***NOT part 2 for “The Unofficial Student.”***
Judie gazes at the mirroring glass, having pity and sorrow for the divine creature nearby. Its body tilts to the direction of the right, so Judie could see the drooping arctic wing that reminds her of a shriveling, single petal of a blue rose. She wishes to help the bird soar in the air, high above the thickening forests belonging to the sky. The bird hangs its head, entwining the guilt in Judie’s warm fingers.
Her mother had died two days before Christmas, thus, all of the enthusiasm to open the gifts seemed weary. Judie looks down at the gift she had made a week ago, a silver and white pendant under the layers of striped wrapping paper. It had no label, except for the blue M marked on the wrap. M not for Mom, but for Monday. She had always opened her gifts on Monday.
She feels a hand rest on her left shoulder. Her father, Rumi, grieved for so long she didn’t have the strength to speak a word directly to him.
He follows Judie’s gaze. The bird is weak and unmovable like a statue — barely moving from its spot.
“Your mother would have rescued that bird,” Rumi whispers. Judie flinches.
“It’s still alive, Father.”
“It is.” His hand grips only a slightly firmer. “So why don’t you save it?”
Judie shakes off his hand and frowns through the glass. “The temperature will kill it here. It’s too weak.”
“But the cold will freeze it, no? What do you think your mother would have done if she saw a bird numbing to death in the cold?”
Judie’s frown dissolves as she stares harder through the window. Father is right; anything could kill it, but there’s still a chance I could save it if I move now. She pushes the window upwards before her father could say anything about using the door. This is what her mother would have done.
Judie’s hands tremble as she kneels on the ground. Is she supposed to pick it up with her bare hands? She cups her hands together on the grass, looking at the bird expressionless. The bird slowly stands but doesn’t move. Its feet stuck to the dirt.
Seconds later, Judie peeks at the bird’s wing. Something instantly hit.
“Your wing is not broken,” she breathes. “It was just the rain.” The bird cocks its head and shakes its wings, dots of rain scattering to the ground. Judie moves her hands closer to the bird, and is surprised when the bird quickly hops inside of her palms. Its feet were rubbery from the rain but strong. She hugs it to her chest.
“Father,” Judie exclaims, climbing back into the window. “The bird isn’t hurt. It’s okay.” She holds out the blue creature to him. He smiles.
“I know. I’ve been watching,” he replies, rubbing his hands together. “It’s a gift.”
Judie looks up. “What’s a gift?”
“The bird. It’s your very own gift for the holidays. If you choose to, of course. You may set it free once it’s stronger.”
She stares at the imperial creature, cuddling in her arms. It is drifting into its own dream, letting out mellow whispers and breaths. Judie touches its chest to feel the heartbeat, thinking how incredible it is to still have a heart of a bird so miniature.
“It’s like someone out there gave this bird to me.”
Her father takes a closer look. “It’s a her.” He grins after stroking her feathers. “The second you give her a name, it’s yours. Only yours.”
She pauses. “What do you think my mother would name her?”
He shakes his head firmly. “No, Judie. What do you want to name her?”
“…Monday.” Her voice is clear but soft, as if that very word brings memories. She looks up at him, hoping he’d understand.
“Because Monday is…?”
She looks back down. “Two Mondays ago, she went to the hospital and had us worried sick. Then last Monday, the doctor called and said everything was okay. But she wasn’t. I-If she was still alive, she would be opening her gifts next Monday.” She swallows. “Because I was born on a Monday.”
He nods, but confusion didn’t leave his face.
“What does that have to do with the bird?”
“Because,” Judie starts. “There are so many memories I have from all of those Mondays Mother and I treasured together."
A night passed on and morning dawns sneakily through Judie’s exposed window. She yawns, grabbing on her pillow which is now warm from the bright ray. She squints outside, seeing and feeling the kisses of the sun. She closes and pulls her hands over her eyes as the birds sing and chirp.
Judie pushes back the sheets and grabs the handle of her bedroom door. Her father was in the kitchen, washing red-stained plates and used cups like the usual.
He doesn’t turn around. “Good morning, Judie.”
Her father dries his arms and hands, then rushes to the table. There stood Monday, on top of her favorite and unfinished book, looking like a bold statue. She was dry and clean from the warm water “bath” she gave her.
Judie leans over the table and gives Monday a kiss on the back of her head. Then she asks, “Father? I have a question.”
He sits down on a chair and nods.
“Did you know that Monday didn’t have a broken wing when she was standing outside? Did you know she wasn’t sick, just cold?”
“But of course.” Before Judie could continue, he adds, “Judie, don’t you know what I meant when I said she needs to be rescued?”
She slowly shakes her head.
“Monday is a singing bird. When you rescued her yesterday, her throat was too weak. I’m sorry, Judie, but I don’t think Monday will ever be able to sing again.”
Judie turns around, lifting her eyebrows with both doubt and faith. “I’m sure she can do it,” she whispers. She waits for an uplifting sound when she strokes Monday’s feathers. Monday doesn’t move but locks her eyes into Judie’s. She doesn’t notice her father smiling to himself, walking away with certainty.
She looks around the room, hoping something could bring inspiration to both their minds. The only thing that catches her eye was the present.
Monday. She couldn’t stop staring at that M. Like it was meant to be.
Walking over to the gift, she unwraps it, ripping out some of the harder edges. The bird was curious — but not enough to let out a noise.
The pendant glows in Judie’s palm. It seems as if Monday was waiting for this moment to happen. Will it work?
Judie holds the pendant with two fingers each, and inhales.
He rushes back into the living room after a long moment later. He has an expectant expression on his face, so Judie knew she had one chance to place the pendant on her. She pats her gently one more time, then places the necklace over her neck. It was oversized but weighed a feather, and looked beautiful on the blue creature. Judie holds her breath. Monday blinks. Her father’s expression stays put.
The tree stops rustling then, and the birds sing their own opulent chorus. Disappointment rushes around Judie, until a warm whistle quivers through her ears.
It was Monday, joining along.