Johnathan wasn’t sure whether he ought to be pleased or disappointed. He’d been sent to his Great Uncle Edward’s house for the summer holidays. On the one hand, his Great Uncle was a smart, rich, busy man who very much enjoyed the company of young Johnathan; on the other hand, his Great Uncle was also strict, unforgiving, and had strange hobbies. This trip was meant to be a punishment for the terrible marks he’d been getting at school, but he couldn’t keep from being at least a little excited.
The way Johnathan saw it, he got to spend several weeks away from his nagging parents and their stupid rules. If that meant he had to stay in his Great Uncle’s creepy old house, and maybe do a little bit of hard work for it, then that was fine by him. Besides that, his old friend Elena still lived in the estate next to his Uncle’s.
Johnathan had always liked Elena more than the boys his age. His father enjoyed coming to Uncle Edward’s estate on holidays often, and so Johnathan got to spend a great deal of time with Elena. While he felt a close bond with her, he did begin to notice what all boys notice when they spend time with girls their own age. He had never mentioned it to Elena, and she had never said anything to him, but the connection was there. There were glances that made him wonder, and touches that lingered longer than necessary. As such, he could never really see an opportunity to see Elena as anything but a boon.
Johnathan arrived in town via train on a wet May afternoon. It had rained for several days, and so there was a slight chill to the rain. The air felt heavy and thick, like walking through cold steam. It was a discomforting feeling. After finding the servant Great Uncle Edward had sent to the station to retrieve him, Johnathan hefted his bags into the old car.
“How long is the ride? I’ve never paid much attention before?’
“Over an hour, Young Master.” the man replied, “Though I can’t say if it will take longer in this horrid weather.”
“Well, I suspect my opinion on the matter won’t accelerate the trip.” Johnathan sighed.
The trip took nearly two hours, in fact. It was a grim two hours, with the only notable event being the lack of conversation that occurred.
When they arrived at the estate, Johnathan requested to be left at the gatehouse.
“I think I’ll walk from here, if you don’t mind.”
“I’ll inform Master Edward,” the man intoned, “though I’m not sure if he’ll be waiting on account of the delays.”
“That will be fine, thank you. I think that the walk to the house will arouse my senses, and might remind me why I enjoy visiting so.”
In point of fact, Johnathan had exactly two things in mind: He couldn’t spend another moment in that dreadful car in silence, and he had been hoping to catch a glimpse of Elena or her family.
It was a shorter walk than he had remembered. Likely because he wanted it to take some time. Soon, he reached the Main House, and noticed that his bags were still sitting outside by the edge of the driveway.
“I see ‘servant’ is a subjective description,” he muttered as he gathered his belongings and made his way into the front hall.
There was no one waiting to greet him there, and Johnathan couldn’t keep from being a little disappointed. With no one to ask, he made his way toward the room he had always stayed in when they visited here. When he reached his room in the East Wing, he found a note taped to his door in his Great Uncle’s distinctive script.
You’ll be staying here in this room, as I suspect you rightfully assumed. When you’ve finished putting your things away, I want you to come to the study in the North Wing. I’ve got some things I’d like to discuss with you, but I’m busy here. I expect you to make haste. -Edward
“That’s Uncle Edward,” he thought aloud, as he began to put his things away.
Johnathan hadn’t brought a lot of things. He had decided that simpler was better for this trip, and had brought mostly clothes. Since his Great Uncle was so eccentric, the library at the house was full of many interesting books. Johnathan thought that between anything his Great Uncle required of him, the books, and hopefully Elena, he shouldn’t want for things to fill his time.
As he began to unpack his second bag, a thought caused his heart to quicken: When had Uncle Edward left that note? His heart began to beat even faster. The last thing he wanted to do on his first day here was upset his Great Uncle, and he’d already been late from the drive, and wasted more time walking from the gatehouse. Now, he had spent too long lazily unpacking his things.
He cursed as he began to race towards the north end of the house. As much he enjoyed visits to his Great Uncle’s, time with Uncle Edward was always a delicate balancing act. Uncle Edward was brilliant, he loved teaching the children new things about science and art, but he was a demanding man and could be cruel when he was in a mood. Johnathan had rarely experienced his Great Uncle’s displeasure, but he had witnessed it many times. In one particularly unforgettable visit, Uncle Edward had several projects go wrong at the same time. This caused him to fire his entire house staff at the same time. With no kitchen staff, Johnathan’s family was forced to eat mostly canned soup and peanut butter sandwiches for two days until his father confronted Uncle Edward. The two men ended their shouting match with a brief fistfight and that trip was cut short. As such, he had no desire to upset his Great Uncle.