Kyp Finnegan glowered at the grown-ups sitting in the front of the car. With his creased blue shirt and bald-spot, his dad looked like his dad, and his mum smelled of soap like always, but they weren’t his parents.
He reached into the pocket of his jeans and rooted for the scrap of wallpaper, the ball of sandy-coloured carpet thread, and the leaf; digging deeper, he felt for the conker, which he pulled out by its thick red bootlace and shined against his jumper. He turned, looking through the rear window of the car. He searched the dazzle of headlights for a girl with a go-kart.
Kyp sighed. He missed everything about the way things used to be. He missed his room and the long green garden with its sunflowers and climbing tree. He missed his favourite places: Professor Pettifog’s Museum of Oddities, Fatty Barnstorm’s Circus, and the spectacular Thrill-A-Minute Fairground. He missed his old school, his teachers. He missed his friends, and one friend most of all.
He turned back, glaring at the strangers who were chatting as if everything was normal. The man even sounded like his dad. When the woman with his mother’s smile swivelled in her seat to glance at him, Kyp refused to meet her eye.
It started to rain. The dad-who-wasn’t flicked on the wipers.
Outside, the town slipped past in dismal stripes. Kyp stared at its unfamiliar streets. His reflection stared back. His large blue eyes looked serious and grey.
‘We’re here,’ announced the man.
Kyp didn’t know where ‘here’ was. He didn’t care. The imposter wearing his dad’s shirt twisted around to look at him. He said, ‘You can’t sulk forever.’
Kyp pulled a face. ‘You can’t tell me what to do,’ he told him.
The woman said, ‘That’s enough,’ but Kyp wasn’t finished.
‘I wish I could disappear like Joe and Jamie Bean!’ he said.
‘I knew we shouldn’t have brought him,’ the man fumed and when he got out of the car, he slammed the door so violently the vehicle shook. The stranger with his mum’s face rubbed her forehead with her hands. She turned, fixed Kyp with a forbidding stare and said, ‘We can’t go on like this.’
Kyp jumped as the door on his side of the car opened with a blast of rain.
‘Out,’ the man commanded, and when Kyp didn’t move, he reached into the backseat, unclipped his seatbelt and pulled Kyp from the car. Kyp struggled, but the dad-who-wasn’t dragged him across the wet pavement towards the door of a grimy looking shop. ‘Don’t make this more difficult,’ he said.
Inside, the shop was like a museum. Cabinets brimming with bric-a-brac surrounded a curved wooden counter. Light bulbs dangled from the ceiling like electric pears.
‘Welcome!’ a voice boomed. ‘Welcome to Open Sesames.’
Kyp turned in fright to see a large man with a fox fur coloured beard appear out of the shadows. The man tucked the nimble shapes of his hands into the pockets of his red velvet waistcoat. A large brass key, old and patterned, hung from his wide brown belt. He looked at Kyp with curiosity. Kyp stared at the floor.
‘You’ll have to excuse him,’ apologised the mum-who-wasn’t. ‘He’s been like this since we moved house.’
The shopkeeper nodded. ‘Feeling a bit lost, are we?’ he asked Kyp. ‘You’re in good company. Open Sesames is full of lost things. I do what I can to help them on their way.’
The shopkeeper examined Kyp a moment longer, before returning his attention to the mum-and-dad-who-weren’t.
‘So what is it that I can I do for you?’ he said.
The man and woman exchanged glances. When neither answered, the shopkeeper nodded. He turned to Kyp and said, ‘Why don’t you go off and explore? You might find something you didn’t know you were missing.’
The junk shop was bigger than Kyp expected. He walked between dark wooden wardrobes and suitcases chequered with labels. He paused to blow the dust off pewter tankards and jangle tobacco tins filled with silver thimbles. Overhead, the light bulbs grew sparse. Shadows deepened like coal-dust. Clocks ticked. Heavy glass-fronted cabinets surrounded him. Kyp paused to examine one, wiping away its thick gauze of dust. Inside sat a collection of china dolls, their round, fat faces very white in the gloom. They stared as if resenting his intrusion. Kyp was reminded of his first day at his new school. The children in the silent classroom had looked at him the same way.
The next cabinet was filled with stuffed animals; with pouting trout and long-bodied weasels, with butterflies, beetles and hairy-legged tarantulas skewered on pins. A crow fixed him with the beady shine of its glass eyes.
Ahead, the furniture was crammed together so tightly only the narrowest of corridors existed between it. A single light bulb illuminated the cramped passageway, which a sudden draft set swinging. Shadows moved restlessly over the floor.
No, Kyp thought. He wouldn’t be going in there.
He turned back, poking his tongue out at the china dolls as he passed. He walked quickly to the front of the shop, where the man and woman who weren’t his parents were deep in conversation with shopkeeper. Unnoticed, Kyp ducked down behind the counter and listened.
‘It’s been a difficult time for us,’ he heard the dad-who-wasn’t say. ‘Particularly with Kyp around.’
The mum-who-wasn’t said, ‘We haven’t told him what’s going on, of course. He thinks we’re here to buy some furniture for the new house, but he doesn’t know the rest. He doesn’t know why we’re here.’
‘We would have left him behind,’ continued the dad-who-wasn’t, ‘but we don’t know anyone who would have him.’
‘What is it you’re looking for exactly?’ asked the shopkeeper.
‘A replacement,’ said the dad-who-wasn’t. 'For Kyp.'
Chapter 2 here