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July 2012

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Up the Spiral Stair--Episode 1

SUMMARY: A young teenager suddenly finds her family rich and relocating after a surprise inheritance. The new home, a lavish estate far from where they live, will give the middle-class family a new start: Her mother can finally stay home, and her father can finally have the elite job he's always wanted.

But something isn't right about this new set-up, and Julie soon hears that her parents have been arrested and thrown into prison. Her new guardian will be her strange cousin, the son of her late uncle, and she'll be presented with the opportunity of a lifetime. Will Julie be able to follow the detailed contract that comes with her new life, or will the strange, supernatural-seeming events surrounding both her cousin and late-uncle send her running away.

Rated: K+

Genre: Supernatural/Drama

Category: Manga

Heading to our new home for the first time was a mix of excitement and dread. On one hand, my father inheriting a 90-room mansion was exciting, and something I never thought would happen to our middle-class, down home family. On the other, we were leaving everything we knew behind, from friends to daily activities. Mother had to quit her book club, moving it to an online location at first before ending it completely. Dad had to quit his golf club and look into the local country club, which held an open spot for my family thanks to the inheritance. And I had to give up a great group of friends: Addie, the gossip queen; Sam, the sport-loving girl with a wicked tongue; and Travis, my best friend since the early days.

Leaving everything we knew and loved behind had made Mother and me turn quiet, but Dad kept doing his usual vacation antics, from singing along to the radio to getting the big trucks to honk their horns. All I could think was that those fun-loving days were probably over, at least the "acting a fool" part of our lives. We had inherited a substantial amount of money as well, so much that Mother didn't even ask for a transfer from her job. She simply put in her two-weeks notice and spent her final days doing as little as possible. She would become a housewife, she said, but she wasn't going to let her husband join her. His job wasn't the kind that could transfer anywhere, so his two-weeks notice wasn't permanent. On his second day there, he'd have a job interview, he told us, one that would hopefully suit our new lifestyle.

On my second day, I'd be attending the local elite school, complete with school uniforms, catering, and advanced classes that only the rich and elite could usually afford. I wouldn't be studying the algebra and literature I did in public school. Instead, I had trigonometry and Early Writing of the Americas. My foreign language of choice before had been French, but now I was enrolled in advanced French AND early German, a precursor to the real thing. I'd have to be fluent before they let me graduate, Mother told me before we left.

So far, everything to do with this new life had been in their hands. They decided on the bedroom I'd have; they decided which school I would go to; they decided to keep the house; and they decided to actually move into that house and make it our home. Nothing had been my decision, and nothing, so far, was to my liking.

Pulling into our new driveway was the same as pulling into a fancy road. There were heavy, tall gates outside, and they opened after Dad put in our passcode. We then drove another five minutes before the house came into view for the first time.

Whoever my uncle was, he seemed to have great taste. The lawns were immaculate: The perfect height and color, complete with the perfect landscaping features to make things pop. The house itself was definitely modern and recently re-done, but it still held the classic touches that reminded us how old the home was (it was built in the 1940's).

Mother and I had to force our mouths back closed as we pulled around to the front of a small courtyard. A uniformed man was waiting, and after helping us get out of the car, he passed our bags to another uniformed man before driving the car to a side driveway, which I guess led to the ten-car garage Dad mentioned.

"Follow me," the second man said.

"Julie, this is Amar. He's one of the workers here, and his main duty is to help get us where we need to go without getting lost," Mother giggled.

"My title is indeed navigator, Madam. I also will help plan any trips, be they around the neighborhood or around the world," Amar said, stopping outside two paneled doors. Despite the obvious doorknobs, we just stood there.

When the elevator dinged, I gasped loudly, pushing myself backwards. I was met with Dad's strong arms, and his deep laughter.

"I guess we should've told her about the elevators, huh Agnes?"

"Stop laughing at her, Bill. Look at her! She's as pink as a flamingo!" Mom added, laughing herself.

After I got over the shock, we stepped into the elevator. Mom and Dad were met on the second floor by a maid, complete with a maid's outfit, and not the slutty Halloween kind. Amar instructed me that my room was on the third floor, and the doors closed again.

"Have you seen my room yet?" I asked. He shook his head.

"I do not allow myself to go into the private rooms unless I am asked to do so. Your uncle liked that about me, he said. He's fired many workers over the years for being too nosy."

"What was he like?"

"Paranoid, Madam, very, very paranoid," he replied as the doors opened again.

Just steps away from the elevator, Amar gestured to a door. He placed my bags at my feet and left without a word. I shook off what he'd just told me, and his strange actions, and opened the door.

The room was huge. My bedroom at home barely fit my dresser, twin bed, and desk, but this one fit a huge bed, an armoire, and a giant desk complete with a brand new computer. And judging by the number of doors, I had two closets and access to my own private bathroom.

