The driveway that twisted and wound a path to Raven Hill Manor had not been disturbed for months. A
silver Ford Explorer broke the streak, kicking upred dust as it pulled to a stop in front of the house. The
car contained three people, a mother and her son and daughter. They had reached their destination,
though no one would ever expect two children as unique as Dean and Millie Fletcher to find themselves in
a house as unique as Raven Hill, least of all Deanand Millie Fletcher. The odds were stacked against
such an occurrence.
The house towered five stories high. Light glinted of beautiful stained glass windows, each one an
elagent depictions of the cross. The house was in theshape of a three leaf clover, except with square
leaves. It was composed of large, smooth stones. Each stone was varying shades of gray to off-white.
A massive oak tree cast shadows in the yard as it swayed in the warm summer breeze. Beautiful
magnolia trees grew in rows between the forest and themanor. Jasmine snaked its way up the walls of
the house. A black wrought iron fence surrounded the abode.
"This is it, beautiful huh?" Miranda Fletcher said to her two children. Millie gasped in awe at the
beautiful manor. She found the shimmering stained glasswindows especially astonishing. Dean was
astonished as well, but as a testament to his distaste over spending the enitire summer in the middle of
nowhere,he wrinkled his nose and stared back at the book he was reading. He sighed as shifted in his
seat, stretching his sore limbs.
Dean shut the detective novel, "Sure, if you're into that kind of thing. Does it have electricity? It looks
old as dirt." Dean's hand dropped to the iPod in hispocket, he wouldn't last the summer without his
"Of course it does, as long as the bills have been paid. Uncle Oswald could've lived in the 1800s, he
may not even be using the power." Miranda steppedout of the car, Dean and Millie followed suit. The
humid Alabama air wasn't something he was used to. He rolled up his sleeves and headed for the
Something in one of the windows caught Dean's eye, a pale skinned man with dark, curly hair gazed
out at him. Dean stopped in his tracks, was this hisUncle Oswald he'd heard so much about? He looked
like a mirror image of Dean in the future, down to his hazel eyes, his curly locks, and even a similarlong,
"Wait Dean, I want to talk to you before you head in." Miranda beckoned her son closer as she opened
the back compartment of the Explorer. Dean ranback, his head dropped low. Did his mother already
foresee trouble in the near future? Dean leaned against the back of the Explorer.
"Uncle Oswald is agoraphobic. He probably won't go outside for anything, you'd probably have to
knock him out and drag him out of the house if it caughtfire. Don't you dare make fun of him. He doesn't
talk much, but he's a good man. Treat him with respect." Miranda's tone was strict, and Dean knew better
than to go against her will, tempting as it was. "Also, take care of Millie. I don't want either of you playing
in the woods alone." Miranda's eyes were drawntowards the tall pine trees and sturdy oaks off in the
distance. As if on cue, a flock of doves scattered into the horizon.
"Don't worry Mom, we'll be okay."
"I'm sorry, I know you'd rather spend the summer with your friends.. Just try to have fun, the mansion is so
big that I doubt you'll see it all by the end of thesummer. "Dean spotted the guilt on his mother's face in a
flash. A momentary sniff, and her lips turned downwards. Dean had always had a knack for reading
"Whatever you and dad decide, I'll still love you both."
"Let's not talk about this in front of Millie, the divorce has been hard enough on her," Miranda stroked
her son's curly hair, a sad smile graced her lips.Dean felt his eyelids grow warm and wet. He couldn't cry
in front of Millie, he'd never hear the end of it. That girl was vicious for a seven year old.
Dean helped his mother carry a summer's worth of luggage to the front of the old manor. The front
porch was made of a smooth white stone that clackedunder Dean's feet. White columns stretched to the roof. Double oak doors stood at least nine feet tall,their handles were a brass raven's head.
Go ahead and knock, Millie." Miranda said. Millie beat her tiny fist against the door. The three heard
the sound of metal sliding against the thick woodendoor, clicks echoed on the other side of the threshold.
The clicking and sliding went on for quite a while, until eventually a man’s voice sounded through thewood.
"Come in," his voice was little more than a whisper, Dean almost didn't hear him. His mother gave him
another one of her looks, reminding him not to tease. Her glare could killweeds. Dean grabbed the large
brass handle and twisted it open. His uncle stood on the other side, beckoning him into the house.
"Come in, quick, quick."
The main hall stretched out behind Dean's uncle. Snow-white tiles spread wall to wall. He could see an
opening at the end of the hallway. An octagonal roomspread out before him. If Dean had to guess, it was
a ballroom. A staircase spiraled around the spacious room, and upwards towards the top floors of the
"I'm Oswald Fletcher, you must be Millie and Dean. I've heard so much about you from your mother's
letters! I was at your birth, Dean, and Millie, it's niceto finally meet you." the man said, he stopped
wringing his hands long enough to shake Dean hand and to give Millie a hug. He turned to Miranda,
smilingas he embraced her tightly, then pulled away from the embrace, kissing Miranda on the cheeks.
Dean noticed that Oswald was wearing a wedding band.Why hadn't his Mom mentioned Oswald's wife? she passed away?
Dean looked on either side of the hallway, noticing many paintings lined the walls. Men and women
stood together, looking solemn. A few black and white photos hung beside them, but there were very few
color photos. Even more oddly, there weren't any photos of his mother's family, or Oswald and hiswife.
Dean's attention was drawn to a new face, he must have snuck up from one of the many passages that
branched out from the main hall. The tall, broadshouldered man wore a black tuxedo and white gloves.
