An urban fantasy serial.
Part 1 - Aunt Jenna's Present
"Sometimes life's not fair, Andrew," his mother said, herding him towards the aged sedan, dragging along his two suitcases, the same two he'd used since he was five.
Andrew's parents always made him go every year. He'd have much rather been in his room finishing the game that he had saved up his whole allowance for. He was proud of it because he had been able to save up for it himself, so it was technically his game. It was a really good one too, one that he could never have waited for another birthday (it was a month ago) or Christmas (it was only summer now) to get. It wouldn't be until school started up that he would get to play it again. It wasn't fair. Would it really be that much more trouble for them to send his little TV with him?
Andrew folded his arms in defiance, wearing a thick scowl directed at his father who was glancing at him occasionally through the rear-view mirror. After the first fifteen minutes though he was tired of holding his face in a permanent grudge and relaxed, leaning against the window, resting his cheek against the warm glass, watching a bit of his breath fog it up. He drew a frowny face in it. It wasn't hot yet, but he knew later in the day the whole car would be. He missed the air conditioning already.
"Dad, can I roll down the window?"
There was a pause before the question was repeated and a positive answer was given. Andrew furiously cranked the handle, again wishing they had one of those cars with automatic everything, including A/C. It didn't roll down all the way but it at least went halfway. His cares flew out the window immediately, as the blasting wind refreshed him, blowing his brown hair in all directions. He sighed. The ride was tolerable now. He couldn't wait until he could drive a car; maybe one of those convertibles so he could put the top down on a day like this.
The scenery wasn't so bad, he decided. He could see really far, across the farmlands which seemed to go on forever. They all looked the same to him, a barn here, a tall silo there, long lines of tall trees and endless fences. There were plenty of cows too, and he was glad he couldn't smell them. The corn rows were tall too, but he couldn't see any ears on them yet.
His dad turned off the highway and rolled down a gravel drive. Andrew didn't like the sound, it was loud and the car rocked around on the uneven ground. They slowly passed over a wide stream that was bridged by long, sturdy boards. He looked down and could see hundreds of black dots swarming in the stream, probably tadpoles. He had convinced himself he was too old for things like that now. How long had it been since he had been here last? He didn't know, but everything seemed shorter now, not nearly as big.
When he was little, Aunt Jenna's farm had seemed so huge, like it had it's own zip code. But now even the trees didn't seem as tall as they once had. And her ranch-style house didn't look nearly as long. He could remember it had taken him a whole afternoon just to walk around it, but that probably was because he had been looking for buried treasure. He smiled a little despite his mood.
Coming down the driveway was Aunt Jenna herself, slim and barefoot, even on the gravel, and arms waving, a wide-brimmed sunhat shading her face. "Sheri!"
"Sissy!" His mother opened the door before his father had completely stopped the car.
The two of them met with open arms and hugged each other tightly, Aunt Jenna nearly lifting his mother off the ground.
"So good to see you," she said. Her gaze turned toward the car where she spotted Andrew. "Is that little Andrew!"
"I know, he's growing like a weed," his mother replied and then directly to him, "Come out and say hello to Aunt Jenna."
I'm not five anymore, Mom, he thought. He knew how to be polite. He opened the door and was hugged as well. It crushed him a little but some small part of him didn't mind so much. Aunt Jenna was pretty nice, although it would have been better if she had some kids his age to play with. She didn't have any close neighbors either.
"How old is he?"
"I'm eleven," he said, but not rudely.
"Eleven already?" Jenna said, "I thought it was next year for sure. I didn't have time to prepare."
He wasn't sure what she meant by that, but his father was approaching now with the suitcases and talking to the two of them. Their words buzzed over his head as most adult conversations tended to do. He was still mostly thinking about how much he'd rather be at home with his game for the summer as he followed them mindlessly up the drive and onto the porch, kicking at the more interesting rocks among the gravel as he went.
He looked up to see his mother looking annoyed and she said very carefully, "Aunt Jenna asked you if you would like some lemonade." What she really meant was don't be a jerk, Andrew.
