A Mail-Order Dream

By: Janelle Daniels


“How do you know?”

“Because they’re just pretend.”

“Who told you that?”

The boy looked away. “My father.”

Her heart broke a little. She understood Mr. Grant’s desire for his children to behave, but there was no reason to force them to grow up too soon. Adulthood came all too soon as it was.

“Well, my father told me that anything is possible, and that if we believe in something strongly enough, it will become true.”

He put his hands on his hips. “You think dragons are real?”

“I know they’re real. If they weren’t, why would so many people talk about them? I think they live in caves deep in the earth and sleep for hundreds of years at a time, only coming out for food and gold, before going back to sleep for centuries.”

Phoebe gasped in delight. “What else? Tell me more.”

“Well, their caves are filled with all sorts of treasures. Gold, jewels, crystals... anything that sparkles. They gather as much as they can, hoarding it in huge mountains of wealth. They burrow deep in the coins, allowing the metal to heat and keep them warm.”

When a disbelieving sound came from the boy, she arched a brow at him. “Well, if you think I’m wrong, where do you think dragons live?”

Phoebe shook her head and took Aria’s hand. “Oh, Thomas doesn’t know where they are.”

Aria squeezed the girls hand and smiled, but she didn’t respond. Instead she prodded the boy. “Thomas?”

The boy was quiet for so long, she was about to give up and move on, but he surprised her when he said, “I think they live in mountains high on top of the clouds. People can’t see them, and don’t know where they are, because the clouds always move.”

Aria nodded thoughtfully. “That does make sense; dragons are very smart creatures. They’d definitely know where to make their homes so no humans could find them.”

Thomas nodded, and she took a moment to look at each of the children. “So who’s idea was it to string the wire across the door?”

Neither spoke.

“No confessions? All right. We’ll let it slide because we didn’t know each other, but let’s not do that again please.”

Thomas’ head jerked up. “You mean, you won’t tell Father?”

She pretended to mull it over. “I don’t see why we need to. I’m sure you didn’t mean to physically harm me. And I can understand how hard it must be to have a new nanny. So I think we should keep this just between us.”

“Really?” Phoebe’s eyes couldn’t possibly get any bigger.

“Really.” Aria wrapped her arm around the girl and squeezed. “Now, I heard there’s a schedule...”

Both kids released a groan, but Thomas pointed to a piece of paper on the table. “Over there.”

Aria untangled herself from the floor and retrieved the paper. The two kids followed her, but they didn’t speak. It was like they were preparing for unpleasantness already, and as she scanned through the schedule, she could see why.

Did Mr. Grant really expect his children to behave this way? Lessons immediately after breakfast. Lunch from twelve to twelve-thirty. Journal writing and self-reflection time from twelve-thirty to one-thirty. More lessons from one-thirty to four, followed by goal setting. And finally, they were to have dinner, before even more reading.

When were the children supposed to play and explore the world around them? When were they supposed to have fun? Surely Mr. Grant couldn’t mean to deny them the chance to just be children? Could he?

She lowered the paper. “Is your schedule like this every day?”

“Every day but the weekends.”

“What are your weekends like?”

When the kids frowned, she waved away the question. “It’s all right.” She laid the paper face-down on the table. “What do you say we skip the plan today and just play and get to know each other instead?”

“Play?” Phoebe’s eyes lit up. “Really? Can we go outside?”

“I don’t see why not.” She tucked the girl’s hand in hers and walked toward the door. Realizing Thomas hadn’t followed them, she glanced back over her shoulder at the mini version of Mr. Grant. “You coming, Thomas?”

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