This story is by Alana McCuien, who was part of Write Summer camp for young writers. You can find all the stories by Write Summer writers here. If you’re a young write age 7 to 14 and would like to participate in Write Summer camp, you can find out all the details here.

The Small House

        The wind howled. The chilly morning air pushed through my window. It felt so good under the covers.

        “Anna! Get up and go to the store to get flour and sugar.” my mother said. “I’m going to make muffins. Your brothers are starving.”                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           “Uh nooo.” I whispered as I rolled from the bed onto the cold floor.

          I grabbed my basket and left the house, following the trail that leads to our small local town and all the stores. But in the middle of the familiar trail, there was another trail that led into the woods. It was confusing because I had never seen it before.

           My family says I am curious. Taking that to heart, I stepped onto the other trail and bravely followed it, not knowing where it led. Almost blinded by the morning light, I fell over tree branches and bumped my head. I was dazed.

When I came to myself, I wondered “Where is my basket? And the money?  I need to find them and get to the store quickly!” Since I was not suppose go to strange places alone, I was now terrified and looked all around until I saw the basket lying ahead of me. Wait! The sound of steps approached, further frightening me. Frozen, I was hoping the intruders would not hear my heart pounding. “Phew!” They were only squirrels.                                                                    Fortunately, the money was there, too. I never saw where my parents kept the money before. It was a secret to us kids, but this morning when my mother thought I was not looking, I saw her remove it from its secret hiding place. Before dashing out of the door, I hid, making sure Mother did not see me watching her.                                                                                                            My head was hurting from the bump. Although it was getting later, my curiosity was further leading me on the strange trail, so I kept walking, the crisp leaves crunching under my feet. I walked softly in case someone else was in the woods. This place was not where a girl should be alone, but I refused to turn back.                                                                                     Before I knew it I had come to the end of the trail. It stopped at a small house deep in the woods. The trees were huge and so close together that they kept sunlight from shining through to the house. It was not like the painted houses outside the woods that were well-kept. It seemed abandoned with overgrown weeds and plants growing up the sides, but then I saw a lit candle through the window. I whispered to myself “oh no” and ran back. Then I stopped running and thought, “Wait, I am curious and not afraid to knock.” So I dashed back and knocked on the door. The creaky door opened slowly.                                                                                          A little girl about four years old with dirty blonde hair and wearing a ripped dress was standing behind it. Her blue eyes matched the patches on her dress. They were the most innocent I had seen.

“Yes?” she said in a shaking voice.                                                                                        I said, “Hello, how are you?” Before she answered I heard a loud older male’s voice. “Rebecca, what did I tell you about opening the door for strangers?” He was a tall black-haired man who appeared to be in his mid-twenties. His hair was greasy and his overalls were too big.     “Hello” I said nervously. ”Oh” he said. “Come in.”                                                                I stepped in and saw a blonde-haired lady who was wiping down a wooden table. Her hair was also dirty. “Oh, hello dear’” she said sweetly. I was silent as she stared at me. “Hello” I said and sat on an old chair. No one asked me to sit, but I had started to shake. What had I done? Who are these people? Why am I here?                                                                                              I heard another voice. It sounded like an old female laughing. I turned my head to see who it was, but she was on the other side of the house…. if this was a house. It was old, messed up, and very small.                                                                                                                                  The girl tugged on my skirt. She was obviously wondering how I got to their house. So I nervously told them how I got here. They said that this used to be a successful blacksmith shop but got weak in business. At least that’s what they had heard. Because of hard times, they had just moved here and had only lived in the house a short while.                                                       I got so into the conversation that I almost forgot about the sugar and flour. So I told them goodbye and left. All I could think about on the way to town was that poor family.              I ran as fast as I could away from that house to get the items before I got in trouble. I did not want my family to know I met a family of strangers in the woods. If they knew, my parents would put me on many punishments and confront that family, which I had to avoid. As I rushed back home, I was thinking of excuses to explain why it took me a while to return. I opened the door, and my parents stared at me until I put my stuff down in the kitchen, but I didn’t care. The family in the woods needed money.                                                                                                            When I went to the living room my mother said, “Where in the world were you?”              “We were worried sick!” Father added.                                                                             “I just got caught up! There was this famil-” I said.  I knew my father would cut me off.  He said, “I don’t want to hear it! Go to your room!”  He usually says this to my brothers when he’s upset. I went up to my room as my father demanded, but still, all I could think about was the family and the small house.                                                                                                 My room was small and plain. The furniture was old, but compared to the furniture in the small house, my room looked like the room of a princess. Oh and did I mention I have a tiny puppy? I talk to it like it’s my diary. After an hour of playing with him and telling him about my adventures that day, Mother called us down for dinner. We ate pot roast and salad. It satisfied my hunger. After dinner I was really tired, so I went to sleep early.                                                   I woke up early the next morning. Still curious, I wanted to see the family at the small house again. As an excuse to get away, I asked my mother if I could visit some friends. Without question, she agreed. And without hesitation I left before she could change her mind. When I saw the trail that led to the house, I rushed through the woods and knocked on the door like I did the day before. The little girl met me there. “Hello” she said. She was not as timid as she seemed the day before.

