The front door to the Kavanagh's home lurched open and Ada tumbled out, followed closely by Lucille with an armful of clover cuttings. The sun had reached the horizon and soon the night would shroud the town, the sky seizing its stars. People would gather in the warm evening to paint their doorways in lamb's blood and dance across the cobblestones, throwing handfuls of clover over their loved ones to welcome in the new year.
But for now, the streets were silent.
"She gave you her cloak." It wasn't a question, and Ada could feel her sister's stare on her back as she folded the velvet cloak against her chest.
"Yes, she did." Ada shifted on her feet, gazing up at the sky that burned in orange embers. "Do you remember when we were little and used to play with her in the forest? We always begged to wear her cloak, and I would pretend to be a dragon with great, black wings. And you would be a marauder who could vanish into the darkness."
She turned to Lucille and found her sister's face as scarlet as the sunset. "You shouldn't encourage her. Gran's growing sicker, and with it, her delusions are spiralling out of control."
Ada flinched, feeling her own temper simmer within her chest. "She's the wisest one in this family, that much is clear. Perhaps it would do you well to actually sit down and listen to her for once in your life."
"Surely you hear what the townspeople are all whispering. Our own neighbours believe she's as mad as a bat, trying to talk to faeries and craft spells from her flower garden. You're just stoking the fire with your oh so innocent questions, and one day it's going to burn this family to the ground."
With that, Lucille dropped her clovers and stormed back into the house. Ada let out a sigh, walking down to the garden gate and steadying herself on its lattice.
"Ada?" A small voice drifted up and a hand tugged at her skirts.
"Marie! I didn't see you there." Ada's youngest sister was illuminated by the cracked open door. "When did you come out?"
"I was going to find the daisies for my hair, but then I heard you and Lucille and didn't want you to start decorating without me," Marie said. "Gran isn't actually mad, is she? Does she need a healer?"
"No." Her answer was quick and firm, but Ada's fingers were turning white on the gate posts and her temples were aching. "Why don't you go back inside and see if you can find Jack for the painting?"
"And can Gran really talk to faeries and do magic? Do you think she'll teach me too if I ask her really nicely?"
"For star's sake, Marie! Faeries aren't real and magic doesn't exist. Stop acting like a child who believes in all of their bedtime stories!"
Ada's hand flew to her mouth as soon as the words left her lips, as if she could catch them before they reached Marie's ears. But the girl's eyes were already brimmed with tears, and without waiting for Ada to utter another sound, her sister rushed up the steps and slammed the front door behind her.
The air was still warm, but Ada felt a coldness closing in, wicked as winter. She pulled her grandmother's cloak around her shoulders and fastened its ties with a knot. It no longer trailed along the grass as it once did when she was a child. Splinters pricked her skin as she wrenched open the gate. A bright moon was surfacing from amongst a sea of clouds as Ada made for town, her figure fading into the dark lanes that wound away from home.
Ada could hear the soft rumble of voices a few houses over and turned away from them at the next street-crossing, heading west and silhouetted against the rising moon. She couldn't stand the thought of returning back to her family, not while the tension still clawed up her chest in an attempt to escape through her mouth in words she would surely regret. The Spring Equinox was a time for rejuvenation, and with each inhalation, she felt the sweet air cleanse her lungs and clear her mind.
She had planned to only walk a few circles around the town. Little Crestbury was, after all, not known for its vast size and innumerable attractions. But Ada paused in the town centre. The fountain burbled by a bed of daffodils and she sat on its steps, skimming her fingertips over its surface and watching the ripples move from water to skin in a wave of goosebumps.
In the distance, voices drifted in time to a faraway tune that rose and swelled like an ocean. It lapped at the shores of Ada's mind and lifted her once more to her feet, suddenly wanting to find the people who were singing such a soulful song.
The lamps hadn't yet been lit for the night of the equinox, and so Ada placed her trust in the moon to light her way. Of course, she knew each step of the town with her eyes closed, but even her childhood home could turn mysterious under the study of darkness, especially without another soul walking the same path she found herself on.
The voices came clear and constant, ringing like bells from behind a closed church door. But as Ada turned another corner and stopped to listen once more, they had faded out, only to reappear again slightly to the north. It was curious indeed, for Ada knew of no traditions that required singing for the equinox. She was wondering whether the singers were a meandering band of musicians, perhaps moving from door to door to bring out families to start their threshold painting, when she rounded the street's last cottage and saw the town's wall.
The gate swung slightly ajar, cobbles shifting into grass pastures and moon-dusted meadows stretching off towards the Wystwood. The songs had become lost in the murmurings of other townsfolk, who Ada could hear leaving their homes to begin the early festivities. The raucous celebrations were seeping closer, but the street she stood on was still empty.
She thought of her family and of Jack, who was always eager to be the first to start the painting of the doorway. He would fill his pockets to the brim with clovers, and by nightfall, they would be overflowing before people had even started their dancing. She wondered whether they had woken Rosamund, decanted wine, were searching for her.
She thought to turn back and return home. But then Marie's fallen face shivered into her mind, Ada's own shocked expression mirrored in the watery wells of her sister's eyes.
Before light could spread from the doorways, Ada slipped through the gate. The rusted latches grated against the air as she closed it behind her, pulling her cloak close and her hood across her face. Only nights before, her grandmother had walked across this same field. Now, Ada traced Rosamund's path in the opposite direction as she started to climb Cresthill.
A skylark carried the breeze in its wings as it spun circles above the tree line and watched the form of Adalyn Kavanagh vanish into the darkness. Above the Wystwood, a full moon began to rise.