A Town Bewitched
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156 pages
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Description

It’s tough for Kira, growing up in the small town of Hope as a child prodigy in classical violin, especially when her dad just died. And to make matters worse, Kate McDonough, the red-haired fiddler appears out of nowhere, bewitching the town with her mysterious Celtic music. Even Uncle Jack succumbs to her charms, forgetting his promise to look after Kira’s family. But when someone begins vandalizing the town leaving dead and gutted birds as a calling card, Kira knows without a doubt who’s behind it. Will anyone believe her?

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Publié par
Date de parution 15 septembre 2016
Nombre de lectures 0
EAN13 9781772991215
Langue English

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Exrait

A Town Bewitched
By Suzanne de Montigny
 
Digital ISBNs:
EPUB 9781772991215
Kindle 9781772991222
Web/PDF 9781772991239
 
Print ISBN 9781772991246
 

 
Copyright 2016 by Suzanne de Montigny
Cover art Michelle Lee
All rights reserved. Without limiting therights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publicationmay be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system,or transmitted, in any form, or by any means (electronic,mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise) without theprior written permission of both the copyright owner and thepublisher of this book.
 
 
 
Dedication
 
To my dad. A fine doctor and a legendaryfather who influenced me and many others to be the best people wecould be, one person at a time. You are sorely missed by all.
 
Acknowledgements
 
I’d like to thank all the members of TheWriter’s Studio at SFU for helping me shape this novel into thebest it could be: Hiromi Goto, Kim Aippersbach, Melanie Berezan,Joanne Betzler, Alison Brewin, Sarah Brown, Deborah Patton, IsaacTorres, and Kiran Sunar. A big thank you also goes to Stuart West,Madeleine McLaughlin, Melanie Berezan, Winnie Chow, and Louise deMontigny for beta reading my manuscript. And finally, a huge thankyou to Roger Mangas and Mairi Rankin for the musical inspirationbehind the story. Without you two, A Town Bewitched would havenever been written.
 
 
Chapter 1
The Arrival
 
Today they’re burying my father – my father. The man who loved me and stood by me through tough times,the man who carried me on his shoulders when I was small, and theman who applauded louder than anyone else when I played myviolin.
My shoulders hunched, I drift up the aisle ofthe church to where Dad’s body lies in the open casket, so pale andstiff, his teasing grin gone forever.
“He looks so peaceful – like he’s sleeping,”whispers an old lady standing next to me, her voice gentle likeshe’s talking to a small child instead of a fourteen-year-old. Inod politely, but a voice whispers inside my head – No! He’sstone cold dead!
Dullness envelopes my mind as I step towardthe carved wooden pews reserved for the choir where my violinawaits me. The violin that’s been a close friend to me since I wasfour when I began taking lessons, when Mr. Bachinsky declared me achild prodigy. Child prodigy. It sounds so glamorous, but really –it’s more of a curse than a gift when you live in a small town likeHope.
I pick up the bow and tighten it, slidingrosin up and down the strings. Then I lift my violin and rest it onmy shoulder, my fingers cradling the neck. The notes echo in thechurch as I tune – A-E-D-G.
My accompanist, Monica, nods. It’s time. Iturn and face the congregation and perch my bow on the strings. Thesweet notes of Danny Boy fill the church as though someone elseplays them. They run through me, moving, gliding, even glowing withcolour though it’s just sound. The notes pierce my soul.
Images whirl through my brain, wracking mewith the grief I suffered over the past year while I watched Dadgrow thinner and weaker as the cancer in his lungs killed him.
His voice echoes in my mind. “Play me yourviolin, Kira. I want to hear Danny Boy,” the words he called to mewhile he lay on the flowered couch waiting for death to steal himfrom me. And every day I played it for him, biting my lip, tryingto be strong, trying to survive. With the passing of each month,his voice grew weaker and weaker, and now here I am, and there heis, separated by this thing called death.
The final notes slide to the last fermatawhere they fade into nothingness. I hold the bow above theD-string, and then lower my instrument and break into a sob, vowingto myself never to play Danny Boy again. Monica gently places herarm around my shoulder and leads me to the pew where I cry in gulpswhile she tries to console me.
Six solemn pallbearers move forward and carrythe coffin to the waiting hearse that’ll take Dad and bury him inthe ground.
I climb into the black car beside Mom and mylittle brother, Dylan. His face is stained from crying.
Mom pushes her glasses back over her curly,brown hair and hugs me, saying, “Well-played, Kira. Your Danny Boywas so moving.” Always a compliment for every performance. Next toDad, she’s always been my biggest fan.
The trip to the cemetery is never-ending. Along line of cars crawls to the graveyard and the skies grow darkand ominous.
Oh, please, no rain. At least wait untilwe’ve buried him.
When we arrive, the crowd pours out offreshly-washed cars and gathers round the black hole that willswallow up Dad for the rest of eternity. Father Justin beginschanting long prayers, his voice droning and echoing in thesurrounding mountains.
I turn my attention to the people who came tosay good-bye to Dad: my Uncle Jack, my cousins, severalbusinesspeople, teachers, the mayor, and lots of loggers. EvenConstable Douglas and Constable Fortier are here – all faces I knowwell, except one.
“Who’s she?” I ask Mom, pointing to a womanwho stands alone on the edge of the crowd.
“I don’t know,” she says, squinting.
The woman seems out of place, wearing tallboots and a purple scarf, even though it’s only late August. Herlong, red hair curls slightly as it tumbles over her shoulders. Aworn skirt hides the tops of her brown, leather boots with a slightruffle. She carries a battered case in her hands.
“She has a violin,” I whisper.
Mom slides her glasses to her nose, stillstraining her eyes. “I’ve never seen her before.”
It’s strange because I know every kid andadult who plays in this town. There aren’t very many since Mr.Bachinsky is the only violin teacher in Hope. He comes two days aweek from Chilliwack with his wife, Monica, to teach a smallhandful of students who dare to be different.
Father Justin ends his prayers, and thecongregation sings a very slow and mournful Amazing Grace whileeach person drops a single red rose that thuds on the lid of thesimple pine coffin. After the casket is lowered to its finalresting place, Uncle Jack grabs a handful of dirt and tosses it onthe box, crossing himself. I fill my hand with the soil and dropit, turning my head so as not to see.
“Good-bye, Daddy,” I whisper.
The crowd drifts toward their vehicles, theirheads bowed, mumbling in low voices.
As we leave, Uncle Jack draws Dylan and meclose, draping his arms over our shoulders. “Don’t worry. I promiseI’ll take care of you guys from now on. I’ll be like a second dadto you.”
I smile through a tear, grateful for hiswords and slip my hand around his waist. “Thanks, Uncle Jack.”
As we drive back into the town, the cloudsunleash their fury. The wipers beat their rhythm against thewindshield, hypnotizing me. Swish-bump, swish-bump. Thepotholes in the road fill with murky water, and brown-grey mudforms along the sides of the road.
The car pulls over close to the curb at theold church hall. I drift in and slide my violin under the headtable decorated with purple flowers. My BFF, Charlotte, whom I’veknown since we both began Suzuki violin when we were four, waves tome. I motion her over.
She’s by my side in seconds, and we fall intoeach other’s arms. We’re like twins, really – the same long, darkhair and bangs, and skinny – only she’s Chinese.
“That was really sad, Kira,” she says, tearsflowing freely from her warm, brown eyes.
“I know.”
The smell of coffee lingers in the air. Iglance at the food laid out on the long tables. “I don’t feel muchlike eating,” I say.
“I don’t blame you,” says Charlotte, but sheeyes the peanut butter and banana rolls held together withtoothpicks and glances around. Charlotte’s always hungry. “Thinkit’s okay to start?” Not waiting for me to answer, she loads up herplate with food.
I watch her devour the fancy sandwiches andsweet desserts while I sip on a glass of strawberry punch and waitfor the speeches to begin. The mayor grabs the microphone, taps it,and clears his throat. The crowd grows quiet.
“Friends,” he says, “If there’s anythinganyone could say about Paul Montgomery, it’s that he was a goodman.” Several heads nod. “A finer doctor never existed. I think Ican attest to the fact that he helped pretty much everyone in thistown.” Again people nod and mumble.
He describes my father’s life, his rise frompoverty to a self-made man. Of his marriage to my mother,Pierrette, and their two beautiful children, myself and myten-year-old brother, or should I say my ‘bother’, Dylan.
The audience applauds heartily when hisspeech comes to an end. Others come to the mic and share tales ofDad. The stories, mostly funny or about good deeds, lift my spiritsuntil the last speaker lays down the mic and walks back to herseat. I heave a sigh of relief. It’s over.
As we exit the hall, a flash of orangecatches my eye. I do a double-take. Across Main Street, thered-haired woman from the cemetery walks with long strides, her wetstrands clinging to her clothes, her leather boots muddied.
She walked all the way from the graveyard inthe storm?
She holds her head high as she moves, hereyes fierce. When she passes me, she pauses and stares at me asthough she knows me. For a moment, I think I know her too. There’ssomething … familiar. My gaze locks for a few seconds with theiciest blue eyes I have ever seen, eyes almost inhuman – like awild animal’s. I wrench myself away from the stare and shiver asshe makes an abrupt turn and steps into our town’s only hotel.
 
