29 comments

Christmas Sad Contemporary

The plane lifted off smoothly and Toronto began to disappear beneath the wind blown clouds. Kyrie rested her forehead against the greasy plastic window and watched the patchwork of fields, the ribbons of rivers, the buttons of moors, blur beneath the jet.

It was a quiet Christmas Eve flight with little turbulence, but for Kyrie it seemed to last forever. The desire to get quickly home surprised her, since whenever she was at home she wished to be away. Her home, the tired five-room apartment with grey walls and handful of smudged windows, only represented that time in her life when she was young and thin and fresh for the world. She had graduated, found a job, settled down, and was shocked to realize she was unfulfilled. 

By now Kyrie had grown used to the unfulfilled feeling. 

When she got home she checked the mail downstairs, unlocked her door, and let her suitcase and purse fall to the ground. The apartment was silent and grey, like her. Kyrie pulled her shoes off slowly. She took her jacket off slowly. In her sock feet she went to the little yellow kitchen and turned on the coffee machine. Waiting for it, she leaned against the counter and looked at the small high chair still in the corner. She closed her eyes, pressed her mouth with cold, dry fingers, and decided to have tea instead.

She turned off the coffee machine and turned on the kettle.

She felt sick to her stomach when she sat down in the living room. With a sigh she got up, murmuring unintelligibly. This happened every time she tried to sit and relax in her empty apartment. Instead she walked to the baby’s room, walls faded light pink from deep hot-pink, and sat with her aching back against the ribbed baby bed. Here, she drank her chamomile tea in peace, mourning a child who had barely lived and the life she’d neglected for mourning. 

Kyrie fell asleep with her back pressed against the bars of the crib. She didn’t awake when her mug fell onto the spotted pink-and-green carpet. The afternoon went by slowly, glazing sun on the old glass windowpanes, gentle wind on the ivy plants trickling down the apartment walls. A long way away, across dark scraped moors crusted with frost and delicate pink flowers, the highway buzzed and roared, so distant it might as well not be there. People in cars tore across the velvet patchwork on their way to celebrate Christmas the next day with family, laughter, good-smelling food. All things Kyrie didn’t have. 

Kyrie’s apartment was sparse and plain. The kitchen, yes, had color, and the baby’s bedroom was faded pink, but after the factory accident Kyrie had donated Daryl’s clothing and shoes, his mug and folding Blackberry, his collection of black Santas. Kyrie had set one photo of him on her nightstand, dressed in a sleek blue tuxedo for a friend’s wedding. It was faded now and dusty, barely looked at. But she had kept the baby’s clothes, all the faded ones from zero to three months, and the two three-to-six month outfits, never used. She kept the crib and the baby toys and the bottles and blankets and medicines long expired. 

She jerked awake when someone knocked on the door. Kyrie sat on the floor, stiff and confused. 

“Who…?” she mumbled, rubbing her eyes like she’d been asleep all night. She barely knew anyone here, though she’d lived in the city many years. Just her boss, her few coworkers, and Daryl’s mother. 

Kyrie stumbled up and went to the door. She opened it as slowly as she’d taken off her shoes and jacket. No one was there in the carpeted hallway. The other doors were locked and white and silent. The owners were at work, or on vacation with family. Kyrie looked down. At her feet was a small wire cage, about half the size of her small suitcase, arched at the top and square at the bottom. The metal was dark and shiny, the floor covered with clean sawdust and a shallow water bowl in the corner. A tiny brown-headed turtledove was curled tightly in a corner, its head tucked under its wing protectively, just a small brown puff of downy feathers. 

Kyrie picked it up and peered inside. She looked down the hall. No one was in sight. A square white card was tied to the handle on top of the cage. 

Dear Kyrie, it said. Merry Christmas. I hope with this gift you will no longer be alone. The dove doesn’t have a name yet. May you have peace on this beautiful night.

Warm wishes, a Friend. 

Kyrie let out a quiet involuntary “Oh!”

Feeling indecent, Kyrie went back inside and locked the door behind her. She set the wire cage on the kitchen table and sat next to it, her chin in her hand, looking at it. She looked at it for a long time, just taking in the contours of the wire, the tiny feathers of the turtledove, the light tan curls of sawdust. 

She couldn’t keep the bird, Kyrie knew. She had no time, no resources, nothing to spare. Not even a corner of her heart. It hadn’t even looked up at her. And she didn’t know what it would need. She could take care of a baby. Milk, chopped banana, a few hugs and smiles and songs at night. Soft words in the morning, rub the back when the baby cries. And love. You spend so much love on a baby. Internally Kyrie knew it was wasteful, completely wasteful, the amount of love needed to care for a child. Yet twenty years ago she’d entered into that waste, that expense freely. 

