The big house on the hill sat empty, it had been that way since the civil war. We live in Virginia; my stepfather’s family owns many acres of land. Our little house sits in the holler, and I mean tiny compared to the mansion that sits in view of our front porch; we own both houses. I asked Troy, my stepfather, why we live in this small house when we could live in the huge one overlooking the holler. He said it was dangerous and run down; well fix it, I say to him. We don’t have the money, he says to me, being poor stinks.
I guess all the generations of his family were poor because that house has been handed down since the civil war ended. You know I had to ask, how they could afford to buy all this land and a grand house and not be able to fix it. The answer actually did not surprise me, Troy's great, great grandfather got lucky in a hand of poker.
The plantation house was beautiful before the civil war. The owner was filthy rich and would flaunt it to anybody that would notice. That was where he made his mistake, during the civil war. The soldiers for the North needed a house and a rich plantation was a steal. The bragging, idiot owner fled when the soldiers moved in, only a stable boy remained behind. Soon the beautiful house was ransacked and ruined. After the war, the soldiers went home, leaving the house in ruins. The stable boy went through the house to see if anything of value was left behind, so he could have something to gamble with, he was partial to poker. The boy came across the deed to the house and land; he would only use it in an emergency.
That was when Troy’s great, great grandpa came into it; he liked to gamble too. The two got together with a few friends and played cards. Desperation came into play and the stable boy bet the deed, you can guess who was the winner. All the money he won, wasn’t enough to fix the mansion on the hill. He built a little house in the holler so each generation could watch that poor house fall into ruin.
“When I become rich, I’m gonna fix that house and make it more beautiful than it used to be,” I told my brother one day.
“Not with your singing,” my brother, Justin said. He was only nine but I punched him anyway.
My name is Jessika and I’m fourteen, I also have a one-year-old brother named Joey; he is still adorable right now.
One night, it was stormy and cold when Troy made me go out and get some wood. I hate wood stoves; I guess another perk to being poor. I made sure Justin was going with me. We walked out the door and unto the porch, boy it was a cold night. As I walked down the steps, my eyes went to my house on the hill. I froze, something was wrong. Justin ran into me, not paying attention like usual.
“What did you stop for, move it,” Justin said as he pushed me.
“Knock it off,” I said as I kicked him. I waited for the punches, but they never came. I turned to look at him, his eyes were wide and his mouth was open. He had finally noticed why I stopped abruptly.
“What’s that?” he asked.
“I don’t know,” I told him as I turned back toward the house. I watched the soft glow flicker in the fireplace.
“Is someone there, is it on fire?” Justin asked.
“I don’t know,” I said.
Just then, a shadow fell across the window; we both screamed and ran to the safety of the house. We told mom and Troy what we saw; they didn’t believe us. We had to prove it, so we pushed them out the front door. All of us looked up at the hill; the house sat lonely and very dark.
“We ain’t kidding, there was a fire,” I said.
“Yeah, there was and we saw a ghost,” Justin added.
“The ghost must have got to hot by the fire and put it out,” mom said laughing.
Troy, on the other hand, was not amused, “get the wood, NOW!”
Justin and I walked off the porch to get the wood, Troy and mom went inside. As soon as the door shut, I said to Justin, “tomorrow’s Saturday, let’s go check out the house.”
“What if we run into the ghost?” he asked.
“Chicken, ghosts only come out at night,” I told him.
He punched me in the arm, “I’m not a chicken.”
I didn’t hit him back because I didn’t want to go alone tomorrow and if I wasn’t nice; he wouldn’t go with me to the house.
Saturday was warmer, well warm for November, and the sun was brightly shining. It was a perfect day to explore a newly haunted house. I was nice to Justin all night and this morning, it paid off, he was going.
Mom said I was kissing up to Justin; I had to agree with her. She told us to be careful, we didn’t tell her we were going to the house, she just knew. If mom didn’t have Joey to carry up a steep hill, she would be going with us.
Justin and I walked out on the porch and looked up at the house for a few minutes. We walked up the hill and after a few minutes, we were next to the house. Before going on the porch, I told Justin, “be very quiet, no talking.” The boy just doesn’t shut up, talking all the time about nothing.
