Some songs remind me of my characters, others I'm just going to post because I like. But this one... This sums up my whole life.
I’ve heard a lot of contradictory writing advice, and if you’re an aspiring writer, you will too. So, I thought I would start this series with two golden rules everyone can agree on:
1). Read a lot
2) Write a lot
Those are the only rules you need.
What reading will do:
You’ll be inspired in terms of ideas, and your writing style.
You’ll realize the things you don’t want to do in your writing. I’ve learned about quite a few pet peeves through reading.
You'll research the things you need to.
And of course, exercise your mind, gain new ideas and perspectives, and just in general become better the more you do it. Not to mention all the awesome things that come with escaping real life for a while.
What writing will do:
The more you write, the more you’ll develop your own style and learn what rules actually work for you. Learn the rules. Try following them. Try breaking them. I don't particularly like writing exercises or prompts, but some people find them very helpful. Give them a try. Then work on something that's just yours. Try everything, and make a habit of writing often. Like anything else, the more you write, the better at it you get. So, my main point here is to try new ways of writing to figure out your own rules. Because writing is so personal, you won’t know what rules work for you until you write… a lot.
Part One: Good to be Different?
How did Crossworlds, and The Mansion's Twins begin? I know JK Rowling, and a lot of other authors, felt the call from the beginning. They were always talented with a pen, and showcased their talent from an early age. Their purpose was always clear to them.
Yeah, that's not at all how it happened for me.
I was such a perfectionist, I was the little girl crying at her desk whenever we had a writing assingment. Not because I didn't want to do it, but because I didn't think anything I could possibly put on that paper would be good enough. I just remember sitting there yelling "I don't know what to write!"
Soo, I thought I hated writing. Took me a while to realize I didn't hate writing itself, but writing on other people's terms.
Basically, I became a writer because I was a weird kid.
I was always daydreaming, always in my own little world, making up stories with my dolls, inventing new games with my sister, and seeking out anything that was better than reality. But at that age, I thought, all kids are imaginative. That's what childhood is about. I'm nothing special because I made up stuff.
But I still felt different. I had almost no friends in elementary school, and no one who I really connected with until about fifth grade.
Everyone else (mostly adults) said it's good to be different. "Why fit in when you were born to stand out?" was on a poster across the front wall of my fifth grade classroom. And I didn't really want to be like the others in my class.
Was I really different, or just really shy? Maybe I could have made connections if I had accepted my new home sooner. I spent most of my elementary school years wishing I could go back to where I was before, that I'd wake up and my new school would be just a dream.
Middle school was, oddly enough, a wonderful new beginning. I found friends, confidence, and I wanted to showcase all that I was: a proud weirdo. Everyone said it was good to be different.
I started to develop a world called "Strangeness." My name was "Little Strangeness." I invited all my friends to have a part it in. We made maps, where everyone contributed a city. We played our games in the music room when we were supposed to be practicing. Just about everyone in the school knew about it, and about me. Maybe they were laughing at me behind my back, but I was far too happy to care.
Strangeness was the beginning of Crossworlds, even though it had none of the same elements. I started writing down stories about Strangeness, and found immense joy in creating a new world. I loved being known for it, whether I was amazing or insane. And far in the distance, I saw a new world beginning to form, a world that was mine and only mine.
In my mind, I saw two planets connected by a bridge. One was Strangeness, well formed, and well populated. The other was unnamed, and mostly empty, but I knew it was full of potential. I knew Strangess was a phase, and that it only belonged in middle school.
This other world, however... That was meant to be mine forever.
Dawn's Acapella Preview (LGS book one)
This story is dedicated to anyone who ever wanted to change the world, but felt their actions were too small. To anyone who ever dreamed of being a real-life superhero. And to anyone in search of sunshine and lighthearted fun.
Meet the 16-year-old Rose Channing, author of “The Mansion’s Twins,” before her authoring days. Before she knew for sure that magic existed. Before she even knew her own middle name. Before any of that, there was an annoying freshman girl following her around. A girl who talked too much and sang too loud. A girl with a silly but sweet idea to turn ordinary high school students into heroes.
Before Rose became Rose, there was Dawn.
On a busy little street, in a crazy little home, in a peaceful little room, in a messy little bed, lay a hopeful little girl in a black and gray dress.
She was writing in a notebook, hurrying to finish a project her friends had dared her to attempt.
As much as I love them, my stupid friends have presented me with the stupidest writing challenge ever. Just because Lucy and Nick can write anything doesn’t mean I can. “Write something outside your usual stuff,” they said. “No Crossworlds allowed!” Ugh. Fine. I’ll do what you do, Lucy, and write about my friends. And I’ll do what you do, Nick, and write it as a poem:
Let’s go on an adventure, because these three oddities belong in fantasy books
A beautiful, tall curvy woman with thick flowing brown hair, and eyes like the ocean
A young skinny man, with tight dark curls, freckled skin and eyes full of wonder
And then there’s the third one, whatever.
The first would have gifts of healing, and a voice made of magic
She can shift anyone and anything into its brighter, better version
The second, a seer, aside from his own life
He knows the world, its truths and lies
The third, well, she can’t even write a poem properly
This is more like a love letter to my friends
Very stupid and cheesy, and I hate you both for making me do this
But hey, we’re all still legends, including me, I guess
My name is Rose, and someday I will be
“You’re late for school!” her mom called.
…allowed to finish my damn sentences.
((As this is a very short book, this is all I'll be sharing for the preview. Also, I have no silly doodles for either of these books, but I don't imagine anyone misses those too much.))
Reviews of Dawn's Acapella
"I absolutely adored this book! Every middle schooler and high schooler (and even adults!) should read this especially in a day and age where the world can use more kindness.
This is a very well written short story and I appreciated how the author got into the conflict right away and followed up with obstacles and a satisfying solution." --Amazon reviewer
"I really enjoyed this book. In fact at one point, I came close to crying as I was touched by part of the story. The theme of kindness in this book makes it a story that should be part of anti-bullying programs of schools." --Amazon reviewer
"A wonderful story by a young author, that not only shows the enthusiasm of our young, but in the end touches on a very difficult and far too common problem for our youth today.
I found this uplifting, imaginative, and a must for any teen, especially those having a hard time finding their place in this expansive and sometimes tough world." --Amazon reviewer
"This story is about a group of misfits who decide to do something to make their school a better place. A very short, sweet and inspirational story about how one kind gesture could change a person's life. Very well written and hope to see more from this author." --Amazon reviewer
"I found this short story to be a charming chronicle of the high school experience. When young Rose meets bubbly freshman Dawn, the entire world of the school is turned upside down. Quirky and kind, she develops an instant rapport with Rose; one that really melted my heart. The story was well written, with unique characters and an uplifting life lesson. To paraphrase, 'Simple gestures should never be overlooked. Even the smallest spark can be seen, and that's all it takes.' A wonderful tale of friendship and trying to raise others' spirits. Dawn's Acapella is not to be missed." --Amazon reviewer
Acapella Angels Preview (LGS book two)
The lighthearted days of the Everyday Heroes Club are over.
After a disaster at her old school, Rose and her parents are forced to move away. While her classmates look forward to bright futures, Rose is haunted by a dark past.
She doesn’t dare befriend anyone new at her next school, for fear of another incident. Instead, she finds friends inside the pages of her own stories.
Dedicated to Dawn, Rose writes “Acapella Angels” the story or Ellie and Savannah’s parents when they were young.
