The recovery was slow but every day she felt a little more alive. She could see her mother changing too. Her mother got another job, a better one at the bakery, and she came home with cakes and bread only a day old. Misha started to make supper for them both, and they would sit together at the table talking about their days. Then her mother would make hot rooibos tea and they would eat cake. “This is the life, my girl,” her mother would say as she put her tired feet encased in her old pink slippers on the table. ‘This is the good life.”

The only thing she regretted was that the pictures stopped talking to her. She would open her book, and stare at her favourites, willing them to look at her, to respond. But they remained still, flat on the page. So then she started to draw the faces that she wanted to see, wanted to chat to. “I didn’t realise you had all this in you, Misha,” said the Art teacher later that day, surprised by big splashes of red and grey surrounding a delicately sketched face of an old woman who looked tired and determined at the same time. ‘It’s always been in me, but it’s only now coming out, I guess,” Misha answered shyly.

Honore, a shy refugee student who hardly spoke in class, walked over to have a look. “That’s really good,” he said seriously, looking at her. “You have talent.” He went back to his own work and sighed. “I can’t say the same about me.”

“That’s not true,” Misha responded hotly. “I loved that one you did, you know that street scene with headlines and graffitti.

“Oooh,” one of the boys jeered, Misha likes your stuff, Baby!” Misha felt a mixture of irritation and elation – she had never been teased about a boy before.

One afternoon she felt her heart jump into her mouth as she walked to the school gate. That was her father outside the school. His denim jacket, faded jeans, brown hair. Why was he there? What did he want? The familiar rush of sick fear made her realise how good, how settled she had been feeling lately. She walked slowly to the gate, waiting for the other children to drift off.

He tried to greet her with a kiss, but she turned her face away quickly. “What do you want?” she asked rudely.

“You’re my daughter,” he said hoarsely. “Can’t I come to see my own daughter?”

“I don’t need you,” she said. “We don’t want you.” It felt so liberating to speak her feelings for him, for the first time there was not filter of fear. “I need protection from you,” she said, surprising even herself.

“I never meant to hurt you,” he mumbled. “I care for you, you’re my daughter, I looked after you when Ma went out to work, don’t you even remember?”

“I remember everything.” She said to him. She was still surprised that he hadn’t turned to anger yet. And you’re not allowed to come near me, Mom got a court order.”

She ran down the street away from him, and burst into her home.