Ben walked very intently down the isles of his favorite local pet shop looking at all of the pets for sale. This was his favorite usual routine that he enjoyed doing about every month or so. He lived in an apartment that had very strict rules against having pets. So as far as Ben was concerned this was as close as he could get to having that feeling of being a pet owner.
As a child, Ben had grown up with several different pets ranging from cats, dogs, fish, and even chickens. He grew up on a farm in Northern West Virginia and was no stranger to animals. His family raised and sold livestock such as cattle, sheep and even pigs. When Ben left home for college he had to say goodbye to his fellow companions, and for the longest time he had always felt an emptiness within his soul. He knew what that emptiness was, but the reality was that he was on his own now and he had to follow the rules of not having any pets where he lived.
As Ben walked down the bird isle, a small Cockatiel that had white feathers along its body with a yellow head was jumping from perch to perch in its cage trying to get his attention. Ben smiled at the bird and continued his journey further down to look at some of the other birds. He came upon a group of Parakeet birds that were all jumping around in their cage, but he was distracted by a whistling noise that was coming from behind him. He decided to retrace his steps to investigate which bird was trying to get his attention, and to his surprise it was the white Cockatiel.
As he studied the bird he had a realization, one of his friends from his Math study hall was always talking about owning a bird but for whatever reason she never got one. With this being Christmas Eve, Ben decided that he would buy the bird as a gift for Stacey. He had never owned a bird either, so he asked for help on what he needed to buy so that Stacey would have everything she needed to take care of it. Before he left the store he had asked what their return policy was just in case Stacey couldn’t take the bird. They told Ben that as long as the purchase was within three days he could return it. Feeling better about his decision to buy the Cockatiel, Ben raced over to Stacey’s home.
Stacey lived in a rented house just outside of campus and unlike Ben was allowed to have pets. Stacey and Ben had been long time friends, and knew each other from High School. She had just finished folding her laundry when she heard a knock at her door. She wasn’t expecting company until later that evening for her Christmas Eve dinner party with her family.
She rushed to the door and was surprised to see Ben holding some packages with a big smile on his face. She let him in and listened as he explained about his journey to the pet store and how he saw something that he could not possibly pass up and that although they usually don’t buy each other anything for Christmas he made an exception this year.
Her first thought was that she did not get him anything for Christmas, and she told him he didn’t have to do that. Ben laughed and said that she would appreciate and understand about the gift when she saw it. He gave her the box with the Cockatiel inside it, and as she opened it a sudden exhilarating excitement arose and she started to hop up and down. At that moment Ben knew he had made the right decision. He quickly brought in the other supplies, and told her that she should have everything she needed to take care of the bird.
Stacey told him that while she loved the bird, the reason she never got one herself was because she didn’t have time to take care of it, and she really didn’t know the first thing about how to take care of them. Just as Ben was about to tell her that he could take it back, she told him that she knew he loved animals and her gift to him was to ask him if he could come over from time to time to help her take care of it. Thinking it over, Ben told her that he would love too.
They spent the next hour setting up the bird cage and making sure everything was just right before putting the Cockatiel in its new home. They both laughed and had a great time and losing track of time, Stacey realized that her family was on the way over and she had to start on dinner. Ben understood and told her that he had to get going as well because he was heading over to spend Christmas with his family. He walked over to the door to put his jacket on and as he was about to say goodbye, Stacey thanked him for the gift and gave him a quick kiss on the cheek and wished him a Merry Christmas. As Ben walked out to his car, he felt very happy about getting her the Cockatiel. There was something else that he felt, something he could not explain. He felt as though a spark had been lit.
Christmas came and went, and Stacey called Ben to ask if he could come over to help her clean out the bird cage. Without hesitation Ben told her he would be right over. When he got there, they decided to let the Cockatiel loose while they worked on cleaning the cage. Ben asked her if she decided on a name yet, and Stacey said that she calls him Birdie.
Birdie watched very intently as they worked on his cage, and started to whistle again. They both looked over at him and smiled. At that moment Birdie decided to take flight, he landed on one of Stacey’s pictures hanging on the wall. Ben went over to grab him but he took off again causing the picture to fall off the wall and shatter on the floor below. This was just the first of many pictures to get destroyed because of Birdie’s wild flight. He also knocked over some vases with flowers in them, and he was just about to tear into Stacey’s sofa before Ben managed to grab him.
Ben started to apologize but as he looked at Stacey they both started to laugh at the situation. Ben put Birdie back in his cage and they began to clean up all the mess. Stacey told Ben that the damage wasn’t that bad and those things could easily be replaced. As they were cleaning up the broken glass on the floor they worked on opposite sides from the outside in, and as they got closer they managed to headbutt each other. They grabbed their heads and started to laugh.
They finished cleaning up and Ben noticed it was getting late. He asked her if she was hungry and offered to order some pizza. She agreed and they had their very first meal together. They spent the rest of the night talking and playing with Birdie. They took extra special care not to let him fly around like a crazy bird. Birdie started to whistle again as Ben and Stacey sat close together on the floor. They listened and found themselves staring into each other's eyes. Stacey had thanked Ben once again for getting her Birdie, and before Ben could utter a word she leaned over and kissed him on the lips. He was completely surprised and a little shocked by this. He had always looked at her as being a friend, but now he saw the possibility of a real relationship. They looked over at Birdie who had stopped whistling and he bobbed his head up and down and then made a noise that almost sounded like a happy squeal.
They put Birdie back in his cage, and Ben needed to get back to his place because the time was nearing midnight, and they both had morning classes to get ready for. Before he left, Stacey and Ben made plans to see each other again on the weekend so that they could give Birdie more attention. There was something about this bird that seemed to make Ben and Stacey happy. They couldn’t quite explain it, but they knew it was something magical.
With the long week coming to an end, Ben was excited about the upcoming weekend. He decided to give Stacey a call to make sure their plans were still on schedule. To his surprise she told him that he could come over as soon as Thursday night. He accepted her offer and on that night he brought over a nice Chinese dinner much to Stacey’s delight because it was her favorite food. They spent a lot of time playing with Birdie who also seemed to come alive when they were all together. They let Birdie fly around, but this time nothing got broken. He whistled and squealed and made all sorts of happy noises. Stacey asked Ben if he would like to stay over for the night because a nasty snow storm had started and there was already six inches of snow outside. Ben said that he would and he slept on the couch that night.
In the morning, Ben thought it would be a nice surprise to make breakfast before Stacey woke up. He made pancakes, bacon, and eggs, and when Stacey came out from her bedroom she was so surprised that she quickly ran over to give Ben a big hug. Ben ended up staying with Stacey that entire weekend, and they had a wonderful time. On Sunday night Ben and Stacey had made a big spaghetti dinner, and ended up watching a movie together all with Birdie sitting in between them.
Stacey could sense something was wrong with Ben, and she pressed him on it. He told her that he wanted to tell her something, but was a little hesitant. She told him not to be, and really demanded that he tell her. He looked deep into her eyes and told her that he loved her, and that when they are together he feels happy and complete. She smiled and asked him why he was so hesitant to tell her, and he said that because it had all happened so fast. She looked back into his eyes and told him that sometimes the best things in life happen fast, and that she loved him too. They both hugged and kissed each other with a passion that would melt an iceberg in Antarctica.
When they looked down Birdie was staring at them, and then started bobbing his head and making happy whistling noises. At that moment Stacey and Ben had realized that through Birdie they had fallen in love. What started out as a simple Christmas gift had turned into something much more than anyone could have ever expected. It had brought Stacey and Ben together, and for the rest of their lives they enjoyed a love that most people could only dream of.
Daniel R. Hayes