Teapots & Treachery

By: Donna K. Weaver

Dad stopped in front of the gatehouse. Mom pulled up beside the moving truck, and the boys scrambled out.

“That wouldn’t be very effective at keeping out an advancing army.” Ezra pointed to the low stone wall, not more than three feet high, that ran out from the gatehouse. It formed a fence around the large castle grounds.

“Maybe our nutcase ancestor figured he didn’t need fortress walls here.” Leaning over, I turned my head toward him while I searched for my sandals. “Who would attack here, anyway? Canadians?” I grinned.

He shot me a flat look as he unzipped his laptop case. “The problems between the early settlers and the local tribes had calmed down by the time this thing was reconstructed here in the mid to late 1800s.”

“Look.” Mellie tugged on my sleeve. “Who are those people?”

With the sandal in hand, I straightened. A gray-haired woman was shaking my dad’s hand. She stood nearly as tall as he, and the younger man who waited a couple of steps back towered over them.

“No way.” My heart beat a little faster, and I leaned closer to the window. Mellie pushed past me and hopped from the car behind the boys.

“What do you see?” Ezra lowered his head to peer out my window.

“Remember last summer? The guy doing the gardening internship?” The guy I’d crushed on all summer. He’d boarded with the parents of one of Ezra’s friends.

“Yeah, I do.” Ezra grinned. “Coop Montgomery.”

Coop here. I slid on my shoes, trying to think calm thoughts.

“Montgomery. Of course,” Ezra said. “Don’t know why I never considered it.”

“Never considered what?”

“Haven’t you listened to anything Dad’s talked about the last two months? The caretakers here are the Montgomerys.” In his hurry, Ezra was struggling to get the laptop straight enough to slide into its case. “I mean, what are the odds our Montgomery would belong to these Montgomerys?” He finally shoved his not-quite-loaded computer and bag to the side, opened his door, and got out. “I don’t see anyone who might be Mr. Montgomery anywhere, so he must be up at the castle. Come on.” He didn’t wait for me but turned and jogged toward the group.

Taking my time, I eased from the car and tried not to look like I was looking at Coop. I was coolness personified. Not a sign showed of the tingles running clear down to my toes, or the swirling butterflies that had taken up residence in my stomach. I hoped.

Last summer had been the best of my life, and Coop had been a huge part of it. Since Ezra and I usually hung out with the same friends, we’d always done a lot of things together—camping, rafting down the American River, boating on Folsom Lake. Coop had spent most of that time around us, and I’d thought maybe …

Well, it hadn’t mattered anyway. The summer idyll had ended; he’d gone back home. I stole a glance at him. Here. How crazy was that?

What if he didn’t remember me?

I didn’t want to face that possibility, so I didn’t approach the others but rather allowed the view of the castle grounds to draw me through the gateway. The luscious smell of freshly cut grass wafted up to me. Not far off, a large riding lawn mower sat where it had stopped in the middle of the job. Something about the place already pulled at me.

All at once, in spite of the mild June afternoon sun, goose bumps broke out on my arms. My hair swirled a little around my face. Pulling it back, I glanced around. None of the tree leaves moved. Weird. Chilled, I shivered and rubbed my arms for warmth. I’d have to get used to the cooler Washington weather.

The field spread between the gatehouse and the castle. Nothing like the manicured castle grounds I’d seen online, it was more like a beautiful meadow. Wildflowers sprinkled the section where the longish grass hadn’t been cut yet. A soccer tournament would fit on it. Or maybe the Fourth of July event Mom kept talking about.

The road split the large field in two, heading up the middle and ending at the citadel. While the structure made me feel small and insignificant, a powerful sense of connection flooded me at the same time. I’d never experienced anything like it before.

This place had belonged to my ancestors, people whose genes I shared. The citadel had been originally constructed hundreds of years ago, even before America had been America.

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