Mirabel woke in the dark wondering whether it was too early to rise, so she lay still, thinking excitedly about the day ahead. “Today we will see Mother and Father and Adelaide and Merek. And we will bring bread with us for all the workers. Hopefully, we will meet Ellyn’s cousins and practice for the rescue and they will travel back here to barn hill with us. The most wonderful day I’ve ever known, even more exciting than running with Rowan from the river to Barn Hill.”
The chickens had slept outside, and now Mirabel heard the crow of a rooster in the distance. “It IS time to rise,” she thought as she jumped to her feet.
“Good morning to you,” said Rowan, sitting up. “Let’s see if we can be ready to head out at first light.”
Heading down the hill through the forest as light began to brighten the sky, but before the orb of the sun could be seen creeping over the horizon, Mirabel and Rowan carried the bed sack full of loaves. Mirabel led the way with a corner of the sack over her shoulder. The sack of bread hung between them. Rowan had a firm grip on the other end of the cloth bag.
Mirabel’s feet wanted to run, or at least move quickly. But, every time she tried to speed up, she felt Rowan tugging back on the sack. Finally, he said, “I know you want to go fast. But our feet are still in shadows and we can’t see stones and roots that might trip us. It’s better to get there safe than to get there faster.”
“You’re right,” said Mirabel. “I just can’t help it.”
It took great effort, but Mirabel convinced her feet to move with care as they moved down the hill and out onto the causeway.
And then the sun peeked over the mountains and the sky lit up. “I can see the ground quite well now,” said Mirabel. “Can we run?”
The sun had just risen when Ronduin arrived at his juggling spot in the turret to find that his mother was already there.
“Good morning, my dear son,” said the Queen.
“Good morning my dear mother and juggling teacher,” said Ronduin.
The Queen smiled and then said with excitement in her voice, “I told your father that we want to offer him and Cook Agnes a special performance. I didn’t mention juggling. We agreed that early this evening just before we wave at sunset would be the best time. We will eat an early dinner and then perform in the kitchen.”
Now Mirabel and Rowan ran across the causeway in a slow jog.
“Stop for a minute,” said Rowan.
“Are we stopping because you’re tired?” asked Mirabel.
“We’re stopping to look up toward the stable,” said Rowan.
“Oh oh oh!” Mirabel cried out. “I see them, far in the distance! They’re walking this way! It’s mother and father and the children!”
Rowan waved in big arcs. Mirabel waved too. “Then, far up the hill, their parents and their little siblings waved back.
“Mirabel, if I carry the bread alone, you can reach them faster, said Rowan, taking the sack from her hands.
“But…but..” stammered Mirabel.
“Just go,” said Rowan, smiling. ‘I’ll get there soon enough.”
“Thank you, thank you,” said Mirabel hugging her big brother.
And then she was off, flying along the causeway, stepping up onto the foothills, running like the wind along the path toward her family. Adelaide and Merek ran ahead of her parents and as they got closer she could hear them calling, “Mirabel! Mirabel!”
As she ran, Mirabel remembered that, not long ago, she saw all of her dear family everyday. And she remembered how common it felt, not special at all. Now, she knew for sure that she would never forget that her family is her treasure, the center of her life, the dearest and the best.
And then Mirabel ran to an avalanche of hugs and exclamations of joy and a fistful of wildflowers from Adelaide, who Mirabel lifted into her arms and squeezed as if she would never let go.
“You are already taller,” said Mirabel’s mother.
“Adelaide and Merek have grown too,” said Mirabel.
“Ah, there is Rowan, with his big bag of bread, climbing up from the causeway to the path,” said Mirabel’s father. “I’ll run to help him.” And then Mirabel’s father took off at a fast trot while Mirabel’s mother sat down in the grass and gathered her three youngest children close.
“I hear that tomorrow is the rescue,” she said. “Ellyn arrived with her cousins yesterday afternoon and they are eager to practice with you and the skis and the sled. We had a bit of experience ourselves with skis and the sled when your father and Sir Andrew came to rescue us from our island in the forest. I found the skis easy to use, but your father and Sir Andrew traveled more slowly because they are heavier and the skis sometimes bogged down in the mud.They are glad you have found a team of light weight rescuers.”
“Rowan and I figured this out as well,” said Mirabel. “He often bogged down in the mud because he’s heavier than I am.”
Adelaide took Mirabel’s face in her hands. “Will you come back to the big stable with us and sleep with me tonight?” she asked.
“Soon, dear Adelaide, but not tonight,” said Mirabel. “Rowan and I will go back to barn Hill with Ellyn and her cousins to be ready for the rescue at first light tomorrow.”