Lilith watches the man dig graves for a month of Sundays before he ever says anything to her, but it’s not as though they’re strangers. Forest Stark knows that she’s there, following him around the yard with her bag of plums. He hears her behind him as the autumn leaves crack beneath her tiny feet. He knows that she has long, unkempt hair and that she lives all alone in the house up the hill. He buried her pa in the summer.
“Winter’s coming on,” he says to her one day, from within a four-foot grave. He doesn’t turn around, doesn’t stop his work. His hard, bare arms move rhythmically up and down as his square body lifts the earth from its hole.
Lilith sits about ten feet away, beside a tree dropping sunset orange leaves. Her legs are tucked beneath her small body, which is wrapped in a wool coat eight sizes too big.
When she doesn’t say anything, Forest stands up from the grave and turns around to face her. He leans a heavy arm on his upright shovel and waits. Lilith looks at him blandly. She stretches out her white, stockinged legs so that they are directly in front of her, knees straight.
“She’s just a child,” he thinks.
And indeed she is.