He was a wanderer, searching for his gift. She was a dreamer, who hoped someday to fly.
The days before the storm were dark and dangerous. Cassandra, hoping to make her home safe again, joins the warriors Summer’s Angels with her friends, Brooke and Nathaniel. Her childhood friend Travis is there to catch her each time she falls, when others have let her down. Travis shows her what it is she’s truly fighting for. On one side of Cassandra’s life is violence, darkness, and death. On the other side, love, light, and new life.
These characters send Rose on her own journey of hope and healing. She begins to learn through them how to cope with loss, and how to find joy once again.
Her little feet crept toward the edge of the balcony, her heart pounding with nervous excitement. She swung one leg over, then the other, gripping the handrail behind her. She stood on her heels, gathering her courage and magic. She closed her eyes, lifted her arms, and jumped.
“Cassandra! Look at me, baby, please…”
Through blurred vision, she saw two women above her. Her mother, and Jennifer Cadence, the mansion’s healer.
“Is she okay?”
“She always is, it’s just a broken arm this time,” Jennifer said. “I think we should put a cast on it and let it heal naturally. Are you okay with that? If we keep using magic she’s not going to learn.”
Cassandra tried to move, but every part of her hurt. She struggled to focus enough to form words, to convince Jennifer to heal her.
“Whatever you think is best, Jenny,” her mother said.
“Wait!” Cassandra said. “Please, Jennifer? It hurts.”
“Well, maybe you should stop jumping off the balcony, silly girl.”
“But I’m going to fly!”
“Cassandra, I know discovering your gift is exciting, and we are proud of our little levitator, but your magic just isn’t strong enough! Nobody’s is. Not yet, anyway. So for now, you’re just going to have to stop scaring me to death.”
Jenny picked her up and carried her away to tend to her arm. Cassandra fought back tears. She was six years old and had just discovered her gift a few days ago, a moment every child awaits with impatience and excitement. Levitation was one of the simplest of the twelve gifts, but Cassandra didn’t care. She knew she could do extraordinary things with whatever she had. She just didn’t want to be ungifted.
The moment came when she was playing with her older sister Danielle in the Child’s World, the mansion’s preschool. They were having a snack, and playfully tossing crackers across the table at each other. Suddenly magic light up her entire being, and the thought occurred to her that she should try floating the cracker in the air, and landing it right on top of Danielle’s head. Doing so was easy, and she burst into a fit of giggles. She sprang out of her chair and scampered around the room, lifting everything she could think of by magic.
Someone knocked down a boy’s tower of blocks, and he was just about to cry when Cassandra lifted them by magic again and stacked them back up just like they were. He froze, his expression returned to normal, and he stared at her with wide, deep green eyes.
“There you go!” she said.
“Wow, thank you!” he said. “What’s your name?”
“I’m Cassandra Senka,” she said proudly. “I just discovered my gift, and I’m a levitator, see?” She lifted more of the blocks and created a tower of her own.
“I’m Travis,” he said. “I haven’t discovered my gift yet. Wanna be friends? You can help me find out what it is.”
“Yeah! Let’s do it!”
Her sister’s voice came from behind her. “That’s stupid, Cassandra, you can’t force someone to discover their gift. It happens naturally, he just has to wait for it.”
“No! We’re gonna do it!”
* * *
Travis was new to the mansion. The Child’s World was the safest preschool his parents could find. The town of Kherrington his parents grew up in was no longer as safe as it had been. Something was stirring in the forest. Dark magic was growing. It all felt like a scary story to Travis, unreal and far away, but his parents were frightened. They had considered dropping everything and moving to the mansion, but instead decided to test the waters, and send Travis to school there first.
It wasn’t easy on him. He was almost seven years old and still hadn’t discovered his gift. The other children would talk about theirs, about how excited and proud they were to have discovered them, and he had nothing to say in return. He’d never been this shy before. He’d heard over and over that the mansion was a warm and welcoming place, where the lonely found home and family again. But he hadn’t.
Until this small, bright-eyed blonde girl rebuilt his tower. She lived in the mansion, he could tell by her confidence that she felt at home here. Plus, she wore the colors of Summer’s Angels: a bright yellow top and blue pants. It was common for the grown-ups in the mansion to dress their kids this way. Summer’s Angels were the queen’s warriors, as well as a choir that sang in town. The choir wore blue and yellow, and the colors had come to symbolize hope for all the people of the East.
Travis saw that hope in Cassandra’s eyes. Her wavy hair hung loosely around her shoulders, and her eyes were a pretty light green. Her older sister had the same eyes, and darker hair with tighter curls. Though she was only two years older, Danielle seemed far more mature, far more together, than wild little Cassandra.
Travis had asked for friendship before, and for someone to help him find his gift, but most people responded the way Cassandra’s sister had, telling him he was stupid to think he could force it.
Cassandra Senka believed in him. It was one of the first things he learned about her: She believed very strongly in what most people considered impossible.
* * *
After Jenny had tended to her arm, Cassandra found Travis on the balcony. “Wanna sign my cast, Travis?” She held out her arm, wrapped in a bright yellow cast up to her elbow. All the signatures decorating it were blue. He saw the marker in her pocket. Of course she would insist on only having blue and yellow on her cast, that was no surprise. But he still didn’t like the sight of the thing.
“Why do you have a cast?”
She rolled her eyes. “Jennifer wouldn’t heal me.”
“Why? How’d you get hurt?”
“I jumped off the balcony again.”
“Yeah. I do it all the time.”
“Be careful,” he said.
“I am. I just wanna fly so bad. And now my arm is too heavy, so I have to wait! It’s okay though. Hey, maybe you’ll be a healer! Try it!”
“Cassandra, people are usually born with that gift. I’m not a healer.”
“Just try it!”
Cassandra nodded encouragement as he put his hand on her cast and closed his eyes, focusing in. She felt a warm, comforting current of magic flow into her arm, but it was too weak to mend the damage. He sighed. “I’m never gonna discover my gift!”
“Hey, it’s okay!” she said. “That felt really nice. And you’ll get there, I promise. Some kids have to wait till their seven or eight.”
“I don’t wanna wait!”
“Well, I don’t wanna wait either! I wanna fly now!”
A voice from below distracted them both. Cassandra’s parents were downstairs. “Cassandra! Travis! Come here, hurry!”
The children scampered down the stairs.
“To the basement, now!” Cassandra’s mother said.
“Someone’s trying to break in. We’ve got to get to safety.”
Cassandra turned away from her parents as the doors behind the stairways opened, and Summer’s Angels emerged: strong, fierce women dressed in green. At the top of the balcony stood the mansion’s queen. At first glance she looked like nothing more than a child, only a few years older than Cassandra. Just a girl in a white dress, with short black hair framing her face. But everyone felt the power she carried with her. She radiated light and strength. Cassandra waved at her. “Hi, June,” she whispered.
“Get the children downstairs,” June said.
Her mother pulled her along. She looked back at June and her warriors, Summer’s Angels, ready for battle. They marched out of the mansion to meet the enemy, unsheathing swords, or lighting up their hands with magic. Who was attacking the mansion? It had to be someone from the forest, where June’s enemies dwelt: The Ambrosi family. Jerome was the only one left, or at least, that was what everyone thought. Cassandra still pictured many of them. Strong warriors with every kind of gift. Healers whose magic had been twisted to inflict pain. Creatures Jerome made himself, infused with evil magic. Perhaps he’d even kidnapped a model maker. Cassandra’s imagination ran wild as her parents dragged her into the basement. She heard shouting from outside, and what sounded like gunfire.