But there is nothing instinctive about caring for a bird, as there is something instinctive about caring for a baby. At least, she knew, caring for a bird would be less waste. Birds die soon.

But her baby had died early, as birds do.

She tried not to think about that. Slowly, Kyrie set her tea mug down on the table next to the cage and poked one finger through the bars, trying not to disturb it. She stroked the downy chocolate feathers, soft as baby hair. 

“Do you drink water?” she asked it, her voice low. “What do you eat, little one?”

Babies were easier. She still didn’t know whether she ought to keep it or not. It was like adopting a very small child without having the proper clothes, food, or supplies for it. 

The cage sat on her kitchen table all evening, as silent as Kyrie herself. The bird didn’t move as Kyrie made dinner and ate it, washed the dish, took a shower, and watched thirty minutes of Blue Bloods. She began to wonder if it were sick or dead, but the body stayed warm the whole time, trembling almost imperceptibly when she drew near. 

It fell dark outside and the heater kicked on automatically. The moon shone metallically, as white and perfect as forever, glinting on the wire cage. The image caught at Kyrie as she filled a glass with water, and she sat at the table instead of walking to bed. Her sock feet padded quietly and the bird, unaware of her presence, lifted its head. 

Kyrie rested her chin on her forearm, her forehead almost touching the wires. She could feel her heart beating faintly through her skin, through her thin pajamas. The bird could feel it too but it seemed to calm, rather than frighten, it. 

She said nothing, just watched it. Slowly the dove stood, tottered over to the shallow water bowl, and drew beads of water into its beak. It was like watching a baby nurse from a bottle. 

She was overcome by a feeling of anxiety. Was it hungry? Was it dying? She stood as quietly as possible and rifled through her cupboards. She found some sesame seeds, some pecan nuts, some walnuts long stale. She broke the pecans into small pieces and fed them through the bars. The dove fluttered back to its corner, afraid, but when Kyrie walked away, pretending not to care though caring intensely, it hopped forward and pecked shyly at the pieces. 

It ate a few and she sighed in relief. 

“Worrisome thing,” she mumbled in an irritated tone, but she couldn’t have been happier. She could at least feed it pecans. 

Then she was overcome by doubt in place of the anxiety. Hadn’t she read something about not feeding birds nuts which humans would eat? Or was that squirrels? Or zoo animals? She linked her cold hands together and squeezed tightly as the dove ate delicately. Was it dying this minute?

It would be better to find someone to take it in. Find the person who gave it to her. Or take it to a pet shop where someone could pin instructions on the wire cage and a child could take it home and feed it the proper things and stroke its back… 

But she didn’t want to, not yet. And she didn’t want to keep it, not yet. She was a busy woman, much busier than when she’d had the baby. She had meetings, trips, appointments, and she couldn’t leave the bird at home. 

Kyrie sat down at the table again and fell into the familiar bent-over position, chin on forearm, heart beating through skin, through fabric. The bird did not shy away when she came closer. 

She opened her lips and whispered to it, “I like you, little thing. But you are inconvenient. More than a baby. And you will not last as long as a baby.”

Then the dove nestled its head over its wing, not under, and closed its eyes. It reminded her powerfully of the baby resting its warm, downy head on her shoulder as she rocked her or patted her rounded back. She was almost overwhelmed by the memory of many rainy nights rocking the baby asleep in her now-empty room. 

Kyrie squeezed her eyes closed but couldn’t push away the memory. Then she stroked the bird’s head with a single finger, folded back into the familiar slouch, and watched the turtledove sleep. The kitchen glowed from a single bulb surrounded by cold, starry darkness. She had planned to sleep in the baby’s room or in her own this night, Christmas Eve night, but did not want the dove to be alone. Finally Kyrie fell asleep like the bird, with the bird, her head resting on the table, sleeping deeply for the first time in years.

December 20, 2020 16:44

You must sign up or log in to submit a comment.

29 comments

Zilla Babbitt
16:49 Dec 20, 2020

The sentences are unusually short, at least for me, because I wrote this largely on my phone 🤪. The name, Kyrie, has Christmas meaning. It comes from an old Byzantine chant (“Kyrie eleison, Christe eleison” meaning “God have mercy upon us, Christ have mercy upon us”) sung for Christmas mass. So I guess her name means God. But I thought the connection was a fun little trivia point :)

Reply

Show 0 replies

Hey Zilla! I love that you put so much time and effort into writing this story, even when you were working on a group project (as I read in your bio) so that takes a lot of time management! Also, I love the name Kyrie! So beautiful! Also, I'm really impressed that you used this name in your story because it had a Christmas reflection on it, so really great job on choosing the name! The sentences seem really smooth and clear to me, and they don't bother because they are short! I actually didn't even notice they were short until reading your...