We walked up the steps and Justin said, “are the ghosts here?”
“Shhh,” I told him.
I was about to open the door, when Justin said, “do you think we will see them?”
“I told you to be quiet,” I whispered.
We walked into the house, I stopped and waited for motor mouth to say something; I was gonna hit him. After a few seconds, I looked at him; he smiled but was silent.
Justin and I stood in the entryway; to our right was the doorway to the dining room and kitchen. To the left was the living room and in front of us was the big staircase that led to the bedrooms upstairs. The house was empty; the soldiers, stable boy and everyone else had a free-for-all. Dust covered the floors and banister, our footprints from previous excursions to the house could still be seen. You could see the area’s where the floor was rotted, and some holes you could see into the cellar.
We turned and went left, and walked into the living room. There were recent footprints everywhere and a spot that looked like someone was lying down.
“Do ghosts leave footprints?” Justin whispered.
“No,” I whispered back.
“We better go,” Justin said.
I moved toward the fireplace and saw that the ashes were still red; there was a fire last night. I turned around and saw the window where we saw the fire. I walked to it and looked out, our porch was visible. I saw mom and Joey, she looked up and waved; I waved back. A noise was heard from upstairs, I walked away from the window and went to Justin, “go hide in the pantry.”
“Just go, I’ll be there in a second,” I told him and he walked toward the kitchen. I gave him a few minutes and said loudly, “no one here now, come on let’s go home.” I walked to the front door, opened it and shut it loudly; then quietly hurried to the pantry. I hoped whoever was there did not notice the fresh footprints going into the kitchen.
After a few minutes of waiting, we heard footsteps stop in front of the door. I flung the door open and, Whack!
I peeked around the door and saw a teenage boy holding his nose.
“What ya do that fer?” He said with his voice muffled.
“You couldv’e been a murderer,” I said smiling.
He told me, “I ain’t no murderer.”
“Who are you?” Justin asked.
“What are you doing in my house?” I asked him.
“Your house?” He asked.
I said to him, “well, my step-father’s house.”
“What’s your name?” Justin asked.
“My name is Timmy, but please, call me Tim.”
Tim began to tell us his life story, how his parents were dead, that he lived on his own and he was fourteen. I looked at him more closely; he was cute. He had reddish-blonde hair, blue eyes and looked like a skateboarder.
“My mom can adopt you,” Justin said.
I punched him and he hit me back. “What are you doing here?” I said to Tim.
“My grandpa’s, grandpa used to live here, when the owner left and left the deed behind, he found it but then lost it in a card game.
“The stable boy, I know that story. He lost the deed to my stepfather’s great, great grandfather,” I said.
“Why are you here, where did you live, were you in an orphanage?” Justin asked Tim.
“No, I wasn’t in a orphanage, I can take care of myself. I’ve been on my own at my parent’s house, money is getting to be a problem,” Tim said.
Tim smiled at me; boy he was cute. He then told us what brought him here from the town of Liberty.
“My grandfather told me stories about his grandpa, the stable boy; one of those stories was that when he found the deed, he also found a map. I guess the owner of this house hid some money and made up a map to it, in case he forgot where it was. My great, great grandpa looked everywhere for the money but he still couldn’t find it. From what I heard, he was pretty stupid.”
“Yeah, he would have to be, to lose all this in a poker game,” I said, and then it hit me, “there’s money buried here.”
“I heard there was, and I’m gonna find it,” Tim told me.
I said to him, “hey, this is our house, if you find money, we get some too.”
“Ok, you all help me and we will split it,” Tim said.
“How are we gonna find it?” Justin asked.
“The map,” Tim told him.
“You have the map?” I asked.
“Yeah, I found it in our attic so I decided to come here and find it,” Tim said.
Justin had to ask, “cool, can I see it?”
“Yeah sure,” Tim pulled out a brown piece of paper and handed it to Justin.
He looked at it and asked Tim, “what’s all those picture’s?”
