The Chameleon Shop

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Chapter 2: Evil Step Father

‘Where the hell have you been?’ Paul roared when she walked in the back door.

Kaylee was bombarded with questions and accusations ─ mainly from Paul, about where she had disappeared to without telling them.

Her mother was also upset, but mainly more worried for her safety, than angry. Trish, Kaylee’s mother, couldn’t get a word in sideways with Paul ranting on and on.

Kaylee did what she usually did, when things got hairy at home. Without a word, she headed straight for her room and slammed the door, plonking down on the bed with her school backpack clutched under her arm. She lay there trying to calm her breathing, because if she didn’t she’d probably end up screaming at Paul, which would only upset her mother even more. She put her headphones on and turned her favourite song up really loud.

Suddenly her bedroom door flew open so hard; the door handle dug a handle-shaped hole in the wall behind it.

Paul pointed his finger at Kaylee, about to start lecturing her again when she yanked the headphones off and shouted, ‘Out! Get out of my room! You aren’t supposed to come in here!’ She was now doing some pointing of her own.

‘I pay the bills and I’ll go in whichever damn room I want to!’ He thundered back at her.

Kaylee burst into tears and hid under the blankets trying to block out his yelling. From beneath the blankets, she heard a different muffled voice. Her mother’s.

She slowly pulled the blankets down and was relieved to find that Paul was no longer there. She could hear her mother telling him off down the hall, ‘That’s her personal space, Paul. I know she was wrong in going off like that, but you will just have to talk to her later about it. Her room is the only place in the house where she can get away from....’

Kaylee was sure her mother had been about to say ’from you’ meaning Paul, but that would have lit him up like a firecracker, so her mother tactfully changed it to ‘... from everything.’

Eventually the dust settled and Kaylee explained to her mother about the new bookshop. She apologised for worrying her so and asked if they could go see Mitchell’s Cottage, without Paul. However, Paul was not one to be excluded from anything concerning her mother.

Still the weekend rolled around two days later and there they were.

The cottage was actually quite cool. It had been built way back in 1880, from a special rock called schist, by Andrew Mitchell for his brother John, his wife Jessie and their ten children.

Aye ... ten kids! Kaylee thought the woman was mad. One child gave her mother enough trouble.

Her mother and Paul were outside looking at some big rock sundial thing-a-me Andrew Mitchell had carved from solid schist, so rather than tag along where Paul could annoy her, Kaylee decided to have a nosey round inside the main house by herself.

The tour guide’s name was Gerald. She had no idea what had happened to Fred, the bookshop owner’s friend. Still, she had the mysterious key in her backpack, which she took everywhere with her. It usually carried a couple of books (yes, Kaylee was a bit of a nerd) and a snack or two, a warm jersey if her mother could force it on her and a drink bottle of water, among other things.

A very funny thing happened when Kaylee walked through the cottage doorway. She felt a strange vibration run through her, almost like a tiny electric shock; not the sort that scared the bejesus out of you, just the sort you get when you whip your polar fleece off too fast and all of your hair stands out crackling.

‘That’s weird,’ she said to herself.

She wandered around inside the old stone cottage, rubbing her arms vigorously to generate a bit of warmth. It was exceedingly chilly out on the windy plains and not long past winter. She had unfortunately ignored her mother’s request to stuff a jersey in her backpack.

All the while, as she wandered around, she could hear what sounded like a low humming noise; almost like a beehive somewhere. She hoped not. Flying bugs really freaked her out!

There were two large rooms and three smaller ones. Someone had put some plain furniture in there: a wooden table, four chairs and a few beds. They were there for the tourist’s benefit, as the originals had perished long ago. The old hearth was still there though, undamaged by time although blackened by years of soot.

Mum should come and see this. Kaylee popped her head out the door to call her mother to come have a look. No one was there.

‘What the bloody hell?’ She said, confused and a little peeved. ‘Well, that’s just nice isn’t it? Maybe they’ve gone to look at the chook-house or something.’

It was starting to snow lightly, so Kaylee sat on one of the old wooden chairs nearest the empty fireplace and closed her eyes, wishing there was a nice warm fire in that hearth.

She heard a whoomph! and felt warmth creep up her legs. She opened her eyes and there in the hearth, which had been previously damp, cold and most definitely empty, there now roared a hearty fire! Close enough to singe her socks, in fact.

Kaylee leapt out of the chair so fast it fell with a crash to the floor. ‘Holy cow! Where’d that come from?’ The humming she’d been hearing ever since she came through the doorway grew louder, as if it was coming from her clothes. Her backpack, that’s where it was coming from she realised with alarm.

When she opened the backpack, she could see a green glow emanating from the dark depths within. With a bit of hesitation she reached in and gingerly picked up the glowing object, not surprised to find it was the key. It was an unearthly green, like a glow-stick and it was strangely warm, almost too hot to touch.

Standing in front of this fire from nowhere with a strange key, Kaylee wondered when her mother would come back because something really weird was going on and she didn’t think she was capable of dealing with it alone.

Hot on the heels of thoughts of her mother, followed thoughts of Paul. She closed her eyes again and wished with all her heart she could get away from him, as far away as possible, so she never had to see his angry face again...

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