|Publisher:||Morgan James Publishing|
|Product dimensions:||5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x (d)|
|Age Range:||9 - 12 Years|
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I woke up with a face full of grass. It smelled lovely, actually. Fresh and, well, grassy. It tickled the inside of my nose. Then I wondered if there were worms in it, so I leapt to my feet swiping at my face and brushing bits of grass from my long, pink, ruffled dress.
From my what?
I looked down. Huh? This was my hideous and totally embarrassing bridesmaid's dress from last month. So why was I wearing it again now? Last thing I remembered was ... what? I put my hand on the back of my head to feel for bumps. Had I been in an accident? Had I fallen asleep at my dad's wedding and just dreamed the whole of the last month? If so, I needed to get more interesting dreams, because all I had dreamed about was going to school, doing my chores and being asleep. My fingers moved across my head. I could feel no bumps, so that was a good thing. What I could feel was that I had a strange wig on my head. The hair was totally different from mine. Mine is pretty long, like armpit long, but this was insanely long and it was in the most complicated arrangement of braids and swags anyone could imagine. I pulled some of it forward and looked. I'm blonde, but this was Blonde, capital B. And Long, capital L. It reached to my waist, even though it was draped and pinned up. I dropped it and carefully placed both hands on top of my head. There was a weird spiky thing growing out of the center of my skull.
Immediately I knew what had happened. This was obviously Rory's work. Somehow my little brother had sneaked into my bedroom at night, put a wig on my head, and dressed me in my bridesmaid's outfit. He was going to be in so much trouble when I got my hands on him. I heard a groan I recognized from behind me. I spun around to grab the little pest but stopped, arms outstretched when I saw my BFF, Persis Perkins, spread eagled on the ground next to Rory. What were they doing here? And while I was asking questions, where was "here" exactly?
Rory opened his eyes and wriggled until he was sitting up. He yawned and stretched, then struggled to stand up. He's always been hopeless at waking up. It's a family thing. He made little fists with his hands, ground them into his eyes, and started to yawn again. Midyawn, with his mouth wide open he happened to look over at me. His head slowly went down and then back up as he looked me over. Rory burst out laughing, pointed at me, and slapped theatrically at his leg, just to make sure that everyone understood I looked funny.
I've heard being an only child is great.
Meanwhile, Persis had also gotten to her feet and stood next to him. She was too busy staring at him to notice me. I've known her ever since we were at Melas Elementary School. We hit it off right away and always stood up for each other. She stood up for me again now.
"You don't look so great yourself, Rory," she told him firmly. He stopped laughing and looked down at himself. Now it was my turn to laugh and point. I checked him out and snort-laughed.
"Ohmygosh, those shoes," I gasped, hardly able to talk. Whoever had decided to dress me in a crumpled, pink marshmallow had really gone nuts with my brother. Rory's entire outfit was shiny. He wore a tunic shirt with big blousy sleeves, which was shiny and white. It was tucked into shiny blue pants that were so wide they flapped when he moved, but were tight around his ankles. A broad red cloth cinched him in at the waist and a buttonless vest completed his outfit.
Oh, and those shoes that made me laugh so much? On his feet he wore gold slippers encrusted with glittering pieces of mirror, which curled around from the toe like a pug dog's tail. They were incredibly exaggerated, and were surely never worn by people in real life. He bent down and started to tug at the shoes.
Next, I turned my attention to Persis herself.
"You got off lightly," I told her. She looked down at herself and nodded. She wore a plain, old-fashioned dress in blue and white check, and around her shoulders was a red cape with a hood.
"Yeah, I guess so, Brina," she answered. "But what I want to know is why are we dressed like this — and where are we?"CHAPTER 2
"I don't know where we are," I answered. I was starting to wonder if we should be scared. This was a pretty weird situation after all.
"Why are we wearing these clothes?" Rory grunted. He was now sitting on the ground, with one leg waggling in the air, as he yanked at the curling toe of his right slipper. He looked up at me as he spoke.
Persis looked at me.
I looked at them. I shrugged. I had no idea. Why were they even looking at me? How would I know? Were we safe? Were we in danger? Were all three of us having the same crazy dream?
Whatever was happening to us, at least we were all together. Nothing is as frightening when you have someone else with you, I always think. That was why ... oh dear, something was coming back to me. I remembered talking Persis into come along with me to do something — something that I couldn't quite remember — because I was scared to do it by myself. Now she was in as much trouble as I was.
"Well, the last thing I remember was ..." I wrinkled up my face and tried to bully my brain into working properly.
"I know," Persis said. "We'd, uh, we'd decided to follow your stepmom to see where she had been sneaking off to." She cast a glance at Rory, to see if he remembered the same thing. He was red in the face and sweating as he struggled with his shoe, but still heard her.
