Her mother frowns at the page. “But these are deer.”
Claire replies, “They’re both.”
“There was one time,” her father confesses, “when I was a boy. My best friend’s father took us hunting. Me and Peter - you met him a few years ago, do you remember? His dad drove us a few hours out of town and Peter was so excited. He’d been looking forward to it all week.”
“Did you shoot anything?” Claire asks.
And then her father gets that look on his face again. He gets that look sometimes, like he’s trying to remember something, like he almost can. “I didn’t need to,” he says. “The deer came right up to me. No fear. Walked straight up to me, I could reach out and touch it, it was so close.”
“Then what happened?”
“Nothing,” he says, and she can tell he is lying. “Nothing happened.”
She dreams of climbing trees, then realizes they aren’t trees. The branches are covered in soft down, like velvet against her hands.
Ah. They are wings.
As the deer panteth for water, so my soul longeth after you.
Around her, autumn is claiming the forest. The buck lifts its head and freezes when it sees her. Claire freezes likewise.
Please, she thinks without knowing what she’s pleading for. Please please please -
The buck takes a step closer to her, and another.
Another step, then another.
And then: yes.