Table of Contents
Into the Wild
Published by the Penguin Group
Penguin Young Readers Group
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Copyright © 2007 Sarah Beth Durst
eISBN : 978-1-595-14185-9
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For my mother and my daughter
You are holding in your hands my wish in the wishing well. Thank you to everyone who made my dream come true: Andrea Somberg (my agent/hero), Ben Schrank, Jessica Rothenberg, Andy Ball, Liesa Abrams, Tamora Pierce, my family and friends, and all the other fantastic people who helped make this book a reality. And most of all, thank you to my husband/prince Adam. You are my magic. This book is as much yours as it is mine.
The Monster Under the Bed
In the darkness, the heart of the fairy tale waited . . .
Julie picked up a scrap of shoelace. Once upon a time, it had been an entire sneaker. “Look what you did,” she said, wiggling it under her bed.
Snapping out a green vine, the Wild snatched the lace.
“Hey!” She dropped to her knees and peered under the bed. It’s not fair, she grumbled to herself. Worst most people had under their beds was dust bunnies. The Wild, a tangled mass of green, tried to tuck itself back into the shadows under her bed, but one vine—the newest—couldn’t fit. “Oh, great,” Julie said. “Not again.” She flattened onto her stomach to see it better. The new growth was pale green with tuliplike leaves that cradled a half-laced, tan-colored boot—the fate of her poor sneaker.
The Wild had swallowed and transformed it.
Note to self, Julie thought, throwing things at the Wild was not the brightest move. In her defense, though, when she threw the shoe, it was 2 a.m. and the vines were snoring. “Mom!” she called, getting up. “It happened again!”
“Be there in a minute!” her mom called back.
This was her third pair this month. Julie scrounged through her closet. She was pretty sure that all she had now were left shoes. And a pair of flip-flops—bright sunflower yellow flip-flops. Perfect footwear for October in Massachusetts. She put them on and grimaced. Her naked toes looked like plump breakfast sausages. Maybe no one will notice, she thought hopefully.
Mom came into the room with a kitchen knife. Her eyes swept expertly over the room and settled on Julie’s feet. So much for no one noticing. Julie wiggled her toes.
“I’m sorry,” Mom said. “I could try putting it back in the basement.” Leaves rustled as the Wild pressed itself farther under the bed. The vine with the boot quivered and began to slide back into the green. “Quick, catch it!”
Julie scrambled forward and grabbed the boot. The vines squirmed. She leaned back, pulling against the vines with her full weight. “Why do we always have to guard it?” she complained. “Can’t one of your friends take a turn?” She shot a look at Mom. Julie hadn’t meant to ask that. The words had slipped out before she’d thought about them.
“Julie, watch the vine.”
She turned back as the Wild struggled, leaves flapping against the underside of the mattress. Julie stepped on the new vine with her flip-flopped foot, holding it steady. Businesslike, Mom sawed off the boot. Green ooze stained the carpet and spattered Julie’s toes.
Mom eyed the boot critically. “Unfinished Seven League Boot. I’d say it’s about a three-mile boot.” She tucked the boot under her arm, then fetched her special key from her bedroom and unlocked the linen closet. Rubbing the excess ooze off her foot, Julie trailed after her.
She peeked over Mom’s shoulder into the closet. All the shelves were stuffed with the Wild’s creations: cloaks, purses, wands, hats, picnic baskets. The Wild had made a
of items. It desperately wanted to grow again.
She looked again at Mom. Was she just going to ignore the question? “You didn’t answer me,” Julie said.
“Oh, pumpkin, not now, please,” Mom said. “We could put it back in the basement. But that’s the best we can do.”
Ugh, that wasn’t a solution. Last time they had kept it in the basement, it had pried all the plumbing out of the walls and transformed half of the hot water heater. Julie had had to take cold showers for two weeks after that. “Never mind,” Julie said. The Wild was calmest under Julie’s bed, and it was weak enough that Mom was willing to allow it to stay there. Maybe the Wild thought Julie would help it grow. Fat chance of that.
Mom locked the closet door and handed Julie her special works-on-any-door key. She kissed Julie on the forehead. “Don’t be blue. It’s only a shoe.” And then she smiled. “How’s that for a rhyme?”
“Very rhyme-y,” Julie said.
As her mother went downstairs, Julie locked her bedroom door with the special key and then returned the key to her mother’s jewelry box. Mom
answered her straight-out. Why did they have to have this permanent houseguest? Why couldn’t she just once have a normal morning without lost shoes or locked doors or any of it? As she trudged down to the kitchen, she tried to imagine what a normal morning would be like. She pictured her mother wearing an apron and a ’50s-mom smile and handing Julie a paper bag lunch. And of course, Julie’s father would be there, sitting at the kitchen table and reading the newspaper. He’d put it down when Julie came into the kitchen, and he’d say . . .
Her mother handed her a Cheerios box. “Did you lock the door?”
For a second, Julie blinked at her. She had almost pictured him there, maybe in a bathrobe and slippers or in a suit and tie, ready for work, whatever that would be. He’d have an office job, be home in time for dinner, and he’d complain about the commute, like other dads . . . She could almost see his face, smiling at her . . .
“Did you hear me?” Mom asked. “Did you lock the door?”
Julie sighed as the daydream vanished. “Mom, please.”
“Julie, it’s important.”
“Yeah, I know,” she said. “I’m not a baby.”
Her mom cooed. “My wittle baby-waby.” She sounded so exactly like a cartoon mouse that Julie laughed in spite of herself. Her mom made a fish face. “Oobe snooby uppy wuppy.”
Julie made a fish face back at her. “Uppy snuppy wuppy puppy.”
Her mom smiled, and Julie grinned back. And for an instant, everything was okay. Julie started on her cereal as her mom fixed her age makeup in the reflection in the microwave door. She wore just enough to look the appropriate age for a mother of a twelve-year-old. Julie watched as her mom wet the tip of a brown eyeliner and darkened a wrinkle on her forehead. Skillfully, she blended in the new shadow. With makeup, she almost looked ordinary, Julie thought. Of course, all the makeup in the world couldn’t hide her mother’s most recognizable feature: she had amazing hair, the color of wheat and the texture of silk, which she kept bobbed short, up above her ears.
Julie wondered what her father would have thought of Mom’s short hair. Suddenly, her cereal was hard to swallow. Why was she thinking about him so much this morning? She should be worrying about how to blend in at school despite her bright yellow flip-flops. Of course, if no one guessed who her mother was from the hair, then no one would guess their family secret from Julie’s feet. It wasn’t like her footwear was the biggest tip-off around.
Finishing the age makeup, her mother lifted the cloth over the kitchen mirror. “Well?” she asked.
“Eh, you look terrible,”
the mirror said.
“How many times have I told you that pink is not your color, and what are those? Slacks? You’re wearing slacks?”
Her mom dropped the cloth back down.
Compared to a talking mirror, what was a pair of sandals? Today was going to be fine. Or at least it would be if she wasn’t late. Glancing at the clock, Julie said, “Gotta go.” Grabbing her jacket and backpack, she headed for the door.