“Landmarks, I guess.”
I grabbed the paper and looked at the paper, it actually looked like a treasure map. Pictures of landmarks and X marked the spot, “this may take a while to figure out.”
“I’m hungry, can we eat first?” Justin asked.
“You’re always hungry,” I said to him.
“Wanna come home with us, mom will let you live with us?” Justin asked Tim.
“No, I like being on my own, don’t tell anyone I’m here, ok.”
“I won’t say anything,” Justin told him and walked to the front door.
I asked Tim, “are you hungry, want me to bring you some food?”
“Can you sneak some out and your mom won’t know anything?” He asked.
“No problem, but I should warn you, my mom knows things so don’t be surprised if she finds out about you. Don’t worry she won’t keep you, she will just feed you,” I said.
“Really?” Tim asked.
“Yep,” I smiled and left the house. I looked back at the window that was visible from my house and saw him standing at it, watching me leave. Believe me, I made sure I did not trip and fall; I was very graceful.
“Well, how was your investigation?” Mom asked as I walked up the porch steps.
“Nothing there, must’ve been the moon’s reflection,” I told her and kept walking.
“Uh, Jessika, you couldn’t see the moon last night, raining remember,” Mom told me.
I stopped, uh-oh, “there was nothing there and the fireplace hasn’t been used.”
“Ok,” Mom said and then she looked toward the house.
I looked too. Tim wasn’t at the window, but I was sure mom knew something. I didn’t ask, I just hurried into the house. Justin was already eating. I grabbed some pop tarts and stuffed them in my hoodie. I grabbed one for myself.
“Are those for Tim?” Justin asked.
“Shut up, mom can’t know.” I quickly turned around; she wasn’t there. I went to the fridge and grabbed two cokes; one went into the hoodie and the other one I quickly drank down. “Come on, let’s go.”
Mom was coming into the house as we were walking out, she said, “where are you two going?”
“On a treasure hunt,” Justin said.
“We are pretending we are explorers looking for treasure,” I said looking at Justin.
“Sounds like fun,” Mom said and disappeared into the house.
“Idiot,” I said to Justin. Mom knows; I know she does.
“What did I do?” Justin asked.
We walked back up the hill and into the house. Tim was waiting for us. I gave him the pop tarts and coke, he ate and drank quickly. I wondered when he had eaten last.
“Shall we get started?” Tim asked when he finished devouring the food and drink.
I said to him, “do you want some more, I can go and get some more?”
“Nah, I’m fine, I don’t eat much anymore,” Tim answered.
“I can tell,” I said to him, “you are pretty scrawny.”
Tim ignored my last comment and took out the map. “Looks like it’s outside.”
We went outside, careful to be out of view of our house. “We may need the shovel,” I said then looked at my brother, “Justin, go get the shovel.”
“Me, why me?”
“Cause I said so!” I told him.
“Fine, I don’t know why I have to do everything, you can get it yourself, nooo she wants to flirt with Tim,” Justin complained all the way down the hill.
“Uh, ok,” Tim said smiling.
I said, “he does it all the time.”
Me and Tim looked at the map together, then he said, “looks like the house is the starting point and we have to go to what looks like a tree with a bunch of rocks.”
I thought a moment, and then it came to me. “Out back, come on.”
As we reached the back yard, Justin came up the hill, he still complained, “this shovel is heavy, going up the hill is too hard, I’m tired, here is the stupid shovel.” Justin threw it down.
I asked him, “did mom see you?”
“No,” he said.
“Good,” I said, “let’s go.”
Tim picked up the shovel and we went to the place that was on the map. We reached the tree with big rocks all around underneath.
“This must be it, it looks exactly like the picture, so where do we go now?” Tim asked.
“Well, by the map we should be able to see the next place from right here,” I said.
“Why couldn’t he just write down where it was and go there?” Tim asked.
I told him, “what fun is that?”
“I guess,” Tim said.
“The next picture is of rocks and one has a face on it,” I said.
We looked in all directions from where we stood. Justin began to jump up and down excitedly. “I know, I know, come on,” he said and ran, so we followed him.
