- Ch. 1: Waking up is hard to do. Unless, of course, there are fries.
- Ch. 2: It might be a game to you, but it’s not to us.
- Ch. 3: Does anything actually happen or do we just talk about it?
- Ch. 4: What could possibly be better than jewels, gold and glittery treasure?
- Ch. 5: The first thing we do, let’s uninvite all of the parents.
- Ch. 6: The long walk to freedom
- Ch. 7: Pieces of the puzzle are coming together. But what’s the puzzle?
- Ch. 8: The unknown versus the known.
- Ch. 9: It doesn’t always make logical sense. Sometimes, you just have to go with it.
- Ch. 10: This is the worst day of my life (again).
- Ch. 11: We are family.
- Ch. 12: Castle Burgers with a side of Bog
- Ch. 13: Upside-down ladders and distant brothers
- Ch. 14: Sibling rivalry isn’t only among 9- and 11-year olds
- Ch. 15: No time for patience
It takes a kid to know a kid.
“Come on, I want to show you something,” Darcy said as she even made a big roll with her arm like some Disney character in an overly friendly show of camaraderie. But most kids can’t pass up the ‘I want to show you something’ phrase and these two were no exceptions.
“Are you going to show us another secret of the castle?” Dec asked and it came out like whining and sarcastic, but he didn’t mean it.
“Are you going to scare us and bring us downstairs?” Lu said, but trying to be fun and bright about it.
Darcy was young enough to roll with the punches and knew when to hit back. Without so much as a second thought or young adult, young boy relations, she just said, “No.” Then she paused, came close to them and whispered, “It’s even better.”
“Is it WiFi?” Dec asked, waking up quickly.
“Is it popcorn?” Lu asked accidentally raising his hand as if he were in class.
“Just come along, lads. It’s not far,” she said as she made her way out of the bar and turned left down a hallway.
“It’s never far, then we go through eight doorways, five flights of stairs, and … ” Dec trailed off.
“I promise, it’s not far,” Darcy said with glee. “In fact,” she turned to look back at them, “we’re here.”
A bustling kitchen was preparing all sorts of delights to the left. To the right, people in white were going back and forth delivering trays of steaming somethings. Vats of unknown broth boiled. Ovens of freshly baked surprises were opened to check in on.
“Are we even allowed in here?” Dec asked.
“You’re with me, Dec, just watch your step,” she said as Dec looked down and didn’t see much to trip on. “You have friends in high places,” she said and winked at Dec so sweetly that he blushed on the spot.
Lu saw the wink and tried to wink at no one in particular, but mostly just raised his cheek and closed both eyes and looked to any observer as if he had something stuck in both eyes that he was trying to get out.
She expertly weaved her way through cooks and around tables piled high with desserts.
“Are those for breakfast?” Dec pointed at the croissants piled in a pyramid.
“They most certainly are, my friend,” Darcy proudly said above the din of the room. “Do you like warm and buttery or rich and chocolatey?”
“Rich and chocolatey, please,” Dec said, his eyes focused on the pile of flaky dough as he didn’t watch his step and walked right into a cook.
“Ooh, I’m sorry,” Dec said, but the man was all smiles and business and made his way around the young boy with finesse and experience, but without a word.
“Just over here, my fine lads,” Darcy said and brought them to a corner of the kitchen that seemed to be less busy. “OK, friends, we’re here. Are you ready for your surprise?”
“Yes,” Dec said.
“Uh huh,” Lu said quickly.
“I’m going to answer your second question first, but I’m going to answer it with a question,” she said.
“Do you ever do anything sort of like in a straight line? Do you know what I mean?” Lu asked.
“I do know what you mean, Lu, and no, I don’t. Especially not in this castle. This castle is anything but a straight line. The history of the place has always been wrinkled and warped, twisted and turned, but there’s always a lightness to it, a reminder that we need to have fun, that the answers aren’t easy or clear or straight forward. They’ve always instilled a sense of play into us here and I have to say that I’m a huge fan,” Darcy finished off with obvious great pride for her place of employment.
“So,” Lu started.
“Patience, Lu,” Darcy broke in. “You’re keeping track here, I’m starting to catch onto your style and I respect it. You’re waiting for my question to ask you in response to your second question, correct?”
“How did you know?”
“Because I’m also keeping track, lad,” she said and gave Lu a wink that, in the simple blink of an eye, made him feel both welcome and special.
“Are you ready? Don’t worry, it’s not a hard one,” she added.
“We’re ready,” Dec said.
“What do you think this is?” and she moved to her side to reveal something of a wire mesh cage with a handle on it.
“Oh, oh, I know, I know!” Lu could barely hold back his excitement.
“Yes, Lu. What do you think it is?”
“I don’t know the official kitchen word for it, but it makes fries,” he said with pride and hunger. He licked his lips without knowing he did.
“It’s called a deep fryer and, yes, you’re right, Lu, it’s for making fries, among other things,” she said.
“Does it work?” Dec asked.
“Absolutely,” Darcy responded happily.
“So, wait a sec, is this the answer to our second question?”
“It is,” she nodded.
“So this is the fryer and it makes fries, but does that mean we can have fries for breakfast?” Lu asked.
“Lads, you and your brothers are the only kids in the whole castle, your nanny cancelled last minute and, from what I’ve heard, you boys have had your share of scare,” she paused and cocked her head to the side. “Ooh, ‘share of scare,'” she repeated, “I quite like that, I think I’m going to use that from time to time,” she seemed to yet again be lost in thought. “Right, but yes, you boys have had quite a time and it’s not even Saturday night yet. You are our special guests and, yes, special guests get to have fries for breakfast.” She finally stopped again.
“Wood hooo!” Lu howled like a wolf.
“Alright!” Dec yelled, albeit quietly.
“This is so awesome,” Lu was practically jumping up and down. “My parents are going to hate this!”
“I think your parents are out in the dining hall right now, actually,” Darcy said. “Shall I go fetch them?”
“No way, are you kidding?” Lu spoke up immediately.
“Good. Now lads, I’ve got a special table for you here right in the kitchen, complete with a view of the grounds. Go have a seat and I’ll get some oil boiling and we’ll get you some fries fresher than you’ve ever had them, complements of the Markree Castle. Oh, but we won’t stop there. Fries might be the main course, but I’ll make sure to get you something from the rest of the menu as well, I’ll surprise you.”
“Thanks, Darcy, you’re the coolest person we’ve met the entire time we’ve been in Ireland,” Lu said.
“Dude, haven’t you been in Ireland for like a day?” Dec said.
“Well, you know what I mean, right?” he asked Darcy.
“I absolutely know,” she smiled at Lu, “and I am honored and touched.” She did something of a curtsy and again with the wink of an eye.
“Now go sit down, lads, and I’ll gather up some breakfast for you both,” she said as she walked away slowly.
“Darcy?” Lu called out.
“What about the answer to the first question?”
She stopped where she was and looked at them, but didn’t say anything yet.
“Do you remember the question?” Dec asked.
“I do,” she said plainly and seriously.
“Do you think you could do a quick answer this time?” Lu pleaded.
“I can,” she answered.
They waited. She spoke.
“No,” she said and then nothing more.
“No, you don’t think you can do a quick answer?” Dec asked.
“Or ‘No’ is the answer to the question?” Lu asked.
She walked back towards them and for all the fun and lightness she talked about in the castle, she didn’t look fun and light as she approached. In fact, she looked worried.
“No, I don’t know what’s going to happen to you tonight,” was all she said.