Jerome looked down from the second floor balcony where he was perched and watched the new neighbors get out of their car. He had been reading, something he loved to do. Ever since he could remember, he had a knowledge of the world other people didn't possess. Though he was only 12, Jerome already knew more then almost all of his peers. His mother called him a bookworm, and it was true. The local librarians all knew Jerome on a first name basis. He hopped down from the swinging chair and peered over the decorated railing, trying to get a better view of the car in the next-door driveway below. It was a chilly day, as it usually was, and Jerome shivered as he watched the people below. The father seemed to be a busy man, as he was already unloading what looked like a laptop from the trunk of the gray vehicle. As the passenger door opened, Jerome saw a tall, gaunt man step out into the fresh air. He leaned back into the car and said, "Unload the trunks please girls. I have work to do inside." He shut the car door, walked around to the trunk, and unloaded a laptop case. He carried it towards his new house, giving the car a glance as he entered the old building. Jerome wondered to whom the man was referring to when he had said "girls". He found out quickly, because the back door of the vehicle opened and a girl about his own age jumped out. He could tell she was about his age, because she was his same height, or at least that's what it looked like from above. She was dressed in dark blue jeans, with a furry coat around her shoulders. Black hair topped her head, coming down just below her shoulders. She walked a few steps away from the car, then turned and waited. Jerome waited too, except he didn't know exactly why they were waiting. The girl stood still for about 30 seconds, and then when nothing had happened, she took a look around her for the first time. Jerome hurriedly ducked as she gazed upwards, not wanting to be caught spying. He stayed down for a minute, not sure if she had seen him or not, and then heard a loud noise, which was two car doors opening simultaneously. Peeking over the railing, he saw two girls who appeared a few years younger then him running towards the house. "I'll beat you there!" cried one of them, who also had a head full of raven black hair like the woman and the first girl. She was also wearing a pink frilly dress. "Not if I can help it!" laughed the other girl, who was racing to catch up with the girl in the dress. Short blonde hair came down to her shoulders. The girl caught up with the girl in the dress, and it looked as if their race might end in a tie. Before they reached the old stairs leading to the door however, the blonde girl fell to the ground, and let out a cry of pain. The dark haired girl in the dress touched the door, laughing. "I won!" she giggled, trying to catch her breath. "You did not!" the blond haired girl protested. "You tripped me! That's cheating!" She gave the other girl a hard glance and frowned. Her companion just smirked, and flounced into the house. The blond haired girl sighed, and headed into the old mansion after her "victorious" partner. Jerome watched them leave, wondering if he could ever be friends with them. You see, Jerome didn't have many, if any, people he could call his friends. He was a reader, with no time to spare for fun and games. The driveway below seemed empty now, lifeless. His thoughts returned to the first girl to exit the car, the one about his age. "Where was she?" he wondered. Suddenly a voice interrupted his thoughts from below. "You up there!" it was a girl's voice. Jerome leaned farther over the balcony, looking down at the girl below, realizing he had been caught. "It's not very nice to spy on people," the girl said casually. Jerome gulped, "Um, er, I didn't mean to spy, really" He looked down at his feet, then back at the girl, and caught a trace of a smile on her lips. "I'm Adele," she said, "what's your name?" "I'm Jerome", said Jerome. "Hello Jerome," Adele said, "It's nice to meet you. So, do you always spy on people like that?" Jerome scratched his brown hair nervously. "Well, like I said, I wasn't spying. I think I have a right to stand on my own balcony..." he trailed off. A voice came from the front door, "Adele! Unload the bags!" Jerome looked and saw the blonde haired girl standing on the porch next door. "Ok Addy, I'll do it right now" Adele sighed, but not wearily, just as if she had been doing something important and hated to be interrupted. "Sorry but I'd better get to work." Jerome nodded "Um, ok." Adele turned to go, then her gaze returned to Jerome. "I...guess I'll see you around…since we're neighbors and everything." she smiled. "I guess you will" Jerome could feel his face growing warm...it was cold out, so why was he turning red? Adele disappeared behind the car, and Jerome reluctantly went back to reading. Just as he found his place, he heard his mothers voice calling. "Jerome, are you out there?" He sighed, knowing what would happen next. "Yes mother, I can watch her!" he replied. His mother stepped out onto the balcony. "Dear, I was wondering if you could watch Helvetica well I go shopping." He didn't bother to answer her again and she took his silence as a yes. "I'll be back in a few hours," she called, "Be good!" Jerome stood up and, after one last glance towards his new neighbors house, went inside to attend to his baby sister.
Adele lugged the last bag in and sat heavily on a dust-covered satin couch in the parlor of the aged house. A cloud of dust settled around her; and she coughed as her sisters entered the room. Ava, the oldest of her younger twin sister's, looked around the room. She noticed the dusty furniture and decided to stand. Addy sat down next to Adele, making the bottom her blouse covered in dust. She smiled at Adele and said, "You've finally unloaded everything!" Ava smirked at Adele and added "We thought it'd take you all night, you're so slow," Adele looked at Ava, noticing a speck of dust on her raven-black hair. "I don't have enough energy to say something clever back to you," she admitted. It wasn't much of a comeback, but Adele was terribly tired. It had taken the better part of thirty minutes to drag the bags into their new home; they had been driving nearly the whole day, stopping only to relieve themselves and, of course, eat.
Addy looked at her sisters, smiling mischievously. "Let's go exploring!" Adele nodded at her always enthusiastic little sister. "Who knows what we might find?"
