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swallow my breath and take what is mine

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Blackbirds are singing and spring is bursting up from deep under the ground and the whole world is redolent with sodden earth and woodsmoke, and Silverhöjd goes on unchanging, wet-green and steaming beneath the unhurried crawl of the returning sun.

Ida is eleven summers old and she doesn’t realise she’s singing too until Eva looks up, a passing surprise on her face as though old ghosts have reared their heads like the snowdrops, the early risers; it is a lonely time to be a flower in the morning of the year and they tremble like she does, like her chin does when she asks how is it that you know that song? How can it be, that song? and Papa is glancing over too now because it still swells his heart to hear Ida's voice but she was singing so quietly, barely above the birds, that he hadn’t heard until Eva spoke, and now they’re both looking to her for an answer Ida isn’t sure she has.

Coffee at the big Thörnblad house is a ritual as old as Silverhöjd itself in her memory and its shadowy corners and creaking staircases are no less eerie for the lack of ghosts within its wallsbut Eva can't help that, she's all that's left and she’s too warm to be a spirit, too solid and unyielding and yellow, like wintry sunlight and daffodils and pale wheat, and Papa says he's even caught her singing once or twice, which Ida can scarcely imagine, you could barely picture Eva's laughter until you heard it for yourself (she'd laughed this morning, kicking at a patch of frost as she walked, there’s a fence needs mending on the far edge of the estate and Papa always lets himself be roped into chores when he comes, you don't mind, Ida, do you—and it was like music, like the sun breaking through the trees to see her grin so; of course Ida doesn't mind).

How do you know it? Eva presses, and there's a strange fragility to her smile when Ida shoves her hands in her pockets and shrugs, it was Josefine taught me the words, I think, half a truth: she doesn't think, no one else could have, no one else has been so close to her that Ida could feel Josefine's heartbeat in her own ribcage, her sluggish blood thudding in her ears, her halting rasp of a voice singing in her mind like the whisper of the wind through the treetops, distant and near all at once, a ghost and a living thing, a girl and a forest, she told me you sang it to her, when she was small?

Eva nods and bends back to work but her smile is real now, as faltering and soft a thing as the sun that comes splashing down through the branches—and her voice when, after a moment, she picks up the lost trail of the lullaby, winter turns to spring, perhaps there is one ghost yet to the Thörnblad name but Ida's finding the words again too and there's grace in the way their voices thread together, sewing something back whole that has hung open for too long, heal the earth's wounds

—heal the earth's wounds, the wind in the trees, fir, spruce and pine—

The air is heavy with a resinous sweetness and the wet-green richness of new growth in the forest.

Spring is come, and the blackbirds are singing.