I put the sheet in my backpack and left.
I could only imagine that in the spot regarding what I wanted to be in kindergarten, he crossed out vampire and wrotepsychic.
Alexander and I were in his attic room. My boyfriend was painting a beautiful picture of the rail yard while I attempted to write my English essay on my mom's laptop. But I was too distracted to begin to write about possible career choices-not only because Alexander was quite the handsome artist, glowing and focused on his creation, but because I could hear the m.u.f.fled voices of Alexander's parents talking in their bedroom, one floor below.
I could barely make out a few words.Mr. Berkley.Sale .Romania .
"I'll be right back," I said to Alexander, but he was so engrossed in his brushstrokes that I'd probably be back before he even noticed I was gone.
I snuck down the attic stairs and tiptoed past his parents' bedroom. The door was ajar. The bathroom was only a few doors down, and if I hung out inside I'd be able to hear their voices echo off the empty walls.
"Mr. Berkley says we need to put money into renovations before this house will ever sell," I heard Mr.Sterling say as I pa.s.sed their doorway. I remained by a hallway table just outside their door.
"I think it's perfect the way it is," Mrs. Sterling responded.
"I agree. I'm not changing a thing. My mother built this house the way she wanted it and it will remain that way until there is a new owner."
"Maybe it's the real estate agency we should change," Mrs. Sterling offered.
There was a slight pause.
"Constantine," Mrs. Sterling began in a soft yet concerned voice. "Perhaps we are making a mistake by putting the Mansion up for sale at all."
"I know, Ca.s.sandra. I've been wrestling with that, too. This has not been an easy decision. I've tried to explain that to Alexander,But our lives are inEurope . And now it's time for us to return.All of us. Our home has always been inRomania . We are too old to change all that now."
"I guess you are right. But I do worry-"
"I don't understand it," Mr. Sterling added, changing his tone. "Mr. Berkley said not one person has shown interest. He explained that the townspeople have told him awful things about our home. I'm not sure why anyone would say such things. No one, besides theMadisons , has been inside,"
The floorboard underneath me squeaked so loudly, I thought one would be able to hear it inRomania .
The bedroom door creaked open.
Mr. Sterling appeared, and behind him a very tall and statuesque Mrs. Sterling.
The bathroom doorway that once looked so close now seemed miles away.
"Raven," Mrs. Sterling said, "We didn't know you were here."
"I was just on my way-"
"We've been meaning to talk to you," she said, "now that you've heard about the Mansion going on the market,"
I didn't move.
"I know it must be hard for you, Raven-as it is for us," Mrs. Sterling said in a soothing voice.
"You have done so much for Alexander," she continued. "I know it will be difficult for him being away from you. So you must promise me you'll visit."
Under normal conditions, the thought of going toRomania and seeing Alexander's family would be the thrill of a lifetime. However, if I had a choice, I'd rather vacation inRomania and visit my boyfriend on Benson Hill.
"I promise," I said in agreement.
Alexander appeared at the foot of the stairs.
"What's going on down here?"
"Nothing," Mrs. Sterling said. "We were just pa.s.sing in the hall."
I felt a tinge of sorrow for theSterlings . They were just as torn as we were about the move. They were making what they thought was the best decision, even if it wasn't the choice Alexander and I would make.
I couldn't concentrate on writing, and Alexander needed a break from painting. It was getting late, so he drove me home.
"I think our plan is working," I said as he walked me to my door. "At this rate, you'll be here longer than the Mansion has,"
Alexander leaned in and gave me a blissful kiss. For the first night in a long time, I actually got a good night's rest.
25 Unfortunately the next guy's face I had to see was Trevor's."We haven't answered everything," my nemesis said, finding me on the lawn after school."I think you can fill in the blanks," I replied."I can give you a lift home. We could do it in the car."I glared back."I mean the a.s.signment," Trevor said, raising an eyebrow."I'd rather walk.""When are you going to admit that you are avoiding me because you're hot for me?" "When h.e.l.l freezes over.""You should know about h.e.l.l-you live there. How about you step up to the plate and finish the job?"
I thought for a moment. I was slightly taken with the idea of having my owngoth fas.h.i.+on magazine like Becky and I had discussed, but I couldn't possibly share that with Trevor. I'd only be ridiculed. Instead I said, "Okay, Soccer Boy. Figure out a career for me. Something that will make me money so I can be self-reliant."
Trevor opened his notebook. I could see several typed pages of his essay were already complete. "What's wrong with a man taking care of you?" he asked."Someone rich.And powerful.""I already have that." I admitted."And blond.""I like dark hair.""And popular." He did have me on that. Neither Alexander nor I were popular.But Trevor Mitch.e.l.l? He could have been voted prom king in the first grade. "Isn't fame important to you?" he asked, inching closer."Everyone knowing your name?""I think they already do.""But not for the right reasons," he said with a chuckle."I'm not interested in being famous. I'm interested in being me."Trevor shook his head and jotted a few notes down in his notebook. "So where did we leave off? Do your parents want you to follow in their footsteps? ""No. Is this over yet?" I whined."What do you like to do on a rainy day?" he asked."Sit outside.""What do you like to do on a sunny day?" "Sleep.""Doyou think of yourself as creative?""No.""You don't?" he asked, surprised. "With the way you dress and make yourself up? I think you've always been creative. Like a clown.""Do you want me to take you down now? Or do it in front of the cla.s.s?""Calm down. What is your favorite outfit?"
