100 Cliff Drive

Home of Mrs. Carlotta Cliff and Charlotte Cliff

Charlotte Cliff takes a deep breath, rises to the tip of her toes, and then paces off the four steps to the edge of the high diving board before leaping straight up into the air and, passing ever so close to the board on her way down, executing an expert twisting, somersaulting dive before neatly slicing through the turquoise surface. Her small but awed audience of one holds her breath for what seems like an eternity until Charlotte's head appears above the water. Then, as the fit and healthy, if not particularly beautiful 31 year old woman tosses the hair out of her eyes and shakes the water out of her ears, she can behold the beaming face of Anais Grace whose applause makes clear how admiring the girl is of the woman. Charlotte's face breaks into a completely genuine grin at the sight of the pleasure she has brought the child. She calls out...

Anais is reminded and turns to a stack of posterboard cards next to her. She shuffles through them until she find the ones she wants and holds up Charlotte's score...

Nine-point-nine?! What was wrong with it?!
As Charlotte pulls herself out of the pool and wraps a towel around herself, she doesn't take her eyes off Anais whose gestures communicate Charlotte's imperfection more than adequately...
Oh... a little overlap on my feet. Okay. I'll work on it. Now it's your turn.
Anais throws her towel onto the chaise and races up the steps of the diving board. As she stands and collects herself, imitating Charlotte's technique for self-composure, she is unaware of the look of pure joy in Charlotte's eyes as the young woman watches her protege with a great deal more affection than the average coach would have. Clearly, she adores the girl who is not only poised to dive into the deep end of the Cliff's Olympic-sized pool, but also into the deep end of her impending adolescence. Charlotte is torn between the critical pride of a well-pleased teacher and the reflexive fear of a protective guardian as Anais fearlessly executes a complicated dive. It needs work, but Charlotte is already holding up a "10" by the time Anais' head breaks the water.
A perfect dive to end a perfect day's work. C'mon... let's go in and change.

Upstairs, in Charlotte's suite of rooms within the mansion, she is just finishing braiding Anais' hair.

I have a present for you.
Anais looks curiously at this woman whose generosity to her has always been enormous.
It's something special, but I checked with Lizzie and Maud first to make sure it was okay with them...

Anais nods approvingly. She and Charlotte both know that Anais' foster mothers have been known to disapprove of their friend's limitless beneficence toward their daughter. The girl accepts the box Charlotte hands her and carefully unwraps it to find a velvet jewel box within. She snaps open the box and beholds a beautiful necklace on a gold chain.

It's Athena, the Greek goddess of wisdom. I bought it in Greece ten years ago. It's always reminded me of you and now you're old enough to wear it yourself.

It is an exceptional piece and the girl, whose sensitivity to all things has always been acute, is moved to tears by the beauty of the brooch, but even more by the love expressed in the giving of the gift. As soon as Charlotte has fastened the clasp around Anais' neck, the girl spins around to throw her arms around her benefactor. They hug one another hard and Charlotte whispers to the girl...

Happy Tenth Birthday, sweetheart.
Anais pulls back, though not out of Charlotte's embrace, and her agile hands quickly sign a reminder that her birthday isn't for a month. Exactly a month...
Well, that's when we've always celebrated it since that's the date we found you. But I just had this feeling today. You know, after your dive and all, it just seemed to be a perfect 10 kind of day...? Anyway, this way you get two birthdays instead of one. August 19th with me and September 19th with the rest of the world. What do you say?
The girl's sincere and tight hug says "Thanks" and bespeaks Anais' genuine love which is, judging from the tears streaming into the woman's smile, all that Charlotte really wants from life.

Other times, at 100 Cliff Drive...