Aware that her time was growing short, Penelope cut directly across the concourse, skipping between carriages and striding through the garden on her way towards the laneway that Abel had pointed out.
Unlike the other lanes, there was no sign to indicate its name, only a small cluster of small white flowers painted on the stone wall.
The laneway was narrow and sloped downwards, the cobbled street interrupted by the occasional set of stone steps where the path was too steep.
Penelope passed an odd assortment of shops, including a florist boasting luminous snapping blooms and a small bead store selling charm bracelets which tinkled lullabies when rattled.
Penelope wasn’t quite sure what she should be looking for, and was starting to think she had lost her way when she turned a final corner and found herself standing in a small square garden.
Row upon row of pots and planter boxes were fixed to the tall laneway walls, brimming with daisies of every colour. A plush carpet of mossy grass blanketed the path, leading to an open doorway set into the wall at the very end of the lane.
Overwhelmed by the unexpected splendor, Penelope stopped to stare, watching small butterflies flitting amongst the petals, their wings assuming the colour of the bud they landed upon.
Penelope breathed in the cool air, which smelled of stone, new earth, and summer flowers, even while pockets of snow still lay in the shadows.
“Would you like to take your boots off, feel the earth beneath your toes?”
Penelope startled, for she hadn’t noticed a small woman sitting on a stool further into the garden. She gestured at a shoe rack by the door.
“Oh, um… why not.” Penelope awkwardly stepped out of her boots, tucking her socks safely inside, and wriggled her feet in the velveteen moss. A feeling of giddy peace eased a tension in her shoulders that Penelope was unaware she had been carrying.
Sighing with relief as her body relaxed, she padded across the garden to the shoe rack. There were several other pairs, some new and clearly expensive, others muddy and well worn. Penelope placed her shoes in the corner of an empty shelf.
“Step inside. The Enchantress is about to put on a show.” The woman winked at Penelope, her eyes brimming with cheerful humour.
Feeling both excited and nervous, Penelope entered the doorway.