"That's right," he piped up as he rolled from one side to the other, now with both legs in the air and one hand on each foot. He paused to gather his breath and glanced up from where he lay. "You said, 'I'm telling you, Persis, there's something weird about Bridget'," he said. Persis and I rounded on him in unison, our knuckles on our hips.
"We were following Bridget," I said to him. "We. So what about you?" He didn't care that we were angry at him for eavesdropping. He had other things to worry about. He started to drag the heels of his glittering slippers across the grass, gouging channels in the earth.
"I," he mimicked, "I was following you following Bridget," he explained.
All right, now we were getting somewhere. It seemed that my friend and I decided to follow my new stepmom because ... because why? Then I remembered. It had all started after Bridget herself had sneaked out of our house. But then I remembered something else: I had been officially grounded when I had followed her. Oops.
My thinking was interrupted.
"RRRRrrrrrrrrr!" Rory screamed out. He lay on his back and pummelled the ground beneath him with his clenched fists and smashed his feet up and down. "I HATE THESE CLOTHES!" he screeched; his face was scarlet and his eyes were bulging. "GET THESE CLOTHES OFF ME!" he continued, with tears streaming from his eyes.
Persis and I wandered over to him and took a foot each. We talked over Rory as we began to wiggle his slippers, speaking louder to make ourselves heard over the wails and howls of his current tantrum.
"Hey, I think I was grounded; do you remember that?" I asked.
Persis nodded, and started pulling instead of wiggling. "Yeah, that's right. Something to do with being rude to your stepmom, wasn't it?"
I nodded and joined her in the pulling.
"Mmm, yes, it was." We moved to stand next beside one another, each of us holding a foot. We crouched to steady our legs, leaned back, and pulled with all our might. There was a terrific thump as we both pulled so hard that we flew backward a whole yard and landed on our behinds. We each had a slipper in our hands and as we sat up, we grinned and high-fived using the shoes instead of our hands. Then we looked at Rory, expecting to see his cheesy feet and hear a 'thanks guys.'
Instead Rory's feet were waving in the air, still shod in the golden, glittering slippers, which winked and twinkled in the sunshine. I looked at the shoe in my hand and as I stared, it turned to dust.
Icky! I flicked my hands and brushed them clean on my dress. It looked like whatever we did, we were stuck with these clothes and this hair until we managed to get back home.
Home. The word set me thinking. We'd already been through enough, and it wasn't fair that Rory and I had even more to deal with.
Dad, Rory and I had been by ourselves since my mom left us, just after Rory was born. That was even before any of us knew what a pest he could be; back then, he was just a cute, helpless baby. One day she was there, the next she wasn't. Weeks and weeks later, her older brother — our wonderful Uncle Don — had come to the house. He had introduced himself to Dad and then he gave us the terrible news. Mom had sent him an email. She had left us. She had simply decided that being a parent and a wife weren't enough for her, and that she wanted to be free. Of course, I was only four years old so I don't remember any of this, and Dad would never talk about it, but last year, Uncle Don sat down with Rory and me and said we deserved to know the truth. Boy, that was some afternoon!
Uncle Don sat on the edge of my bed. Rory sat on his lap, his arms wrapped around Uncle Don's neck. He had always been fascinated by our uncle's thick, auburn mustache. He kept trying to reach for it, but Uncle Don brushed his hands away.
"So, tell us about her, please Uncle Don," I said. "Dad won't be back for hours. Please. We want to know."
"All right, Sabrina, if you're sure."
Rory and I both nodded. We were sure. We had a right to know what had happened, didn't we? Was it us? Was it Dad? He could be kind of a nag; maybe he drove her away.
"Well, kids, you know I love you both, right?" Sure, we knew. Uncle Don came and went because of his job, but he always brought us presents and played with us when he was around. We nodded.
"Well, I love my sister, too. But the truth is, she was always kind of unreliable," he had said. "She never stuck to anything for long. She rebelled against our family, broke our parents' hearts." He shook his head, twirling the ends of his great gingery mustache. "It was nothing to do with you, or your dad, it was all her. We always knew she would come to a sad end."
I felt my eyes fill with tears — they knew to cry before my mind did. "After that first email I didn't hear from her for months afterward, then I got the bad news. She had died while she was away." Uncle Don's voice cracked as he spoke and then trailed away to silence.
I don't know about Rory, but I had always hoped something exciting had happened to Mom, like she was really a secret agent and only pretending to be dead.
"What happened to her?" I asked in a very quiet voice.
"Well, Sabrina, it seems that she was sailing a boat alone, hit bad weather, fell overboard, and drowned. The life jacket was still on board. Reckless ... she was always so reckless." He retreated into himself, taking a quiet moment. We didn't ask about anything more. We didn't want to know anything more.
