New to the Neighborhood
Theo Warren needed a fresh start. What he got was a whole new set of problems.
When Theo decided that he couldn't live in the same state as his ex anymore, he moves over a thousand miles to claim the house left to him by his weird great-uncle. Much to the dismay of his scientific mother, he settles happily enough into the old house filled with the odds and ends collected by an eccentric old man. All Theo wants is to be left in peace, with no histrionic claims to distract him from his writing.
Life in the Greenwoods neighborhood is wonderfully quiet and drama-free. Until that is, the president of the HOA comes to pay a courtesy visit. This seems to be the signal for Theo to meet half a dozen neighbors ranging from a nagging harridan to an awkward young man to a pair of kids who hang out with a... that has to be a dog, right?
When the vandalism plaguing the area takes a turn for the dangerous, and one of Theo's new friends insists that magic is not only real, but all around him, Theo finds himself seeking peace in the forest.
Didn't anybody warn him about what happens to people who wander in the woods?
Discover the Greenwoods Neighborhood now
Theo stepped carefully around the scraggly bush that blocked his view and came almost face to face with the dog he heard earlier– holy hell, was that a dog? The thing was huge and looked more like a damn wolf, but he couldn't imagine tame wolves were a real thing– as well as a couple of kids being glared down by none other than Marielle Trevor herself, in all her entitled fury. The older of the two kids couldn't be more than twelve and glared mutinously at the woman, putting his body between her and his younger brother, who seemed to be perhaps five or six.
The dog crowded the young boy's side, trying to provide comfort while also trying to put itself between the children and the blonde woman who was glaring at them furiously. Theo's skin prickled again– frankly, he was getting tired of the sensation– and he frowned at both the feeling and at the scene in front of him.
"HOA regulations prohibit pets over twenty-five pounds. Your parents will be fined and that animal will be removed!"
The smaller of the children burst into sobs and buried his face in the animal's fur. The dog immediately tried to figure out how to continue standing guard and how to twist to lick the child’s head at the same time. In a different situation, Theo would have smiled at the scene.
Who did Marielle think she was, anyway, Ms. Almira Gulch confiscating Toto? Theo did try not to smirk now as the image of Marielle turning into the Wicked Witch of the West popped into his mind.
"And speaking of that, just where are your parents? Hmm? What are you doing out here on your own? That’s neglect!” she said, not quite snarling but definitely not speaking kindly to the kids. "CPS should be alerted!"
"They're at home. They know where we are and there's no reason we can't be here!" The older child protested. "We're not doing anything wrong, and you can’t get us in trouble!"
"I am the president of the HOA and an adult. You don't get to tell me if you're doing something wrong or not! Children are not allowed out here unsupervised. Now go home and I will call animal control to pick up that... that thing. I have the authority here so you'd better get moving!" The younger child wailed louder and the dog's ears finally swiveled back to lay against its head at the woman's tone.
"Actually, Marielle, we're all on county property right now. You don’t have any authority here at all," Theo stepped forward. He wasn't sure why he was intervening other than basic decency and the desire to prevent an animal attack. There was no doubt that the dog– seriously, what breed of dog was that thing?– was fully aware that the woman was bullying and frightening the kids he belonged to, and was gearing up to protect them.
“The HOA stops at the edge of our property lines.”
"What?" Her head whipped up so fast that her perfectly shellacked hair moved.
"I said that you have no particular authority here. Everything within fifteen feet of the river is county property. The estate lawyer went over it all in a lot of detail when I was signing the papers. This isn't part of the neighborhood, so it doesn't matter if you're the president of the HOA."
He wasn’t about to point out that he had read the novels-worth of rules she gave him and there were no HOA regulations about kids playing unsupervised anyway. She would likely just call an emergency meeting and make a whole bunch of new rules up to fix that oversight, and he didn’t want to be responsible for causing that.
Theo glanced at the kids who were watching him warily. The dog had settled slightly and was nudging the younger child with its head, trying to soothe the boy, who turned and wrapped both arms around the animal's neck in what had to be a strangling grip, but the dog just sat down and tried to lick the kid's ear.
About Katherine Kim's books
Katherine Kim writes urban fiction about people coming together as a community. They usually end up having to fight off some sort of country or world-ending threat of some magical nature, but that's just how these things seem to work out.