The Widdershins left crowstone just after breakfast.
Granny had popped her head in to wake the girls at sunrise, but Betty Widdershins was already up. All night she had been too excited to sleep, twisting in her sheets and staring at the cracked ceiling. The old building creaked around her, draughts whistling and pipes groaning as they always did. But on this, her last night in the Poacher’s Pocket inn, the familiar sounds felt different. Like a goodbye.
Betty had dressed quickly, then stuffed her nightclothes into the bulging trunk at the foot of the bed she shared with Charlie. Her younger sister slept on, snoring softly. Betty glanced around, expecting a wave of sadness that never came. This had been her room her whole life, all thirteen and a half years of it. But it didn’t feel as if it belonged to her and her two sisters any more. Not with all their things stowed in the trunk. he wardrobe and drawers were empty, picture hooks were bare, and so were the surfaces normally covered in clutter. There were none of Betty’s maps, or Charlie’s toys, or Fliss’s doodled poems and rose-water scent.
Fliss stirred in the smaller bed on the other side of the room, then sat up suddenly. Her short hair stuck out in dark, glossy tufts around her pretty oval face.
Betty grinned at her older sister. ‘Today’s the day, Fliss,’ she whispered. ‘We’re leaving, We’re really, really leaving!’
‘I know,’ Fliss whispered back, trying to smile, but sharing little of Betty’s excitement. Instead, her large brown eyes filled with tears.
There were more tears later from Charlie. She ha spent the morning chasing a scruffy black cat round the pub, pleading with it to no avail.
‘Come on, Oi,’ she coaxed, as the cat leaped on to a bar stool. Charlie bravely tried to pick hum up, her small hands almost vanished into the matted fur. Oi hissed and sank his claws deeper into the stool. ‘You’ll get left behind!’
‘Yes, with a bit of luck,’ Granny muttered, knocking back a nip of whiskey. ‘I’ve been trying to get rid of that mangy cat for years.’
‘Granny!’ Fliss said reproachfully. She was arranging a handful of flowers in a beer glass of water on the bar, ready for when the new owners arrived later that day. ‘Did you just have whiskey for breakfast?’