“We’re trying to support each other during this first rough day with Weird Woman by being playful. But I know a few things: we both hate this woman.”
Chapter 1: Cinnamon
I don’t recognize Mom. Who is this woman? She’s pretty for a mean woman. She has red hair and it looks like she tried to dye it black (like our … well … real Mom) but completely failed, and blue eyes that she hides under a cap. This morning, she says to my dad: “I didn’t know that you have disgusting children.”
Dad replies, “Well, you should’ve noticed by all of the toys on the floor. Stop talking about them like they’re dog poop.”
Why does Dad not look confused about who this woman is, and why she’s in our house?!
“Where’s Mom?” I ask Dad in a whisper.
“That’s what I’m trying to find out,” Dad whispers back, reaching for the home phone.
“Don’t you dare!” The woman slaps Dad’s hand away from the phone.
“Why not?” I say, snatching the phone away from its post. The woman snatches the phone away from us and spits in our faces. I run up to Kevin’s and my room and tell him what’s going on.
“Stay in here, Ivy,” Kevin says, and I climb into his bunk and curl into a ball.
Later, the Weird Woman spanks Kevin and me after we did something wrong. She’s trying to charm Daddy, but it just isn’t working!
“Stephan, get me a glass of wine, please,” she says.
“Why don’t you get it yourself?” I ask her.
She spanks me.
“Ivy, don’t you dare say that again!”
So, that’s our day. Speak, spank, ‘don’t you dare do or say that again!’, spank. Ugh!
I walk down the quiet street to the spice shop. Cinnamon is what Kevin wants. He says he’s, well, too sore to go out, but he promised me a yummy breakfast. Weird Woman is listening to bad music in my parents’ bedroom and Daddy went to work so we’re alone in the house.
This woman is … definitely not our real mom. I can tell. I know it. I bet Dad and Kevin know it too. It’s like the woman is putting us under some sort of spell, because as I find the spice store and look at the shopping list Kevin gave me, I don’t seem to have the courage to ask the spice guy for help. The spell (I’m not sure if it’s really a spell) feels like pressure, because in my head, I hear “if you tell him about me, your family will be in great danger!” Who is this woman? What does she want? Why is she here? Two small bottles of cinnamon is what Kevin wants. I buy them and leave.
I squish the morning dew with my turquoise and lavender sneakers. I can’t wait to see what Kevin will make me.
At the house I sit down at the kitchen table.
“Thanks, Ivy!” Kevin says when he sees the two bottles of cinnamon. “I promised you I’d make you something, so I will. You like cinnamon buns, right?”
“Uh huh,” I say, sticking my finger into the cream cheese frosting he’s making. He slaps my hand away playfully. We always fight a lot, but ever since this morning, we’ve been good. We’re trying to support each other during this first rough day with Weird Woman by being playful. But I know a few things: we both hate this woman. We miss Mom and we feel confused about what’s happening here, I feel scared and Kevin feels under pressure.
Chapter 2: My Stories
After a hearty breakfast, I walk outside and sit down in the grass. I think … well … I think that there’s this woman who thinks we’re rich so she’s probably trying to take over our real mom’s place. Maybe Weird Woman captured her and put her in a secret place?
The sky’s a bright blue. As I stretch out onto my back, an idea for a story comes fluttering in my head. No, Ivy, I tell myself. You’re already working on a story. A good one, too. But I pull out my notebook just the same, and start jotting down my ideas quickly before they disappear. Mom and I write together all the time and I’m trying to distract myself from all of the confusion happening here. Even though I never finish my stories, she always tries to encourage me to. I’m writing a story about an ancient treasure, but I just got an idea for a story about two kids and their cousins searching for Atlantis, the famous underwater city. I never finish my stories. All the time, ideas just pop into my head and I start a new story. It’s annoying, ‘cause I keep thinking I’ll finish my stories, but I never do. Ideas for what Atlantis should look like bloom in my head. Okay, twists of seaweed surrounding the walls… smells, of course, like the ocean…
Chapter 3: We Hate “Mom”
Weird Woman is home. She’s putting her messenger bag down in the hall, and she interrupts our little family dinner. Daddy’s home, and Kevin and I made spaghetti and meatballs for dinner. We eat happily, and talk too. My Dad’s trying to get rid of this woman who’s trying to take over, but she insists on staying. He’s always trying to stop her from beating us but she just pushes him away as if that’s a way to gain his respect.
