I woke up one afternoon in a tree. That is nothing unusual for me. I often take refuge from my younger sisters in a tree, and I am often lulled to sleep in the heat of the valley in summertime.
This is where we live in the summer, in the country on a farm with our second cousins. They pay us for our labours in the fields, and we sow the corn, draw water from the deep well and harvest the corn just before we return to the city in the autumn.
Today I awoke with a certain instinct of deja-vu playing in my head, and my eyes scanned the tree trunk for clues to this feeling. I couldn't think for a moment. Then I realised.
My name. My name, in all the twelve and a half years I have carried it and replied to it, had never made sense to me before that moment.
My lip curled in disgust. I had never connected the meaning of 'Merle' and my surname. I had connected my sisters' names easily. The middle sister, the dowdy and thoughtful one, is Dovie Byrde, and the youngest, who never seems to shut up, as befits her allocated flying creature, is Robyn Byrde.
Dove and Robin, and Blackbird! I snorted aloud and slid down the tree. At the foot of it I gazed back up into the branches, picking out a few birds' nests, tangles in the higher branches, and the blanket and scarf that had been my own nest that afternoon.
I gritted my teeth. I felt like a fool. For twelve and a half years I have been made a fool of. For twelve and a half years I have been a bird, sleeping in trees and eating raw corn and stamping on the earth because I collected worms, and I had not even realised it! I felt like the toy of my parents, a puppet, an animal, a beast, and indeed I began to feel as vicious as a beast too.
Turning my back on the tree I resolved never to behave like a bird ever again. I might be named 'Blackbird', but I am a human being, not a feathered bag without a soul or a brain, and it was time my cruel parents realised it.