Ava looked as if she would refuse, but then agreed amiably. They started towards the kitchen, but Ava spoke up. "We should go upstairs first." They walked up the stairs and entered the study, where their father was typing on his portable computer. "Hello father," Addy greeted him warmly. "Hello Addison," he replied, without looking up. She ran across the room, and sat down next to him. Adele and Ava exchanged knowing looks. "Would you like to play with us father?" she said, clutching his arm. He tore his eyes away from the screen. "Girls, you know I am very busy. Please, leave me alone right now." He wrenched his arm free of Addy's grasp and began typing again. Adele motioned for her sister to come with them, "Let's leave him alone to work Addy," She grudgingly agreed, and they hurried out of the study. Next they visited their rooms, finding nothing worth describing here, and to end with came to the attic. Elderly trunks filled the room, and the scent was heavy with old things. It was awfully dark and murky. Adele shivered. "Why don't we play hide-and-seek?" Ava suggested. Addy and Adele glanced at each other, knowing that Ava normally didn't like hide-and-seek very much. But since she offered they decided to accept. "Remember," Ava said, "Only hiding inside, Adele can count." "I'll give you 30 seconds", said Adele and began to count. Addy hurried, down the hall and Ava rushed down the stairs. "I'll hide outside and then they'll never find me", she thought as she ran gleefully out the front door.
As Ava exited the elderly Victorian house, laughing about her excellent choice of hiding spots, she discovered it was raining lightly. She hadn't thought to bring a jacket and she shivered in the early night chill. If she had been anyone else in the world, she might have given up on her plan and run back inside. Back to the warmth of the fireplace in the living room, back to the trunks in the dusty attic, back to the familiarity of her family. But she wasn't just anyone. She was Ava. So, without a glance back at the house, she began walking slowly through the neighborhood. The houses were mostly old, Victorian style buildings; and almost all of them had 2 floors. Some had rundown yards, with yellow grass and weeds littering them. Others were well kept, with rose bushes, yellow petunias, and forget-me-nots. Ava stopped, something catching her eye. This house seemed oddly different to Ava. Yes, it looked like all the other houses she had passed, but no, it felt different! What had first caught her eye were the roses out front. They were her favorite color: black. The house seemed vaguely peculiar as well; what it was, Ava couldn't quite put a finger on it, though. She strode over to the roses, admiring the way the rain lightly drizzled, making it seem almost as if the flowers were crying. Making it seem almost as if the house itself was crying. "But why would they be sad?" Ava wondered. There was a creaking noise, and Ava looked up to see the door of the house opening. An old woman stepped onto the porch. Ava stopped breathing for a few seconds, scared at the sudden intrusion of her peaceful, quiet, rainy world. "Hello young lady" came the voice that emanated from the doorway. It didn't quite sound like it came from the woman though, it seemed far off, even distant. Ava realized the woman was expecting an answer from her. "Hello" she stammered back in reply. "And just who might you be?" the elderly woman asked. "I'm Ava," said Ava. The woman nodded her head; as if this confirmed what she had already known. "Ava..." she said to herself. Ava turned away from the woman, wanting to leave the strange house behind. "Well," she said, "I had better be going now. My mother is going to miss me if I stay out much longer." The woman narrowed her eyes, though Ava did not see this since her back was turned. "You can go back if you'd like" the woman spoke "but if you choose, you may stay here until this storm passes. It won't be safe for a girl as young as you are." Ava heard this and looked up at the sky. She saw nothing except the light rain falling down, as if from the heavens above, something was crying. She whirled around and faced the woman. "What storm?" she challenged. Suddenly the woman's eyes seemed to glow. Lightning flashed around Ava and thunder cracked a few seconds later. "Oh, crap." Ava muttered. "Come in," said the woman, "I don't bite". Ava looked at the sky, which was now very dark and very scary to her. "If...if it wouldn't be a bother to you." Ava slowly said. "Oh, its no bother" the woman said. Then silently, speaking to herself, "I've been waiting a long time".
Adele was worried now. Worried, but not upset. Adele had found Addy hiding in the attic after a short search; but after both of them had checked the entire house, there was no sign of Ava. They had tried calling for her, "Come out Ava!" Adele would yell, "You won, the games over!" But Adele and her fair-haired sister both knew that Ava wouldn't come out until she felt like coming out. They waited in the dusty sitting room, talking about their old home and what this new one would be like. (Scene: Adele brings up the boy next-door.)
Ava had taken a seat at Mrs. Nevaeh's dining room table. That was the old woman's name, of course. The old lady had offered Ava a cup of tea, which she accepted instantly, realizing a cup of tea was exactly what she needed on this cold stormy night. Waiting for the elderly woman to return, Ava thought back to yesterday morning, the last time she had drunken tea at her old home. It had been a warm cup of peppermint, which was her favorite. She had decided to fix her own cup of tea, and in doing so; she had learned that making a good cup of tea takes patience. IF there was anything Ava lacked, it was patience. She could sit still well enough at social gatherings and the like, but try and get her to sit still for school lessons and you would soon see it was of no use. Ava's thoughts were interrupted when Mrs. Nevaeh returned, sitting down across from her at the carved wooden table. The woman handed her a black mug, steam pouring out of the top. Ava grasped the mug, and quickly discovered that it was hot. She set it down on the table with a loud thump. The old lady laughed and set hers down as well. "I think you'll enjoy