The haze of dawn crept through the forest, infusing the ferns and jagged rocks with its golden mist. By the chirping of bluebirds and magpies, Jane knew the hour had come.
She kept perfectly still, balancing on the sturdiest branch of a bloodwood at least two metres from the ground, as glints of sunlight twinkled through the foliage.
Yet as the forest grew lighter, she felt herself weighed down. The pearls coiled at her wrist would make her lose balance, Jane was sure of it. She flung the bracelet at the forest floor, a sensation of elation growing within her as the small jewels scattered amongst the fallen leaves and pebbles.
Her shoes came next, tumbling into a clattering heap at the bloodwood’s roots. Jane met the sunrise with a wide, almost childish grin, as though a prisoner who’d thrown off his shackles and stripes.
From afar, a voice called out. An eloquent, well-bred voice, under which Jane could hear the rattle of manacles.
“Please, God, don’t let her find me. Don’t let me come down.”