 
Chapter 2
The Gold Violin
 
The next week passes by in a haze. I stumblethrough the motions of everyday life, trying to survive. Momdoesn’t seem fazed at all by Dad’s death. She buries herself in herschool work, leafing through stacks of music, pulling out scores,and then shoving them back into the filing cabinet after makingnotes about which class will play what piece. When she finishesthat, she drags us to Chilliwack and dives into buying us schoolsupplies and clothes. Then she attacks the garden as though eachweed is a mortal enemy, filling the red wheelbarrow to overflowingover and over. She finishes off by painting the fence and washingall the walls in our house claiming they’re dirty.
Dylan, on the other hand, has become fourfoot seven and sixty-five pounds of pure torture.
“Freeze!” he shouts the day after Dad’sfuneral, pointing his red, double-barreled Dead-Eye Dart Gun at me,his face screwed up like a GI Joe. Before I have a chance to react,dozens of orange darts litter my room and stick to my hair andclothes.
“Mom!” I shout.
“Mm-hm?” she mumbles from the downstairsbathroom she’s scrubbing.
“Mom!” I yell again, but she’s notlistening.
I bolt after Dylan, snatch his plastic gunand shove it on the top shelf of my closet where his short, littlearms can’t reach it. Height is one thing I still have over him.
“Ha!” I brush my hands together invictory.
Dylan bounces up and down like a kangaroo,his straight, brown hair flying as he tries to reach his gun.Racing to his bedroom, he returns with another one. He has eight ofthe darn things, some bigger and some meaner. After a couple offrustrating days, I triumphantly guard eight Dead-Eye Dart Guns inmy closet, the white doors tied together with the most complicatedknot I can come up with. The house is cluttered with darts, but Momdoesn’t seem to notice.
Thank goodness Uncle Jack has kept hispromise to take care of us and comes by nearly every day. He takesDylan out and oftentimes cooks supper afterward. I love Uncle Jackand don’t know what I’d do without him. He’s my lifeline now thatDad’s gone. Ten years younger than Dad, he has a warm smile on hislips for anyone and a joke to make us laugh whenever he thinks weneed one. He’s handsome too, with thick, brown hair, and dimples,but he’s not Dad.
Sighing, I recall the pact Dad and I madelast year. He had promised me a new violin and put aside a lot ofmoney for it, saying, “Any kid who plays the violin like thatdeserves it. Besides, you’ll need it to do your ARCT.”
An ARCT! Finally – that certificate from theRoyal Conservatory of Toronto that says I’m as good as anyone who’sdone two years of university. A real degree before I’m out of highschool – if only Dad were here to see it.
I remember the day last summer when Dad and Istopped at the luthier’s tiny shop on Fraser Street in Vancouver totry out violins just for fun. Kristoff, the tall gentleman whosegreying blond hair trailed down below his ears, had taken outdozens of shiny, new violins, but each time I tried one, I shook myhead.
“You don’t like that one either?” He sighed,his Polish accent colouring the words as he placed back violinafter violin on the neatly kept shelves.
“No. I know the sound I want,” I said,determined.
“What sort of sound?” Kristoff asked.
“It has to be sweet,” I said, a finger to mylip. “It’s hard to describe, but I’ll know it when I hear it.”
Kristoff turned to Dad. “I have some betterones, but they’re very expensive. They’re the type of instrumentsomeone in the VSO would buy.”
Dad raised his brown eyebrows at me,questioning.
“The Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, Dad.” Igiggled. He could be so out of it sometimes.
My heart leapt when Dad nodded, and Kristoffreturned to the back room, trying to hide a grin of excitement.
He came back holding the most exquisiteinstrument I had ever seen. A dark brown, it smelled of fresh woodand varnish and shimmered in the light. I picked it up, thrilled atthe lightness of it. Kristoff rosined the new bow and handed it tome. Raising the violin to my shoulder, I tested the wolf note thatdrove me nuts on my violin. A crystal clear F rang out inthe tiny shop, deep and warm and sweet. Excited, I played anotherand another. Then I broke into Dad’s favourite – Danny Boy.
“This is it, Dad,” I said, smiling. “This iswhat I’ve been looking for – the very sound.”
Dad turned to Kristoff. “How much?”
Looking a little unsure, the luthier mumbledthe price.
Dad nearly choked.
“Please, Dad?” I begged.
“Let’s wait until next summer. I doubt it’sgoing anywhere,” he said.
“Aw, Dad.” I clapped my hands together, butstill he shook his head.
“You don’t need it just yet, but I promiseyou’ll have it to do your ARCT.”
“Honest?” I asked.
“Have I ever broken a promise before?”
“No.” I dropped my hands, defeated, but I wasokay. Dad never went back on his word. He always came through. Icould handle the old violin for a while longer.
We carefully laid the precious instrument inits box lined with gold velvet. And that’s when I named it – theGold Violin. Kristoff looked a little disappointed, but the pacthad been made.
Two weeks later we got the news – Dad hadcancer.
I sigh at the memory, and then glance at Mom.She’s washing the dishes in the kitchen. It’s now or never ,I think as I take tentative steps toward her.
“So when are we going to Vancouver to get mynew violin?” I crack my knuckles over and over, a bad habit I havewhen I’m nervous.
Mom flinches as though she’s forgottensomething important, but instead of saying, “Oh yeah, I forgot,”like I thought she would, she dries her hands, places one on myshoulder, and leads me to the living room.
I know something bad is about to happen bythe serious look in her eyes. She motions me to sit down in thearmchair while she settles into the matching couch opposite. Istare down at the patterns on the light blue rug and wait for herto drop the bomb.
“You’re going to have to wait for the newviolin, Kira. I’m afraid we just can’t afford it right now,” sheblurts out.
“What?” I cry. “But you bought Dylan’s!”
“Yeah, but his isn’t anywhere near asexpensive as yours,” she says as though she thinks I’m too young tounderstand. “This is more like … an investment. It’s a lot ofmoney. And besides, we got Dylan’s before Dad died.”
My chin drops. “What difference does it makeif Dad’s gone or not?” I say, a lump welling up in my throat. “Heput the money aside for it. He promised me.”
Mom sighs. “Honey, Dad and I didn’t preparefor his death the way we should have. The lawyer explained it to meyesterday. You see, we didn’t have joint accounts, and Dad didn’teven have a proper will. So now we have to wait until everythinggoes through the courts before I inherit his money. We’ll need thatcash to live on.”
“But Mom. How am I going to do my ARCT?” Myvoice trembles, and I can feel hot tears forming in my eyes.
“You can still do your ARCT. You’ll just haveto use your old violin until the money comes through,” she says inher Mom-knows-best voice.
My eyelids blink fast, uncontrolled. “Butit’ll sound awful.”
“No, it won’t.”
The lump in my throat threatens to burst.“But I’ve waited a whole year for this.”
“Kira.” Mom rises from the couch and digs herhands into her hips, “Be reasonable. We simply can’t afford itright now.”
“Mom, I can’t play that violin anymore. It’sgot a really bad wolf tone on it that sounds like a yowling cat.It’s a block of wood with nails and strings attached.” My voicebreaks. “And besides …” I throw the final punch, “I used it to playat Dad’s funeral!”
The last words are choked as the lump in mythroat erupts and I burst into tears, running up to my room, takingtwo steps at a time. Mom calls after me, but I ignore her and throwmyself on my bed, sobbing.
 
