By Rebecca Henry
Charlie flashed me a big, fatherly smile. The wrinkles around his eyes traveled down the sides of his face, and for a moment I couldn’t believe how time had caught up to him since my last visit. “Well, look at you, Zinnia! You’ve shot up like a string bean.”
Charlie reached straight for my suitcase and threw it into the truck. His hearty laugh filled the cabin as we both buckled in. “I almost didn’t recognize you there with how you’ve grown.” I looked down at my cramped legs, desperate to stretch out as my knees touched the glove compartment. Charlie patted my back and turned the key inside the ignition, bringing life to the beat-up truck as the engine groaned like an old dog too tired to wake from its nap. “Here we go, String Bean! Off like a herd of turtles at the races.”
I cracked a smile at this, almost by accident, before wiping it away and looking out of the window. I could admit that I liked Ole Charlie. He’d been neighbors with my aunts for over forty years, and I’d known him all my life, so I thought it was safe to say that he was basically family. “Wait till your aunts get a look at you, string bean.”
I rolled my eyes as I tried, and once again failed, to conceal my smile. Every time I visited my aunts, Ole Charlie gave me a new nickname. I suppose my nickname for this summer is going to be string bean. I whispered it to myself for a test drive and annoyingly, it wasn’t so annoying.
“It’s been a few years since you and your mom visited us on Ambrosia Hill.” Charlie looked over at me with his old brown eyes full of affection. “Not ashamed to say we’ve missed you, string bean.”