Down in the dark, some were scared, others worried, others just bored. Some of the grown-ups looked like they’d experienced this many times before. They spoke to each other in soft but casual voices. Travis’s parents, however, were downright terrified.
“The mansion isn’t as safe as we thought.”
“Yes it is,” Cassandra said. “We’re still okay, aren’t we?”
“Sh!” Travis said.
“Come on.” She couldn’t help rolling her eyes. This was nothing to be scared about. This was exciting. She only wished she could see the battle. The only thing that worried her was the whispered conversation between Travis’s parents. Travis hadn’t been in the mansion for long, but Cassandra was already good friends with him. She was usually content to play by herself, and had few close friends. Only Danielle, Amber, and now Travis. But with those friends, she had made promises she meant to keep. Amber was a gifted singer, and when they were old enough, they were both going to join the choir, Summer’s Angels. She hadn’t helped Travis discover his gift yet, and she’d promised she would. Promises to Danielle were easy to keep. They would be best friends forever because they had to be. Plus, Danielle’s gift was inner-vision. Cassandra couldn’t keep secrets from her if she wanted to.
If Travis’s parents took him away, she would follow him. She was getting too old for preschool anyway. She was ready for real school. She was ready to learn to use all her magic to the best of her ability, so someday she could fight for June just like those brave heroes above her right now…
And she would learn to fly. She would learn to fly, and then she could do anything.
Reviews of Acapella Angels
"It felt like I was waiting for this book for so long. And then there it was - and I loved every single word of it. There were times when my heart was nearly bursting and I was fighting off the tears and other times I was laughing and crying at the same time. What a wonderful journey! Makes me want to go back and read Book 1 and then this book all over again!" --Amazon reviewer
Travis and Cassandra Senka. Art by Rose Star (obviously this beautiful creation is not mine).
Late in the night, Lindsey heard a soft knock at her bedroom door. She got up, and tiptoed across the room to answer it. Her little brother stood outside, staring at her.
She waved him in, and quietly shut the door behind him. “Andy! What are you doing?” she whispered. “You’re gonna wake them up!”
“I’m being quiet,” Andy whispered. “Can we go see her?”
“Now? It’s the middle of the night! Go back to bed.”
“I just want to make sure she’s okay.”
“She’s fine. Why are you worried about her? Didn’t you say she can talk to squirrels and they give her nuts and stuff?” She giggled. “There’s no need to worry if that’s true!”
“It is true!” he said, slapping her arm.
“Okay, calm down, whatever! Either way, she’ll be fine, she always is. We’ll see her in the morning.”
He sat down on her bed. “Why can’t we tell them about her? She could stay with us. Mom would say yes.”
“But Dad would say no. He doesn’t like this kinda stuff. He’d probably make her leave.”
“What kinda stuff?”
“You know—she’s kinda weird,” she said.
“So are you,” he said.
“Yeah, and so are you. But it’s not the same. I don’t think he’d get it. Let’s just worry about this in the morning, okay? Go back to bed.”
Andy sighed, and crept out of the room. She waited a few minutes, then checked to make sure he had gone to bed, and hadn’t run off to see their unexpected visitor. He hadn’t. He was curled up in bed, waiting to fall asleep. She went back to her own room, to do the same.
Ellie went to her room to get ready for bed early that night. She was exhausted after her lesson with June, but excited about the Celebration the next day. Tomorrow was the first day of autumn, a season Ellie used to hate, but now looked forward to more than any other. In her old life, fall meant going back to school after a wonderful summer. She had always spent the summers exploring the streets around her house, meeting new people, and discovering places like the playground where she first met Savannah. Fall meant the beginning of cold weather, which kept her stuck in the house. School meant homework, which trapped her in her room as well.
In this world, Ellie could appreciate how beautiful fall really was. She didn’t have to worry about being stuck in a small house with fighting parents, or going to a school she took no interest in. June’s lessons were always worthwhile, and Ellie loved the only family she had.
She wondered where her sister was now. Savannah had been jealous that Ellie was the first to receive a private lesson with June, and disappeared for most of the day with Hannah and Michelle, but Ellie expected her to be back by now. Ellie wanted to tell her all about the lesson, but she was far too tired to wait up for her. She fell asleep, dreaming of the Celebration the next day, and the possibilities of what she and June had talked about. If only June would let them…
Ellie had only experienced one Celebration of Fall, and it was already her favorite holiday. There were six major holidays: one to celebrate the turn of every season, a day of remembrance of the storm, and the Celebration of June, the day June and her people had won the war so long ago. Now, a seventh holiday had been added. February eighth was the Celebration of New Beginnings, in honor of the day Ellie and Savannah had reset the world’s balance.
It had been over a year ago when the world awoke to the twins’ magic. The girls turned sixteen last summer, and their bodies were quickly coming into maturity. Growth spurts left them uneven in height for a brief time, to the amusement of many in the mansion. Now they were the same again, but Ellie still felt awkward with her new curves, and envied Savannah for moving so gracefully. Ellie feared their golden dresses from the center of magic would no longer fit, but was pleased to find that even though they remained child-sized on the hanger, they morphed by magic, conforming to the twins’ developing bodies. Despite the changes and awkwardness, the features everyone had come to know remained the same: long, light-brown hair, and bright, smiling green eyes. Young, cheerful, identical faces that told the world something wonderful was on its way.
Ellie woke in the early morning when Savannah opened the window, letting the light in.
“Happy fall,” Savannah said. She was still in her pajamas and her hair was a mess.
Ellie sat up, rubbing her eyes. “Happy fall,” she said. “Are you just getting back?”
“Well, yeah… When we got back from the beach we went to Hannah’s room and sort of stayed up all night.”
“You’ve been out partying with Hannah and Michelle all day and night?”
“Hey, don’t be jealous. You got a private lesson with June,” Savannah said.
“Right. Lessons are way more fun than staying out with your friends,” Ellie muttered.
“We better get ready, I’m sure they’re expecting us downstairs.”
“Do they really need ‘The Senka Twins’ this early in the morning?”
“You got a lot more sleep than I did.”
Ellie got out of bed, and the two of them began getting ready for the party, Savannah attacking her messy hair with a brush.
“So what did you and June do?” Savannah asked.
“Oh, nothing new, but it was still weird. She went on about how it’s important for us to strengthen our magic as individuals, not just as twins. Asked me what kind of magic I want to be able to do.”
“What did you say?”
“Only thing I could think of. I want to be able to fly.” She shrugged. “Oh, and I talked to her again about the people on the old world.”
“I think she’s considering it.”
“Well,” Savannah sighed, “I think she might possibly be considering it as well.”
“I’m not giving up on this. After the Celebration, we are going to go.”
When they were ready, the twins went down to the main room, where breakfast was served. People were milling about, most of them gathered by the tables along the walls to eat. Some were standing on the balcony, watching the others below. Outside the wide windows, the sun peeked through the clouds, and autumn leaves blew in the wind, golden, yellow, orange and red. Among the falling leaves, Ellie thought she spotted something else sparkling gold.
“Is Eva out there?”
“Probably,” Savannah said.
“Yeah, she’s out there,” Aaron said, walking up behind them. “She loves the Celebration of Fall. It still feels so new with the magic restored.”
