The strangest part is that Liv recognizes the boys in her dream. They're classmates from her new school in London, the school where she's starting over because her mom has moved them to a new country (again). But what's really scaring Liv is that the dream boys seem to know things about her in real life, things they couldn't possibly knowunless they actually are in her dreams? Luckily, Liv never could resist a good mystery, and all four of those boys are pretty cute....
Kerstin Gier has a flair for blending fresh, irresistible combinations of comedy, romance and humor, even twisting a little horror into Dream a Little Dream, book one in her latest series, the Silver trilogy.
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Dream a Little Dream
The Silver Trilogy Book One
By Kerstin Gier, Anthea Bell
Henry Holt and CompanyCopyright © 2013 Kerstin Gier
All rights reserved.
THE DOG WAS SNUFFLING at my bag. For a drug-tracking dog it was a surprisingly fluffy specimen, like a golden retriever, and I was just going to tickle it behind the ears when it bared its teeth and uttered a threatening "Woof!" Then it sat down and pressed its nose hard against the side of my bag. The customs officer seemed to be as surprised as I was. He looked twice from the dog to me and back again before reaching for the bag and saying, "Okay, then, let's see what our Amber's found in there."
Oh, great. Less than half an hour on British soil, and I was already under suspicion of drug smuggling. The genuine smugglers in the line behind me probably couldn't believe their luck. Thanks to me, they could stroll through the barrier at their leisure, with their Swiss watches and designer drugs. What customs man in his right mind was going to pick a fifteen-year-old girl with a ponytail out of the line, instead, for instance, of that nervous-looking guy with the shifty expression back there? Or the suspiciously pale boy with tousled hair on the plane who had gone to sleep before we even reached the runway to take off? No wonder he was grinning so gleefully. His pockets were probably stuffed full of illegal sleeping pills.
But I decided not to let myself get upset. Beyond the barrier, after all, a wonderful new life was waiting for us, with exactly the home we'd always dreamed of.
I cast a reassuring glance at my little sister, Mia, who had already reached the barrier and was bobbing impatiently up and down on the balls of her feet. This was only the last hurdle standing between us and the aforesaid wonderful new life. Everything was okay. The flight had gone smoothly, no turbulence, so Mia didn't have to throw up, and for once I hadn't been sitting next to a fat man stinking of beer and competing with me for the armrest. And although, as usual, Papa had booked us on one of those cheapo airlines, the plane hadn't run out of fuel when we had to circle above Heathrow while we waited to land. There'd also been that good-looking dark-haired boy in the row in front of me on the other side of the plane, who turned around to smile at me remarkably often. I'd been at the point of saying something to him, but then I'd seen he was leafing through a magazine for football fans, moving his lips as he read, so I hadn't. The same boy, incidentally, was now staring rather curiously at my bag. In fact, everyone was staring curiously at my bag.
Wide-eyed, I looked at the customs man and smiled my very nicest smile. "Please ... we're in such a hurry, the plane came in late, and we were waiting for ages at baggage collection. And my mom is waiting out there to meet my little sister and me. I promise, word of honor, there's nothing in my bag but dirty laundry and ..." At that exact moment I remembered what else was in the bag, so I fell silent for a second. "Well, anyway, there aren't any drugs in it," I finished in a rather subdued voice, looking reproachfully at the dog. Stupid animal!
The customs man, unmoved, heaved the bag up onto a table. A colleague of his unzipped it and folded back the top. Everyone standing around probably realized instantly what the dog had smelled. Because, to be honest, it didn't really take a dog's sensitive nose to place it.
"What in hell ...?" asked the customs man, and his colleague held his nose while he began clearing my clothes to one side with his fingertips. It must have looked to the spectators as if it was my things that stank to high heaven.
"Cheese from the Entlebuch Biosphere reserve in Switzerland," I explained as my face probably turned much the same color as the burgundy bra that the man was inspecting. "Five and a half pounds of unpasteurized Swiss cheese." Although I didn't remember it smelling quite so bad. "Tastes better than it smells — honest."
The silly dog, Amber, shook herself. I heard people chuckling, and you could bet the genuine smugglers were rubbing their hands together with glee. I thought I'd rather not know what the good-looking dark-haired boy was doing. Probably just feeling thankful that he hadn't asked me for my phone number.
"That's what I call a brilliant hiding place for drugs," said someone behind us, and I looked at Mia and sighed heavily. Mia sighed too. We really were in a hurry.
However, it was naïve of us to think that only the cheese still stood between us and our wonderful new life — in fact, the cheese just lengthened the period of time during which we firmly believed we did have a wonderful new life ahead of us.
Most girls probably dream of other things, but Mia and I wished for nothing more fervently than a real home. One we'd stay in for longer than a year. With a room for each of us.