He was square jawed, which made him look like he was irritated.. He nodded to the guests and grabbed
theirluggage without a word. He immediately marched off down the main hallway,
"That's Avery Crofton. He is one of many who help maintain the manor. I guess you three are tired and
hungry, We can catch up over Sunday dinner." Hestarted walking down the main hall, and Dean took it
as cue to follow him. Oswald's shiny black shoes clacked as he walked down the hall, always wringing
his hands, his eye darting towards each doorway they passed.
They reached the octagon room. Dean was amazed now, instead of a roof, there was a stained glass
dome. Red, green, blue, and white light filtered in from the beautiful kaleidoscope pattern. Dean and Millie
both craned their necks to stare at the ceiling. Miranda's jaw dropped as well. She hadn't been in the
house in at least five years. Oswald simply kept walking, he was used to the splendorous display.
"This house was amazing. I was lucky to grow up here. Can you remember how much fun we had here
Oswald?" Miranda asked, leaning into him, hugging his shoulders. Oswald smiled and nodded as he
stumbled to the side, and then started up the spiral staircase. They followed him down long, empty
passages, footsteps echoing into the seemingly infinite expanses.
Dean's first impression from Oswald was simple. He seemed a bit bashful, definitely nervous, but very
kind. He was genuinely pleased to see his nieceand nephew. It was such a shame that he was confined
to the house. Dean wondered how he got groceries, or new clothes, but he remembered Avery and
assumed that he had a lot do with it.
Finally, after passing through innumerable passages, they had reached the dining room. A long table
was set for the four of them. It stretched from oneend of the room to the other. The room could easily
seat fifty people. A fireplace sat empty behind the tall backed chair at the end of the table. Two long
benches straddled each side of the table. A vase full of pale pink magnolias and lily of the valleys made a
nice center piece.
Oswald swept his arm like a magician. "Don't be so dramatic," Miranda said, giving Oswald a teasing
punch on the shoulder. He rubbed his arm, feigningagony. Apparently Oswald had a sense of humor. He
seemed like such a strange man to Dean and Millie, one minute he would barely speak, the next he
was joking with Miranda.
Oswald took a seat at the end of the table, Miranda sat next to him, and Millie next to her. Dean took a
seat across from his mother and next to Oswald.He noticed the forks, spoons, and knives were arranged
neatly in front of him. Dean vaguely remembered his mother teaching him about which forks andspoons
went first, but that was years ago. He could see that this was going to be a polar opposite to dinner at his
family's apartment in Atlanta. Usually youjust ate your food from the microwave tray, but if you were
feeling fancy, a Dixie cup and paper plates would do.
Oswald bowed his head, and before Dean had realized what was going on, he began to pray. "Dear
Lord, thank you for the meal we are about to recieve.May it nourish our bodies and remind us how
blessed we truly are. Thank You for blessing us with one another, and protect us over the coming
summer. InJesus' name, Amen." The group said Amen in unison.
Dean heard a clanking sound, and soon a woman wearing a black skirt and white apron pushed a cart
into the room. The scent of herbs and spiceswafted about the room. Dean's stomach grumbled as the
lady placed a platter on the table. She unveiled a golden brown roast chicken. More food waspulled from
the cart; a bowl of salad, mashed potatoes, a boat of gravy, green beans, and finally, corn on the cob with
butter alongside it.
"Thank you Rosa," Oswald said. He stood, grabbing a knife and carving slices of chicken breast for
each of them. He made sure that he and Dean gotpieces with crispy, buttery skin. He and Rosa spooned
out helpings of the sides. A smile lit across Oswald's face. Dean decided he liked the guy.
"Be sure to save room for desert. We'll be having apple cobbler and homemade ice cream." Deandefinitely like the guy.
Before Oswald started at his meal, he asked Dean and Millie a question. "I know what you two must be
thinking. A summer with some dusty old manwon't be any fun. I promise I'll have Avery take you two out
into the woods, and I'll show you around the library. I'll keep you busy, I swear."
When Dean heard about the woods, a question instantly formed in his mind. He wanted to hunt. It
wasn't that he liked shooting innocent deer, but he didlove the woods. They were so peaceful, plus he
could do practically whatever he wanted and he wouldn't get into trouble.
"Can we hunt with Avery?"
Without warning, Oswald started choking on a mouthful of chicken. Miranda looked up from her meal,
panic on her face. She started pounding onOswald's back, his face grew red, and finally he cleared his
Miranda flashed Dean another one of her looks. He looked back to his plate and started eating. Why
had the suggestion solicited such a response? Wasit a sensitive topic? It got Dean to thinking about
Oswald's wedding band, and the fact that there were no photos of his mother's family.
Before too long, Rosa returned with a steaming pie balanced on her left hand, the other hand was
carrying a tin pail of vanilla ice cream. The mood aroundthe table immediately lightened up. Each of themtook a large slice with a scoop of ice cream melting on top. The scent of cinnamon and brownsugar filled the room.
Dean ate his pie in silence, listening to his mother and Oswald catch up. He noticed his mother left his
dad completely out of the picture. Oswald didn'thave much to say, he stayed busy running the cigar
company that had brought Dean's family all of its wealth. He talked about the library he was gathering.
He had classic books from all over the world, and had greatly expanded upon the library he had inherited.
"I guess you three should get some rest. It's getting dark out." Oswald said. Dean looked out the tall,
narrow window. The sun was setting against thehorizon; evening light flitted in through the window.
Dean checked his watch, it was only eight. He had left his book back in the car, but he decided he just
wanted to sleep tonight. He’d worry about everything else in the morning.