Dawn. A new day. As the sun rose over Little Hangleton, a new peace settled within the homes that clustered around the big house. The neighbours felt free, as if the path ahead was clear and the road behind free of worry.
Rebekah rose early, feeling oddly refreshed. She scooped up the milk bottles waiting outside her front door, and then decided a walk before breakfast would do her good. The beloved Ready Brek could wait. She didn't have a direction in mind; she just felt drawn outside at that moment.
As she wandered through the village, she knew there was a difference. The air was lighter. The birds sang more clearly than they usually did, and their tunes trilled with gaiety. The trees scattered pink blossom at her feet, swaying in the gentle breeze. And the mist – the mist was gone. All was clear and bright and good.
She had a piano lesson that evening; maybe her teacher would let her pick a bright, jolly tune. She was tired of the dull, lifeless tunes her teacher had picked out for her. After all, these were her last few weeks with Mrs Crawshaw, and she wanted to enjoy her summer. When she started high school in September, she would take lessons there.
There was a fresh, joyous feeling in the air. She sensed it in the way the wind caressed her face, the gravel on the road crunched cheerfully beneath her feet, and small wild animals peered out at her. That fact that they were so bold was strange in itself, but by no means an unwelcome surprise.
She found herself on the path to the church and its graveyard. There had been a mystery there three years before, with charred wood scattered near the Riddles' graves and odd lights, as if rowdy teenagers had been celebrating Guy Fawkes Night early. People had had a good long gossip about that one. A bad omen, they said, and they may have been right; a year later the mist set in, and everything about the world they lived in had seemed frozen and miserable for a very long time.
Until today. Everything about this morning was very, very right.
Rebekah opened the little gate that gave her access to the churchyard and found herself stopping at the final resting place of the Riddles. She had heard stories from Great Auntie Adie about how they had died, but like others, she hadn't quite believed the story until the gardener apparently died the same way.
Unconsciously, she stretched out a hand to touch the gravestone of Tom Riddle. He'd been rather a young man when he died.
"It's done," she whispered. "Never you worry, sir. Everything is right again."
She stepped back, bemused. Why had she said that? It was true, though. Deep down inside, she knew that the broken, desolate atmosphere which had been in the place for as long as she had been able to sense such things had vanished, every trace of it erased.
She wandered on through the monuments, leaving a smile at the resting place of her great aunt in the form of a bundle of wildflowers at the base of the headstone. She would come back later to do it properly. She dearly missed Great Aunty Adie.
And here, in a neglected corner of the yard, was Frank Bryce. The fence leaned a little more than was entirely acceptable, weeds grew willy nilly, empty tin cans lounged haphazardly about the grave and cigarettes lay stubbed out on the top of the headstone. The stone was crumbling under vandals' hammers and goodness knows what other things.
"This won't do," she informed the old man. "I'll have to sort you out when I come tonight. You don't deserve this treatment, not after a life of service and such a scary death.
"I would dearly like to know what happened to you. If only I could find out…
"But you're at peace, now, aren't you? That's what all the joy in the air is about. You can finally rest knowing everything's put to right."
An owl fluttered down to alight on the gravestone. "Hello, sir," she told it. "You shouldn't be up and about at this hour. Look, the sun's risen! Off you go… What's this?"
From its claws, she gently took a heavy envelope hand-addressed in emerald green ink.
This was the dawn of a new era; the dawn of a new generation, free from fear.
Author Notes For Carrie. I wish you Much Luv, Peace and Sunrises. Thank you for the inspiration and the good times. May there be many more.
And Rebekah, I miss you. Well done in your GCSEs. I wish you luck in your A-levels and in your dancing. Peace and Ready Brek for all the hungry. You inspired more in me than you will ever know.