Everything had vastly improved since the twins restored the magic over a year ago. They had much more freedom now, for they no longer had to worry about straying out of bounds. The schools in Kherington reopened, and some kids from the mansion had returned to lessons in town. The twins considered it, but preferred their lessons with June. The queen wanted to continue teaching them herself, too. Though they couldn’t see some of their friends as often because they were in school, everyone was much happier. Eva could dance without fear of losing control. Katherine returned to her home in the South, but Julian decided to remain in the mansion. Aiden was away on his journey to the center of magic, leaving Hannah and Michelle with more free time to spend with the twins. June warned them not to be too carefree, because they still had no idea what caused the storm, and she was afraid it might happen again. But with Jerome still bound by Aiden’s magic, Ellie felt like none of them had anything to worry about.
Michelle and Hannah met the twins in the main room, and the four of them sat down by a window to eat. The two best friends were rather different in appearance: Michelle, with plain brown hair and green eyes, and Hannah, with ethereal sky-blue hair and an innocent, almost childlike face. But often, their smiles were as identical as the twins’. They’d been inseparable since Hannah brought Michelle from the other world.
“What did you guys do last night?” Ellie asked.
“Practiced magic!” Michelle said. “With power transfers, I’ve mastered the magical basics. It was pretty hard when I first came here, but after you reset the balance it’s a lot easier to feel the magic in the air, especially this time of year.”
“Fall and spring are the best times to practice,” Hannah said.
“It’s incredible,” Michelle said. “I love fall.”
“I just wish Aiden could be here too,” Hannah said.
“Time passes differently on that journey,” Savannah said. “Don’t worry about him, he’ll be back soon.”
“I wish he didn’t have to miss this!”
“Would he even be able to stay awake for it?” Ellie asked.
Michelle shrugged. “I dunno, but I hope we’ll be able to.”
“Well, if it’s anything like last year, you’ll be getting hyped up soon,” Hannah said.
They heard yells from across the room. “Speaking of hyped up,” Ellie muttered.
“Celebration of Faaaaaall!” Shane called, dancing over to their table. “Ellie! Ellie-Ellie-Ellie! Are you ready to see this place like you’ve never seen it before?”
Shane’s red hair was already in disarray, probably from bouncing off the walls, Ellie thought. His energy matched his gift so perfectly. He was fire, in every sense, and she couldn’t get enough of it.
“I’m ready,” Ellie said, “but these three were up all night.”
“What had you up all night?” Shane asked. “It wasn’t me,” he added quickly to Bree, who had given him a glance as she passed by. “You all just a bunch of party girls? Why wasn’t I invited?”
“Girls only,” Michelle said.
“Is this a girls only table or can I sit down?”
“Sit,” Ellie said, pulling out the chair next to her. “Don’t worry, I wasn’t invited either.”
“We would have invited you! You had a lesson!” Hannah said.
“How’d that go?” Michelle asked.
“Great, but tiring,” Ellie said. “Plus I was babysitting Gabby and Cameron all day.” She scanned the crowd until she found them—Amber and Damien walking side by side, with little Cameron in his mother’s arms, and Gabrielle skipping along at their feet. Today was not only the Celebration of Fall, but Cameron’s first birthday. The little boy was born a year ago this morning, right at home in the mansion. Cameron’s wide brown eyes stared around at everyone, intrigued by the festivities.
They watched the family walking to the breakfast table together. Gabrielle soon left the others, and ran around the room searching for her friends.
“Hey Vikki!” she called. “Vikki!”
Vikki greeted her friend with a smile, but it wasn’t as bright and genuine as others in the room. Ellie knew why. This holiday had to be hard for her. It was another Celebration without her little sister, Lili. Amid all the joy of the world’s renewed magic, it seemed to the twins that Lili had been forgotten.
The group talked with excitement about the coming events. There would be a party in the garden that night, and a grand feast. Eva would be performing earlier in the day as well.
“Oh, when’s Eva’s show?” Ellie asked, bouncing in her seat.
“After breakfast,” Hannah said.
“Now she’s awake,” Savannah laughed.
In the meantime, music was playing, and people were beginning to rise from their tables to dance. “Shall we?” Shane said, offering his hand to Ellie.
Ellie jumped up and went with Shane to the dance floor. They took hands and twirled about together. Ellie lit up her hands with her green glow in imitation of Eva, and Shane added his own light to the mix.
Ellie hardly noticed when others in the room were finishing their breakfast, and beginning to migrate toward the theater. Soon, Savannah, Hannah, and Michelle had left, but Ellie and Shane stayed until the room emptied. Then they hurried up the stairs, eager to see Eva perform.
Savannah waited in the theater with Hannah and Michelle. The stage was beautifully decorated. Colorful autumn trees, pumpkins, and flowers surrounded the clear space where Eva would dance. Seated near the front of the theater was the trio of the most powerful people in the mansion: June, and her advisors Nikki Blake and Julian Adelburg. Behind them, Alicia sat with Vikki, next to the Bard family, Amber, Damien, Gabrielle and Cameron.
Hannah was talking about Aiden. The mention of the name in this place brought up bittersweet memories for Savannah. She remembered the room of voices below the theater before they reset the balance. “Nathaniel’s a lot like Aiden. He doesn’t quite fit his gift.” After all this time, she still hadn’t heard news of her storm-created friend.
“What’s up, Savannah?” Hannah asked.
Hannah looked at her expectantly. Savannah tried to think of something believable. “Oh, it’s nothing, it’s… It’s stupid.”
“You can tell us,” Hannah said.
“Oh, you talking about Aiden, and you know, seeing Ellie dance with Shane… I don’t want to be jealous or anything, but no one’s ever been like that with me.” It seemed like an obvious lie, but Hannah didn’t know about her feelings for Nathaniel. She had only discussed him with Ellie.
“What about you and Morgan?” Hannah asked.
“We’re both pretty shy,” Savannah said. She was beginning to feel shy now, even though she could talk to Hannah and Michelle about nearly anything.
“Just try to relax,” Hannah said. “Maybe you’re both waiting for the other to make a move.”
Savannah nodded. Truthfully, she wasn’t waiting for anyone to make a move. If Morgan did, she imagined she’d turn him down. What she was waiting for was an answer. There was still a chance Nathaniel was alive. Before Hannah and Michelle could ask if there was something else on her mind, she decided to steer them away from dangerous territory. “What about you, Michelle?” she asked. “You got your eye on anyone?”
“Maybe,” Michelle said, glancing around the room. “He’s not here right now, though.”
Savannah’s eyes followed Michelle’s. Several people hadn’t arrived in the theater yet. Ellie and Shane were still downstairs. Aaron and Jordan were both missing as well.
“Gonna tell us who it is?” Savannah asked.
“Oh look, Ellie and Shane are here!” Michelle said.
“Nice try,” Hannah said, as Ellie and Shane sat down beside them. “Come on, Shelly, tell us!”
“Sh! The show’s starting!”
The lights dimmed, and the audience fell silent. The stage lit up, and Eva appeared at its center, dressed in red, her purple hair tied in a high ponytail. Music started, and the dance began. Eva glowed gold, twirling around the stage. Gold turned to orange, yellow, and several colors at once. Leaves fell from the ceiling, and from the trees on stage. Shadows danced behind Eva, staying in the background. The effect was mesmerizing.
The music changed, and another dancer appeared from behind a tree. It took a moment for Savannah to recognize him, despite his dark skin and dreadlocks. Jordan looked like a different person, dressed up, and standing tall. Eva had taught him to dance. The glow circled around them both as they moved together. He was nowhere near her level of talent, but he kept up with her, and seemed to be enjoying himself.
