Episode 1 (Butterflies in the Garden): Danger Above by Vivian Munnoch

Episode 1:

Butterflies In The Garden

Danger Above

Photo by Jessa Crisp on Unsplash (edited by Vivian Munnoch)

The dully gleaming ebony feathers of the crow seemed to absorb the daylight into its black mass. The motionless bird stared unblinkingly at the motion below from its perch in a tree, looking more like its deceased and stuffed counterpart than a living creature.

Below him the little butterfly flitted weightlessly, bobbing on its wings over the flowers in the garden, oblivious to the danger above.

The crow blinked just once, the thin membrane moving across its cold emotionless eye a heartbeat behind the eyelid in a slightly of double motion. The bird tilted his head.

Spindly legs reaching, the little butterfly landed on a flower. Its wings moved slowly to some soundless rhythm. It tasted the air with its antennae, picking up only the sweet pollen of the flowers.

Feeling safe, the butterfly stilled its wings, letting them soak in the delightful warmth of the sun.

With slow languid motion, the crow spread his wings and took flight, his shadow passing on the ground below.

The fleeting shade was a cooling pulse across the insect’s back, the warmth returned as quickly. Only its antennae moved in response.

Landing soundlessly on a wooden post closer to the flowers, the crow ruffled his feathers and settled to watch the little butterfly.

The insect lifted one spindly front leg and froze. It sensed danger. Its antennae twitched, feeling for the source. Nothing moved except the barest dance of the flowers in the soft breeze. The butterfly relaxed again.

He bided his time, watching the butterfly groom its head with its front legs.

The crow half spread his wings and tilted his head, coldly eying the morsel below. His wings came up and his head down, wings spreading to their full span. He pushed off the post, bringing his wings down against the air, pushing his feet out ahead of him. He dove down at the garden.

Danger trembled in the little butterfly’s antennae. Its legs quivered and wings twitched as it sought the source. The shadow came down, growing, and covered it. It realized the danger too late, flapping its wings and bobbing and dodging on the air.

Faster, the crow dove straight for it, closing the gap quickly.

The insect felt the displaced air before it could flit across two flowers. Desperate to live, it tried to weave in the air. It could not move fast enough, its bumbling flight too weightless for speed.

The crow’s beak clapped closed a wing’s hair from catching and crushing the little butterfly just as it dropped below the flower heads. Twisting mid flight, the bird reached for it with its talons, catching only the velvety softness of flower. Its claws dug into the blossom, tearing the stigma from style, anther from filament, and ruined petals free in a single violent moment that left the spoiled flower trembling with motion in its wake.

Swooping up to land on the post, the bird shook its foot to knock off the petal impaled on one claw. The torn petal fluttered to the ground. The crow ruffled his feathers in irritation at missing the snack.

The quivering butterfly clung to the bottom of a flower head beneath the watchful stare of the hungry bird above. Hours passed and neither moved. The sun crossed the sky, its light getting old and tired, and finally turned to the gloom of dusk as it hung lower in the sky.

Lifting his beak to stare balefully at the weakening light, the crow finally gave up and took flight across the yard and over the trees towards his night roost. His ugly caws carried back on the wind.

The little butterfly was still afraid to move. It clung there in the growing darkness. The sun on the horizon made the sky burn with the colors of sunset as it slipped behind the skyline, plunging the world into night.

Rising waxy and pale, the moon cast its dull light into the night.

Moonlight reached down through the flowers and touched the wings of the little butterfly. Its wings quivered and rippled, shriveling into themselves. It trembled, its body twisting in grotesque reaction to the trauma. It fell into the full light of the moon. Its antennae withered and shriveled, its body convulsed in wretched spasms and twitched as it morphed. The lower part of its body split and pulled apart into two as its legs pulled into the body. The front legs thickened instead of withering like the rest and it shook its head in agony, splaying at the ends to become hands with fingers.

When at last it lay still, gasping raggedly from the pain ravaging it with the transformation, it was no longer a butterfly.

Clutching at and shaking her head, she moaned and pushed herself into a sitting position. She groaned hollowly and looked around.

She is still the size of the butterfly, but has shed all insectile appearances for human-like. Hair cut in a short bob framed her tiny face. Her appearance was almost elven, slender and diminutively angled.

Ibris stood weakly on unsteady legs, wavering a little. A gossamer gown hung off her, limp and tired. Putting an arm out, she stumbled over and leaned on the flower stalk for support as she gathered herself.

“That was close.” Her voice was rough and high with anxiety. She blinked; looking dazed, and tried to clear her thoughts.

“Craven the Crow is back. This is not good. He has killed too many of us. I should alert the village.”

Still weak from the transformation, Ibris shuddered and her gown shifted. Part of it lifted on each side, splitting apart to reveal wings so delicate they seemed they would tear on the barest breath of a breeze.

She looked up anxiously, expecting to see the ugly crow suddenly appear. She could not fly yet, so she started walking, climbing between flower stalks and blades of grass. Everything towered massively above her.

When her wings have dried, she took flight, moving more quickly. Ibris flew recklessly through the flowers, rising above them and speeding up, darting across the garden. She crossed the yard to the woods beyond and vanished into the shadows of the trees.

