Some Kind of Happiness - Claire Legrand

NCE THERE WAS A GREAT, sprawling forest called the Everwood.

Magic lived there, and it lit up every tree and flower with impossible beauty.

But even so, most people stayed far away from the Everwood, for it was said to hold many secrets, and not all of them kind.

According to rumor, the Everwood was home to astonishing creatures and peculiar, solitary people. Some were born in the Everwood, and some had wandered inside, whether they meant to or not.

No one in the Everwood got along, for they had no ruler to unite them, no neighborhoods or cities. They lived like wild things and kept to themselves, but they all loved the Everwood, and its strangeness, with their whole hearts. For it was their home, and it was all they knew.

Or so the rumors said.

Most people were afraid to enter the Everwood, but some brave souls made the journey anyway: adventurers, witches, explorers.

They never returned.

Perhaps the wild creatures who lived in the forest had trapped them there. Or maybe the Everwood’s secrets were so enchanting that those who made it inside did not care to leave.

Everyone who lived near the Everwood knew that it was home to two guardians. They were as ancient as the Everwood trees, and they protected the forest’s secrets from outsiders.

Throughout their long lives, the guardians had learned how to read certain signs: the wind in the trees, the chatter of the Everwood creatures.

One summer, not so long ago, something happened that would change the Everwood forever. The ancient guardians determined that soon a terrible Everwood secret—one they had kept hidden for years—would come to light. And if this happened, the guardians feared, the Everwood would fall. They would no longer be able to protect their forest. Its secrets and treasures would be laid bare. The people of the Everwood would lose the home they so loved and be forced out into the cold, wide world.

So the guardians studied their signs, desperate for hope—and they found it. A small, cautious hope, as clear to them as though it were a page in a book:

The Everwood might fall—but it could still be saved, even then. The trees whispered it; the birds sang it: A fall does not have to be forever.

All they would need to save the Everwood, said the guardians’ signs, was a queen.

1

WHY THIS SUMMER WILL BE THE MOST TERRIBLE OF MY LIFE

• I will be spending the entire summer at Hart House with my estranged grandparents. (estranged: nine-letter word for “kept at a distance”)

■ My cousins will be there too, off and on. That’s what Mom and Dad tell me. “Oh, they pop in and out, Grandma says.”

♦ I hate when people “pop in and out.” Popping in and out is not very list-friendly behavior.

• Mom and Dad are taking me to Hart House because they are “having problems” and “need some space to work it out.”

■ This, I assume, is a euphemism for divorce. Or at least something leading up to divorce. (euphemism: nine-letter word for “term or phrase, seemingly innocuous”)

• I will be far away from my bedroom at home, which is the only place where I can be entirely myself.

• There is a heaviness pressing down on me that makes it difficult to breathe.

IT’S TRUE: I AM FINDING it difficult to breathe. A heavy feeling inside my chest squeezes and pulls.

I rest my head against the car window and watch the world outside race by. Pale green prairie grass and the wide blue sky. Old barns with peeling paint and lonely houses surrounded by cows instead of neighborhoods.

I imagine I am running through the tall grass alongside the car—no, I am on a horse: a white horse with a tail like a banner.

A horse from the Everwood.

Nothing is fast enough to touch us.

Mom is obsessively switching radio stations. I think she probably has ADHD, which is a term I have learned from listening to kids at school. Mom has a hard time sitting still and is never satisfied with a radio station for longer than the duration of one song. Her work as an interior designer is perfect for her; it keeps her hands busy.

Dad is talking about things that don’t matter:

“I wonder if this summer will be hotter than last summer.”

“What’s a seven-letter word for sidesplitting?”

“I’m not sure I can get behind the new tone of this station.”

They like to pretend I don’t sense the stiffness between them, that I don’t notice how much more they’ve been working lately, even more than usual.

They like