Nine months after the events of Tree Magic, Rainbow is struggling to come to terms with how she’s changed. Her bond with trees has grown, but now they’re under threat from the Tree Slayer.
To save them, she’ll need to leave everything she knows and loves. It will be her greatest adventure yet – but she cannot succeed alone.
She’ll have to enlist the help of Eole, an enigmatic scientist and sceptic.
Does Rainbow have what it takes to face the Tree Slayer? And can she trust Eole, who has powers of his own?
Rainbow put down the phone and raced upstairs to her bedroom. Christophe had a surprise for her and he sounded excited about it.
She pulled on shorts and a T-shirt, scraped her long brown hair into a ponytail and clattered back downstairs. She paused at the bathroom to brush her teeth. She didn’t want morning breath to interfere with kissing.
Mum was in the kitchen, humming her new song as she made tea for the commune adults.
“Can I borrow the Mini?” Rainbow asked. “I’m going over to Christophe’s.”
Mum yawned. “I thought you were revising all weekend?”
“I’ve got the rest of the day to revise. And tomorrow. I won’t be long.”
Mum nodded, sat down with her tea and started scribbling musical notes on her manuscript. Rainbow dropped a kiss on her cheek, scooped up the keys and dashed outside into the sunny June morning.
She hadn’t seen Christophe all week. He’d been training a new motorbike apprentice at work and persuaded Rainbow to spend the final evenings before her Baccalaureate exams revising instead of hanging out with him. So she had. She’d ignored the call of the woods and sat in her loft, her school books open, gazing out of the windows at the enticing leaves.
Christophe. A smile spread across her face as she drove towards his flat in Cognac. They’d been together for nine months – the nine best months of her life. They’d also been the strangest, but that wasn’t because of Chris. It was because of Mary.
When she and Mary hugged the silver maple tree last September, it had somehow absorbed Mary’s body. Rainbow absorbed Mary’s mind, which supposedly healed the split that should never have happened. All Mary’s memories and emotions, from the moment she and Mary split into two parallels, had lodged themselves inside Rainbow.
Rainbow didn’t feel healed. Mary continued to live on: to think and react to everything in Rainbow’s life, making Rainbow feel overstuffed with bizarre feelings that conflicted with her own. Mary’s negativity and her rebelliousness, her irreverent humour, her courage and her uncertainties all battled with Rainbow’s own, simpler worldview. Mary was so strong, Rainbow could almost hear her voice, and she experienced yearnings for places she’d never seen and people she’d never known.
After nine months, she still felt as if she’d swallowed Mary whole, like a dose of unpleasant medicine, and was unable to digest her. All she could do was to keep the thoughts and feelings that emerged from Mary in a separate part of her mind, a small part that didn’t interfere with her true self. Between her and Mary was a mental wall, a wall of bricks.
The only good part of sharing her mind and body with Mary was the love for Christophe she’d brought with her. There was no keeping that behind the wall. It seeped through the gaps and filled her with a heady scent that made life more joyful than ever before.
Luckily, Christophe understood her Mary problems. He understood everything about her – except, perhaps, that she didn’t like revising. Or her obsession with Amrita Devi.
She parked Mum’s Mini in front of the motorbike shop in Cognac and jumped out, hoping the surprise wasn’t anything to do with motorbikes. Christophe’s flat was above the shop where he worked, though he didn’t work on Saturdays. She rang the doorbell to his flat and waited.
Amrita Devi was the girl in the Bishnoi legend who had saved a tree and lived – or saved a tree and died, according to Mary. Rainbow firmly believed Amrita had lived.
Although she hadn’t seen Amrita since her vision last September, she’d had incessant dreams about her. At the beginning, the dreams showed her and Amrita as the closest of sisters, running through woodland together, holding hands, sharing secrets and laughing. But the dreams were becoming darker. The last few times they’d been nightmares, with Amrita pleading for help and begging Rainbow to understand something that Rainbow could never grasp. When Rainbow told Christophe about her dreams, his brown eyes would begin to glaze and she’d have to tickle him until he listened properly.
Christophe buzzed open the front door for her and waited at the top of the stairs. She looked at him carefully as she walked up, in case the surprise was something boring like a new haircut. His thick hair was standing up at odd angles, which was normal for the morning, and there were no signs of piercings or tattoos. He did look worried, though. She glided into his bear hug and he held her tight.
Thank you, Harriet Springbett and Love Books Group
About the author
Harriet Springbett’s childhood on a small farm in West Dorset gave her an early exposure to nature, which continues to inspire her writing.
She qualified as an engineer but, during a Raleigh International expedition in Chile, she realised she preferred words to numbers. She abandoned her profession, moved to France, studied French and then worked as a project manager, feature writer, translator and TEFL teacher. She now lives in Poitou-Charentes with her French partner and their teenage children.
Since her first literary success, aged 10, her short stories and poetry have been published in literary journals and placed in writing competitions, including a shortlisting in the 2017 Bath Short Story Award.
Harriet leads writing workshops, has judged the Segora international short story competition