Helannah awoke to the unfamiliar sounds of early morning traffic. She smiled into her pillow and wrapped her arms around a fold of quilt. Light streamed through her bare windows.
Sitting up in bed, she looked across the room to where her little blue clock sat on the floor. 6:42. Excitement bounced into her room from the lively city beyond the window, and with a warm breath, she realized that she was fully awake and willing to begin her first day early. She slipped from bed and crossed to her suitcase where her only set of clothes lay folded in a bundle.
And in less than a few minutes, she had stepped through a doorway into another place entirely. It was exhilirating to take only a few steps from such a familiar and comforting place of peace as was her bed to such a lively and magical place as was downtown. It was like awakening to find that she'd been transported in her sleep. And now that she had spent a night in the heart of this vastly intricate creature, she was a part of it all.
The world was hers. She could go anywhere. There was no worry of escaping before night fall. There was no worry of getting lost. And most freeing, there was no schedule, and no feeling of haste.
And so she began to stroll, watching the streams of people passing, the vehicles lining up at each light, and the store keepers rushing from till to customer.
Her light feet took her far from home to where the streets turned to roads, and the stores turned to rich houses with roots that gripped stony crags and with smoky blue drives between golf course lawns and shaped hedges.
And then she found the horizon, a stretch of hot road between two extremes, and with two separate lands at each end. The city lay behind her, and a rich neighborhood was ahead, nestled between a vineyard and a golf course that stretched to the sea.
She let out an exhalted breath and laughed with joy. What a beautiful world she could now call home!
Shading her eyes, she gazed to the strip of gleaming ocean. Warm sunny beaches curved blithely, and whitecaps carried surfers ashore. Turning around, she faced the mountains. Towering caps of snow cooled her eyes, and the immensity of the landscape humbled her.
Her feet, so ordinary in her familiar shoes, held such potential to take her places now that they stood on this warm pavement. The sunny roadway curved down in both directions, its warm belly exposed to the sky, and its stretching yellow line on the verge of something important.
And when she looked up, a small speckled cat was sitting on the sidewalk in front of her. Smiling in amusement, she spoke softly, "And where did you come from?"
As if to answer her, the cat padded away across the grass to a small gap in the hedge. Helannah tilted her head to the side and gave this little path a curious look. It was a path that led not only through the hedge, but between two hedges.
Peering down the narrow hallway, Helannah felt a flutter of excitement. The cat was further down, but she had stopped to look back at the hesitant human.
And it didn't take long for the hesitant human to realize that her soothing voice was no match for the cat's intense eyes. There was really no choice but to follow. Such an adventure could not be left alone. And the mystery at the end could not be left undiscovered.
And so Helannah looked once over her shoulder, tucked a strand of hair behind her ear, and disappeared into the hedge.