You're young and so, so strange, and you have plenty of classmates to remind you of that should you ever forget, as if you could.
You're strange and you run and you're just barely seven when you know for the first time that it's hopeless to think you're running towards something, something that could be good and safe (even then you're not silly enough to think you could be running home). But it doesn't matter, in the forest, on the streets, by the lake where you run while your eyes and your throat and your lungs and your feet all burn, want and pain coursing tangling through your veins while you run like maybe if you're fast enough they'll explode out of your skin and leave you behind a girl who deserves things like home.
When you're eight, your first foster family sends you back, and you stand in the unbearable warmth of a harsh summer rain and scream until you can see the trees shake with it.
You keep running. What else is there to do? You run until you can't breathe with it, can't move any more; run until the clouds burst above your head and inside your heart and rain sweat tears soak your skin and hair so you can't tell them apart and when you curl up in the hollows between the roots of the giant trees your music carries you even farther than your feet could.
The trees are strange in Silverhöjd, too. You've never been anywhere else, but you know that, deep in your blood where a scream you don't know how to voice lives: there's trees nowhere else in the world like this.
They're strange like you, love like you, they're waiting for you.
You dig your nails into moss-covered bark and whisper i'm here i'm here i'm here what are you waiting for why won't you take me forever why won't you
When you're twelve, your foster family locks you inside so you hardly see the sun and never feel the air. Things break and break and break and you can't stop them but you can't be sorry because it means they send you back too.
Not you, though. There's too much of the forest in you to break.
When you watch a boy die for the first time, you're old enough to know there's only one way for things to end. You're covered in blood and strange and scared and you run anyway, because that's all you know.
Except the end isn't the real end, the real end is an abandoned gun and cold nights trying to hide from the (two) things you love while trying to hold on even tighter than before. The real end is floodlights on a tennis court that you destroy before you're aware you want them gone, and then detectives who know too much and not enough and still ask too many questions.
But even then it's not the real end, because there's a cottage in the woods with a woman whose long red hair is wild just like yours and she reaches out her hands to you but she doesn't touch, not yet, and it's just like she knows, like something about the way your blood sparks (sister?) at the sight of her is mirrored in her veins, in her mind.
I can't promise you safety forever, she says. But I know you. I can promise you a home with me. For as long as you'll have it.
You have your own room for the first time in your life. You don't refuse her outright.
The detective from the city wants you to hunt Storm. You like the way that sounds, like flinging yourself through the sky wrapped in clouds, raindrops in your hair and lightning sparkling across your skin.
Hunting storms. Hunting Storm. Hunting the violence lodged in the heart of Silverhöjd that's not you, for once.
Klara doesn't want you to hunt anyone. Klara lays down with you on blankets softer even than the grass in the forest after the first rain of the season, holds you loosely with one arm around your shoulders so you can leave whenever you want and whispers about all the things she still has to teach you, about the life she wants to give you, about the people she doesn't want to let near you.
You're going to do it anyway. Klara makes you feel safe for the very first time, and you've fought too long for that safety to stop fighting now.
Flying is easy. Seeing is easy. Slamming back into your body so hard you nearly levitate off your bed reacting to the force of it, everyone else's minds ripped away from yours with a suddenness that makes you love isolation for the first time, that's the hard part.
Klara catches you. The detective manages to look concerned, if only for the information you have. It's enough, it has to be.
You don't ask if you can stay, after. You're too afraid to hear her say no. But by the end of the third week, longer than you've managed to stay in any house that's not the foster home, you realise Klara's not going to make you leave.
(It takes you much, much longer to believe that, for real.)
There are children in the forest and they're not yours, except for the part where you're not sure where the forest ends and you begin, but they love you anyway.
You're not Klara's and she loves you anyway, and you lie awake nights wondering when you became so safe that you wanted to start figuring out how to love her back. She's an aunt and a teacher and a sister and a friend and a partner and she, too is the forest; she, too, is home.
You sit on the porch under the first blanket you knit, a tattered thing of snapped threads and dropped stitches that does nothing to keep you warm, but it's yours and you made it and it doesn't carry blood, and that counts for something.
Klara watches the children dance in the garden, and you watch Klara, and the trees watch all of you. You're so, so strange, and so are Klara and the children and the forest, and all of you are alive and it's enough like you never expected it would be, like you never expected to have.