Maddy sat staring out of the minivan window. Walled round on two sides by stacked boxes, it seemed like the trip had lasted forever. Father had taken a job in a town far away from the city, so the comfortable apartment–with the marks recording Maddy’s growth, and the odd little corner just the perfect size for drawing in while Mum typed, or edited, or sat growling at the characters who refused to do what she wanted–where Maddy had lived all her life had been torn apart. The movable parts had gone into boxes and a big truck, while Maddy had to say goodbye to all her friends, and squeeze into the little non-box filled corner of the van and move away to a house and a town that she had not even seen, yet.
Nothing but tall trees and the dark shadows underneath could be seen beyond the edge of the highway when the van turned off at an exit that did not even have a gas station to mark the junction with the small, two-lane country road. Maddy was not impressed.
From beyond the wall of boxes, Mum’s voice melded easily with the quick, energetic violin music playing through the van’s speakers. “Maddy, are you awake? We will soon be there.”
For a little more than an instant, Maddy considered pretending to be asleep and keeping quiet, but that would not change the view outside the window. “Yes, Mum. I’m awake.”
Maddy looked harder, trying to see past the trees. Maybe, just maybe, she caught a glimpse of a building or two back beyond the shadows, but Maddy could not be certain. They had driven for a very long time, and even a summer’s day comes to an end at some point.
The minivan turned away from Maddy’s view, and the going grew rougher. I wonder if Father just turned off the road, or if there is really a driveway under us, Maddy wondered to herself. After only a few seconds, they stopped, and the sound of a window opening crept into the music, like an odd, sibilant percussion line, followed by a bigger, more metallic rattle. When they moved forward again, with a damp, organic breeze with an unfamiliar sharp note still exploring the van’s interior, the sight of an open gate set into a tall, stone wall shocked Maddy.
Just what kind of place is this? She craned around, watching the gate start closing by itself until the boxes behind blocked the view. Maddy leaned into the boxes at her side, trying to see past the seat in front of her to catch her first glimpse of the house ahead of them. She could see very little, no matter how she pushed and leaned, but it took at least another minute or two before the minivan came to a stop, and the engine noise fell silent.