Chapter One

It looked like a thermometer. One of those old-school, mercury-filled kinds. Only the end was a circle.

Yet, that's what I was called. Phoenix Circle.

I had never seen one before, so it's not like I knew what to expect. And I guess all of the naming was pretty arbitrary. I mean, what's the difference between a street, a drive, a boulevard and a plaza?

But still … why call an entire street a circle when only part of it really was? And even that wasn't entirely true. It was only three-fourths of a circle.

Our house was at the very top of it. Straight down, as you drove down the stem. We didn't even have to turn into our driveway. It was right there.

It was a peculiar house. The architect must have been big on symmetry because the garage lay smack down in the middle of the house.

I looked at the other houses in the thermometer. Ours was the only one that looked like that. Even the other two houses in the three-quarter circle with ours had garages on either their right or left. Not in the middle.

But apparently, this is why Mom and Dad wanted the house in the first place. It wasn't a matchbox copy of all the other houses on the street, Mom had said. As an artist, Mom always sought to be different.

Looking around, I could tell we weren't going to fit in. First of all, we were moving into the only anomaly on the street. A house dad said had been vacant for almost the same amount of time Phoenix Circle has existed.

"Why's that?" I asked.

"No one wanted it," he replied.

Hmm … then why do we wanted it? That's what I wanted to ask. But I didn't.

"Then why not get rid of it?" It just didn't make sense for a house to be unlived in for 10 years.

Dad said our house was the first and only house on Phoenix Circle. "It wasn't a circle then. Just a nice little dirt road leading to that house. Then developers came in and made it a neighborhood."

"But why wasn't the house torn down?" I persisted.

Dad looked at me, a blank look on his face.

"You know, never thought to ask," he said. "I think someone important used to live there and the town couldn't stomach the idea of getting rid of it."

That made sense. Sort of.

"Then why'd it lay empty for 10 years?"

Pulling my pigtails, Dad shrugged and smiled. "What does it matter?" Its not going to lay empty now."

When I finally saw the house, I knew no one lived in the house because it was so different. And driving down the street, it looked like the people who lived here were just as matchbox as their houses.

Yup, I just knew we wouldn't fit in. My family was definitely not matchbox.

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It was a four bedroom house. Too big for us, in my opinion. It was just me, Mom and Dad. We didn't even have a pet, or at least not one we brought with us. And I doubted we'd be getting a bunch of visitors to use the extra rooms. We never had visitors in our old house. I didn't think we'd suddenly get them now.

The main door lay to the right of the garage. Or, at least we assumed that it was the main door since it led to the living room. There was an identical door on the left side of the garage, but that one led into a small open room, which I thought could just as easily be the living room. But mom said it was the den since the bedrooms were on this side of the house. The kitchen and the dining room were on the right side.

Since the garage was right down the middle of the two sides, it created privacy, Mom said. She seemed to really like that. There was a hallway, running behind the garage to connect the two.

I liked the hallway. There was only one real wall, the one it shared with the garage. The other "wall" was glass. You could see out into the backyard, but best of all it caught view of the glorious mountainside. I wondered if the hallway faced east or west and wheter I'd be able to catch the sun rising or setting on the looming peaks.

"Beautiful, isn't it?" Mom asked. "This is why I fell in love with this house."

"Then I guess it's worth it," I said. The rest of the house definitely wasn't.

Since it hadn't been lived in for 10 years, the place was a wreck. Everything was dusty and in pretty bad shape.

Dad said that was one of the reasons the house sold for cheap. The Realtors apparently had been trying to sell it all these years and now that someone finally wanted it, Dad was able to strike a pretty good deal – we'd fix it up if it sold for cheaper.

"Well, I guess we'd better get started." Dad came into the hallway from the garage. "We have a week before the moving van gets here with our stuff. Plus, I doubt you ladies want to sleep on the filthy floors tonight."

"A week!" I exclaimed. "We'd need a miracle to expect this place to be fixed up by then."

But off to work we got.