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Contemporary Fiction Inspirational

Roxanne hated black. She hated black licorice. She hated black pepper. She hated her coffee black. Black didn’t suit her. Roxanne was a colorful woman and therefore she always dressed vibrantly. So instead of wearing black to Henry’s viewing, she wore green. A green Badgley Mischka Mikado satin bow midi-dress that she was supposed to wear to a gala she was attending in Montreal with Henry in two weeks. But now, she’d be going to the gala solo. Now, Henry was dead.


Henry had always told her green brought out her green eyes. “Green like the Brazilian Ruby Hummingbird,” he’d told her the first time he’d met her on a plane to New York City.


 “Where are you off to?” he’d asked her on the flight as he took a sip of his espresso, his wedding ring shining in the dim light. Roxanne could spot a wedding ring like a vulture could spot a dead carcass on the side of the road. 


“New York, LA, DC, you name it,” she’d told him before ordering a mimosa from the flight attendant.


“For fun or work?” he’d asked, his soft brown eyes and thick lashes making him look boyish even though his crow’s feet and salted hair hinted he was probably in his late forties.


“Work, work, always work,” she’d complained as she’d taken out her laptop and started it up. She’d had to prep for her presentation to Chesapeake Financial Group at noon and didn’t have much time to chat with the married man sitting next to her.


“Has anyone ever told you your eyes are as green as a Brazilian Ruby Hummingbird’s?” he’d asked as he stared intently into her eyes, a fresh-faced grin emerging onto his face. She’d laughed, having no idea what he was talking about, her face turning a matching shade of ruby like the bird’s name.


“Brazilian Ruby Hummingbird. The most beautiful green feathers you’d ever seen. Well, you see that color every day, don’t you?” he chuckled, “Every time you look in the mirror you see that color. Ruby Hummingbirds can fly thousands of miles every year. Sounds a little like you.” He’d stared off as if he were watching the birds in action, fluttering their wings rapidly at a flower’s carpal. Roxanne followed his eye’s path towards the tray table in front of her, searching for the imaginary green birds herself.


Roxanne had been hit on by many men in her life. She’d had many compliments. Many boyfriends. Many suitors. But never had she ever been compared to a hummingbird before. And as much as she had relucted in talking to the married man sitting next to her and as much as she had to prep for her presentation, she’d been sucked in, just like a hummingbird gets sucked into a red cardinal flower.


Now, Roxanne loomed over Henry’s coffin, her ruby red clutch gripped tightly in her hands as she stared down at his pasty dead face. Why do morticians think that loads and loads of cakey makeup look good on the deceased? she wondered as she knelt down and held her hands in prayer. Henry’s once tanned and freckled face was unrecognizable. His strong hands that once held her at night in the hotel room king beds looked like they were rubbed with the Crisco her mother used to use to bake her apple pies. So doughy and malleable.


“Please be seated for a short service to honor the life of Henry Cobb,” a man wearing a black robe announced to the group.


Roxanne looked up from Henry’s ashen lips to the minister, startled by the announcement. She was hoping to pay her respects and slide out quietly. She didn’t intend to stay for the service. That was for Henry’s family. But now, as men and women filed in from side rooms and into the chairs behind her, she slowly rose and shuffled to the back, sitting in the farthest chair she could find.


She watched as a weeping woman wearing a red dress, ambled into the room, elbows clutched by two teenage boys, presumably Henry’s sons. Roxanne had never asked about Henry’s children or wife. She hadn’t wanted to know.


When almost all the seats were filled, the minister began, “It is a privilege and honor for me to share a few words with you today. Funerals are difficult. They usually come at a time when we least expect it, taking someone too young, or perhaps wishing we had more time with that person. I am often reminded of Ecclesiastes, Chapter 3 where it says, ‘To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven. A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted.’ And it goes on and one thing is for certain, we will all have to come to this crossroad one day. We hope we are ready. Today, we are commemorating the life of Henry Cobb. A man who lived almost forty-eight years… not long enough. In order to honor Henry, his wife of over twenty years, Daphne, would like to share some words.”