At the end of the dance, he held her up on his shoulder, and she reached out an arm to pluck a golden leaf from a tree. She threw the leaf out into the audience, and people stood up to catch it. This was a tradition of the Celebration of Fall. Catching the golden leaf meant good luck for the coming year. It floated past the row where June, Nikki, and Julian were seated, and into the small hands of Vikki. The girl stared at the leaf in surprise, and sat back down with a smile, holding it in both hands. Most of the crowd stayed on their feet, clapping and cheering for Eva and Jordan.
After the performance, the mansion was relatively quiet until that night. Ellie and Savannah spent the day with their friends, talking and laughing as they prepared for the evening. Hannah took them all—the twins, Michelle, Shane, Morgan, and Aaron, to a costume room. There were racks of elegant clothes at the center of the room, and along the walls were rows of mirrors, and counters stacked with make-up. Hannah and Michelle sat by the mirrors, and the twins sorted through the costumes with the boys. Eva and Jordan had disappeared together, and Shane was speculating aloud about what they might be doing.
“It is the Celebration of Fall, I mean they have reason to—”
“No one wants to know, Shane,” Aaron said.
“Hey Hannah, can you tell us about the meanings of the Celebrations again?” Savannah asked. “I get them confused.”
“Maybe Morgan should tell us, I don’t want to mess this up.” Hannah was busy doing Michelle’s make-up. Michelle wore an elaborate red dress with orange and yellow flowers. Hannah’s dress was black with blue ribbons that matched her hair.
“Alright,” Morgan said. “Well, the Summer Celebration is the biggest, and a lot of people visit the Summerland. They tell stories of the early people all night. It’s all about celebrating the Illusions, and everything the early people created. The Spring Celebration is about the love between Claire and Dimitri. People focus on the good times between them for spring and summer.”
“That’s why fall is the best one,” Ellie muttered.
Savannah was still watching Morgan as he spoke. He was so quiet most of the time, hiding behind his long brown hair. His presence could so easily go unnoticed, but when he spoke, when he told stories, he lit up. He’d developed a more muscular build, too, and Savannah couldn’t help admiring him, though she didn’t plan to act on her feelings.
“They say Claire’s Summerland froze over on the first day of fall,” Morgan continued. “It turned to Winterland and stayed that way until the first day of spring, when the ice melted and it became Summerland again.”
Savannah loved the idea of Summerland. Claire worked on it when she was happiest, bringing her love and joy into physical form. She made a sanctuary the cold couldn’t touch, a beautiful space where it would always be summer. But losing Dimitri was so painful, it permanently changed the magic, stealing its warmth for half the year.
“During the Celebration of Fall, people tell more stories about Dimitri, to remember all he did for the world, and how he died defending the mansion,” Morgan said. “The Winter Celebration is smaller, for families to celebrate their love for each other. Some people focus more on the stories of the early people, but the Celebrations are also just a way to mark the passing seasons.”
“Dimitri was awesome. Claire was evil,” Ellie said.
“Hey! Claire was awesome too!” Shane said.
“Awesome? Are you kidding?” Since Morgan first told them the story of Claire and Dimitri, Ellie had taken an interest in it. She found Claire particularly intriguing. She spent hours in the library studying history books, but hadn’t found anything to justify Claire’s actions. Now she thought Claire was just plain evil. Every time Savannah reminded her it was Claire and Dimitri’s letter that helped them in the golden room, Ellie gave all the credit to Dimitri.
“She didn’t know what she was doing!” Shane said.
“In the beginning she didn’t, but she could’ve stopped once she realized it. If she really loved Dimitri, she would have changed. How’s this dress look on me, Savannah?” Ellie struck a pose in her lacy black gown.
Shane cut in before Savannah could answer. “It’s lovely. Very Claire-like, actually.”
“No!” Ellie exclaimed. “Do you even know what Claire looked like? Because I don’t look a thing like her! And I’m not wearing this stupid dress!”
“You look more like Claire than we do,” Savannah said to Shane. She’d seen pictures of Claire. She had a curvy figure, green eyes, and long red hair.
Shane laughed. “I’m kidding, Ellie. You don’t look like her. Although she was very pretty.”
“Oh, so I’m not as pretty as Claire. But if I did to you what she did to Dimitri, you wouldn’t be too happy with me, would you?”
“Yeah, but you wouldn’t do that.”
“What makes you so sure?”
“You’re Ellie Senka!”
“We’re Ellie and Savannah Senka,” they said together.
“Wow, that never stops being beautiful and a little creepy,” Shane said. “Anyway, the situation’s totally different. As far as I know, you don’t have a Lidia.”
“She made her own choices, and would have with or without Lidia.”
“Ellie, chill,” Savannah said. She’d been surprised when Ellie first expressed her dislike of Claire. Ellie was usually the kind of person who saw the good in people, and Savannah liked to think she was too. Part of her didn’t mind at all that Claire had made mistakes. In fact, she was glad of it, for it meant even the creators of the world weren’t perfect. It made her feel a little better about the consequences of resetting the world’s balance. “What do you think, Morgan?” she asked. In her mind, Morgan was the expert on the old story, if only because he was the first one who told it to them.
“I don’t know why Claire went wrong,” he said slowly. “But I don’t think there would be a Winterland if Claire didn’t love Dimitri.”
“Or maybe she was only depressed because she killed all her evil friends, too,” Ellie said. “Why is the story of Claire and Dimitri thought of as such as epic love story? You never hear anything about Dimitri and the Lady Illusion, but she didn’t betray him to his death.”
Savannah tried to change the subject. “So does the Summerland really freeze over on the first day of fall?”
“No,” Shane said. “That’s just a story, but it does start changing on the first day of fall. It’ll be winter there soon.”
“And then it starts changing back on the first day of spring,” Morgan said.
“It’d sure be nice if it stayed warm there during winter,” Ellie said. “Claire even screwed that up.”
“Hey Ellie, wanna try on this crazy outfit?” Savannah asked, struggling to hold up an enormous red dress. Its full skirt could have hidden the entire group.
“Looks like a huge version of the dress you’ve got, Michelle,” Aaron said, looking back toward where she’d been sitting. “Hey, where’d she go?”
Caught up in the argument, no one had noticed the absence of both Hannah and Michelle. They searched the costume room until they found them both, fully dressed and made up.
“Wow!” Savannah said. “You look beautiful!”
“I know!” Michelle said, twirling in a circle.
“Hey,” Ellie said, “do you think Claire had good reasons for being so evil?”
“Ellie,” Savannah sighed. “Let it go, please.”
“Did you ever hear the rumor that June is Claire and Dimitri’s daughter?” Morgan asked.
“Heard it,” Hannah said. “Don’t believe it.”
“What?” Shane said. “That’s ridiculous! I know she’s old, but she couldn’t be that old!”
“There’s a story that says after all the loss Claire went through, she couldn’t stand to have another child leave her. So she put a spell on her to stay a little girl forever, so she’d never grow up.”
“That’s straight up creepy,” Ellie said.
“Sounds like an old fairy tale to me,” Savannah said.
“Psh. I wouldn’t put it past her.”
“I’ve got an idea,” Hannah said. “We should all take a trip to the Summerland before it freezes! If we can’t get out soon, it’ll have to wait till spring, but we should go, it’s absolutely beautiful.”
“It sounds like a dream,” Michelle said.
