“Why doesn’t Aunt Maisie like me?” Juliet asked her mother.
“Where did you get that idea?” Her mother looked at her in wonder. “She does like you. It’s just that you remind her of someone she loved and lost a long time ago.”
“Who,” Juliet pressed her mother for an answer.
“I shouldn’t be telling you this,” her mother closed the kitchen door so no one would hear. “I want you to promise to keep it to yourself.”
“I swear,” Juliet crossed her heart.
“Maisie had a sister who went missing many years ago. Dawn was three years old at the time and your aunt about six. Their mother left them alone in the garden for a few minutes and during that time Dawn disappeared. They searched for days, dragging the rivers and streams, but they never found any trace of her. All that your aunt could say was the fairies took her.”
“Oh, god, that’s terrible,” Juliet gasped. “What do you think happened to her?”
“No one knows. She may have wandered off and fell in to some old well,” her mother said. “Whatever happened, your aunt has never forgiven herself, and I think that every time she looks at you, you remind her of her sister. Try and be a bit more understanding.”
That explained a lot, Juliet thought, as she climbed the stairs to her bedroom. She sensed something was not quite right in the old house. It still gave her the creeps. The portraits of the old-fashioned looking men and women who gazed down their nose at her from the downstairs walls did not help. Sometimes, when she was sure that no one could see, she stuck her tongue out at them. Childish, she knew, but it made her feel better. Dawn’s disappearance added to the air of mystery, and she wonder how she could find out more.
The next morning was dull and overcast. Dark clouds hung so low in the sky; she knew they were about to burst. It was the kind of day that there was nothing to do but stay inside. Wiping the sheen of condensation on the windowpane with the sleeve of her dressing gown, she peered out in to the garden. There was someone standing over by the folly. It seemed to be a tall, grey-looking figure that might just as well been a smudge on the glass. Kim’s shout that breakfast was on the table made her forget all about it. Everyone was discussing how foul the weather had turned and this fell in with Juliet’s plan.
“How about playing dressing up?” She suggested to Kim. “You’d like that, wouldn’t you?”
Kim narrowed her eyes, her sister never offered to play with her.
“Yeah, I would,” she searched Juliet’s face to see if she were just teasing her. “But we have no old clothes.”
“There are trunk loads of them in the attic,” their aunt said.
“Great, I’ll get a flashlight,” Juliet jumped up from her seat.
“No need,” her aunt said. “There are lights up there. The switch is inside the door.”
The interior of the attic was not as dark as Juliet imagined. It smelt of trapped heat, of age and secrets. Two overhead windows, barred and covered with cobwebs, let the light in. Flicking on the switch, they waited until the fluorescent strips lining the rafters came to life.
“Ugh,” Kim pointed up at the dark shapes hanging overhead.
“Bat’s,” Juliet said. “They sleep all day, so they won’t bother us.”
“No way, I’m staying here,” Kim turned to leave.
“Look, if you stay with me for a while, I’ll let you play on my computer,” Juliet offered.
“What are you up too?” Kim narrowed her eyes. Juliet never let her use the computer.
“I want to look at some stuff, ok? Have a root around. There might be jewellery in the trunks and let me know if you find any photos.”
While Kim foraged, Juliet threw open one trunk after the other until she found the one, she was looking for. Hundreds of years of family history came to light as she searched among the brown, aged documents. She had been sorting for hours when she found it. Her heart began to beat faster when she saw the childish handwriting on the envelope that proclaimed, “Dawn and me.”