Fablehaven by Brandon Mull, now you can read online.
Kendra stared out the side window of the SUV, watching foliage blur past. When the flurry of motion became too much, she looked up ahead and fixed her gaze on a particular tree, following it as it slowly approached, streaked past, and then gradually receded behind her.
Was life like that? You could look ahead to the future or back at the past, but the present moved too quickly to absorb. Maybe sometimes. Not today. Today they were driving along an endless two-lane highway through the forested hills of Connecticut.
Why didn't you tell us Grandpa Sorenson lived in India? Seth complained.
Her brother was eleven and heading into sixth grade.
He had grown weary of his handheld video game - - evidence that they were on a truly epic drive.
Mom twisted to face the backseat. It won't be much longer. Enjoy the scenery.
I'm hungry, Seth said.
Mom started rummaging through a grocery bag full of snack food. Peanut butter and crackers?
Seth reached forward for the crackers. Dad, driving, asked for some Almond Roca. Last Christmas he had decided that Almond Roca was his favorite candy and that he should have some on hand all year long. Nearly six months later he was still honoring his resolution.
Do you want anything, Kendra?
Kendra returned her attention to the frantic parade of trees. Her parents were leaving on a seventeen-day Scandinavian cruise with all the aunts and uncles on her mother's side. They were all going for free. Not because they'd won a contest. They were going on a cruise because Kendra's grandparents had asphyxiated.
Grandma and Grandpa Larsen had been visiting relatives in South Carolina. The relatives lived in a trailer. The trailer had some sort of malfunction involving a gas leak, and they all died in their sleep. Long ago, Grandma and Grandpa Larsen had specified that when they died, all their children and their spouses were to use an allocated sum of money to go on a Scandinavian cruise.
The grandchildren were not invited.
Won't you get bored stuck on a boat for seventeen days? Kendra asked.
Dad glanced at her in the rearview mirror. The food is supposed to be incredible. Snails, fish eggs, the works.
We're not all that thrilled about the trip, Mom said sadly. I don't think your grandparents envisioned an accidental death when they made this request. But we'll make the best of it.
The ship stops in ports as you go, Dad said, deliberately redirecting the conversation. You get to disembark for part of the time.
Is this car ride going to last seventeen days? Seth asked.
We're nearly there, Dad said.
Do we have to stay with Grandma and Grandpa Sorenson? asked Kendra.
It'll be fun, Dad said. You should feel honored. They almost never invite anyone to stay with them.
Exactly. We barely know them. They're hermits.
Well, they were my parents, Dad said. Somehow I survived.
The road stopped winding through forested hills as it passed through a town. They idled at a stoplight, and Kendra stared at an overweight woman gassing up her minivan. The front windshield of the minivan was dirty, but the woman seemed to have no intention of washing it.
Kendra glanced up front. The windshield of the SUV was filthy, smeared with dead bugs, even though Dad had squeegeed it when they last stopped to refuel. They had driven all the way from Rochester today.
Kendra knew that Grandma and Grandpa Sorenson had not invited them to stay. She had overheard when Mom had approached Grandpa Sorenson about letting the kids stay with him. It was at the funeral.
The memory of the funeral made Kendra shiver. There was a wake beforehand, where Grandma and Grandpa Larsen were showcased in matching caskets. Kendra did not like seeing Grandpa Larsen wearing makeup. What lunatic had decided that when people died you should hire a taxidermist to fix them up for one final look? She would much rather remember them alive than on grotesque display in their Sunday best. The Larsens were the grandparents who had been part of her life. They had shared many holidays and long visits.
Kendra could hardly remember spending time with Grandma and Grandpa Sorenson. They had inherited some estate in Connecticut around the time her parents were married. The Sorensons had never invited them to visit, and rarely made the trek out to Rochester. When they came, it was generally one or the other. They had only come together twice. The Sorensons were nice, but their visits had been too infrequent and brief for real bonding to occur. Kendra knew that Grandma had taught history at some college, and that Grandpa had traveled a lot, running a small importing business. That was about it.