Authors: Lisa Graff
Tags: #Action & Adventure, #Family, #Juvenile Fiction, #Fantasy & Magic, #General, #Orphans & Foster Homes
ARIGOLD PICKED HER WAY DOWN THE STAIRS, HER ARMS
piled so high with shirts and pants and things for her father that she practically tumbled to her death three times. A suitcase. She needed a suitcase to ship the care package.
At the foot of the circular counter in the center of the room, Marigold spied a pair of old powder blue suitcases.
she thought, making her way over. She set down her father’s things and flipped open one of the cases—the one on the left.
It wasn’t empty.
Inside the suitcase was an impressive stash of odds and ends. Watches and cameras and jewelry. A pair of fancy headphones. Expensive-looking gadgets. Things that a delinquent spiky-haired kid just might steal and sell at a pawn shop. Marigold gritted her teeth.
was her brother going to learn that he couldn’t just—
Something shiny caught Marigold’s eye. Three silver beads, strung onto a short length of red thread, plopped carelessly on top of the rest of Zane’s loot in the suitcase.
Her Talent bracelet.
Marigold hollered. She slapped the bracelet onto her wrist. That little fink had actually
her Talent bracelet, and he’d been planning to sell it. Didn’t he care about anybody but himself?
Well, maybe he’d learn to care a little more if he didn’t have his precious stolen treasure to sell. Her cheeks puffed with rage, Marigold flung her father’s things on top of Zane’s plunder and squeezed closed the lid of the suitcase. She secured the clasps tight. From her pocket she produced the label for her father’s hotel in New Jersey.
Let’s see what our parents have to say about Zane’s new hobby,
There was a noise from the doorway. Marigold jerked her head up, the address label still in her hand. It was a mailwoman, her satchel of letters hanging at her side. She noticed Marigold and headed her way.
“I’m Gloria,” the mailwoman greeted her. Marigold stood to accept the small bundle of letters that Gloria handed over. “Any parcels or packages to go out today?”
Marigold nodded quickly. “Yep,” she said. “A big one. Let me just . . .” She peeled off the back of the mailing label and bent to slap it on the suitcase—the one on the right. She secured the clasps tight.
“Here, let me help,” Gloria said, reaching out to hoist the suitcase to her side. “Ooh, that’s heavy. I’ll charge the shipping to the Emporium’s account, is that okay?” Marigold nodded, and Gloria headed to the door, her muscles straining with the weight of the suitcase.
Marigold smiled to herself, smoothing her bracelet over her wrist as Gloria
ed open the front door and loaded the suitcase into the back of her truck.
And then Marigold noticed it, across the storeroom floor: a small boys’ sneaker. Marigold crossed the room to snatch it up.
Will’s left shoe.
An uncomfortable unease prickled Marigold’s cheeks. Slowly, she returned to the circular counter, where there was now only one powder blue suitcase.
Its clasps were secured tight.
Slowly, Marigold knelt down.
Slowly, she opened the case.
There were the contents of her father’s care package. Shirts and pants and underwear, the special shampoo he liked so much. Zane’s loot was there, too. All just as she’d packed it. Marigold turned back to the shoe in her hand, just as the mail truck’s tires began to scrape across the gravel parking lot.
Marigold hollered, leaping to her feet. She waved the shoe as she ran out the door, down the driveway, across the dirt road.
But it was too late. The mail truck was already gone. It kicked up dust as it rolled down Argyle Road, the powder blue suitcase hopping up and down in the back, as fitfully as Marigold’s stomach inside her.
Marigold had the worst suspicion that she’d just mailed off her little brother to New Jersey.
Something was shaking, Will observed as he woke up. Something was shaking, and moving, and bumping. It was him:
Rattle, rattle, thump-a-thump-a-thump-a.
And it was dark. Very dark. All Will could make out was a tiny sliver of light. He was curled up so tight, he could hardly move, and he was holding what he was pretty sure was his mother’s hairpin. He was missing a shoe, too. His back ached from having been pressed so long against something solid, about the size and shape of a small ceramic bird.
A suitcase, Will remembered. He was inside a suitcase. And now the suitcase was
probably on the back of a truck somewhere, heading who-knew-where.
The truck swerved.
The suitcase bounced up . . .
. . . and then down . . .
. . . and then it rolled over, over, over down a hill . . .
Crash crash tumble crash!
. . . through a thicket of weeds and bushes . . .
. . . until it smashed . . .
. . . into a small rock.
And Will toppled out, end over end over end.
Will looked up at the blue sky and smiled.
on an adventure now.
ISS MALLORY WAS SITTING AT THE PICNIC TABLE ON THE
front lawn, reading a mystery.
by Victoria Valence. She’d been planning to work in her flower beds, the way she usually did to pass time between orphans, but she was currently facing a conundrum.
The man who owned the local nursery—the person who’d sold Miss Mallory all of her petunia bulbs and pansy seeds, fertilizer and planting tools and everything—had, just that morning, presented her with a gift. “I created them specially for you,” he’d told her proudly. “My best customer.”
