Good morning, people of the blogosphere! Today, something a bit different! Enjoy it.
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If you'd rather read it, see below:
Chapter One – The Bird
As the sun began its journey into the sky, Stormy watched it with intensity. Somehow it seemed brighter, like it knew that day would be different. She sighed and lifted her coffee to her lips, blowing the steam away to cool it. A tentative sip later, she relaxed into the chair as the warm liquid made its way down her throat.
Her thoughts turned to the reason she was there and a great wave of sadness settled over her. Mom only had about two months of life left and Stormy wasn’t sure she’d be able to stand it when the family matriarch died. They’d been through so much together and butted heads so many times it was ridiculous. But the love was there, and that’s what mattered. Stormy’s eyes misted up at the memories playing through her head.
A cardinal perched in a bush nearby and cocked his head to the side as if to say, “Hello. What are you doing sitting on my porch?”
She laughed softly and spoke to it. “Hi yourself. I bet you’re happy. It looks like it’s gonna be a beautiful day. Why are you up so early? Oh, right, the early bird gets the worm, huh?” Another chuckle escaped her lips and she wondered if she was losing it. After all, who talks to animals?
It hopped out of the bush and onto the railing nearby; again, cocking its head at her.
“Well, aren’t you a brave little thing?”
In answer, the bird chirped.
Shaking her head, she smirked at the bird and spoke to it again. “You want to know what I’m doing here and who I am, huh?”
It chirped a few more times.
Stormy mumbled, “Well, might as well talk to it. It’s not like I can look any crazier than I already am.” She considered the bird for a moment before beginning. “Okay, you want to know why? I’ll tell you. Listen up, because I’m only telling you once. I got a phone call a couple of weeks ago telling me my mother only had a few months of life left and I needed to come see her. So I got on a plane and flew out here to spend some time in her company. As always, she hasn’t held back her opinions of me, and I’m beginning to regret flying all the way to Missouri. Not to mention my long walk this morning just to procure a cup of freaking coffee because she doesn’t drink it therefore has no pot.”
The cardinal pranced around on the railing and hopped from foot-to-foot before chirping at her again.
“Oh, you want more?”
Another chirp and a fanning of the tail feathers.
“Okay then. I’m sleeping on the most uncomfortable bed known to man, my cell phone died right after I arrived, and I have no laptop because it was consumed by the blue screen of death. I’m stuck out here with my thoughts and I’m talking to a bird; which, by all accounts, makes me nuttier than a Mr. Goodbar. I miss my dogs, my kids, and my life back home in New Jersey – did you recognize the accent? Now I’m facing losing someone I love dearly, but who doesn’t seem to notice I love her. I guess I figured flying out here would be enough. I feel like my whole forty-five years have meant nothing. But you don’t want to hear this.”
Stormy noticed a movement out the side of her eye and whipped her head around to find a spider descending from the eaves with its legs wagging as if in terror it would fall. A horrible thought occurred to her as the cardinal stared at the insect as well.
“Please don’t eat it,” she asked.
When the cardinal shivered, extended its wings, opened its beak, and mimicked throwing up, she laughed out loud.
“Well, aren’t you a clever bird?”
After fluffing its feathers, the bird cocked its head and gave a short chirp before hopping along the railing toward the steps.
Stormy said, “Leaving now? Okay, it was nice talking to you!”
It hopped back, bowed with wings extended, chirped again, then turned and walked deliberately back toward the steps.
The bird hung its head and sighed. Then, it repeated its movements.
“You want me to follow you. Is that it?”
It danced around a moment then flew around her head before landing back on the porch railing and hopping back over toward the steps again.
Stormy eased out of her chair and began to walk toward the steps.
At her movement, the bird flew to the lowest branch of a nearby tree and turned to chirp at her.
Again, she followed.
This pattern continued until they were a good way from the house in a dense thicket of trees.
When they reached a small clearing teeming with dandelions, the bird landed on the ground and began to shake.
In a flash of light, Stormy suddenly found herself face-to-face with a handsome young man with short black hair, hazel green eyes, and skin that glowed like a god’s. He bowed to her and said, “Thank you for coming. We’ve been waiting for you to return for a long time now.”
She couldn’t move or speak. Her feet seemed to have been cemented in place and her mouth felt like it was full of glue.
He smiled, revealing perfect teeth, and asked, “Are you surprised? Really? Have you ever seen a true cardinal behave that way?”
Stormy shook her head.
“I need you to accompany me right now. We have no time left to lose. My mother asked that I bring you to her so she can explain what’s going on and how we are in great need of your help. Will you come with me?” He extended a hand.
Without thinking, she placed her hand in his and nodded.
“Eventually, you’re going to need to speak.” He grinned. “I’m Michael.”
“Hello.” She managed to squeak out the word but even to her it sounded lame. “I’m sorry. Hello, Michael, it’s nice to meet you.”
His grip on her hand tightened for a moment with a reassuring squeeze. “I’m the one who should be sorry. I imagine I gave you quite a fright when I changed.”
“No. You just surprised me is all. I’m difficult to scare.”
Michael’s face showed appreciation and he nodded.
“Where are we going?”
“To my home. You’ll see. It’s not far now.”
Stormy allowed herself to be dragged through the trees toward the pond. When they arrived, she took note of the now dying tree growing near the water, remembering how she used to play on its branches when she was a kid. To her surprise, he headed straight for it.
Once they got close, he released her hand and said, “Stay right here for a moment.”
She did as she was told and watched him walk over to the tree and wave his hand in front of the trunk, near the water. A gasp escaped her lips when the water rose to reveal an elegant set of stairs with a gold banister that led down into the ground.
Michael returned and offered his hand. “Shall we?” he asked.
Her head moved up and down of its own accord and she placed her hand in his, hoping he didn’t mind the perspiration. Despite her display of bravado, she was feeling a bit overwhelmed by everything she was seeing and her palms had begun to sweat.
When he didn’t seem to notice, she let out a breath she hadn’t realized she was holding. With her heart hammering in her chest, she accompanied him down the golden stairs. As they descended, she could hear the water above rushing back into place. She was trapped.
As her feet moved forward, her eyes adjusted to the new light. It was a bit dimmer than above and had a more golden tone to it. She glanced down at her arms and noticed she looked more bronzed than she did before. Thinking it must do wonders for the skin, she wondered how often you’d have to be exposed to it to look like Michael. She felt the heat rise into her face.
Well, that's all for today, folks! Until next time, WRITE ON!