Lyssa opened the back cover of the diary and carefully peeled free the sprig of sage she had placed there last spring. The leaves were black-spotted and yellowed, they crumbled and stuck to the paper in places. She took the corner of her apron and cleaned away the stains as well as she could.
From the kitchen rafters, away from the fire and from drafts, hung her rows and rows of plants and herbs, the ones the diary had taught her to pick. There was sage there, dry but still a healthy gray-green color. She reached up and snapped off a brittle sprig. This would work. This would bring him back.
Pressed in the back page of the diary, the sage cracked and crumbled into tiny dry flakes that fell out onto the floor. Lyssa snapped off another sprig, and this time shut the book on it very gently, handling the leather cover with only the tips of her fingers. Please, she whispered, please tell me how to help Mother.
If only she hadn’t neglected her studies, as he’d called them. She could have easily put fresh sage in the back of the book last fall, before the frost, when she’d cut it from the garden. That would have lasted until now. But she’d been so busy with the harvest, and then after the snows came she had forgotten.
Did it have to be sage? Maybe she could find something else. Something still green and alive. She thought of the onions in the cellar, the pumpkins and apples, maybe there would be green leaves on them still. She threw up the wooden hatch and hurried down the ladder.
In the potato barrel, one small potato had sprouted and begun to grow. A green stem, a pair of tiny leaves, that was all. Lyssa snapped it off and pressed it in the back cover of the diary.
“Did you have a question?” the old monk’s voice sounded distant, and a little confused, but he was there again.
“Oh, yes,” Lyssa almost sobbed. “My mother has a fever and a terrible cough. None of the things you taught me have worked. Is there anything else I can try? Please?”
“Let’s go and see her,” he said. “I’m sure we can… there must be something. Oh, my head! Sorry, but I’m a bit dizzy. It will pass, I’m sure.”
Lyssa climbed the ladder, cradling the diary carefully in her hands.