Chapter One

“I still can’t understand why I can’t go with you guys to Paris.”

Tommy Brooks slumped further down the backseat of his parent’s car. His arms were tightly crossed in front of him and his face was distorted into a pout.

“We already talked about this a hundred times, Tommy,” Jackson, his father, glanced at him through the rear-view mirror, his blue eyes lacked the friendliness and sympathy he’d always managed to show his son under any circumstances.

But not this time…

Not since they read his report card a two weeks ago.

“You promised us that you would try your best at school and a promise is a promise.”

“But I did try my best!” Tommy exclaimed.

“You had a couple of C’s in your report card,” His mother Jennifer turned on her seat in order to be able to look at her son. “That’s the lowest we’ve seen you bring home. That’s hardly even trying.”

“And we told you what?” His father said returning his gaze forward towards the road.

“That I wouldn’t go with you guys to Paris if I didn’t have A’s and B’s,” Tommy mumbled feeling miserably. He never thought that his parents would carry out the threat…the punishment…for they never (in the past) had done so.

“And you didn’t,” His father’s voice broke through his reveries.

“But why do I have to stay at grandma’s and grandpa’s house of all the places? Why couldn’t I stay at aunt Evelyne’s.”

“Because,” it was his mother who answered his question. “Aunt Evelyne is going camping with her family at Chinook RV Park and that would have been fun for you. It beats the purpose of being grounded, doesn’t it?” She corrected her position on the seat.

Everyone in the car fell silent.

Tommy wanted to continue the argument to convince his parents to take him with them on this trip to Europe. He even thought about making them feel guilty about using grandma and grandpa as a punishment. Is this how she saw her parents-in-law? He thought frowning.

Yes, two elderly people were not the most fun to be around, and he could never get any internet signal on his cellphone because they lived far in the country, but they always gave him presents, let him eat all the food he liked, and grandpa always amused him with his life stories and magic tricks every time he spend a weekend or holiday at their house.

But see them as punishment?

No.

The last time he visited his grandparents they were nearly always too tired to bother with him as frequently as they used to, so they let him do whatever he pleased as long as Tommy followed their warnings and house rules.

Tommy decided not to say any of what he’d just thought. Instead, he kept his mouth shut.

Let them go on their trip without me, he thought angrily. Maybe it is for the best.

He turned his head to the side and stared out the window at the trees that whooshed on by at a high speed making him dizzy and nauseas. He shut his eyes tightly to clear his head and turned around to face forward, then opened his eyes again to see his grandparents’ house looming in the distance.

The building got bigger and bigger as the car approached it.

The more Tommy looked at the house, the more it resembled some sort of a living monster with its two huge windows on opposite side on the second floor, its huge floor-to-ceiling window at the centre, and the wooden deck out front served as a mouth, the railings hungry teeth that would devour anyone who dared enter.

“We’re here,” his father announced the obvious but no one commented on this.

Tommy felt his stomach do a somersault and for the first time (since they got in the car that morning and headed out to Three Rivers) apprehensive.

The vehicle slowed down until it finally came to a stop right in front of the patio’s steps then his father killed the engine and everyone stepped out.

His father walked around to the back of the vehicle, opened the trunk and began taking Tommy’s suitcase while Tommy and his mother walked over to grandma and grandpa who had stepped out onto the deck to welcome them.

“You have gotten so big, Tommy!” Grandma said walking to the boy.

She gave him a kiss on the cheek then she pinched both side with her thumbs and forefingers. He hated it but never said this out loud. Instead, he would squirm and pushed her hands away – not rough but gently – for he didn’t wanted to hurt her physically nor emotionally.

“Hi grandma. Hi grandpa.”

His grandfather gave him a hug and gave him a gentle tap with a fist on the right shoulder.

Grandpa always found this fun to do but Tommy didn’t think it was.

The two old people turned to look at their daughter-in-law and greeted her with hugs and kisses. Tommy couldn’t help but notice how much they had aged since he last saw them a little over a month ago. Their faces seemed to have more wrinkles, their hair seemed to have become whiter and their backs seemed to be curving more forward. Tommy frowned, confused. His grandparents didn’t seem to have as much energy either. They moved slower than before as if walking and talking underwater.

He looked at his mother to see if she noticed the same thing he did but she didn’t seem to.

Maybe it was his imagination.

He did have a wild and vivid imagination.

His father joined them all on the deck. He placed the small suitcase on the ground next to him and greeted his parents with a hug and a kiss on the cheeks. He didn’t seem concerned with his parents’ deterioration.

“Please,” grandma said. “Come in. I just boiled some water for tea.”

“I’m sorry mama but we’re already running a bit late. We need to be on our way if we’re to catch our flight to Paris. We just came to drop off Tommy.”

“Oh, you’re always in a hurry,” Grandma admonished him.

“I’m sorry mama.”

“We’ll call as soon as we land,” Jennifer added quickly. “We promise.”

The grownups exchanged hugs and kisses on the cheeks one more time before their attention was turned to Tommy.

His parents walked over to their son and hugged him. His mother kissed him on the forehead.

“Promise us that you’ll behave yourself while you’re staying here,” His mother whispered.

“I promise.”

“I know you will. We love you, you know.”

“We’ll be back in two weeks, buddy,” His father reminded him as he rubbed his knuckles on top of Tommy’s head, playfully.

Soon he was waving them both goodbye standing next to his grandparents who were also waving.

All three of them stood there until the taillights of the car disappeared into the distance.

“Tommy, dear,” His grandma said. “You should take your suitcase up to your bedroom.” She gave him a small smile before she and her husband walked back into the house.

END OF PREVIEW.

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