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"Jennie!" Mom called up from the landing on the first floor. "Gram's here."
"Be right down." Jennie McGrady flipped her long, dark hair back and looked in the mirror one last time. Gram had said to dress comfortably, so she'd put on her favorite jeans and blue sweater over a white blouse. Because May weather could be unpredictable, Jennie had gone for the layered look. She adjusted the collar and frowned. "Do you think this looks okay?"
"It's fine. You look gorgeous." Lisa Calhoun, Jennie's cousin and best friend, hung her head over the end of Jennie's bed and brushed the rats out of her curls. She'd stayed overnight as it was the last they'd see of each other for two, maybe three, weeks. "Everything looks good on you."
Jennie rolled her eyes. "Hardly." She wasn't gorgeous, not like Lisa, who had red hair, green eyes, and a figure to die for. Jennie was tall and thin. She did have nice eyes, though—dark blue, like her father's and Gram's.
"You sound as nervous as Gram."
"What are you talking about?" Jennie leaned down to pick up her pajamas and toss them in the hamper.
"Last night at our house—didn't you notice? She looked more like she was going to war than to a family reunion in Ireland."
Jennie shrugged. "She seemed okay to me."
"You were probably too excited about the trip to notice. I bet she has an assignment. Maybe with the FBI or something."
Jennie's stomach tightened at the thought. Gram had a knack for getting involved in criminal investigations. She'd been a homicide detective before she retired and took up travel writing. She'd also worked as an undercover agent for the government from time to time. "She'sretired from all that, remember? Besides, if she was working on a dangerous assignment, she wouldn't take me with her."
"Hmm. You have a point, but something sure is wrong." Lisa rolled over and sat up, her hair sticking out at all angles.
Is Lisa right? Is Gram working undercover for the government again? Three months earlier, Gram had invited Jennie to go with her to Ireland. Gram would be writing a series of travel articles, and they'd be visiting family and friends. During the last week of their visit, Jennie's mom, dad, and little brother would fly over for a big reunion. The trip was a birthday present from Gram—Jennie would be celebrating her seventeenth birthday there.
"You are so-o-o incredibly lucky," Lisa grumped.
Jennie sat on the bed to put on her sneakers. She was lucky. But nervous too. Ireland was an entire continent and an ocean away from Portland, Oregon. She'd never traveled that far in her life. Well, she had when she was small but didn't remember that far back. Could Gram be feeling the same kind of apprehension? Jennie doubted it. Gram traveled way too much to be nervous about it.
"I wish you could come," Jennie said to Lisa.
Lisa shrugged. "Yeah, me too, but Mom doesn't want me to miss school."
"I'm not exactly missing school either, remember? I have to do a genealogy report and a paper on Ireland." Since Jennie was part homeschooled, she had a lot more flexibility than most kids and loved it. "Did you ask your mom and dad about coming later with my parents and Nick?"
As if on cue, Jennie's five-year-old brother tore into the room and came at her like a torpedo. "I don't want you to go, Jennie." He gripped her legs so tight she couldn't move. Nick looked up at her, his big blue eyes fluid with new tears. "Please stay home with us. Gram can go by herself."
Jennie scooped him up. "Come on, Nick. Don't cry. I'll only be gone for two weeks, and then you and Mom and Dad will come to Ireland too. You'll get to fly in a big airplane."
He wriggled down, spread out his arms, and buzzed around the room making zooming airplane sounds.
After half a dozen turns, Jennie scooped Nick up, hugged him, and then dropped him on the bed next to Lisa.
"Hey, Nick. Did you forget? You get to come stay with us this week." Lisa tickled him until he dove off the bed and ran out of the room.
"So are you coming to Ireland with my folks?" Jennie took a deep breath and looked around her room, trying to remember if she'd forgotten anything. Lisa's sleeping bag lay in a heap at the end of the bed.
Lisa rolled off the bed. "I don't know yet. Mom is still thinking about it."
"Well, remind her that we'll be celebrating my birthday over there."
"Oh, right. Like turning seventeen is such a big deal."
"You'd better decide soon or all the flights will be booked."
"I'm not worried." Lisa grabbed her bag out of the closet and pulled out her jeans. "My dad has connections, remember?"
