Jennybird

 

Anthony Pappas

 

            Copyright © Anthony Pappas 2018.  All Rights Reserved 

 

            Tick tock, tick tock.  Jenny sat, watching the clock.  Each tick in rhythm with the booming sound of her heartbeat.  

            She stared out the window and felt the warmth of the sun on her tanned skin.  She pruned her arms behind her head, exploring the range from right fingertips to left.

            She slowly lowered her left arm, savoring the wind from the open window billowing underneath her as she did so.  She lifted her water bottle, the wet condensation dripping on her fingertips.  She pressed her fingers to her lips, loving the cool dew on her face.  In reverie, she poured the water bottle slightly on top of her head, splashing water everywhere.

            “Jennifer Bird, what are you doing with that water bottle?”  screeched the harsh voice of Mrs. Peacock. The booming soundwaves reached Jenny’s ears, echoing on all sides, followed by sounds of laughter all around.  Slowly, Jenny brought her fist gripping the water bottle back to the table in front of her.  Mrs. Peacock’s head shook, back and forth, back and forth.

            Jenny cocked her head, abruptly turning it to the left.  Outside the open window, she felt the breeze, cool and wet even through early summer’s heat. The branches of the great oak tree filled her vision, its pulsing bark damp from yesterday’s rainstorm.  How she longed to feel it.  Really feel it.

            She knew the blue jay was coming before she even saw it. As the bird landed on the highest branch of the great oak, she envied its feet, perched yet tightly gripping the bark underneath. The blue jay seemed to be watching her, turning its head with curiosity.  Jenny also tilted her head slightly as she stared back.

            All the while, she felt the clock ticking, ticking.

“JENNIFER BIRD!” Mrs. Peacock shrieked.  With great reservation, Jenny turned her head, the weight of Mrs. Peacock’s voice pulling her, like ropes trying to force a sailboat into the ocean current. The booming laughter of the others filled her ears once again, wracking her body with vibrations. She sensed the tension inside of Samantha Charles; had she been looking at Roger Dodge all day?  She knew from his shaking leg and pensive expression that Chris Bronte had had a fight with his father last night. 

“Jenny Bird is a weirdo,” came Chris Bronte’s familiar voice. Jenny could have sworn his mouth remained closed.

“What’s wrong with Jenny Bird?” asked Samantha Charles, though Jenny did not see her lips move

 “What are we going to do with you, Jennifer Bird?”  Mrs. Peacock crooned.  “Next year, you won’t have your tree. The blue jays will land on its branches, basking in the sunlight, but you won’t be here.  Robert H. Cement Middle School doesn’t have windows, where the sun comes in and warms your skin. Cement Middle school doesn’t allow you to bring water bottles into class.  And, Miss Bird, Cement Middle School has no recess, no time for you to dance around the soccer field, pretending you can fly while the other children stare at you in confusion.”  

Jenny’s dad had told her to stand up for herself.  She was about to open her mouth to finally silence her long time antagonist, Mrs. Peacock. Suddenly, a terrible, penetrating sound of ringing began. The metallic clash echoed through Jenny’s head from ear to ear, persisting for an agonizing ten seconds. Students rushed from the room.

Jenny stood up from her uncomfortable desk, felt the wind rush in from the open window, and said goodbye to the branches of the great oak for the last time. The blue jay locked eyes with her, and flew away.

As she made her way through the hallways, children shot by her left and right, moving together in circles, skipping together in lines with arms locked.  Children in packs.  Some children stood together in corners, roosting on their granola bars and sandwiches.

Jenny didn’t walk; she hopped. The shape of her feet made it impossible to walk, or even skip like other children. It was uncomfortable for her to stay in a line when the teacher led the children in formation. Both Jenny and her father hopped when they walked.  Neither of them could do anything to help it.

Alone, she hopped toward the warmth outside the cool, metal, locked doors.

A man in a worn blue suit pushed the heavy doors open, and the children poured out into the heat of the sunny summer day, leaving elementary school and childhood behind. Jenny craned her neck, weighed down by the heaviness of her schoolbooks, falling behind the flock of children as they dispersed into the arid atmosphere of the parking lot.

The children ran towards the buses. In her ears, in her chest, in her stomach, Jenny felt the grinding of the big metal machines, their gears turning.  

Her dad was working. He wouldn’t be able to pick her up today, her last day of elementary school and childhood. She loathed riding the bus with all the boys that shot spitballs at her, the girls who whispered among themselves when she walked by them.  