We stopped at some rocks. Justin said as he pointed to a large boulder, “see, see a face!”
Me and Tim looked and sure enough, you could see a face in the rock. There was holes that looked like eyes, a nose the shape of the rock sticking out and a crack for a mouth.
“Cool,” Tim said.
“Yeah, it is,” I said and looked at the map in Tim’s hands, “what’s next?”
“Looks like a barn,” Tim said.
Glancing around, I noticed a barn in the distance. “I see it, over there.”
Justin and Tim looked; there was a faded old barn over on the next hill. The three of us walked to the barn. The next picture was of a bridge over a creek, we found it and walked to the little wooden bridge. We stood in the middle of it and looked for a cave next; X marked the spot.
“There it is!” Tim said excitedly.
The cave was a little crack on the side of a large hill. “Only one of us will fit in there,” I said.
“I’ll do it,” Tim said and walked to the cave.
I watched as he dug the hole, he did a very good job.
“I hit something,” Tim said and he got onto his knees and pulled dirt away by hand. After a few minutes, he pulled a box from the ground. “This thing is heavy,” Tim said as he walked out of the cave and dropped the box in front of us.
It was a medium sized chest made of leather and a rusted, silver padlock hung on it. “This may be worth money,” I said to them.
“Na, it’s to cool to sell,” Tim said.
Justin asked, “how are we gonna open it, do you have the key?”
“Beat it with the shovel, it’s old, it should break easily,” I said.
“Let’s take it to the house and open it,” Tim said.
“Ok,” I said.
We walked back to the house; it was a more difficult journey with the leather chest. Tim and I carried the box together, it weighed a ton, I swear it did.
Justin carried the shovel surprisingly without complaining. The three of us reached the house and dropped the chest. Tim took the shovel from Justin and swung it at the lock. Like I said, it broke, I was right like usual.
Tim and I lifted the lid; I fell back and sat down very hard on the grass. Tim just stared and I saw a small tear in the corner of his eye, he is sensitive too. Justin said it all for us, “Oh boy, we hit the jackpot!”
In the box was more than money, there was gold, silver, rubies, emeralds and oh yes, diamonds. We actually found a real treasure chest.
“What is going on?”
The three of us slowly turned around, mom stood there.
“Uh, where’s Joey?” I asked.
“Troy’s home and I had a feeling something was going on, who is this?”
“His name is Tim, his mom and dad are dead, he lives by himself,” Justin said to mom, he could never keep a secret.
“That true?” Mom asked Tim and he nodded, then she asked him, “where you living?”
Tim shrugged his shoulders and looked at his feet.
Justin spoke up, “he lives in Liberty, but he came here to look for the treasure, he likes to live by himself.”
“Can’t you ever just shut up,” I said to him and smacked the back of his head.
“Ow, leave me alone!” Justin said as he kicked me.
“Alright, that’s enough you two, what treasure?” Mom said.
The three of us looked at each other and then stepped away from the chest. Mom walked closer, she knelt in front of it and put her hand inside. “Oh my, where did you find this, how, tell me what’s going on.”
Tim told her the whole story and mom listened. When he finished, she said, “close this and take it to the house, you,” she pointed to Tim, “are coming to dinner, it looks as if you need a few good meals, don’t worry I won’t keep you, I’ll just feed you.”
Tim looked at me, I smiled at him and said, “told you so.”
So we took the treasure home, Tim got a good meal and half the treasure, like we agreed. Of course, you know what we used the money on, yep; we fixed that beautiful home on the hill. We even had money left over; we aren’t poor anymore. Troy just had to keep the wood stove; plus the fireplace, now I have to gather twice the wood. Oh well, I have my house finally.
You are probably wondering about Tim, well he is still around; no we did not adopt him. He has his own place, where he can take care of himself. Tim comes over every night for supper; he doesn’t have far to go, for he moved into our little house in the holler.
Every evening, I go down to his house and we sit on the porch and look up at the grand, beautiful plantation on the hill. I could not believe it was finally mine, well Troy’s, but someday the big house on the hill will be mine.