All heads turned as the woman wearing the red dress, slowly stood up and marched to the head of the room next to her husband’s casket, tissue clutched in her hand.


“Henry was a wonderful husband and father to our two boys, Jake and Tommy,” she sniffled before honking her nose into the tissue. “He was a world-renowned ornithologist, bird lover extraordinaire, which was what I loved about him so much. He was taken away from us suddenly and we are all still in so much shock. Many of you may be wondering why I’m wearing red to my husband’s funeral. Some of you may know, my husband’s nickname for me was Scarlet. Scarlet Macaws are one of the largest parrots and the most romantic as they mate for life, raising one or two chicks together each year. When they’re not raising their chicks, they spend their time bonding and preening one another. When Henry first met me, he called me his Scarlet Macaw. His mate for life. Henry, you will be missed and loved forever. Your Scarlet Macaw misses you dearly.”


Daphne began sobbing as she slowly walked back to her seat.


Stunned, Roxanne looked down at her green dress in shame. She felt silly. Silly in her green dress. And she felt envy. Green with envy. Yes, she was Henry’s hummingbird. But Daphne was Henry’s Scarlet Macaw. His mate for life.


Around 90% of birds mate for life or at the very least stay monogamous. Hummingbirds on the other hand, do not. Hummingbirds are polygamous in nature; therefore, they tend to mate with a variety of different suitors throughout their lives. Had Henry chosen that bird on purpose or was it purely coincidental that her eyes had resembled the birds? she wondered as she slipped out the back of the parlor, tossing the funeral card into the trash can on her way out.


She stepped into her SUV and started it up, taking a deep breath as she drove hastily towards her condo. She needed to organize her closet. She was going to throw out every green item of clothing she owned. She was no one’s hummingbird. She was a damned eagle. And unlike Henry, she still had a lot of life to live.

September 12, 2022 20:23

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45 comments

Michał Przywara
20:59 Sep 13, 2022

I like the hummingbird/macaw duality. I suspect that was in no way coincidental for an ornithologist, so that's a hell of a gut punch from beyond the grave. Of course, Roxanne can't be too surprised. She knew she was getting involved with a married man. Nevertheless, it stings. What was once a cherished compliment is now cast into doubt. This leads to some great emotions at the funeral. Envy, betrayal, perhaps even humiliation. I wouldn't be surprised if it didn't turn to fury as she tore all the green out of her wardrobe. Minor line e...

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Kathleen Fine
16:19 Sep 19, 2022

Thank you as always Michal!

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Zack Powell
01:33 Sep 22, 2022

Nicely done, Kathleen. Love the extended metaphor throughout, and the bird motif was lovely. Lots of good symbolism to be found here, both in the hummingbird lines and in the colors throughout. Green (envy), black (death), red (love/passion). Wasn't lost on me. That's very layered. Also, I appreciate the ending and how Roxanne gets her comeuppance but is able to spin it as a positive. Life goes on for this character. Thanks for sharing this! P.S. My favorite line was: "Roxanne could spot a wedding ring like a vulture could spot a dead carc...

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T.S.A. Maiven
05:26 Sep 19, 2022

Loved how I got hooked on the first paragraph. You paint the picture well. And the bird references to women added a layer of interest that was quite appealing. Keep up the great work!

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Kathleen Fine
16:19 Sep 19, 2022

Thank you TSA!

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T.S.A. Maiven
21:51 Sep 19, 2022

You're welcome

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Laurie Roy
22:08 Sep 17, 2022

Ha! I kind of like that the mistress got her little slap in the face. Serve's her right.

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Kathleen Fine
16:19 Sep 19, 2022

True! :)

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Laura Eliz
18:58 Sep 28, 2022

I love the natural flow if your story, and your descriptions of characters. So beautiful.

