13 Gifts Read online

  While I’ve been seething, Mrs. Grayson has somehow convinced Amanda to take the key and the necklace, and Rory has told Mrs. Grayson about the knife.

  “I’d like to tag along,” Mrs. Grayson says as everyone moves out of the room. “That can be the favor you do for me.”

  Amanda nods in agreement.

  “Wait,” I say, hurrying after them. “Maybe we shouldn’t even try for the knife. Maybe this whole thing isn’t a good idea.”

  But David and Leo are already lugging the key out the door to Ray’s car. Amanda and Mrs. Grayson chat as they head toward the garage. No one is listening to me. I literally stomp my foot in frustration.

  Rory hangs back and pulls me aside, into Mrs. Grayson’s kitchen. I can’t help noticing that only one place at the table is set.

  “Tara, remember what I said about things with Angelina seeming like they don’t make sense? And that you have to just do your best to trust her?”

  “Yes, but —”

  “I need you to remember that. Amanda and Leo tried to help me last year, and I’m trying to help you.”

  I feel myself calming down. I’m lucky to have someone like Rory, who cares so much. If I had to do all this alone, I never, ever would have made it. “Okay, you’re right. I’ll try.”

  She squeezes my arm. “That’s the spirit! Now let’s go get some strange guy to give up his favorite knife!”

  When we get outside, Mrs. Grayson has already backed out of the garage. I’m surprised to see that her car is a bright orange Jaguar. David and Rory yell, “Shotgun!” and race each other over to it. Ray strides across the lawn toward me. “Hang on a second; how come she gets to go on the next one when I had to stay out here?” He gestures with his thumb at Mrs. Grayson.

  Leo answers. “She’s got a cooler car.”

  I nod. “Can’t argue with that.”

  Ray grumbles all the way back to his car. The key takes up his whole backseat, so Amanda and Leo have to go with Mrs. Grayson, too. We lead the way to Big Joe’s, and to his credit, Ray is very good at making sure Mrs. Grayson keeps up. We drive past Apple Grove and the mall, to a section of town I haven’t seen before. It’s more rural here, with some corn and some barns, and the houses are farther apart.

  We pull up in front of a small brown house. Piles of wood and half-finished wood carvings of deer and bears fill the lawn. The big No TRESPASSING sign actually lights up. I peer out the window, not anxious to get out. “This is the place, huh?”


  A guy in overalls and boots, who looks to be around Ray’s age, comes out of the house, takes one look at the two cars idling in front, goes back inside, and slams the door.

  “Well, he seemed nice,” I say.

  “Oh, yeah,” Ray says. “Big Joe’s a real sweetheart. London to a brick, this isn’t going to go well.”

  While we sit there debating what to do, Mrs. Grayson gets out of her car and starts up the walk. Ray quickly opens his door and calls out for her to go back.

  “It’s all right,” she says. “I know what I’m doing. You guys stay put.”

  “No disrespect, ma’am,” Ray says, “but —” “I’ll be fine, young man, don’t worry.” She turns away and marches up the porch steps.

  “See? The accent gets them every time,” Ray says. “Uh-huh.”

  We watch as she opens the screen door and knocks. The front door opens right away, and I can see Big Joe filling the doorway, arms crossed. I can’t hear what they’re saying but I’m getting nervous. Why are we sitting here? I reach for my phone and call Rory.

  “Should we go up there?” I ask when she picks up.

  “Mrs. Grayson made us promise to stay in the car. She said, and I quote, ‘I got this one.’”

  “Okay, then, I guess.” I hang up and tell Ray what Rory told me.

  “She gets thirty more seconds,” he says, “then I’m going out there.”

  Big Joe disappears into the house. Mrs. Grayson looks very small standing alone on the porch. A few seconds later he returns to the door and hands her something. She couldn’t possibly have gotten him to give her the knife, could she? Just like that?

  She turns to go, waving good-bye. He waves back and quickly shuts the door again. We all pile out of the cars to meet her. She gives us the thumbs-up, and holds out a knife with a long handle, safely tucked inside a red sheath.

  “I’ll be gobsmacked!” Ray exclaims. “How did you do it?”

  She smiles. “A little trick I like to call ‘The Remember Game.’ “

  “The remember game?” I repeat.

  She nods. “As in, remember when I used to be your kindergarten teacher? No one turns down their kindergarten teacher.”

  We laugh. “Sneaky!” Amanda says, clearly impressed. “Did you know it was him all along?”

  Mrs. Grayson nods. “The knife used to be an old keepsake of his father’s. He and I worked together at different community events before he passed on a few years back. I admit I was curious to see how little Joey turned out.”

  “Not so little!” I say.

  “And he didn’t even want any money for it?” Rory asks. She shakes her head. “And he’s coming for supper on Sunday.”

  Amanda hugs her. “You’re incredible!”

  “Nah. You live in this town long enough, you know things. Like the Bible you’re looking for? It doesn’t belong to anyone named WC. Those letters stand for Willow’s Church.”

  “D’oh!” David says, smacking his forehead. “Anything else?”

  Mrs. Grayson turns to Amanda and Leo. “Your great-grandparents’ wine. The last bottle is in the historical society. All those school trips and you guys still didn’t know that. Tsk, tsk.”

  Amanda and Leo groan, but the rest of us are cheering. “That just leaves four more,” I announce. “The shawl, the trunk, the purple bottle, and the candlestick holder.”

  “Sorry,” Mrs. Grayson says, “can’t help you with those.” Then, quick as a flash, she tosses the knife to me! The others yelp as I instinctively reach for it. Some deep-seated survival instinct kicks in and tells me I don’t actually want to catch a knife with my bare hands, so I pull them back at the last second and let it fall onto the street. It lands, not with a clank or a thud, but with barely a plop.

  “Oops,” Mrs. Grayson says, “did I forget to tell you it’s a plastic knife?”

  Chapter Seventeen

  We all wave good-bye to Mrs. Grayson from the sidewalk in front of the historical society. I’m still a bit shaken by the knife-throwing incident, but am grateful to her for all her help. Ray has taken off, too, with the promise to keep the key and knife in his own room.

  Amanda and Leo huddle a few feet away with their blackboards.

  “Oh, right,” David says, “they don’t like going in there for some reason.”

  “Allergies!” Leo yells out without turning around.

  “Creepy stuffed raccoon!” Amanda adds.

  “We’ll go in and ask about the wine,” Rory says. “C’mon, Tara.” She’s about to push open the door, when Leo says, “Don’t bother, they’re closed Fridays.”

  Rory tries the door. “You’re right. How did you know that?” She looks all around the door. “It doesn’t say it anywhere.”

  “The only way in is around back,” Amanda says.

  Rory, David, and I exchange a look, but follow the two of them around the back of the building. Amanda points to a window about four feet off the ground. “There.”

  I stare at the window. “You’re talking about breaking in? Why can’t we just wait until they’re open?”

  “Trust us,” Amanda says. “It’s easier this way.”

  “But Angelina told me I can’t steal anything.” As soon as the words are out of my mouth I realize I slipped up by saying her name. Amanda and I whirl around to look for David. Fortunately he’s a few yards away, trying to find something to stand on to reach the window.

  “I don’t think he heard,” I whisper. “But seriously, we can