she met a girl. It was the first day of second grade, and Charlotte’s daddy had moved her and her little brother into town with him, away from momma’s house. The second Charlotte walked into that one-room schoolhouse and heard her laugh like tinkling bells, she knew that she was in love.
Charlotte walked right up to the prettiest girl she’d ever seen and stuck her hand out. “Hello! I’m Charlotte Mason. Who’re you?” The girl let out another laugh, right in Charlotte’s face, and gripped her hand tight. It was a strong handshake, like the one her momma’s last man had taught her to do to impress the sheriff next time he visited the ranch. Her hand was soft, except for a scar on one of her fingers.
“Florence Hart, it’s a pleasure.” Florence’s eyes were like pools of ink in the well on the teacher’s desk, and they looked like they were sparkling to Charlotte. She couldn’t wait to tell her daddy about this amazing, perfect girl and how in love she was. “Are you new to Rhodes?”
“We moved in with my daddy last month. Me and Frederick - that’s my little brother. He’s five, but I’m teaching him his ABCs early cus he wants to try. Oh, and I’m eight, but I’ll be nine in November.” ‘Florence Hart,’ thought Charlotte. That was a name she’d never forget, she swore to herself.
Charlotte offered up the brightest smile she could muster, which wasn’t that bright because she was missing a couple of teeth, but she didn’t care. She had to make a good impression on this girl because she wanted to marry her one day, and her momma always told her that first impressions matter.
“I’m ten. Welcome to Rhodes, Charlotte Mason! It’s nice to meet you. Stay away from the Greys and the Braithewaites, they’re nothing but trouble, and not worth anyone’s time. At least, that’s what my mother says. And she’s never wrong, according to my father.” Florence smiled back at her and Charlotte felt her heart skip a beat.
Charlotte was going to say more, but the teacher called the class to order just then. Charlotte moved to an empty desk in the middle of the room with the other eight-year-olds and laid her head down so she could still see the board. Her seat gave her a view of the back of Florence’s head, and Charlotte didn’t think she’d ever been this happy. She needed lunch break to come faster, so she could ask Florence to be her friend.