This was our sixth move in eight years, meaning six different countries on four different continents, starting at a new school six times, making new friends six times, saying goodbye to them six times. We were experts at packing and unpacking, we kept our personal possessions to a minimum, and it's easy to guess why neither of us played the piano.
Mom was a professor of literary studies (with two doctoral degrees), and almost every year she held a post as a lecturer at a different university. We'd been living in Pretoria until June, and before that we'd lived in Utrecht, Berkeley, Hyderabad, Edinburgh, and Munich. Our parents had divorced seven years ago. Papa was an engineer and as restless as Mom, meaning he went to live in different places just as often. So we couldn't even spend our summer vacations at one and the same place; it always had to be wherever Papa was working at the time. Right now he was working in Zurich, so this last vacation had been comparatively good (several trips to the mountains of Switzerland and a visit to the biosphere, home of the cheese), but unfortunately not all the places where we'd happened to find ourselves were as nice as that.
Lottie, our au pair, sometimes said we ought to be grateful that our parents' work meant we saw so much of the world, except, to be honest, once you've spent a summer on the outskirts of an industrial area of Bratislava, it's easy to keep your gratitude within bounds.
Starting this fall, Mom would be teaching at Magdalen College, Oxford, fulfilling a great dream of hers. She'd wished for a teaching post at the University of Oxford for decades. And the little eighteenth-century cottage she'd rented just outside the city fulfilled a dream of our own. We were going to settle down at last and have a real home. In photos the house had looked romantic and comfortable, and as if it were full of wonderful, scary mysteries from the cellar to the attic. There was a large garden, with old trees and a summerhouse, and from the second-floor windows you had a view right down to the Thames, at least in winter. Lottie was planning to grow vegetables, make her own jam, and join the Women's Institute. Mia wanted to build a tree house, get a rowboat, and tame an owl, and I dreamed of finding a chest full of old letters in the attic and solving all the cottage's mysteries. We also definitely wanted to hang a swing in one of the trees — a swing made out of a rusty old iron bedstead where you could lie and look up at the sky. And we were going to have a real English picnic at least every other day, and the house would smell of Lottie's homemade cookies. Maybe of cheese fondue as well, because the customs officers had chopped our nice Entlebuch Biosphere cheese into such tiny little pieces that there was nothing else to be done with it.
When we finally got out of customs and into the main arrivals hall of the airport (incidentally, it turned out that there was no law against bringing a few pounds of cheese into Great Britain for one's personal use), it took Mom less than a minute to pop our dream of English country life like a soap bubble.
"There's been a slight change of plan, mousies," she told us after we'd all hugged and said hello, and in spite of her radiant smile, you could see her guilty conscience written all over her face.
Behind her, a man was approaching with an empty baggage cart, and without looking closely, I knew who he was: the change of plan in person.
"I hate changes of plan," muttered Mia.
Mom was still smiling for all she was worth. "You'll love this one," she said, untruthfully. "Welcome to London, the most exciting city in the world!"
"Welcome home," said Mr. Change of Plan in a deep, warm voice, heaving our bags up into the cart.
I hated changes of plan too, from the bottom of my heart.CHAPTER 2
ON OUR FIRST NIGHT in London I dreamed of Hansel and Gretel. Or, to be precise, I dreamed that Mia and I were Hansel and Gretel and Mom had taken us into the forest and left us there. "It's for your own good!" she said before she disappeared among the trees. Poor little Hansel and I wandered helplessly around until we came to a mysterious gingerbread house. Luckily I woke up before the wicked witch came out of it, but I felt only a second of relief, and it occurred to me that my dream wasn't all that far from the truth. Mom had said, "It's for your own good!" about seventeen times yesterday. I was still so furious with her that I felt like grinding my teeth nonstop.
I did realize that even people over forty have a right to a full and satisfactory love life, but couldn't she have waited until we were grown up? A few years weren't going to make much difference to her now. And if she absolutely had to spend time with Mr. Change of Plan, wouldn't a weekend relationship be enough for her? Did she have to turn our whole life upside down? Couldn't she at least have asked us?
Mr. Change of Plan's real name, incidentally, was Ernest Spencer, and he had driven us here in his car last night, making conversation all the time in such a cheerful, casual way, you'd have thought he didn't even notice that Mia and I were so disappointed and furious that we were fighting back tears and didn't say a word. (And it was a long drive from the airport into the city.) Not until Ernest was taking our baggage out of the trunk of the car did Mia get her voice back.
"Oh no," she said, with her very sweetest smile, handing him back the plastic bag with the dismembered cheese in it. "This is for you. A present from Switzerland."
Ernest exchanged a delighted glance with Mom. "Why, thank you both. That's really nice of you!"
Mia and I grinned at each other quite happily — but that was the only good moment of the evening. Ernest went home with his stinking, ruined cheese, after kissing Mom and assuring us of how much he was looking forward to tomorrow evening. Because we were invited to his house then, to meet his children.
