When I opened my eyes, the wind was blowing softly through the curtains and into my bedroom. It felt cool, soft, and as light as a kiss. I folded back the duvet, got out of bed and went over to the window. Taking hold of the curtains, I pulled them aside and let the sunlight enter.
The treetops moved like ripples on the surface of a lake. White clouds passed across the blue sky overhead; tiny shadows cast by the leaves flickered on the path between the trees. The green carpet of grass was slowly being replaced by bluebells.
I looked at the clock on my wall. It was only half past seven. The bed was behind me; it was comfortable and would still be warm. I didn’t have to get up just yet.
Outside the window, the tree branches waved as if beckoning.
“Morning!” I chirped, walking into the kitchen. Aunt Caro was already there, spreading some marmalade on buttered toast. “Are Kim and Gregory awake yet?”
“They’ve already had breakfast. You look…very happy today, Isabel.”
“I am very happy.” I’d forgotten to take off my shoes before entering the kitchen. Luckily, there didn’t seem to be any mud on the cream tiles. I fetched my blue cereal bowl from the cupboard and emptied the last of the Cheerios into it.
Aunt Caro passed me the jug of milk. “It’s the last day of May.”
“I know. I just went for a walk, outside. I don’t think I’ve ever realised just how beautiful the woods are in spring before. There’s something so…” I glanced up at the ceiling, trying to find the right words. How could I tell her? “…I can’t really describe it. It makes you feel so peaceful and so alive at the same time.”
“Look at me, Isabel.”
I closed my mouth and looked across the table.
“You know what’s going to happen.”
“How do you know that? And anyway, he might not show up. He’s a Changer and I’m…not.”
Aunt Caro shook her head, her hair tossing gently from her left shoulder down to her back. “Acting as if nothing’s wrong isn’t going to work. Not this time. He’s made his intentions very clear. I know about the tradition; Percy told me about it the last time we visited him.”
“What, does he think it’s going to happen as well?” My voice sounded almost frantic.
“He certainly thinks it’s likely, and so do I.” She stretched out her arm and put her hand, palm up, on the table. After a moment, I reached out and took it.
“It’s up to you,” she said. “Percy said it’s always up to the woman. But is this what you want, Isabel? What you truly want?”
I did want this. Luke had somehow found his way into my heart, despite all the effort I’d taken to keep him out.
“I can’t spend the entire day in the house looking out of the window! There’s somewhere I need to be today. And what if he doesn’t turn up?”
“Oh, don’t worry.” Aunt Caro’s eyes twinkled mischievously. “If he does arrive here, I’ll point him in the right direction.”