The village was alive with activity when Ibris reaches it. The dwellings were little cottages of twigs and dry grass faded to sandy browns like logs and flat boards of wood. Tiny flowers decorated gardens, their heads hanging large and heavily.

Her legs were already pumping before she landed, her stride gong easily from flight to a swift walk as her feet touch ground. She dodged through the village determinedly.

Ibris stopped at a building that was larger than the small cottage homes. The House of Counsel. She looked at the closed door uncertainly, reached a hand out to knock, and froze. Her hand fell uselessly to her side.

“I’m going to be in trouble for going to the flowers without permission.”

She turned unhappily, retreating.

“Ibris, where have you been?” The voice is soft, but with an edge of irritation, lightly scolding.

Ibris stopped and looked. Her eyes flashed warily as one caught doing something wrong might look. Liandan, the weaver of spider-silk cloth was staring at her, waiting for an explanation.

Liandan was taller than Ibris, her arms lean and strong from hard work. She was older, but still young enough to be just starting her journey through the adult life.

Ibris took quick steps to her. She lowered her voice to whisper.

“I know I should not have, but my butterfly brain does not always think.” She looked down guiltily. “I went to the flowers.”

“Without permission,” Liandan guessed. “You are lucky you did not get caught, or in danger.”

Ibris’s cheeks reddened.

“What happened?” Liandan asked.

“Craven.” Ibris’s voice trembled with the memory.

Liandan blanched and her face turned a sickly shade of pale. She reached for Ibris, needed to touch her and make sure her friend was safe. She felt Ibris trembling beneath her hand.

“Are you okay? Did he hurt you?”

Ibris shook her head. “It was close. Very close. I was sure I felt his ugly beak snapping me in half when I heard it clap closed on the air where I just was.”

She shuddered with the thought.

“But you are okay now. Promise me you won’t go back out there.”

Ibris gave Liandan a pained look.

“I didn’t mean to go,” she pleaded. “I was in the other form. My mind did not think. It has been safe for so long, I guess I forgot.”

Liandan was staring off thoughtfully.

“So, Craven has returned.” She looked at Ibris. “We have to tell the village. Craven is relentless. Ibris, we have to tell the elders.”

“No.” Ibris reached to put a restraining hand on her arm. She stared into her eyes pleadingly. “I will be punished.”

“If we don’t, someone will fall prey to him sooner or later.”

Ibris hung her head in shame.

“All right,” she said quietly.

“We don’t have to tell them everything,” Liandan said. She looked thoughtful. “Did you hear his call?”

“Yes. Ugly and loud.”

“Did you see or feel his shadow cross you?”

“Both.” Ibris shuddered and hugged herself.

Liandan nodded. “We have it then. We will tell them that and leave out where you were.”

“But that would be a lie by omission.”

“It’s only a small lie.”

“It’s a big one and they will ask where.”

“All right. We will have to tell the whole truth. Maybe it won’t be so bad. Come, we have to tell someone.”

Ibris followed her unhappily back through the village.

“We are not going to the House of Counsel?”

“No,” Liandan said. “We will find one of the grandmothers who have retired from the council. They will know best what to do.”

They came around a cottage to see a group of ahead. Sarawn, one of the knights of the Glenn and member of the council was there, looking serious and angry. Shanawn, the elderly historian was looking at him gravely. There were others too, all talking in loud anxious voices and looking concerned.

Liandan grabbed Ibris’s hand so she could not back out and dragged her along towards them.

“What’s going on?” Liandan asked when they reached the group.

Shanawn turned to look at them.

“Craven’s ugly cry has been heard,” he said, his voice thin and wavering with age. “His black shadow has been cast across our village again.”

Liandan and Ibris looked at each other. Ibris’s secret was safe, for now.

New Release – Madelaine & Mocha (The Wishing Stone) by Vivian Munnoch

It started with a walk in the woods and ended in kidnapping.


Madelaine & Mocha

The Wishing Stone series book 1

By Vivian Munnoch,

Author of dark fiction for young readers

Now available on Amazon Kindle and print on demand.

(Click to buy)

It started with a walk in the woods and ended in kidnapping.

Madelaine and her family are on a boring, no electronics and thank you very much for ruining my life, camping trip that changes Madelaine and her life forever.

First, her little dog Mocha is lost in the forest. Then Madelaine vanishes from their tent without a trace in the night. Everyone assumes she snuck out to look for Mocha.

Madelaine wakes in the dark, dressed only in her nightgown, with no idea how she got where she is, locked in a small room.

While searchers comb the forest looking for her, Madelaine is trying to figure out how to escape and return to her family. But they will never look in the right place.

Only her little dog Mocha knows what really happened to Madelaine.



Madelaine thought things could not possibly get worse when her parents dragged her out on a boring, no electronics and thank you very much for ruining my life, camping trip.

Then Mocha, her American Cocker Spaniel and currently her only reason for getting through each day, is lost in the forest. Their attempts to find the dog are futile and Madelaine is devastated.

A local boy, Geoffrey, joins Madelaine in her search, promising to not give up and showing her the beauty of the forest.

Then, Madelaine’s family wakes up to find her gone, vanished from the tent in the night wearing only her nightgown.