 
Chapter 3
Fiddler in the Tavern
 
I guess I must have drifted off to sleepbecause when I open my eyes again, it’s twilight. I love the skyjust after sunset, when the stars appear, one by one. First theplanets, then slowly, the Big Dipper, Cassiopeia ... it’s thedeepest blue I can think of. They call it cerulean. So beautifuland calm. It seems to carry me from far across the universe, backto here and now, but there’s something else – the sound of aviolin.
What is it? Fiddling? Like something I’veheard on one of those CBC specials – Live from Cape Breton. Not atall like the country and western band whose music leaks out ofUncle Jack’s tavern, the Stompin’ Boot Pub.
I lie there letting the music pass throughme, tugging and pulling, like waves on the ocean, filling me withpeace. Then it changes, bouncing and jigging in wild rhythms thatforce me to sit up with a start. It leaps, it dives.
Rolling off my bed, I grab the hoodie thatlies on my wicker chair and creep down the carpeted stairs to thefront door, opening it ever so quietly to slip into the twilight.The cool September night air feels good on my hot face, burned fromcrying.
I follow the notes of the music, the trailleading me to Uncle Jack’s pub. Peeking into the low-lit tavernthrough the diamond-shaped dividers of the front glass, I see thecrowd, speechless, mesmerised. They’re focussed on the performerwho sits on a carved chair, center stage.
It’s her! It’s that red-headed woman from thefuneral!
Her foot stomps rhythmically to the beat ofher music, driving the tune into a frenzy. She lifts her chin fromtime to time, readjusting her fiddle, and flings her hair back asshe does. The tune becomes more and more frantic and soon, thecrowd follows the wild rhythm, beating their feet on the hollow,wooden floor. Her fingers fly, her pinky whipping out like aserpent’s tongue to capture fast trills. The crowd thumps along,chins nodding. The music races ahead, untamed. Then, like a wildhorse that’s been lassoed and pulled hard, it ends on a singleoctave.
The red-haired woman glances at the audienceas though nothing out of the ordinary happened. The crowd cheersand whistles. She gives a humble smile, and then raises her wornfiddle, tucking it under her chin to begin the next tune.
Uncle Jack sits close by her, grinning fromear to ear. He bends over, placing his head close enough to her earto touch her hair, and says something. She throws back her head andlets out a loud, ringing laugh. I flinch. Does he like her? Uncle Jack’s promise to take care of us threatens to vaporize.
He’s my uncle. We need him right now.
As though she hears my thoughts, the woman’seyes meet mine through the glass. The intensity of her gaze piercesme, raising the hairs on my arms. She holds me captive for whatseems minutes, and then begins the very tune I vowed never to playagain – Danny Boy. If Dad thought I played it well, he would surelyrise from the dead hearing this woman perform it. Her fiddle mightbe old and beat-up, but there’s something about it – somethinghypnotic. I listen to a few phrases, the notes drawing me in,holding me suspended in time. My soul rides each crescendo, eachfermata, every note of vibrato penetrating my being, all the whileheld by those cold blue eyes. Then I shake my head like a thousandspiders have landed on me and break the shackles of her gaze.
“No!”
I shove my fingers in my ears and flee. Myheart races and my feet beat the street as I run the three blockshome, fighting the music that threatens to own me. By the time Iarrive, the song has ended, and I’m calming down. Catching mybreath, I sneak in quietly so Mom doesn’t hear me.
Dylan meets me at the door in his pajamas,one of his Dead-Eye Dart Guns aimed at me. “Kira’s home, Mom,” hecalls, his voice sassy. “You’re in such big trouble!”
“You went in my closet, you little brat,” Igrowl, trying to grab the gun.
Mom’s hurried steps echo in the hallway.“Where have you been?” Her eyebrows are drawn up with worry.
“I just went for a walk,” I say, still tryingto control my breathing. “I needed some air.”
Mom’s forehead creases. “You know the rule.If you’re going someplace, you have to tell me.” She looks into myeyes, her brows furrowed to see if she can read anything in themlike moms do, then sighs and puts her arms around me. “You know,we’re all hurting,” she says. “It’s hard on all of us, and we haveto pull together until we get everything sorted out. I know youwanted that violin, and I promise you’ll get it, but I just don’tknow when.” Mom strokes my hair like she did when I was little.
I begin to thaw.
“Okay,” I mumble, my shoulders squashedagainst her. “Sorry, Mom. I won’t do it again.”
After she lets me go, I turn and climb thestairs to my room. A few minutes later, Mom and Dylan startpractising the violin. Dylan’s playing the same Suzuki pieces Iplayed long ago on his beautiful, new half-size violin. My heartlongs for the promised instrument I can’t have. It hurts so badthat I reach out with my foot and slam the door.
 
 
Chapter 4
School
 
A week later, I drag my feet across thepavement as I make my way to school. Oh, how I dread the gossip andthe looks. Kids make fun of me enough as it is because I’m a childprodigy – AKA a nerd – but it’ll be worse now. I’m sure everyoneknows Dad’s died, and it’ll only give them more to talk about.Halfway there, Charlotte joins me, babbling a mile a minute abouther new Shar-Pei pup, Buddy.
“He’s so cute. Yesterday, when I got home, hekept running back and forth and jumping up and down all overme.”
I barely listen, but smile as though Iam.
We slip through the double doors of theschool. Everyone turns and stares when we walk past on our way tohomeroom. There are whispers and wide eyes.
Ignoring them, I paste on a fake smile andpretend to have a carefree conversation with Charlotte. “Yeah,Buddy’s a pretty cute pup, alright.”
When we get to homeroom, we find an emptytable at the back of the class far away from everyone.
Our homeroom teacher is Charlotte’s dad. HerbMorin looks like some sort of genius, his wire-rimmed glassessitting low on his nose and his grey hair racing about his head. Hereminds me a little of Einstein. He glances at us and smiles alittle too familiar like we’re his pets.
Charlotte sits with her back to him as thoughshe doesn’t know him. I guess it’s embarrassing when your dad’s ateacher in high school, especially when her Mom teaches Englishhere too. Talk about sticking out like a sore thumb. It wasdifferent when we were in elementary school. I was proud that Momtaught music, but now we’re older and it’s just not coolanymore.
We make out our schedule, and I let out asigh of relief when I see Charlotte and I are in all the sameclasses. At least I won’t have to go through this all alone.
The In-girls, or IGs, as Charlotte callsthem, steal glances at us. They’ve claimed the prized table in themiddle of the room where they’re without a doubt the center ofattention. One of them, Sydney, pulls out her cellphone and tapswith her fingers.
Turning to Charlotte, I whisper, “Do youthink she’s texting about me?”
Charlotte shrugs, pretending she hasn’tnoticed.
If only we could text too. We might find outwhat people are saying, but our parents insist texting will ruinour educations. Heck, we don’t even have cellphones, making it allthe harder to fit in. And forget about Netflix. We’re not allowedto be normal.
Their leader, Taylor, wears her chestnut hairin a loose pony-tail. She’s probably the prettiest girl in theschool, especially since her mom used to be a beauty queen. When wewere little, they lived next door to us. We’d play for hours,trading Barbie outfits and brushing their hair. Later, it was allabout our dogs, building little jumps for them and putting on ourown dog shows along with Charlotte and her pooch. It was fun untiltwo years ago when Sydney moved to town and claimed Taylor, andnow, it’s like we barely know each other.
Sydney shoots me another glance down hercurved nose and taps faster. Her eyes are cruel, and she looks likeshe’s sharing some juicy gossip. Who with? A lock of thin,straw-coloured hair falls into her face, and she tucks it behindher right ear.
Samantha, who’s nearly six feet tall, leansover, reading her text, her dirty blond hair dangling forward whileher mouth forms an oh.
But it’s the two boys who sit next to themthat worry me the most. Travis has always been as mean as ajunkyard dog. He’s the type of guy who walks past us and says toCharlotte, “Got any fortune cookies?” or turns to me and says,“What’s wrong? Couldn’t find any white friends?”
Travis loves running us down for being smart,and he never misses a chance to take a jab at the fact thatCharlotte’s parents adopted her from China when she was a baby.She’s the only Asian in the whole town, except for the old couplewho run the one Chinese restaurant, the Golden Sun.
Yet somehow Travis has made it into the IGs.It’s certainly not for his looks – I’ve never seen girls gigglingover him. He’s kind of plain with pale skin, a unibrow, and hairthat always seems to need cutting. Maybe they like him because he’scool. Who knows? Then there’s his buddy Kyle, a short, skinny kidwho sticks up for anything Travis does wrong.
School lasts for only an hour. When the bellrings, everyone races out to enjoy the last bit of summer. We duckthrough the crowded halls trying to make a quick exit, butCharlotte has to go to the bathroom; I swear she has the smallestbladder in town.
While she slips into the girl’s room, Inotice a crowd of kids hanging around the bulletin board bubblingwith excitement. I sidle up to the edge of the crowd to see whatall the fuss is about. The board’s plastered with new noticesannouncing everything from karate to soccer, to football, andlacrosse. Sports. Everything is sports in Hope – definitely notclassical violin. As proof, tucked away in the top, right-handcorner, is Mr. Bachinsky’s ad as though it’s an afterthought.
But it’s the colour poster in the middle ofthe board that has everyone talking. It’s big and bright, with aphoto of a woman on it. I flinch when I recognize the red-hairedfiddler with the pale blues eyes, but my curiosity wins, and I readwhat’s written underneath it.
 
