The First Story
THE RETURN OF THE LYNBURNS
by Kami Glass
Every town in England has a story. One day I am going to find out Sorry-in-the-Vale’s.
The closest this reporter has come to getting our town’s scoop is when I asked Mr. Roger Stearn (age seventy-six but young at heart) to tell me a secret about our town. He confided that he believed the secret to Sorry-in-the-Vale’s high yield of wool was in the sheep feed. I think I may have betrayed some slight disappointment, because he stared at me for a while, said, “Respect the sheep, young lady,” and ended the interview. Which leaves us with a town in the Cotswolds that has a lot of wool and no secrets. Which is plainly ridiculous. Sorry-in-the-Vale’s records date back to the 1400s. Six hundred years do not go by without someone doing something nefarious.
The Lynburns are the town’s founding family, and we all know what the lords of the manor get up to. Ravishing the peasants, burning their humble cottages. Fox hunting. The list goes on and on.
The Lynburns have “dark secret” written all over them. There is even a skipping song about them. Skipping songs may not seem dark to you, but consider “Ring Around the Rosy,” a happy children’s rhyme about the plague. In Sorry-in-the-Vale they sing this song:
Forest deep, silent bells
There’s a secret no one tells
Valley quiet, water still
Lynburns watching on the hill
Apples red, corn gold
Almost everyone grows old.
The song even talks about secrets.
During this dauntless reporter’s lifetime, however, the only Lynburn in Aurimere House was Marigold Lynburn (now deceased). Far be it from me to speak ill of the dead, but it cannot be denied that Mrs. Lynburn was a ferociously private person. To the point of ferociously throwing her walker at certain innocently curious children.
Today, after seventeen years in America, Marigold Lynburn’s daughters have returned to Sorry-in-the- Vale. If the family does have any dark secrets, dear readers, you can have faith that I will uncover them.
Kami stopped typing and glared at the screen. She wasn’t sure about the tone of her article. A serious journalist should probably not make so many jokes, but whenever Kami sat down to the computer it was as if the jokes were already there, hiding behind the keys, waiting to spring out at her.
Kami knew there was a story in the Lynburns. They had gone away before she was born, but all her life she had heard people wishing that someone sick would recover, or a storm would bypass the valley, and in the same breath say, “but the Lynburns are gone.” She had spent the summer since she heard of their return asking questions all over town, and had people instantly hush her as if the Lynburns might be listening. Kami’s own mother cut her off every time, her voice equal parts severe and scared about her dangerously disrespectful daughter.
Kami looked back at the screen. She couldn’t think of a title besides “The Lynburns Return.” She blamed the Lynburns, because their surname rhymed with “return.” She also blamed the kids who were messing around in the woods beyond her garden: tonight they were making a sound that was almost howling. It went on and on, a noise that struck her ears hard and set her temples throbbing.
Kami jumped up from her chair and ran out of her bedroom. She thumped down the narrow creaking stairs and out the back door into the silver-touched square that was her garden at night. The dark curve of the woods held the glittering lights of Sorry-in-the-Vale like a handful of stars in a shadowy palm. On the other end of the woods, high above the town, was Aurimere House, its bell tower a skeletal finger pointing at the sky. Aurimere House, which the Lynburns had built when they founded the town, and where they had lived for generations, the masters of all they surveyed. There was no place in Sorry-in-the-Vale where you could not see the mansion, its windows like watching eyes. Kami always found herself watching it in return.
For the first time Kami could remember, every window was lit from within, shining gold.
The Lynburns were home at last.
The howling reached a pitch that raked up Kami’s spine and sent her running to the garden gate, where she stood with her eyes full of darkness. Then the sound died abruptly. Suddenly there was nothing but the night wind, shushing Kami as if she’d had a bad dream and running cold fingers through her hair. Kami reached out past the boundaries of her own mind and called for comfort.
What’s wrong? the voice in Kami’s head asked at once, his concern wrapping around her. She felt warmer instantly, despite the wind.
Nothing’s wrong, Kami answered.
She felt Jared’s presence slip away from her as she stood in the moonlit garden for another moment, listening to the silence of the woods. Then she went back inside to finish her article. She still hadn’t told Angela about the paper.