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“Is that it?” I asked as my mom pulled up to the large estate sitting proudly at the top of a hill.
“I think so honey. Although, I didn’t realize it would be so large.”
“Are we at the back entrance?”“Yes, they told us to come this way.”
The driveway was gravel which made the short ride up the hill rather bumpy. My mom parked the car on the grass right next to the driveway and she unlocked the car doors. I jumped out, excited to stretch my legs after the 45 minute drive. I opened the trunk and pulled out my zebra striped duffel bag, my pillow, and my lime green backpack stuffed with all my notebooks. I looked up at the building and realized that there were actually two separate buildings. To me it looked a bit like a hotel we had once stayed in when my family took a trip to Nebraska.
“Wow!” I exclaimed, “this is impressive.”
“It sure is dear. Here, why don’t you carry the casserole.”
I was already carrying a lot, but I was in too good a mood to protest, so I didn’t.There we two separate buildings. One was about the size of our house back in the city, but the other building was much larger. It was two stories tall with a porch that wrapped around the entire first floor. There were two sets of stairs that stretched from the porch up to another sort of balcony/porch that was just as large as the lower one and also wrapped around the building. There were too many doors to count on both the upper and lower floors.
We walked up to the smaller of the two buildings, which only had one door in the back, and my mom, who actually had two free hands at the moment, used the bronze knocker on the door. My friend’s mom answered looking tired, but happy.
“Patricia!” she said as she tried to hug me in a failed attempt because I was carrying so much. “O my word, that’s quite a large bag. You do know that you will only be staying here for a week right?”
“Yeah,” I laughed as I handed her the casserole, “this is for you, Mrs. Henderson. My mom made it.”
Mrs. Henderson took it with a smile, “why thank you. This way I don’t have to cook dinner for seven tonight.”
“Seven?” I asked.
Mrs. Henderson nodded and smiled, “that’s right dear.”
My mother inquired, “who are the other two guests? I was under the impression that it would just be you, Patricia, Emily, Darren, and I.”
“Well,” Mrs. Henderson started, “we have two more people joining us for the week. Come this way,” she gestured, “everyone is in the kitchen.” She led us inside and I instantly felt the air get cooler. It was nice to be away from that sticky, hot, June air outside. The kitchen and the living room were all one large room separated by an island in the kitchen part of the room. The living room had a fireplace that looked as if it was never used. There were boxes littered all around and bubble wrap was strewn everywhere. Emily was the first person that caught my eye.
“Hey Patricia!” she screamed as she hugged me and I dropped my bags. “I know it’s only been two weeks, but I feel like I haven't seen you in forever.”
“Me too!” I replied. “It looks as if you just got here, with all the boxes and everything.”
“Yeah,” she agreed, looking around the room, “It has been a very slow process, but we have most of the boxes cleaned up except in this room.”
Mr. Henderson (Darren) walked up and said, “Patricia, how have you been?”
“Good, thank you,” I replied.
“Well it looks like Margret (Mrs. Henderson) will have dinner ready in a half an hour thanks to your mom.” He turned to Emily and said, “why don’t you show Patricia around before it gets dark? Give her the tour.”
“Okay,” said Emily. As she led me over to the living room area I caught a glimpse of someone behind my mother. Someone I was not expecting to see.
“Um,” I started, “is that Mrs. Adams?”
“Yeah...” Emily replied, “unfortunately the Adams will be joining us for the week also.”
“Wait, do you mean..?”
“Yes, her son too.”
Mrs. Adams’s son was our age and had gone to our elementary school with us for five years. Emily and I had gone to a different middle school than him, but since Emily’s mom and Mrs. Adams were good friends, Emily was forced to see him a lot and unfortunately, so was I.
“Well this sorta just ruined my vacation.”
“Patricia please, this was hardly a vacation. You’re just visiting us for a week and this town stinks anyway. I’ve been so bored. There is absolutely nothing to do here. I’m so glad you came because I have pretty much just been watching DVDs for two weeks because we don’t have cable yet.”
“Alright,” I said, “on with the tour.”
“Okay.” Emily switched to her I-know-more-than-you-about-this-so-you-better-listen voice and continued, “So this is our sort of living room/kitchen place and back here,” she pointed down a short hallway, “is my parent’s bedroom and bathroom. Out here,” she said walking through a set of double doors that had been propped open with a cardboard box, “is the sort of main entrance that my parents haven’t really decided what they are going to use it for yet.”