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20:16 Sep 22, 2022

This was an awesome read! The theme of birds (from the vulture metaphor to the hummingbird and macaw), as well as colors, were used brilliantly. Bravo!

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Murray Burns
17:03 Sep 22, 2022

Nicely done. And... it brought me back to a bit of history. Growing up, my best friend lived next door. His father died at 48 from a heart attack (coincidentally same age as your Henry) in a motel room...with his (secret) mistress...secret until then. She showed up at the wake. It was, shall we say, "awkward".

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02:18 Sep 22, 2022

Kathleen, I loved this so much! The story took a turn I was not expecting. You established the feel of the characters so well and do quickly! I am VERY curious to know what bird Henry would have attributed to himself. He seemed like a fascinating man, actually! But I love Roxanne’s resolve at the end, and her sort of determination to NOT let Henry and his memory dominate her. Great job 👏

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20:50 Sep 21, 2022

You wrote a very clever story, Kathleen. I expected the wife to make a reference about the hummingbird as a put down to the mistress, but I didn’t expect the “boyfriend “ to throw the insult beyond the grave. Good irony.

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Daniel Rains
16:28 Sep 21, 2022

I enjoyed the story and liked how upset the mistress was for finding out her compliment about being like a bird wasn't so special after all.

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Marty B
06:15 Sep 21, 2022

Oh great story ! And I like the foreshadowing, as well as another type of bird, in this line 'Roxanne could spot a wedding ring like a vulture could spot a dead carcass on the side of the road. '

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AS Hardin
00:14 Sep 21, 2022

Cool twist and use of birds to describe the two women.

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R. Hann
16:22 Sep 20, 2022

I loved the comparison of the birds to the women! Very well done! :)

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Stevie B
11:21 Sep 20, 2022

Kathleen, certainly a well constructed story that top off from the top and then angelically, gracefully winged it's way toward the end.

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Shirley Medhurst
16:18 Sep 19, 2022

I enjoyed reading this story - found it very touching ! It was a great beginning with the repetition about the colour black. Then the way you continued with the colour theme throughout was clever. I also really liked your simile: “spot a wedding ring like a vulture could spot a dead carcass on the side of the road”

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Kathleen Fine
16:18 Sep 19, 2022

Thanks Shirley!

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Odelya Rapoport
21:27 Sep 18, 2022

Hi! I loved your story! The flow, the characters, and of course, the imagery were all fantastic! You have a wonderfully delightful way of writing that is not only well polished, but very engaging! Everything from the first line to the last had me hooked! I only wish there was more to read! Great job!

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Kathleen Fine
16:19 Sep 19, 2022

Thank you so much Odelya!

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Carolina Mintz
19:09 Sep 18, 2022

I liked your character straight away, especially because she wears a green Badgley Mischka Mikado satin bow midi-dress. Lovely garment. Something a hummingbird might wear, given the opportunity. Sad, that she destroys it in the end. Personally, I think she should have thrown out the reds in her closet. To hell with him. She had still been called a hummingbird - a most intriguing, beautiful creature. And a great song title/lyrics by Seals and Crofts.

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Kathleen Fine
16:19 Sep 19, 2022

Thank you so much Carolina! And good thought with throwing out all the red!

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Salem Alexander
20:29 Sep 17, 2022

I love how it's clear that comparing women to birds is something of his pickup game and because he knows so much about birds, it adds a layer of intimacy and romance that can very easily be used for better or for worse

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Kathleen Fine
16:19 Sep 19, 2022

Thanks Salem!

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L.M. Lydon
23:18 Sep 16, 2022

Love the bird analogy. Perhaps Henry himself was more of a grouse...

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Kathleen Fine
16:20 Sep 19, 2022

LOL I had to look up a grouse in google images. Perhaps he was!

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Blue Writes
09:18 Sep 16, 2022

I love every single detail about this !!

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Kathleen Fine
16:20 Sep 19, 2022

Thank you Blue!

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