The rusted iron gate stood open just far enough for the woman and the basket she was carrying to squeeze through.
The full moon lit the gravelled path and the looming figure of the foundling home cast long shadows that reached for the woman with hungry claws.
In the shelter of the porch light the woman set the basket down.
She pulled the blanket aside to look once more at her daughter’s sleeping face then reached out a finger and traced the outline of her rounded cheek.
She kissed her, breathing in the baby’s milky softness and whispered a small incantation.
“May she be plain to look at, timid in spirit, unlikely in love and safe from heartache and those who wish her harm.”
She stood and knocked once and the knotted wooden door of the orphanage opened with the melancholy groan of ancient hinges. A figure wrapped in a deep blue robe stepped out onto the porch.
The woman handed over the basket and left without uttering a word. It had to be done. To save the child, it had to be done.
Chapter 1 Chamomile
The kettle began to sing. Miss Devlin took it off the heat, turned off the blue flame of the gas stove and poured a little water into the brown Betty teapot to warm it.
She swished it 3 times then dumped it down the drain and added 3 teaspoons of leaves to the pot. One for peace, one for joy and one to remember.
As the leaves began to open the comforting aroma of Chamomile filled the little kitchen. Miss Devlin pulled two floral cups from the cupboard and set them on the tray with the steeping pot.
She hesitated then put two lemon biscuits on a plate and carried the tray carefully to the small table under the window.
The moon was full tonight. A sign? Perhaps. She poured her tea and gazed out the window into the night.
“Did you want the light out Davina?”
Miss Devlin looked up to see her sister, Eleanor, standing in the doorway wearing her white nightgown and a shawl. Her long hair was braided and hung well past her shoulders.
Miss Devlin couldn’t remember the last time either of them had had it cut.
Eleanor lit a candle and turned off the overhead light then joined her sister.
“I’ve made tea,” said Miss Devlin, unnecessarily.
“So I see,” replied Eleanor.
Miss Devlin shivered. “What is it?” asked her sister.
“Just a feeling. Shadow on the moon.”
The two women sipped their tea in silence for a few moments.
“Did she get the book?” asked Miss Devlin.
“Yes,” said Eleanor, “she came this morning. I put it in with the others.”
Miss Devlin nodded. “It is the right thing, isn’t it Ellie?”
Eleanor covered her sister’s hand with her own. “You’ve waited long enough,” she said.
“I’m afraid for her,” said Miss Devlin.
“You’re her mother,” replied her sister.
The two women sat in the window sipping their tea while the full moon traced a path across the sky. At last they went up the stairs to bed. One to an empty room. The other to her memories.