"Yes please," he said to Aunt Jenna who was all smiles, as usual.
Jenna leaned down and said quietly, "I might have something else for you too. Why don't you wait in the backyard? I'll bring it right out soon as I get your folks settled in."
Andrew was relieved to be dismissed and nodded, leaping down the steps and running around to the backyard once he was out of earshot. It blew off a little steam and he felt better.
A herb garden ran along the backside of the house. Aunt Jenna had tried to teach him what all the plants were, but he could never remember all of them. He did know most of them by smell though. He grabbed a leaf between his thumb and forefinger, rubbing it gently to release the oils as she had taught him and then smelled his fingers. Mint. Lavender. Basil. He went down the row until his nose was feeling overwhelmed and he backed off.
"Come now, they don't smell that bad," Jenna said, and he stumbled back even more.
She had that knack of sneaking up on him like a ninja. Even when he was little and playing hide-and-seek with her he had never beaten her. Maybe she was a ninja.
"Just smelled too many," Andrew said.
"Don't be in such a rush. If you smell all the roses at once you'll fall over," she said and laughed at her own joke. It was the sort of thing she always said. He didn't laugh, still feeling bummed, but he did smile. She was trying to make him feel good and he appreciated that.
He noticed she had an arm behind her back, and, almost as if she had read his thought, she showed what she was hiding.
"Happy eleventh birthday, Andrew!"
It was a present: a dark green box wrapped traditionally with a golden, hand-tied bow on the top. He had never received a present like this before. Normally everything was held together by tape with colorful, fragile paper that tore if you poked at it too much. She held it out towards him. He hesitated.
"I'm sorry it's so late. Normally I'm on top of these sort of things, but I suppose I'm getting older too."
She was right about that. Every year her packages always came exactly seven days before his birthday. He didn't think much about it until this year, when one didn't come. It had been part of the reason he was a little upset. Had he done something to upset her? But now she did have something for him. Why didn't she send it earlier? Also, hadn't she said she didn't know it was his birthday? Was she lying? If so, why?
"Go on," she insisted.
He took the gift, surprised at the weight. It wasn't heavy, but it wasn't as light as it had looked. It definitely wasn't full of knitted sweaters or socks. Not that Aunt Jenna had ever given him anything like that. That was mostly his other aunts. His mom had seven sisters and Aunt Jenna was the oldest, his mother being the youngest. He always wondered why he had never seen any of his cousins at her farm. So far as he knew, he was the only one to ever spend summer vacation with her. It's not like his parents were gone or anything. Why was he the only one to suffer? It just wasn't fair.
He knew Aunt Jenna meant well. He really liked her, he did, it's just that for once he wanted to be able to have the summer that all of his friends had: to go to the amusement park, to hang out at the mall and watch movies, even just walking to the convenience store for cheap soda and snacks sounded a lot more fun than the farm. Jenna didn't even have a TV. She did have a radio, but all it picked up ever was country stations and an occasional spanish one that sounded like it was all the way from Mexico. In short, being here was not how he wanted to spend his vacation. Even so, he appreciated the gift.
"Thanks," he said, trying to sound enthused for her sake. She must get lonely out here when I'm not here to keep her company, he thought.
"Don't thank me yet! You haven't even opened it, silly," she replied.
He experimentally tugged on one of the bow tails and the ribbon pulled apart fluttering down. He squeezed his fingernails under the box, holding it with his other arm and tugged. It came off with a whump as the air released. He placed the box lid under the box and looked inside.
Surrounded by a nest of soft white cotton sat a royal blue egg, as big as a whole pineapple. He touched the irridescent surface and it was warm. It moved at his touch. He pulled away his hand.
He looked up at Aunt Jenna, his eyes wide. "W-what is this?"
She was still smiling and put a hand on his shoulder. "Well now, Andrew, that's a secret. I suppose if you really want to know, you'll have to hatch it yourself."
Continue to Part 2?