Fiddling and Celtic dance lessons
Learn in groups or privately.
Call Kate McDonough
 
Small strips of paper, with phone numbersneatly printed on them, dangle from the bottom. Kids snatch atthem, grabbing all but two. I shake my head. What’s goingon? All this fuss over Celtic music? I thought everyone in Hopewas into rock or rap – certainly not fiddling.
Charlotte comes up behind me, practicallygushing as she points at the poster. “Oh, that’s the new womanwho’s been playing at the pub for the last few nights. Have youheard her?” Her face is lit up like an incandescent lamp.
“Yeeaahh.” I drag out the word almost likeit’s a question.
“What? You don’t like her?” She looks at melike I’m crazy.
“Well, I have to admit she’s pretty good …well, actually really good, but ...” Uncle Jack’s admiring looksflash in my mind again, worrying me, but I can’t tell Charlottebecause she won’t understand that Uncle Jack’s my lifeline now, soI lie. “It’s just that … I’m not exactly crazy about that kind ofmusic.”
“Seriously?” Charlotte frowns like it’s themost amazing thing she’s ever heard. “I love it!” She reaches overand tears off one of the last strips. “I’m going to ask my mom if Ican take lessons from her.” She tucks the number in her pocket withcare as though it’s a lucky lottery ticket.
I follow close on her heels. “But what aboutMr. Bachinsky?” I ask, loyalty burning deep inside me. “I mean,he’s a really nice guy and a good teacher, and plus you’ve beentaking lessons from him for eons.”
“Yeah, I know, but he’s so old. And there’smore to life than classical music and exams and stuff.” She flipsher hand in the air, waving the idea away like it’s reallyannoying.
“Charlotte!” I say, pulling on her arm.
She stops and faces me, a momentary frowncreasing her forehead. “Okay. Maybe I can take lessons fromboth.”
“Well, I’m not. Mr. Bachinsky’s good enoughfor me.”
“Suit yourself,” she says, walking away.
We amble through the crisp fall air andarrive at the beige, stuccoed elementary school where Dylan’swaiting for me. Mom always has some prepping to do before the nextday, so I have to pick him up after school. He races to meet us,bursting with news.
“I found a dead bird!”
“I hope you didn’t touch it,” I say, worriedhe’ll catch West Nile’s Virus.
He shakes his head. “Only with a stick. Comeon.” He leads us to a spot under a tree where a sparrow liesmotionless on a bed of green moss. “It’s been cut open!”
I bend over to inspect it. “Ew, how gross.Must have been a racoon or something.”
“I don’t think so.” Charlotte says, moving incloser. “That’s a really straight cut. Look, almost like it wasdone with a knife.”
I lean in. “Weird. Who’d do that?”
“I don’t know,” she says.
“Can we bury it? Please?” asks Dylan. “We canhave a funeral for it just like we did for Dad.”
My heart lurches, and I want to say no, butDylan’s eyes are pleading.
“I have a plastic bag for Buddy’s doodoos,”says Charlotte. “Here.” She bends over and carefully picks up theremains of the sparrow using the bag as a glove. Then she turns itinside out so the bird and all its germs are safe inside.
“Let’s bury it in the garden,” says Dylan aswe hurry the rest of the way home. “Over there.” He points to abare spot in the front of our house, then picks up a hand shovelMom left lying around and digs a shallow hole.
When it’s deep enough, Charlotte places thesmall bird inside while Dylan pushes dirt over it with hisfoot.
“There,” she says. “Now it’s had a properburial.” She picks up her backpack and turns to leave, waving herhand as she heads home. “See you tomorrow.”
“Bye,” we call back.
Dylan runs into the house and up the stairs.By the time I get in and take my shoes off, despite my kindness tohim, the darts are flying again.
 
