The house seemed pretty new. In fact, none of them could remember it being there the day before. But as the four boys stood there, gazing up at it, they could only wonder in awe. Had you been standing there, you wouldn’t have said it was beautiful. But you wouldn’t have said it was ugly either. It was rather puzzling; this massive house standing on the exact spot where there had been nothing but a few trees and some grass the day before – that’s what the boys would have crossed-their-hearts and sworn to you, at least. And yet they stood there, and the more they stared up at that giant house, the more interesting they found it.
Why it was interesting, none of them could have told you. It just was. The wide, red cobblestone path that made its way from the pavement was guarded step-by-step, side-by-side by small hanging lanterns, until it reached the front porch. Supported by four colossal pillars, the entire house seemed to be hunching over the covered portal. Tall, arched windows grew several meters high on either side of the front door and porch, with long maroon curtains that fell from top to bottom; drawn shut to lock out light… and spying eyes. The house stood three stories tall, its shadow looming over the garden that stretched out to meet them – were it not for the gate. Before house, path, garden and all stood an enormous wrought-iron gate, adorned with gold-crested leaves and thorned, ivy vines that wound their way around the gate’s height. A strange gust of wind swept out from behind the boys, blowing the small lanterns on the path back and forth; their tiny lights flickering teasingly. It was almost as if the entire building were beckoning to them.
“I like it,” said the smallest of the four.
“Shut it Ronny, you like everything,” said James, not taking his eyes off the house. Ronny scowled, but turned back to stare at it again; mesmerized.
They were silent for another while, before the tallest turned to the other three and said “Alright lads, s’more than enough. Let’s head back in. Mum’ll have supper set out.” But the words had scarcely left his mouth, then a shrill cry could be heard echoing from the crescent’s key.
“Buggerin’ hell,” said Flynn “There she goes, didn’t I tell yeh? Now we’re gonna get it!”
The three elder boys quickly sprinted off towards the impatient cries, leaving Ronny still rooted to the spot and staring at the house until Flynn had run back and tugged him painfully by the ear.
When the four boys arrived, out-of-breath and red-faced at the front porch of number 27, they were greeted by a short, plump woman in what must have been at one point, a white apron. She was wielding a rather long, wooden spoon and was tapping her foot impatiently. She ushered the boys in quickly, rapping each of them sharply on the head as they passed through the door. A few bowls of beef stew and some dishwashing later, the four boys rushed outside to the old birch tree that stood solemnly in the corner of the garden. Climbing a fraying, brown rope ladder, they crawled into the small wooden house that sat nestled among the old tree’s strong arms.
“Keith, are yeh sure yer mum won’t mind yeh stayin’ here with us ‘fer a while?” asked Flynn.
“Nah, she’ll be just fine, dontcha worry,” said the young boy with the flaming red hair.
“Well, alright. What about you Ronny? Won’t yer mum be worried with you stayin’ out so late? I mean, yeh’re only 10 after all,” said Flynn, turning to the little golden-haired boy.
“10 ‘nd a half,” grumbled Ronny “I’m 10 ‘nd a half, and my mum can’t tell me what te do anyways! I’m old enough!”
Flynn looked to his younger brother James, who shrugged and laid back on the pillows and blankets that were strewn across the tree house floor.
The cool, July air that came in from the south breezed through the tiny town of Dover and the four boys could smell the faint sea-scent of the ocean, as they sat up in their little tree house, isolated in their safe-haven from the rest of the world. Swapping stories, jokes and laughs, they lay back on the cushioned floor of the tree house and by the time they looked out the windows, the sun had already sunk beneath the horizon, leaving the sky streaked with brilliant shades of orange, yellow and red. Soon enough, stories ran out, laughs grew thin and one by one the four boys nodded off to sleep.