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Dad sure was excited. He’d been looking for an excuse to quit his boring office job and devote all of his time to his writing career. This house—absolutely free— would be just the excuse he needed.
And now, a week later, here we were in Dark Falls, a four-hour drive from our home, seeing our new house for the first time. We hadn’t even gone inside, and Josh was trying to drag Dad back to the car.
“Josh—stop pulling me,” Dad snapped impatiently, trying to tug his hand out of Josh’s grasp. Dad glanced helplessly at Mr. Dawes. I could see that he was embarrassed by how Josh was carrying on. I decided maybe I could help. “Let go, Josh,” I said quietly, grabbing Josh by the shoulder. “We promised we’d give Dark Falls a chance—remember?”
“I already gave it a chance,” Josh whined, not letting go of Dad’s hand. “This house is old and ugly and I hate it.”
“You haven’t even gone inside,” Dad said angrily.
“Yes. Let’s go in,” Mr. Dawes urged, staring at Josh.
“I’m staying outside,” Josh insisted.
He can be really stubborn sometimes. I felt just as unhappy as Josh looking at this dark, old house. But I’d never carry on the way Josh was.
“Josh, don’t you want to pick out your own room?” Mom asked.
“No,” Josh muttered.
He and I both glanced up to the second floor. There were two large bay windows side by side up there. They looked like two dark eyes staring back at us.
“How long have you lived in your present house?” Mr. Dawes asked Dad.
Dad had to think for a second. “About fourteen years,” he answered. “The kids have lived there for their whole lives.”
“Moving is always hard,” Mr. Dawes said sympathetically, turning his gaze on me.
“You know, Amanda, I moved here to Dark Falls just a few months ago. I didn’t like it much either, at first. But now I wouldn’t live anywhere else.
He winked at me. He had a cute dimple in his chin when he smiled. “Let’s go inside. It’s really quite nice. You’ll be surprised.” All of us followed Mr. Dawes, except Josh. “Are there other kids on this block?” Josh demanded. He made it sound more like a challenge than a question.
Mr. Dawes nodded. “The school’s just two blocks away,” he said, pointing up the street.
“See?” Mom quickly cut in. “A short walk to school. No more long bus rides every morning.”
“I liked the bus,” Josh insisted.
His mind was made up. He wasn’t going to give my parents a break, even though we’d both promised to be open-minded about this move. I don’t know what Josh thought he had to gain by being such a pain. I mean, Dad already had plenty to worry about. For one thing, he hadn’t been able to sell our old house yet.
I didn’t like the idea of moving. But I knew that inheriting this big house was a great opportunity for us. We were so cramped in our little house. And once Dad managed to sell the old place, we wouldn’t have to worry at all about money anymore. Josh should at least give it a chance. That’s what I thought. Suddenly, from our car at the foot of the driveway, we heard Petey barking and howling and making a fuss.
Petey is our dog, a white, curly-haired terrier, cute as a button, and usually wellbehaved. He never minded being left in the car. But now he was yowling and yapping at full volume and scratching at the car window, desperate to get out.
“Petey—quiet! Quiet!” I shouted. Petey usually listened to me.
But not this time.
“I’m going to let him out!” Josh declared, and took off down the driveway toward the car.
“No. Wait—” Dad called.
But I don’t think Josh could hear him over Petey’s wails.
“Might as well let the dog explore,” Mr. Dawes said. “It’s going to be his house, too.”
A few seconds later, Petey came charging across the lawn, kicking up brown leaves, yipping excitedly as he ran up to us. He jumped on all of us as if he hadn’t seen us in weeks and then, to our surprise, he started growling menacingly and barking at Mr. Dawes.
“Petey—stop!” Mom yelled.
“He’s never done this,” Dad said apologetically. “Really. He’s usually very friendly.”
“He probably smells something on me. Another dog, maybe,” Mr. Dawes said, loosening his striped tie, looking warily at our growling dog.
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