“She’s just like her mother.”
It’s what they whispered when they thought she couldn’t hear them or when they didn’t care. It was an insult, although if pushed they’d say it was simply fact. She was just like her mother.
Except she wasn’t.
But in a small village, where everyone knew everybody, you couldn’t tell anyone that they didn’t know everything about everyone.
But they didn’t.
Before her mother left (died), she’d told Hazel that there was always a staircase, somewhere, when you needed it. It was just the thing her mother would say. Vague and confusing if you thought about it too long, but comforting if you didn’t. She didn’t believe her mother, though, and thought she was having a laugh.
Though she wasn’t.
After days spent trying to show everyone she was nothing like her mother—not strange, or fantastical, or odd, just a girl like everyone else—Hazel ran into the woods and in the dappled sunlight of the canopy she screamed. Her shriek flushed the sparrows from their roosts and seemed to shake the earth beneath her feet.
But it hadn’t.
Instead it had shook loose the stairs. Hazel rubbed her eyes with the heels of her hands, but the staircase was still there, disappearing into the woods where a staircase had never been.
But it had, once before.
And without a second thought (most unlike her mother), Hazel bounded up the stairs not caring where they led as long as it was away.
And they did.