“Wow,” I said, “this room reminds me of a hotel lobby.” It had one long desk/counter on the left side of the room and at the front, there was a set of glass double doors. The rest of the room looked sort of awkward with no furniture and I could not imagine Emily’s furniture filling the space.
“This place actually used to be a motel and this was the lobby,” Emily replied.
“Really?” I asked.
“Yeah, and back where the kitchen, living room and my parent’s room is was the place where the owners of the hotel, who were also the managers lived.”
“So all the motel rooms are in the other building,” I guessed.
“Where is your room?”
“I’ll show you,” Emily led me through the glass double doors.
The light summer breeze greeted us as it swirled around. There was a gravel path, similar to the driveway, but smaller that led from the “lobby” to the other building. When we reached the other building, we approached one of the two staircases that led to the second floor. As we got closer I saw all the doors had numbers on them.
“How many rooms are there?” I asked.
“About one-hundred,” she answered, “fifty on top and fifty on the bottom.”
We climbed up the wooden stairs and turned to the left. After passing a few rooms Emily stopped. She took out a key, not the sort card shaped room keys that most hotels use now, but and old looking key that reminded me of a skeleton key my uncle once gave me.
Emily read my mind and said, “even when this was a motel, they always used old keys like these. It is a little annoying to have to use a key to get into my room, but my mom always makes me lock the door because it doesn’t lock by itself. There are two keys to every door on this property and they are all in a little closet hanging on numbered hooks in the lobby room.”
“That’s so cool!,” I exclaimed, “Can I see them?”
“Really?,” she asked,” Well if you actually want too, sure. I thought it was kind of stupid.”
She unlocked the room with the number 72 and opened the door and it creaked. I realized that this entire building looked a lot older that the other building. “This was the biggest room, so I asked for it,” Emily said.
If you knew Emily, you could just tell this was her room. All the walls and even part of the ceiling was covered with posters of celebrities. The very old TV with antennas was not exactly Emily’s style, but I recognized most of her furniture from her old room. Her laptop was sitting on her desk that has various fruits painted on it. She had owned that desk ever since I met her.
“Cool,” I said, “is there anything else you need to show me before dinner?”
“I guess not, unless you want to see every single room. Hey, since you will be here for a whole week and this room only had one bed, do you want to go get the key for the room next to this one and put your bags in that one?”
“Sure,” I replied, “then dinner will probably be ready.”
“Yup,” Emily said as she led me out of her room and locked the door.
As she was in the middle of turning the key, we heard, “I’ll come with you.”
Emily let out a little yelp and she turned around a screamed, “Acario! What have I told you about sneaking up on me like that?”
“Sorry,” Acario mumbled, “I just wanted to come with you guys.”
I decided to intervene before this got out of hand. “Hey Acario,” I said making my voice sound far more cheerful than I felt. “I haven’t seen you since Thanksgiving. Gosh, has it been six months already?”
“Yeah,” he said meanwhile Emily was making a face at him.
“Alright,” I said, much louder than necessary, “let's go get the key”.
We descended down the stairs and entered through the main doors. Emily walked up to a sort of built-in cabinet in one corner of the room. It make a creaking sound when she opened it. There were way too many keys to count that were all hanging on little brass hooks labeled with masking tape that was peeling off. Her hand found the hook with number 73 on the tape above it. Dangling from the hook was two keys, both with a 73 engraved in them. She lifted one from the hook and shut the door.
“Catch,” she said as she tossed me the key. I let out a yelp as I almost dropped it, but caught it at the last minute. “It’s a key Patricia, not a crystal ball. It’s not going to break if you drop it.” She pushed open the doors that led to the kitchen and picked up my bags which she handed to me.
“Um,” I stammered, “a little help would be nice.”
“Sorry,” she said and grabbed my pillow from me.
“Thanks,” I said sarcastically, “that’s so much lighter.”
Acario took my backpack from me and seemed surprised by its weight.
“What do you have in here? Rocks?”
