Hannah is thrilled to be moving in with her dad and his new family, who live right next to a spooky cemetery. Luckily, Hannah doesn't believe all the "ghost cat” stories she's heard about the graveyard.
Not so luckily, the cemetery is the least of Hannah's troubles. Her stepsister, Madison, is the meanest girl in Hannah's grade. Her cat, Icky, has been missing since the move. And worst of all, Hannah can't sleep at night: Something keeps scratching at her door, but when she looks for it, nothing is ever there! Hannah has decided to tell her best friend Paisley but is scared she won't believe her and now Hannah's starting to wonder -- could those scary stories be true after all?
It was Hannah Malloy’s favorite kind of day — the sky was cloudy and gray but it hadn’t started to rain yet.
The air in her bedroom was hot and thick. She’d been packing boxes for half an hour, and her tank top was already completely soaked with sweat. It was the beginning of October, but Tarrytown was in the middle of an unseasonable heat wave. Figures, Hannah thought. It’s just my bad luck that it’s a million degrees on moving day.
Hannah picked up a framed photo of what looked like a happy family. The image showed a man in a dark suit, a pretty woman wearing a cream-colored gown, and two twelve-year-old girls in matching ruffly lavender dresses. Hannah thought the girls couldn’t have looked more different. One appeared confident and happy, her soft blond curls falling over the shoulders of the purple dress, which contrasted nicely with her tan skin. The other girl looked miserable, her red hair pulled back in a frizzy halo around her head, and the light-colored dress making her pale, freckled skin look almost ghostly. Hannah sighed as she placed the picture in a box. The junior bridesmaid dress had been just one of a long string of decisions that others had made recently on Hannah’s behalf, without asking her opinion. First, her dad had announced that he was getting remarried in July. Then her dad’s fiancée, Allison, had chosen the “darling” lavender dress for Hannah to wear to the wedding. And to top it all off, Hannah’s new stepsister was Madison Van Meter, one of the prettiest — and meanest — girls in their seventh grade class.
Hannah’s mom poked her head into the room. “How’s it going, sweetie?” she asked. Her mom’s hair was pulled back in a bandanna, and Hannah knew she had been busily packing boxes all morning. Hannah glanced around her room, which looked almost exactly the way it usually did, minus the two boxes she had filled with books and other knickknacks from her bookshelf. “Um, I’m almost done,” Hannah lied. Her mom cocked her head and raised an eyebrow. It was obvious Hannah had barely packed a thing. Hannah sighed. “I’m packing as fast as I can, Mom,
I swear,” she said. “Well, your dad’s going to be here in an hour and a half, so chop, chop!” her mom said brightly before she popped back out of Hannah’s room and returned to her own boxes. Hannah had thought things couldn’t get worse than her dad marrying Madison Van Meter’s mom — but then they did. A few weeks before, her mom had been offered a last-minute teaching job at the University of Chicago. Since Hannah’s mom had been a student there, it was her dream job. The position was only as a midterm-leave replacement, though, and Hannah’s mom didn’t know how long it would last — it might be one semester, or it might be four. Since Hannah had already started seventh grade, her mom and dad agreed that it wouldn’t be wise to pull her out of school and move her halfway across the country for an undetermined length of time. So they decided Hannah would move to the next town, Sleepy Hollow, where her dad had recently moved in with Allison and Madison. Hannah was happy for her mom, and she was glad she wouldn’t have to change schools or move to Chicago. But that didn’t mean she was excited about moving into the same house as Madison Van Meter. Hannah’s phone rang, and she snapped it up. It was her best friend and neighbor — for the next hour and a half, anyway — Paisley Lingren.
“Hey, Hannah Banana,” Paisley chirped. Paisley was the only person in the world who could get away with calling Hannah that. “Are you still packing?”
“Yeah, I’ve still got a long ways to go,” Hannah replied dejectedly. She knew she sounded pathetic.
“Well then, I’m coming over to help,” Paisley said brightly. “Be there in a sec.” Less than three minutes later, Paisley appeared in Hannah’s doorway. Her brown hair was tied back in a no-nonsense ponytail, and her sleeves were already rolled up. Literally. Hannah almost giggled. Paisley was the most efficient and organized person Hannah had ever met. And she had to be — Paisley was involved in so many hobbies and extracurricular activities it made Hannah’s head spin. She never understood how Paisley managed to handle it all. Hannah was much less organized and way less focused — up until recently, she had rarely stuck with any hobbies for more than a few months. But that had changed last year when her dad bought her a used guitar for her birthday. Hannah had immediately loved playing, and she looked forward to her weekly lesson more than almost anything.
“Hannah, this is a disaster!” Paisley scolded as she surveyed the messy room. “You’ve barely packed a thing!”
“I know, I’m a complete mess,” Hannah admitted. “I need you, Pais. That’s why you’re my best friend.”
“Okay, hand me a box,” Paisley ordered. “I’ll hold something up, and you tell me ‘yes’ or ‘no.’”
Paisley headed to the closet and grabbed Hannah’s favorite sneakers. Hannah gave her a thumbs-up. Then Paisley pointed to a pair of old ballet shoes.