it," the woman said. Ava looked up and then back at the mug before her. She sniffed and noticed that an aura of peppermint drifted up from the cup. Astonished, she stared at the woman. "H-how did you know I like peppermint?" Mrs. Nevaeh nodded, "It is my favorite as well. I knew when I saw you that we have similar tastes." Ava wondered what the woman meant, and was about to ask her, when the woman again questioned. "Do you believe in heaven?" Ava leaned in closer, not sure if she had heard correctly. The woman noticed and repeated the question again, "Do you believe in a heaven?" Now normally, Ava would have scoffed at this, for Ava was not one to believe in things that are unseen. But there was something about this woman that demanded a more open answer. "I don't know...I, I guess no one knows, until they die." Ava said. Mrs. Nevaeh looked thoughtful for a moment. "Can I show you something, Ava?" she questioned. "I suppose," Ava replied. "I'm stuck here anyway, until this storm ends." Mrs. Nevaeh got up, and led Ava through a long corridor. Ava noticed it was very dusty, and looked as if it had not been inhabited for quite some time. They came to a set of stairs and the woman started up them. Ava paused. She didn't like this old lady; something felt odd about her. Just as Ava was about to turn around, and run back outside into the horrible storm, something happened. It wasn't drastic, and not anything Ava could put her finger on, but she knew it at once. It was a feeling. She had to follow the woman up the stairs. She didn't know why, but she had too. It was almost as if an invisible string had been attached to her, and was now pulling her up the rotted staircase, slowly but surely. Ava ascended the stairs, trying to catch up with Mrs. Nevaeh, who had disappeared from view. "Hello?" called Ava, wondering if she had made the right choice by following the woman upstairs. But then again, it wasn't really as if she had a choice about it. When you have a feeling like the one Ava had that day, it is almost impossible to go against that feeling, almost as if someone or something is operating you, and you are no more then a toy for them to play with. This was how Ava felt as she reached the top of the winding staircase, and walked through the opening to her left. She entered a small room and saw the woman standing over a glass case. Ava walked towards it; further into the tiny room, and immediately noticed the air was different here. It smelled musty, like the smell of a forest fire. Stepping up to the case where the woman was directing her attention, Ava saw what Mrs. Nevaeh had wanted to show her. The case seemed antique; it had a certain fanciful quality about it, and yet, it wasn't really old looking. Inside the cylinder shaped case was red velvet lining, and, nestled in the middle of the velvet, was a locket with a rose charm hanging from the middle. It glowed in the dim lighting and for a moment, Ava thought she heard bells around her, like fairies whispering to her. But she knew fairies weren't real. "Beautiful, isn't it." Ava looked at Mrs. Nevaeh and nodded in agreement. It was beautiful. Perhaps the most beautiful thing Ava had ever laid eyes upon. The glow coming from the necklace seemed warm, and Ava inched closer to the case, rubbing the sleeve of her dress on its cool glass exterior. "Be careful," the old woman's voice cut through her mind, "it's very old, very precious, very dangerous." Ava nodded again, thinking how wonderful it would be to wear this wondrous locket around her own neck. Suddenly a thought popped into Ava's inquisitive mind, "Where did it come from?" she asked. Mrs. Nevaeh chuckled to herself. She gestured to some chair in the back of the small room. "You see, that is what I want to tell you, dear." Ava sat down in one of the wooden chairs, which was quite uncomfortable. The frail woman sat next to her, putting her arms on the armrests of the chair, and sighing deeply, as if she was searching for the right words. "Well?" Ava prompted, drawing a smile from Mrs. Nevaeh. "Where did the locket come from?" Ava asked again, anxious to know the answer. The woman looked at Ava, as if trying to see beneath the surface. "There are two things you must promise me, if I am to tell you the story of this locket," Mrs. Nevaeh replied. "One, is this: what I am about to tell you is completely true. It may seem impossible and perhaps crazy, but I ask you to hear me out and not dispute what I say." Ava nodded, wondering what was so impossible about this golden locket. "The second thing is that you must tell no one what I tell you now," said the woman, "this is a secret that has been guarded for many years, and if the wrong people heard of its existence…" she paused, giving Ava a chance to voice a question. "But," Ava blurted, "If this is such a big secret…why are you telling me?" Mrs. Nevaeh looked thoughtful for a moment, and then lifted her gaze to meet Ava's. The woman's eyes were a dark green, and Ava couldn't help but think to herself that Mrs. Nevaeh must have been quite pretty when she was younger. The old woman stared into Ava's dark gray eyes and said resolutely, "Because the time has arrived."
Over an hour had passed now since Ava had last been seen; and Adele was getting worried. "Come on Addy, we should tell father..." Adele said. Addy, on the other hand, was not worried at all, or at least did not show it. "Relax, she's just trying to get some attention" replied Addy, rolling her gray eyes in a nonchalant manner. Adele pointed to the elderly grandfather clock that stood in the center of the back wall in her room, which is where they had been for the past ten minutes. "Look," explained Adele, "it's been at least an hour since she's been gone. We need to at least inform father." She jumped of the bed and hurried towards the door, which was antique, and made of finely polished wood. Addy looked down at her feet, "I don't think he'll even care," she said, "He never has time for us anymore." Her voice became teary at that point, and she stopped. Deciding that her sister was probably right about Ava not being in danger at the moment, Adele made the choice to comfort her sister. Walking over to Addy, she reached her arms out and enveloped her in an enormous hug. A hug that said, "Yes I know."
