The trouble started when Aunt Pen set us loose while she worked on the library. We were too young to be helpful, and she didn’t have anyone to watch us, so we were given instructions not to bother her and to be in the kitchen at noon and at six for lunch and dinner. Macey took this as a sign to play princess, and I took this as a sign that I was on my own when it came to getting out of it.
So while Macey ran off to get dressed, I decided to explore the castle grounds. The lake was huge, or at least it seemed so to me, and there was a short pier with a little wooden boat tied to it. It would have been perfect for swimming, but the water was freezing. It was like trying to wade through ice water, and I couldn’t seem to adjust to the temperature, even after standing in the lake for five minutes.
The lake was a bust, but it was also the most interesting thing within the fence. Aunt Pen’s one rule was still stuck in my head, but I figured that I could still investigate it, so I left the lake and walked to the edge of the forest. When I reached the fence, a crow landed on the fence next to me. It was large and familiar, so I smiled at him.
“Hi Baron! I don’t have any meat for you right now, I’m sorry.”
Baron cawed softly at me, and I took it as a sign that he forgave me.
“I was going to walk the perimeter though; do you want to come with me?”
Baron cawed again, hopping along the fence and then turning to look back at me. I grinned back and started walking, with Baron following along on the fence.
“I’m glad I’ve got you to keep me company this summer; it seems like it might get kind of lonely here. Aunt Pen is cool, but she’s really busy, and Macey and me don’t get along very well.”
Baron cawed sympathetically.
“Do you have a sister, Baron?”
Baron cawed again, and then he was joined on the fence by a smaller crow, who cawed a greeting at me.
“Hello! Are you Baron’s sister? Wait, Aunt Pen introduced us yesterday, didn’t she? Your name is Nixie, right?”
Nixie cawed, hopping around and bobbing her head, almost like she was nodding.
“It’s nice to officially meet you, Nixie. I’m Dillon.”
Nixie cawed again, and the three of us walked on together. We followed the fence around the castle, until I could no longer see the lake. The forest trees were different from the trees inside the fence. The treeline was surprisingly orderly, for a forest. Nothing grew past the shade of the trees, and the trees didn’t grow within a foot of the fence. There were no tree branches hanging over the fence either, and I wondered if Aunt Pen trimmed everything back. It seemed like a silly thing to spend time on, and I didn’t think she could have found the time anyhow, but someone must be doing it.
As I studied the treeline, I noticed something glimmering a few feet passed the fence. It was bright and gold and beautiful, but I couldn’t quite tell what it was, no matter how much I stared at it. Nixie and Baron were cawing again, frantically this time, but the noise seemed far away and unimportant. All that mattered was the glimmer. It wasn’t very far in, and if I hopped over the fence I knew I could get it. It wouldn’t be hard. It wasn’t a big fence; it was more of a border than a barrier. I could be over and back in seconds. I just needed to get the glimmer.
“Dillon!” Suddenly there were arms around me, and Aunt Pen was hauling me back from the fence, and I felt like a veil had been lifted. Nixie and Baron were still cawing, loud and panicked, and they’d been joined by several other crows too. I didn’t understand how I could have ignored them.
Aunt Pen breathed a sigh of relief. “Dillon, you scared me. What did I say about going over the fence?”
“I’m sorry, Aunt Pen. I was just trying to get the…” I turned back to point out the glimmer, but it was gone. It was like it had never been there at all.
“There’s nothing in the woods but trees, Dillon. Now come inside. It’s going to rain soon.”
Aunt Pen led me back inside, and while it hadn’t looked like rain to me, it started coming down shortly after we got back inside.
“Well, I’d say that’ll be the end of playing outside today. Why don’t you go find your sister? She was looking for you earlier. I think she’s in the ballroom.”
The rest of the afternoon was spent in the ballroom, getting yelled at by Macey for stepping on her feet.