THE DAY SHE turned eighteen and walked out of care, Polly went to buy the bird. A goldfinch, with a neat red cap and a body that would flow through air like light. It had to be that bird. She identified herself with it; with the one in the painting she had placed above every bed in every care-home she had been moved to. The picture had once belonged to her mother: a print of Fabritius’s painting, with the delicate creature chained to a perch on top of a green box, set against a cream background. Dark against light.

The pet shop was busy when she entered, its scent of dog-meal and sawdust hanging ...


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