You wonder, on and off, if Emily really knows what she means to you.
You think she might have some idea when she's reciting her poetry for you, both of you sitting in the garden at twilight and a sheaf of rumpled paper in Emily's lap as she warbles through her verses, not even glancing down at them. She's not as good an elocutionist as you are, you can see that without any malice or pride, but the lilt of her soft voice makes her fairy stories something breathtaking.
You think she might know it when the two of you scamper around in the snow, pelting each other with hard packed snowballs, and when you tumble down together to share the bar of chocolate that you've been saving all week for this, she slips off her gloves and puts her little hands into your coat pocket. Only your pocket's been ripped inside for ages, and so her hands slide right through to rest against your stomach, over the thin jersey, and they're not even really cold.
"Oh, why can't we stay like this forever, Ilse?" she'll sigh, pressing her smooth dark head against your shoulder. You'll smell the slightly lemon tang of New Moon soap and keep from crying with happiness because you aren't supposed to cry about things like that.
Even home seems nicer now, since she's given you little things to put in your bedroom a needlepoint pincushion, a pretty magazine picture of a bouquet of lilies, a painstakingly flourished written-out copy of An Ode on Ilse that you kiss each night before going to bed. You've given her things back, because you don't want to be a charity case, and she's always sweet about it even though you know she probably doesn't have much need for a doll made of knotted rags or a fork you dug out of the back yard and think might be silver. When you'd given her the fork, she'd held it in her white hands and turned it back and forth and spun a story about it belonging to folks who first settled here, about a grand garden party in the back yard and the blossoming romance between one of the guests and a visiting painter and how they'd lost the fork in the excitement of dancing, and her cheeks had gone the slightest shade of crimson each time she said "the handsome painter."
It's not as though you hate Teddy Kent, but he sometimes tries your patience. You scowl into the mirror before you kiss your poem goodnight and tell yourself that Emily hasn't given him so many gifts as she's given you.
Your father seems to approve of you being friends with Emily, as much as he's approved of anything you've done. Emily has only maiden aunts to live with, but she has such glorious memories of her father. You hold her sometimes when you spend the night at New Moon and she cries soundlessly across your collarbone, and you wonder whether this is better or worse than having a father who doesn't want anything to do with you.
You think Emily might know what she means to you when you come to her hungry and miserable, and your feet hurt because the soles of your boots are so thin you can feel every pebble you step on. When she puts sweet-smelling lotion on your poor aching feet and coos gently at you, trying to smooth your bushy yellow hair, trying to clean some of the grime from underneath your fingernails, you think she might know how you feel about her.
When she links her fingers in yours and doesn't flinch from the callouses in your palm, when she tenderly wraps her own sturdy blankets around you as you shiver in your tattered dress, when she presses her pink lips against your feverish temples. You think she knows, and you're so grateful your chest hurts with it. When she whispers your name with more tenderness and love than anybody's ever said it, and you can't help but cry and cry, and she licks your tears away.