“Cecelia is gone!”
“Gone? Gone where?” their father asks, and stomps the mud off his boots at the door.
“She’s not upstairs, but the window is unlocked.”
“She didn’t go outside with you?” their mother asks their father. He shakes his head. Ma slams the skillet of sausages on the table and starts calling through the downstairs for her daughter. Hannah joins her, even though the mounting feeling of dread tells her their efforts are a hopeless cause.
“Her coat and shoes are still here,” Dad says, checking the rack.
“She doesn’t wear those half the time anyhow,” Hannah informs him.
“But in October, after a rainstorm? There’s frost on the grass between the mud puddles.”
Hannah can’t explain why a nagging thorn sticks in the back of her brain. Why would Cecelia leave without even writing a note? She should know better than that.
Hannah decides the discomfort is nothing more than annoyance as their mother comes back into the kitchen and throws off her apron, gesturing for them to sit at the table.
“Maybe she ran away? You know how flighty she is. Remember last year when she said she was going for a walk, and we found her three miles down the road an hour later? Or the time she went missing for an afternoon hiding in Snub’s pen. She couldn’t have gone far. Have your breakfast while it’s still warm and then we’ll go looking for her,” she says.
“I can take the car into town and ask if anyone’s seen her walking along the street,” dad offers. Ma nods her agreement.
“I’ll search around the immediate neighborhood,” she says. “Hannah, stay near the house, and check the gardens and animal pens. Someone should be here, just in case she comes back before we do.”
Hannah scowls at her plate of cooling eggs and feeds a sausage to Willow under the table. The dog thumps her tail on the floor appreciatively, but she has lost her appetite. She forces herself to finish what’s left of her breakfast in a few bites as she mulls over the mystery. Were there any clues pointing to where she could have gone? She left no note, but why not? They even had a code, in case she wanted to keep her whereabouts hidden from their parents, but she always shared her secrets with Hannah. It hurts to imagine that Cecelia doesn’t trust her anymore. But she’d acted normal yesterday! Until the storm, at least.
Her parents don’t hear her whisper or the fork clattering to the floor.
Suddenly, Cecelia’s fears of last night return to Hannah. What had she said? Something about the Piper? She chews thoughtfully on her piece of home-baked bread and retraces the path of their conversation. That’s right. She said that she could hear his pipes on the wind, and not to call his name. She said that you could only hear him if he was coming for you. And now, she is gone, just like the children in the story. A shiver shakes Hannah’s spine.
“I’ll go look in the woods,” she announces, pushing back her chair with such urgency that it nearly falls over on Willow.
Their father shakes his head. “No. Your mother said to stay here, and we can’t have you wandering off too.”
“I’ll blaze a trail! I have to go!”
“If she comes back and finds an empty house, she’ll wander off again to search for us. Besides, we haven’t cleared the woods yet. We’ll have two lost daughters.”
“But what if she got kidnapped?! Or lured off by the fae! They wouldn’t take her into town.”
“No, don’t be ridiculous.” Their mother says empathetically as she plunks her spoon on her plate. “It’s too dangerous for you to go hiking alone.”
“You could search the woods with me!”
“The woods are so overgrown that she couldn’t have gone far, if that’s the case. It’s much more likely she went along the road,” Pa explains, not unkindly, but speaking as if she’s only a foolish child. “It’s just a matter of how far she made it, if she ran away last night or this morning. We’ll be faster to find her if your Ma and I split up the search.”
“Stay here,” Ma agrees. “She might have just wandered off to climb a tree, and she’ll be back before we know it. You can welcome her back and make sure she’s safe until we return. I trust you to stay in the house alone. It’ll be alright, Ana.”
Yes, it will be alright, but not for any of their efforts. Despite the plastered smiles of reassurance, Hannah can see the fear written in the creases of their mother’s brow and the hunch of their father’s shoulders. They should be worried, but not for the reason they expect. She knows that this is not another simple case of Cecelia being weird. Not after her scare last night. She knows her parents don’t know what’s at stake, that they mean well, but they will not heed her warning.
Faeries stole her sister. Hannah will bring her back.
I hope you enjoyed this Runaways excerpt! If you enjoyed the piece and want to read more from the same world, consider checking out my other posts in the tag, or signing up for my mailing list to get a copy of “Jack of Fables”. Thanks for reading!