glass of the windowpane and the wind whistled around the eaves.
What with a pig-headed cousin, an old wreck of a house and a generous helping of rubbish weather thrown in for good measure, she reckoned she had the perfect ingredients for the worst holiday on record.
Well, she’d give it a week. One week.
And then she was out of here.
“You’re very quiet, Phoenix.”
Phoenix looked up from his soup bowl and met his father’s gaze.
“And you haven’t touched your supper. Are you feeling all right?”
“I’m fine,” mumbled Phoenix. “Just not very hungry, that’s all.”
He trailed his spoon over the soup. Apart from the sandwiches they had grabbed at a service station on the way down, he hadn’t eaten a thing all day, but the thought of swallowing a single mouthful right now made his stomach churn.
How could he when he’d gone and lost the one thing that really mattered to him – his mother’s precious keepsake?
It could be anywhere.
Or at least anywhere between the attic bedroom and the mound.
It might have fallen out of his pocket on his way across the driveway or the garden or the forest … or even on his slippery journey over the tree-trunk bridge, in which case it would be lost for ever in the dark depths of the river.
“It’s not exactly a feast, I know,” sighed Dr Wainwright, still watching his son. “I’d planned on making us something special, but I’m afraid the oven’s broken along with everything else in thisdamned place. I can’t even get the fire to light properly. The drawing room’s just one great big smoky mess. I’ve had to leave the windows open to let out the smell.”
He shivered and turned to his niece.
“I’m sorry, Rose. I didn’t think it was going to be anything like this bad down here. But things are OK with you otherwise, are they? You’ve chosen yourself a room and everything?”
Rose nodded. “I’m all sorted, thanks, Uncle Joel. I’m really pleased with the one I’ve picked.”
She smiled sweetly at Phoenix, who scowled back at her.
Dr Wainwright frowned.
He glanced from Rose to Phoenix and then at Rose again.
“Am I missing something here?” he asked. “You two have actually said hello to one another, haven’t you?”
Phoenix pushed aside his bowl.
“Oh yes,” he said. “Don’t you worry about that, Dad. We’ve said hello all right.”
“Good,” said Dr Wainwright. “I wouldn’t like to think there was any – er – awkwardness between the pair of you.”
He finished his soup and stood up from the table.
“I’m off to get on with a bit of work. Could you two clear up, d’you think? And then I reckon wecould all do with an early night. I’m sure we’ll feel a whole lot better in the morning.”
He polished his glasses on the sleeve of his sweater.
“Talking of tomorrow, I’m going to have to go back into the village first thing. I need to find someone to come and unblock the chimney. The boiler looks like it hasn’t worked in ages, and we’ll have to keep the place warm somehow, especially if this weather doesn’t improve.”
They all turned towards the kitchen window, where fingers of rain were streaking their way down the glass, only to be blown off course by the howling gale.
“I just don’t understand it,” said Dr Wainwright, replacing his glasses. “It was so lovely in the village. In fact there was nothing but bright sunshine all the way back from the station. Right up until the turning for the manor.”
He crossed to the far end of the kitchen and began pulling down the tattered old blinds.
“Anyway, that’s what I’m up to tomorrow, if either of you wants to tag along. I’m sure you’d find something to keep you occupied in the village. There’s a promenade and an arcade – and a museum too, I think…”
“No thanks,” cut in Phoenix. “I’ll stay here, if that’s OK. There’s – there’s things I need to do.”
His father turned to face him. “Like what
David Cranmer, Paul D. Brazill, Garnett Elliott