Authors: Charis Cotter
Copyright © 2014 by Charis Cotter
Published in Canada by Tundra Books,
a division of Random House of Canada Limited,
One Toronto Street, Suite 300, Toronto, Ontario M5C 2V6
Published in the United States by Tundra Books of Northern New York,
P.O. Box 1030, Plattsburgh, New York 12901
Library of Congress Control Number: 2014934478
All rights reserved. The use of any part of this publication reproduced, transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, or stored in a retrieval system, without the prior written consent of the publisher—or, in case of photocopying or other reprographic copying, a licence from the Canadian Copyright Licensing Agency—is an infringement of the copyright law.
LIBRARY AND ARCHIVES CANADA CATALOGUING IN PUBLICATION
Cotter, Charis, author
The swallow / by Charis Cotter.
ISBN 978-1-77049-591-3 (bound).—ISBN 978-1-77049-593-7 (epub)
PS8605.O8846S83 2014 jC813’.6 C2013-906909-7
THE HAUNTED ATTIC
There was no wind, and yet the air
Seemed suddenly astir;
There were no forms, and yet all space
Seemed thronged with growing hosts
They came from Where and from Nowhere
Like phantoms as they were
They came from many a land and place—
The ghosts, the ghosts, the ghosts
ELLA WHEELER WILCOX,
There’s no place for me. I’m getting squeezed out of my own house. My parents want to save the world, and they’re doing it one unwanted kid at a time.
The baby is the final straw. It was bad enough to have foster kids in and out of here every few months, and then it was even worse when Moo and Goo (the silliest teenagers you ever saw) came to live with us on a permanent basis. But at least I always had my own room.
I didn’t want the baby and I told Mum that, but, as usual, she didn’t pay any attention.
“It’s up to us to give Susie a good home,” she said in that social-worker voice of hers. “Not everyone is as lucky as you are, Polly. You need to learn to share.”
Fine. Share my room. Share my clothes. Share my parents. Share everything until there’s nothing left for me.
I know that’s not Christian of me. My dad’s a United Church minister, and over the years I’ve put in enough hours at church and Sunday school to know what it takes to be a good Christian. But I’m tired of sharing!
My room was the only place I had to myself in this crowded house. I had a desk by the window, looking out over the cemetery, where I used to sit and watch for ghosts as it got dark. I had a little bookcase and a big old chair for reading my ghost books. I loved my room.
But when Susie came, they put her crib in front of the window, and out goes my reading chair, and my desk gets shoved into a corner. They say there’s nowhere else to put her. Lucy has her own room, because she needs to study all the time. Moo and Goo share a room, the Horrors share a room, and Mum and Dad sleep downstairs in what used to be the dining room.
Right from the beginning they said the baby would have to share with me. And right from the beginning I said I didn’t want her. But I got her anyway.
The way I see it, my parents will keep packing kids into this house until we’re stacked up in each room like sardines, and when there isn’t an inch left they’ll finally be happy and say, “Great, now we’re taking care of all the kids in the world! No kids are sad or hungry, they’re all here in our house.” And then they’ll forget which kids were theirs to begin with, and we’ll all be one big happy family. Except for me.
I don’t fit in. There’s no place for me. Not at school, not with Mother and Father, not in this new house, not anywhere.
I don’t belong here. My room looks like no one lives there, because Mother is so fussy about keeping things neat that I can’t leave anything lying about, not even a book or a handkerchief.
I go for days without anyone speaking to me. The girls at my new school ignore me and so do the teachers. My parents are never home. That’s why Kendrick is here, so they can stay out late working. After Granny McPherson died, we took over her house, and her ancient housekeeper came with it. Kendrick is slow, but she can still cook and do the housework. It doesn’t take long because this house is like a museum—empty and quiet. She spends most of her time in her flat in the basement.
I don’t even see Kendrick every day. Every night at 5:30 there is one place set at the dining room table. My dinner is on a plate with a cover to keep it warm, and a dish of dessert sits off to the side. I prop my book up against the silver candelabra to read while I try to force myself to eat.
Sometimes Kendrick shuffles into the living room while I’m practicing the piano and gives me a strange look. Sometimes I think she knows.
But she can’t know. I keep it hidden from her, the same way I keep it hidden from Mother and Father and all my teachers and the girls at school.
I am bewitched.
All right, so maybe I’m exaggerating a little. The house won’t hold
the unwanted children in the world. But we’ve already got seven kids and two grown-ups crammed in here, and it’s not that big a house to start with.
It’s in a row of old houses that are all joined together. It has high ceilings and funny little corners and big built-in closets. I’ve found some great hiding places, but the Horrors always seem to find me.