Lyra had hair the color of the sun and eyes the color of the sky during the height of summer when the blue was at its deepest. Her smile was a field of butterflies and glow worms, and her laugh was the wings that let Gwyn fly away from the Garden for a time.
And yet, for all that, the most remarkable thing about Lyra was her tendency to turn invisible when she wasn’t paying attention.
But right now, as she orchestrated the tea table—the crumpets had begun doing some sort of waltz with the sandwiches—Lyra was vibrant with attention.
It was going to be all right. Even if only for the length of Lyra’s visit. Gwyn took special care to memorize the scene before her so she could fold it away in her memory for later.
The Ruby Queen could make her life a misery, but she couldn’t intrude in the soft, silent places in Gwyn’s own head—not if she didn’t let her.
Lyra glanced up from the cherry tarts she’d convinced to leapfrog each other. “Of course I came. Was there ever any doubt?”
She waved her arm as she conducted the spoons who were tapping themselves against the glass platters in song. Gwyn laughed with delight, marveling at how different the Garden was when Lyra visited, and wishing it could be like that always.
But always was always too short, no matter how long it lasted.
“It’s just been so long.” Gwyn tried hard to keep the longing from wisping into her voice. There would be time to be melancholy later. For now, she would live in the moment, glorying in it.
“I’m sorry. Time passes differently back home, and I forget how quickly time scurries here.” She gave Gwyn a smile and brought the cutlery’s performance to a brilliant finale.
The girls collapsed against each other, giggling, holding out their arms to steady the rocking of the bench so they didn’t tip over.
“I broke the law,” Gwyn said, her words carved with thick, grave letters. Letters that curled at the ends so they could hold all her secrets. But with Lyra, there could be no secrets.
“The law, huh? Which one?”
Gwyn tugged at her fingers unhappily. “The glove law.”
Lyra shrugged and cocked her head to the side. “I’ve always wanted to ask about that. It never made any sense for everyone to have to wear gloves all the time.”
“Not everyone,” Gwyn corrected. “Just children.”
Lyra raised a brow.
“On account of our unaccountable propensity for being sticky, smudged, and otherwise grimy.” She looked up at the sky as she recited the part of the law the Ruby Queen had drilled into her head. The sky was blue and cloudless except for a faint smear of cloud at the horizon.
Lyra worked her mouth to clear it of the jumble of thoughts the law must have given her. “Well, I won’t ever make you wear gloves at my hearth-place. In fact, from this point forward, all gloves are banned in my home.” She gave Gwyn a grin laced with mischief. “Speaking of which . . .” She held out a hand. “Want to go?”
“Yes!” Gwyn stood up so fast that the bench nearly tipped over. She tittered an embarrassed half laugh and took Lyra’s hand.
“Right then. Onto the hearth, the home, the center place.”
They sprang into the air, light as flower petals. Gwyn’s stomach turned to sea foam as it always did when Lyra helped her fly. The air streamed about them, soft and gentle, buoying them up. Gwyn’s feet dangled beneath her, but the rest of her felt feather-light as they flew out of the Ruby Queen’s gardens and up into the sky.
When she’d first flown with Lyra, she’d expected the clouds to be as soft as her goose down pillow at home. Instead, her fingers had gone red with the cold and sparkled with ice crystals. That particular cloud had rumbled something before drifting off with the wind. But, once they’d gotten used to her, they’d warmed up to her, literally. Now the clouds were like patches of spun sugar and sweet dreams.
“Nearly there.” Lyra tightened her grip. “Here we go!”
Gwyn braced herself as they flew straight into the whitest, puffiest cloud that had blown in for that express purpose. Something like lightning zinged through her from her fingertips down to her toes. Passing into Lyra’s world always reminded her of the feeling of a laugh caught in her chest, of standing under a waterfall, and eating double chocolate cookies fresh from the oven—all at once.
Her hair, already an unruly mess of buttercup silk, stuck out like a dandelion gone to seed and her skirt splayed out like the petals of a strange flower. The surge of pure energy ricocheted inside her, pinging off her heart, puffing up her lungs, and zigzagging into her stomach. Her arms and legs shook with it as she and Lyra came to a stop.
“Find the door.”
Gwyn grimaced. Lyra never took her to her world the same way twice. Sometimes they dove into the pond, a teacup, and even a tree once. But no matter whether they came to the threshold of Lyra’s world through a flower or a beehive, Lyra always insisted that she find the door.
Her heart still tangled with tea and candied pear, Gwyn put out a hand. Nothing. Just air and the excitement of flying away for a little while. “Why can’t you do it?”
“Because,” Lyra said, strangely intense. “Nothing comes without a price. The price for your visit is you conjuring up the door. No time to waste; the clock’s ticking.”
Gwyn rolled her eyes. She had enough of clocks and tea parties to last her a lifetime. “Well I can’t find it. Maybe the door isn’t here today?”
“Try.” Lyra grabbed her wrist and held it out, pressing her palm against the air. “Harder.”
Sighing, Gwyn closed her eyes. Maybe if she concentrated harder. The non-world surrounding them had only just turned to blackness as something like the sharp prick of homesickness tunneled through her, separating into the five points of her fingers. But even as Gwyn opened her mouth to protest, something shivered into her pinkie.
She cracked an eye open, but Lyra wasn’t looking at her. She was staring at the faint outline of a door as though it was the most wonderful thing she had ever seen.
And in a way it was.
. . . TO BE CONTINUED . . .
© 2015 by Danyelle Leafty. All rights reserved.
Even the most miserable situation can be ameliorated by the presence of a good friend. Fortunately friends come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. Some are more traditionally human, while others are hidden between the pages of a book, peer out at us through our dreams, and visit us in our imaginations.
Join me next Tuesday to see what waits behind the door and why it’s one of Gwyn’s favorites. Also, take note, dear reader. Doors–and everything connected to doors–lies at the heart of both this story and Gwyn’s magic. 🙂 #doorwaystootherrealms
If this is your first time visiting, check out the first installment of this episode. Feel free to gather round the hearth and read the other stories that are going on too. The more the merrier!