Read The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls Online
Authors: Claire Legrand
For my sixth-grade lunch table, who loved my scary stories
Many people are involved in the making of a book, many more than one might originally think. “Is writing a book not simply a writer sitting at a desk and writing said book?” one might ask, befuddled. “Is that not how it is done?”
Why, yes, that is how it is done—but much more happens after that, and even before and during that, and it is those people, those doers of the
, that I would like to take a moment and thank.
First, I must thank my agent, Diana Fox, who is much more than an agent and in fact could be considered superhuman. I am more grateful than I can say for her belief in me and my stories. Similarly, I would like to thank Pouya Shahbazian and Betty Ann Crawford.
Secondly, thank you to my brilliant editor, Zareen Jaffery, for so precisely and so vividly understanding my book and how to make it even better. Thanks must also go to the tireless team at Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, who helped bring
The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls
to life: the intrepid Julia Maguire, Katrina Groover and Michelle Kratz, Justin Chanda, Michelle Fadlalla, and Lydia Finn and
Paul Crichton. Especial thanks must go to designer Lucy Ruth Cummins and the outrageously talented Sarah Watts for making everything look so very pretty.
My first readers, Kendra Highley, Kait Nolan, Susan Bischoff, Lauren Hild, Amanda Johnson, and Malika Horton, encouraged me and, just as I knew they would, made me a better writer. Thanks to Joanna Volpe, as well as to Veronica Roth, Victoria Schwab, Nova Ren Suma, Leigh Bardugo, Stephanie Burgis, Kody Keplinger, Serena Lawless, the relentlessly supportive Apocalypsies, and all the other writers on Twitter and in the blogosphere who support, inspire, and amaze me.
Over the years, several teachers have taught me how to better read and write: Judy Young (first grade), George Uland (sixth grade), Susan Addy (ninth grade), Mike Crivello (twelfth grade), and Ian Finseth (college). And I cannot forget my music teachers, considering how important music became to Victoria and Lawrence in their adventures: Ellie Murphy, who made up stories with me, Dr. Marty Courtney, who taught me discipline, and John Holt, who understood when I needed to leave music behind.
My stepsister, Ashley Mitchell, and my cousin, Emily Jones, are voracious readers and exemplary fangirls. My family—all my aunts, my uncles, my cousins, my stepbrothers—cheer
me on every day. I must specifically thank Grandpa, for deeming me “Scribbles,” and Grandma, for always having paper and colored pencils handy.
The warmest of thanks go to Brittany Cicero, who never let me give up; to Jonathan Thompson, who always believes and never judges. And to Beth Keswani, Melissa Drake, Amanda Tufano (of the aforementioned sixth-grade lunch table), Chris Siefken, Starr Hoffman, and Maureen Murphy, who have tolerated much radio silence on my part and still remain the dearest of friends. To Matt, who loves me—please never stop whirling me about in the air.
Thanks to Anna and to Dad, my very own WD, who love and support me in every way possible, even when that involves reading a manuscript so immense that it takes up two enormous three-ring binders.
For Drew, who is the most loving brother I could imagine, for Mom, who is my best friend and the ultimate heroine, and for Amos, who is a most excellent cuddler despite his overabundance of hair—thank you, always.
WHEN VICTORIA WRIGHT WAS TWELVE YEARS OLD,
she had precisely one friend. In fact, he was the only friend she had ever had. His name was Lawrence Prewitt, and on Tuesday, October 11, of the year Victoria and Lawrence were twelve years old, Lawrence disappeared.
Victoria and Lawrence became friends shortly after Lawrence’s first gray hairs appeared. They were both nine years old and in fourth grade. Thick and shining, Lawrence’s gray hairs sprouted out from between his black, normal hairs and made him look like a skunk. Everyone made fun of Lawrence for this, and really, Victoria couldn’t blame them. Victoria decided that these hairs were a cosmic punishment for Lawrence’s inability to tuck in his shirt properly, use a comb,
pay attention in class (he preferred to doodle instead of take notes), and do anything but play his wretched piano. Not that Lawrence was bad at piano; in fact, he was very good. But Victoria had always thought it an incredible waste of time.
After a few weeks of watching Lawrence’s gray hairs sprout thicker and thicker, and hearing everyone’s snickers, Victoria put aside her general dislike of socializing with, well, anyone, and decided that Lawrence would be her personal project. Obviously, the boy needed help, and Victoria prided herself on telling people what to do with themselves. Sacrificing her valuable time to fix Lawrence would be a gift to the community of Belleville. “How
of you, Victoria,” people would say, and beam at her and wish
children could be like her.