Madelaine wakes in the dark, locked in a small room with no idea how she got there.

The prisoner of a strange old man, Madelaine begs for escape, even in death. But she knew death once. Almost. It was not the blissful drifting off asleep she imagined it would be. It was agonizing and ugly.

The old man’s reason for kidnapping her is nothing she could have ever imagined. Madelaine keeps her hope up by wishing on a stone. Playing wishing games will not be enough to free her and escape her fate.



Author photoVivian Munnoch grew up in Winnipeg, Manitoba and continues to live in Manitoba with her family and rescue dogs. Vivian’s writing has always had a vein of darkness to it.

“I’ve always loved horror. I used to sneak downstairs as a kid at night to watch old killer B horror flicks. They were delightfully naughty and scary for a kid before the world evolved into the online forum it is today.”

Vivian Munnoch is working on a few other projects. The Wishing Stone series will touch on a few of young readers’ fan favourites of vampires and the like, but with a darker twist. These creatures are not romantic. The Butterflies in the Garden series is a dark fantasy. You will never see your garden in the same way.

Vivian Munnoch’s books are available on Amazon Kindle and in print on Amazon. You can also check Vivian’s Facebook author page to find out where she will be signing books in the community.







New Release – The Latchkey Kids: The Disappearance of Willie Gordon by Vivian Munnoch

The Latchkey Kids series is a drama packed middle grade thriller.

By popular demand, Manitoba author Vivian Munnoch releases a second Latchkey Kids book, “The Latchkey Kids: The Disappearance of Willie Gordon”.


The Latchkey Kids: The Disappearance of Willing Gordon

The Latchkey Kids series book 2

By Vivian Munnoch,

Author of dark fiction for young readers

(Click to buy)


After repeated requests for a follow-up book, Canadian author Vivian Munnoch has written a continuation to the novel “The Latchkey Kids”.

The Latchkey Kids series is a drama packed middle grade thriller. “I purposely avoid describing the kids’ physical appearances because I want the reader to put her or himself into their shoes, no matter the reader’s background.”

This series is “clean”. It is middle grade school library safe.


The Latchkey Kids 2-Kindle crop

Five kids, twelve and thirteen years old and on their own before and after school, each faces their own struggles; a broken home, illness, crushes, bullying, depression, absent parents, suicidal thoughts, broken friendships, and fears of being only a kid and home alone.

What would you do if you came home from school alone and heard noises in the basement?


The Latchkey Kids: The Disappearance of Willie Gordon (book 2):

Madison, Andrew, Kylie, Anna, and Dylan survived the abandoned factory fire. They thought it was over. Spring break is ending and they are still trying to pick of the pieces of their shattered beliefs in what the world is supposed to be.

Life goes on as if nothing happened. But it did happen. And it is happening again.

Nothing in their lives seems to have changed when everything feels like it did. Everything is back to normal, right?

And then Willie Gordon vanishes.

While new jealousies burn, problems kept secret begin to emerge, and Joshua joins the group after his sister committed suicide, the group feels they are the only ones who can find Willie. Nobody believes them that the monsters are real.

The kids have to face the monsters again, in the basements where they nest.


the latchkey kids-flattened-b&n ebook cropThe Latchkey Kids (book 1): (Click to buy)

In The Latchkey Kids you are introduced to the five characters, Madison, Andrew, Kylie, Anna, and Dylan. Each has their own private world of problems they feel trapped alone in.

Madison, “plain old boring nothing ever happens to Madison”, is finally a latchkey kid for the first time. She just turned twelve. And what does she do on her first day ever having to come home alone? She loses her key; on one of the coldest days of a very cold winter.

Andrew has been a latchkey kid since last year but has never gotten used to being home alone. He hears noises in the basement that unnerve him; noises that his parents dismiss as nothing more than the house making noises. Being home alone scares him, but he won’t admit it to anyone.

Anna is alone more than anyone knows. She is a rebel without a cause, skipping school and doing whatever she wants. Dressed always in her long-sleeved shirts and I don’t care attitude, even her teachers have given up on Anna. Behind the face of indifference Anna is a tortured soul. Her younger brother is in the hospital with a terminal illness and may never come home. Her mother spends all her time at the hospital while her father works three jobs trying to hold the family together. Anna is utterly and completely alone, left to raise herself, her parents merely a footnote of her life.

Dylan was a latchkey kid before. Now he goes to a babysitter. Embarrassing! He does not want anyone to know, but is also terrified at the idea of being home alone; ever since their house was broken into, trashed, the perpetrators attempting to burn it down and torturing their now traumatized dog. That weakness and fear is even more of an embarrassment to him. Dylan has anger issues, lashing out thoughtlessly, his problems bottled up inside to the point they are seeping out in explosive bursts of violence. As far as school bullies go, Dylan is the worst at Woodside School. He is also raving mad crushing on Kylie.

Kylie feels like her life is a special kind of hell. She sees what others have and is quietly resolved to not having it. Her single mother is struggling to keep their little family together. It is just her, her mother, and her little sister. She lives in fear of her abusive father, who her mother finally managed to gather the courage to kick out. She lives in fear of Amber Shaw and the Mean Team, whose sole purpose in life seems to be to torture, torment, and bully Kylie. Amber has a special hatred for Kylie.