“Um, no, obviously,” Hannah replied. She hadn’t taken ballet in years. Paisley picked up Hannah’s hiking boots. Hannah paused. Before the wedding, she had spent every Saturday with her dad. It was part of the custody arrangement after her parents had gotten divorced, when Hannah was four, and it was the one other thing besides guitar that she looked forward to each week. On their “special Saturdays,” Hannah and her dad would bike, kayak, or go hiking in the summer, and snowshoe or snowboard together in the winter. But since the wedding, Hannah’s dad had barely had time for her, thanks to his two-week honeymoon in Hawaii and all of the renovations he had been helping with at Allison and Madison’s house. Hannah knew more than she wanted to about how the master bedroom was being redecorated, and how her dad and Allison were turning the garage into a home office so her dad wouldn’t have to drive to the university every day. Hannah considered the boots.
“Okay, yes,” she finally told Paisley. Maybe her dad would have more time for hiking now that Hannah was going to be living with him. She and Paisley managed to pack up most of her room in the next hour. Then Paisley’s digital watch beeped.
“Aw, shoot,” Paisley said. “Clarinet lesson in fifteen … I’ve gotta run. Sorry, Hannah.”
“That’s okay; I understand,” Hannah said, giving her friend a quick hug. Hannah knew that being friends with Paisley meant putting up with her over-packed schedule.
“You were a huge help.” “No problem,” Paisley replied. “I’m gonna miss you, neighbor.”
“I know,” Hannah said sadly. “But we’ll still hang out. See you in school on Monday?”
“Yup, see you then,” Paisley said with a wave. She almost crashed into Hannah’s mom on the way out of the room.
“Whoa, sorry, Ms. M.!” Paisley said. “Gotta dash — clarinet lesson in ten! Have fun in Chicago!” With that, Paisley flew down the stairs and out the door. Hannah’s mom shook her head. “That girl certainly keeps herself busy. I don’t know how she does it.” “Me neither,” Hannah said with a laugh. “Your dad’s going to be here any minute,” her mom said as she handed Hannah a large plastic pet crate. “Why don’t we find Icky and get him into this thing?” Icky was short for Ichabod Crane — the cat Hannah’s parents had adopted when she was three. Hannah had been too little to pronounce “Ichabod,” so she had shortened it to Icky, and that had been his name ever since. Luckily, Icky was going to be moving to Sleepy Hollow with Hannah, which made her feel a little bit better about the move. She might be leaving the only home she’d ever known, but at least she wouldn’t be doing it alone. Hannah knelt down to peek under the bed, which was usually Icky’s favorite hiding spot, but she didn’t see him anywhere. Next she tried the closet, behind her desk, and finally, the laundry hamper. No Icky. Hannah heard a car pull up in front of the house, followed by three short beeps. It was her dad’s signal. She hurried downstairs with the empty carrier. “Mom, I can’t find him,” Hannah called. “And Dad’s already here.” Hannah knew her father hated waiting. Her mom emerged from the kitchen holding a bag of cat treats. “Don’t worry about your father. This time, he’ll have to practice a little patience,” she said. She shook the bag of treats. “Maybe this will tempt that cat. Icky, where are you, boy?” Hannah and her mom canvassed the first floor of the house, but they couldn’t find Icky anywhere. Hannah was sure she’d checked all his favorite hiding places. All except one. “Behind the china cabinet!” she exclaimed. It had been Icky’s favorite hideout when he was a scared little kitten. Sure enough, when Hannah peered behind the massive piece of furniture, she saw a black ball of fuzz with glowing yellow eyes and two white paws. “Come on, Icky,” Hannah said gently. “I’ve got a jerky treat just for you.” Just then, Hannah heard the creak of the screen door. She turned to see her dad stepping into the house, his arm still holding the front door open. “What’s taking so long, Hannah?” he asked. Out of the corner of her eye, Hannah saw a streak of black emerge from behind the china cabinet, the white patch on Icky’s tail flashing as he dashed straight out the open front door. “Icky, no!” Hannah cried as she pushed past her dad and ran after the cat. She raced to the bottom of the driveway and surveyed the block desperately, but there was no sign of Icky anywhere. In an instant, he had disappeared. Chapter Two Hannah ran back into the house, almost knocking her dad down a second time, tears stinging her eyes. Mr. Malloy grabbed her arm as she flew past him. “Hannah, slow down a minute!” he admonished her. “I’m sure he’s just outside hiding under a shrub. I’ll go look for him,” he said, and slipped out the door. Hannah sat down on the stairs with a thud, her shoulders hunched. In just a second, all of her nerves about the move had returned tenfold. Suddenly, Hannah wasn’t sure how she was going to say goodbye to her mom without having Icky with her. Hannah’s mom sat down next to her and put her arm around her, pulling her in for a hug. “Oh, Mom!” Hannah burst out, tears running down her face. “This is the worst!” She knew she was being melodramatic, but she couldn’t help it. Sure, Icky ran out into the yard every once in a while. Sometimes he even came back in a few minutes, but other times it took him hours. If he didn’t get back soon, Hannah was going to have to leave without him. And suddenly, she just couldn’t bear the thought of spending the night in a new house without Icky by her side