Though you can’t see them, there are twin girls who live in this birch and fir forest. If you inhale deep enough, past the woodsmoke and musky rotting logs, you can smell the oatmeal soap their mother makes every winter. If you look closely enough, past the glittering snow on the ground and through the blue fog in the air, you can see their white and black heads ducking and hiding in the dark corners. If you listen quietly enough, you can hear small laughs and padded, heavy footsteps. They wear rainboots all year.
Sometimes the girls sneak a few pennies from the blue mason jar that their father keeps on his bedside table. The white haired twin is fond of the shiniest pennies, newly minted and gleaming copper. The raven haired twin is taken with the old coins that look as though they were unearthed in hundred year old mud. She likes to scrape away the tarnish to see what date the penny was made. 1947. 1972. She gives the ones from 1990 on to her sister, who dips them in cups of water and lemon juice so they’ll shine again.
Once the girls have enough pennies hidden away in their pockets, they bring them to a favorite birch tree that’s one hundred footsteps away from their cabin. Waiting until it’s dusk and nearly dinner, they pull the pennies from grubby cotton pockets and shove them into a dark and twisted knot in the trunk and whisper wishes up towards the purple sky.
The white haired one wishes to be loved and to have lots of babies, and she rubs her small hands up and down the ivory and orange birch bark, closing her eyes tight. The bark is covered in frost, and the girls don’t wear any gloves. The raven haired one asks to never have any babies and to always be as free, alone, beautiful and warm as a lynx. She rests her forehead on the tree, and listens to the dead brown leaves rustle from the branches overhead.