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Dark before day. Fear before joy. Coal before light.

They said the words over her when she was born, and smeared her head with ash. She sneezed and wailed. She didn’t like it.

Her hair kept trying to grow out fair, and whenever it straggled to an inch they’d hack it off. Finally, after six years, it’s starting to darken: blonde, honey, mahogany brown.

She hates her hair, hates more when they cut it. She weeps silently afterwards.

There’s always one who will speak to a hurt child, in darkness. “There, there, little Nightjar,” soothes hers. “Someday we’ll find your voice.”