“Notebooks,” I said while pushing the doors open to go outside. We raced back upstairs and I fit the number 73-key into the lock and turned the key. The room looked like a standard hotel room with a bed, a very old looking television, a nightstand and a dresser. The bed was not made up and had no sheets or blankets on it. Too bad that Emily’s parents hadn’t hired a maid. I set my zebra duffel bag down on the bed. Emily put my pillow on the bed and Acario set my backpack down on the floor.
“Alright,” Emily said, “time for that casserole.”
When we got back to the kitchen Emily’s mom looked up from a steaming casserole and smiled. “I was right about to go find you three. Dinner is served.” We sat down at the dining room table which was a bit small for seven people, but we managed to fit. There was a sort of awkward silence at first while everyone dish up their food. My mother broke it by saying, “Maybe you kids can go to the town tomorrow.”
“No thank you,” Emily said loudly. “I have no interest in going to the one store the town has, the one restaurant, or the library.”
I could tell Emily had a lot to say about the town, but I cut her off, “I’d like to see the library. I bet it’s a great place to go to learn about the history of this town.”
“Patricia,” she sighed, “you are such a nerd.”
“Well what do you suggest we do tomorrow?”
Emily was silent and her mom said, “well, that’s settled. You three can go to the library tomorrow while us adults go bowling in Afton.
“Bowling?” Emily inquired.
“Yes,” her mother answered, “That’s what we decided to do tomorrow.”
“Well,” I said “have a fun time.”
After dinner, we decided to go outside and just explore the property. On the top of the hill, where the two buildings rested, there were only a couple small trees. Everywhere lower was covered with different varieties of trees scattered about. On the top there was a very overgrown garden.
“My parents say they’ll work on the garden when we get a little more settled in,” Emily explained.
“What’s that?” I asked, pointing to a small structure hidden partially by a birch tree.
“That’s just an old gazebo. My parents are planning on tearing it down.”
“What? Why?” I ran over to it and saw it wasn’t that old. It seemed it was once painted white but was badly in need of a paint job.
“I guess they just think it’s unattractive,” she explained.
“Well I definitely agree with that, but they could just paint it or something.”
Acario was studying the ground. “What’s that?” he asked pointing to a spot on the ground.
“What’s what?” Emily asked.
“That right there,” he said as he walked over to the spot next to the gazebo. I saw something shiny peek out from under a small pile of leaves. He bent down and brushed the leaves away. It was a little plaque that read, “In memory of Jasper Jones.”
“It must have fallen off the Gazebo,” I said as I picked it up. “Who is Jasper Jones? Was he one of the owners?”
“Well,” Emily started, “the owners that owned it before my family’s last name was Carter. I think they only owned it for like a couple of years though. I don’t really know.”
“Maybe we can google it,” I suggested.
“Except for the fact that there is like no Internet at all in this town,” she said.
“Right,” I said, “what if when we go to the library tomorrow we try to find a book that mentions Jasper Jones or the Jones’.”
“Are you kidding me?” she said, “that could literally take years and besides if we find something that mentions the last name Jones, well, it’s such a common last name that we won’t know if its him.”
Acario piped in, “We could ask someone in the town. It’s such a small town that people probably all know each other. Right?”
“That’s not such a bad idea,” I said, “I’ll bring the plaque with us.”
“Okay,” Emily said, “Let’s go inside now. It’s getting dark.” We retreated inside for a game of Monopoly with our parents. After that, everyone, including the parents went to bed.
I woke up to birds chirping outside. For a second, I thought I was back at home, then I realized I was in room 73 at Emily’s...house?...I guess.... I got up and got ready as fast as I could. I put the little plaque in my pocket then I checked the time. 6:45. I was a pretty early riser. I pulled out my newest notebook from my backpack and I sat down on the bed. I had a little time to write before breakfast. I had kept a diary ever since I was eight and it took up quite a few notebooks. I wrote a lot about my life, but since my life wasn’t all that interesting, I also wrote short stories in the notebooks. I heard a knock on the door and I quickly glanced at the clock. 8:27 already?
“Patricia are you awake yet? You're going to miss breakfast!”
“I’ll be there in a second Emily!” I called as I quickly put my notebooks away. I made sure I had everything with me that I would need for the day and I picked up the number 73 key. I opened the door and smiled at Emily.
“Good morning,” she said.
“Good morning to you too,” I replied as I locked to door.
We raced down into the kitchen and I instantly smelled the delicious scent of pancakes and bacon wafting from the stove.
