Only when the girl approached did the magpie settle again, fixing its black gaze on her, and allowing her clever fingers to unravel him from the mesh of hair. Having been recaptured, escorted to the kitchen, and ordered out, the magpie leapt from the girl’s hand, back into flight and its other world. The girl felt the joy and sorrow of it rolling down her cheek, as a single hot tear. If her mother hadn’t made such a fuss, if she hadn’t scared the bird, he would still have been there. For the best, apparently, or at least according to the girl’s parents. Not that it stopped the girl watching from the kitchen every morning, tracing flight paths between perching posts. Sometimes, when she was outside, the girl could swear that the magpie was there, observing, studying, half-expecting more food. She guarded her secret, cherished both the sensation and the thought. She would never forgive her mother, never. For weeks she wouldn’t talk to her mother, wouldn’t even look at her, going back inside the house whenever her mother came out to tend and pluck the garden. The silence grew, feeding off itself. The house succumbed to an awkward calm. The girl, her mother, and her father, drifted between their own routines. The girl went for long walks most days, sometimes coming back only when it was dark. Her mother carried on, pruned, and clipped, tried to heal the division. Her father tried to tell his daughter, again, there would be other pets, other lives to which she could make a difference.
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