“You’ll love it,” Hannah said. She and the others managed to keep Ellie’s mind off Claire while they got ready. Instead, they talked about what would happen that night, and reminisced about the past year’s Celebration.
Dinner that evening was held in the garden, where many tables were arranged among the trees. Colorful leaves gently drifted down to join piles building up on the ground. There were pumpkins everywhere, some of them carved and some of them whole, the carved ones glowing with candlelight. Candles were set among the tables as well, enchanted to keep burning until the Celebration ended.
Savannah’s mind was still on Claire as they ate. Claire, who had done so much for the world, yet lost everything in an attempt to put things right. People still held her in their memories and celebrated the good she had done, but there were also holidays to remember what she had done wrong. Savannah couldn’t help wondering what the Celebration of New Beginnings would become, years in the future. The world was still too bright and new for people to hold a dark thought in their minds, but Savannah feared what might come in time.
The Adventure Continues...
The twins travel between worlds, seeking the cause of the storm.
Eva prepares for the fight of her life.
Romances bloom from friendships.
The bonds of family, friendship, and love are strong, but so are the forces of evil and darkness. In a battle for two worlds, will this family survive?
"The Mansion’s Family has complex topics that blur the lines of right and wrong. What is good and right is not always what needs to be done, what feels wrong is what sometimes needs to be done to save the greater good. This book is the changing point for many of the residents in the Mansion, they are no longer children with the carefree ability to learn their magic and grow without fear of the what if’s. Now they have all experienced the good and bad and have a greater understanding of the balance that must be achieved, and that the two are not mutually exclusive of each other." --Literary Titan Book Review
"I enjoyed this book as much as the first one. I am glad the kids grew up a little more and their powers have grown with them. I think this is a great series with magic and characters I enjoy to read about." --Amazon reviewer
"This sequal, in short, was amazing! It made me tear up many times. This book has a more mature tone to it. I personally loved it!" --Amazon reviewer
A beautiful, magical world has been ravaged by a terrible storm. Homes were destroyed, families torn apart, and even the sweetest magic twisted by darkness. Even years later, the world remains damaged, unbalanced, and dangerous, waiting for someone who might restore what was lost. Only the magic of twins has a chance, but the birth of twins is exceedingly rare.
In our own world, Ellie and Savannah know nothing of this. They know nothing of other worlds, magic, or even each other. Until magic blooms inside, them and draws them together. After years of feeling alone, raised apart and in the wrong world, the twin sisters are reunited at last. They find their way home, and discover their destiny.
The girls are welcomed into a grand mansion, the safest place in the aftermath of the storm. There, they learn who they are and what they have to do. To restore the world, they must travel through the mansion to the center of magic and reset the balance.
They discover their magical abilities, find joy and friendship in the mansion's family, and face the dangers of the storm's left-behind magic. The journey to the center of magic is full of twists and turns, magic and excitement. Ellie and Savannah support each other to overcome obstacles along the way, knowing the whole world is depending on them.
The ground shook beneath her feet as she ran. The air felt wrong, and even the halls she grew up in were suddenly unrecognizable. It wasn’t only the shouts and blinding lights that made it so. Battle was familiar to her, but this was more than just another fight.
Someone in front of her screamed. That was all the warning she had before fireballs flew in her direction. She reacted quickly, throwing up a shield against them. Heat seeped through her protective bubble, but nothing more could reach her. Yet even when that attack was over, she was far from safe. The room was beginning to collapse, and a horde of enemies stood in every direction between her and a way out.
The all too familiar sensation of terror began to overwhelm her. She took a breath, allowing herself to pause for a moment. It was a technique she had taught herself, to find a quiet space in her mind in the heat of battle. She couldn’t stop moving even for a moment, but she could find stillness somewhere within.
This is for you, she reminded herself, bringing an image of her husband and children into her mind. I’ll find you again, no matter what... She couldn’t let herself believe those last brief kisses were real goodbyes, couldn’t dare imagine that all her little girls would have left of her was a short, handwritten letter.
Leaving all fears behind, she threw herself into the fight, taking strength from the memories of her family.
I will find you again. Whatever happens, I’ll find a way.
Ellie ran in through the backdoor, chasing after Gabrielle, who dashed up the stairs to hide. Turning the corner, Ellie nearly collided into Gabrielle’s mother.
“Oh! Sorry, Amber!”
Amber laughed. “You two might want to take a break and have some lemonade.”
“Thanks! Gabby! You might want to come down here!” Ellie called upstairs.
“Find me!” a muffled voice called back.
“Just a minute,” Ellie said to Amber, and she took off running up the stairs. Along the walls in the stairway were framed pictures of Amber and her daughter, most of them from their old house. Amber was a young woman with wavy brown hair, and smiling brown eyes. She typically wore long dresses, and seemed to Ellie like she belonged in an earlier time period. She always wore an emerald pendant around her neck, whether or not it matched her dress. Her five-year-old daughter, Gabrielle, was just as unusual. While her hair was like her mother’s, short, brown, and wavy, her eyes were unique. One was brown, the other blue. Ellie only met them a few weeks ago, when they first moved in. According to Gabrielle, they moved a lot.
Soft laughter came from Amber’s room. Ellie opened the door. “Now, where is Gabrielle?” she said loudly, looking around. The clothes in the closet shifted a little. “Where could she be?” She got down on her hands and knees, making a show of searching under the bed. “Not here.” She stood up again, and began pacing the room. “Well, she’s not going to get any lemonade if she doesn’t come out soon. I’ll just look…” She moved toward the closet, “…in here!”
Before she pushed any of the clothes aside, Gabrielle jumped out of the closet and tackled her to the floor. “Got you!” she exclaimed. “Mommy made lemonade? Let’s go!” She got up, and tugged at Ellie’s arm.
“All right, I’m coming!” Ellie said, getting to her feet.
“Hey, wait up! Be careful on the stairs!”
Ellie hurried after her, but couldn’t catch up in time. Gabrielle’s excited little feet stumbled on the stairs, and she took a tumble, knocking one of the pictures off the wall in the process. Ellie managed to catch her before she fell on top of the broken picture frame, but that didn’t stop Gabrielle from crying.
“What happened?” Amber’s voice called from the kitchen.
“We’re okay!” Ellie called. “Yeah, you’re okay, right? I think she’s more startled than hurt. I’ll clean that up.”
Amber picked up her daughter while Ellie ran to fetch a broom from the kitchen. She quickly swept up the broken glass, and carefully placed the picture on the table. Amber and Gabrielle came back into the kitchen as she finished.
“You okay Gabby?” Ellie asked.
“Mm-hm,” she nodded.
“Here, Ellie, take her. I know what’ll cheer her up.”
Ellie sat down, and situated Gabrielle in her lap. Amber poured them each a glass of lemonade, and began to sing:
The eyes of my garden have been long closed
Sleeping through winter so dark and cold
But now the ground shakes with new life I’m told
Under the springtime sky
Gabrielle started bouncing in Ellie’s lap, and Ellie rocked her to Amber’s song as she sang on:
My flowers aren’t just blooming today
They start to dance when I look away
You wouldn’t believe all the things they say
Under the springtime sky
Now Gabrielle was on her feet, tugging at Ellie’s hands to get her to dance with her. Ellie let her take her around the room in circles, until Amber finished the song, and both girls applauded.
“Sing more, Mommy!” Gabrielle said.
“In a little while, honey. How are you feeling now?”
“Your magic singing made me all better,” Gabrielle said.
