In the fall she comes back. The leaves are just turning, and she is dry with the memory of summer. She pauses at the long hill above the old house and watches the clouds move across the sky. The clouds are muscular, white; they cover the sky and give it texture. The long and endless darkness will come later. This is her favorite time of year.
She is thin, bone-thin, and hard as old wood. Her feet are black and filthy – she has tested the calluses with knives and matches and her soles are sturdy as leather. She shifts the pack on her high shoulders and breathes in the air of her home. She feels it pulling at her, like gravity, like the wind; she will lift her wings and let it carry her down the heathery side of the hill, but for the moment she is poised and still.
Far below the door opens and a man comes out. He catches sight of her when he reaches for the paper. She stops breathing. He stays stooped half-over, his arm outstretched, wary and disbelieving. The wind changes and the light fades as the clouds move and she is running down the hill, legs flashing through the grass, skimming over the earth’s thrumming side, and for an instant she outraces everything, memory, hunger, travel and time, and she is a child again, running home to the strong and patient arms of her father.