“Those shoes are gruesome.”
    “I know!”
    “…”
    “What are you thinking about? I asked.
    Danny sat down on a foot stool. “Does anyone even know why we’re not allowed in the forest?”
    “I’ve been told multiple times it’s ‘dangerous’.”
    “Who told you that?”
    “Everyone. Dr. F especially. He got really mad at me for asking him. Harly, Helgamine, Zeldaborne, Jimmy, they all think I’m crazy.”
    “I remember the talk with Jimmy, but where was I with everyone else?”
    “I dunno, badminton practice?”
    “Probably.”
    “Anyhow, whenever I ask anyone what other holidays are called, they back away, or snap at me or something. They know I know where it is.”
“The path to it’s right seguinte to the mountain!” Danny said.
“I know! And they hate that we know, but why? What’s out there that’s so bad?”
“How bout the time dad found those doors? They think we’re gonna mess something up.”
“But he fixed things!”
    “You know, I must have read somewhere about adults that never told their kids about this cave, so it made them want to go there really badly and they were gobbled up por a giant worm monster thing when they actually did. Maybe it was a dream…it was a dream, but there is some kind of theme happening here.”
    “You mean in this book?” I held up Scary Tales for kids. “Yes, but our cave isn’t just a chance for rebellion, it hides mystery, wonder—” Tanith tapped the projector’s ON button and a círculo of trees were shown before me. “It’s different, it’s fantastic, and…new. Look at that! Trees don’t usually grow in a perfect circle—we gotta check this out!”
    “Knock knock,” dad gingerly opened our door. Tanith squeaked and frantically rotated the shelf, the projector flying off. Once dad crouched down a little to actually get in our room, the holiday doors were projected on our ceiling, but I covered the tiny thing with both my hands and hid it behind my back. He stood up to his full height again and looked at us first, then up the mural that was now blank. “Are you ready for cama yet?” He said after a pause, “I thought I…I thought there was something there.”
    I yawned. I haven’t felt tired all dia except for just now. “Maybe it was a spider,” I said.
    Danny took off his shoes and vest. “Um, dad? Can we ask you a question?” and I quickly got a tack from my mural and poked the projector off and slid it into my new shoe.
    A squeak came from the closet.
    Dad turned his head. “What was that?”
    “Eh, it’s Dia das bruxas Town, whadda you expect?” I said.
“You know that some bats can throw their squeals just like people can throw their voices?” Danny probably made that up. “So, dad?”
Dad bent down to lean on one knee so our heads were almost leveled with his.
    “Um, we were just talking about how everyone fusses a lot if we even mention the other holidays in the forest,” I said.
    “Why is it so dangerous out there?” Danny said.
    “That’s all we’ve been told—but nothing else—no detail,” I complained.
    “It’s frustrating.”
    “They don’t think we can handle the truth or something.”
     Dad looked at us and scratched his chin, trying to figure out how to back out of this one. “I know I can’t keep you two in the dark for much longer. You would probably go and find out for yourself if I kept hiding the truth from you anyway.”
    We looked at each other. Like anybody would tell us.
    “I’ll tell you, but only if you jump into your beds right now!” It was a tickle threat alright. Scared for my life, I leaped into my hammock and pulled the covers over my head as fast as I could. I heard Danny squeal kinda like Tanith does when he gives her a treat.
    “So tell us, dad, what is so dangerous about the forest?”
    “Well…” he said in his deeper story-telling voice, “If you could recall those three henchmen of Oogie’s from my tale…”
    “Oh! I know,” I said, “Uh, Lock…Shock…”
    “And Barrel, right?”
    “Bingo—they thought they would win us over por bringing the mayor over to Oogie’s lair. They gave mom and I a hand getting out of there, but they were just waiting for the right moment to stab us in the back.”
I wasn’t sure if I wanted to ask how they betrayed dad, but Danny seemed to want to know the same question.
“How could they do that?” he said.
“They revived Oogie. I went on a trip to clear my head and think of new ways to make a scarier Dia das bruxas when they brainwashed Dr. Finklestien and captured your mother in order to tell the town I’d left them for dead without anyone to call them out on their lies. Oogie eventually took over most of the holidays and convinced Dia das bruxas I was a traitor.”
“They did all that?”
“When was this?” I said, outraged.
“It was before any of you were born.”
“Oh,” we both said.
“So how long was that?”
“Z’s seventeen, isn’t he? It happened two years before he was born.”
“Wow,” Danny and I looked at each other again.
“It was a catastrophe, but everything turned out fine in the end.”
“So…you beat him?”
“Oh yes,” he said, “and when I beat him, Lock, Shock, and Barrel ran off again.” He held his head in his hands. “It’s been so long that I’m getting suspicious...Just know that you can never trust them. Even if they say they are nice people now, it is just a rotten scam. They are always up to no good.”
“So you’ve been trying to figure this out for a while, huh?”
“Yes—actually, ever since you two were born. That was the last time I saw them,” he said looking like he remembered it well.
“Huh?” Danny and I said.
“They came back to Dia das bruxas Town one night. Zero spotted them in the graveyard. We weren’t sure what they were doing, but their laughter reached Zero’s hearing from a mile away.”
“What did you do?”
“I tried getting closer, but I hadn’t much time before I was called back início to see you two, but before I left I tried listening to what they were saying.”
“What did they say?”
“Something about finding the right one…but that’s all they said. Once I reached the gates, I saw them walking up the path to the forest.”
“I want to find out now. How come you haven’t gone to investigate?” I said.
“I have.”
“Then why don’t you tell us about it?”
“I don’t want you getting involved.”
My hammock started swinging when I got up on my knees. “Why not? Who else is in on this? Have you ever even gone back to the forest because if there’s no real danger I really want to go there, dad.”
“There is real danger! No one is going there except for me,” dad said. “It takes a long time to find the doors and I know how tired you get just walking to school. Besides, the less you know the better.”
“That’s not—”
Dad stood up and looked at me square in the eye. “I do not want anyone I amor to be in danger, Gretchen.”
“But--”
“You don’t know Oogie. He will use you against me.”
“You don’t even know if he’s alive!”
“Gretchen.”
I never heard my father sound this serious. I found myself agreeing that I wouldn’t step foot in the forest even though I knew I’d probably betray his trust too one day, which probably made me so sad it actually matched the expression on my face. After a long pause, dad sat back down, kissed my forehead and held my head up high.
“I’m sorry we don’t meet eye to eye all the time. I amor you too much to see you get hurt.”
“Yeah, I amor you too.”
“Don’t worry too much about this. I want you to do your best at the audition tomorrow, so get some rest and I’ll see you in the morning.”
“Okay.”
“Goodnight, Danny. Have splendid badminton nightmares,” he said, tucking him in.
“I will. Goodnight.”
“Goodnight.”

