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The coaches they have been riding in have become progressively smaller and more rickety, and Theodora has become progressively more restless and grizzly. This pony wagon that is rattling over the last sea-drenched miles is open to the elements, the wind flapping the brims of their bonnets around their faces. Muddy straw is caked to the floor. It smells like the wrong end of horses. 

On the week-long journey up the east coast of England, Eva had fallen into a strange kind of trance, in which she could almost believe the journey would go on forever. A dizzying limbo, but one in which she would never have to face of her older brother on the doorstep of Highfield House, with his daughter trotting behind her.   


The wagon creaks as it eases back onto the solid groud of Lindisfarne and rattles down a narrow path towards the village. The coachman snaps the pony to an abrupt stop. Eva puts out an arm to stop Theodora from plummeting forward onto the wagon floor. She slides out of the coach and helps Thea down after her. Hands the driver a few coins. He nods his thanks and is off again, disappearing back towards the mainland.  


Two women pass, then two men. Their eyes dart to Eva and Theodora; inspecting, too curious. Eva looks left to right, scanning the village for any sign of Highfield House. Though she remembers nothing of her old family home, she has conjured up an image of it from the few stories she had heard throughout the years. She knows it to be the largest house on the island; a great windswept hall, separated from the village by rolling ridges of grass and silvery, threadlike streams. She had expected that once they set foot onto the island, the place would reveal itself, the way the dome of Saint Paul’s emerges from the cloud with three steps off London Bridge. 

 A woman in a wide straw hat strides past with a basket on her hip. 

“Excuse me,” calls Eva, setting their duffel bags at her feet, “can you tell me where I might find Highfield House?” 


The woman purses her lips; looks Eva up and down. “What do you want with that old wreck?” 

Eva is taken aback by her sharpness. “I’ve come to see my family.” Her voice comes out softer than she had intended. 

“Ah. You’re one of them are you? The Blakes?” 

Eva tugs her niece closer. There is something in the woman’s eyes that suggests that being one of the Blakes is not seen as a good thing here. “Do you know the way to the house?” she asks again. 

“Walk out past the castle,” the woman says tautly. “Follow the coast up towards the head. You’ll see it there among the dunes.” She looks past Eva, past the castle. “Lonely old place, it is. This island would be better off without it.”

Eva’s shoulders tense, but she nods her thanks. 

She follows the woman’s directions, chattering to Theodora as they go, in an attempt to shake off the unease. Thea, at least, seems oblivious to the tension, pointing out the scenery as they pass. The fishing boats beached in the grey mud of low tide, the women gathering herrings into baskets, the neat formations of birds circling and swooping through a grey late-afternoon sky. 

Red-coated guards peer down at them as they skirt the castle, then they follow the rocky shoreline as it winds up towards the top of the island. Eva carries their duffel bags, one over each shoulder, and they bang against her sides as she walks. Her skirts snag on every knot of grass. She tries not to think about the sharpness in the woman’s words. Tries not to think about the eyes that had followed her from the minute they had climbed from the wagon. 

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