I named her for the bird. When she first came I saw something brown and drab: a small animal that spent hours huddled in the corners of my father’s house, weeping. She hid her face behind a curtain of sooty hair. I didn’t want my father’s gift: it was boring, plain, disappointing. I didn’t want my Tribute child until the day I saw her run.
She ran through the stone corridors of the palazzo as though she was flying. She sped out of the shadows, past long rectangles of windows, sunlight flashing on thin legs. Her hair spread behind her like the wings of a swift scything the sky.
When I commanded her to come to me she knelt on the floor, hanging her head. I crouched down. I put my five-year-old face nose to nose with hers. At last she looked at me with liquid amber eyes. And in the darkness of her irises I saw golden sparks flickering. Sparks of yearning – of hope at war with fear. At that moment I knew we were the same. That we both wanted the impossible: to fly. To hope when hope is madness.
I took her by the hand, which is forbidden. I named her for the bird I loved most, and we ran through the marble halls together.