I watch a dull sun reluctantly come out, having little effect on the icy morning. I shrink into myself to escape the cold. Ann's sleeping figure is unaffected by the chill like the cold-hearted beast she has come to become. In the past year that we have known each other, we had developed a close bond. Hence her leaving makes it even more hurtful. Ann is kind and thoughtful but she had not seen her family for more than a year and was seduced by cheap tickets; so, I was to be abandoned for the holidays. She could have at least found a better babysitter for me. Mind you, I don't have a problem with Veena. She is a typical youngster, very confused, and lost. Still, nothing about her tells me- 'I can keep a bird alive for a day'.
I look at my plush blue and yellow feathers, so shiny and soft. I am a handsome bird. But I am unsure for how long my good looks would last in the hands of Veena and her careless ways. I have seen Veena struggle to keep a job, get groceries, and pay the rent. She is inept in caring for herself. If not for her neighbors she would have ended up in the streets dying of hunger. I am not blind to her faults like Ann. Veena's lethargy has seeped into her personality crippling her drive to live. Ann maintains that Veena is a sweet girl who had lost her way. But sweetness cannot guarantee my survival through this weekend. I hope I am a dead bird by Monday if at all that teaches Ann a lesson.
We are at Veena's door or we were at Veena's door for a good ten minutes and she hasn't answered yet despite Ann's incessant knocking. With every passing minute, I could see Ann questioning her choice of babysitter and my hopes grew. Major Adams from downstairs can take care of me. He had done so a few times when Ann was away for work. He had done a decent job and I enjoyed his war stories. But Ann has an aversion to smoking and one cannot take a cigar away from our Major. However, the same aversion did not apply to drugs as she has no qualms about leaving me with her druggie neighbor. Veena's drug problem is well known to us. Ann had taken her to critical care twice when she overdosed. She has been in and out of rehab for years but has been sober for the past few months. The sobriety is difficult for Veena as she is embarrassed by her past. Her behavior is awkward and I have always eyed her with suspicion. She could be secretly using again. Even if she isn't, her battle with her inner demons is continuing and that consumes her time and energy, leaving her famished for any other engagements.
I am resisting my urge to screech in ecstasy and am glad that Ann cannot read my bird face as well as I can read her human face. She would have been disappointed by my reaction. She believes in multiple chances and inner strength. I am not a believer in these theories although I have put off my cynical nature per Ann's beliefs since I came to her. Nevertheless, I am unwilling to give up my life just so that Ann can prove her point yet again. The building superintendent is here, in response to Ann's frantic call for aid. Just then, Veena opened her door, looking presentable as never seen before.
I am sulking in the corner as Ann goes through her instructions about my caretaking to Veena. Veena drifts off and back again. She managed to nod at all the right places hence giving assurance to Ann. Meanwhile, I have scrapped together an escape plane. It may not be one of my best ideas but it is enough to outsmart Veena. She is bound to screw up making my breakout, comfortable.
"I am glad that Poppy is in such good hands. Don't you worry, Veena, I am sure you will do an awesome job. Poppy is a nice bird. Not at all fussy. Isn't that right?" Ann asks me. I look pointedly at her. She is not getting a single word out of me. When Ann comes to say goodbye and tries to pet me. I nip at her hands and turn my back. Veena stares horrified at me. Great, now she is terrified of me when it should be the other way around. I promise myself to do better, I have been taught better and I can't stoop down just to get back at Ann. If I am to survive before I get an opportunity to fly off to my freedom, I cannot antagonize Veena.
I have been in the home of our neighbor for an hour and a half and I have never been in a more cumbersome situation than today. Veena has been hyperventilating in the other room and her loud doubts does nothing to elevate my confidence in her.
"I can't be a murderer. I will kill that bird." Dude, I am in the next room.
"Ann will kill me." If you ask me, she is equally guilty of my murder.
"I have to take care of Poppy. Ann has been nice to me. Too nice." I agree. But, honey, you are not up to it.
"She must be stupid to put me in this position. I can't even take care of myself" Again I agree. She is stupid. You are undependable.
"Does she hate her bird? Why else would she ask me to take care of her" Hey, you are taking this too far. Ann doesn't hate me but she foolishly trusts you.
"I will tell Major Adams to take Poppy off my hands." Good idea. Not too bad for a drug-addled brain. Keep thinking on those lines.
"But Ann wants me to prove something... I think. Why? I have to do this for her. Maybe she will forgive me even if anything goes wrong because I tried..." I don't like this. Come back. Come back. Veena must have gone to the bathroom. She is still venting but I only hear muffled voices and screeching sobs.
She is not coming back anytime soon. I look around the room. The last time I had been in this room was when Veena lost the third key to her apartment and Ann had to open it with a wrench. The room was vacant and dusty then. Today the room is spotless and there are a handful of books which is quite odd for its owner's taste. I read the titles of the books: Ornithology for beginners, 'What's it like to be a bird', 'Bird facts for everyone', 'Pet bird: care and tips', and 'Beaky's guide for taking care of your bird'. I am lying if I say I was untouched by the gesture. My cold heart is warmed by a burst of affection for Veena.
I notice that the cage latch has loosened and that I could open it with a slight push. It is time to put my plan into action. I had befriended some neighborhood pigeons who have promised me asylum till Ann was back. I push open the door and step out to begin my vacation, excited for an adventure, except I hesitate to take a second step. I might be placing too much importance on my existence but I couldn't help but believe that I might have more meaning to Veena than I ever had in this life. By letting her care for me, I might be saving her. I decide to trust Ann once again and I wait for Veena in my cage.