Lisa's dad did have connections. He was an airline pilot. "There still has to be an opening."
The way Lisa was acting, so nonchalant and all, Jennie wondered if her cousin was being completely honest. She suspected Lisa had already made plans to fly to Ireland and wanted to surprise her.
"Jennie!" This time it was Gram. "We have to go."
Jennie grabbed her paperback off the bedside table and stuffed it into her bag. "Coming." She rushed out and bounded down the stairs, nearly colliding with Gram at the bottom.
"I'm ready." Jennie swung her bag over her shoulder and leaned over to retie a shoelace. She could hardly wait to get started; at the same time, she already missed her family.
Everyone gathered around Jennie and Gram, hugging them and saying their good-byes. Out on the porch, Dad slipped an arm around Jennie's shoulders. "Think you can manage to stay out of trouble this trip?" The twinkle in his eyes said he was teasing, but his question had a serious side as well. Jennie's curious nature had gotten her into trouble more than once.
"We're just visiting family, Jason." Gram kissed her son's cheek. "Don't worry. She'll be with me. What can go wrong?" She winced at her own words and then laughed. "We'll be fine. I'll take care of her."
Jennie eyed Gram, looking for some clue as to what she might be up to. Gram's gaze met hers, but only for an instant. Lisa was right. Gram did look anxious.
J.B., Gram's husband of nearly a year, picked up the last of Jennie's luggage and followed them to the car. While he stowed the suitcases in the trunk, Jennie climbed into the backseat of the Cadillac and buckled herself in.
Within a few minutes they were heading north on the I-205 toward Portland International Airport. J.B. reached for Gram's hand and in his deep Irish accent said, "It'll be fine, luv. You'll see."
"I know." Gram sighed.
Jennie had no idea what they were talking about and wasn't certain she should ask. They both sounded strained. The hair on the back of her neck rose and sent a shiver through her. Whatever Gram was up to, J.B. seemed to know about it, which might or might not be a good thing. J.B. had been a government agent before he retired too. In fact, he'd been Gram's boss before they got married. Was he sending her out on a job? Could she be going to Ireland to spy on someone or to help bring down a drug dealer or... ?
Don't be ridiculous, McGrady. Jennie scolded herself for letting her imagination take off on a tangent like that. You're going to visit relatives. End of story.
So why is Gram acting so weird?
Gram seemed to put whatever was bothering her aside as she smiled and turned back to Jennie. "Are you ready to meet your Irish cousins, darling?"
Jennie swallowed back an unexplained lump in her throat. Ready for what? she wanted to ask but didn't. "Sure."
"We'll soon be in Ireland. It hardly seems possible." Gram turned back to J.B.
"And isn't it a grand place, now." J.B. spoke with an even heavier accent than usual. "Once you visit the Emerald Isle, ye'll not be wanting to leave." An odd look passed between him and Gram, and once again Jennie wondered what was going on.
The moment passed. He chuckled and winked at Jennie in the rearview mirror. "Be sure'n catch yourself a leprechaun, now, won't ye, lass?"
"That we will." Jennie followed his lead on the accent.
An hour later, as they were about to go through airport security, J.B. reached into his jacket pocket and pulled out a letter. Handing it to Gram, he said, "This came for you yesterday, luv. Forgot to give it to you."
"Thanks." Gram gave it a cursory glance before slipping it into the pocket of her carryon. "We'll open it later—on the plane."
"Take care, then, luv. You too, Jennie." J.B. hugged Jennie and then reached for Gram. He kissed her long and hard—like he might be worried he wouldn't see her again.
Get real, Jennie told herself. They're just two ordinary people kissing each other good-bye.
As Jennie boarded the plane a while later, excitement coursed through her again, causing a little shudder. She shook it off as she had before. Like Gram told Dad, we're only visiting family. What could go wrong?
Grave Matters by Patricia H. Rushford
Copyright © 2002, Patricia H. Rushford
Posted December 14, 2007
I love all the Jennie McGrady Mysteries! Its awesome that teenage girls can read these books knowing that they will have a clean but interesting content. These are the best Christian books ever!
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Posted July 15, 2010
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