Chapter One

In which Emma is dragged to a broken home.

 

Finding Wonder

 

Emma swore her butt lost all feeling about an hour ago when they had driven off of the highway and onto the backroads so remote not even GPS could find. She had even tried to find where she was until her phone let out its last breath. To top it off, the slushy she fought to get at the last gas station was way too watered down to give her any refreshment.

She groaned. This day couldn’t get any worse, right?

“Don’t worry, honey, we’re almost there,” Adelle said from the driver’s seat.

“Strike three,” she groaned.

“What?”

“That’s the third time you said that.”

“Oh, honey.” Blonde hair bobbed her way as the woman looked over at her.

“Don’t.”

“The closer we get, the truer it becomes.” A hand patted her shoulder.

She wriggled in her seat, waving the hand away. “I should have just gone to summer camp.”

“I thought you hated summer camp.”

“I had no clue you would want to drive a marathon today.”

“It’s better to get to the house before its dark. You don’t want the boogeyman to get you, right?”

The bubbly laugh irritated Emma to no end.

“Can’t this just be over?”

A few loose hairs fell into her eyes. She combed them out of her way and back onto her brown braid. Even it was letting her down. Splendid.

“I guess you can get your wish, awnry-pants.”

The car turned down another dusty side road. Instead of more trees and farmland, though, it led up to a miniature mansion of sorts. Emma’s stomach started to churn as she realized this was Adelle’s summer restoration project the woman had been going on about for months.

“We . . . are going to fix that?”

Adelle nodded, oozing with excitement. “This is the precious and rare Queen Anne styled Victorian home. It has more than fifty windows, a half-sized attic, twenty columns holding up the porch roof, five fireplaces, and-“

“Alright! I get it. Very big, lots of stuff.”

“And the best part-“

“Please quit.”

“-it has been in the family for generations. Those walls hold so many memories!”

Emma groaned as Adelle finally parked the car.

“My mother brought me here every summer when I was little,” Adelle said. “I pretty much grew up in this home.”

Emma jumped out. “Cool story. Now, can we just find a plugin for my phone?”

“Well . . .” Adelle stumbled out of the driver’s seat.

“Well, what?”

The woman averted her eyes, seeming to look off to the side of the house. “You might not be able to.”

“What?!”

She frantically waved her hands. “I-I just need to make sure the generator still works. That’s all!”

Emma snatched her duffle bag from the backseat of the car and stomped her way up to the front door.

Adelle walked to her side. “It’s not that bad-“

“Just open the door.”

The woman grabbed a rusty key from her pocket and fought to fit it into place.

“Does that even work?”

“It should. The neighbors-” Adelle turned the key and pushed on the door “-have taken care of this place-“ she pushed and pushed “-at least up until last year.”

“You sure?”

The woman shoved one last time and screamed as the door finally swung open.

Emma rolled her eyes as Adelle popped up from the ground.

“I’m okay!”

She stepped over the woman and entered the house.

The grand staircase that stood before her was trying its best to compete with the outside of the house, appearing as majestic as it could. But its efforts were lost under the thick blanket of dust. In fact, of what she could see, the entire house seemed to be sleeping under this dust. Each corner and crevice was a haven for dirt and spiders.

Emma was less than impressed with her great-grandmother’s old home.

“This is disgusting!” She took a step up the staircase, the wood bending underneath. “And we’re supposed to live here for the next month?”

“It’s not so bad. Just needs some TLC.”

“I better not end up in the hospital.”

She made her way up to the second floor, checking each step one by one. She was not going to die here. Though the way her life was going, she might end up as a ghost haunting this place for the rest of her unnatural life.

“Good idea, honey. See what work needs to be down on the second floor and the attic. I’ll look around here and the wine cellar.”

“Spectacular.” She grimaced.

It took a few minutes to actually get up to the second floor. She had seen enough movies and shows where a character would fall through some rotten boards. But the ones here only bent a little under her weight.

As she stepped onto the landing, Emma looked around. Just an empty hallway. With more dust.

She opened one door and found a simple bed, nightstand, and vanity. This must have been Adelle’s room, she thought.

“How’s it going?” said woman called up.

“Just finding more work,” she answered.

“Not surprising. Be careful, though. This place is more than a century old.”

Emma sat her bag down. It should be safe here.

She looked around every corner and in every room of the floor. Some of the furniture laid under thin sheets, while others just held onto the built-up grime. When she got to another bedroom, the fourth, maybe, she was surprised to see a picture still hanging up.

Emma looked into the eyes of her great-grandmother and great-grandfather as they held hands on their wedding day. Though he wasn’t smiling, she had a small one painted over her lips. Adelle and her grandmother always said that the woman was always smiling about something. Even when she was serious. Emma never understood how someone could just keep smiling though – she had lost hers years ago.

She left the room. Adelle could sleep in there.

The last door, just to the right of the bedroom, opened outwards. Stairs led up to what she assumed was the attic. She made her way up, checking one step at a time. If the grand staircase was in terrible shape, then these probably were too.

Up and up she went, only to be met with the many decorations and pictures and boxes of things that had once populated the entire house.

“Why is my family always messy?” She made her way past the boxes and sheet-covered objects, barely glimpsing over them, to a decently sized window.

Looking out, she could see nearly miles away. Most of the area was just woods. But off in the distance, she noticed a farm or two. No luck in meeting friends out here.

“I hope this won’t get too boring. . .”

A hand brushed against her shoulder.

Emma sighed, turning around. “What is it-”

Her eyes scanned the attic. No one was there.

“Adelle? Was that you? Don’t try to scare me. That’s pathetic.”

But she didn’t see the woman.

“Great. I’m going crazy.”

She turned back to the window-

A crash shot through the air!

“Adelle?!” Emma rushed down the attic stairs, through the second floor and down to the main living area. “Adelle?!”

“H-here.”

Emma turned a corner to see the woman scooting out from under a fallen bookshelf.

“Seriously?!” She ran over and tried to lift it, even just a bit.

Adelle crawled out. Emma let go, the bookshelf falling back down.

“What are you doing, woman?!”

Adelle laughed a little. “S-sorry. Was trying to clean a bit.”

Emma let out a deep sigh.

This was going to be a long summer.

/

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© E.N. Chaffin 2018. All rights reserved. Any reproduction without author permission is against the copyright laws of the United States of America.

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