“Yum,” Emily and I said at the same time.
Emily’s mom looked up from her cooking and said, “well good morning girls. We were starting to wonder if we would have to go wake you up ourselves.” We laughed and sat down to eat our breakfast. Everyone was already sitting down and eating.
My mom said, “Patricia, we are going to leave to go bowling soon and after that I’ll be going home. Are sure you’ve got everything you need for the week?”
“Yes mother,” I said with annoyance in my voice.
“I’ll miss you.”
“Uh-huh,” was my reply.
When breakfast was over, Acario, Emily and I started to walk down the gravel driveway. We didn’t speak much and it was actually a bit awkward. When we got to the bottom of the hill, I noticed a significantly smaller building across the street. The style and color of the building reminded me a lot of the motel except for the fact that the motel was kept up well and this building was overgrown with ivy.
“Emily?” I asked, stopping where I was.
“Hmm?” she looked a little bit relieved that the silence was over.
“What’s that building?”
“Umm... I think it used to be a church, but for whatever reason it is closed down now.”
“O,” I answered, not really sure what else to say. We continued on and eventually the scattered houses and buildings grew a bit closer together and we reached the library. When we peeked in the window, at first we weren’t sure if it was open because it seemed so dark inside. When we pushed open the door and stepped inside, I was very surprised by the amount of books that were crammed into such a small room. The ceiling was very tall and bookshelves stretched all the way up to the top.
“May I help you?” The voice came from a young man who appeared to be the
librarian as he was the only person in the library.
“Yeah,” Emily said, “My parents bought the motel recently. We were wondering if you had any books about Jasper Jones. Or you could just tell us about him. We think he had something to do with the motel.”
“Jasper Jones? I don’t think I’ve heard of him before and I know most of the books in the library, although I’ve only been here a short time. The old librarian died about a year ago and when I graduated from college, the town offered me this job. I’m sorry, but you came to the wrong place. You should try going to the general store. The woman who runs it grew up in the town and she knew everybody. I’m Bartleby, by the way.”
“Well thanks for your help,” I said as we left.
The general store was right next to the library which was convenient for us. Emily pushed open the door, which had one of those annoying little bells on it that let the people at the store know someone new just entered. She stepped inside and I was about to follow when I noticed Acario staring off in the distance, in the direction away from the store.
“Acario? You coming?” I asked.
“What? Oh yeah. I just thought I saw...well never mind.” He held the door open for me and I walked in to find Emily speaking with a rather elderly woman.
“These are my Friends Patricia and Acario.” Emily looked reluctant to introduce Acario as her friend.”
“Hello,” the woman said, “welcome to Briarville. My name is Mary Jean and my husband and I have been running the store since 1968.”
“Nice to meet you,” I said shaking her hand. Acario just stood there awkwardly as he really wasn’t a people person, if I didn’t mention that already.
“Your friend Emily tells me her parents bought the Jones’ Motel,” Mary Jean said.
“The Jones’ motel?” Emily asked while raising her eyebrows.
“Well it will always be the Jones’ Motel to me, even if that isn’t what it is really called nowadays,” was her reply.
“Um,” I said, “The librarian told us that you know a lot about Briarville and we were wondering if you could tell us who Jasper Jones was.”
“The librarian eh? I don’t trust that man one bit, but he sent you to the right place. Have a seat will you.” She gestured to a worn out couch at the back of the store. The three of us sat down and I will say it was a bit of a tight fit for three to sit on that couch. I was in the middle. Mary Jean pulled us a rocking chair from the back corner of the room and she too sat down.
“Jasper Jones was a great man. I knew him well, died young, he did. Sometimes I think perhaps he was lucky. He most definitely lived his life to the fullest.”
“Was he the founder of the motel?” Emily interrupted.
“Not exactly,” she replied without even a hint of annoyance. “His father moved here from France in 1937. They lived here for a couple years, then his father, Mr. Jones as I always called him, built the motel in 1940. Their family didn’t have very much money, but thanks to the many parties and celebrations they hosted, the Jones quickly became rich.
