Then all of a sudden the tears fell away, and everything came back to life. Aoife blinked and looked around. The sun was directly overhead, but sheltered in the shade of the tree she felt cool and oddly refreshed, and more at peace with herself than ever before. A great weight seemed to have been lifted from her shoulders.
“You’re back, Aoife,” said a voice. Aoife tried to re-focus her mind.
She turned to see a thirteen-year-old boy with red tufts of hair staring at her. His voice was queerly deep, and he had handsome broad shoulders and steady green eyes.
“You’ve been asleep for ages. We wondered whether we should wake you,” said a dark pretty lass with rosy cheeks and long black eyelashes.
“Are you alright? Your eyes look funny!” a red-haired girl said with a giggle.
“I’m fine,” Aoife tried to say. Her mouth was sandy dry and her lips were red raw. She accepted a bottle of water from a small fair boy very like herself, and tried to hydrate her mouth and rub some moisture back into her lips.
She looked down at her lap, and nine people and a dog in charcoal looked back at her. Two more charcoal figures inserted themselves at the back of the frame, although no one else seemed to notice that they were there. Aoife raised her eyes heavenwards.
“Aoife! The sun’s shining on you!”
“It looks like a halo!”
The golden sunlight filtered through the trees and fell dazzlingly on her smooth head. Four children and a dog gazed at her in undisguised awe.
Aoife gazed unblinkingly at the great ball of golden fire in the sky. Brighter days ahead.
“Thank you, Aoife,” said her aunt.