“Hello” I said to Rebecca as I walked into the home. The lady welcomed me in with some soup. The soup did not look appetizing, so I politely said, ”I’m not hungry, but thank you for the kind gesture.” She nodded and took back the soup.

Then I gave the mother money I stole from my family, which is really bad, but I had to help this family! I knew I’d be in trouble with my parents if they found out what I had done, but it didn’t matter. The family gladly took the money and decided to go to town for about an hour. I told them I would love to babysit Rebecca, and they agreed. While they were away I heard laughter from another room again. I still didn’t know who it was, but didn’t bother to look because Rebecca and I were playing with her dolls. Her eyes lit up as she told me their names. One did not have a name, so she named her Anna. We giggled.

It was fun being with Rebecca. I took a board game and books. Her parents were happy when they came home because they had bought food and clothing with the money I gave them. They were also happy because Rebecca was smiling. Her mother said that she rarely smiled before because she did not have friends.

When the man and woman returned this time, I told them I could babysit again. They were happy about it, and I babysat Rebecca two more times that week while her parents went away. I made up excuses to leave my house each time I went to the small house, and each time I took additional money I stole from my family. I started getting very scared. What would my parents do when they find out the money was missing? What would they do if they found out that I was the one taking it and giving it to strangers? What if….?                                                         

I kept stealing my family’s money. They finally realized that some of it was missing and started looking around the house. The family I gave the money to did not know that it was stolen. I was more worried than I was before.

The third time I headed out to babysit, I did not see the trail leading to the house. I figured they were redecorating with some of the money I gave them and covered the trail so that no one else would find them. Since I knew where the house was, I carefully walked through the woods, but there was no house. Although the crisp air, wind, and fallen leaves were refreshing, my skin dripped with sweat from fear that something terrible had happened.

Before I knew it, I was back home and faced more trouble. “Anna!” When either of my parents yelled, that meant serious trouble. This time it was my father. “Have you been stealing money from us?” my father said as he waved the money sack.

“Noooo….. I don’t feel well.” I didn’t know what else to do, so I went upstairs and jumped under my covers to comfort myself.

“Get down here first thing in the morning so we can get to the bottom of this!” I was too worried about what may have happened to the family, and now I worried for myself.

When I woke up, it was morning. But it was weird because I had slept a whole day and no one had bothered to wake me up. I smelled porridge and heard laughter from downstairs. When I went down, I saw what looked like the family in the small house, except they were well dressed. I said, “Have I met you before?” The lady said, “’No, we just moved here a couple days ago.” I was stunned. They were having porridge with my family—the father, mother, an older lady who apparently loved to laugh, and…Rebecca.                                                                                The mother said my family had told them a lot about me. She said, “Anna, we have a new blacksmith shop and work long hours. We would love if you would babysit Rebecca for us sometimes. Would you? By the way, we are the Kelley family. We just moved into a large new home at the end of the trail in the woods and have plenty of room for you to stay over sometimes.”                                                                                                                                               I looked at my parents, and then my brothers. They were all smiling. Even my puppy wagged its tail. “Yes, I’d love to!” Then I looked at the little girl. “Rebecca, you have the most beautiful blue eyes I have ever seen, and they match your pretty blue dress too.”