Newly introduced at the end of the Latchkey Kids:

Joshua walks into the Latchkey Kids world at the end of book one, confronting Amber Shaw in public and accusing her of killing his sister. His sister committed suicide because of Amber’s online bullying. This is only the start to his story and the problems he faces.


Author photoVivian Munnoch grew up in Winnipeg, Manitoba and continues to live in Manitoba with her family and rescue dogs. Vivian’s writing has always had a vein of darkness to it.

“I’ve always loved horror. I used to sneak downstairs as a kid at night to watch old killer B horror flicks. They were delightfully naughty and scary for a kid before the world evolved into the online forum it is today.”

Vivian Munnoch is working on a few other projects. The Wishing Stone series will touch on a few of young readers’ fan favourites of vampires and the like, but with a darker twist. These creatures are not romantic. The Butterflies in the Garden series is a dark fantasy. You will never see your garden in the same way.

Vivian Munnoch’s books are available on Amazon Kindle and in print on Amazon. You can also check Vivian’s Facebook author page to find out where she will be signing books in the community.







The Latchkey Kids: 3 The Parents Come Home – Andrew by Vivian Munnoch

The clerk looks like he is ready to confront him and accuse him of stealing something, even though he hasn’t done anything.

Andrew walks around the store, trying to be invisible.  He can feel the store clerk watching him and, when he risks a quick look at the clerk, sees the man is watching him suspiciously.  The clerk looks like he is ready to confront him and accuse him of stealing something, even though he hasn’t done anything.

“I just want to keep warm without having to go back home and wait alone for Mom and Dad to come home,” he thinks, feeling dumb just thinking about it.  “What’s there to be afraid of being home alone?  There’s nothing there.”

Andrew is afraid someone might find out.  “I’m too old for this kind of little kid scared of nothing stuff.”

The clerk’s suspicious stare is making him more nervous.  He’s starting to feel panicky; scared of being caught even though he isn’t doing anything wrong.

He tries to pretend he’s shopping, hoping the clerk will leave him alone.  He looks around him and grabs something off the shelf without looking at anything but the price tags below the items on the shelf.  It has to be something he has enough money to pay for, and he doesn’t have very much.  He has no idea what it is that he grabbed.

He’s only buying it to show that he’s not there to make trouble.

Andrew shuffles up to the counter, keeping his head down, and puts the object on the counter.

“Are you really going to buy that?” the clerk asks with a smirk.  He still looks suspicions and is eying Andrew with a distrustful look, judging him either insane or a criminal, depending on his reaction to the question.

Andrew looks up at him with a nod, a flush creeping up his neck, and then looks down at the item in question.  He stares at it in horror.

There, for all of the world to see, is a pink box. He feels like it is staring up at him in gleeful accusation, yelling to the store, “HE IS LYING!”

Andrew swallows, feeling suddenly sick with embarrassment, the red flush rising up his cheeks.  He looks around quickly to see if anyone is looking.

The object pictured on the bright pink box looks similar to that bullet shaped lipstick candy, only longer and white.

Andrew doesn’t know what it’s used for, but the word Tampon glares up like an announcement and all he knows is that it’s something very private that boys are not supposed to know about and has to do with women and teen girls and puberty.

The package says it’s a mini pack just for the purse.  He suffers a sudden flash of thought, envisioning having to explain to his mother why he bought it.

Andrew turns redder, his face burning with a flush of shame, and the clerk behind the counter laughs.  His expression shows pain for the boy’s predicament and relief that he isn’t a shoplifter after all.

“Your mom sent you, didn’t she?”

“Yes,” Andrew mumbles, looking down and hoping no one sees him.

He pays for his unwanted purchase and makes a beeline for the exit, running halfway home before he slows down and starts looking for somewhere to ditch the little bag.

When Andrew gets home, the tampon box has been safely disposed of in a random trashcan along the way.  He lets himself back in the house and goes back to playing video games.

He plays for the next hour, nervously listening for the noises from the basement that sent him fleeing from the house. The noises never repeat themselves, but that almost makes it worse because he can’t make himself stop expecting them.

Finally, his parents come home and he can put this day behind him.



The Latchkey Kids: 3 The Parents Come Home – Madison by Vivian Munnoch

“I forgot about Caesar,” she groans, “I have to go past him again.”

The thought of having to go past the dog makes her whole body ache with dread, her muscles unwilling to go on even though she knows it’s the only way.  It will take too long to go the long way around and she is frozen.

With no one at the school to let her in and no idea what else to do, Madison heads back home.  She is getting colder, her fingers and toes are burning and painful from the cold now and she is getting very upset.  She is also going to have to explain to her parents about locking herself out when they get home.

“Assuming I’m not frozen to death by then,” Madison mutters miserably.

She retraces her steps, the walk feeling a lot longer this time, and stops when she reaches Mr. Hooper’s house.


“I forgot about Caesar,” she groans, “I have to go past him again.”

The thought of having to go past the dog makes her whole body ache with dread, her muscles unwilling to go on even though she knows it’s the only way.  It will take too long to go the long way around and she is frozen.

