The train station says Shadowlands.
That’s where I get off. I’m the only one. I’m wearing a gray wool coat that looks a little like a cape, and a shawl that Mrs. Moth knitted for me. A gray skirt and cardigan, black tights, and my black leather boots that tie up the front. They look almost like work boots. I’m carrying a basket that had my lunch in it, and still has a novel. I didn’t read the novel. I just stared out the window as we came through the mountains. They look rather like the mountains in Switzerland. You don’t realize how tall they are when you’re among them. And then you come out into the valley, and there you are, at the small train station that says Shadowlands.
There’s no one to meet me. I didn’t tell them I was coming. (I didn’t know myself until last night.)
But here I am, and there’s a long walk ahead of me. At least it’s spring. Well, the beginning of spring, which means that it’s actually cold, although I can see the green tips of crocuses pushing out of the ground. And buds on the forsythias by the train station.
I walk through the town, and it’s getting late so the shops are starting to close. I walk into the baker’s and buy a loaf of bread, hearty, filled with raisins. He gives it to me for half price, since it’s the end of the day. I eat it as I walk along the road I know so well, although usually I’m in a car or riding a bicycle. Once I’m past the town, and it doesn’t take long to get through it, it’s all country. There are farms in the distance, and the road is lined with trees that hang over it, with gray and silver bark. I wish I knew what they were. I should have brought a book on trees, I think, rather than a murder mystery.
It’s almost dark by the time I get there. I turn into the drive. The house is large, stone, just the way I remember. With a fountain out front, in the middle of the circular end of the drive. It’s not working now, it’s just a sort of stone pool. But I go say hello to the fish. Cordelia is sitting on the other side of the pool, and she stares at me for a minute, then finally says, “You’re back.”
“I decided to visit,” I say.
“You didn’t tell anyone,” she says accusingly.
“No, I didn’t,” I say. “I just decided this morning.”
She does not say anything else, just looks at me disdainfully. But that’s what she usually does.
I walk up to the front door and knock.
It is a door that has always opened for me, although sometimes it will not open unless you know the secret word, or have brought an appropriate gift, or know magic. (I know magic. But don’t tell, all right?)
And it opens, and Mrs. Moth say, “I’m in the middle of knitting you another scarf. I hope you like green, with brown bits in it. Have you had tea?”
And I say “Yes, very much, brown bits,” and I sit in front of the fire and tea is brought for me, and Mrs. Moth and Miss Gray sit on either end of the sofa, the first knitting my scarf, the second embroidering something impossibly delicate, like white work on a linen handkerchief, and the first says “All right, out with it,” and the second says, “Leave the girl alone, Nemesis.”
And I say, “I just felt as though I needed to come, that’s all.”
And a few minutes later I say, “It’s all impossible, isn’t it?” and Miss Gray says “What is, dear?” and I say “Life,” and Mrs. Moth says “Of course it is, if it weren’t it wouldn’t be life,” and Miss Gray says “That makes no sense at all.”
And I pull my feet up (yes, I have taken off my boots) and curl up in the armchair, and I finish my tea.
Later there will be a hot bath and a cotton nightgown which will be too long for me (I didn’t even bring clothes, and Hyacinth is taller than I am), and I will curl up in the large four-poster in the tower room that always seems to be kept for me, no matter when I come. And I will read whatever I find, which will probably be some of the books I read as a schoolgirl, about other girls who are detectives or witches or both. And Mrs. Moth will look in and say, “It’s impossible in many ways, you know. Impossibly beautiful as well. Impossibly difficult, which means we have to be impossibly brave. And sometimes impossibly kind to those it loves.”
“Does life love me?” I ask her.
“It does, Thea,” she tells me. “You are one of those whom life loves. And sometimes that makes what seems impossible possible for you. Now go to sleep. Tomorrow is going to be a sunny day, and Emily needs help in the garden.”
I know what that means: pruning. But that’s all right, I’ve always liked pruning, especially roses. Getting the garden ready for spring.
So I fall asleep, curled up in that large bed, among feather pillows, and dream of impossible adventures. Except that in my dreams, they are possible after all.