The shop at the end of Nowhere Lane
Nowhere Lane was where all the kids went to play. It wasn’t really a lane; It was really a long, scrubby path that ran along the edge of the local park. One side was bordered with a wooden fence and beyond that was miles of open fields, stretching away to the horizon and a pale blue sky filled with white clouds. Daffodils waved their golden heads in the merry breeze and chattered softly amongst themselves about the arrival of spring.
Mia stood at the top of the path, looking down its long length to where a group of trees stood. That’s why it was called “Nowhere Lane”, ‘cos it didn’t lead anywhere, except to the small wood. Mia knew it took only a few seconds to go through the copse and come out on onto the big lawn in front of the crematorium. Still it wasn’t hard to believe, from this vantage point, that another world existed on the other side.
The daffodils chattered on, inviting her to join in their celebratory dance. She ignored them and looked down at the patchy grass instead. She loved fairy tales, especially those where you found yourself in another place or even another time. Her favourite books were: The Chronicles of Narnia, Alice in Wonderland, and Alice through the looking glass. Mia swallowed down her tears and told herself the fact her dad had made her throw them all away didn’t matter. He was right; she was too big to be reading that rubbish now. She was nearly ten and it was high time, as her father had said, that she grew up.
Eyes filled with longing, she looked down the lane again and wondered. Local rumour said there was a shop somewhere along here – a magical shop. That is to say not a place that sold tricks and cards and top hats with rabbits in them, but a proper shop that sold magic itself. Mia sighed. Only a very few had ever seen it and they were dismissed as being silly and stupid, but somehow she knew the stories were true, or at least wished they were.
You had to be special to see the shop, a certain kind of person. Mia hunched her shoulders. Her dad’s interpretation of “special” was that anyone who said they’d been to the shop at the end of Nowhere Lane was backwards or just plain nuts. He was probably right.
The daffodils were getting excited again. Their shrill voices rose in a chorus of pleas, as Mia began to walk away. She looked over her shoulder at the scatty flowers and stuck out her tongue.
‘I’m going,’ she said, ‘and I won’t come here ever again.’
The daffodils stretched out their leaves in supplication, but Mia marched away, determined not to look back. And yet… and yet, her footsteps led her towards the woods, when she really wanted to go home. As she drew nearer the trees she could hear the tinkling of the bluebells, the chimes from their tiny blue heads sounding clear and sweet. She could not resist their charm.
It’s the last time, she told herself and stepped inside the wood.
The ground was carpeted with fallen pine needles. Feathery ferns tickled her legs and birds sang high up in the branches, a chorus of welcome. Mia grinned, filled with sheer happiness. It was a feeling so rare and precious these days that she hugged herself, trying to keep it inside, where no one could get at it and take it away.
Then she saw it, the yellow glow from windows with thick glass that had circles at their centre. Smoke rose from a twisted chimney that looked like a stick of barley sugar. A green painted door, with a brass goblin as a knocker, stood a little way open. Mia looked around. The woods suddenly seemed different – bigger – as if, as if… Her grin broadened.
As she approached the door, the brass goblin winked. ‘Wotcha,’ it said and the door creaked further back.
As she stepped over the threshold, Mia’s eyes widened at the myriad of wondrous things on display. There were jars of sweets, shelves of books, jars of fairy dust and a million, squillon other things she’d never seen before. A white haired gent, clad in a long green apron stood behind the counter.
‘Hello Mia,’ he said and his eyes twinkled sapphire blue over the top of his half-moon spectacles. ‘Welcome to the shop at the end of Nowhere Lane.’
As Mia stepped towards him, she knew that she would have to go back and face the real world again, but not yet, not just yet.
‘Hello Mr Shopkeeper,’ she said, ‘I’ve come to buy some magic.’
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