"Yes, I won't tell anyone, I promise!" exclaimed Ava, who was still very interested in hearing the story behind the precious locket. Mrs. Nevaeh gave her a stern, but friendly look and nodded. The frail woman began her long-held story with a question. "Have you ever heard of the Realm of the Forgotten?" she asked quietly. Ava tried to keep from giggling, it sounded like something from out of a bad horror movie she had once seen with her sisters. "No," she voiced, "I don't believe so." "Well," the woman continued, "this locket was made there. It originally belonged to the ruler of the Realm. It was forged with the finest gold in the universe, and contains such power, that few who hear of it even believe the stories are true." She gazed down at Ava, trying to figure out what Ava's reaction would be to this. Ava was simply watching her, waiting to hear more, "Go on," she prompted. Mrs. Nevaeh gave a slight nod. "The locket was stolen from the palace of the ruler. It was considered lost for some time." She seemed to think for a few seconds, "Of course, people were searching for it all the time, but no one ever had any luck finding it. Eventually, everyone who believed in it, thought it lost forever; and of course there were those who doubted its existence at all." Ava raised an eyebrow, as if she found this interesting and amusing. The elderly lady shot her a look. "Do you understand?" she asked. Ava tilted her head to one side, so that her black hair touched the ground. "So, this locket was made by a ruler…the ruler of the Realm of the Forgotten?" At this point, Mrs. Nevaeh nodded. "And it had great power, so it was stolen from this ruler." Again, the old woman nodded. "So then, after some time, people either believed it was gone forever, or didn't believe in it at all." Ava finished. "Yes," Mrs. Nevaeh said, "but then..." Ava leaned closer. "Then it was found. By someone in our world," Mrs. Nevaeh finished. Ava nodded, and then looked confused, "What do you mean, "Our world"?" The woman looked at the sky, and then at Ava. "The locket was made and kept in the Realm of the Forgotten," Mrs. Nevaeh replied, "somehow, it got into this world. The world you and I are in now." "You mean," Ava questioned, "there are other worlds besides the one we are in now?" The old lady squinted, as if trying to see something clearer. "Not exactly other worlds, but other dimensions. The Realm of the Forgotten is where people go when they…"she glanced at Ava, "…die." Ava stared for a second, then leaned back in the uncomfortable chair. "You do not believe me." Mrs. Nevaeh's question sounded like a statement, and Ava did not answer her. The old woman's voice lowered, as if she was speaking not to Ava, but to herself, "Others have an excuse not to believe, but they have no proof. You and I, yes, we have the proof. We have the locket." Ava noticed her eyes glinted when she mentioned the locket. "What do you mean?" asked the girl. "Just look for yourself!" cried Mrs. Nevaeh, who was apparently upset with non-believers, "does that look like an ordinary locket to you?!" she pointed towards the glass case. Ava only paused for a moment before replying, "The locket is very lovely. But just because you have a locket doesn't mean the Realm of the Forgotten is anything more then nonsense. I'm too old to believe in such tales." Here she put her nose in the air with a hint of finality in her voice. Mrs. Nevaeh frowned for a moment, then she obviously thought of something, because her frown turned into a grin. Ava continued with a question, "There is no way to know if this Realm as you call it is true…no one would know until they died!" she finished with a smug smile, thinking she had proven the Realm of the Forgotten was false once and for all. "Oh?" Mrs. Nevaeh asked, "What if I sent you there?"
They were getting ready to head outside now. Though at times Ava could be bossy, stuck-up, and even a bit silly, she was their sister. "No matter what," Adele thought, "That is what will keep us together." After waiting another hour for Ava to return, the two sisters had taken their concerns to their father. As Adele had expected, he had told them he was working, and that he was sure Ava would return soon. It was almost 7 o'clock now and the world was beginning to darken. As Adele hurried to put on her coat, a small voice from beside her interrupted her rush. "What do you think has happened to her?" Adele looked down at Addy, who was looking up at her with sad, gray eyes. Adele decided she could only give a truthful answer, "I don't know." This somehow seemed to satisfy the younger girl, and she also dawned her jacket, which was blue with gray faux fur in the hood. They opened the door and walked into the night, which was quickly growing dimmer. The storm had calmed now, and the rain was gone, replaced with a stiffening blackness that seemed to envelop them in its clutches.
Jerome was getting very bored now. Usually, when he was bored, he would just pick up a good book and read it. It didn't matter if he had read the novel before; Jerome had many books he enjoyed that he had read many, many times. But he couldn't read a book right now; his mother forbade it during times when he was babysitting. When Jerome read a book, he became so immersed in the reading that he sometimes would forget to go down for dinner. Once, about two years ago, he had stayed in his room for 14 hours straight, reading a certain book by a certain Greek author. Since Jerome was not one to go against his mother's wishes, he did not read. He tried to play a game with Helvetica. However, she was not interested in chess it seemed. No, that wasn't quite right. She was interested in chess, only not the way Jerome was. She was more interested in eating the chess pieces. The rook has been the first to suffer this terrible fate, and though Jerome scolded her and told her that eating plastic game accessories was something only terribly horrid babies do, she did not stop. She just pretended not to hear him. Helvetica had an active mind, which is just another way to say that she did what she wanted to do, no matter what anyone else said or thought. Jerome finally gave up trying to play with his baby sister, and looked thoughtfully out the window, his thoughts returning to earlier that day, when he had observed the new family moving in, and had been caught spying on them by the girl who looked to be his own age. What was her name? Oh yes, Adele. Adele. A pretty name, he thought, and then wondered why he thought it. A wave of motion caught his attention and he looked out the window, focusing on the house next-door. The door had opened and now there stood 2 figures on the porch. He guessed them to be the older girl, Adele, and one of the two younger girls. "C'mon Helvetica," he whispered to the baby, "we're going out for a walk" The baby giggled, and took the knight out of her mouth, which was dripping spit from its helmet. Jerome couldn't help but roll his eyes at the baby-ish behavior. "You are most definitely not mature enough for chess," he complained. His sister smiled and reached out to him, saying "Up!". He obliged, and lifted her into his arms, getting up, and walking out of the front door, into the dark night. Though Jerome was not quite a brave lad, he was a well-read person, and that made him quite confident at times. "Hello!" he called to the girls, who were walking up his driveway towards him. The older one gave him a small smile, the smaller one simply continued walking towards him with poker face. He readjusted