“Get me a chair, please, Stephan,” the woman moans. She ruins everything. Daddy doesn’t get her a chair. She gets it herself. “Get me a plate of spaghetti and meatballs, Kevin,” she says, and when Kevin doesn’t move she yells “now!” Kevin runs to get her a dish.
It’s bedtime. Kevin and I get hugged and kissed by Daddy.
“We’ll be alright,” he whispers as he closes the door. I hug my little teddy bear and look up at Kevin.
“Do you think we’ll be OK?” I ask him.
“I dunno, Ivy,” Kevin says quietly. “But we have to stick together, okay?”
“That’s a good girl.”
Usually I would’ve shouted at him for being treated like a dog, but Weird Woman is here, and sleep pulls me down before I can say anything.
Chapter 4: Change Hill
It’s morning, and Weird Woman is spraying us with water in a small, plastic bottle to get us working like slaves.
“Get up, squirts,” she says. “Get your bad butts ready for school!!!”
“But it’s Saturday,” I moan.
“And it is September. School starts in October,” Kevin says groggily.
“So what? Your school is chores! Now get going!!! I hate kids,” she mutters under her breath.
After a boring morning full of being yelled at by Weird Woman and dull chores, Dad says we’re having our afternoon together without her, and she locks the door to tell him she’ll keep the house safe. Dad, Kevin, and I decide to buy school supplies and a few treats. Then we decide to go to Change Hill, which is like a natural magic. At first, it’s the autumn leaves with large oak trees covered in orange and brown and yellow and red leaves (mostly orange and brown) then you cross a crystal blue river (well, a little stream) to a large beach shaped like a hill, and it looks like you’re going to fall off if you look down. The crystal blue river has green grass bordering it on both sides, then it changes to sand or the autumn type of world. It’s really neat.
We invite our friends Jack, William, and Violet to come to Change Hill. I talk to Violet about Weird Woman who gives me clever comebacks. They didn’t know about Weird Woman until Kevin and I talked to them. Jack, William, and Kevin talk and talk about Weird Woman and some boring soccer stuff I don’t care about. I’m wearing my favorite dress: a sailor’s dress with an electric blue headband that has a thin bow on it. I’m wearing jeans and my favorite lavender and turquoise sneakers. Under it is my bathing suit, for swimming across the stream. It feels uncomfortable, but I’m always prepared for things like this. We finally swim across to the beach side, dare each other to look down over the hill, and swim back. We change back and take off our bathing suits, then we wash our hair in Jack, William, and Violet’s outdoor shower. We stay at their house for a while and then, we go home.
Weird Woman is asleep. We go through the windows so we don’t wake her up. I pull the thin, pink, flowered curtains of my bed closed.
“Ivy?” Kevin suddenly says. “Here’s your teddy bear.” I open the curtains and snatch the teddy bear from Kevin’s hands and feel in the pocket where we secretly pass each other stuff. Inside there’s a candy necklace with a little note. It says:
I know you hate Weird Woman, so I have a plan for finding our real mom. We get up at midnight, and we sneak out of the house with a change of clothes, my pocket knife, a flashlight and a map. We’ll go to Change Hill and meet the three wolves, OK? I’ll tell you who they are at midnight, when we’re up, alright?
So, have a good night.
PS: don’t ask me who the three wolves are. Remember what I said about telling you at midnight.
I turn the slip of paper around, grab a spare pencil, and write:
Yeah, OK, Kevin. Luv you. Goodnight.
Then I toss the piece of paper to Kevin and I tear a page out of my notebook.
We’re trying to find our real mother, and don’t let Weird Woman enter our room or see this note, please. We love you.
Ivy and Kevin
Then, I put a change of clothes and the rest of the materials Kevin wants in my monogrammed messenger bag, which is a winter blue. I tuck the messenger bag under my pillow, and then I grab my note to Daddy and slip it in his bedroom, which, thankfully, he does not share with Weird Woman. Then I pull my curtains closed and go to sleep.
Chapter 5: Midnight
Kevin wakes me up and says, “you can eat the candy necklace I gave you.”
