Excerpt of How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff
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Im still trying to get my head around all this when instead of following the signs that say Exit he turns the car up onto this grass and then drives across to a sign that says Do Not Enter and of course he Enters and then he jogs left across a ditch and suddenly were out on the highway.
Can you believe they charge £13.50 just to park there for an hour? he says to me.
Well to be fair, there is no way Im believing any of this, being driven along on the wrong side of the road by this skinny kid dragging on a cigarette and lets face it who wouldnt be thinking what a weird place England is.
And then he looked at me again in his funny doggy way, and he said Youll get used to it. Which was strange too, because I hadnt said anything out loud.
I fell asleep in the jeep because it was a long way to get to their house and watching the highway go by always makes me want to close my eyes. And then when I opened them again, there was this welcoming committee staring at me through the window and in it were four kids, and a goat and a couple of dogs who I later was told were called Jet and Gin, and in the background I saw some cats scooting around after a bunch of ducks that for some reason or other were hanging around on the lawn.
And for a minute I was so glad I was fifteen and from New York City because even though I havent actually Seen It All, I have in fact seen more than plenty, and I have one of the best Oh Year, This Is So Much What I Usually Do kind of faces of anyone in my crowd. In put on that face right then, though let's be fair, all of this was taking me pretty much by surprise, because I didn't want them to think that kids from New York City are not at least as cool as English kids who just happen to live in huge ancient houses and have goats and dogs and all the rest.
There's still no Aunt Penn but Edmond introduces me to the rest of my cousins, who are called Isaac and Osbert and Piper, which I won't even begin to comment on. Isaac is Edmond's twin, and they look exactly the same, only Isaac's eyes are green and Edmond's are the same color as
the sky, which at the moment is gray. At first I liked Piper best because she just looked straight at me and said We are very glad you've come Elizabeth.
Daisy, I corrected her, and she nodded in a solemn kind of way that made me feel sure she'd remember.
Isaac started lugging my bag over to the house and then Osbert who's the oldest came and grabbed it away from him looking superior, and disappeared into the house with it.
Before I tell you what happened then, I have to tell you about the house, which is practically indescribable if the only sort of houses you've lived in before are apartments in New York City.
First let's get it clear that the house is practically falling down, but for some reason that doesn't seem to make any difference to how beautiful it is. It's made out of big chunks of yellowish stone, and has a steep roof, and is shaped like an L around a big courtyard with fat pebbles set in the ground. The short part of the L has a wide arched doorway and it used to be the stable, but now it's the kitchen and it's huge, with zigzag brick floors and big windows all across
the front and a stable door that's left open Whenever it's not actually snowing, says Edmond.
Climbing up the front of the house is a huge vine with a stem so thick it must have been growing there for hundreds of years but there aren't any flowers on it yet, I guess because it's too early. Behind the house and up some stone steps is a square garden surrounded by high brick walls and in there are tons of flowers blooming already all in shades of white. In one corner there's a stone angel about the size of a child, very worn, with folded wings and Piper told me it was a child who lived in the house hundreds of years ago and is buried in the garden.
Excerpted from How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff Copyright© 2004 by Meg Rosoff. Excerpted by permission of Wendy Lamb Books, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.