Fairday Morrow woke to a loud crack of thunder. As she bolted upright in bed, her gray eyes flew open. Rain pelted against the window. Electricity charged the air. Lightning flashed, and she saw the old willow tree in her backyard lurching wildly. A whip-like branch smashed the glass and the storm raged into her room. BOOM! The sky lit up. The wind blew in like a tornado, tossing wet leaves and sticks around. Fairday shrieked and ducked under the covers.
“Fairday! Are you okay?” her dad shouted from the hallway.
Auntie Em, the family pug, was barking her head off.
“Yeah, I’m alright,” Fairday answered in a shaky voice. She peeked out from the blankets as a burst of light split the dark. For an instant, glass shards twinkled like stars across the tattered lion-and-unicorn carpet; the heavy drapes flapped, twisting in the wind. On the next lightning strike, Fairday saw a paper blow in through the broken window. But the second she glimpsed it, thunder boomed, the house shook, and everything blacked out.
Her dad appeared in the doorway with the flashlight, and Fairday spotted the paper by her feet. Snatching it with fingertips, she leaped from bed and followed the beam of light to safety, careful not to tread on the glittering rug.
Mr. Morrow set up a sleeping area in the parlor, and Fairday climbed onto the couch, keeping the note hidden up her pajama sleeve. The Begonia House Bed and Breakfast was still under construction, so the space wasn’t luxurious. Sheets speckled with dried paint covered the knotted wood floors and ladders leaned against ceiling-high bookshelves cloaked in blue tarps. An enormous stone fireplace with a blanket stretched over the opening sucked in and out from the draft, and the air had a confusing blend of odors, sort of a sanitized mustiness. Progress was being made, but Fairday could feel her mom shudder every time a layer of wallpaper was peeled away, only to reveal another gaudy pattern to unstick.
Raising an eyebrow, Mr. Morrow sat down and tugged Fairday’s ponytail. “You okay? You look pale.”
“I always do.” Fairday shrugged and felt the note crinkle against her skin. She gave her dad a small smile. “Really, I’m fine.”
Mr. Morrow cast a tall shadow on the wall as he stood up. He ran a hand through his messy black hair, a trait she’d inherited. “Well, it seems like everything that can go wrong has. But that’s change for you. Best to work the kinks out now.”
“I guess,” Fairday said. Her parents’ dream to restore this crumbling Victorian into a bed and breakfast had inspired their recent move from Manhattan to Ashpot, Connecticut. Fairday thought starting fifth grade at the end of September had been rough, but fixing this place was turning out to be a real pain for her parents.
“That’s my girl. Sleep tight.” He winked, then turned to leave.
“Are you and Mom happy you bought the Begonia House?” Fairday had to know. She did not want to move again. Just yesterday, her parents had argued over a repair bill. She’d even heard her dad say that cobwebs must be the only thing keeping this place together. Fairday could tell her parents were stressed, and her little sister, Margo, hadn’t been making it easier. Not by her own fault—she just wasn’t going to stop being a two-year-old any time soon.
Mr. Morrow sighed. “After Livingston Prep closed, and I lost my job, it felt like the time was right for Mom and me to follow our passions. Bringing the Begonia House back to life is a golden opportunity. With her interior design skills and my wizardry in the kitchen, we’ll make our dream tangible.” He opened his arms to the room. “So, yes, we’re happy. There are always going to be challenges, Fairday. Remember what I told you about roadblocks?”
“That they’re there for a reason?” Fairday answered. Even though her dad wasn’t the head of an English department anymore, he could never resist a teachable moment. It was why she had such a good vocabulary.
“Correct!” Mr. Morrow spun on his heels. “If there aren’t twists and turns in the road, the drive’s a bore. G’night, m’lady.” Tipping an imaginary hat, he shut the door.
Snuggling into the blankets, Fairday thought about his words. Living here definitely wasn’t boring. The Begonia House was full of surprises. It was even famous in Ashpot because of the tragedies and speculation surrounding the Begonia family. Kids in school kept asking about it, so her parents agreed she could throw a Halloween party. She and Lizzy had come up with the idea for a “boo—k” themed party. Even though she had concerns about people poking around her house, she thought it would be interesting to see all the costumes. You could tell a lot about a person based on the story character they chose to be. Fairday felt her nerves flutter at the thought of her classmates coming over. What would they think of the cracked walls and slanted hallways? Hopefully, it would add to the spooktacularness.
Sliding the paper out of her sleeve, Fairday read the note. The message was disturbing. Even stranger, it wasn’t the first she’d found. It was the third in a week, and they all said the same thing.
Fairday wished she understood the riddle. Who was the Librarian? How were words lost? What was a bookworm? She thought of her favorite stories, and her heart fell, imagining a world where they didn’t exist. Fairday did not want words to vanish and vowed to solve the mystery.
She and her best friend, Lizzy Mackerville, started the Detective Mystery Squad, also known as the DMS, in third grade. They’d solved a couple of cases after that, but nothing like the recent investigation of Ruby Begonia, the missing bride. She’d disappeared from the Begonia House on her wedding day, over fifty years ago. No one had a clue what happened to her until the DMS uncovered evidence that led them to a parallel world on the other side of the Begonia House. They’d found Ruby trapped in time there, cursed by a gypsy named Eldrich. The enchantment was broken when she gave Lizzy bright red high-heeled flying sneakers. They not only ended the spell, but now her friend owned magical shoes! Whoever sent the message must be looking for Lizzy, but why could she hear the news? Did the sneakers have more powers to reveal?
Fairday had found the first note a few days ago. It’d been left as a bookmark in her favorite book, The Wizard of Oz, which she always kept on her nightstand. She was surprised that a passage she knew by heart had changed. When the Tin Woodman said, “Brains do not make one happy, and happiness is the best thing in the world,” happy and happiness were gone. Instead, it read, “Brains do not make one, and is the best thing in the world.” How could this book, which had been passed down from her grandmother, be missing words, like they’d never been there at all? Realizing the warning could be more worrisome than she’d thought, Fairday’s stomach clenched.
Another note appeared a few days later while Fairday was fixing up the secret room on the third floor as DMS headquarters (Ruby’s old bedroom). When she was organizing her desk, she’d heard a crash. Her backpack had fallen off the table, and the fingerprinting powder had smashed open. She’d found the second note in the jar while cleaning up the mess. Fairday had emailed Lizzy about it, and they’d concluded that the pack must have tipped off the table. But where did the note come from? Ruby said she’d been trapped alone on the other side of the house all those years. Was it possible that someone else was stuck there too?
Fairday began to drift off when she noticed a large spider crawl out of a crack in the wall. “Hello, spider,” she said. Normally, she’d have been creeped out, but her house was like a bug resort, and she’d grown accustomed to their presence. Yawning, she asked, “Are you the messenger?” Fairday’s eyelids drooped as she turned out the lamp. Her mind floated off, and she could sense shadows creeping around the edges of her dream. The hush of sleep fell over the room, and eight hairy legs scurried off into darkness.
Fairday Morrow and the Talking Library
Book 2: Fairday Morrow Series
Jessica Haight & Stephanie Robinson
Illustrations by David SanAngelo
On Sale Date: October, 23 2017
Publisher: Willow Press
Age range: 8 and up
Grade Level: 3-6
Hardback ISBN#: 978-0-9993449-0-3