Now Jasper Jones, he was my best friend since he moved here. Once, he asked me to marry him, but I declined because I had my eyes set on another man. When his father became older, he gave the motel to him. By that time Jasper had married another woman. She was very pretty, but she wasn’t from here. I got the feeling that he never really loved her. They had a nice family for a while, they had one son and one daughter. Sadly, when the the children were older and the son had a son of his own, he passed away, leaving the already widowed daughter to raise his son. They still live in the town in that mansion yonder,” Mary Jean finished with a sigh.
“You mean the creepy one with the ivy growing everywhere and the statues in the yard?” asked Emily rudely.
“Emily!” I nudged her, wondering if she had already been to the house because Acario and I hadn’t even seen it.
“Yes that would be the one,” the old woman said with an amused smile revealing her oddly enough, straight teeth. The son, Keene, is about your age. I imagine he gets very lonely out here with only his aunt to talk to. You may want to pay him a visit. Now if you don’t mind, my dears, I have inventory to take.” She got up from the rocking chair and disappeared into the room in the back of the store.
“We’re not really going to that mansion are we?” asked Emily.
“I think we should,” I said. “I mean, if Keene is the only other person in this town that is your age, then don’t you want to meet him?”
“No way,” Emily said. “He sounds like a loser.”
“Come on! You can’t be serious. You’ve never even met him,” I said.
“What do you think, Acario?” Emily looked at him as if daring him to say yes. Challenging him to make her angry.
“Umm...” Acario looked from Emily to me and not looking at Emily he said, “I’m with Patricia. I think we should go. I mean,” he hesitated, “we’re only here for the rest of the week and we have nothing else to do so...” He trailed off.
“It’s settled,” I said.
“Are you kidding me?” said Emily.
“If you don’t want to go, we can go without you,” I said while walking toward the door.
Emily was silent then said, “Fine. I’ll go with you, but I’m still against it. I have a bad feeling about that house.”
The house was on the other side of Briarville. It was pretty much as far away as we could be from the motel without actually leaving the town. Like the motel and the church, it was surrounded by trees and sort of isolated from the rest of the town. There was no driveway and I figured no one in this town would need a car unless they wanted to leave the town. There was a cobblestone path with moss growing in between all the rocks. I was walking in the front and I got the sense that both Emily and Acario were scared. It was weird because in situations like this, Emily was usually the brave one.
I knocked on the very old, very tall front door.
A lady that looked many years younger than Mary Jean answered. She had a very sour looking face, like she never smiled. “Can I help you?” she asked in an uptight voice.
“Umm,” I stammered nervously, “we were looking for Keene Jones. Does he live here?”
“Yes,” she replied with a cool gaze. “He lives here, however as his aunt, I don’t allow him to have visitors. They are distractions to his work.”
“Work? Mary Jean from the general store told us he was about our age.”
“His age is no concern of yours. Leave my residence at once!”
Then we heard a distant voice and footsteps. “Aunt Clementine? Is someone at the door?” The footsteps became closer and Clementine remained silent as did Emily and Acario. In fact, Emily and Acario had become so silent I had to turn around to make sure they hadn’t left me there! “Hello,” said a boy that I guessed was Keene. “Who are these people?”
“No one dear,” Clementine dismissed us as if we were not even there. “They were right about to leave.”
Ignoring his aunt, Keene turned to us and with a frown asked, “Who are you and what are you doing at my house?”
Emily found her voice and stepped out from behind me. “I’m Emily and my parents recently bought the old motel. These are my friends visiting from the city. This is Patricia,” she said while gesturing at me, “and this is Acario. Mary Jean said since I was new in the neighborhood, I may want to introduce myself to you.”
“Well,” he said smiling now, “I’m certainly glad you did. It’s nice to meet you . All of you.” He shook all of our hands before turning back to his scowling aunt. “I’ve finished all of my school work that Bartleby assigned me and all of my chores and it isn’t even noon yet. May I please go with these people to lunch?”
“We didn’t invite you to lunch,” I pointed out politely.
“You were thinking it,” he said and Emily and I exchanged a confused glance.
“Alright,” Clementine said, “you may,” Keene cut her off and said quickly ,
“But, don’t get into any trouble.”
“I won’t!” I had a strange feeling that poor Keene didn’t get out much.
“So,” I started casually when we started walking, “the librarian is the teacher?”
“O no,” he shook his head, “we have no teachers in this town. Bartleby is simply my tutor.”
“I see,” I said.
“Are we going to go back to the motel and get food for a picnic like we planned?” asked Emily.
