“Kate come on! Before Michael comes back!” said Ivy whilst Edward was trying to pull his sister towards the garden, “Get off your phone for once and let's go hide!”
“I’m too old to play hide and seek,” mumbled Kate without detaching her glance from her phone, “Go play your childish games somewhere else!”
“Urgh! I can’t make her budge! She’s too fat! What on earth does she eat?”
That got Kate to look up. She roared and sprang at Edward.
“Repeat that if you’ve got the nerve! I’m not fat! You’re just a weakling!”
Edward turned beetroot and prepared to launch himself in a series of insults when Laura rounded the corner and cried over to them:
“Come on! Don’t start! Let’s try and respect each other. The adults are already on a bad start!”
“How can I respect this… this…”
“Don’t worry! This battle is postponed until the adults start being civil to each other again,” murmured Edward to his oldest sibling.
“We'll have it when we get back home.”
Ivy suppressed a giggle.
“Let's go play in the garden with Euripides and Silly Penny! Oh and by the way, you aren’t too old to play.”
“Who’s Silly Penny?” grumbled Kate.
“Oh,” Ivy blushed, “I mean Penthesilia.”
“You’re lucky Aunt Brunhilde didn’t hear you. If she knew, you’d be in big trouble!” grinned Edward slyly.
“Don’t tell her!” implored Ivy, eyes brimming up with tears.
“You’re too sensitive. I’ll try to keep my mouth shut but, you know, words just slip off my tongue like oil on a plate,” Edward responded which was, according to Ivy, an evil response.
It was Laura again who had to stop the argument and managed to get everyone to agree with one game;
“We are not going to play with the dogs. I don’t feel like being bitten today and I’m sure the others feel the same way too.”
“They don’t bite!”
“What! Remember the time where the dogs chased me and bit me?” replied Edward.
“Well you deserved that. You shouldn’t have taken their food bowls away! They knew you knew they didn’t like it so they chased after you. They can sense if it is a game or a bad action,” remarked Ivy sticking her tongue out at her brother.
“I’m sure they do. What else? Do they know how to read?”
“I’ll tell Aunt Brunhilde that you’re mocking her beloved dogs”
“Will you two ever stop?” sighed Laura.
“Fine!” cried Ivy, “What should we do then?”
When they had finally decided to play a mix of Rugby and throwing a tennis ball to teammates and into a basketball hoop, Michael came running to them and yelling:
“I want to play hide and seek! We have to play hide and seek because Aunty said that if you want something, you eventually get it and I want to play hide and seek!”
“Do you even know what ‘eventually’ means?” sighed Kate
“Yes, it means something like now.”
“No, it means ‘in the end’. In the future. Definitely not now. And by the way Michael, you get way too spoilt at Aunt Brunhilde’s house. This is when it starts to show.”
“Well, I still want to play now.”
“No we’re playing rugby-tennis-basketball. We’ve already decided. So either you play hide and seek by yourself or you go and make yourself useful somewhere else.”
“I’ll play with you! But after one round of this we’ll go play in our den. OK?” Michael retorted.
“Maybe. We’ll see,” replied Laura, turning away, trying to hide her grin. It had always been their favourite place to play : and Laura didn’t think that would ever change.
“Come on, let’s play,” said Kate impatiently.
They had just set up the court when a high piercing scream filled the whole of the estate.
“What was that?” whispered Ivy reaching for her sister’s arm.
“It sounded like Aunt Brunhilde getting murdered!”
“No!” wailed Michael, “I liked Aunty! She was so nice to me!”
“I didn’t say she was. I said that it sounded like she was,” hissed Edward, “Come, let’s go and explore!”
“No! I want to play our game!” replied Kate forcing Edward to get back on the pitch.
“What if Aunt Brunhilde is hurt? We have to help her! Mum and dad have gone shopping with Uncle John and it’s the servant’s day off. Nobody is at home,” worried Ivy.
“Fine let’s go. But if we find nothing, then it’s straight back to the game. OK?”
Creeping quietly through the corridors, the siblings hopped around the creaking floorboards as they made their way quickly towards the direction of the scream: their Aunt’s room.
It was situated on the far end of the second floor. It had pink wallpaper covered in majestic red flowers. Inside, was a large double bed with red velvet curtains that she closed during the night. There was an en-suite bathroom and dressing room that was filled with dresses and gowns for all occasions. In the far corner there was a large black chimney - it was so clean it had probably never been used. A ornate portrait of a young woman dressed in white (probably an ancient ancestor) hung above it. Even the door was art itself; the doorframe was carved with wild animals and the door was decorated with dandelions.
But now, there was no time to cherish the beautiful design, as they peeked around the corner of the opened door, they stifled a gasp. On the floor, in front of them, was their Aunt.
“She’s fainted!” said Ivy in an urgent whisper, “We need to help her!”
“Look!” exclaimed Edward, “Look on that chair!”
They all gulped. Michael made a movement to rush to his Aunt.
“Stop! This could be dangerous.”
On the chair, stabbed in place with an extremely sharp and rusty looking knife was a picture of somebody they could not quite make out.
“We must investigate!” gasped Kate.
“Too late. Aunt Brunhilde is waking up. Quickly! Let’s go back to the garden,” cried Ivy.
Back in the garden, Ivy burst into tears. Laura tried to comfort her:
“Don’t worry! It’s just someone playing a silly trick.”
“No! Aunt Brunhilde is being blackmailed! Didn’t you see the knife? What if it was one of us in the picture! Oh! And didn’t you see the blood on the knife blade? It’s too terrible!” sobbed Ivy.
“No it wasn’t blood. You read too many books! It was just a bit of rust. Don’t fret.”
But Ivy was inconsolable. She kept picturing darker and darker thoughts until she could stand it no longer. She wailed:
“I’m too young to die!”
“Stop it! We’ll be fine. Nobody will die or be hurt. You’ve got to learn how to control your imagination,” said Kate in a firm tone.
But now, the children could do nothing but stand there, their mind swirling. What if it had been blood? What if the picture was one of them? What if…
Kate shook her head as though trying to shake her thoughts out of her head.
“Right, should we play the game now?” she asked in a small voice.