"You spoil these children, Rosamund." Her mother's sighs brought Ada back to the drawing-room. "What use have they for coins of gold? All they should need for the equinox is a handful of clover and a heart of thankfulness."
"What use have I for coins of gold, Nora? I am sure they will be spent far more wisely in the hands of my grandchildren." Rosamund settled back into an armchair and Ada caught the flash of a wink as her fingers twined together. "Anyhow, the Spring Equinox ushers in the new calendar year and with it the hopes of prosperity. I am simply providing some assistance for the young ones in that particular area."
Nora huffed and went back to threading raspberry ribbons into Marie's hair. The girl rolled her own coin back and forth across the dining table and gazed at Rosamund's forget-me-nots. "I wish I could have flowers in my hair like Gran."
"I must say, Marie, your ribbons look very pretty. But perhaps we could go out this evening before the celebrations and fetch you some daisies," replied Rosamund. "Adalyn's ribbons, too, are quite lovely. Deep green was always your grandfather's favourite colour. How he would have loved to see you all now, so grown up."
"Did Grandpa like the equinox?" asked Marie, turning her head back to her grandmother as Nora's hands stiffened. It was a rare occasion that Rosamund mentioned her husband, particularly at the cusp of spring.
"Oh yes, he adored the beginning of the year. He loved the equinox so much that we got married in the springtime, in the field beside the town. We hadn't much money to have a grand wedding, but on the morning of the ceremony, the field had bloomed in wildflowers as far as the eye could see. I gathered a bouquet of primroses and your grandfather wove me a crown of buttercups." Rosamund's eyes glistened. "After we returned home as husband and wife, he surprised me with a golden locket he had worked day and night to buy for me. I had never seen something quite so exquisite, it moved me to tears. I treasured that locket more than anything else. I only wish I had it now to one day pass on to you. It would have suited you wonderfully, Marie."
Marie giggled and waggled her fingers around the collar of her dress. "Where is it now?"
"I lost it. Long ago. I travelled to the Faerie's Well to ask of them a wish, and the locket was the only gold I had to trade. That heart meant so much to me, it still does, but... In that moment, I had something far greater to lose than a piece of jewellery."
Jack snickered. "You believe in faeries, Gran?"
"I do, young man. For they answered my plea and gave me a flower spun from glass finer than any man could craft, which had the power to grant me any wish I desired."
"Whatever wish could've been so important to make you turn to magic?" Ada asked as the falling sun stretched shadows across her grandmother's face.
"Magic is a pretty word for blind faith. You could get a great number of people to do as you pleased if you wrapped your request in magic and a bow." The drawing-room door groaned open and Lucille entered, eyebrows furrowed as she cast a glance at her grandmother. "Blessed be."
"Lovely to see you're taking the springtime spirit to heart again this year, Lucille," said Ada.
"There's a difference between spirit and ignorance, and it's one that I intend on keeping."
"But you still went to collect the lamb's blood with Ma this morning so that we could paint the house and protect ourselves from the evil faerie magic!" Jack replied, pouting at Lucille from behind the curtains.
"It's a tradition that appeases the mind, Jack. There aren't actually any evil faeries. The whole town is more profitable throughout the year if you raise their morale and soothe their delusions. You don't have to rely on magic to believe in productivity and rich output."
"Produ- what?" Jack frowned.
"Now, now," said Rosamund, her voice low and level. "It doesn't matter what I believe, or what your family or friends believe. All that counts in your life is what you are willing to put your faith in. You can change your entire existence in a second if you place your trust in something or someone else. Through your own eyes, magic can be made each morning with the rising of the sun and the singing of the birds. You can craft it in the work you make and spin it through the words you say. If felt in your heart, magic is in every breath and whisper."
"Any word I say can be magic?" gasped Marie, jumping down from her chair with half-tied ribbons flying loose. "I want Jack to be a frog!"
With a shriek, she chased her brother out from amongst the curtains, tailing him through the door and up the stairs with bangs and bumps that left the roof-beams quaking.
Shaking her head, Nora got up to follow her children. She patted Rosamund's shoulder when she passed, but the old woman's eyes were misted over as she stared through the window, as if a different world existed only a few paces from her seat.
"Gran?" Ada shuffled across the floor to take Rosamund's thin hands between her own.
The woman's eyes focused on her with such a sudden fervour that they seemed to glitter from within their sockets. "This world is so cruel, my dear. You could sail to the edges of the Earth to save the ones you love, but no matter what you do to try and steal away time for yourself, the world will always find a way to take back what it is owed; to tip them off the edge once more. If I can teach you one thing, Adalyn, let it be to say the words that count when you know that you mean them. Make the most of the time you are given, for even magic can only stretch out the inevitable, and it cannot provide you with what does not belong in your life. Promise me that, Adalyn? Promise me."
The room had become so quiet within those brief moments. Ada was sure she could not hear her own breath leaving her body. It was as if the house was bewitched by Rosamund's words, and even the spiders had stopped their scuttling.
"I promise, Gran. Of course I do."
Rosamund seemed satisfied with that and her hands relaxed within Ada's. Her eyelids fluttered shut as a bird's song drifted around the room, its voice gliding through the air like its wings through clouds.
"Everything and everyone must end eventually, Adalyn. Yes, there will always be ways of preserving them, in manners you may never have previously considered or imagined. But sometimes you must recognise when the world seeks a balance that you must not compete with. A harmony that even magic and faeries cannot disrupt for too long."
"You truly believe in the fae, Gran?"
Rosamund did not reply for many moments, and Ada wondered whether she had drifted asleep to the lull of evening reticence. Fine dust swirled around the room, cast in golden whorls by the falling sun.
"I have not placed my faith in faeries for many years."