A/N: Hi! This is my first story. It's set twelve years after The Spook's Nightmare, from Mary's POV (Mary's Ellie and Jack's daughter, if you didn't know.) I do not own The Wardstone Chronicles or any characters in it, only the ones I created in this fanfic!

The sun streamed in through the window, creating an almost physical wall of silvery dust motes that swirled and danced wildly as I stretched and yawned. The dust settled as the household began to wake up. The front door quietly opened and shut, as Da slipped out to do the early morning farm work. Uncle clumped down the stairs, waking Conor and the twins up. The ensuing wails awakened the rest, and the next few minutes were a cacophony of moans, sighs and various other noises created by a large and extended family reluctantly waking up. I smiled to think that in the short space of a week my apprenticeship to Mrs. Drumnore would start, and I would be freed from this never-ending noise for good. Oh, to have a morning of peace and contentment lasting more than a few seconds! What utter bliss! I vowed to savour every precious moment of it.

Breakfast was the same battle of noise, the twins screaming, Conor and Tommy absorbed in a food war with Anna, Grace and May, and the rest of the family making enough noise for an orchestra. I sighed. Was I the only one in this house who didn't feel the need to endlessly shout and scream? Probably. Da came up behind me, and put his hands on my shoulders.
"You're all ready to get away from this, eh, love? he said. He was smiling, but I could tell he was only trying to hide his sadness.
"It is starting to do my head in a bit," I admitted " But I'll come back often, so don't worry about that!" I hated lying to Da, but I couldn't tell him how I really felt. It was better to keep his hopes up.
"You're a good girl, Mary. I don't know what we'd have done without you when your Mam... passed away. This family's probably going to fall apart when you leave on Monday."
"Are you sure you don't want me to stay, Da? I don't really mind." Yet another lie spouted from my lips. I had better be careful, or this would become a regular habit.
"No, no, of course not! I couldn't keep you here at home! Goodness, Mary, sometimes I think you forget I can take care of my own family!" he laughed.
Our conversation was rudely interrupted by Tommy sliding across the table, and knocking me and my chair over. I flew backwards, landing with a jarring thud on the floor, and seconds later Tommy crashed down on top of me. I groaned. Luckily for me, these incidents were rare, only happening every, let's say, two weeks.
"Oh, Mary, I'm so sorry! It wasn't my fault! The girls pushed me!" Tommy rushed, sitting up with a terrified look on his nine-year-old face.
"Did not!" Anna, Grace and May chorused indignantly.
"Did too!" Tommy and Conor shot back.
"Now, children, could you leave the bickering until after breakfast, please?" Aunt Jane said, with a pained look on her face.
"Are you hurt, love?" Da asked, holding out his hand.
"No, Da, just a...little winded, that's...all." I reassured him, taking his hand and getting up slowly. I winced, as my back complained loudly. Tommy slunk around to the other side of the table, and resumed the food fight.
"Why don't you go for a walk, stretch out that back and get away from any other disasters waiting to happen?" Uncle suggested with a glance at my warring siblings.
"Yes, that's a good idea. I'll warn your brothers and sisters not to bother you, so you can have some peace and quiet." Da said. I smiled, silently thanking Tommy for crashing into me. Who cared if my back hurt? I was going to take the longest walk I could.

I strolled through the field, keeping my distance from Hangman's Hill. Uncle had told us many fireside tales about that place, not that I believed them, but there was still something about the grey-green mound looming on my right that gave me the chills.
I walked on, until I was as far away from the house as I could get without it disappearing from view completely, then flumped down in the grass and basked in the warm sun, eager to use every moment of my free time, sure that any moment it would be interrupted by someone, or, more probably, someones, ignoring Da and racing up to confront me with some problem or argument-settling question. I knew I should probably I lay back and gazed up at the azure sky, the gloriously warm summer's day lulling me into a half-sleep and, although I didn't yet know it, a completely false sense of security.