“How do you even know that song?” Ellie asked. “That’s Spacey and the Breeze, right? I thought they were just a little indie band.”
“Oh yes, I only just heard them at Saturday market last week. Something about them stuck with me. I hope to see more of them.”
“Yeah, they stuck with me since I heard them too. They’re supposed to be playing at Maple Park this weekend.”
“This is boring,” Gabrielle sighed. “Sing more!”
“Gabby, don’t be rude,” Amber said.
“Sorry if I got her riled up,” Ellie said. “She’s not usually like that, when I watch her. I won’t just come over unexpectedly anymore, I think that’s what gets her going.”
“Oh, don’t be silly, Ellie. We’re always happy to have you. We were lucky to find you.”
“You helped us move, you babysat Gabrielle, you’ve done a lot for us.”
“You could have found anyone to do that, though.”
“Well, I think Gabrielle likes you.”
Gabrielle nodded, and took another sip of lemonade. “We’re staying here, right?” she asked. “We’re not going to move anymore?”
“I can’t promise anything honey, but we’ll probably be here for a little while.”
Ellie stayed at Amber’s house for as long as she could. When it was time to say goodbye, Gabrielle grabbed her hand, and ran upstairs with her. She pulled her into her room, slamming the door behind them.
“Honey, I gotta leave soon!” Ellie said.
“No,” Gabrielle said. “You can stay with us!”
“I’d like to, but I can’t. You’ll see me soon though, I promise.”
“I don’t know about tomorrow, but soon.”
“On your birthday?”
“Heh. Almost forgot that’s coming up. Fourteen.”
“Yep. I’m an old lady. I should see you then, hopefully.”
Ellie went back downstairs with Gabrielle, reluctantly said goodbye, and began the walk home. Amber offered her a ride, but Ellie preferred to be outside in the summer evenings. She also wanted to put off going home for as long as possible.
The street was quiet and peaceful, the only noise coming from a few children playing outside, and sprinklers watering neat, green lawns. The air was pleasantly cool, and she walked slowly, singing to herself, envious of Amber’s voice. Gabrielle was right, Amber’s singing was magical. Ellie didn’t care if it was childish to think so. Amber could make anyone believe in magic, with the songs she sang and the stories she told.
After walking several blocks and across a busy street, the charming sights of Amber’s neighborhood disappeared. Here, the houses were smaller, the yards overgrown, and it was far more common to hear people shouting at each other than children’s laughter.
When she arrived home, her mother was still at work. She wondered hopefully if her father was already asleep. No such luck. There he was, slumped on the couch, drinking a beer, and watching TV. He wore a dirty white shirt exposing his round stomach, and a pair of tattered jeans. Several empty bottles littered the table in front of him.
“Hey, Dad,” she said.
“Hey,” he grunted, without looking up.
She went into the kitchen to grab a snack.
“You makin’ dinner, kid?” her dad called.
“Nope, I already ate.”
“Well I’m hungry.” His words slurred together. Just the sound of his voice made her angry.
“So make yourself something.” She grabbed a soda and a bag of chips from the kitchen, and went to her room, slamming the door behind her. Her room was tiny, and her bed was only a mattress on the floor. The whole house was tiny, and cluttered with what Ellie thought of as her dad’s mess. Amber’s new house was small too, but clean, cozy, and comfortable, quite unlike this run-down, dirty place. Her room was the only one that wasn’t in complete shambles, though she would never call it clean. The floor was littered with clothes and books, and a couple of empty soda cans crowded her dresser, along with papers, notebooks, and various other school things. She always dreamed of living in a bigger house, ideally a huge one, but they didn’t have the money. Her father recently lost his job, and since taken to lazing around the house. To avoid him, her mother spent most of her time at work, and didn’t come home until late at night. Ellie didn’t mind. Her mother’s voice was loud and whiny, and she and Ellie’s father fought constantly. Ellie used to tell herself she loved her parents, and was simply angry with them for the mistakes they made. But she decided there must be a time when constant anger turned to hatred. She hated her parents, hated that she was related to such awful people. Eventually, she figured she couldn’t be. Another childish thought, maybe, but so pleasant she almost had herself convinced it was true.
She turned on her radio and cranked up the volume, setting her snack down next to it. Then she went to the closet, rummaging around while singing at the top of her voice.
“Will you turn that racket down!” her dad yelled.
“Nope!” She sang louder.
More yelling came from the living room, but Ellie ignored it. She pulled her backpack out of the closet, and tossed it on her bed. It was ready to go. A moment later, she heard footsteps coming down the hall. The door was locked, but she wouldn’t put it past her dad to break it down.
“Open this door!” He pounded on it hard, shaking the knob.
“Get out here!”
“I thought you wanted in here!” She almost wanted him to come in. She picked up her soda and imagined spilling it on him.
“Dammit Ellie! You never do anything in this house!”
“At least I have a job!” Even though she’d only been babysitting Gabrielle for a few weeks, that was more than he’d done all year. “Maybe I’ll just stay with Amber! You and Mom wouldn’t care!”
“That woman’s crazy!” He pounded on the door again, and in that moment, she did want it to open. Her mind cleared of all except one word: “Unlock.”
The door clicked, and flew open. Her dad stumbled forward, barely managing to stay on his feet. “What the hell?”
Ellie laughed, unable to conceal her surprise and delight.
He shook himself, and raised his voice, “Turn that down or I’ll break your radio!”
“Will you now?” Ellie wondered how far she could take this. She flung her soda above his head, imagining it staying perfectly in place, pouring the liquid over him. She let out another surprised laugh as it happened exactly as she’d imagined, the empty can knocking him on the head before falling to the floor.
“Aaaaarrrrrgh!” He was either too angry or too drunk to notice anything unusual. “Clean this up, now!”
“Why?” she said. “You say all the time this isn’t my house. You clean it up. Your house, your mess.”
“And turn that down!” He lunged toward her radio, but Ellie moved first. The radio was just out of her reach, but it did what she wanted it to. It leapt off her dresser, flew across the room, and hit him hard in the face. He slipped in the puddle of soda and fell backward, landing on his back with a loud thud.
Ellie grabbed her backpack, and walked to the doorway where he lay. “I’m not usually a violent person,” she said, “but you pushed me just a little too far.” She stepped around him, and slammed the door behind her, giving him a good knock on the head with it.
As she left the house, her mother’s car pulled up in the driveway. Ellie avoided her eyes, and kept walking.
Her mother got out of the car. “Ellie! What are you doing?”
“Mom, do not even talk to me,” she said, without turning around.
“You’re going to see that boy aren’t you?”
“What do you care?” She paused, and turned around briefly to say, “Oh, there’s a bit of a mess in there, so, sorry about that, but I’m done with you people.”
* * *
I forgot we were going shopping today. I think Mom might have forgotten too, but Megan and Betty just reminded her. And by “reminded,” I mean whined and begged until she gave in. I can already tell today is going to be fun...
Oh well, I’ll shop by myself. I wish it didn’t always have to be this way. You’re not supposed to want to run from your family, right? I would say it’s just a phase, but I feel like I’ve been saying that for years.
Her mother’s voice called from the hall, “Hurry up, Savannah!”
“I’ve been ready for the past ten minutes!” Megan said.
Savannah hid her journal, and went into the living room, where her mother was waiting with Megan and Betty. Megan was the oldest of her siblings, at sixteen. Betty was a year younger than Megan, and copied her every move. Savannah shared a room with the pair of them. Most of the time they ignored her, but Savannah didn’t mind. She had nothing in common with either of them.