"Hmm.My corset prom dress.""When you close your eyes, who do you dream about?""Alexander.""If you had one guy in school to kiss, who would that be?" he asked, leaning toward me."This isn't on the sheet. None of these questions are, bonehead!"With Trevor, sometimes it was difficult to keep straight who was kidding who. "I was just making sure you were paying attention.Fve finished the interview portion. Now I can just write the essay.""So-we don't have to meet again?""I've finished my part," he said coyly, and gave me the completed interview sheet. "Now it's time to finish your questions about me."Trevor's interview sheet was blank. I quickly jotted down some answers to the questions and handed it to him."You won't get an A for handwriting," he said.Trevor and I rose and dusted the dirt off our jeans. "Our next date will be in front of cla.s.s," he said.I couldn't help but feel a twinge of kindness toward him, as he had inadvertently helped Alexander remain in the Mansion. "I'm off to meet my father," he said as he got into hisCamaro . "Did you hear? My dad might buy the Mansion."I stopped dead in my tracks."What did you say?" Hegrinned a wicked grin. "I was waiting to tell you until after I got my interview portion completed...
We were talking about the Mansion at dinner last night and how word around town is no one will buy it because it's a hideous money pit. My dad said that the land upon which it sits is valuable property in its own right. It will be cheaper to hire a wrecking ball and bulldozer. Just thought you'd want to know. It'll make a great strip mall."
I was floored. I had no idea my own plan would turn against me. And of course, Trevor was just the person to do it. "No-you can't buy it!" I said,my body filled with rage. "You can't buy it-and you can't tear it down.""I know I can't, Monster Girl. But my dad can."
Trevor's father owned half the town ofDullsville . I wouldn't ever want Benson Hill to fall into that half.
"I'll tell my dad to save a few bricks when he tears it down. You can have them as a souvenir. I won't charge you very much, since they're worthless," he said, and rolled up his window and sped off.
Iwaited impatiently outside the Mansion's gate. "I need to speak with Alexander," I told Jameson as soon as he opened the front door.
"He's still sleeping, Miss Raven."
I guess Alexander, like me, was finally having a good night's-or in his case, day's-slumber.
"This can't wait." I spoke with authority and urgency.
"I'll see what I can do. Wait in the study."
I paced in the old, dusty, book-filled room. It was several minutes later when Alexander appeared in jeans and a T- s.h.i.+rt.
"What's wrong?" he asked.
"Everything!"I rushed over to him. "But we have to talk privately."
"The gazebo?" he suggested.a place where no one on earth can hear us."
Alexander parked the Mercedes in front of the cemetery's entrance. We hurried toward his grandmother's monument. The only sound we heard were a few crickets chirping.
"There is a buyer for the Mansion," I blurted out when we reached the monument.
"You are kidding!"
"No, and it gets worse. It's Trevor Mitch.e.l.l's father." "This is awful. I thought our plan was working."
"I did, too. He plans to tear down the house and built I a strip mall,"
"Tear it down?" Alexander's warm brown eves turned fiery red.
"I know. It's horrible. We did such a great job of convincing people that the Mansion was a money pit that no one wanted to buy it. Now they just want to tear it down.messed everything up, Alexander. I ruinedeverything "
I sat down on a cemetery bench and covered my face with my hands.
"This isn't your fault, Raven," Alexander said, comforting me. His dark mood brightened. "He hasn't bough I the house yet. There is still time."
"If we tell your parents, maybe they won't sell?"
"My father is set on selling. I've even faced him with that possibility. He says the new owner is ent.i.tled to do with the house as they wish. But how did you find thisMy father hasn't said anyone has expressed interest."
"I heard it straight from the horse's mouth: Trevor."
"There has to be something we can do. I don't want to move, and the Mansion is not worthless."
I turned toward his grandmother's monument and wished for an answer.
"We have to stop him. His father can't buy it. No one can. That house is your home.Our home.And most especially-your grandmother's." I got up and walked over to the monument. "Your grandmotherSterling built that house with love.For her-and her family."
"I know," he said, "It breaks my heart for so many reasons."
Alexander joined me at the monument. "It is my grandmother's house... and always will be."
"You're the only one who's taking care of it. I know your grandmother would be devastated if it were sold-or destroyed. There is no other buyer that that house means more to than you and her."
Then he turned to me. "You say the smartest things!"
"What do you mean?"
"I can't believe I didn't think of it sooner." Alexander was exuberant. He gave me a huge kiss and swung mearound.
"What's going on?"
"The Mansion is forsale " he said with a grin. "And I know someone who is just dying to buy it."
I had no idea who Alexander had in mind to buy the Mansion. Whoever it was had to be rich and someone Alexander didn't mind hanging out in his grandmother's house. And how would that help him stay in Dullsville? My boyfriend promised me he'd let me in on his plan as soon as we met again.
The following sunset I met him at the boxcar.
"I couldn't sleep at all," I said impatiently as I snuck inside.
He took my hand and held me close.
"So tell me-who can you find to buy the Mansion?" I asked with a bit of hope in my voice.
"I turn eighteen in a few months," Alexander began. "And when I do, I'll be ent.i.tled to my inheritance.
My grandmother was a very generous woman. So I figured it out-I'll be able to pay for the Mansion's upkeep."
I was wide-eyed.
"I'll buy the Mansion," he said proudly.
"That's a great idea!" I took his hands and danced around. "You are a genius."
"I don't have to move back toRomania if I have a place of my own here, right? And I think my grandmother would be happy that I used her money to keep the Mansion."
"I love that plan!" I squeezed my boyfriend and kissed him repeatedly. I was so proud of Alexander for his intellect. I was dating someone wise beyond his years.
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