Home > Shadowland (Mediator #1)

Shadowland (Mediator #1)
Author: Meg Cabot



The Mediator series
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C H A P T E R

1


They told me there'd be palm trees.

I didn't believe them, but that's what they told me. They told me I'd be able to see them from the plane.

Oh, I know they have palm trees in Southern California. I mean, I'm not a complete moron. I've watched 90210, and everything. But I was moving to Northern California. I didn't expect to see palm trees in Northern California. Not after my mom told me not to give away all my sweaters.

"Oh, no," my mom had said. "You'll need them. Your coats, too. It can get cold there. Not as cold as New York, maybe, but pretty chilly."

Which was why I wore my black leather motorcycle jacket on the plane. I could have shipped it, I guess, with the rest of my stuff, but it kind of made me feel better to wear it.

So there I was, sitting on the plane in a black leather motorcycle jacket, seeing these palm trees through the window as we landed. And I thought, Great. Black leather and palm trees. Already I'm fitting in, just like I knew I would …

…Not.

My mom isn't particularly fond of my leather jacket, but I swear I didn't wear it to make her mad, or anything. I'm not resentful of the fact that she decided to marry a guy who lives three thousand miles away, forcing me to leave school in the middle of my sophomore year; abandon the best – and pretty much only – friend I've had since kindergarten; leave the city I've been living in for all of my sixteen years.

Oh, no. I'm not a bit resentful.

The thing is, I really do like Andy, my new stepdad. He's good for my mom. He makes her happy. And he's very nice to me.

It's just this moving to California thing that bugs me.

Oh, and did I mention Andy's three other kids?

They were all there to greet me when I got off the plane. My mom, Andy, and Andy's three sons. Sleepy, Dopey, and Doc, I call them. They're my new stepbrothers.

"Suze!" Even if I hadn't heard my mom squealing my name as I walked through the gate, I wouldn't have missed them – my new family. Andy was making his two youngest boys hold up this big sign that said Welcome Home, Susannah! Everybody getting off my flight was walking by it, going "Aw, look how cute," to their travel companions, and smiling at me in this sickening way.

Oh, yeah. I'm fitting in. I'm fitting in just great.

"Okay," I said, walking up to my new family fast. "You can put the sign down now."

But my mom was too busy hugging me to pay any attention. "Oh, Suzie!" she kept saying. I hate when anybody but my mom calls me Suzie, so I shot the boys this mean look over her shoulder, just in case they were getting any big ideas. They just kept grinning at me from over the stupid sign, Dopey because he's too dumb to know any better, Doc because – well, I guess because he might have been glad to see me. Doc's weird that way. Sleepy, the oldest, just stood there, looking … well, sleepy.

"How was your flight, kiddo?" Andy took my bag off my shoulder, and put it on his own. He seemed surprised by how heavy it was, and went, "Whoa, what've you got in here, anyway? You know it's a felony to smuggle New York City fire hydrants across state lines."

I smiled at him. Andy's this really big goof, but he's a nice big goof. He wouldn't have the slightest idea what constitutes a felony in the state of New York since he's only been there like five times. Which was, incidentally, exactly how many visits it took him to convince my mother to marry him.

"It's not a fire hydrant," I said. "It's a parking meter. And I have four more bags."

"Four?" Andy pretended he was shocked. "What do you think you're doing, moving in, or something?"

Did I mention that Andy thinks he's a comedian? He's not. He's a carpenter.

"Suze," Doc said, all enthusiastically. "Suze, did you notice that as you were landing, the tail of the plane kicked up a little? That was from an updraft. It's caused when a mass moving at a considerable rate of speed encounters a counter-blowing wind velocity of equal or greater strength."

Doc, Andy's youngest kid, is twelve, but he's going on about forty. He spent almost the entire wedding reception telling me about alien cattle mutilation, and how Area 51 is just this big cover-up by the American government, which doesn't want us to know that We Are Not Alone.

"Oh, Suzie," my mom kept saying. "I'm so glad you're here. You're just going to love the house. It just didn't feel like home at first, but now that you're here … Oh, and wait until you've seen your room. Andy's fixed it up so nice...."

Andy and my mom spent weeks before they got married looking for a house big enough for all four kids to have their own rooms. They finally settled on this huge house in the hills of Carmel, which they'd only been able to afford because they'd bought it in this completely wretched state, and this construction company Andy does a lot of work for fixed it up at this big discount rate. My mom had been going on for days about my room, which she keeps swearing is the nicest one in the house.

"The view!" she kept saying. "An ocean view from the big bay window in your room! Oh, Suze, you're going to love it."

I was sure I was going to love it. About as much as I was going to love giving up bagels for alfalfa sprouts, and the subway for surfing, and all that sort of stuff.

For some reason, Dopey opened his mouth, and went "Do you like the sign?" in that stupid voice of his. I can't believe he's my age. He's on the school wrestling team, though, so what can you expect? All he ever thinks about, from what I could tell when I had to sit next to him at the wedding reception – I had to sit between him and Doc, so you can imagine how the conversation just flowed – is choke holds and body-building protein shakes.

"Yeah, great sign," I said, yanking it out of his meaty hands, and holding it so that the lettering faced the floor. "Can we go? I wanna pick up my bags before someone else does."

"Oh, right," my mom said. She gave me one last hug. "Oh, I'm just so glad to see you! You look so great...." And then, even though you could tell she didn't want to say it, she went ahead and said it anyway, in a low voice, so no one else could hear: "Thought I've talked to you before about that jacket, Suze. And I thought you were throwing those jeans away."

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