Table of Contents
Why did Grampa leave?
“That guy sounds totally out of it today—yelling and swearing, and he says he’s got papers all ready to sign. And he says he needs to borrow some money against his half of this house or he’s going to lose his business. And he needs to get it settled right now. No wonder your grandfather wanted to get away.”
I shake my head. “If you’re saying Grampa ran away and left me to deal with all this because he was afraid or something, that’s not true—that’s not like him at all. You saw those war medals in the parlor. He would never run from a fight.”
Robert says, “Okay, but if he knew Hank was so nuts about needing some money, and he knew Hank was going to keep pushing, then why do
think your grandfather left all of a sudden?”
That stops me cold. But then the answer comes to me so clearly. “Grampa must have been pretty sure that if he’d stayed, things would have been worse.”
“Worse than this?” Robert makes a face. “How?”
I shrug and I say, “I don’t know.”
And on Saturday, that’s true. I don’t know how things could be worse. But I’m sure Grampa wouldn’t have made it hard for me, not on purpose.
And then I think, Wouldn’t it be nice if everything always happened on purpose.
And then I think, Maybe it does.
I want to thank Kaoru Suzuki for his insights about violin audition repertoire; Charles Clements for his perspective on the classical audition process; George Clements for what his music has taught me about composition and jazz performance; my wife, Rebecca, for her support and unfailingly accurate appraisal of my work; the superb editorial and copy editing staff at Philomel Books; and my editor, Patti Gauch, the best writing teacher I’ve ever had.
PATRICIA LEE GAUCH, EDITOR
Published by the Penguin Group
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First published in the United States of America by Philomel Books,
a division of Penguin Young Readers Group, 2006
Published by Puffin Books, a division of Penguin Young Readers Group, 2008
Copyright © Andrew Clements, 2006
All rights reserved
THE LIBRARY OF CONGRESS HAS CATALOGED THE PHILOMEL BOOKS EDITION AS FOLLOWS:
Clements, Andrew, 1949-
Things hoped for / Andrew Clements.
Summary: Seventeen-year-old Gwen, who has been living with her grandfather
in Manhattan while she attends music school, joins up with another music
student to solve the mystery when her grandfather suddenly goes missing.
eISBN : 978-1-101-04274-8
The publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for author or third-party Web sites or their content.
for my sister, Frances Clements Fawcett
They say a sudden shock makes your whole life pass before your eyes. I can only speak for myself. In my case, they are correct.
At this moment my mind is a DVD player, and all my days are there, scene after scene, cued up for easy viewing. Except the thumping in my chest makes the pictures crackle and hiss. I scan, and then focus. I see a steep ravine in West Virginia, and a young girl, me, running barefoot through a hickory grove, playing tag with my little sisters, not a care in the world. That was over ten years ago. I push Fast Forward, then Play, and there I am at age fourteen, three years ago, alone in my bedroom, sawing away on my violin, imagining myself in an orchestra on the stage of a grand concert hall. And outside my bedroom, scattered around the rest of the house, I can feel my parents and brothers and sisters being driven slowly insane by my constant practicing.
I punch Fast Forward again to today, then Slow Advance. Because if I can get a better look at what happened this afternoon, maybe things will make more sense. Maybe my heart will stop pounding. Maybe I’ll be able to breathe.
And on the small screen in my mind I see myself scurrying along 109th Street. I see myself arrive home from my violin lesson. It’s about three-thirty. I’m sure of that, because Manhattan School of Music is about thirteen blocks away, and my lesson ended a little after three. It’s a cloudy day in February with the wind whipping across the Hudson and into the city, so I want to get in out of the cold. I can feel the cold. My heart is racing and I can’t catch my breath and I’m sweating as I remember. But I can feel the cold.
And I start up the front stoop of my grandfather’s brownstone. There are nine steps. One, two, three—but I stop. Because I can hear the yelling. All the way through the brick walls and the triple-pane windows, I can hear the yelling.
I know that voice. It’s Grampa’s younger brother, my great-uncle Hank. There’s usually yelling when Uncle Hank comes over, which isn’t often, thank goodness. Not until recently. He lives on Staten Island, which is almost as far away as Connecticut. Grampa says he owns a recycling business down there.
And within one memory I’m suddenly having another one, about the day I met my great-uncle Hank for the first time eighteen months ago. He said exactly five words to me: “You must be Gwen, right?”
