Charlene Griffin never thought she’d be without a home. But when she’s kicked out on her eighteenth birthday, she has no choice but to sleep inside an ominous Victorian mansion. And with the owner offering the estate to anyone who can spend a full night in the haunted property, Charlene decides to risk life and limb to get off the streets.
Refusing to heed the warnings of those sent running in fear for their lives, Charlene is confident she can last from sunset to sunrise. But she’ll need all her wits about her to withstand the hours of terror, because these ghosts are determined to get rid of her.
Will Charlene outsmart her supernatural foes and make it to dawn?
Targeted Age Group:: Young Adult
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
When I was in elementary school, I read a short story about a haunted house that remained in my memory. I was impressed by the fact that a haunted house story could resonate with me so strongly, and thought I could write a haunted house story that would also resonate with readers.
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
For the protagonist, I had to think of someone who would be desperate enough to stay in an infamous haunted house overnight despite the dangers. That is how I came up with Charlene Griffin, the protagonist. The others came from what sort of job that I thought would be most compatible with Charlene's character, and after that, the individuals that she would most probably encounter.
Frantically, Charlene Griffin searched her room for Joyce. She looked under the bed, between the mattresses, in the closet, opened and closed the bureau drawers….
“Time’s up. This is no longer your room. Out!”
Charlene looked up to see her mother, Erica, leaning against the door frame. “I can’t find Joyce.”
Erica shifted her weight slightly. “Oh that old ratty thing. You mended it so often it was hardly more than a bunch of thread. The stuffing was coming out again, the seams pulling apart—I threw it in the incinerator.”
“You what?” Charlene crouched, extending her arms.
“You’re eighteen now, act like an adult. I gave you breakfast, which is more than generous. Happy Birthday,” she added blandly. Stepping away from the door, she extended her arm.
Stunned, Charlene remained frozen.
“I told you all along, when you turned eighteen, you were on your own. Now get out before I call the cops.”
Charlene straightened, grabbed her backpack, and walked out of the room. Erica silently followed her until she stood on the front step of the house. Charlene heard the door slam behind her.
After taking a breath to steady herself, she plodded down the street to the bus stop, weeping silently. Since her father’s death, she had learned to cry without any outward display, because no one cared. No one was on the bench at the stop, for which she was grateful. She slumped into it and waited.
It gave her time to think. She found herself shaking her head. How could her mother throw out her best friend? No, Charlene knew why: the counselor at school had told her that it was not her fault. Her mother could not cope with her father’s death, so took out her grief and rage at her. Joyce Lennox met with her every week for a long time, and without her constant compassion and advice, Charlene would not have been able to cope with her mother’s abrupt change. The other kids made fun of her, called her “mental” for seeing a counselor, but Joyce showed her how to cope with that, too. She gave Charlene a Beanie Baby (not really a Beanie Baby, but an imitation brand) and Charlene had named the stuffed rabbit after her. Then she graduated, and the rules prevented her from seeing Joyce again. She saw on the news that Joyce had been appointed to something or other anyway, and had moved to the capital.
Charlene was calmer, but still downcast, when the bus arrived. She put in her coins, grateful that she had coins to put in. Her mother insisted on her getting a job before she graduated, so she worked nights at a bookstore. (She had earned enough credits in accelerated courses to graduate at seventeen. After graduating, she worked days.) She had a bank account, but no credit or debit card because she was not eighteen yet and her mother would not cosign for one.
She got off the bus at the L-shaped strip mall. The stores bordered a large parking lot, which had few cars at this hour, except for the sandwich shop at the end of the smaller line of the L. They also served breakfast and had a steady stream of customers. Charlene headed for the third shop from the end of the larger line of the L: the Zephyr Butterfly Bookstore. She had a key, let herself in, and locked the door behind her, making sure the sign on the door still had “Closed” facing out.
A ceramic model of Zephyr Butterfly stood prominently opposite the entrance. Charlene stroked a wing for luck. The wings had worn down only slightly from all the touching over the years. One wing had broken off when a clumsy customer had stumbled against it, causing it to drop to the floor.
Fortunately, Hiroshi Takahashi, of Takahashi’s Repair Shop, just two doors down, had cemented it again, showing only a thin golden line where the seam was. He told them that this showed that Zephyr was all the stronger for having been mended in the broken places, just as people were. Certainly the customers seemed to love Zephyr all the more for its golden seam.
Charlene looked around. The store was orderly and ready for opening. Destry Harris, their usual cleaner, always left the store spotless. Three-quarters of the store consisted of bookshelves, plus two tables: a low one in the children’s section, and a higher one in the section for grown-ups. They could add chairs and use either for autographings or readings. The remainder of the store held Zephyr merchandise: jewelry (rings, bracelets, necklaces, earrings, pins, buttons) and shirts (t-shirts and golf shirts). There were days when the Zephyr merchandise outsold the books.
Charlene walked to the back and opened the door to the employee lounge. That held five lockers, a table and chairs, an old threadbare couch with an only slightly less threadbare covering, a counter breached by a sink. A small refrigerator had been tucked under the counter and a microwave sat on top of the counter. The employee bathroom had been built in one corner. The public one was near the registers. The one for employees was small and functional, with a toilet and sink only.
Because the bookstore only had three employees, Amy Snow, the owner, let Charlene have two of the lockers. She had moved some of her stuff into the second locker already. Why, oh why, had she not put Joyce there for safety? Sighing, she worked the combination lock and set her backpack inside. She smoothed her work shirt, a knit shirt all the employees wore, with the butterfly embroidered on the upper left and “Zephyr Butterfly Bookstore” lettered under it. Taking her employee nametag, she pinned it on the upper right.
Amy walked in with a box under her arm. She set it on the table. “Did your mother change her mind?”
Charlene numbly shook her head.
“Damn.” Amy shook her head, too, in sympathy. “Do you have a place to go?”
“The Teen Shelter said they’d take me.”
“Good. Do they give you a room?”
Charlene nodded. “I have to share it, but yes.”
Amy put a hand on Charlene’s arm. “I am so sorry.”
Amy opened the box and took out a cupcake with a candle stuck in the middle. “Chocolate cake with vanilla icing, your favorite?”
Charlene managed a slight smile.
Amy brought out a lighter and lit the candle. “Happy birthday!”
Charlene took the cupcake.
“Make a wish!”
Home. That was her wish. She blew out the candle.
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