Home > The Mystery of Black Hollow Lane

The Mystery of Black Hollow Lane
Author: Julia Nobel


CHAPTER 1


   The Parenting Guru


   There were certain things Emmy’s mother didn’t really need to know. Trivial things like whether Emmy had clipped her toenails or that she’d stepped in something sticky at the park. But the letter in Emmy’s nightstand was not a trivial thing, and if her mom had found out about it, she would have pitched a fit. That’s why Emmy was glad to be in New York City instead of at home in Connecticut. She wanted as much distance between her mom and that letter as possible, even if it meant suffering through another boring book launch.

   “Having a good time, darling?” Emmy’s mom said as she handed her a fancy-looking glass.

   She took a sip and just about gagged. She didn’t know what real champagne tasted like, but the fake stuff was like someone had dropped Pop Rocks into a bucket of rotting apples. She did her best to smile. Her mom was mad enough already.

   “Thankfully, no one’s noticed the bandage under your hat,” her mom whispered. “Why you insisted on playing in that soccer game today is beyond me.” She smiled and waved at one of the partygoers. “You knew my book launch was this evening, and yet…”

   Emmy rubbed her forehead, where a ridiculous hat covered three fresh stitches. What was she supposed to say? Sorry I’m a good soccer player, Mom. I’ll try to suck more, that way I won’t get on the good teams. “I can’t just skip a match, Mom. My team—”

   “Your team can certainly do without you for one game, Emmeline.”

   Emmy cringed. It was never a good sign when her full name came out.

   Her mom took a sip of champagne. “Listen Emmy, there’s something we need to talk about after the party.”

   Emmy held her breath. Her mom didn’t know about the letter, did she? If she’d found out…if she knew what Emmy was about to do…

   “It’s about my book tour.”

   Emmy breathed out and picked at the front of her dress. She had to put her search out of her mind tonight. The last thing she needed was her mom getting suspicious.

   “After my tour is done, I have another project in the works. I don’t want to get into the details now, but things will be a bit different. I just want you to be prepared.”

   The nerves wriggled back into Emmy’s stomach. Be prepared. That’s what her science teacher, Mrs. Henry, had said during their natural disaster drill last week.

   “Pam, there you are!” A little blond woman bustled toward them, and Emmy tried not to groan. She usually avoided her mom’s publicist at all costs.

   Her mom kissed the woman’s cheek. “Gretchen, you’ve really outdone yourself with this party.”

   “Anything for my number one client!” Gretchen turned to Emmy. “And don’t you look lovely this evening! That hat is just perfect for you. It darkens your hair so that the red isn’t nearly so shocking.”

   Gretchen smiled as if that were a compliment, but Emmy knew better. She was used to people commenting on her orangey-red hair.

   “I’m so glad you could be here tonight, it’ll really play well with the crowd. Did you invite a few friends like I suggested?”

   “Uh, nobody could make it.” Emmy snatched a crab puff from a passing waiter’s tray and stuffed it in her mouth. She hadn’t invited anybody. She’d only been at her latest private school for a few weeks, and making friends had never been her strength. That would involve talking to people.

   A man came into the restaurant lounge and Gretchen squealed. “Clint!” She grabbed him by the arm and practically shoved him at Emmy’s mom.

   “Pam, you remember Clint Markum from Parenting Now magazine?”

   “Of course, Clint, nice to see you again.”

   “Hi, Pam, I just loved the new book!”

   “Isn’t it fabulous?” Gretchen said. “There’s so much buzz right now. Everyone is calling her America’s favorite parenting guru.”

   Emmy tried not to laugh. The only person she’d heard use that phrase was Gretchen, over and over, any time a reporter was in earshot.

   “And this must be your daughter,” Clint said. “It’s Emmeline, right?”

   Emmy blinked. “Oh, uh, yeah.” She shuffled her feet. Reporters didn’t usually talk to her, and that was the way she liked it.

   “You must be very proud of your mom,” Clint said.

   Emmy nodded. Clint looked like he was waiting for her to say something else, but Emmy had no clue what it was.

   “Raising you all on her own while managing a big career—it must be like having Superwoman at home!”

   Emmy nodded again. Maybe if she didn’t say anything, he’d stop asking her questions.

   Clint cleared his throat and turned back to Emmy’s mom. “Gretchen was telling me all about your new project. It sounds so exciting!”

   Something flickered in her mom’s eyes. No one else would have seen it—she was always composed in public—but to Emmy, that flicker revealed a tiny jolt of panic.

   “I’m surprised Gretchen gave you a sneak peek,” her mom said. “We were going to keep it under wraps for at least another week.”

   “I know,” Gretchen said, “but this seemed like the perfect opportunity to strike while the iron is hot.”

   Emmy’s mom smiled and nodded. “Emmy, why don’t you get yourself something to eat?”

   Emmy took a few steps toward the nearest waiter, but she didn’t get very far.

   “So, Pam, what made you decide to host a reality television show?”

   Emmy whirled around. Her mom was going to be on TV? Her mom glanced at her. “It seemed like a wonderful opportunity to really engage with parents in a new way. We haven’t finalized all the details yet, so I’d rather not say too much.”

   Clint looked at Gretchen. “What’s the format like?”

   “She’s going to be fully immersed with families for a few weeks at a time,” Gretchen said. “She’ll tell them all the things they’re doing wrong and whip them into shape.”

   “How exciting!” Clint said. “Is Emmeline going with you?”

   Thump. Thump. Thump. Emmy’s heart started beating a little harder. Her mom cleared her throat. “No, it’ll be too chaotic.”

   “Who’s looking after her?”

   Thump. Thump. Thump.

   Emmy’s mom smiled widely, like a cheerleader who knows her team is about to lose. “I’ve found the most wonderful school. Emmy’s going to love it. It will be like living with family.”

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