“Come on Madison, you can do this.  It’s only a dog and he’s on a chain that doesn’t even reach past the edge of the yard.  Yeah, only a big mean dog that’ll probably tear you apart and eat you.”

Madison loves dogs, but this one is scary, mean, and large.

She stares at the house and yard, willing the dog to not be outside or that Mr. Hooper comes out and controls that nasty dog.

“Mr. Hooper is as scary as the dog is.  Maybe I am better off trying to sneak past the dog.”

She jumps when the dog pops his head around the side of the house with one loud woof, staring at her from the backyard.

Madison swallows, trying to control her fear.  The dog is only standing there watching her so far.

“His chain doesn’t reach the road, so walking by should be safe, right?”  It doesn’t feel safe.

“Okay Madison, let’s go,” Madison urges herself on.

She takes a first cautious step.

The dog just watches.

She takes two more steps, almost reaching the point where she would be even with the curb in front of the house.

The dog moves, shifting position but not taking a step, and she imagines him coiling to spring at her.

“Just do it Madison,” she mutters, “just go.  Don’t even look at him and just walk right past the house.”

A few more steps and Madison is passing front yard, keeping to the far side of the little road, as far away from Old Man Hooper’s house as she can without climbing over the fence on the other side. Every muscle is stiff and tense.

Caesar just stands there watching her very intently.

“Very hungrily,” she thinks.

When Madison reaches not quite halfway past the back yard, the dog suddenly launches himself at her with a deep growl that becomes a barrage of loud angry barking, bounding after her with powerful strides.

Madison screams and whirls to face the lunging dog, putting her arms up to protect herself from the attack.

The back door of Mr. Hooper’s house flies open with a bang and the old man comes barrelling down the stairs on legs that are little more than sticks covered by loose pants.  He is wearing a stained white undershirt with a hole in it and an unbuttoned plaid flannel shirt that is also stained and torn.  Madison suspects the brown-red stains are the blood of his and Caesar’s victims from cutting them up in his basement to bury them or feed them to Caesar.  His wild eyes, unkempt hair, and grey patchy chin stubble make him look more frightening and wild, like a backwoods crazy man.

Fists clenched, he raises one and shakes it at her threateningly, the other gripping what Madison suspects is some kind of weapon to knock her senseless with so he can feed her to the dog.

“You quit teasing my dog!” he shouts at her.  “Get outta my yard!  Get outta here and leave my dog alone!  You kids are always teasing my dog!”

Caesar reaches the end of his chain and Madison is relieved to see the chain holding strong.  With the chain taught, still pulling and lunging at her, Caesar’s jaws snap as if he is already chewing on her while he continues to bark ferociously.

“I’m not even in his yard,” Madison thinks.  With a scared whimper, she scurries off towards the back lane, putting Mr. Hooper’s house and Caesar behind her as quickly as she can.  The moment she reaches the corner where the little road meets the back lane, Madison breaks into a run.

Behind her, Caesar is still barking after her and she can hear the old man yelling and muttering.

Madison is still shaken by the confrontation when she reaches the fence with the loose board.  She looks up at the fence, picturing for just a moment Caesar breaking his chain and coming after her, pinning her helplessly against the fence while he tears her apart, tearing first through her coat to get to her skin beneath.  She sees its height as an impossible barrier, and then almost panics when she doesn’t find the loose board right away.

“Okay Madison, calm down,” she tries to sooth herself.

Fingers numb with the cold and her toes like numb blocks filled with a distant sharp pain that are there weighing her legs down but somehow detached, not a part of her, Madison tries again, looking for the notch in the board and counting the boards.

Her fingers will not work when she tries to move the board.  Madison pulls her mitts off and blows hot air on her fingers, putting them in her mouth and sucking on them to try to warm them up.  It only makes the pain in her frozen fingers worse.  Putting her mitts back on, she tries again and this time moves the board.

Madison starts squeezing through the board when she hears the sounds of footsteps and heavy breathing behind her, and then the jingle of a dog’s chain.

“That heavy breathing is definitely a dog panting,” she thinks.  “Caesar!  He got loose!”  Terror grips her and she squeezes frantically through the fence, almost falling through on the other side.

She turns as she lets the board fall back into place just in time to see a woman jogging up the alley with a big fluffy white dog.

Madison leans against the fence and lets out a nervous giggle. “It wasn’t Caesar,” she says in relief.

She walks the rest of the way home, each step seeming to take her farther away instead of closer.  The pain in her frozen fingers and toes is getting worse.  She tries walking faster, and it makes the pain in her feet worse but at least she should get home faster. Her nose is burning too now and she walks holding her mitts to her face, blocking the cold and warming her face with her own breath cupped beneath the mitts.  She leaves only a crack to see through between her mitts.

“Will I ever get home?” she moans in despair.

When Madison finally gets home, she is so cold that her hands and feet hurt so much she is crying.  She still can’t get in, though, because she lost her key and locked herself out.  Madison sits on the steps and just cries.

“Are you okay?”

She looks up, startled, to see the woman who lives next door.

“I locked myself out,” Madison sobs.

“You look frozen!” the woman exclaims sympathetically.  “Come inside my house to warm up and we’ll watch for your parents to come home.”

