It must have come from one of the other girls! “No! Dinah, Ever!” Mina whined, and took off running, desperately searching for her friends.

There was blood on Annalora.

Fresh blood.

She’d said she had to convince the others. Did that mean what Mina thought it meant? Had the crazed Annalora killed Ever and Dinah?

“Ever!” Mina screamed into the maze. “Ever! Answer me, you stubborn pixie.”

Picking up her skirt, she ran toward the tower. Of course it wasn’t easy. It was a maze. Every time she turned right, it dead-ended into a wall. She’d turn around again and hit another wall. The hedges were changing, making her turns impossible to keep track of. She was thoroughly lost, and she kept envisioning Ever lying in a pool of blood somewhere in the middle of the maze.

What had happened to Annalora? Was it the maze that changed her? Bringing out her ruthless side? Or was that Annalora’s true self? Is that what Plaith had meant about the maze changing them?

Near panic, Mina grabbed her head and turned in a full circle. The maze changed again. There was no exit. She was completely enclosed in a square hedge. Mina closed her eyes and took a deep breath. “Please. I just want to find my friend.”

When she looked again, there was another opening. Mina dashed through it before it changed and found herself on a cobbled path. Was she getting closer to the tower? She tried to keep it in her line of sight, but every time she headed toward it, the path led her farther away. How was she supposed to get to the middle? To find Ever?

“Please! Someone help me!” Mina cried out again, hoping that someone—anyone—would answer. The wind picked up and leaves scattered along the path before her. A mist gathered near the turn ahead of her, forming into a familiar ethereal being with dull brown hair and a small moustache.

“Dad?” Mina clasped her hands over her mouth.


It couldn’t be him. He’d died. Or as Mrs. Colbert said, his physical form died. He still lived on in the Fae plane, and he was here. Her father James was right here. In the maze.

“How?” she choked out in the midst of sobbing. Was the line between future and past so thin that he could cross it as easily as she passed through the Fae plane? Or was he a much-needed figment of her imagination? She decided to believe the first.

He stepped out of the mist, whole and looking very much alive. He was taller than she remembered, and his kind brown eyes were filled with worry. He wore the same outfit she had last seen him in, when he walked out the door of their house never to return—his favorite white shirt and vest and the khaki pants with smear of peanut butter on them.

“Don’t worry about the how, sweetie,” her father said, stopping just short of her. “Just know that I’m here to help you.”

“But, Dad, I have to know. Why’d you make the deal with the Stiltskin? Why did you leave us? Why did you die?”

He looked anxious. He was fading in and out as if he was struggling to stay with her in the past. “I can’t answer those questions. Another time mayhap, but you asked for my help and I can only stay here for a short time. So come with me.” He turned and beckoned for her to follow.

She’d be an idiot if she didn’t, and Mina wasn’t about to let her father out of her sight. He headed straight for the tall tower, ducking into the hedge in front of him. She pulled up short, stopping before the branches snagged her dress.

Her father leaned out of the bushes, surprising her. “They’re not here. Just walk through them.”

“Easy for you to say,” she mumbled. Full of doubt, she held out her hands in front of her, closed her eyes, and stepped through the hedge. On the other side was another row of hedges and, just beyond it, the tower. Her dad turned down the cobbled path that ended by a fruit tree.

In front of it, crumpled in a heap, was Ever. She was bleeding from her head. Mina kneeled down and ripped a silk petal from her dress to press against the wound. She felt her neck for a pulse. It was barely discernable, but she felt a soft flutter against her fingertips. “She’s alive.”

“Yes, she is,” her father leaned down and looked over the young girl.

“But where’s Dinah?” Mina swung her head around to look for the nymph.

Her father shook her head. “She wasn’t as lucky.” He turned to point across the same cobbled path to the hedgerow. At first Mina couldn’t see anything, but when she leaned to the side, she could just make out the ruffle of a green dress and one leg, angled oddly, lying near the path. The rest of Dinah’s body was hidden by the hedge.

“No!” Mina cried out, standing to go to her.

Her father stepped in front of her and blocked her route. She wasn’t sure how, but his strong arms wrapped around her in a hug.

Mina started to sob. “It’s all my fault. If only I hadn’t given up. Maybe I could have saved her. I could have stopped Annalora.”

“Shhh, there’s nothing you could have done. If you had gotten here any earlier, you would be the one lying there unmoving.”

“No, I could have used the Grimoire. I could have—”

“No my dear, you couldn’t have. But there is something you can still do. You can still save your family. Finish the test and return home.” He rubbed her shoulder and she leaned back, sniffing awkwardly.

“How? The glass slippers are gone. They went back without me.”

Her father looked at her, his eyes filled with pride. “You’ve grown up so much. I’m so proud of you, and I’m about to lose you again.” He pulled her into another hug, and Mina took a deep breath, imprinting her father’s scent in her memory. Tears fell freely down her face.

Reluctantly, he pulled away from her and pointed to Dinah’s body again. This time, Mina took a closer look. The shock of seeing her and the overwhelming guilt she felt had made her overlook something crucial. On Dinah’s feet, glinting in the afternoon sunlight, were Mina’s glass slippers.

“She stole them? But why? She was the sweetest, most honest person—” Mina started.

“It doesn’t matter. There’s darkness within all of us. Bitter jealousies that sometimes cannot be controlled and make us do stupid things. I would think you’d understand that more than most,” her father spoke softly.

Mina shuddered and nodded her head, thinking back to when—in her own fit of jealousy—she’d manipulated the Story into hurting Nan.

“Jealousy caused her to steal the shoes,” he said. “Take them and hurry. Your friend is fading fast.”

Mina reluctantly left the warmth of her father’s embrace and kneeled next to Dinah’s body. Thankfully, the hedge protected her from seeing the worst of her injuries, but Mina still noticed the large pool of blood that spread to the edge of her green dress.

She started to hiccup as she tried to control her anguish. “I’m sorry, D-Dinah. Please forgive me.” She reached for the glass slipper and slid it from the nymph’s foot. She pulled the second one and noticed that the sands of time were almost depleted. She had very little time left. Had they picked up their pace when she neared the end of her quest?

She took the shoes and carried them as she walked slowly back to her father, wondering at his presence. He held her gaze and straightened up.

Then he stood back and grasped his vest, as if already distancing himself. “Well, put them on. It’s almost time for you to go, and you haven’t helped your friend yet.”

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