Olive doesn’t believe in ghosts, but something weird is definitely going on at the orchard and she wants to get to the bottom of it in this third novel of a sweet series about the bonds of friendship.
Olive, Peter, Sarah, and Lizzie are getting ready for Halloween. This year, they’re planning a zombie hayride and a haunted barn party.
As they set up, Lizzie’s older sister, Gloria tells them that a ghost haunts the very barn they’re decorating. According to Gloria, the ghost is angry and desperate for revenge. Lizzie, Sarah, and Peter are fascinated, but Olive doesn’t believe any of it. Not even when strange, ghostly things keep happening all around them.
Olive sets out to prove that ghosts don’t exist and that Gloria and her friends are behind it all. But the more Olive investigates, the scarier things become. Could Gloria be telling the truth? Is the orchard really haunted?
A Fall for Friendship CHAPTER 1 But . . . Is It REAL? Actually, no Halloween monsters REALLY exist,” Olive said, pushing up her glasses, then reaching over for more apple pie. “Zombies are a great example,” she went on. “Scientifically, zombies aren’t physically possible.” She piled her plate high with the pie and then added some ice cream. It wasn’t until she’d finished that she saw the whole table looking at her.
Her dad John beamed, but her other dad, David, smiled and looked down, shaking his head a little. Lizzie’s parents—Albert and Tabitha Garrison—shared a smile too. But Olive’s twin brother, Peter, and their friends Lizzie and Sarah all just looked exasperated.
“You don’t know for sure, Olive. There might be one somewhere in the world,” Sarah said, spooning a big cloud of whipped cream onto her pie. “Anyway, we’re talking about the zombie hayride, not REAL zombies.”
Olive furrowed her eyebrows. “Yeah. Because there’s no such thing as ‘real’ zombies.” She wasn’t sure why Sarah wasn’t listening to her. Sure, zombies were something she and her brother had been obsessed with for years. . . . And when they’d moved to New Amity and met Lizzie and Sarah, they’d found out they loved zombies too. AND they all got to plan a zombie hayride for a fall activity at the Garrison Orchard—not to mention a haunted barn. But that didn’t make zombies real. Surely Sarah knew that?
Lizzie continued the conversation, clearing her throat. “So, for the hayride, we can put an ad up around New Amity for people who want to be zombies. We’ll have to tell them that they’ll probably be hit by Nerf darts. And then Gloria and her friends will be the actors in the haunted barn.”
“ACTING!” Gloria, Lizzie’s teenage sister, yelled at the end of the table. Her sunglasses slipped a little down her nose as she threw her arms out, but she pushed them up and went back to reading a book called Acting the Strange and Unusual. Olive was used to Gloria yelling “Acting!” whenever anyone mentioned, well, acting. Her dad David called Gloria a “free spirit.”
A smile broke out over Lizzie’s face—a smile that Olive couldn’t help returning, even if she was still kind of smarting from Sarah’s irritation with her. Lizzie’s smiles were always contagious. Plus, Olive was super-excited about the festivities. This was the first year the Garrison Orchard would be putting on the zombie hayride and the haunted barn. And she, Peter, Lizzie, and Sarah were right in the thick of it.
It wasn’t just the four friends who were excited, either. The hayride and the haunted barn were the talk of everyone in their school. Kids were betting each other they wouldn’t go in, and Olive had even seen two kids crying because they were scared even at the mention of it. She thought that was silly. What was there to be scared of? It was just a bunch of kids Gloria’s age acting. None of it was real. Now, river parasites? THOSE were real. And something to be afraid of.
Albert said to Gloria, “Honey, why don’t you go over what you and your friends have planned?”
Gloria looked up from her book and pulled down her glasses. Then she pushed them back up her nose and sniffed. “Very well. If you insist,” she said, setting the book down. She put both hands on the table and leaned in, her voice dark and ominous. “First, the victims—”
Tabitha interrupted, “The paying guests,” but Gloria barely paused.
She went on, “—the victims will enter the barn, where darkness will envelop them. A monster greets them, his fangs dripping with blood. ‘Welcome, my delicious dinner—I mean, guests,’ he will say, and beckon them to follow him.” Olive couldn’t help it, she leaned in a little. “From there, the victims will feel their way around the barn, all the while being chased by ghosts, by vampires, by creatures of the night bent on their destruction! The first scene they come upon: a circus! Monstrous clowns ask them to come play, their smiles unnatural, their eyes wild—”
And suddenly, Lizzie cut in, something she never did. In fact, Lizzie wasn’t usually a talker, but this whole night she’d been animated and gabby. Sarah hadn’t even had to translate most of her sentences. Lizzie said, “Yes! The first room is the clown room! Then it’s the werewolf room, where a moon turns full and the actor turns into a wolf. Meanwhile, the zombies from the hayride will come through—or at least that’s what the guests will think—and start following them. The next room will be a chainsaw murderer, and then there’s a ghost school where bloody kids will answer questions about haunting, and then—”
Gloria huffed loudly. “BABIES need to wait their turns,” she said, and slammed herself backward against her chair. Lizzie’s face turned immediately regretful.
“Oh, no. I interrupted you, didn’t I?” she said, her eyes worried and scrunched. Sarah patted her shoulder. Gloria ignored her and put her headphones on, apparently done with the story.
Sarah shrugged and went on, “Anyway, after the haunting rooms, it’s a scary dentist room, and then people walk by the hayloft and it ends with a—”
And here Lizzie interrupted again, “—with a real murder scene! Or, not real, really, of course. But we’re going to have some actors up in the loft arguing, and then one of them is going to push the other one off. She’ll fall into some soft hay, but the audience won’t see the hay. And when she gets up, she’ll be like a ghost who will chase everyone out of the barn!” Lizzie made a squealing noise again and bounced in her chair. Sarah bounced too. Peter grinned. Lizzie ended with, “It won’t be a real ghost, of course.”
Olive laughed. “Well, yeah . . . because there’s no such thing as a real ghost. . . .” But she noticed no one else was laughing. In fact, they looked a little annoyed with her.
“What?” she said.
Sarah huffed. “You don’t KNOW there’s no such thing,” she said.
Before Olive could answer, Peter said, “It sounds awesome, Lizzie. We are all so excited.” Lizzie beamed. Peter threw Olive a look.
This time, Olive didn’t smile back. Why weren’t her friends listening to her? And why did they insist on saying things were real, when they KNEW they weren’t? Suddenly, she felt like one of the grown-ups instead of one of her friends.
Tabitha smiled at all of them. “Why don’t you all come tomorrow morning and help with the setup? Most of the town will be here to help, and you can ask them to put up flyers there. And maybe even finagle some volunteers!”
“DEAL!” yelled Sarah. She high-fived Lizzie on one side of her. And then Peter on the other. But she didn’t high-five Olive on the other side of Peter.
Olive wanted to believe that she didn’t because she was too far away. But she had a feeling she was making that up.
Megan Atwood is a writer, editor, and professor in Minneapolis, Minnesota, whose most recent books include the Dear Molly, Dear Olive series. When she’s not writing books for kids of all ages, she’s making new friends, going on zombie hayrides, and eating as much ice cream as she can. And, always, petting her two adorable cats who “help” her write every book.