Reply

Show 0 replies
Willow Byrd
14:44 Jan 16, 2021

Zilla, I've read this before but wanted to stop and let you know how much I loved it. From beginning to end, it tugged on my heartstrings. Kyrie is so lonely and hollow that your heart goes out to her, to this woman who has lost her child. I think the fact that you didn't go into the details of how the child died, or who Daryl was, made the story that much better. You have written a truly wonderful piece here :)

Reply

Show 0 replies

Congrats on publishing your book!

Reply

Show 0 replies
Mary Kate
17:29 Dec 23, 2020

Thanks Zilla for this story. p.s. I just bought your novella, looking forward to reading it :-)

Reply

Show 0 replies
Maya W.
03:02 Dec 23, 2020

Ahh Zilla finally got her novella out! I'm beta reading something for someone on instagram at the moment but I definitely will get to reading it soon :).

Reply

Show 0 replies
Black Raven
13:44 Dec 21, 2020

Awesome! It's a sad happy story. I felt sad about the fact that her baby died but got an extremely warm feeling when she started caring for the bird. I don't know how to describe it well. I feel like the word would be wholesome. It's an excellent Christmas story!

Reply

Show 0 replies
Lama Diriyeh
19:30 Jan 12, 2021

What a great story! I really like how you revealed her backstory! BTW, what's the name of your novella?

Reply

Show 0 replies
Mandi R. Haqq
15:19 Jan 01, 2021

This was a lovely read <3

Reply

Show 0 replies
H.K. Slade
20:28 Dec 31, 2020

I like your writing style, and the patient reveal of the main plot point was skillful. You pulled off the unusual trick of keeping me interested when their is only a single subject (plus a bird!). Normally, I pass on stories with just one character ruminating on tragedy, but this one grabbed my attention. Keep up the good work.

Reply

Show 0 replies
Ben Reynoso
13:31 Dec 31, 2020

Amazing story! The mellowness of the story added to its charm, and like kendra stone said, the ending is quite soothing.

Reply

Show 0 replies

Wow Zilla! This story was so beautifully written! Impressive, all your stories are very elegant:) Congrads on publishing your novella! Would you mind checking out my stories! It'll be an honor to hear comments from someone as talented as you! Thx!

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 0 replies
Izzie Chan
03:10 Dec 23, 2020

Hi Zilla! This story is amazing! Like Bill Cipher said, I love how the dove was a symbol of hope that Kyrie wouldn’t be alone, even after the loss of her kid and significant other. Since you mentioned a BlackBerry phone, I assume this was set in the 2000s-2010s, right? I don’t know for sure, lol. Anyways, this was a beautiful story, Zilla! Merry (almost) Christmas! ✨🎄❄️

Reply

Show 0 replies

Imma go buy your book.

Reply

Show 0 replies
Maggie Deese
22:07 Dec 22, 2020

Okay just came on here to say how excited I am for your novella!! Include a link whenever it becomes available for us to buy! Congratulations! You have such talent and I can't wait to see the world react to the bestselling author that just emerged into the world!!

Reply

Zilla Babbitt
22:57 Dec 22, 2020

Thank you so much, Maggie! I will for sure.

Reply

Maggie Deese
00:10 Dec 23, 2020

Yay! Can't wait to read it and I will happily leave a review. So proud of you!

Reply

Show 0 replies
Maggie Deese
02:51 Dec 25, 2020

I just finished your novella! I want to leave a review, but wasn't sure how. Should the review be on Kindle or Amazon?

Reply

Zilla Babbitt
03:20 Dec 26, 2020

Yay! Amazon, I think. Thanks!🥰

Reply

Maggie Deese
01:24 Dec 28, 2020

Unfortunately, it won't let me leave a review unless I spend $50 or more! :( or at least that's what it's telling me. I'll leave a review on Goodreads though! I thoroughly enjoyed your novella! :)

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
Show 2 replies
Show 1 reply
. .
20:29 Dec 22, 2020

Congrats on your novella!!

Reply

Show 0 replies

Why am I so obsessed with the name Kyrie now? Lol I love this one on the prompt. The ending was so soothing...Great work!

Reply

Show 0 replies
Maya W.
23:38 Dec 20, 2020

Hi Zilla! Awesome job here. I really love Kyrie's backstory and how it lets her interact with the bird. Beautifully written, though a little bit different from your usual style. Also, I love that Kyrie's name has a hidden meaning. I'm always sneaking those into my stories, so I really enjoyed that. Nice work! I just posted a story this week that I'm not super proud of, I'd love to hear your feedback if you have the time!

Reply

Show 0 replies
Akshara .
19:40 May 11, 2021

Congratulations on publishing your book and well done! 🙂

Reply

Show 0 replies