 
 
Chapter 5
Travis
 
More than a week goes by. I try to keep a lowprofile, but sometimes it’s next to impossible.
In band class, Mr. Waring hands out sheetmusic.
“Today, I’m giving you a march!” he says, hisvoice droning on the same note. “By John Phillip Souza.”
“Oh, no,” I whisper to Charlotte.
“And as you know, John Phillip Souza is thegreatest composer of marches that ever lived.” He gives out thelast sheet. “And that’s why we play so many of them.”
I groan. Please, anything’s better thananother march. Give us a Mozart Symphony, or even a movie tune.Heck, I’d even settle for heavy metal.
When everyone’s done rustling pages, themusic in place on black stands, Mr. Waring raises his baton. “Okay,let’s give it a go.”
The class jumps in. Wrong notes squawk andsqueak, and the tune crashes and burns by the end of the firstline, but Charlotte and I keep going, brave, solitary soldiers in amine field until Mr. Waring stops waving the baton and grins atus.
“Excellent, Kira and Charlotte.”
Faces turn and stare.
“Could you please play that again to show thewhole class how it’s done?”
My face warms, but I raise my flute anywayand play the line again with Charlotte.
When we’re finished, Mr. Waring smiles andnods as though we’re perfection itself. “Now you see? That’s how itshould be played.”
I feel myself shrinking when, out of thecorner of my vision, kids elbow each other and roll their eyes.Sometimes I swear if we played any old notes and burped to thebeat, Mr. Waring would still think we were the greatest. The truthof the matter is, we’re only good at it because we already play theviolin.
We survive the rest of band, avoiding winksand nudges until the bell rings, and then move on to our nextclass.
In science, Mr. Fritz stands next to theperiodic table.
“Now who knows what this symbol stands for?”He points at the square that reads Ag.
Charlotte and I glance around, waiting forsomeone else to answer. The IGs are busy texting again. A group ofshaggy-haired guys in the back of the class stare at the chart, toocool to answer. Others are talking as though Mr. Fritz isn’t eventhere at all.
“I’ll give you a hint,” Mr. Fritz says.“Girls especially like to wear it.”
Guffaws break out in the back of the roomwhere the shaggy-haired guys sit, obviously thinking rude thoughts.The IGs stop texting, and the others grow silent, their facesquestioning.
Mr. Fritz’s ears turn a bright pink incontrast to his white lab coat.
Thinking of how Mom would feel if a classbehaved for her like this, my hand shoots up, and I hear my voicesay, “Silver?”
Mr. Fritz’s eyes light up.
“Yes! Well done!” he says a little tooloudly. “Now let’s see how many you can name, Kira.” He points tothe beginning of the periodic table.
I obediently recite them knowing full wellit’s teen suicide, but I can’t seem to stop myself. Charlotte jumpsin too. Are we the only ones who get this? Or doesn’t anyone care?But we keep going right to the end of the poster. Then we hear it …sucking sounds. We know what it means – suck-ups.
Mr. Fritz gives us the assignment. One of theshaggy-haired guys asks us for the answers. He glances back at hisfriends with a smirk. We ignore him.
After science, we head to French.
As usual, we’re on center stage when theteacher chooses us to do a role play in front of the class.Charlotte and I speak French fluently because Mom’s from Quebec,and Charlotte’s dad is from France. We’ve been speaking thelanguage since we were little.
Madame Lacroix smiles with delight as weadlib our skit, her chin nodding up and down. Out of the corner ofmy eye, I see Samantha roll her eyes at Sydney. She whisperssomething and snickers. I cringe, but keep on.
The door flies open when someone comes inlate, and a gust of wind blows a stack of pages off of MadameLacroix’s desk. She bends over to pick it up exposing … her buttcrack.
“Ah, le plombier,” I say to Charlotte.
The class lets out a big guffaw. At leastthey know the French word for plumber.
Madame Lacroix gathers up her papers, tidiesthem into a neat pile, and then smiles and nods again. “Well done,girls.” She has no idea the joke’s on her.
With the ‘butt crack’ incident, the kids seemto have found some sort of temporary respect for Charlotte and me.There are no more rolled eyes, sucking sounds, or elbowing for therest of class.
As we leave the room, a small miracle happenswhen Taylor actually catches up to us. “That was funny, you guys,”she says.
“I know.” I smile. “It was kind of mean, but…”
“She deserves it.”
“Ahhh,” I say, thinking how Mom would feel ifthat happened to her.
Then Taylor’s face grows serious. “By theway, I’m sorry about your dad.”
Her words take me by surprise. It’s like backin the days when we were friends. Something in my throat catches,and I manage to mutter, “Thanks. That means a lot to me.” My eyesfill with tears, and I realize to my horror, I’m in serious dangerof crying, and the last thing I need is to give the IGs a newreason to text about me. But I can see by her expression, Taylorisn’t there to make fun of me. She really means it.
