When he hatched, Tsee first knew warmth from the press of Cheer’s feathers. He then knew love from Took, who pressed a spider into his wide-open mouth. Light came later, and was its own brilliant discovery.

His nestmates, Purty and Sweet, seemed to lack the same energy that Tsee had. When his parents came, he was always first and loudest, greeting them with upturned mouth that they might fill it with love in the form of food. By contrast, his brother and sister seemed smaller, quieter. Took and Cheer fed them too, but Tsee was always at the forefront.

Cheer would sing and squeak softly to her children when she was on or near the nest, telling her of the love she had for them and repeating the gentleness she knew from her own mother. Took was less sentimental, urging the nestlings with sharp metallic pips. They had better eat up, he said, if they wanted to be big and strong enough to defy the many mouths open wide for them in the world.

Occasionally, though, Tsee would perceive another figure, a darker blur compared to Took’s red and Cheer’s auburn. It would dart in, a gift of food clutched in its beak, and warn away Purdy and Sweet with a sharp sound.

“Know that you are watched over,” the shape would whisper. “Know that you are loved.”

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