Madison gratefully goes with her.

Inside the neighbor’s house, she is given a warm blanket and a cup of hot cocoa.  Her fingers are too frozen at first to hold the cup.  She sits there, rubbing her hands together, trying to warm them.  When her fingers and toes start to warm up the pain is terrible.  Frostbite had been setting in.  She has to wait for the pain in her fingers to lessen before she dares try picking up the cup of hot cocoa.  She sits there drinking it thankfully and watching a television show that is way too young for her that the neighbor put on to entertain her.

A few hours later, Madison’s mother arrives home.

The neighbor notices the car in the driveway.  “Someone is home at your house.”

Madison looks up at her with fear in her eyes.

“I’m going to be in trouble for locking myself out,” she thinks.  “Worse, my parents are not going to trust me to be home alone now.”

“Do you want me to go with you?” the neighbour asks sympathetically, seeing her fear.

“No, I can manage,” Madison says unhappily.  Her mind is working, thinking through what she will say to her parents.  She gets up reluctantly.

“Thank you for letting me wait here, and for the hot cocoa,” she says as she pulls on her coat and boots at the door.  She waves goodbye as the woman closes the door behind her.

Madison trudges home reluctantly.  “I’m going to be in so much trouble,” she thinks again miserably.  “They’ll make me go to a babysitter now.  I’m too old for babysitters.”  She opens the front door to find her mother frantically searching the house and calling her.

Hearing the sound of the front door and the thud of Madison’s boot dropping on the floor, her mother rushes to the door.

“Where have you been?”  Her voice is as anxious and harsh with worry as the expression on her face.

Madison shifts nervously, standing there with one boot on and one off, her coat open, and hat and mitts dropped carelessly on the floor with her backpack.

She looks down at the floor, not wanting to meet her mother’s eyes.

“I lost my key,” she mumbles quietly.

“What?  Look up at me when you speak. What did you say?”

Madison huffs in frustration, not wanting to repeat herself.  She looks up at her mother, her mother’s worried look making her want to hide.

“I got locked out.”

“How?  Where is your key?”  She advances on Madison.  “Take your jacket off, give me your backpack.  Where is your key, Madison?”

Madison lets her mother take the offending backpack.  She takes off her other boot and jacket while her mother searches the backpack.

“I don’t know.  I got home and I couldn’t find my key.”  Her voice is cracking and sounds small, making her sound years younger.

She stands there watching her mother pull stuff out of her backpack, shaking them out and finally dumping the rest of the contents on the floor in a mess.

“So where were you?”

“I was next door.”  Madison decides not to tell her that she walked all the way back to school and then home again before finally ending up next door.

The front door opens behind Madison and her father walks in.

“What’s all this?” he asks, looking down at the mess scattered on the floor and at his wife rifling through Madison’s backpack.

“Madison locked herself out.  She lost her key.”  Madison’s mother doesn’t pause in her search of the backpack and its contents.

Her father takes his shoes and coat off, hanging up his coat, and gives Madison a disappointed look.

That look makes a red flush burn her cheeks.  She would have preferred anger to his disappointment.

He shakes his head. “Did you check her backpack and coat?”

Her mother looks up at him with an annoyed look.

He picks up Madison’s coat from the floor and searches the pockets, feeling along the bottom hem in case it somehow slipped through a hole in the pocket into the inner lining.

Madison just watches.  There are no holes in her pockets.

“How did you lock yourself out?” her father asks while he searches the coat.  “This was a pretty big responsibility we trusted you with.  I guess you just aren’t ready for it.”

“There is no key,” her mother exclaims, dropping the violated backpack on the floor.  “I guess we were wrong.  You just aren’t responsible enough yet.”

She turns and heads for the kitchen.

“Mom, I am. I’m twelve,” Madison begs, following her.  “What are you going to do?”  She has a pretty good idea what her mother is going to do and she is mortified at the idea.

“Mom, no, please, I’m too old for babysitters.”

Her mother picks up the phone and digs her little phone book out, turning on Madison.  “What if the neighbour wasn’t home?  Where would you have gone?  It’s too cold out; you could have froze or had frostbite.”

Madison blushes at the memory of her freezing walk and the pain of frostbite in her fingers and toes.

“I’m finding you a babysitter.”  Her mother starts flipping through the little phone book.

“Mom, please,” Madison begs, fighting the tears she can’t stop.  Twelve is too old to go to daycare or a babysitter.  Too old to cry.  How can she show them she’s old enough if she cries like a baby?

“You just aren’t ready yet for the responsibility of getting yourself to school and home,” her father says, entering the kitchen and pacing angrily.

The tension in the air between them all is heavy.  Madison watches helplessly as her mother is determined to find a babysitter and her father continues pacing angrily and scolding her and complaining about the locked door.  She doesn’t even hear his words anymore, seeing only the teasing and taunting at school when the other kids learn she’s going to a babysitter.

Madison looks at her father, usually her biggest ally when her mother is set on something and is being unreasonable.  She has no ally there now.  Madison isn’t sure if he is angry with her, himself, or at the door that kept her from getting into the house.

Madison is mortified.  “Babies go to babysitters,” she thinks.  “I’m old enough to be home alone.  I’ll show them!” Her heart sinks. “But how?”

