Chapter 2, Chapter 3

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After traveling for hours and changing trains for what felt like twenty times, but was actually only four, Kin found himself on the final stretch of his journey. It was quite pleasant sitting on a plush seat on an old slam-door train with warm air coming up by his feet and cool air streaming in through the open window. The train was practically empty, so he could stretch out his long legs and relax. He watched the countryside flash by--hedgerows and streams, a pond filled with swans, tangled vines and twisted trees. It was odd returning to the place of his childhood. He'd never understood why Haruko had chosen to stay so close to home, but after years of living overseas and in Scotland it was strangely comforting returning to South East England.

The train shuddered to a halt at Twelftrees village train station. Kin gathered his suitcase and stepped onto the platform. He was immediately enveloped in a cloud of fog, so it took him a moment to get his bearings. He pulled a piece of paper from the pocket of his wool cardigan, which had been a gift from his grandfather when he first started his PhD in Scotland. It was a sort of lucky charm, wearing the same cardigan his grandfather had worn as a graduate student. He squinted at his messy handwriting, and set off along what he hoped was the right road towards the gatehouse.

Even with written directions, Kin managed to get lost. He scratched his head and squinted at the directions once more. Was that Darling or Garland Lane? He finally backtracked and made it to the pub on Baker Hill, The Fox and Child, so he could get proper directions. He remembered going to this pub with his parents and Haruko many years ago. It looked exactly as a country village pub should look; a bit cluttered and dusty but warm and inviting.

A middle-aged woman with hair that had once been red, but was starting to turn grey, greeted him with a cheerful wave and a "what can I get you, dear?"

Kin hesitated and brushed his hand through his black hair, his cheeks flushing golden rose. He walked hesitantly towards the bar.

"Umm, I'm in need of directions, actually. I'm looking for the Gatehouse?"

"Ah, you must be Kin," said the woman. She reached out to shake his hand heartily. "I'm Nicole. I've heard so much about you."

Kin didn't say anything but he felt rather embarrassed. He wondered what Haruko had been saying about him.

"Right," the woman continued, and she proceeded to give him a series of confusing directions, changing her mind frequently about which way was actually faster and more direct, so that he left feeling more confused than ever.

Finally, after discovering a road sign hidden beneath wild roses, which he stopped to sniff, delighting in their lemony sweet fragrance, Kin managed to get back on track and was soon walking through the archway of the gatehouse. It was every bit as impressive as he remembered.

He still couldn't believe his little sister lived in such an unusual house, like something out of one of the fairy tales he was translating. He paused to sniff the peach colored tea roses that trailed up the wall of the house. Haruko said she'd leave the door unlocked as she had to stay at college until later that afternoon, but Kin wondered whether Moira was at home. Perhaps he should return to the village and spend a few hours wandering around?

He realized he was just trying to avoid an awkward situation, and besides he was fairly knackered. He finally pushed open the kitchen door and called out "hello," but was met with silence. Then there was a soft thud and an orange tabby appeared in the kitchen doorway, stretching and yawning. She looked at Kin in a "Well, who are you and what do you want" sort of way, and looked perfectly capable of standing in the doorway indefinitely.

Kin set down his suitcase and took a tentative step forward. The cat continued staring at him. It was rather unsettling. Finally he said, "I'm Kin. Haruko's brother."

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