“I don’t see why not. Does that sound good to everyone?” I asked.
They all nodded. “Excuse me,” started Keene looking at Acario, “what is your name again?”
“Acario,” Acario said quietly.
“What an unusual name,” Keene said. Acairo said nothing and we kept walking, headed toward the motel. It was fairly windy, but the sun shined brightly and though it was warm out, it wasn’t quite hot.
“Wait,” I said, “was there never a school in this town?”
“There was,” said Keene, “but it closed before I was born. It was actually connected to the old church, near the motel. The school closed down because not only was it hard to find good teachers, but there were not nearly enough kids so the town agreed to stop spending thier money and time on the school. The church was open for a few years afterward, some of my earliest memories are going to church. The priest died and was never replaced.”
“So that’s what happened to the church,” Emily mumbled.
“Yeah,” Keene said. “What’s it like living in the city?”
“Well,” I started, “It’s louder, there are more people and more buildings. It’s not that great really. It like it here better. It’s peaceful.”
“Just try living here for a few weeks,” said Emily. “I miss home and our school. I don’t understand why my parents thought it would be a good idea to live out here.”
“Miss school? It’s summer!” I laughed.
“Yeah well,” she said struggling to come up with something to say, “it turns out there are things even more boring than math class.”
“I agree with Patricia,” said Acario. I like it here better and I hate school.”
“I thought you were a nerd!” exclaimed Emily. “Nerds love school.”
“Emily!” I said with a glare.
“Well I don’t love school,” Acario said with a frown.
“That doesn’t make sense,” Emily said. “You get perfect grades and all the teachers love you.”
“Yeah well none of the other kids do!” he looked down and said, “my only friends don’t even go to the same school as me.”
“Who are...,” Emily started to ask, “O you mean us.” Emily looked guilty. but didn’t say anything. Keene looked uncomfortable, clearly not used to people quarreling like this.
I saw we had reached the foot of the hill leading up to the motel so, to ease the mood, I said, “race you guys to the top!” I took off and hoped that someone would follow me so that I didn't look stupid and childish.
I got to the top all out of breath and as I was pulling out the key (that opened to door to the main building), I turned around o see if anyone actually followed me. I saw Keene run up over the top of the hill with Acario following close behind. I guess Emily was in too bad of a mood to follow. I unlocked the door and yelled, “come on!” Then, I walked inside to the nice air-conditioned building.
I opened the fridge and not really seeing anything good, I opened the freezer. “Is Emily coming?”
Keene glanced back and said, “yeah but she wasn’t running.”
“What do you guys want for lunch?” I asked, gesturing at the fridge.
“Frozen pizza,” said Acario. “Before my mom left, she told me we could have that.
“Pizza it is,” I said while taking the pizza out and peeling the plastic wrap off. I set the oven to the right temperature and put the pizza in. “Hey,” I started hesitantly, “where’s Emily? Shouldn’t she be here by now?”
“Yeah,” said Acario, “I was wondering the same thing.”
“Is she mad at me?” asked Keene.
“I’m sure she’s not mad at you. If anything, she is probably angry with me. Lord knows why.” I said.
“Should I go look for her?” asked Acario.
“No, I will,” I sighed. “Just take the pizza out when it’s done.”
“Got it,” Keene said.
I walked outside and didn’t see a trace of Emily anywhere.
I figured that she went up to her room, so I climbed the stairs, located her door and knocked.
“It’s open,” I head.
I walked in and asked, “what’s wrong?”
Emily looked up and said, “It’s just that, I don’t want to live here. There is seriously one other person that’s my age in this town!”
“Yeah, and he’s making pizza for us right now.” I could tell Emily was upset, so I said, “you know, I would really like to live out here. Would you like it better if I lived here with you?”
“Of course that would be better. You’re my best friend.”
“Wanna know a secret?” I asked, wondering if I should really tell her.
“One of the reasons my mom wanted to visit you guys out here was because she was considering moving out here. She’s an author so she thought it would be a good idea to move here for inspiration. I didn’t want to tell you because we weren’t sure about it, but if I tell my mom how much I want to move out here, she would probably agree.”
Really Patricia?” she asked while smiling. “That would actually be really awesome.” She hugged me and then I said, “Let’s go have lunch, shall we?”