So, at lunch one day, Victoria marched from her lonely table to Lawrence’s lonely table and said, “Hello, Lawrence. I’m Victoria. We’re going to be friends now.”
Victoria almost shook Lawrence’s hand but then thought better of it because she feared he might very well be infested with lice or something. Instead, she sat down and opened her milk carton, and when Lawrence looked at her through his skunkish hair and said, “I don’t really want to be your friend,” Victoria said, “Well, that’s too bad for you.”
Over the years, Victoria pushed herself into Lawrence’s
life and was pushed out of it when he decided that enough was enough, and then pushed herself back in, and finally they were really, truly friends, in an odd sort of way.
Every weekday morning, they met at the crossing of Silldie Place (Victoria’s street) and Bourdon’s Landing (Lawrence’s street) and walked together to school. Most mornings, their conversation went something like this:
“Honestly, Lawrence,” Victoria would say, leading him briskly down the cobbled walk, for Victoria never walked anywhere without extreme purpose, “can’t you tuck in your shirt?”
Sometimes it would be, “Can’t you comb your hair?” or “How do you manage to get past your parents with those ugly shoes?” or “Did you finish your essay on the Byzantine Empire for extra credit like you were supposed to, or did you spend the entire weekend playing that silly piano?”
And Lawrence would roll his eyes or cuff her on the shoulder and say, “Good morning to you, too, Vicky,” which Victoria hated. She abhorred nicknames, especially that one. She also abhorred how Lawrence was always chewing on something, like a toothpick or pen or whatever nasty things he pulled from his pockets.
Nobody liked Lawrence, because he never really bothered to make friends. He lived in a dreamer’s world of ivory keys and messy shirts, unconcerned with the people around him. Those gray hairs of his didn’t help matters. He didn’t seem to mind what anyone thought of him, though. He didn’t seem to mind about much at all except for his piano—and Victoria. For Victoria’s twelfth birthday, Lawrence had written her a long letter and read it aloud right in front of her. It was full of jokes and funny stories, at which Victoria tried not to laugh
loudly, and that was all well and good, till the end happened.
“Honestly, Lawrence,” Victoria would say, . . . “can’t you tuck in your shirt?”
“. . . and so what I really mean is,” finished Lawrence, his face turning quite red, “sometimes, the counselors or professors or Mom and Dad say, ‘Don’t you care that you don’t have many friends?’ And I say, ‘Not really. Because I have Vicky.’ ”
Then Lawrence had folded up the letter and shoved it in his pocket. “So . . . you know. I mean, I really like that we’re friends is what I’m saying. Happy birthday.”
Victoria had been so embarrassed that she had said, “Well . . . you . . . I . . . that’s very nice,” and then ignored him for the rest of the week. She never allowed herself to think about why she’d felt so embarrassed. Such thoughts were messy.
were messy, which was why Victoria avoided them at all costs (except for Lawrence, but he was just a charity case, a project, and certainly—
—nothing more than that). Victoria hated messes. She hated distractions. Friends were the worst distraction of all.
Victoria began every day with a plan, and friends were simply not a part of it.
The Monday before Lawrence disappeared, Victoria awoke at half past six, just as she did every weekday—not one minute before, and certainly not one minute after. Tardiness was an offensive concept. She showered and dressed in her Academy uniform, white blouse and gray pleated skirt pressed stiff and straight. She sat at the vanity her parents had ordered custom from Italy, and brushed her blond curls till they gleamed. Everything about Victoria gleamed.
On her way out, she paused at the bedroom door, as she so liked to do, and inspected everything—vanity and desk; glittering chandelier, white canopy bed; a wall of mirrors and a ballet barre for practicing her exercises; a wall of shelves opposite her bed, floor to ceiling, containing pretty, labeled boxes where Victoria kept all her bookmarks and books and lotions and paper and pens and postcards and ribbons, because that way she never had to see even the tiniest bit of clutter. Her pride and joy were the spotless white walls and white carpet, marred by neither pictures nor smudges.
On most days, Victoria would gaze upon all this and feel a hot swell of satisfaction in her chest. But the Monday before Lawrence disappeared, Victoria felt no such satisfaction. Everything looked just as it should, shining with perfection.
Morning bathed the room in clean, white light. Victoria’s schedule hung above her desk, clearly marking her tasks and lessons for that week. Piano lessons, ballet lessons, painting lessons, and French lessons filled her evenings with blocks of orderly color.