 She saw the heat rising from the pavement, and it made her eyes sting. She looked up, only to find an even more unpleasant sight in the distance. Beyond the buses, looming on an unnaturally steep hill in the distance, sat the giant box that was Cement Middle school. The tall building blotted out the sky, and clouds seemed to form in a circle around it. Craning her neck, Jenny eyed the structure with dread.

Something hit her from behind, propelling her body like the wind changing direction.           “Move, Jenny Bird!” said Samantha Charles, followed by her flock of little friends.  Some of the little girls pointed at her, laughing. Jenny craned her neck again, staring, curious eyes probing each of them as her stomach took in their strange vibrations.

“Weirdo,” said another girl Jenny didn’t recognize. She turned and regarded the buses, engines roaring, exhaust spitting out steam and chemicals.

Then Jenny looked the other way, away from the all too familiar torment. Beyond the soccer field, there were yards of tall, uncut grass. Jenny could see the grass dancing this way and that, rhythmic, welcoming. Instinctively, Jenny began hopping away from the children boarding the buses, away from the uproar of the engines. Her little hopping feet slowly carried her towards the grass and oak trees.

The tall grass whipped around her, gusts of wind coming from the east. Throwing out her arms, Jenny began to spin. At first, as if dancing. She began to spin faster and faster. She kicked off her sandals, letting her feet breathe. Beneath her, she no longer felt the coarse soil.  Jenny lifted one of her feet, and in an instant took a giant leap, at least twenty feet from where she’d been standing. She landed, forced to run as the momentum took her. The tall grass whipping against her, she lifted her other foot, and found herself rising into the air. She continued to kick her feet underneath her, rising farther and farther upwards until the force of gravity took her back down.  

Rising from the tall grass, Jenny raced over the ground faster than ever. Twenty times the speed of any Olympian, if she had to guess. So fast that a mighty oak tree appeared right in front of her; she braced herself, knowing she was about to collide with it.

Throwing her head back, she prepared for the crash. In a last moment of desperation, she extended both of her arms. She closed her eyes, expecting pain and a possible head injury.  

Instead, all she felt was weightlessness. Something inside of her had opened up. She soared far above not just the tree, but the entire stretch of woods.  She waved her arms, realizing that they were no longer arms, but long, blue wings, with thousands of feathers sticking out. Flapping her wings, Jenny Bird soared above the trees into the late June sky.

 

Jenny loved to stick her hand out the window of her bedroom to feel the condensation on her skin, and had always wondered what it would be like to be inside of a cloud. Now she finally knew, nourished by the cool dewdrops on her plumage. It was just like running through a sprinkler on the lawn on a hot summer day, or standing under a waterfall. 

She opened her mouth, which she found was now a beak. And she laughed. At least, she thought it was laughter. She’d always wanted to be inside the rain.

Extending her blue wings, she found she didn’t even have to flap them. All she had to do was lift her wings slightly to change direction as she coasted on the air currents. She was now so far above ground that cars were like little ants scurrying by.  

Flapping upward, she kicked her tail feathers and pushed herself, breaking through the clouds. She felt the sunlight before she saw it, like dipping into a hot spring as heat flooded all around her. Hovering above the clouds and the world she knew, she felt she had a glimpse of heaven. Then, allowing gravity to do what it did naturally, she dove, soaring back down.

As she took in the world again with new eyes, Jenny realized that she’d been flying for a long time. Her hometown was gone. She now flew above a single road that cut through grassy plains. Looking ahead, she saw sunlight glimmering over a large body of water. Jenny flew toward the ocean, in awe of the view of the setting sun reflecting orange light across the waves.

Time as she knew it was now behind her, in another life. But it did not feel long before she found herself quickly descending towards the vast ocean. She skimmed on the surface of the water, dipping her wings into the sea foam.  

Eventually, the reverie of flight began to fade a little, and Jenny realized she was exhausted. Just ahead of her, a lone island jutted out of the water. Slowly, effortlessly, she lowered herself. Drinking in the island with her eyes, she saw that several lone bushes grew.  Driftwood scattered across the grey sand.  

The island seemed desolate, devoid of life. At least, human life, the life she’d known.  Ruffling her wings, she hopped across the pieces of driftwood, perching on a dry branch.

Waves crashed haphazardly, berating the tiny island. Jenny had coasted comfortably on the wind, but now it whipped her about, this way and that. Peeking around, she took in the lack of life. All she saw were driftwood and shells, scattered over the white sand.

The clouds above were thick and grey. Ominous.

“Hey, little one,” croaked a voice from behind her. Startled, she turned cautiously, and realized that the voice did not belong to another person, but a bird. A disheveled old seagull cocked its head to the side, sizing her up. Looking back over her shoulder, she saw no one, and realized that the bird had indeed spoken to her. Not only that, but she could understand him!  “Storm’s a comin’,” said the grizzled gull. “Looks like you could use a little shelter.”