Helvetica in his arms. She was getting to be heavy now, not so heavy that he couldn't hold her, but heavy enough that it wasn't as easy as it had used to be. The girls reached him, and stopped, the younger one looking up at the sky, as if searching for something. "Hello", said the older one, the one named Adele. "Hello" said Jerome again. Helvetica waved to the two girls. The younger one smiled, then, and waved back. "Have you by any chance seen a girl about her size," Adele motioned to the girl next to her ", around anywhere? She's our sister, and we think she may be lost, or something." Her smile faded and she looked at him with wet, gray eyes. But wait, Jerome thought, they weren't gray. Not totally, at least. He looked closer and saw a flash of blue in them as well. "Yes," he said, "I noticed a girl about her height," he looked at the smaller girl, who he could now see had blonde hair that went to her shoulders and curled, slightly, "she was walking along that way," he pointed in the direction to the left, away from his and the girls' houses. Adele's face brightened, "Oh, thanks a lot. We were getting worried about her." The air grew darker around the 4 children, and the silence was just beginning to get awkward when Adele's smaller sister tugged on her coat. "Let's go find her?" asked the blond haired girl. Adele looked down and gave a nod. She turned to face Jerome, "I'm sorry, this is Addison," she motioned to her sister, "Addy for short." Jerome smiled at Addison, and so did Helvetica. "I'm Jerome," said Jerome, "and this is my sister Helvetica. Hel for short." Addison looked confused for a second and then voiced her confusion, "That's an odd name, isn't it? I thought Helvetica was the name of a type font." Jerome felt compelled to defend his baby sister's name, and said, "It isn't really an odd name. There are lots of names more odd than hers," Helvetica gave him a thankful look. Addison looked apologetic, "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to say I didn't like her name," she looked towards baby Helvetica, "I think its quite a lovely name. Very unique." She smiled. Jerome looked at Adele, and addressed his question to her, "So, you're off to look for your sister?" Adele nodded, "Yes, I guess we are. Although now that I think about it, I'm not quite sure how to begin." Jerome thought for a moment, "Well," he said, "If I were you, I would knock on the doors of the houses along this way and ask them if they've seen your sister. Maybe she stopped at one of their houses to wait for the storm to pass." Adele looked around and nodded. "That's a good idea, only," she said, "I'm not sure how to ask them…being new here and all…" Jerome suddenly thought of something. "Actually," he began, "I know almost all of the neighbors along this way, and I could, well, if you'd like, I could come along with you." Addison tugged at her coat again, "Oh, let them come along," the younger sibling said, "It would be nice to have Hel come along with us!" Adele nodded her agreement, although I am not quite sure she was thinking of the baby when she made her decision. "Ok," she said, "I guess we should get going." Jerome stepped off the porch, still holding Helvetica, and agreed. "Yes," he added, "we had better hurry before it gets dark…now," he went on, "tell me why exactly your sister has run off?"
The children had moved down the street, stopping at each house to ask if the occupants had seen a small-ish girl recently. There had been almost no luck, save for one man, Mr. Smith, who had seen her walking near the south end of the neighborhood. Adele was beginning to worry, and she could tell by her sister's lack of enthusiasm that Addy was tiring of searching. They'd been walking for almost 30 minutes now in the dark and dreary night, and had almost come to the last house on the block. They were at the 2nd to last house, when Adele paused for a moment, "Perhaps we should head back now; it's getting late." She guessed it was nearing 7 o'clock, and as a general rule, Adele and her sisters had to be home by 7. Jerome nodded, and his baby sister fidgeted. (If you could have been there that night, and if you had seen them, you would have thought to yourself, "My, what a cute baby!") She had dark hair that seemed almost as thick as Adele's. Jerome spoke up, "I believe that would be a good idea. Helvetica is getting antsy anyway. I'm," he paused and looked at Addy, "I'm sure Ava has returned home by now." Addy smiled at him, but turned to face Adele. With a pleading look in her eyes she said, "Please, let's not go back yet!" Adele looked at Addy, and then leaned closer to the younger girl and spoke softly, "Addy, its getting late…I'm positive that she's back home by now. She was probably hiding inside the whole time." Adele finished with a reassuring smile, and began to turn around. Jerome turned with her and they began walking in the direction they had come from. "No," a voice behind them said defiantly, "I won't go back until we find her." It was obvious to Adele that Addy meant this, and Adele thought that Ava's spoiled behavior might be rubbing off on Addy more then she thought. Adele and Jerome both turned to see Addy standing where they had been a few seconds earlier, still in front of the 2nd to last house on the street. Her arms were folded across her chest and it didn't appear like she would be swayed from her opinion. Adele walked back to her, "Addy, please. We don't even know for sure she's missing. She's probably back at the house right now." Jerome chimed in, "Your sister is right Addy, that's the most likely conclusion." Adele gave a kind smile to her younger sister, and reached out her hand for the girl to take. "No," Addy said again, "Let's check these last 2 houses at least!" Adele sighed. She knew Addy was a person who did not change her mind often when it was made up. She spoke to Jerome; "We may as well check these 2, since we're here already. You can go back, if you need too." Adele rolled her eyes at Jerome and started walking with Addy towards the door of the 2nd to last house on the block. They were about halfway to the door, when Addy turned back to face their two new friends. "Well?" she said, speaking to the baby, "are you coming, or what?" Adele couldn't help but smile at Addy. Baby Helvetica looked thoughtful, and then gave a decisive nod with her small head. Jerome laughed, and Addy looked pleased. Adele wondered just how much of their conversation the baby understood. The 4 children reunited at the door to the 2nd to last house, pausing before knocking on the heavy wooden door. Adele addressed Addy, "Even if we don't find her here, that doesn't mean anything." Addy nodded, and stepped up, knocking on the door with her hand. Adele noticed her younger sister's fingernails were painted a light shade of green, which happened to be Addy's favorite color. They waited for almost 20 seconds before the door swung open. A woman who looked to be in her late 30's appeared in the doorway, eyeing the children suspiciously. Her eyes fell on Jerome, and her suspicion seemed to fade slightly. "Jerome Drake," she exclaimed, "what are you doing here this late in the evening? And who are these girls?" Adele shifted uncomfortably at the woman's question, knowing that her sister and she were the newcomers in this exclusive neighborhood. Jerome cleared his throat and spoke, "Well, Mrs. Harrow, this is Adele and Addison Drake," he indicated the two sisters. Mrs. Harrow squinted at them through her narrow spectacles. "They just