As a kid you fed the crows in the garden behind your parents’ house. You liked that they learned not to be afraid of you over time. That you’d earned their trust. Even living with him, years later, you could get the ones roosting near your apartment to take scraps of meat or nest padding right from your fingers.
You wondered if they missed you when you ran.
Maybe it was the lack of human contact, since moving to such an isolated spot or the stress you’d run from, but you’ve found your new corvid neighbours even more remarkable. You could swear you heard had them mimicking your voice after you’ve fed them or helped an injured fledgling. They become what keeps you sane in those long, lonely months. You might spend every night waiting for the other shoe to drop, to have your newfound safety ripped away, but every morning there is your faithful murder waiting to keep you company for breakfast on the porch.
Those little things let you finally start feeling like yourself and remember the things you’d been passionate about before you met him. You cook for fun again and sing through long showers. You sing to the crows too and they gathering around to bob up and down like they appreciated it.
You’d been living in the cabin six months on the morning that the crows grew restless at breakfast. They showed no interest in the food or fabric scraps you put out for them. The whole murder swarms in a frantic, flapping unease.
You turn. One of the youngest, you’d had to help her several times while she was fledging, cocks her head to the side to look into your eyes with one of hers.
As you watch she caws again. ‘Hide.’
You freeze for a moment. The comfort you felt from the murder souring with fear. Then the little crow hopped closer, rubbing her feathered head against the back of your hands before cawing again.
You could remember the difference between those who’d helped and hurt you too.
Your shoes and coat are on before you hear the car at the end of the long driveway. You make it to the treeline before the engine cuts out by the house. The last thing you see before fleeing into the pines is a flock larger than you’d ever seen before circling the cabin.
Angry screeching followed you through the forest but it sounds like safety. It sounds like love.
When you cautiously return to the cabin that evening, there are feathers and blood on the gravel drive.
The youngest crow perches on the rail of the porch and cocks her head again.
‘Safe?’ You ask, though you know the answer.
The caw settles your rabbiting heart. You know you will both remember who your friends are.