Belinda Kali, her mother, was still yelling as she gathered the children from all corners of the house. Getting everyone ready was always an ordeal.
Tom and Jason came running into the hall, colliding into Megan and Betty. Savannah suppressed a giggle as her brothers knocked the girls onto the couch and started climbing on them. Tom and Jason were seven-year-old twins, and they were the troublemakers in the family.
“Get off! Get off! You’re messing up my hair!”
“Boys! Leave them alone!”
“Are we going to the park today, Mom?” Tom asked.
“No, honey, we’ll go tomorrow.”
“But you said there was a band playing!”
“Yes, and they’ll be at the park tomorrow.”
“But I wanna go now!” they said together.
Now. Everything always had to happen now. Savannah once wrote in her journal that given the chance, her siblings would live their whole lives in a single moment.
The family piled into the car. Ashley was the last one inside. She was the youngest in the family, at five. Unfortunately for Savannah, Ashley sat next to her, chattering away the whole time about all the things she wanted at the mall.
“…And we’ll go to the candy store, right Mom? Mom? Mooom!”
Savannah tuned her out. She had learned to tune out almost everything. Ashley wasn’t the only one who talked nonstop. Everyone in the Kali family had a loud personality except for Savannah. Savannah had always known she was different. She was smaller than the rest of them, and the only one who was left-handed. Her hair was light brown, and very straight. Her mother’s hair was always frazzled, but Belinda Kali was a frazzled woman in general. Savannah sometimes wondered if she was adopted, but instead came to the conclusion that she inherited her father’s traits. She hardly remembered him, having only known him for the first few years of her life. Even then, he hadn’t been around much. He left a few years ago, and no one talked about him anymore. She thought about him abandoning his family, and hoped she wasn’t too much like him. But sometimes she found it easy to forgive him, for she often imagined running from this family as well.
At the mall, they split up. Her mother stayed with Ashley, and the older sisters each took one of the twins. Savannah wandered off on her own, happy to escape the noise and bickering. On her way into the nearest clothing store, she almost bumped into a tall boy who was leaving.
“Excuse me,” she said. “Sorry.”
He stared at her for a moment before turning to walk away. Then he paused, and spun back toward her, opening his mouth to speak. Savannah glanced around behind her, to see if he was actually looking at someone else. As she did, he rolled his eyes, and finally left her. Savannah frowned, wondering what was up with him, but brushed it off quickly enough. This wasn’t the first time something like that had happened to her.
She browsed through the summer shoes, but didn’t find anything she liked. She soon disappeared into daydreams, hardly paying attention to the clothes and shoes her sisters were so obsessed with.
After about an hour, it was time to meet up again, and possibly leave. Megan came back with Tom, Betty came back with Jason, and an argument started immediately. Megan bought several tops and short skirts Belinda didn’t agree with.
“But I got things for Tom like I was supposed to, why not get some stuff for myself?”
“You’re too young to be dressing like that!” Belinda said.
“They look gross on old people!” Megan said. “I should be able to wear them while I’m still young!”
“They look gross on anyone! We’re returning these, and going home.”
“But Mooooom!” This time it was Ashley. “We’re supposed to go to the candy store!”
“Sorry honey, but we won’t have time.”
That only made things worse. Ashley threw a fit, screaming and crying, and Belinda had to drag her through the mall while they returned Megan’s clothes.
“Well, now we’ll just have to come back later,” Megan said. “Because I have nothing to wear.”
More arguing ensued. Savannah zoned out, taking several deep breaths to keep herself from losing her temper with all of them. She’d pictured the scene many times: quiet Savannah finally loses it. Ideally, they would all be so shocked by the outburst they would listen to everything she said.
She turned away from them for a moment. Out of the corner of her eye, she spotted a small shoe store she hadn’t noticed before. She calmed herself once more, preparing to ask if they could make one more stop. An odd feeling came over her, an unfamiliar tranquility she had never been able to experience in the presence of her family. She felt like she was reaching a deep, hidden store of power inside her. A hole was opening in the wall of the store, a window no one else seemed to notice. She saw inside, where there were many different sandals in many different sizes. Shocked, Savannah stopped. The hole closed.
“Savannah!” Belinda said. “What are you looking at? We need to go, now!”
“Mom, can we stop in there? I still need shoes, and they have sandals.”
“All right,” she sighed, “but quickly.”
“You don’t know if they have sandals,” Megan said. “You can’t see in!”
“Yes I can,” Savannah said.
“Not all the way in, you freak.”
Oddly enough, Savannah wasn’t too surprised she could. In fact, it was her lack of surprise she found alarming. Something so strange shouldn’t feel so normal, so right.
They entered the store, but didn’t see sandals anywhere.
“They don’t have them,” Belinda said. “Let’s go.”
“Let’s just check in the back,” Savannah said.
She was almost surprised when she found what she saw. They bought a pair of bright yellow sandals Savannah liked, but Betty hated.
“You have no sense of style,” she said. “Those are ugly.”
Savannah barely heard her, trapped in a daydream. As they left the mall, she felt like she was floating a few inches off the ground. The happiness stayed with her even in the crowded car, with her siblings blathering away. When they arrived home, she floated into her room and onto her bed. Megan and Betty were too busy fighting with Belinda to come in anytime soon. She took out her journal and began writing:
Shopping today was... not quite what I expected. Well, it was at first. Just disaster after disaster with Megan, Betty, and Ashley. Tom and Jason are annoying too, but also kind of funny. It’d be fun to have a twin. Those two are partners in crime, and fortunately for me, the crimes are usually against Megan and Betty.
Anyway, when we were leaving, I looked at the wall of a shoe store and saw right through it! I’ve always considered myself a bit of an oddity, but that was just insane. Maybe I’ve finally lost it. Or maybe whatever’s so special about me is about to show itself. I’d like to think it’s something special. I know it’s childish, but it’s better than thinking I’m losing my mind.
There was also this weird boy who kept doing double takes at me. Maybe it was just my imagination, but this stuff keeps happening, and I can’t be imagining all of it (I hope).
At least we’re going to the park tomorrow. That should be fun.
Savannah flopped back on her bed and stared up at the ceiling, willing it to open. She took a deep breath, trying to block out the noise from the other room. A tiny hole began to open, and she could see the sky. A rush of excitement went through her, and with the excitement, the hole closed. Savannah picked up her journal again, and flipped to the page labeled, “Crazy things I can’t explain.” The latest entry was about a recurring dream of a floating white light in the window of a large house. Under it, Savannah wrote, “I can see through walls.”
When Ellie and Savannah meet...
They'll cross a cave into a new world...
Guided by the stories of Amber and Gabrielle.
They'll meet new friends...
Magic and adventure waits for you, in The Mansion's Twins!
"Not since the big Harry Potter series have I found myself so drawn into a magical book." --Reader's Favorite five star review
"If you love magic and quests, excellent writing and strong female characters then this is the book for you." --Amazon reviewer
"A sweet and ultimately uplifting tale about twins girls, Ellie and Savannah, who enter an alternative world and discover their destiny." --Amazon reviewer
"Rose Channing delivers a captivating fantasy novel filled with magic, friendship and discovery." --Hungry Monster Book Review
"A fun, family-friendly read." --Amazon reviewer
"The characters are nicely formed; I felt as if I could imagine (if I wanted to) what sort of choices each would make for their afternoon tea." --Amazon reviewer