III.

Rosetta Denison was partly Spanish. She took after her father mostly, with smooth olive skin, dark hair and long lashes, but the clear grey eyes gave her face an unusual appearance which made you look twice. While Carla was the impulsive one who thought nothing about what she did before she did it, Jessica the argumentative one who would do anything to stick up for herself even after she'd changed her mind, Rosetta tied the trio together with a pecae-keeping air, even though she was the youngest. Each member of the group was vital, and Rosetta was no exception. Nevertheless it always seemed that the group was missing something. One tiny ounce of pure fun and kindness would complete them.

Carla waved goodbye, found her bike and bounced along the pebbles. The three of them never left together, but spaced thirty seconds between each time someone left the tree cover. The shed belonged to no one. It was near a house previously destroyed by fire, but for the last ten years only the girls had found and inhabited the place. Rabbits roamed and weeds grew, and climbing roses had choked a standing yellow wall charred grey by the smoke of the fire. A fragment of blackened stone veranda railing was swamped by tall coarse grasses, and mosquitoes congregated over the stagnant pond. Other than that, the only life over the hills was the young girls, who had laid claim to their hideout for the past three years.

Carla didn't enter the lane without glancing at the landscape, yet there was little danger of being seen, for the land lay in a slight hollow halfway up the hill, full of weeds, trees, and the snaky lane. Carla turned right. When Rosetta came here, she would turn left, and follow the lane over the hills to her salmon-pink house The Curlew, which nested in the tiny hamlet of Sinderhope. Jessica would turn the opposite way to Carla where the lane met the main road.

Just as she was about to turn, Carla heard something strange - a small collection of notes strung by a bird's beak. She squinted at the trees, wondering where the lovely sound had come from, but it didn't come again, and with a shake of her head, Carla rode home.

The End

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