With no mature options, she resorts to what has always worked in the past.  Madison cries and begs them to give her another chance.

This goes on for some time, a battle for who has more stamina.  Her mother keeps threatening to send her to a babysitter, her father pacing angrily and lecturing her, and Madison keeps crying and begging for another chance.  Finally, her parents wear down first and relent.  Madison is given another chance to show that she can handle the responsibility.



The Latchkey Kids: 3 The Parents Come Home – Kylie by Vivian Munnoch

“Please don’t let him know I’m home,” she pleads silently. 

She can hear him out there, tipping things over, letting them fall, while he searches for a hidden key. 

Kylie listens in fear to the doorknob being jostled.  She knows it’s her father trying to get in.  She expects to hear the sound of breaking glass at any moment.  She inches up cautiously to a window, staying low below the bottom edge, and carefully rises up just high enough to peak out.  She needs to see, to know where he is.  She is terrified he might see her.

He tries the front door first, and then moves around the house.  He tries a side window.

Kylie skulks through the house, following him around.  She almost steps into a bedroom doorway, catching the dark motion at the window barely in time and darting back, pressing herself against the wall.  Her heart is pounding so hard in her chest it feels like it’s going to come right through her rib cage and out through her chest.

His face is pressed against the window, looking in.  He moves on to the back of the house.

Kylie sneaks into the bedroom and looks out, trying to see where he went.  She moves on, following him to the back of the house, going into the kitchen now.  She wants more than anything to look out and see what he is doing, but is terrified he will see her.

“Please don’t let him know I’m home,” she pleads silently.  “He hasn’t tried yelling through the door and pounding on it, so maybe he doesn’t know.  Maybe he thinks the house is empty.”  She crouches against the back door, below the window level, listening.

She can hear him out there, tipping things over, letting them fall, while he searches for a hidden key.  She almost jumps and screams at the sudden shaking of the back door when he tries to open it, rattling the doorknob and shaking the door in its frame.

Kylie fights the tears, trembling, and holding her hands tight over her mouth to keep her whimpers from being heard on the other side of the door.

The rattling-shaking of the door stops.  She can hear him muttering, but not what he is saying.  He walks off, back around the house, trying another window.

Kylie scrambles away from the back door, staying low, peeking around a bedroom doorframe before scampering past the open doorway.  She sees the dark shape of his form moving past and scampers into the room, ducking beneath the window.

She breathes deeply, holds her breath, and slowly rises up to peek cautiously out the window.  She just catches her father moving out of sight, continuing on to the front.

Kylie scampers through the house to the front.  She slips into the living room, staying down and against the wall, inching to the front window.  She rises up against the wall beside the window where she is hidden by the partially open curtain, peaking through the small crack between the curtain and window frame.

She holds her breath, watching him walk away and get back in his car.  He turns his head and looks back at the house, and just for a few heartbeats Kylie is positive he sees her, that he is staring at her.  Then he starts his car and drives away.

She feels sick with fear and weak with relief.  She sinks to the floor and sits there sobbing.

“I wish I was dead.  I wish I was never even born, that I never even existed,” she whimpers miserably.

After that, Kylie sits in a dark corner waiting for her mother to come home, scared her father will return and break into the house.  It feels like time has stopped and will never move again while she endlessly waits.

“I’m going to have to explain to Mom how I lost my coat and boots,” she moans.  “I have another hat and mitts I can wear. They’re old and worn out, and Mom fixed the mitts a few times, but that was my only coat and boots for winter.  What am I going to wear tomorrow?”

Kylie is startled by a sound at the door.  She freezes; her stomach knotting and her heart pounding hard in her chest and feeling like it skipped a beat.  “Is he back?”  She is terrified.

Relief floods Kylie when she hears the familiar jingle of the way her mother always jingles her keys just before she unlocks the door, followed immediately as the door opens by her mother’s voice calling her and her younger sister’s babbling mid-sentence about what she did today.

“Kylie, what are your coat and boots doing on the front step?” her mother calls out as she comes in the house.

Kylie is confused.  “Coat?  Boots?”

She gets to her feet and goes to see what her mother is talking about.  She stops, staring in confusion at the clothes her mother is holding out to her.  “I can’t believe it,” she thinks numbly, “there is no way any of those girls would have brought back my clothes.  So how did they get there?”

“Well?” her mother insists impatiently.  “Why are they on the front steps?”

“I don’t know,” Kylie says, staring in wide-eyed confusion at the bundle that is her coat wrapped around her boots and stuff.  Tears pop to her eyes.  She can’t hold them back.

“How did they get there?” she thinks wildly. “Did he leave them? But, if Dad left them, that means he was following me. He followed me to the park, watched them beat me up and take my stuff, and he did nothing.  Nothing to help. He left me walking home like that.  No, even Dad wouldn’t just watch and do nothing, would he?  Would he leave me to maybe die walking home in this cold?  No, I don’t think he would.  Then who?  How?”

Seeing her distraught look and her red swollen eyes, her mother knows immediately that something is wrong.

“What’s wrong?” she asks, concerned.