I slip the candy around my neck and nibble at it a bit. Then I say, “I wrote a note to Daddy last night.”
“Good. Where is it?” Kevin takes the messenger bag from me.
“I left it in Dad’s room,” I respond.
“Cool,” Kevin says.
“So, who are the three wolves?” I ask.
“They’re these wolves made of enchanted leaves that help everyone in times of need,” Kevin replies. We walk quietly up to Change Hill. It’s very pretty at midnight. The moon is high and full, and, in front of us, three creatures that are brightly colored or different shades of green come foreword.
“Hello,” the green one says, “We are the three wolves. How can we help you?”
Chapter 6: the Three Wolves
I gape at the creatures. Kevin is the first one to speak.
“Our mother is captured by this mean lady who’s trying to take over the household. I think she thinks we’re rich, so we’re trying to stop her and get our real mother back.” The green wolf nods.
“My name is Greenleaf. I will give you the power of nature.”
“And my name is Pineapple. I will give you the power of weather,” the wolf made of a random-mix-of-colors said.
“And my name is Rosie. I don’t have a power to give you, but I have Knowledge,” the rainbow wolf says.
“Go past the beach down to the water. There you will get swept up by the foam. The foam will tell you what to do, and then come back here. You will have your powers. Ivy, you will have the power of nature. Kevin, you will have the power of weather. When you come back up, we will be gone. You must get past the obstacles coming up.” Greenleaf gently nudges us toward the beach. “Now, you must hurry. You have one minute to get to the foam and back. And you have fifteen minutes to get past the obstacles and save your mother. I will give you an hourglass.” Rosie slips a chain around my neck. An hourglass hangs on the bottom. It’s a big hourglass. “NOW!” Rosie shouts as the sand in the hourglass starts falling. We run and run and run. There, we discover an adventure.
Chapter 7: the obstacles
We have our plan. The foam told us. Our plan is a secret. You’ll see what it is later!!! I practice my nature talent by making the vines twirl. Having nature as a talent is fun.
I suddenly see the obstacles ahead. Bushes and bushes of crazy thorns. A fiery black dragon, the most powerful type of dragon ever. A tall enchanted black castle. Mom is trapped in that castle, with the thorns and the dragon blocking her escape. And plus, she’s probably tied up in there. Ouch.
Kevin and I look at the obstacle before us. Then we remember our talents. As I try and get the thorns to just move, a twirl of vines comes toward me, and I drop the process immediately. But then I wrap everything in moss, and the tips of the thorns are softened, so we can get through.
Now the dragon. It’s Kevin’s turn to use his power. “Ivy, what’s the dragon’s main weapon?!” Kevin yells over the roar of the dragon.
“Are you dumb?! FIRE!!!” I shout.
“OF COURSE!!!” Kevin cries, slapping his hand to his forehead.
“And rain stops fire!!!” I shout.
“DUH!!” Kevin roars back. See what I mean when I say we fight a lot? Kevin closes his eyes and lifts his head as a downpour of fire falls toward us. Then a downpour of rain hits our faces and the fire. The dragon roars in agony as rain pours down his/her throat and stops the fire. As he/she thrashes about, Kevin and I slip into the castle and rescue our real mom. We place the hourglass down on the autumn side of Change Hill to give it back to the Spirits. As we walk back, our powers seem to seep out of us.
At home, I make Mom hot chocolate and she tells us all about being stuck in the castle. “It was dark and scary,” she says, “and I was tied up in ropes. There were spider webs and spiders and bugs and all sorts of stuff like that. As I was being forced to march up to the top tower, I saw a whole skeleton lying in the corner.” I shudder.
“Elizabeth,” Dad says, “you know I wanted to help, but Agatha was forcing me to stay with her.”
“I know that, Stephan, don’t…”
“Agatha?!” I interrupt. “Your enemy from college?! Is that who that horrible woman was?!”
“Yep,” Dad says.
“Worry,” Mom finishes. “I chased her off. By the way, Ivy and Kevin, who told you where I was?” Kevin and I look at each other.
“It’s a secret,” we reply together.
“Alrighty,” Mom says. “Let’s go over to Jack, William and Violet’s, and let’s tell them the whole story.” As Kevin and I walk behind the chatting Mom and Dad, we smile at each other. The real mom is home. Finally!!!