moved in today," Jerome added, "and we're wondering if you, by any chance, have seen their missing sister today." Mrs. Harrow gave the girls an appraising glance, "Been here no more then a day, and already someone's gone missing. That's surprising." She chuckled at her own attempt at humor, well Adele and the others just looked around awkwardly. The lady kept on chuckling, as if she couldn't believe how funny this was. Adele had almost had enough, when the woman spoke again. "Come to think of it, I do remember seeing a small girl earlier this evening." Adele glanced down at Addy, who was obviously excited by this news. "Excuse me," the younger sibling said, "but what was she wearing?" Mrs. Harrow looked taken aback. "What does fashion have to do with this?" she asked in an exasperated voice. Adele was about to speak, when Jerome did instead, "She was just asking so we could make sure it was her sister that you saw," he said, "instead of someone else." The woman looked agitated for a moment longer, but then nodded her head. "Ah yes. I suppose that makes sense." The children all sighed a collective breath of relief. Mrs. Harrow went on, "She was wearing a dress with black lace on the front. I remember because it was a very unique dress," she went on, talking somewhat to herself, "come to think of it, it was a lovely dress," she spoke to Adele and Addy, "Your sister must be quite the little fasionista." Adele smiled, remembering some of her sister's more…unique looks over the last few months, when she had been in a "gothic" fashion phase. "Where was she going?" Jerome asked. Mrs. Harrow looked confused, "Going? Where was who going?" Adele raised an eyebrow towards Jerome, who returned her look with a shrug. Addy just stared at the woman. "My sister," Addy said, "Where did she go?" Mrs. Harrow nodded, "Right. Well, you children can rest at ease, because I know exactly where your sibling is." Jerome and Adele's faces brightened, baby Helvetica giggled, and Addy looked as if she might hug the woman. "Where is she?" asked Jerome, tiring of his neighbor's tendency to create suspense. Mrs. Harrow tilted her head, as if talking to someone other then the children, "Where? Where?" she chuckled, "So close this whole time and you didn't know." Jerome rolled his eyes, giving Adele an apologetic look. Addy and Helvetica exchanged "she's weird" glances. "Why," Mrs. Harrow explained, "she went in to Mrs. Nevaeh's house. Right next door!" The woman gave Adele a sly look and leaned closer, "Good luck getting her out though." She smiled at the children, and closed the door softly. Addy was immediately saying to the others, "C'mon! Let's go!" Adele and Jerome started walking, following Addy, who was hurrying towards the house next door, the last house on the street. Adele questioned Jerome, "What did she mean, "good luck getting her out"?" Jerome glanced nervously at the house they were walking towards. "Well," he replied, "Mrs. Nevaeh is very…" he paused, searching for the right word, "…eccentric." Ahead of them, Addy had reached the house, and was knocking on the wooden door. As they walked closer, Adele could see there were intricate carvings in the door. They resembled a rose. Adele suddenly remembered something; she had seen this symbol before…but where? As she searched her memory, trying recall where she had seen the rose symbol, the door opened. Jerome and Adele were there now, standing next to Addy, who was waiting for them on the sagging wooden porch. A voice came from the door, which had only been opened the slightest crack, "What do you want?" Jerome glanced over to Adele, in a look that said, "I told you so". Adele looked back at him, her gaze saying, "You were right, she is strange". Addy, who normally would have spoken up, was quiet, apparently taken aback by the voice from the crack in the door. Adele decided she, being older then Addy, would speak. "Excuse us," she started, "but we're looking for a small girl who we thought might be here." Adele finished and took a deep breath, trying to regain her composure. The door did not open any further, "She's not here." Jerome stepped closer to the door and said, "Mrs. Harrow told us she had seen her go into your house, Mrs. Nevaeh." The children waited to see what answer that would draw out from the door crack. "She's a blithering idiot. She doesn't know what she saw," came the voice from within. "But," Adele started to say, however the door was already slowly closing. Adele realized that they would not be getting any information from this odd woman, when suddenly, Addy, who had been silently watching the whole time, spoke. "She's my sister," the young girl said softly. The door stopped closing, and the voice came again, softer now, "Your sister?" Addy nodded, although of course the woman inside couldn't see her from the cracked door opening. "Please," Addy said, "if you know where she is, tell me. I'm…worried about her. We haven't seen her in ages!" The door gradually creaked open, revealing a frail-looking older woman with gray hair pulled back into a bun. The woman looked around, and seeing no one but the four children, motioned for them to come inside. Exchanging glances, the children walked into the house where Ava Black had last been seen. Adele looked once more at the rainy, gothic-looking street outside, and moved further into the house. It smelled just like you would expect an older, Victorian style home to smell. Age flooded the children's noses as they entered the home of the peculiar Mrs. Nevaeh. The woman walked down an ancient looking hallway, saying over her shoulder, "Come, into the kitchen. It's not safe to speak out there." Adele whispered to Jerome, "What is she talking about?" and Jerome whispered back that he didn't know. They both noticed Addy was gone; she had followed the strange woman right away down the dusty hallway. Adele hurried after her, and Jerome, carrying Helvetica, hurried after them both. Adele reached the kitchen and took a seat next to Addy, who was seated in a comfortable Victorian style chair at a table with a black tablecloth over it. As she sat down, she looked up and noticed something. The ceiling had the same strange symbol carved into it: a beautiful rose. "Would you all like some tea?" Mrs. Nevaeh asked them, bustling behind the counter in the medium-sized kitchen. "What about our sister?" Adele wanted to say, but she held her tongue, and politely declined the offer. Jerome sat across from Adele, and the old woman sat down next to him, across from Addy. She poured a cup of tea for herself, and Addy, who had accepted the offer. Then, Mrs. Nevaeh settled back into her chair, and looked at the children closely for the first time in the light of the single lamp that lit the room. Her eyes first observed Jerome, with his short brown hair and brown eyes, then moved to Addy, with her blonde and slightly curly hair and gray eyes. Finally, the woman looked at Adele, who was looking back at the woman. Mrs. Nevaeh gasped, and sucked in her breath. She quickly looked away, turning her attention to her cup of tea. Adele wondered-- "Can you keep a secret?" the woman asked all of them. This struck Adele as an odd question, and she began to wonder if she had made the right decision by coming into the house, and allowing her younger sister to enter the house as well. Jerome closed his eyes, as if trying to remember something. Adele focused on Addy, who was nodding her head. "Yes, I can," she replied to the old woman, who was looking again towards Adele. The woman gave