Shade and Shadow
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by Theresa Garrido
Category: Young Adult/Mystery/Crime
Description: What mysterious secrets await Randy Smith at The Shadows--her mother's Civil War era ancestral home in South Carolina's Low Country? A month long summer stay at a foreboding mansion full of strange aunts and uncles wasn't Randy's idea of fun. She'd lost her mother in a car accident when she was only three and never had occasion to visit her mother's relatives on the East Coast. When Randy's father decided to remarry he felt it was time to reunite his daughter with the Bainbridge clan, while he and his new wife were on their honeymoon in Europe. The Shadows lived up to its name--dark, gloomy, and stuck in a time gone by--no air conditioning, TVs or computers. Randy wondered why her mother had loved this decidedly unlovable place. Creepy Uncle Arthur acted like a character out of a horror movie. Prim and proper Aunt Amanda seemed overly strict and controlled everyone around her. Uncle Colton and his wife Carolina seemed nice enough, though, and their daughter, Willadee, was about her same age. As the first cousins got acquainted Willadee shared stories about the strange disappearance of their Aunt Miranda--Aunt Amanda's twin sister--over 40 years ago. She told of ghostly sightings on the grounds. Randy scoffed at the idea of ghosts until she began seeing and hearing things she couldn't explain. The headstrong sixteen-year-old insisted on pushing her boundaries and soon ventured out to explore more of the mansion and the grounds. Would snooping into forbidden places, trying to discover what happened to Aunt Miranda, put her own life in danger?
eBook Publisher: L&L Dreamspell/L&L Dreamspell, 2008 Spring, Texas
eBookwise Release Date: February 2009
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [263 KB]
Reading time: 154-216 min.
"I think insanity runs in my family, M.C.. Just thinking the word 'ancestral' gives me a prickly sensation up my back. Do you realize I'm on a plane right this very minute, headed for some freakin' mansion somewhere in the Low Country of South Carolina? Did you hear me? Low Country. Know what that means? Swamps. I'm about ready to freak, here."
Randy glanced around to see whether other passengers were listening. Convinced that no one was paying her the least attention, she continued speaking into the tiny phone pressed against her left ear. "If you'd told me a month ago I'd be visiting my mother's ancestral home ... isn't that a great word ... I would've said absolutely not. I mean, jeez. There's no way I want to spend one night in a crumbling, Civil War monstrosity ... let alone an entire month. And with relatives I've never met? M.C., I haven't even talked to any one of them on the phone. Not ever. My stupid dad is being totally insane about this whole thing."
The captain's voice announcing departure interrupted M.C.'s sympathetic response. The pert flight attendant strolling up the aisle waved a hand in Randy's direction and wrinkled her nose. With a shrug, Randy cut her friend short and said, "I gotta go. They're telling us to turn off all electrical devices, yadda, yadda, yadda. I'll call you when I get there. Bye." She snapped the cover shut and tucked her cell phone in her purse.
Staring out the window at nothing in particular, Randy thought about this trip her dad had forced upon her. The whole thing was stupid. And grossly unfair. Her mother had been dead for over ten years, and she and Dad had absolutely nothing to do with these South Carolina relatives.
That they were her mother's own family was beside the point. They weren't her family--well, in the familial sense, anyway--and she had no desire to meet them now. She didn't even remember her mother. She'd been only three when her mother, Emily Bainbridge Smith, had her fateful head-on collision with a drunk driver. No, this little jaunt wasn't her idea.
And the piece de resistance? Her dad had the gall to get married the day before yesterday. After thirteen years of just Dad and she, living side by side in their comfortable rut (Gladys, their housekeeper, didn't count) he'd gone and met wealthy widow, Phyllis Sheldon, fallen head over heels in love, and proposed. As nauseatingly simple as that. A real fairytale ending. And while they prepared to cavort all over Europe on their honeymoon, she, Randy Lynn Smith, was about to embark on a disquieting and most inconvenient journey into the vast Unknown. Thirty-some miles south of Charleston, a motley group of total strangers waited for her.
She'd wanted to stay in Seattle with Gladys. She'd intended spending the whole idyllic summer with M.C. They were going to fill the hours shopping, swimming, water skiing, discussing their upcoming junior year in high school, what colleges they'd send applications to, and whether Dennis G. Folgerty and Cindi Ann Manzanetti would still be an item next fall.
But, oh no. Good old Gladys, who'd been with them for as long as Randy could remember, needed a vacation. She planned to visit her sister in Arizona whom she hadn't seen in over five years. That was fine with Randy. Gladys could go. She deserved a break. That shouldn't have anything to do with her. She was sixteen, after all, and very capable of sticking a frozen dinner in the microwave and locking the door at night.
Even though Randy had begged and argued and cajoled, insisting that at sixteen, she could stay by herself--even get her own apartment, and why didn't he trust her since he was the one who raised her? Her dad hadn't budged. Her age and reliability didn't matter. It was time, he'd said, for her to meet her mother's family. She had aunts and uncles and cousins she didn't even know, and a grandmother who'd like to see her before she died. It was settled. Her uncle would meet her at the airport.
Playing her last card, she'd complained that it would be impossible for her to find this 'uncle' in a major airport since she'd no idea what he looked like, and wasn't going to walk around carrying a sign declaring her name in big, block letters. Her dad had only laughed. "Oh, Randy, Randy, you're priceless."
She'd come back with, "Priceless, am I? Jeez, Dad. Get serious. I don't even know these people. They're complete strangers."
"I know, my dear, and it's my fault," he'd sighed. "I take full blame for that." He ran a hand through his thick brown hair with the gray smudges at the temples and contrived to look crestfallen. "When your mother married me, I was living in Seattle so we settled here. Our life was busy ... what with my burgeoning law career ... and, well, let's just say we never seemed to have time to spend on traveling anywhere, not even to the East Coast. And, then, of course, there was the problem with your aunt. Your mother and she'd had a falling out. We didn't talk about it much. Your mother said the past was the past, and she only wanted to live for today and plan for tomorrow." At mention of her mother, his forehead had creased, making his heavy eyebrows look like a furry caterpillar.
She'd countered with, "So why are you making me go to a place my own mother hated?"
"I never said she hated it, Randy," he'd answered right back. "Your mother loved the old plantation house."
"Great. She loved the house but hated the people."
"Oh, Randy, be reasonable..." and he'd left it at that.
Now, as she leaned back against her seat and closed her eyes, the thought of meeting relatives who were absolute strangers bothered her more than she wanted to admit. They meant nothing to her. There was nothing to draw her thoughts their way, no mental images. She barely remembered her mother. Only a hazy picture of a woman rocking her in a huge wooden rocking chair tickled her memory. Whenever she caught a whiff of lilac perfume, the rocking chair memory teased her. It was never quite there--just a phantom-like thought that played hide-and-seek with her consciousness.
She had to empty her mind--think about something else. She put on the in-flight earphones and settled back to listen to music. No use worrying about it now. There'd be plenty of time when she arrived.
The flight to Atlanta went without incident although it was long and tedious sitting still for so long, and she was more than happy to disembark. A sauna greeted her as she stepped off the plane, however, and the sudden blast of hot, moist air shocked her. It felt like someone had thrown a heavy wool blanket over her, making it hard to breathe. So not Seattle. She wouldn't last the month. And wasn't Charleston supposed to be hotter than Atlanta, which sat at a relatively high altitude?
This is great, Dad, just great. Thanks a lot.