Later when I get a chance to look around the house I find out the inside is much more jumbled up than the outside with funny corridors that don't seem to lead anywhere and tiny bedrooms with slanty ceilings hidden away at the top of stairs. The stairs all creak and there are no curtains on any of the windows and all the main rooms seem huge after what I'm used to and they're scattered with big old comfortable furniture and paintings and books and huge fireplaces you can walk into and animals posing around the place to make it look even more authentic oldy worldy.
The bathrooms turn out to be pretty oldy worldy too or maybe I should say antique and make a huge noise whenever you want to do anything private.
Behind the house is tons of farmland some of which looks just like meadows and some of which is planted with potatoes and some is just starting to bloom in an acidy yellow color which Edmond says is rape as in rapeseed oil but the only kind of rape I know is the kind you read about in the paper ten times a day and always ignore unless the rapist turns out to be a priest or someone on TV.
There's a farmer who comes and does all the planting because Aunt Penn always has Important Work To Do Related to the Peace Process and anyway wouldn't know the first thing about farming according to Edmond. But they keep sheep and goats and cats and dogs and chickens For Decoration said Osbert in a slightly sneery way and I'm getting the feeling about him that he's the one cousin who reminds me of people I knew in New York City.
Edmond and Piper and Isaac and Osbert, and Jet and Gin the black and white dogs, and a bunch of cats all went into the kitchen first and we sat down at a wooden table and someone made cups of tea and then they all stared at me like I was something interesting they'd ordered from a zoo and asked me lots of questions in a much more polite way than would ever happen in New York, where kids would pretty much wait for some grown-up to come in all fake-cheerful and put cookies on a plate and make you say your names.
After a while I was feeling woozy and thought Boy, could I ever use a drink of freezing water to clear my head, and when I looked up Edmond was standing there holding one hand out and in it was a glass of water with ice cubes, and all the time looking at me with his almost smiling look and though I didn't think much about this at the time, I noticed Isaac looking at Edmond in a funny way.
Then Osbert got up and left, he's sixteen and the oldest in case I didn't say it, which is a year older than me. Piper asked if I wanted to see the animals, or just lie down for a while, and I said lie down because even before I left New York I hadn't exactly been getting my fair share of sleep. She looked disappointed, but only for a second, and really I was feeling so much more tired than polite that I hardly cared.
She took me upstairs to a room down at the end of a hall which was the kind of room a monk would live in - small and plain with thick white walls that weren't straight like new walls, and one huge window divided into lots of panes of yellow and greenish glass. There was a big striped cat under the bed and some daffodils in an old bottle and suddenly that room seemed like the safest place I'd ever been in my life, which just goes to show how wrong a person can be about what's in store for them but here I go jumping the gun again.
We pushed my suitcase into a comer, and Piper came in with a big pile of old blankets and she said in a shy way that they were woven from the sheep on the farm a long time ago and that the black ones were from the black sheep.
I pulled the black sheep blanket over my head and closed my eyes and for no good reason I could think of, I felt like I'd belonged to this house for centuries but that could have been wishful thinking.
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.
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No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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