One morning, Bella woke up to something strange.
It wasnât her breakfast, which was muesli with banana.
It wasnât Dad, who was flicking wildly through the newspaper as if speed-reading was an Olympic sport and he was going for the gold medal.
It wasnât Mum, who was rushing around with the car keys in one hand and a piece of toast in the other, muttering, âIâm late! Iâm late!â as if she was the White Rabbit from
Alice in Wonderland
Those things might be strange to you, butthey were not strange to Bella. For Bella, they were every morning things. So when she had finished her muesli with banana, and the Olympic newspaper reading and White Rabbit muttering had stopped, she grabbed her school bag and headed out the door with Mum and Dad.
The same as every other day â
out the door, down the path, into the car, off to school.
But when Bella stepped off the veranda, she stopped. Because her feet were not on the path. They were on the grass and in the flowerbed that ran alongside it.
âThatâs strange.â She pointed at her feet. âLook, Mum.â
âBella!â Mum frowned. âYouâre trampling my violets!â
âSorry.â Bella lifted her foot. She hopped onto the path and looked back at the house. And as she did, a shiver prickled her skin. Because what she saw made no sense. The front steps ran down the veranda â the waythey always had, the way they must. But where they should have met the path â the way they always had, the way they must â¦ they didnât.
Instead, things were crooked. It was as if the world had shifted sideways a little, in a quiet sort of way â a way you wouldnât notice if you were rushing off to work jangling keys but only if you were paying a certain kind of attention.
âCome on, Bella!â Dad climbed into the car and started the engine.
âBut the path,â Bella said. âItâs crooked, see?â
âCrooked?â Dad frowned.
âItâs like something moved in the night. What could ââ
âMoved!â Mum laughed. âOh, Bella! What a wild imagination you have.â She hurried Bella to the car. âCome on. Weâre going to be late.â
Bella stared back at the house. Everything else seemed to be in the right place â the cubbyhouse, the trampoline, the washing line where a row of shirts fluttered in the breezelike colourful flags. High above, Bellaâs curtains flapped in her window, almost as if they were waving to her.
She smiled. No matter how she was feeling, looking at her funny round window always made her happy. Partly it was because it made her think about Grandad. The way he had insisted on helping to build her little upstairs bedroom. The way he had picked up his hammer with a twinkle in his eye and said, âWhat a girl needs here is a perfectly round window.â
And partly it was because she loved its cosy shape. Grandad had made the frame wide like a bench, so she could sit inside it, her back curving neatly against the smooth sweep of the wood.
The window was her special spot forreading and dreaming. There was just enough sun and just enough shade and she loved the way the leaves from the twisty gum tree dappled the light into curious patterns across the floor.
As Bella thought this, she caught her breath.
Because there were no leaves in thewindow now. The branch that should have stretched across the corner stopped at the edge of the frame.
moved,â she said. âLook!â
Dad caught Bellaâs eye in the rear-view mirror. He smiled and shook his head. âOh, Bella. Youâre such a dreamer.â
Bella bit her lip. Mum and Dad were always saying things like that. And even though they smiled when they did, they sighed too, as if it would be better if she got on with things that mattered â things like eating her muesli and remembering her library bag and getting
J. R. R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien