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The Island Horse

CHAPTER ONE: JANNA

Ever since she was six years old, Janna spent her summers on Lovely Island, with her grandparents. It wasn't that her parents wanted to get rid of her or anything. It was more like her grandparents looked forward to the time they were able to spend with her.


In fact, now that she was in the fifth grade, Janna looked forward to "summering" on the island—as her Mom described it. Grandma and Gramps lived in an old inn that they operated to make money. Mom told Janna that this was their job. It was called, The Inn of the Weary Traveler, or something. But Janna just always thought of it as “the Inn.”


As she was waking up, she felt that warm and toasty feeling she always had when she slept in the huge feather bed at Grandma's Inn. When she came fully awake, she didn't open her eyes at first—just laying there savoring those first few moments of wakefulness.


Then, as was her custom, she opened one eye and peeked into the room. As she hoped, the sun was coming up and a tiny shaft of golden light was streaming through a crack in the pale blue curtains surrounding the window.


She sat up in bed, climbed to her knees and looked out the window. The sun was up but the mist on the ground, normal for the island, had not yet burned away. She sat down on the bed and listened for a moment. From the absence of sound she guessed that no one else was awake yet. If she moved quickly she might be able to finish her morning chores and get to the beach before anyone noticed.


Janna dressed herself quickly and headed for the barn. It was her responsibility to feed the chickens that her Grandma kept. Her grandparents were fairly modern. They had an old horse that they rode for pleasure. But besides the horse, Grandma's cats, the chickens, and Gramps' Dalmatian Spot, they did not have any other animals at the Inn.


She opened the barn door slowly so as not to wake Spot - who was old, like Gramps, and enjoyed his sleep. But when she stepped through, a furtive movement caught her eye. The morning light shining through the door gave her sufficient illumination to see. Yet, her inner alarm system was ringing wildly. There was something in the barn that was not supposed to be.


"Who's there?" She shouted boldly—a little more boldly than she felt. There was no response. Still, she could hear the sound of something or someone breathing.


"Who's there?" She shouted again. "Come out or I'm gonna go get my Gramps."


Just then there was a blur of motion coming rapidly toward her. Vision told her that it was not an animal and it was not an adult. It was a person around her size. But as she reached this conclusion, the streaking person slammed into her at full speed. It smashed her with full force into the ground knocking the air out of her with a WHOOSH!


Janna rolled to her side as she tried to breathe. She looked toward the open barn door. She caught just enough of a glimpse to see a boy about her age run head first into her huge grandfather.


"Where do you think you're going?" Gramps asked calmly. In one motion he grabbed the boy by the back of the pants and hoisted him into the air—with one hand—and stood gazing into his face.


"Let me go!" The boy shouted, kicking and screaming angrily. "Let me go!"


"Oh no young fella," Gramps said, a look of concern growing on his face. "Not until we get a few answers from you. Janna?" He called. "Are you ok?"


Janna was breathing now but her chest was aching.


"I'm ok Gramps," she said as she climbed to her feet. When she stood up and was certain that she was not badly injured, she walked out into the bright sunlight. The boy was still kicking and screaming.


"Let me go!" He continued to scream. "You can't keep me here! You can't keep me!"


"Unless you tell me who you are and why you are here," Gramps began, "I'm going to call the police and turn you over to them."


When Gramps said this, the boy began to calm down. He stopped kicking and screaming, but Grandpa did not put him down.


"My name is Alex," the boy said, still swinging slowly, hanging from Gramps’ hand. "I ran away from the camp near here and YOU CAN'T MAKE ME GO BACK!" He yelled and began to kick and scream again. "Let me go!"


"All right, young fella," Gramps said. "You are going where we can keep an eye on you." At that point, Gramps carried him into the Inn and locked him in the maid's bedroom, just off the kitchen. When the door locked, you could hear him begin to bang on the door. He began to make threats to destroy things.


"If you break anything," Gramps said calmly but in a loud firm voice, "I will turn you over to the police now instead of calling the people at the summer camp." With that, Alex, the prisoner became quiet and did not make any further noise.
When the camp people came to the Inn they spoke quietly with Gramps for a long time. Janna could not hear what they were saying because Grandma kept her discreetly out of range. The whole time the boy Alex stayed locked in the bedroom. Janna smiled to herself at that. "What a brat he is," she thought.


When Gramps and the camp people came out of the library, Alex was finally let out. Immediately he began to kick at them and scream.


"I won't go back!" he shouted over and over. "And if you take me back, I'll run away again."


"If you don't go willingly, we'll drag you back," the camp director threatened. Then as he tried to grab the boy, Alex bit him.


"That's enough!" Gramps said loudly. When he spoke everyone in the room went silent. He turned to the boy. "Why do you not want to go back?" Gramps asked and then waited for the answer.


"I hate that stupid camp," Alex shouted, but not quite as loudly as before. "My parents send me there just to dump me off and its stupid and boring and I WON'T GO BACK."


All of the people in the room stood silently. Then Grandma spoke.


"Why don't you stay here with us dear?" Grandma asked.