Sister says we need to hatch a plan. Says she’s been thinking when I sleep, thinking when it’s my turn downstairs with Mister. Says we need to fly this coop before he cracks us in two, tosses our shells in the trash.
We need to be smaller. Hollow-boned, Sister says. Sparrow-light. Her beaked hand plucks bread from my lips, stuffs it beneath our mattress. Hides it as Mister unlocks the door, reaches for one of us to pet.
I search Sister’s shoulder blades for wings. She clucks her tongue. There’s more than one way to fly.
Hunger pecks our throats, claws our insides. My chickadees! Mister cries. My little chickadees! Tries to hand feed us, force food into our gullets. Nothing stays down.
We gather the hair we’ve lost, make a nest in our hands.
Purple-eyed, string-necked. Yoke-yellow skin. Birdbath hips. Mister calls us ugly ducklings now.
Sister points to the cage of my ribs, how slowly my heart flutters.
We roost on our mattress, fragile as eggs. Mister no longer sets us on his perch, no longer forces us to sing.
When? I peep. When, when, when? My breath is shallow, soft as feathers. Sister pulls me close, strokes the downy hair of my cheek like a mother hen. Soon, she coos. Soon.