I guess she sees my emotions are ready toburst because she squirms a bit, then says, “Well, bye,” andleaves.
With Taylor’s kind gesture, it’s as if agate’s been opened. Kids come to me and give their condolences.Even kids who usually act like I don’t exist wave to me in thehalls. It’s nice, but it’s hard on the feelings. I manage toswallow the ever-growing lump in my throat each time – until Traviscomes along just before last period.
“So how do you like your dead dad?” He sneersand continues on his way like he said nothing out of the ordinary.My heart dives, and the lump I’ve been swallowing bursts like adam. I flee to the washroom, Charlotte on my heels, where my tearsspill over while she keeps thumping my back telling me it’s okaywhen it really isn’t. I can’t stop crying, and we miss SocialsStudies.
It’s not over yet because the next day,Travis passes by the locker we share at lunchtime. Looking straightat Charlotte, his eyebrows turned up in a nasty V, he says, “So yougot ditched in China by your folks, eh?”
Charlotte draws in a sharp breath of air,turns and looks at me with a can-you-believe-this-guy look, andthen explodes. She swings around, her eyes bulging and her foreheadwrinkled, and shouts, “What the heck do you know about it? You’resuch a loser! You think you’re so hot, but you’re nothing but ajerk! And I’d much rather have the parents I have than the uglythugs you have.”
Poor Travis. It’s kind of true. His parentsare a bit of a homely couple, dressing in really old, worn-outclothes. I think they buy them from the second-hand store.
Travis turns to Kyle, and they both throwtheir heads back and burst into a raucous laugh. They strut downthe hall like nothing happened, but I swear I see a little hurt inTravis’ eyes.
Charlotte snatches her lunch bag out of ourlocker and slams it shut. She storms to the little alcove where weeat every day.
“Ew, I just hate that guy!” She rips open herbag, nearly spilling its contents. “He’s always gotta run me downfor being adopted.”
I sit down next to her, unroll my bag, andpull out my ham and cheese sandwich. “I know. He’s awful.”
“He makes me soooo mad!” Charlotte’s face isburning red as she grabs her cream cheese bagel and gobbles it uplike a ravenous wolf.
Nearby, shoes swish on the linoleum floor,moving slowly, undecided. I look up to find a familiar facestanding before us. It’s Peter, one of Mr. Bachinsky’s mostadvanced violin students.
“Hey,” I say.
He holds a textbook under one arm – Math 10 –and rakes his blond hair with the fingers of his other hand.
“Hi,” he says.
“Going to the library?” I ask.
Shifting his weight, Peter ignores thequestion, and instead blurts out, “I heard what Travis said. What ajerk!”
“I know,” I say.
“He’s got some serious issues.” he says,squirming.
“I agree.” Charlotte gives an appreciativesmile.
I think of asking Peter to join us for lunch,but he looks so uncomfortable, I hesitate.
Maybe I should have spoken up sooner becausehe shifts some more, and then scoots toward the library mumbling,“Well, I guess I better be going.”
We watch him let out a huge sigh as heleaves. He stumbles over a gym shoe on his way down the hall.
Charlotte moves a little closer to me andwhispers, “Ewwww, I think he likes you.”
“What do you mean?” I search my bag for acookie.
“Because he’s so nervous around you,”Charlotte’s eyebrows wiggle up and down.
“No way.” I wave my hand since there’s nochance anyway. After all, he’s a year older than us, but against mywill, a grin starts creeping across my face.
Charlotte takes a bite of her apple. “Wellyou’ve gotta admit, he’s kind of cute.” She covers her mouth togiggle.
“I suppose. Not my type, though,” I lie,still fighting that creeping grin, but my mouth won’t stoptwitching, so I change the subject. “So what are you doing afterschool?”
Charlotte’s eyes light up. “I’ve got a lessonwith Kate McDonough.”
“Oh.” I press my lips together.
“She’s so cool. Everyone’s talking abouther.” She speaks as though Kate McDonough is some famous rock staror something. “Even the neighbours are putting their kids infiddling. And I know all kinds of people starting Celtic dancelessons with her.”
“Seriously?” I squeeze my chocolate chipcookie so hard, it breaks.
“Yeah. She told Mom she’d teach me PelicanReel and Smash the Windows.”
“Pelican what?” I laugh, a scornful edge tomy voice.
“Pelican Reel. Kate told Mom fiddling tuneshave funny names. A lot of them are named after people too. Sheknows all about it. She’s so amazing.”
“Not that amazing,” I argue. “I thought yousaid you were going to take lessons from Mr. Bachinsky.”
“I am, but I’m taking lessons from her too.What about you? When do you start your violin lessons again?”
A disturbing feeling descends upon me.“Tomorrow. But I haven’t practiced a note yet, and I’m supposed tobe doing my ARCT this year.”
“Glad it’s you and not me. I hate exams.”Charlotte shakes her head, then throws her apple core into thegarbage can.
The humming sound of the bell startles us. Wepick up what’s left of our lunches and our feelings, shove theminto our locker, and then head to class.
 