Right. I am Gwen. I was named after Grampa’s wife, Gwendolyn Page, my dad’s mom. She taught writing and literature at City College for thirty-four years, and to hear my dad tell it, she was the one bright light of Grampa’s life. And when Grandmother died three years ago, everyone thought Grampa would leave New York City, maybe move down to live with us in West Virginia. But Lawrence Page was tougher than that, and he stayed put. Daddy says he owns some rental properties in Queens. And then two years ago Grampa invited me to come north and stay at his home in Manhattan so I could study music here—an offer that seemed to come out of the blue. But I think my dad must have told Grampa about me and my violin. And maybe Grampa wanted some company too. All I know is that the invitation arrived just in time to keep me and the rest of my family from going completely crazy.
That first day I met Uncle Hank, when he asked me if I was Gwen, I didn’t answer him. I only nodded, and that seemed to set the tone of our relationship. Ever since, when we see each other, we nod. My dad told me that Hank was a great guy, but I thought he’d be warmer toward me, like a real uncle. In old photos of him and my dad and Grampa on fishing trips, Uncle Hank always has this big grin on his face, standing there between them with his arms across their shoulders. Must have been happier times.
But I’m still reviewing the yelling scene. And me standing there on the front steps of my grandfather’s house. On Thursday, earlier today. In the cold.
I shiver, and I see myself turn around, go back to the sidewalk, duck to the left of the stoop, take three steps down, and put my key into the lock on the iron gate. I swing it in slowly so the hinges don’t squeal, then close it softly behind me.
And then it’s like I’m in a small jail cell below the steps. The iron gate is on my left, there’s a stone wall to my right, and in front of me is the door into the ground floor of the house.
I unlock the door and push it open. I’m planning to slip inside, walk along the hallway back to the basement door, and then creep down underground to the place I use as a practice studio. I can go to that sound-proofed room and play my violin anytime I want to. During these past three months I have spent at least five hours a day in there, rehearsing for my college auditions. I need that quiet little room. The endless rehearsing is frustrating because the music is so difficult, but when I finally break through and get it right, then all those maddening hours melt away like a dream, and I’m wide awake, and it feels like Bach or Sibelius or Paganini is right there in the room with me.
So at three-thirty on Thursday afternoon, I want to warm up my fingers and get on with my work. My whole life has been building toward these tryouts, and I wish I could go down to my studio and practice.
But the look on my face shows that I can’t stand being home when Uncle Hank invades. During the past month he’s come at least twice a week, and he yells from the moment he arrives until the second he leaves. And he always yells about the same thing. He wants Grampa to sell the building, this house. It’s a four-story brownstone, like the places you see when they show the outside of the house on
reruns. Grampa and Uncle Hank are joint owners of the building, but in their father’s will it says Grampa can live here and collect the rent money for as long as he wants to.
So Uncle Hank yells that Grampa
to sell the house. That it’s unfair
to sell it. He yells that Grampa is a selfish, stubborn old man. That each of them—Lawrence and Hank—could walk away with a million dollars, maybe more.
Uncle Hank isn’t exaggerating about the money. A building like this in New York City is worth plenty. So Uncle Hank yells and yells and yells.
But Grampa doesn’t yell back. It’s never an argument. Grampa just says no. Quietly. The louder Hank yells, the more quietly Grampa says no. He won’t argue, and he won’t raise his voice. I don’t know if Grampa even
raise his voice. These days, just talking without coughing is hard enough for him.
If I went down to the basement, and if I closed all the doors behind me, and if I shut myself into my rehearsal room, I wouldn’t be able to hear the yelling. But it would still be going on, and I would know that. I would still feel it. Like the cold.
I see myself make a decision. I set my violin case just inside the door. I drop my backpack, unzip the front pouch, and grab a book. Then I go out the door, relock it, out the iron gate, relock it, step up onto the sidewalk, and turn right toward Broadway. There’s a café half a block away, a place where I can be by myself but still have people around. Hot cocoa and a good book and the smell of fresh coffee. Much nicer than yelling.
And there I am alone at the café, on Thursday. I’m reading a collection of poems by William Butler Yeats. Again. For the third time this month.
I don’t know why I’m stuck on Yeats.
There are hundreds of books in Grampa’s study. It used to be Grandmother’s study too, and she’s the one who arranged all the books by genre, and then by the author’s last name. I only met this grandmother once, at Christmas when I was five. She wrote in some of the books, no words, just penciled check marks and sometimes an exclamation point. It’s not much to go on, but I think I would have liked to know her better.