Teapots & Treachery

By: Donna K. Weaver

Our last summer together. I reached across Mellie and gave Ezra’s shoulder a little push.

“That’s better.” He grinned.

Up ahead, Dad slowed the large moving truck.

“Do you think we’re here?” I whispered, but Ezra only shrugged. I peered into the heavily wooded area that surrounded us, hoping to see something besides trees. The forest made giant green and brown walls on both sides of the highway. If the road had been any narrower, the effect would have been claustrophobic.

“Look.” Ezra pointed to a side lane the truck ahead was turning onto.

A quaint, carved-stone sign stood on the shoulder of the road, almost overwhelmed by the growth. A corner had broken off, giving it a feel of antiquity and welcome. It stated only the name of the village—Wildstone, and the distance—two miles.

“Check it out.” Eli and Joel had taken notice and plastered their faces against the windows. “Sick!” They pointed to another, newer sign just beyond the inviting stone one.

Keep Out. Private Property.

“That’s a little ominous,” I said.

“I’d say curious, not ominous.” Ezra shot his big brother “behave” look. Like the extra ten minutes he’d been alive made him all knowing or something.

“Fine.” I should stop seeing bad omens in everything. I gave Mellie a gentle shake. “Wake up, sleepyhead. I think we’re almost there.”

“Where?” Mellie jerked upright, her head darting back and forth between the windows. “There’s only trees.”

“Only a mile or so to go.” Ezra pointed to a map he had on his laptop.

As we drove on, at first only more forest surrounded us. Then the tree tunnel opened to show a large, roundish valley with snowcapped Mt. Baker as a distant backdrop. My breath caught at the beauty of the view. Mellie squealed, and the boys sat speechless for a second before pelting Mom with questions.

I had purposely not paid attention to many details when the family had talked about what the inheritance included. Looking at the valley before us, the five hundred acres seemed a lot bigger than it had on the online map we’d checked.

The village of Wildstone’s bright, colorful buildings started not far from the opening. The old-fashioned quaintness of the place reminded me of something. A few of the houses even had thatched roofs.

“Some of those would give Nan’s purple house a run for her money,” I said. True to the culture of her youth, our Brazilian grandmother loved colorful houses.

“Very European,” Ezra said.

The place looked under construction, with scaffolding around several buildings. No workers labored anywhere, and it had the sense of a project interrupted.

“Is Dad responsible for the village too?” I asked, as something occurred to me.

“Yep,” Ezra said, his voice flat.

With a groan, I closed my eyes. I should have paid more attention to Dad’s plans and what I’d agreed to help with. We might have spent our junior high and high school years working for him and his construction company, but Ezra had good reason to be getting a degree in computer programming, and I had trained to be a pastry chef.

“Oh, look, Phoebe,” Mellie cried, pointing at the people pouring from the buildings to watch us drive past. “There are some little girls we can play with.”

Ezra and I exchanged glances. Phoebe’s back? he mouthed.

Through the rearview mirror, I caught Mom’s expression turn dark for a second. The therapist had told us two years ago that Mellie’s way of coping with the death of her twin included creating an imaginary friend with the same name. He’d assured my parents Mellie would outgrow it. We’d thought she had.

No surprise when Dad didn’t stop in the village. We all knew how anxious he was to get to the castle. Once we drove past the buildings, it came into view. In the distance, on a small rise, partially blocked by the gatehouse, stood the two front towers of Savage Citadel.

Everyone sat in silence as we approached it, even the boys. The gatehouse looked like a mini-castle, with its two towers connected by a building-like bridge thingy. Someone must live there because curtains hung from the windows. Pretty cool looking, actually. If I wanted to be honest with myself—and I wasn’t sure I did—everything about the valley looked pretty cool.

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