 
 
Chapter 6
Uncle Jack’s Tacos
 
When Dylan and I get home, the phone rings. Irun to pick up the receiver.
“Hello?”
Silence echoes on the other end.
“Hello?” I repeat myself.
Again, silence.
I press the end button and place the phone inits port. “Probably one of those telemarketers,” I mumble.
Dylan’s poking his head in the fridge,looking for a snack. “Hey, who ate all the Rice Krispysquares?”
“I don’t know,” I say offhandedly.
The phone rings again. I pick it up.“Hello?”
Quiet again.
Holding the phone away, I check the calldisplay. It’s empty.
“Strange.”
The front door bursts open.
“Hi, kids,” Uncle Jack calls. “I’ve come tocook you supper.” He walks in and heads for the cupboard, diggingaround for a non-stick frying pan.
“Oh, good.” I smile. “What are wehaving?”
“Your favourite – tacos.”
“Yes!” I say, throwing a fist into theair.
“And you can thank me for it,” Dylan jumpsin. “I told him we were tired of Mom’s cooking yesterday. You know,meat, rice, and either broccoli or carrots. I’m soooo sick ofthat.”
“Me too.” I nod. “Are you hanging outtonight, Uncle Jack?” I really need a good dose of his humour afterTravis, and if there’s anyone who’ll understand, it’s him. Besides,I haven’t seen Uncle Jack for a few days.
“Can’t.” Uncle Jack shakes his head. “Gottaplay.” He takes a large cleaver from the knife block and beginschopping an onion.
“But you play every night. Can’t you cancelout just this once?”
“No go. The last few nights have beenjam-packed in the pub.”
“With that new fiddler?” I ask.
“Yeah. She’s really something else.” UncleJack empties the onions into the pan.
I scowl. “Who is she, anyway?” I walk to thecupboard and take out plates. “I saw a poster last week at schooladvertising lessons.
Uncle Jack grins, showing his dimples.“Kate’s from Cape Breton,” he says, his eyes shining.
A twinge of jealousy touches me as I wanderover to the table and lay the plates down on the place mats. “Sohow old is she?”
“I’m not too sure. Old enough … and youngenough.” The smile on his face is so wide, all his teeth show.
“So can’t you get someone else to play?” Iset four glasses on the table.
“'Fraid not.”
“Why not?”
“Because she plays Celtic music, and no oneelse knows how. She’s been teaching some of the guys in my band,but to ask someone to sub? It’d never work.” He throws the groundbeef in with the onions and breaks it up with a wooden spoon. Thearoma fills the room, making my stomach growl.
The front door creaks and Mom comes in, herarms loaded with groceries.
“I’m home.” She walks into the kitchen andlays the bags down on the counter.
I turn to Mom, desperate. She’ll surely be onmy side. “Mom, Uncle Jack says he can’t stay tonight because of thenew fiddler.” Then I add, “And can you believe Charlotte’s takingfiddling lessons from her?”
“Oh, good for her. I was thinking of signingup Dylan and me,” she says, smiling as she digs down into the bag.“And you too if you want.”
“Are you serious?” I scrunch my eyebrows,feeling betrayed that Mom would actually side with this woman.
“No, I’m not kidding. It’s a wonderfulopportunity. I mean, what are the chances of someone like thatmoving to Hope? Besides, Dylan will love it.” Then she throws methe punch. “I hope you don’t mind me using your violin.”
I glance over at the block of wood disguisedas a musical instrument, remembering the masterpiece that stillstands in Kristoff’s shop and the broken promise.
“I don’t care.” My voice drips withsarcasm.
Mom frowns at me like I’m about to get inserious trouble. I prepare for the lecture when Uncle Jack, adishcloth draped over his arm like a butler, saves the day,announcing, “Dinner is served at the exquisite Tacos delJacko’s.
Mom’s still giving me the eye, but I ignoreher, grab my plate and load it up. Dylan devours four in all, a lotfor a scrawny little kid like that. I have three. They’redelicious, but I’m still stewing inside as the conversationcontinues.
“So tell me more about this fiddler?” Momasks. “Is she single?”
Uncle Jack grins. “So far as I know.”
My stomach churns. It’s obvious he’sinterested, and it’s only a matter of time before we lose him toKate McDonough. Stupid fiddler. Why does she have to come alongand interfere with my life?
Fuming, I swallow down the last bite of mytaco, and then grab my plate, shove it into the dishwasher, andshut the door. I don’t want to hear about Kate McDonough anymore!Who cares about fiddling anyway? Snatching my backpack, I leap upthe stairs to my bedroom to do my homework, as far away from theconversation as possible.
I set up my textbooks and go to work. Then,at nine o’clock sharp, the notes of Uncle Jack’s guitar dancingbeside the vibrant trills of Kate McDonough’s fiddle begin creepingthrough the crack of my slightly opened window. They whirl aboutand swing together, the rhythm pounding like the drum of an ancientCeltic bodhran. I let out a huff, then get up and slide the windowshut. After all, just because the others dance to her music,doesn’t mean I have to.
 
