Lydia looked around curiously as they arrived at Brierthorne. The gate Matthias had opened for them emerged into a courtyard in front of a large red brick building at the heart of a wooded valley. Beyond the open green of the sports fields she could make out several other buildings half hidden in the woods. It had a warm, friendly feel and she was tempted to start exploring but an elderly man was waiting on the steps in front of the main entrance for them.
“Dad!” Sonia said and rushed up the steps to him. “It’s so good to see you!”
“Sonia!” He pulled her into a hug. “I’m so glad you’re alive. Now don’t you think you should introduce me to my grandchildren?”
“Of course,” she said. “Though you already know Karen. Come here kids.”
Lydia found herself swallowing as she made her way to her mother’s side but the old man gave her a warm smile as Sonia introduced her which washed her nerves away.
“Don’t worry, dear,” Sonia said. “Dad doesn’t bite.” She wrapped an arm around Lydia’s shoulder. “This is my father, Edward Keefe – formerly Tyler.”
Lydia frowned. Why was his former surname the same as Sarah’s and why did he have a former surname? She would have to ask someone later.
“I am so happy to meet you all,” he said once Sonia had introduced them. “Even you, Karen. Obviously you’re your father’s daughter to pull off such a deception.” He smiled at Lydia’s frown. “I think Lydia’s wondering about my surname, Sonia.”
“Probably,” Sonia said. “I’ll explain once we’re settled in. Where are we staying?”
“If any other family brought such a large group it’d be a nightmare,” he said. “Fortunately there’s always a lot of Morgans so we can just use their houses. There should be enough space, though it’ll be a bit crowded.” He tilted his head at Ebona and Kenna. “I’ll sort something out for the unicorns later.”
He led them across the playing fields and along a wooded path towards a cluster of three houses in clearing. Karen grabbed Lydia’s hand and dragged her towards one of the doors. “Come on, Lyd. You can share with me. I’ll show you my room.”
Daniel watched Karen dragging Lydia off with a raised eyebrow, then looked back at the others as his father cleared his throat.
“I’m afraid you and Drew will have to share as well,” he said. “All the rooms are shared. Lyrrekka, would you mind having a couple of the four person rooms for your group?”
“Of course not,” she said.
“Good. Sonia and I will take the nest parents’ room in this one.” He nodded towards the house Karen and Lydia had gone into. â€œWe’ll trust everyone else to sort out rooms between them.”
“Nest parents?” Daniel asked. Behind him he heard Kyle chuckle.
“Every dorm house at Brierthorne has a couple who look after the place and the kids,” he said. “Usually from the same family as most of the kids in that particular house.”
“Ah,” Daniel said. He was going to ask more when Edward Keefe suddenly stiffened and looked back towards the school. Marian, Carl and Tara had also all turned to stare in that direction.
“Dad, what’s wrong?” Sonia asked.
“Adrian and the others from our family have arrived already,” Marian said before Edward could. “They don’t appear to be making any hostile moves but it is rather early for them to be here. I don’t like it.”
“No, they are just waiting politely,” Edward said. “I’d better go and greet them. Don’t worry, I’ll be carefu–” He broke off. “No, wait, two of them are heading in this direction. I think it’s Adrian and his wife.”
“Just the two of them?” Matthias said. “How interesting. Let’s go and see what he has to say for himself.”