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Exerpt from The Practical Orphan’s Guide to Surviving a Fairytale

After thirteen year-old Kate Kincaid loses her parents in a donkey-pulled vegetable cart accident, she is sent to live with estranged relatives in a suburb called Mystery, Nevada…

As I rode toward 33 Persephone Circle, I started to wish that Dad had been a bit more open about his family, so I’d have some idea of what to expect.

I could deal with the mystery surrounding my relatives, except for the one thing that bugged me no matter how hard I tried to ignore it: why hadn’t they called me when they found out my parents died?  No fruit basket, no singing telegram, no condolence card…nothing.  I’d heard from people who barely knew my parents, so why hadn’t my dad’s own mother, brother, and sister-in-law at least called? Wasn’t that what family was for?

The Towncar drove into a familiar-looking area although I’d never been there before.  There’s something about the suburbs that causes all the houses to look alike after a certain number of years.  I read somewhere that you can build a mansion with gargoyles, flying buttresses, oddly-shaped stained glass windows, and wrought iron balconies, and in less than ten years it’ll be a one story house with wood side paneling.  It’s practically a scientific fact.

33 Persephone Circle, however, made no sense at all.  It looked like it had been built one room at a time, all stacked on top of one another. The uneven bricks made me think of children’s building blocks and the whole thing seemed about as sturdy as a three-legged table.  Here and there rooms jutted out, giving the house the overall look of a faded red sea urchin.

I dug out my camera again; Amanda would never believe this without photographic evidence.   As I took the picture, I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was being watched.

I’m a major bookworm, so I knew how this was supposed to go.  Item one on the orphan’s story checklist: weird, spooky house.  What was next?  Creepy butler?  Stern, yet maternal maid?

Movement at the highest window indicated someone had been waiting for my arrival, and several minutes later the front door opened.

No one was there.  I stepped into the entry hall and took a tentative look around; it was bare except for a woven blue rug on the floor and a small wooden table with a vase full of fresh wild flowers.  There were several rooms off to my left, but they were dark, so I couldn’t see what was inside.  I faced an enormous staircase, and there were three oil paintings on the right-hand wall of people I assumed were my aunt, uncle, and grandmother.  The women were wearing plain cotton dresses and the man had on black trousers and a white shirt.  I half-expected him to be holding a pitchfork.  It was all so…simple.

Like I said, I knew how this went.  Orphaned child was sent to live with obscure relatives who had no experience with children before, but they each learned valuable lessons and came to respect one another as people.

Then I saw the lion.

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