 
 
Chapter 7
The Lesson
 
On Thursdays, Mom always keeps Dylan with herat school so I can have my violin lesson in peace without himasking when we’re going home every couple of minutes.
After waving good-bye to Charlotte, I unlockthe door of our house and am met by silence – no Dead-Eye dartsflying around. The stale scent of breakfast still fills the room,and it’s so quiet I can hear the hands move on the grandfatherclock.
My stomach growls. Slipping off my shoes, Ihead to the kitchen and grab a granola bar from the cupboard. Itake a couple of bites and savour the flavour.
The ring of the phone startles me.
I reach over and pick up the receiver, butthere’s no one there. Staring at the empty call display, I mutter,“Who’s doing this?” and then hang up.
My eyes drift to the living room where myviolin lies on top of the piano covered by a thick layer of dust.For a moment, I feel cheated again that the Gold Violin still liesin Kristoff’s shop. Then guilt gnaws at my stubbornness. Dad hadalways been so proud of my talent. Like the time I played forcompany when I was six years old, and his chest stuck out so far hesaid his buttons might pop off. And the time I competed in themusic festival against kids almost twice my age and won my firsttrophy. Dad kept wiping his eyes, and then slipped me a ten-dollarbill when Mom wasn’t looking. Then there was the time I gotninety-two percent on a violin exam. He hoisted me in the air andplanted me on his shoulder, parading me around like some sportshero, humming Ode to Joy.
Blinking back tears, I pick up the old violinand dust it off with the cloth that lies draped over my case. Istand back and look at the effect. It does look a littlebetter. Maybe I am being too difficult. After all, it’llprobably only be a few months before Mom takes me to Vancouver tobuy the Gold Violin … if it’s still there.
The grandfather clock chimes – 3:45. Pushingthe violin in the small case, I squeeze in the shoulder rest besideit. I dig under some sheet music, find the bow, and shake my headat the thinness of the hairs. Shoving it in, I turn the loose knobthat barely stops my bow from rattling around when I carry it on myback, and then close the box.
I rush through the front door, taking anxioussteps all the way to the pink Victorian house where the Bachinskysteach.
The house belongs to Monica’s old aunt andlooks like a wedding cake. Kids have always joked around sayingit’s probably haunted and that the old lady’s a ghost, but it’smore like an old museum. There are tall cabinets filled withporcelain figures, and antique furniture that probably stands as ithas for sixty years. Monica teaches downstairs and Mr. Bachinsky inthe loft. On clear days, we can spot eagles flying between the talltrees, close to the Fraser River.
As I walk in, the smell of antiques and dustfills my nostrils. I hear Mrs. Bachinsky’s aunt moving about thekitchen making tea.
“Hi, Kira,” Monica calls from beside thefull-length, black Steinway grand piano that crowns the room. Hervoice sounds overly sweet, like she’s trying extra-hard to be niceto me.
“Hi,” I say, standing back in the shadow ofthe entrance.
“Mr. Bachinsky’s upstairs. You can just go onthrough.”
“Okay.”
My stomach churning, I climb the creakingwooden stairs, one at a time, to the loft where he kneels on thefloor, jingling a set of small keys as he unlocks hisbriefcase.
“Well, Kira. Good to see you again,” he says,like he too is making a big effort to be super kind. “How have youbeen doing?”
“Oh, pretty good, I guess, but I haven’tpractised a note.” An anxious giggle escapes my lips.
Mr. Bachinsky opens the briefcase and pullsout some music. The pages rustle as he struggles to balance them onthe stand. A few slip down, and he stoops to pick them up. “Well, Ithink that’s okay under the circumstances. We’ll get you goingtoday.”
As I lay down my violin case and open thelatch, heaviness creeps over me.

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