“Yes, that would be lovely, thank you,” Jenny chirped.  

“Right this way,” the old seagull squawked. Jenny hopped after him.

Turning a corner, the two birds came upon a small hill that divided into a clearing. Seaweed, shells, driftwood, and old soda bottles littered the sand. At the top of the hill was a bundle of sticks, crisscrossed and standing tall.  Jenny looked closer and realized that the sticks were not haphazardly arranged as she had thought, and that there was a tiny entrance.  

She watched as Old Mr. Seagull hopped over to the opening. He turned to her and squawked again. Jenny understood that he was beckoning her to follow him inside. After ruffling her feathers to shake out water, she did just that.

The warmth hit her immediately, like the sun on a late spring day. Though there were no couches or television, she found Old Mr. Seagull’s den to be more welcoming than any human house she’d ever been in. That she’d ever been inside one was a distant memory.

Mr. Seagull hopped over to her. He began hacking, and spat out a smelly wad. Jenny realized that it was regurgitated fish, and that it smelled delicious. She gobbled it up, and it was more delightful than any gourmet meal. 

When she was done eating, she looked up at the old seagull and smiled. Or at least, it felt like a smile in the unfamiliar muscles around her beak and eyes.

“Best trout to be found anywhere, right here on this tiny beach,” croaked the old seagull.  “Don’t quite see why anybody would go anywhere else.”

“You mean, you don’t have any friends?” Jenny asked the old bird. Old Mr. Seagull cocked his head and ruffled his feathers. Jenny realized he was saying no.

“I’ve never had any friends, either,” she said.  “Do you mind if I stay with you?”

“”Normally I would say no,” said the old seagull.  “But I have to admit, you have spirit.  What sort of bird are you? Can’t say I’ve ever met anyone quite like you.”

“I….I’m... Jenny,” she twittered.  There was a moment of silence, where Old Mr. Seagull just looked confused. “Yeah, that’s it. I’m a Jennybird. You can just call me Jenny.”

“Jennybird, huh,” mused the old seagull. “Never heard of a Jennybird. Well, Jennybird, Jenny, whatever. You sleep in that corner, I sleep in this corner. By the way, name’s Buford.” Buford hopped into his corner, and tucked his head under his wing. She heard him make a few hacking coughs. After he had stood still for a long time, Jenny realized he was asleep.  

She went to her corner and closed her eyes, not having realized how tired she was from her journey. She settled into her spot on the sandy floor, and shifted the sand around herself. Her little sandy nest felt more comfortable than any bed Jenny could remember. Tucking her head under her wing, she drifted to sleep, listening to the rain tapping against the wood of the shelter.

 

Buford taught Jenny how to fish early on.  He taught her that speed and stealth were the keys to good fishing. Jenny caught on fast.  She was a skilled and adept hunter.

 “If you feel the vibration, you’ll always catch the best trout,” Buford had said. “The best trout always come out when the sun is lowest in the sky.”

Skimming fast over the surface of the water, Jenny felt the vibrations of a school of trout.  Pinpointing the strongest, Jenny closed her beak upon a nice fat trout. As it wriggled in her beak, she took off into the air, back to Buford’s island.

Jenny knew how to avoid the bigger seagulls, which Buford said were scavengers.

“Stay away from my trouts, little blue boyd,” said Rex the seagull, the host of a tribe of smaller, dumber birds.

“You could never beat me to a morning catch, Rexy poo!” Jenny taunted back.  The big seagull squawked at her, huffing as he tried to keep up. Eventually, he got tired and flew away.  He knew the Jennybird was too fast for him.

Eventually, she made her catch and returned to Buford and to their little home, with breakfast.

“Big catch, missy!” Buford said, making the strange cackling noise that Jenny now identified as laughter.

“Buford, why don’t you fly with other seagulls?” Jenny wondered. Buford made another cackling squawk, that Jenny had come to associate with displeasure.

“The same reason you couldn’t fly with your flock.  No intelligence.  Nothing in common.”

Whenever Buford asked about Jenny’s past, she referred to the other Jennybirds as her flock. The thing was, there were no other Jennybirds. There were just...people. Her classmates.  Her dad. She’d almost forgotten what he looked like. What was so special about parents, anyway?

“We’re birds of a feather, Buford,” Jenny said. She’d always liked the expression.

“What do you mean, little Jennybird?” Buford said. “Clearly my plumage is grey and white, and yours is blue.”

“It’s an expression. I think.”