He closed the door.
I started to say “Oh my gosh!” and realized Danny said it too, but with a groan. I always felt like he thought he had his doubts and now with it being legitimately life-threatening...How am I going to get him to come now?
“This may take longer to plan…” I said.
“We’re not even allowed to go to the graveyard without somebody with us,” Danny moaned.
“I know. We don’t even know how long it’ll take to go down there.”
“If dad’s going down there, why doesn’t he take others so if Oogie’s there they could beat the snot out of him?
“Maybe that is what he’s doing…” I started thinking.
“What’s the plan?”
“Well, my goal was to go before school started, but now it looks like I’ll have to face reality and plan a little mais regarding the actual trip there, but that can wait.” I heard a sigh of relief come from Danny. “We are now paying attention to our father’s plan of action if we can get him to spill—or anyone else involved to spill, for that matter.”
Danny’s tone sounded edgy with a hint of skepticism. “How are we gonna do that? You know we can’t just walk up to someone and say, ‘hey, do you know anything about dad’s plan to thwart the re-rebirth of Oogie Boogie?’”
“Exactly—that’s why we have to act natural, pretend like we’re not up to anything and once people think we’re normal, it will be as easy as mystery mint pie to get info.”
    
Sounds like a plan, right? This is the worst plan ever! What if no one at school has goods on this situation? Then I’d be making relationships with people for no good reason. Here’s a little about Zeeb:
The first born, he’s the only responsible one that keeps us all in check and who will always be there for you. He’s taller than mom and almost up there with dad. He can read my mind too—no joke.
His workshop overalls are always on and sometimes he even forgets to take off his welding capacete from school. This guy doesn’t care about what anybody thinks of him and he’s great at checkers :)

Catch you laterGretchen