Contest #41 shortlist ⭐️



A light caught her eye. The smallest flash of a spherical rainbow, a chink of light captured on the breeze. It floated, alone, past the window, the large light-filled bay out of which she had been staring for a lost amount of time. The shadow of years lengthening in the afternoon sun.

The lawn was littered with the detritus of a summer's day; a straw hat crushed in its centre - trodden and abandoned -, a bottle of sun cream, cap open and oozing, bleeding summer into the grass. The bubble continued its solitary path across her line of vision, floating up, across, back down then across again, never decisive, never ending. The last burst of the day.

The sky changed fluidly, with every glance she could see something new, a fresh beauty in the shifting slant of the sun. Shafts of light, in broken rainbows pushed through sea dusted panes, breaking anew on her dusty lenses. Her sight narrowed inwards onto a smudge of a finger print, evidence left of another angry night, a grab for her in rage.

Her attention was waning, drifting away in the trails of cirrus across the cerulean sky. Perhaps it was the heat, or the memory of bubbles…endless summer days, warmth and laughter, tears and silence, the invisibility of a child's age. Bubbles blown in the rusty afternoon, rainbow speckled water bursting on the end of her nose, dusty legs, a grazed elbow. It felt like yesterday, the lines of white clouds a string tying her to her past. Ever present, ever gone. A shout pierced the chirping sounds of the birds. A human, a small one. Crying out in joy, or pain? She wasn’t sure, in the darkest cracks of her consciousness they always felt linked.

A band tightened around her heart, her breath shortening, pushing itself in and out of her lungs. The door had clicked, she’d heard it, hadn't she? She recalled his shift time, he had gone out. Her chest heaved, easing her into the small comfort of his absence. Her thoughts lost to the summer’s day, she rose from her chair. 

It had seemed like nothing at first. The small comments, the slightest hint of jealousy. There was nothing there that warned her, not really. No obvious hint that he was just the same. She thought she had left that behind, she thought that she had escaped. The grazes had ended when she was about twelve, or thirteen, she couldn’t really place the time. The little grazes which became far bigger wounds. When she tried to reach for the memories, it was like she was trying to grasp smoke, they danced from her hand and faded, evading her vision with tricks of light.

Darker clouds crept onto the horizon, looming up from behind the Downs. Towers of billowing white, edged with a darkening mauve. Like the appearance of a bruise. They were never visible, never in places anyone else would catch. They were storm clouds only she could see. 

She heard the rustle again. It must be waking. She'd found it two days ago, lying underneath her window. Injured invisibly, no-one to witness, no-one to understand what had befallen this little creature, she was drawn in. She had scooped it up, its wings fluttering lightly against her hand and secreted the little bird away. Hidden in her safe place, he never came in here. It was too full of memories, too full of her. 

For two days she had nursed and fed the little bird. Today it had a vigour, a brightness in its eyes, a desire to thrive. Its heart beating fiercely in its body, a heart which wanted to live, which wanted to fly. 

She looked upon the bird renewed and something broke. The tears came. This time she would not stop them. The bird cocked its head and took her in, appraising the sight, a woman silently breaking. The bird hopped from its bed, a tiny shoebox filled with cotton wool balls and tissue paper, the small shoes it previously contained long since hidden. 

In this room with its huge bay window, its unmatched view of the skies, its heartbreaking proximity to the children who played out front, in this room she had hidden away everything. The memories of the tiny toes, the shoes and clothes never worn, the broken pieces of her soul. 

Like dust the shards of memory floated, glimpsed only in the brightest of light, or when they settled on the darkest surface. Trauma in dust. It always came back, layers upon layers, until she gave up trying to clear it away. 

His grief kept him from this room. Her grief kept her locked up in here, wrapped up in her own loss, safe from the rage with which he'd replaced his tears. 

What kind of bird was it? Was she failing as an adult if she couldn't identify every avian visitor to their small patch of earth? She thought perhaps a tit of some kind. Not blue. She thought she'd know a blue tit at least. 

The bird fixed her with its gaze. With a gurgled coo, a light chirp, it spoke though she could not understand. 

"I'm scared" she whispered. The bird blinked, taking her in and assessing her. Her black eyes keen and bright. She decided it was a female, for what else could it be, to be harmed so invisibly, and yet not to yield.

Her feathers were strong, detailed lines of black and a light greenish gold, specks of grey and black-grey plumage covering her little head, a startling white nape and cheeks. Her beauty lay in her near monochrome, no iridescence of colour, but small clear lines of black and white. 

Everything was clear. 

She ruffled her wings, chirping louder, trying to get her attention. What was she saying? 

Bags sat packed in the cupboard, hidden under the undisturbed things. The place where her heart came to rest. She knew she'd have to take it with her. She'd not leave it here to wither. But the things, the stuff, the bits which held onto those memories, they would have to remain.

Her little guest took off, taking flight up to perch on the ceiling light. A shade where dust had gathered. Disturbed by her flight, a shower of particles span into the air. She opened the window and the particles swirled and drifted, before being drawn out through the opening and fading up into the mounting storm.

The bird looked down at her from her lofty perch and cocked her dusty head.

*You can go too.*

Her heart shifted, feeling the catch in the air, the lifting of a heavy weight. She waited.

With one more chirp - a rousing call to action - her wings spread out, reaching for their strength. Launching herself free, scattering another cloud of memory, she flew through the window. In less than a breath she was free.

She closed the window and pulled out her bags. It was her turn. 

May 15, 2020 12:49

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L. M.
00:52 May 19, 2020

You have some poetic imagery here. Very nice.


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. .
23:50 Sep 04, 2020

Great story! Congrats on the short list


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Chase .
04:40 May 21, 2021

What I lovely story! Congrats on getting to the shortlist. P.S. Should have won! :)


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Ari Berri
16:57 Nov 11, 2020

This is really sweet.


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