“What’s an expression?” Buford asked, then craned his head to the side and blinked, as he did when he was curious. “Sounds like something a human might think.” Just as he said that, they heard a resounding crash outside the shelter.

“What the flaming heck?” cried Buford, hopping out the entrance. Jenny followed.

She heard a screech, followed by another. Eventually, she could make out what was being said.

“It’s mine!” screeched one voice.

“Everything is always yours!” came the caw of another. “How come whenever we find something good, you tell me it’s yours!” Jenny saw two identical crows pecking at each other and wildly flapping their wings as they skittered around and around.

“Alright, break it up, you two!” chirped Jenny, coming in between both of them. The two pugnacious crows backed away from each other, both wheezing, exhausted from their ordeal.

“He always gets everything he wants!” cawed the one on the left.

“He always complains when I find something and I don’t want to give it away!” cawed the one on the right.  Jenny glanced over to the object which the two were fighting over, assuming it must be something of great value. It was an old, rusty soda can. Realizing this, Jenny threw out her wings and began laughing, the squawking, cackling sound familiar to her now.

“What are you laughing about, you...bird?” asked one of the crows.

“It’s just a…” she was about to say soda can, but she saw the quizzical looks on the faces of the two crows, and of Buford. 

 She cleared her throat. She was Jennybird now, not Jennifer Bird, or whatever her name had been…

“It’s treasure!” cried the other crow.

“Why don’t you just share it?” Jennybird said finally. The three birds looked at her, more confused than ever.

“What does it mean, share?” said the crow on the right.

“Sounds like some nonsense a human might say,” said the crow on the left.

“Human?” said Jennybird, puffing out her chest and flapping her wings to show off her plumage.  “Do I look like a human to you?” There was a long pause, all three birds regarding her with their heads cocked to the side.

“Anyway,” Jennybird broke the silence. “From the single grey feathers on both of your right wings, you two must be brothers. But you’ve got a bigger head than you do,” she said, indicating the crow on the left.

“I’m Stan,” cawed the bird on the left.

“I’m Dan,” cawed the bird on the right.

“Well, Stan and Dan, next time you fight over something, remember that someday, you may no longer have your treasure. But you’ll never lose your brother.” The two crows blinked in stunned silence. Stan lifted his head towards the sky, and let out a loud caw. Seconds later, Dan did the same. The two birds began hopping around in a circle, flapping their wings in a wild flurry. Finally, after quite a spectacle, Stan took to the sky, his brother following him.

“Means they’ve forgiven each other,” Buford said to Jennybird from behind.

 

The four of them sat gathered around Jennybird and Buford’s catch of the day, several nice fat trout. Buford clicked his beak, and began to dig in.

“How do you gulls eat this garbage?” Dan asked Buford. He tilted his head towards Jennybird.  “And you....whatevers,” he assessed after sizing her up.

“One bird’s garbage is another bird’s treasure,” said Buford, gobbling up his giant hunk of trout. Both Dan and Stan pecked sparingly at their portion of fish. Eventually, after some deliberation, the four of them finished their meal. Buford squatted low, weighed down; he’d eaten the most. Turning toward the entrance to Buford’s hut, Jennybird hopped outside.

She contemplated the grey sky, which stretched for miles in every direction. The wind pulled at Jennybird’s feathers as she watched the sea swell across the beach, rushing back with a sigh, over and over. She tasted the salt of the water, felt the damp chill in the air.  Both Dan and Stan fluttered their wings, hopping up and down the beach restlessly.

“Best we be moving on soon,” said Buford.

“But where?” Jennybird asked the old gull.  “Isn’t this your home?  Don’t you own it?”

“Own?” Buford stared at her and fluffed his front feathers. “Once again, a strange bird you are, Jennybird.  More human than any bird I’ve ever met.”

“Buford, that’s because…” Jennybird was interrupted by the loud cawing of one of the crow brothers.  She turned, seeing that Stan had taken to the sky.

“You guys coming?” asked Dan, before flying after his brother.

“Guess it’s time to be moving on, strange Jennybird,” said Buford, taking off after the brothers.  

Allowing the wind to gather around her, Jennybird followed.

Instead of flying in the still skies that had taken her to the little island, Jennybird rode the wind, barely using any energy as it carried her towards their next destination.  Wherever that was.  

Jennybird followed her companions, allowing the air around her to shift the balance of her wings as she followed the more experienced Stan, Dan, and Buford. They soared through the clouds for quite some time. At times, though, the clouds parted, and Jennybird could see miles of farmland. As they flew longer, Jennybird realized that the farms formed colorful squares across the earth itself.  At first, she experienced nothing but awe at what human beings could create.  But through the awe, she could not shake the sadness, the aching in her chest as her senses detected barely any signs of life.