Addy a brief smile, then turned to the older children. "What about you?" she asked, and Adele could pick up a hint of suspicion in her voice. "I suppose I could," Adele said simply. The woman nodded and turned to Jerome, who was shushing Helvetica, who had started sniffling when they had entered the house. "Um," he began, noticing the attention they were focusing on him, "It depends on the secret, I guess" The woman seemed unsatisfied with this answer. Adele shivered, and wrapped her arms around herself. She hadn't noticed the cold as much when they were walking outside. Eying the woman curiously, Jerome sighed, "Yes, I can." She thought about this response for a few seconds, and then nodded her head, now satisfied. "Your sister is in the Realm of the Forgotten," Mrs. Nevaeh stated plainly, sipping her cup of tea. Adele wondered if she had heard the woman correctly, "What?" she said, sounding awkward in the quiet room. The woman looked at her, "The Realm of the Forgotten," she said again, her voice betraying no emotion whatsoever, "The place people go when they die." Addy, who had been drinking her tea, started choking, and set the glass down. Jerome responded quickly. "Mrs. Nevaeh! This is no time for foolishness, these girls' sister is lost, and may be in trouble!" He turned to Adele and said bleakly, "Coming here was obviously a mistake." Mrs. Nevaeh turned on him, and in an accusing voice said, "You dare to call me a liar?!" Adele knew that coming here had been a mistake. She whispered into her younger sister's ear, "Go! Let's get out of here!" Addy shot her a look, and then asked "What's the-"she thought for a second, "Realm of the Forgotten?" The woman glared at Jerome once more and then looked at Addy. "When people die, their bodies and spirits go to the Realm of the Forgotten." She said quietly. Jerome interrupted her, "That's preposterous!" She sipped her teacup, raising a hand, and said "Is it, now?" "Yes", Jerome responded, and then, to the girls, "C'mon, we need to get home," He rose to leave, and so did Adele. However Addy was not yet satisfied. "If our sister is in this Realm, or whatever, how do we get her? How do we get to the Realm?" The woman seemed pleased that at least one of the children was listening and paying attention. Adele grasped Addy's shoulders, pulling her along with them, moving towards the doorway out of the kitchen. The woman followed them, apparently not ready to let them leave. "The only way to get there," she said, answering Addy's question, "is to die." Adele gasped, and, along with Jerome, they managed to push Addy through the hallway toward the front door. "I don't want to leave yet!" the young girl protested, but she did not try and stop them from forcing her outside. Mrs. Nevaeh called to them from the hallway, "Do not forget my words children!" Jerome and Addy were hurrying down the front walk, towards the sidewalk, but something, a feeling perhaps, forced Adele to slow, and she turned round to see Mrs. Nevaeh's silhouette outlined in the doorway. Their eyes met. "You," confessed the woman, "you are the Chosen One. I…I was wrong about her," Adele heard this, but did not understand. "C'mon!" Jerome called to her. She started walking away from the woman, who called out one last thing to the children, "Look in the small door! And be careful!" Adele caught up with Jerome, Helvetica, and Addy, who were walking a bit slower now along the pathway. The 2 pairs of siblings walked silently for a few minutes, the silence broken by only the barking of a dog, who was chained in front of one of the houses. It was raining lightly again, and the wetness beat on their skin like small hammers, as they made their way back home. "That was interesting," Adele's voice broke the silence, like a foot thrust through a piece of paper. "She was creepy!" said her sister, who was walking in-between Jerome and herself. Jerome only said "Hmm", a noise that isn't really a word, but can be used as an excuse for one. The children agreed that Mrs. Nevaeh was loopy, and said no more about their strange encounter, but talked of other things on the walk back. Adele told Jerome about their old neighborhood, which was nowhere as beautiful as this one, and Addy told Jerome about her collection of dolls, which she had outgrown, but still played with on occasion, when no one was looking. Jerome told the sisters about the time he had discovered a secret code hidden in a cookbook, and how, when he was about to break the code, his mother had thrown the paper away, apparently thinking it to be unimportant. And baby Helvetica told the others about the delightful little eraser she had once chewed on, but of course, none of them understood her. Reaching Jerome and Helvetica's house, which had "Drake" written on the mailbox, they parted ways. "Goodbye," said Addy, waving to Helvetica and Jerome. "Bye," said Adele, waving to Jerome and Helvetica. "See you later, I guess," said Jerome, looking at Adele and Addy. Baby Helvetica simply waved. Jerome and Helvetica entered their house, which was empty, because their mother was still out shopping, something she apparently did for hours on end. Adele and Addison returned to their house, which seemed empty, because their mother was out and their father rarely left his study. Neither Adele, nor Jerome, nor Addy, nor even baby Helvetica knew what adventures lay before them. They could not even imagine.
The following few days proved very boring for Jerome compared with the outing with the new neighbors. Jerome found that reading bored him. This was new for the young boy; reading had always been there for him when he was feeling out-of-sorts. Once, when he was younger, a bully at his school had picked on Jerome. The bully had called Jerome a bookworm, which normally is not an insult, but the way this person said it, it sounded as if they meant it as one. He had gone home that day and brooded in his room, which was painted brown, for quite some time. He read a book about bullies, immersed in the book like he always was when reading. Lying on his bed, under sheets decorated with books, he had envisioned another meeting between himself and the bully. In this meeting, he had taken his book bag, which was filled with books to the brim, and thus very heavy, and proceeded to bash the bullies skull with the bag. About midway through this vision, he realized this would never happen. He could never work up enough courage to fight back against one so big. Stopping his dreaming, he had returned to the book, and read about how the best thing to do, was to tell an adult you trusted about the bullying. Though this might seem embarrassing to do, Jerome knew it was the right thing to do, and he talked with his mother about the bully that night, at dinner. As he told the story, his mother would let out an occasional, "My poor boy!" and Helvetica would offer to beat the bully up for him, but of course, no one understood her. When he had finally finished the frightening fable, his mother told him everything would be all right, and that she would take care of it. And she was right, things were all right after that, for Jerome never saw the malicious girl again after telling his mother about it. The telling of this story from Jerome's past may serve any number of purposes here, and one of those might be this: If you are a girl, and are bullying a boy with a mother like Jerome's mother, then it is best for you to stop and be nice to the boy, for there is no telling what might happen to you if you persist with your nastiness.