Rory cried for three days afterward but I felt kind of sorry for Uncle Don, too. He told us the worst day of his life had been when he had to tell Dad that Mom had died in a boating accident. He tried to make us feel better by saying that neither of us were anything like her.
Then he had clapped Rory hard on his back and said, "Cheer up, my boy. I will bring you back a cuckoo clock from my tour of Europe." He rose to his feet and towered above us, before ruffling our hair and pulling candy from behind our ears.
"Smoke and mirrors, kids," he said whenever we asked him how he did his tricks. "Magic is just all smoke and mirrors."
We had watched him leave from my bedroom window, still a little dazed from what he had told us and the vigorous hair-ruffling. The words "The Great Donaldo" were painted on the side of his huge RV. Uncle Don was a traveling magician who put on shows all around the world, and was, without question, the best and coolest uncle ever.
Well, now you know that my dad was a widow and used to be a single parent. That's why he went on the Internet to find a new wife for himself and a stepmom for Rory and me: the stepmom we had all been following when we ended up in this mess.CHAPTER 3
"Oh Dad, no way can you wear that to your date," I had wailed in horror.
The whole Internet dating thing hadn't worked out so well for Dad.
He was kind of innocent; and he was certainly not aware of how mean and greedy some of the women he met could be. Luckily, the "people-repellent" that is my little brother Rory saw most of the unsuitable applicants off. There were several who were quite a bit older than Dad: a little older than our grandma to be honest! Then there was one who didn't know that soap and hot water had been invented and who smelled so bad the neighboring farm had telephoned us to ask if our drains were blocked. There were a couple of cacklers who laughed like hyenas all the time; one who wanted Dad to send Rory and me away to boarding school; three who asked to see Dad's bank account and then left pretty quickly afterward; and finally, there was Bridget Bishop.
Rory had a few different techniques he liked to use if he didn't like one of the women Dad was trying to date. Eating three cans of baked beans before being introduced was especially effective. Or he would pretend he was a pet cat and would try to curl up on their laps. My personal favorite was the moment when he screamed loudly right in the face of the woman who smelled like drains.
So when we saw Bridget's profile online and listened in when Dad talked to her on the phone, we were actually pleased that someone who seemed nice and normal was interested in our dad. We were tired of all the dates and we wanted it to be over.
That's why I was so anxious that my dad did not wear a zip-up sweater with a pattern of yellow-and-green diamonds down the front. Well, amazingly, I was wrong; Bridget came to the house that first time and told Dad he looked extremely handsome, and that the green diamonds brought out the flecks of green in his eyes.
He proposed to her two months later and they were married three more months after that. My head stopped swirling only long enough to realize that I was being forced to wear a pink dress which looked like the covers that old ladies use to hide their spare rolls of toilet paper underneath.
Before we could blink, Rory and I had a new stepmother. Wow. They had fallen for each other almost at first sight — just like that. It would have been romantic if they hadn't been so old and, you know, he wasn't my dad. At first, it was pretty much okay. Bridget moved into the house, and we all had gotten used to each other and worked out new routines. Bridget began to talk about a separate bathroom for the grown-ups pretty quickly; but yes, it was okay.
Well, maybe a few teething problems.
Especially her cooking. That caused us a few teething problems. Rory in particular had to cut up his food very small because there was no way he could bite into it with his two front teeth missing. And she had kind of a weakness for stews and casseroles and soups, or anything she could cook in one big black pot. But they all tasted the same: like sweaty socks. And looked the same: like melted soap with cut-up sweaty socks floating in it. Unfortunately, Rory could eat that kind of food with no problems, so she made it often. But the main thing was that my dad was happy. When they got married, Bridget had given up her job as a librarian over in Manchester-by-the-Sea and her home in Singing Beach, so she had plenty of free time to look after the house and Rory and me. That meant she made us do our homework; and our grades went up, which was quite a surprise. She sang around the house and brought inside bunches of wild flowers and herbs, and also what I secretly thought were weeds, but I didn't like to upset her. For the first time, Persis was allowed to come for sleepovers, now that there was a responsible adult female in the house. And Rory slept better at night.
Unfortunately there were a few things that worried me — a few little niggles that led us to follow her that fateful evening, and meant that we wound up in some field we didn't recognize with the strangest Halloween outfits on.CHAPTER 4
The gross sound distracted me from the effort of remembering exactly what had happened. We all looked at each other, wondering what it was.
"Huuuurrrggh!" The noise happened again. Persis pointed toward a large tree, which stood alone in the corner of the field. From one side of the trunk peeped someone's backside, covered in tattered, gray fabric with square patches of bright material sewn on in great, looping stitches.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "The Uncooperative Flying Carpet"
Copyright © 2018 Michele Clark McConnochie.
Excerpted by permission of Morgan James Publishing.
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