Seven months and Jig was back, sitting on Alasdair’s back porch like she had never left. She was a little taller now – her toes brushed the dirt beneath the porch as she swung her feet – but her face was just as round, her dark hair still braided to one side, like she couldn’t figure out how to make it run straight down her back.
Alasdair stepped hesitantly out his back door. The way she’d disappeared, with a mystery and a threat hard on her tail, he’d never expected to see her sitting there again. Sometimes on market street, he looked for her, checked the center of any trouble for her little head zipping through, but he never thought he’d see her so still.
“I’ve been tryin’ to do some math,” she said. No hello, no miss me?, no d’you remember me? Somehow, it made her sitting there seem more normal.
It took Alasdair a long time to realize Jig wasn’t her real name. Parents had handed out stranger names, and she answered to it every time, without hesitation. Sometimes she even turned at similar words – jib, jug, jog – the way people do when they’ve answered to the sound all their lives.
But overhearing the men at early market describe her – the little girl, only so tall, with the dark hair, who moved too fast, settled too fast, and smiled too fast – he knew they were looking for her. They avoided giving her name. They knew her, but they didn’t know what she was calling herself now. Alasdair finished his business, and left market quickly, before they could stop him to ask if he’d seen her.
That night, Jig was at Alasdair’s back porch, perched on the edge of it, with her feet dangling into the air, eating her dinner clasped in both hands. She had some sort of bread, stuffed up with meat and sauce that ran down her fingers. It was still warm. He could smell the sweetness of it as he sat down next to her.