"We're looking forward to it too," said Mom.
You bet your life.
* * *
The moment we first laid eyes on him, we were suspicious of Ernest I'm-just-like-mystuffy-old-first-name Spencer. He'd even brought presents, which showed he was in dead earnest about Mom. Normally the men in Mom's life don't show any interest in sucking up to Mia and me — far from it. They'd always done their best to ignore us as much as possible. But Ernest had brought me a book about secret messages and codes and how to decipher them, which really did look very interesting. Only with Mia he didn't get it quite right; he gave her a book called Maureen the Little Detective, but now that she was nearly thirteen, she was a few years too old for it. However, the mere fact that Ernest had asked about our interests made him different.
And Mom was besotted with him — don't ask me why. It couldn't be his looks. Ernest had a large bald patch, enormous ears, and teeth that were far too white. It was all very well for Lottie to insist that Ernest was a handsome man; we just couldn't go along with her opinion. Maybe he did have nice eyes, but with ears like that who was going to look into his eyes? Not to mention that he was ancient — over fifty. His wife had died more than ten years ago, and he lived in London with his two children. Mia the little detective and I had Googled to check up on him at once. Google knew all about Ernest Spencer because he was one of those star lawyers who are always getting into the papers, whether it's outside the Royal Courts of Justice or on the red carpet at a charity gala. And his late wife had been two hundred and first, or something like that, in line to the throne of England, so he moved in the top circles of society.
By all the laws of probability, Ernest and Mom should never have crossed each other's paths. But a mean trick on the part of fate, and Ernest's special subject — international commercial law — had taken him to Pretoria six months ago, and he and Mom had met at a party. Idiots that we were, we'd even encouraged her to go to it, so she'd have a nice evening and get to know people.
And that had landed us in this mess.
* * *
"Keep still, dear!" Lottie was tugging at the hem of my skirt, but it was no use; it was too short.
Lottie Wastlhuber had come to us twelve years ago as an au pair and stayed on ever since. Which was a good thing, because otherwise we'd have had to survive on sandwiches. Mom usually forgot about meals, and she hated to cook. Without Lottie, no one would have braided our hair into funny German styles, but then again, no one would have given birthday parties for our dolls or decorated the Christmas tree with us. In fact, we probably wouldn't even have had a Christmas tree, because Mom didn't think much of customs and traditions. She was also terribly forgetful, the very image of an absentminded professor. She forgot absolutely everything: fetching Mia from her flute lessons, the name of our dog, and where she'd parked the car. We'd all have been lost without Lottie.
Not that Lottie was infallible. She'd bought my school uniform a size too small, the same as every year, and also the same as every year, she was trying to blame it on me.
"I just don't see how anyone can grow so much in a single summer," she wailed, doing her best to button the blazer up over my breasts. "And then there's all this up here! You did it on purpose!"
"Yes, sure!" Although I was as cross as I could be, I had to grin. Lottie might have congratulated me. "All this up here" might not be especially impressive for someone nearly sixteen, but at least I wasn't flat as a board anymore. So I didn't think it was so bad if I had to leave the blazer unbuttoned. Along with the skirt being too short, it gave me kind of a cool look, and it did show off as much of my figure as possible.
"It looks much better on Liv," complained Mia, who was already dressed in her own outfit. "Why didn't you buy mine a size too small as well? And why are all school uniforms dark blue? And why is the school called Frognal Academy when it doesn't have a frog on its crest?" She sullenly patted the embroidered crest on the breast pocket of her blazer. "I look dumb. Everything here is dumb." She turned slowly on her own axis, pointing to the unfamiliar items of furniture around us and saying in an extra-loud voice, "Dumb. Dumb. Dumb. Dumb. Right, Livvy? We'd been looking forward so much to the cottage in Oxford, and instead we end up here. ..."
"Here" was the apartment where Ernest had dropped us off last night, on the third floor of a rather grand block somewhere in the northwest of London. It had four bedrooms, gleaming marble floors, and a whole lot of furniture and other stuff that didn't belong to us. (Much of it was gilded, even the sofa cushions.) According to the nameplate beside the doorbell, it belonged to some people called Finchley. They obviously collected china ballerinas. There were ballerinas all over the place.
I nodded. "We don't even have our favorite things here," I said in a voice just as loud as Mia's.
"Shh," said Lottie, glancing anxiously over her shoulder. "You both know perfectly well that this is only temporary. And the cottage was a catastrophe." She had given up tugging at my uniform. It didn't do any good.
"Yes, so Mr. Spencer says," said Mia. (We were supposed to call him by his first name, but we pretended we'd forgotten.)
Excerpted from Dream a Little Dream by Kerstin Gier, Anthea Bell. Copyright © 2013 Kerstin Gier. Excerpted by permission of Henry Holt and Company.
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