A grin of tiny pearly teeth and a glint of pure, wild mischief flash from behind her overgrown golden fringe and she leaps straight at me. From the ground she is in my arms in the time it takes me to open my mouth, my 'what are you doing?' never getting it's chance to taste air. Her legs snap around my waist like magnets and with her arms waving in the air like a hippy at Glastonbury she is in my arms, my spider monkey - as light and as easy as her namesake.
If her sister did that to me (and she's tried) she would knock me to the ground, give me a black eye and put my back out for a week. Ella is only a kilo lighter, has only ever been at most, a kilo lighter and yet she carries herself with such ease, flying just above the surface of the waves, that she feels little heavier now than she ever has. In my lap she settles in, curled like a cat and no more obtrusive. Sometimes an arm or leg goes awry and I get punched in the face but it's not clumsiness, more a case of limbs too long to control, jumps a little too ambitious to pull off, momentary forgetfulness that she can not in fact fly and I am not in fact an immovable object.
'You're not a snuggler like your sister' people tell her, but they've got it wrong, she is, she just takes her time to suss out who to trust, her need for an audience is minimal to non-existent in comparison to her twin's.
When I lie on my side to watch telly, with my knees bent up towards my hips – the only way I can fit onto our little two person sofa – she climbs into the triangular gap between my legs and the back cushions, resting her head on my bum and tucking her knees up to her chest. We fit together perfectly, one large and one little piece of a jigsaw, a jigsaw that builds the picture that is our family. The dog tries to climb in too, she doesn't fit but somehow Ella squeezes her in, wrapping her arms around her neck and loving her fiercely.
Running off ahead on a still and perfectly crisp winter morning, the sun backlights her and with all of her height she looks both tiny, too small to be allowed out of my reach, and like that's it, she's off, see you later. Today she needs space, tomorrow perhaps she won't let you out of her sight. My independent, curious, ephemeral wanderer.
Not that she isn't also batshit crazy at times, point a camera at her and her eyes will cross, her tongue will stick out at a wonky angle and an inhuman noise will emanate from her contorted face - it's not cool, whatever she might think. When the music comes on she dances like a wild thing, spinning moves from a break-dancing video we watched once, eighteen months ago. Her memory is a steel trap - when we need reminded where we were when that thing happened, when need the dog's lead un-lost or the way out of the woods pointed we ask Ella, she knows where shit is. Of course sometimes she gets confused, she is only five, although it's easy to forget - she was born older, with a look in her eye and a quiet fire burning steadily in her soul.
I can't help but wonder what age she will reach when the world feels more comfortable to her, what age it is that her heart was born. Will she have to wait until she's thirty like I did, for her life to catch up with her soul? We can only wait and see and that - watching this spider monkey grow into and then beyond her world - is a prospect that thrills me.