The Kelpie Khronicles
Excerpt of Chapter One
If you had asked Michael Winters last year what he would be doing this year, he would have answered turning 16, attending high school in the city with his friends, and starring on the Louisville Central Tigers basketball team. His younger sister, Lucy, would be a typical seventh grader, even though at age 12, she was smaller than most children her age.
But no one had asked Michael about his dreams. No one had asked Michael about anything concerning the future of him or his little sister. No one has asked him about leaving his childhood home behind, the home he had lived in since he was born. No one asked him about moving from the fast paced city to the virtual stillness of the country. No one had asked Lucy these questions, either.
All the grownups in the two children’s lives just assumed the children would be happy no matter where they lived.
Susan and Stephen Winters, parents to Michael and Lucy, had been killed by a drunk driver on their way home from a Christmas party two weeks ago. The New Year was bringing, not only a new year, but a new life for the two children. Unable to continue living in their childhood home, Michael and Lucy were being sent to live with their only living relative, great aunt Wendy. Aunt Wendy was the only aunt to Susan Winters, but the children had only met her once, when Michael was four and Lucy was a newborn. Neither child had any concept of who this aunt was.
“Where have all the buildings gone?” Lucy asked her brother, as the car they were riding in turned off the main highway onto a single lane gravel road. They had been on the road for almost two hours, but after the first hour, all the buildings seemed to disappear only to be replaced with brown trees and shrubs.
“We’re in the country now, Luc,” replied Michael. “There aren’t going to be any skyscrapers, just trees and small houses.” He looked out the window in loathing at the landscape surrounding them.
Having no other relatives, friends of the Winters’ – John and Mary Settles – had taken Michael and Lucy in until permanent arrangements could be made. Because the children were out of school for the Christmas break, they hadn’t had to deal with all the questions from friends and teachers at school, and this was a huge relief.
At the reading of the will, Michael and Lucy learned they had inherited the remainder of the Winters’ estate, not a large estate, but enough for the children to be able to live comfortably until adulthood. This is also when they learned Aunt Wendy had been named their new guardian. Mr. and Mrs. Settles explained to the children they would be moving to their aunt’s farm in western Kentucky and the move would be made before school resumed in the New Year.
Gone were the long walks down the busy streets of Louisville. Gone were the parks and theaters of their childhood. Gone was the home they had both grown up in. The day Lucy learned of their fate, she had wept uncontrollably for several hours and nothing Michael did would cheer her up.
Now they were traveling down a rustic gravel road, heading to a fate unknown, heading for a new life they knew nothing about.
After three miles on the gravel road, they again turned off, this time onto a hard packed dirt road. The bare trees and shrubs seemed to be crowding in on Michael and Lucy as the car slowed down to a crawl.
Instinctively, Lucy moved closer to Michael and he put his arm protectively around her shoulder.
“It’ll be okay, Lucy. Don’t worry; I’ll be here to protect you.” But Michael wasn’t sure if he believed these words anymore. He was starting to get butterflies – no, flocks of geese – in his stomach. He felt like his heart was beating out of his chest and his palms began to sweat.
As the car slowed to a snail’s pace the weathered farmhouse finally came into view.
“It’s so big and old,” moaned Lucy. “We can’t live in that old house. What if it’s haunted?” Lucy buried her head into Michael’s chest.
“It can’t be haunted, Lucy. There’s no such thing as ghosts or goblins.”
“Yes, there are. Hogwarts is full of ghost.” Harry Potter was Lucy’s favorite fictional character and she loved everything about him, even his fictional home in the castle of Hogwarts.
“Hogwarts is not a real place, Lucy. How many times do Mom and … how many times do I have to tell you that?” He winced as the words came out of his mouth because they were harsher than he had intended, and also because he hadn’t meant to evoke his parent’s names. Right on cue, Lucy responded with a new wave of silent tears.
He put his arm around her shoulder and pulled her close. “I’m sorry, Lucy. Don’t cry; things will be fine.” But the hesitation in his voice did little to convince either of them that things would be alright.
The house was three stories tall, covered with peeling green siding. The dormers near the top of the house had the same peeling siding, only this was colored yellow. There were four red chimneys visible from the road, two of them covered with vines which seemed to be taking over large portions of the house and there were red shutters on each visible window. There was a large wrap around porch and Michael could see two swings hanging in two corners of the porch.
“It’s not too bad, Luc. Look, there are swings on the porch for you and Mr. Tibbles.” Mr. Tibbles was Lucy’s fat cat, a large gray Siamese with a raccoon striped tail. Mr. Tibbles had been with Lucy since she was three years old. He was currently riding in his cat carrier which was in the U-Haul trailer hooked to the back of Mr. Settles’ car. Mr. Settles was allergic to cats, so Mr. Tibbles had been made to ride in the trailer.
As the car pulled to a stop in front of the house, Michael could see Aunt Wendy standing in the front door. As she started down the sidewalk, Michael opened his door and stepped out into the country air for the first time.