Miss Mallory set her book in her lap to study the gift once more, staring back at her from atop the picnic table. It was a small carton of delicate purple flowers, unlike anything Miss Mallory had ever seen before. And yet at the same time, they were quite familiar. “A hybrid,” the nursery owner had declared. “My own creation—an impeccable cross between a petunia and a pansy. Beautiful, aren’t they?”
They certainly were. The flowers had the petunia’s distinctive mauve hue and the pansy’s particular petals. Even their scent was a perfect mix—combining the crisp freshness of a petunia with a pansy’s delicate richness, creating a cool, clean aroma that was both invigorating and calming at once. Like a favorite aunt’s perfume. No doubt about it: The new flowers would be a stunning addition to Miss Mallory’s lawn.
The conundrum, however, was that Miss Mallory had no idea where to put them. Should she plant these new flowers in the petunia bed, to the left of the front door? Or would they be better suited with the pansies, to the right? Where did you put something that fit so perfectly in two very different places?
Miss Mallory turned back to her book. She should be spending this quiet time enjoying herself, she thought, since there were no orphans banging about. Less laundry to worry about. Fewer dishes to be washed. And yet here she was, fretting over flowers. She could only hope that, in the many quiet days that were sure to come, she’d learn to do a better job of relaxing. Because this was it, Miss Mallory knew. Cady had finally found her perfect family. The tug in Miss Mallory’s chest had told her.
(It was trying to tell her something else, too, as it turned out, but Miss Mallory wasn’t listening.)
“Aren’t I in a sorry state?” she said to the flowers on the picnic table. “Take my last orphan away and I crumble to bits.” She sighed. “Still, I do wish I had
The flowers, of course, had no response. But a hundred yards from the orphanage, in a thick patch of weeds and brush by the side of the windy highway, something else did.
Miss Mallory left her book on the picnic table to inspect the source of the noise. After several minutes she found it—a suitcase, busted open. It was old and worn and powder blue, as large as a small child, with three dimples near the left clasp and the words
stitched on the side in silver thread.
The suitcase was empty, save for a small black ceramic bird, nestled into an interior pocket. A hole was shaped in the creature’s middle, purposefully, all the way from the bird’s feet to its pointed yellow beak.
Miss Mallory tucked the bird into her pocket. She wasn’t sure why, but somehow she was entirely certain that Fate had brought it to her.
OM, SLOW DOWN! WE’RE GOING TO CRASH INTO A TREE.”
Dolores did not slow down. There was no slowing down when your youngest son was missing. Those idiots at the post office had said they had no idea what had happened to him, that the suitcase had just fallen off the truck somewhere. Which was not exactly the constructive sort of information she’d been looking for.
“Mom,” Marigold said again. And even with her eyes glued to the road, Dolores could tell that Marigold was spinning that red bracelet of hers around her wrist in the way she did when she was upset. “At this speed we won’t see him even if we pass him.”
Dolores did her best to temper some of the fury that was burning inside her. She pressed her right foot gently onto the brake to slow the car. “I just don’t know what got into you,” she told her daughter.
Marigold smudged the window with her nose as she peered into the nearby brush. “I told you,” she mumbled. “I wasn’t paying attention. I was mad at Zane for stealing my bracelet.”
“That hardly seems like a good reason for shipping your brother off in the mail.”
Marigold sighed. “I knew you wouldn’t understand.” She was back to fussing with that bracelet. “No one in this family understands anything about me.”
Dolores’s loose hair tickled her shoulders as she followed the curve of the highway. She let out a sigh of her own. “I know it was an accident, Mari. It’s just that you’re usually so
You know”—Dolores flicked her eyes to the passenger’s seat—“I bet I understand more than you think,” she said. “I was Fair myself for twenty-seven years.”
“Yeah. And now you’re not.”
“Mari.” Dolores tried to make her words soft like butter, so they might actually melt in. “I know it doesn’t seem this way to you now, but being Fair is not the end of the world.” How many times had Dolores’s parents had this same conversation with her when she was Marigold’s age? “In some ways”—she paused to turn another corner—“it’s actually a gift.”
Marigold snorted. “Some gift.”
Dolores stamped on the brakes suddenly when a movement on the side of the road caught her eye, but it was only a deer. She inched the car along at a crawl now, ignoring the annoyed honks of the cars behind her. “Go around!” she shouted at the closed window.
In the passenger’s seat, Marigold was silent.
“You know,” Dolores told her, “if I’d found my Talent when I was your age, I never would have taken up archaeology.”
“But then you
find your Talent,” Marigold replied. “And aren’t you so much happier now?”
Dolores continued to drive.
On and on. On and on. Dolores checked the clock. Forty-five minutes, and still no sign of Will. She fought down the fire that rose in her throat.
“Mom?” Marigold said softly, breaking the worried silence that had been growing between them. “We’ll find him. We always find him.”
“I just . . .” Dolores blinked, then blinked again. “I don’t even know where to look. I feel so . . . useless.” A mother should know where to look for her son. A mother should always know.
Marigold set her hands on her knees. “Where would you go if you wanted to get lost?” she asked.
Dolores tightened her mouth into a thoughtful knot. And then, her heart just barely daring to hope, she turned the corner onto River Street.