But I was in for an even bigger surprise. The first door did open to a huge closet, filled with a few of my clothes already; and the second door revealed a four-piece bathroom, complete with a privacy window that allowed me to see the grounds without anyone on the grounds seeing me. But the third door opened to a spiral staircase, painted white to match the rest of the room.

After putting down my bags, I climbed the stairs. At the top was a low-ceiling attic room, but it held another surprise: Wall-to-wall books. Shelves were built into every wall, and each was jam-packed with books of varying titles. Most were classic books, but the rest were titles I'd never heard of. They were definitely the feminine books I enjoyed the most, but they weren't from my collection. I was actually beginning to wonder where my collection would go, but after descending the stairs, my eyes caught a large nook-like area in the corner of the room. Curtains had shrouded it from view, but after pulling them back, my eyes landed on enough empty shelves to keep me busy for a lifetime.

"I think she likes it, Bill," Mother smiled, walking inside. "I told you to trust us when we picked your room for you. We know you, and we know what makes you happy."

"Thank you," I said, closing the curtains back. "Now, what are we doing for dinner? I'm starving!"

The elevator didn't scare me this time, though losing our way on the first floor did. How long would it take for us to learn the layout of this huge house? Our entire house could fit in the entryway of this one, and our entire property would only come as far as the bottom of the main staircase. Travis's house was bigger, but only by three rooms and an attic, and all of those "extras" were still just as small as our place.

"Here we are," Dad said, entering a dining room. Standing in one corner was yet another staff member, and they bowed to us as we sat down at the place settings.

"What would you like for dinner tonight?" she asked, bringing out a pad and pencil.

"Well, we've all been craving spaghetti lately," Mother replied, raising an eyebrow to Dad and me. "Julie and I like ours with meatballs, but Bill prefers either a meat sauce or small meat pieces. And Julie and I like to put shredded cheddar on ours, as well as parmesan."

"Yes, Madam. What would you like to drink?" she asked, her voice low and flat, yet somehow polite.

"Water with lemon for Bill, water with no lemon for me, and Julie likes grape soda."

"Mom, I think I want grape juice today," I whispered.

"You're going to turn into a grape!" Mother giggled. "Grape juice for Julie," she said to the woman.

"It will be a few minutes. Feel free to wash up in the powder rooms in the entry hall."

"Oh boy," Mother whispered to me once she'd gone. "We should've gotten some yarn so we could find our way around."

"It shouldn't be that hard," Dad said, standing first. The three of us followed him, and after getting lost again, we found our way to a set of doors. Each opened to a separate powder room, all done in their own style. I chose the vineyard-type room with grapes, vines, and even a purple toilet seat, while they chose plainer rooms done in yellow and white, respectively.

We emerged together, and we managed to make it back to the dining room without getting lost. We were able to follow our noses there, and when we arrived, our plates were arranged neatly on the table. Our spaghetti was done exactly as we liked it, and a bowl of garlic bread sat at the center of the table.

"Enjoy," the woman said before departing to the kitchen.

"This looks amazing. Hopefully it's as good as mine," Mother said after placing her napkin in her lap. Dad did the same, but I decided to risk it, grabbing up my forks and beginning to eat on the giant plate. "Don't be a slob, dear," Mother scolded quietly, placing my napkin in my lap and wiping my face with one of the extra ones on the table.

"I can do it myself, Mom I'm almost fifteen, remember?"

"You won't let me forget, Julie," she smiled. After a few minutes of silence, she put down her fork for one of her talking breaks. "Let me tell you about our plans for tonight. We have to meet with a lawyer, the one who is in charge of everything. We might be gone until quite late, but you'll be in safe hands here. You can either stay in your room, walk around the grounds, or wander through the halls, but you are to be in bed by nine-thirty, complete with a shower or bath and a quick session with your French books, which should be arriving in your room now. The movers followed us here, somewhat, so if you decide to wander the halls, don't get in their way."

"What if I get lost?" I asked.

"If you're worried about getting lost, just stick to the areas you know," Dad smiled, slurping up a noodle.

"No, no, no," Mother said, shaking her head sternly. "Don't worry about getting lost. I'll tell them your plans, whatever you decide to do, before we leave. They'll be able to keep an eye on you, and they'll help you if you get lost.

"Bill, she should be more adventurous and not hide in her room for the rest of her life," Mother hissed, beginning to eat again.

"I think I'll stay in my room and read," I whispered, eating again too. I was eating much slower now that they had argued over me again.

"Hurry up, Bill, or we'll be late," Mother muttered over a bite of garlic bread.

As if on cue, Amar arrived in the room. He began with an apology, but then he tapped his watch and eyed their plates. After exchanging glances, my parents decided they would just eat the leftovers when they returned. A maid arrived to clean up their plates, and all four disappeared within minutes.

When I was finished, I left the room, venturing to the elevator and up to "my floor." I turned into my room and moved slowly to the spiral staircase. I walked up each step cautiously, but when I reached the top and saw all of the books, I immediately grew more comfortable. I grabbed a volume and settled against the padded wall.

I was instantly in Heaven.
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