Fish House Secrets is a young adult novel about two teens from very different backgrounds whose lives intersect for a few days on the south shore of Nova Scotia. This excerpt comes before the two meet.
Birds flap and shriek. A maze. Which way? A mother holds a little girl’s hand, leads her away from the birds.
Cold. I reach for my blanket. Not there. Itchy. I scratch. Stiff. I move a little. My bed is so hard. Covered with straw. What happened to my bed? The birds. Not a dream.
I open my eyes. Two birds. I blink. Two barn swallows are on the beam above me talking to each other. And I remember.
I’m in the barn. Trespassers Will Be Prosecuted.
Usually when I wake up at Dutchman’s Bay, I lie in bed for a while and watch the light and shadows change in my room. But today I’ve got to get up, to make the most of the time before anyone else is up and around.
I throw off the covers and step onto the cotton mat beside my bed. The sun has barely risen and it’s caught behind what’s left of the night fog. Shivering, I pull on my jeans and sweatshirt. Carefully I move the wooden buoy away from my door and listen. There’s no sound from Dad’s darkened room (he shuts his curtains even if there’s noboday around for miles), and from Gran and Gramp’s, only a soft snoring. I get my runners and the long thin oak box and paper from under my bed, tiptoe out of my room and down the stairs.
There’s a jar under the kitchen sink. I fill it slowly, letting the water trickle silently down its side. A swig of milk from the carton in the fridge and a handful of chocolate chip cookies in my pocket, then out I go. I’ll put my shoes on outside on the steps.
The sun breaking through the lifting fog makes the Old Barn across the pasture look two-dimensional. Our neighbour’s sheep grazing on the hills look like cardboard props for a country stage set.
I head across the field, opposite to the way you’d go to the beach. It’s strange to be out before anyone else is up. A sudden movement of birds fluttering out of the bay bushes and alders startles me — I’m edgier than I thought about this.
One window’s cracked, the other’s got no glass at all. It’s not dark any more. It must be morning.
I brush the straw off my jacket and pick bits of it out of my hair. The birds start flapping around. I hope the stupid things aren’t going to go beating against the cracked window again. In two single swoops, they fly out the empty one.
The barn’s on a hill, closer to the sea than I realized when I got here last night, just as it was getting dark The dewy grass and bushes glisten. Mist rising from the sea makes the whole scene look like something out of a fairy tale. Even the ordinary Maritime farmhouse and the ordinary sheep grazing on the hills look magical somehow.
Maybe that’s why, when the boy I saw with his father last night saunters across the field, he reminds me of a prince.
That sounds bizarre, I know. Because he’s just wearing blue jeans and a dark green sweatshirt and running shoes, like any ordinary guy. He’s also popping something into his mouth, which reminds me how hungry I am. Whatever he’s eating, I wish I had some.