No one had ever seen her before. She just appeared in the village one day, walked up to Maria, and wrapped her little arms around Maria’s leg. Her saddened face had melted Maria’s heart in an instant, and the little girl had been taken in. She didn’t have a name, or if she did, she hadn’t remembered it. Maria decided to call her Juliya. It was such a pretty name, just as Juliya was such a pretty child. Her black hair shone like ebony, despite the grim and dirt that was matted in it. Her face, though very dusty, was rosy and cheerful. Her crowning feature, though, were her eyes. They were wide, liquid, and dark as the night sky. They shone as though with a thousand stars, and every time she smiled, they lit up so brilliantly that it was like a ray of hope shining out.

Years passed, and Juliya grew even more beautiful. No one knew her real age, but Maria guessed her to be about fifteen now. Her chubby baby face had smoothed out, and now her complexion was flawless. She seemed almost ageless, neither young nor old, but with a carefree grace about her. The village boys gave a lot of notice to the dark haired beauty, but she would only smile wistfully and pass them by.

By this time, Maria was showing her age. Her brown hair was frosted with silver, and wrinkles we deep-set in her face. Life was wonderful with her adopted daughter, but she was worried. There was something about the girl that was different, aside from her origins. It was nothing terribly obvious, but Maria noticed several subtle things that set Juliya apart. Animals loved her. Even the most stubborn oxen would do whatever she directed it to do, and wild birds had been known to settle on her hands without even the slightest show of fear. She had an amazing recovery rate with cuts and bruises healing practically overnight. It was uncanny. Most unnerving of all, it seemed to Maria that Juliya could change the weather around her. Once, when the girl was still very young, they had been caught out in a sudden downpour. With no shelter, Juliya had been cold and frightened. She had let out a wail, and at that instant the rain stopped. The woman would have brushed it off as coincidental but for one other incident. It had been a very windy day, and Juliya was celebrating the anniversary of the day she had come to the village. She and some other girls were playing house when a gust of wind swept her new hat off her head. She didn’t even try to chase it. She merely said, “Stop!â€