Jerome was bored, and nothing could cure his boredom. Even baby Helvetica tired of chewing on things, and life was dull for Jerome and his sister, until two days after the incident with Mrs. Nevaeh, when Jerome and his baby sister were lying on his bed, thinking about what the confused old woman had said to them. "I wonder what she meant by, "Look in the small door"", Jerome pondered. "What do you think Helvetica?" he asked, and turned to the baby. She drooled a little, and winked at him. At least, he thought it was a wink. It could have been nothing. Helvetica spoke, "Down" she said, and looked at the floor. "Ok then," said Jerome, "down you go." He lifted his sister carefully down off the bed, and she began toddling towards the door. Jerome lay back on his comfortable bed, thinking about the strange lady's words. Helvetica's wail interrupted his thoughts. He sat up and looked at her, "What is it?" She smiled and toddled out of the door, turning left towards their mother's bedroom. Now you may not know this, but sometimes the connections between siblings are very strong indeed, and this was the case between Jerome and Helvetica. He knew instantly that she wanted him to follow her. "Alright then," he said, and climbed off the bed, "what do you want to show me?" His sister smiled a toothy grin and wobbled into their mother's bedroom. Their mother, at the moment, was out duck-hunting, or at least, that's what she told the two siblings. Jerome followed the young girl, until he saw where she was leading him. "That's a no-no Helvetica," he reprimanded her, "you should know we're not allowed in mother's room." She gave him a look and said "Dauh", which could mean any number of things, possibly, "Why is our mother going duck hunting?" or it could have meant "I'm hungry, give me a piggy-back ride back downstairs to the kitchen", or it could have meant something like, "We must go into mother's bedroom because there is a hidden small door underneath her dresser!" Which one of these the young baby meant by "Dauh" it is impossible to tell, but what was not impossible to tell is what happened next. The toddler quickly moved into their mother's room, avoiding Jerome's arms as he tried to grab her before she entered the forbidden area of the house. Helvetica was now inside the room, and she moved quickly, navigating towards the dresser that was in the corner of her mother's dark room. Jerome paused, not sure whether to follow her in, or stay outside. If he went inside, he would have to tell his mother that he had gone against her wishes, something he had not had to do in a very long time. A cry from Helvetica prompted him to action. He rushed into the room and gasped. Helena Drake's room was darkly colored, and the bed had a huge canopy over it. There was a door leading to a full bathroom on the left side of the far wall, and a window that was open towards the south end of the neighborhood. A spyglass was pointed out of the window, towards a certain house on the street. However none of these things were why Jerome gasped. He was gasping at the giant carving that occupied the ceiling of the room. It took up the whole of the ceiling, and was probably 10 feet in circumference. "Ga!" the noise from his sister pulled Jerome's gaze from the odd symbol on the ceiling, and he walked over to where Helvetica was now sitting, gazing at something under her mother's desk. Bending down onto his knees, Jerome saw what his sister had wanted him to see. There was a small door in the wall under the desk. If he would have been standing, he would not have seen the door, but Helvetica, who was quite short, saw everything from a different point of view. "Ga." She said again, quieter this time. "What have you found Hel?" Jerome questioned his baby sister, looking closely at the small door under the desk. He knelt further down, so he could see the entire underside of the desk. The small door was 1 and a half feet tall, and 1 foot wide, just big enough for a person Helvetica's size to fit into. He noticed there was no knob to open the door, only a lock, which was shiny gold. "Hmmm," he said out loud, "I wonder where the key is…" His sister interrupted his thoughts again with another cry of "Dauh!" Looking at her, he replied to her exclamation. "Do you know, where it is Hel?" he asked, peering at her small face. She gave a brief nod, and then started toddling towards the door on the left wall, the bathroom. Jerome looked one last time at the small door, and thought he heard something from behind it. After waiting for a brief second, and hearing nothing, he stood up, and followed his sister into their mother's bathroom. Jerome thought he might be dreaming for an instant, when upon entering the room, he found something far different then what he expected. From the looks of the door, he had expected this bathroom to be no different then any other bathroom he had been in, but what he expected, and what actually was, were 2 very different things. "Wow…" Jerome muttered to himself. His baby sister, who had been through this door several times before and thus did not find it particularly fascinating, gave him an odd look. You might be wondering what Jerome saw when he walked through the door, and into what he had thought was a bathroom. The first things he noticed, was that everything seemed slightly too big for the room, as if the furniture inside the room had grown, while the room itself had shrunk. The sink rose up, over Jerome's head, and appeared to be about 6 feet tall. The bathtub, which was made out of what appeared to be gold, stood on 4 round legs that glowed in the light from the lantern hanging from the ceiling. The design of the tub did not seem unusually odd to Jerome, perhaps a bit eccentric, but nothing too out of the ordinary. What was unusual about the golden bathtub though, was that each of the 4 golden legs was 3 feet tall. "Wow," he gasped again, walking up to the mirror, which started at the floor, and rose up to a height of almost 7 feet. "Wow…" Jerome said for the 3rd time. Helvetica was tired of this word, and walked up to him, pulling on his leg to get his attention. Jerome broke out of his trance-like observations of the room, and look down at his baby sister. "Is the key in here Hel?" he asked, never once thinking it was odd for him to be asking a baby a question he himself did not know the answer too. "Ga." Helvetica said, and teetered to the bathtub. She banged on it with both hands. Jerome laughed and walked over to her. "This is no time for a bath," he chuckled, "I'd like to find the key that goes to that tiny door, and take a peek at what's ins