Kylie looks up at her mother, her face twisted with all the fear and sadness she has been feeling for the past few hours and it all pours out about being beaten up at the park, how her coat tore, and the three girls stealing her clothes and leaving her to walk home without them in the cold.  She chokes on her tears and stumbles over the words when she starts telling her mom about her dad trying to get into the house.

Her mother listens, horrified.  She is more upset about her ex-husband coming to the house than about the girls in the park, but she can deal with only one of the problems.

“We’ll go to the girls’ houses and talk to their parents,” she says.

“No!”  Kylie is stricken by the idea.  “That will only make them bully me worse!”

“We can’t just let them get away with this,” her mother insists.  “And, they left you without a coat or boots in this cold?  Something has to be done about it!”

“Please mom, no,” Kylie begs.  “Don’t you remember the last time?  Their mothers believed them, not us.  They wouldn’t believe those girls were bullying.  They were even worse to me for months after!”

Her mother looks at her, taking in the strain and fear no mother wants to see in her daughter’s eyes, and realises she’s right.  Saying anything will only make things worse for Kylie at school.

When she had confronted the girls’ parents before they had sided with the girls, believing their story and saying Kylie made it all up and that she was the bully.  The bullying did get worse after that.  When she complained to the school, the principal pretended to sympathize and promised to talk to the girls and did nothing about it.  But she could tell the principal believed the three girls stories that Kylie made it all up.

“I wish I could pull her out of that school and send her somewhere else,” she thinks unhappily, “but how would she get to school?  The other schools she could go to are full and wouldn’t take her when I tried.  We would have to move and I just don’t have the money for that.”

She sighs, feeling helpless to protect her daughter.

“Well, let’s take a look at that coat,” she finally says, closing the discussion about dealing with the bullies.  She is relieved because she doesn’t have to deal with a confrontation with the other girls’ parents.  But she still has the bigger problem, keeping them safe from her ex-husband.

One thought just doesn’t fit, however.  She cannot reconcile how the coat and boots ended up on the front steps.

“Kylie, if those girls took your coat and boots then how did they end up on the steps?”

“I don’t know,” Kylie says miserably.  “I guess someone must have seen what happened.”

“And they did nothing to help?”

“They brought my stuff back at least.”

Kylie’s mother frowns, not satisfied with that explanation.  She unrolls the coat and together they look for the tears.  It won’t look very good, but it will have to be mended so Kylie can wear it to school tomorrow.



The Latchkey Kids: 2 The Shortcut – Andrew by Vivian Munnoch

“There’s nowhere to go and no one to hang out with, except Dylan, and that isn’t an option.

“Dylan changed.  He became a bully, picking on anyone smaller and weaker than himself.  I don’t like him much anymore.  I don’t think he’d bully me, but he’s just a jerk now and I don’t want anything to do with that.”

Andrew is wandering aimlessly. He doesn’t want to go home yet and feels completely foolish about it.  It will be a while before his parents get home and he doesn’t want to be alone in the house right now.  He can’t put the thought of that noise he heard in the house out of his head.

“There’s nowhere to go and no one to hang out with, except Dylan, and that isn’t an option.

Dylan was my best friend for years and probably would have understood my fear of being alone in the house for hours. The focus is on the was. We don’t hang out anymore, not since Dylan became withdrawn for a while and wouldn’t talk to anyone.  Not even to me.”

Andrew feels a pang of regret and hurt at that.

“Dylan is back to going to a babysitter’s instead of going home anyway, and he has no interest in being friends anymore.”

When he first found out about the babysitter, he didn’t believe it.  He had to ask.  Dylan reacted angrily and has avoided him ever since.  He knew Dylan would be embarrassed and wouldn’t want anyone to find out, so he kept the secret.  Dylan is close enough to hang out after school if his sitter lets him, but Dylan doesn’t seem to want to anymore.  Andrew is fine with that.

“Dylan changed.  He became a bully, picking on anyone smaller and weaker than himself.  I don’t like him much anymore.  I don’t think he’d bully me, but he’s just a jerk now and I don’t want anything to do with that.”

Despite his thoughts, he has doubts.  He is not so sure Dylan wouldn’t beat up and bully him too.  Dylan is bigger than most of the boys his age and so far everyone has been fair game, except him.

The cold is getting to him.  His feet, hands, and face are freezing; his ears, too, despite his hat.

“I’ve got to figure out something now.”  Andrew stomps his feet, putting his hands over his ears, trying to warm up.

“I’ll go to the store. It’s not far. At least I can go inside and warm up.”

He walks fast, alternating between a fast walk and a jog until he gets to the store.  He’s hanging around there for a while, staying outside and trying to find a sheltered spot where it might be less cold.  He stays out as long as he can stand it, the cold biting his fingers and toes until they hurt.  His ears feel like they are on fire and the cold air stings his nose painfully when he breathes in.

The cold is too much for him, driving him inside to find warmth.  He looks at the inviting warmth through the window.

“They won’t like me just hanging around and will kick me out, probably accusing me of shoplifting or something.  People always seem to be suspicious for no good reason of kids on their own without parents.  I have to do it.  I’m going in.”

He glances at the store clerk nervously as he enters the store and starts wandering up and down aisles, pretending he’s looking for something.