Her wings began to ache, and she felt herself dip a bit. Though the pain persisted, the warmth of the sun comforted her aching wings as they flew for miles and miles. At times, old Buford would fly next to her, nudging her playfully, and blinking his intense, wise eyes.

“How many miles have we flown, Buford?” she asked, trying to raise her squawk above the intensity of the wind.  

“What do you mean, miles?” Buford squawked in return.  “Such a strange bird you are, Jennybird.  We’ve flown through the lands of moisture, and now make our way towards the lands where the earth joins the sky.” The old bird turned his head forward abruptly; Jennybird realized he was indicating a vast landscape of tall structures ahead of them.

“Mountains!” she exclaimed. Buford crooned four times and zipped ahead of her, barrel rolling and trying to catch up with Stan and Dan, who raced forward like lightning. As the wind buffeted her from underneath, Jennybird pushed down with her wings, rocketing forward toward her companions.

They entered the ice cold veil of mist covering the mountains. As she lost vision, her mind shifted into daydreaming, as the humans called it. She recalled seeing the mountains from a different perspective, from below the mist. Until being able to fly, she never realized how limited she’d felt as a person, a young girl.

 She recalled the automobile, as it carried her slowly through the winding black pathways that snaked upwards into those mountains.  She remembered squinting her sensitive eyes as the sun blinded her.

There was something else; the sensation of a strong hand on her knee, as another being turned from the front of the vehicle and smiled at her.

Dad,she thought to herself.  She remembered the long drives her and her father used to take, winding through the mountains on the way to visit their cabin deep within the mountains.

She drove with her father to their summer house in the mountains every year. She wondered if he was there now.  She wondered if he missed her…

Something small hit her hard in the head, interrupting her flight of reverie. She heard Stan caw loudly. He had been the flock leader and flown ahead for the whole journey thus far.

“What the heck was that, Stan?” Jennybird squawked as loudly as her vocal chords could project.

“Wind stones,” came his reply. Another wind stone brushed against her feathers as it plummeted toward the ground. She knew what the wind stones were. Hail.  

“Remember the barrel rolls I showed you!” cawed Dan. The only thing Jennybird could do was let the strong winds carry her forward. She felt the wind stones swirl around her, at times scattering, at other times crashing straight down. And always in patterns. She barrel rolled left and right. Using this skill, she avoided most of the wind stones so that they barely brushed her wings. Guided by her instincts, she reveled in her speed and the intensity of flight.

The wind stone storm passed as abruptly as it had come on. In front of her loomed giant snow topped mountains that jutted upward, far above the four birds, all the way up to kiss the sky.

The wind calmed, blowing only in one direction now.  Jennybird hovered, reveling in pure bliss.

 She could see the mountains from above, from a place no human could ever go. She thought of her father and wished he were up here with her. She wondered where he was. Maybe he was watching from below…looking right at her.

A shadow from above shook her from her reverie once more. As she looked up, a giant face materialized out of the clouds. It had a long beak and fierce yellow eyes, framed on either side by majestic brown wings. And it was coming right for her.

“Jennybird!” she heard Buford croon. At the last instant, she ducked out of the way of the giant bird.

“What in the heck was that?” Jennybird squawked.

“A bald eagle,” said Dan. “One of the Lords of the Sky. They hunt the smaller animals below.”

Jennybird was filled with an awe that could only be felt from coming close to an eagle. 

 

Though it must have been months since Jenny’s transformation, she could not have anticipated the raw strength of the wind as she and her three companions entered the massive storm.  Before, she could feel her body, but now all she felt was the cold, pulsing wind as it battered her about.

Before now she had only experienced blindness in the nighttime, in the comfort that had been her home.  When she was...Jennifer.  More and more, the memories seemed to dwindle.

 But those distant memories were like a little spark inside her. She remembered when Dad had tucked her in, his eyes scanning those strange objects, where the words of other humans came from. Such wonderful stories about beautiful creatures. About elves and little people. She would watch her dad’s smiling face. Eventually, he would turn out the light, and Jenny would lie in the quiet darkness as she drifted to sleep. Knowing she had a roof over her head, and she’d see her father in the morning.

But now the darkness descended from all sides, trapping her in blindness.  The wind moaned all around, reminding her of the parts in those strange tales with the fearsome ghosts, the ghouls, the monsters.

  The wind sounded like those ghosts, and Jennybird realized now that she was alone, and that ghosts were terrifying.  Ghosts were something that she was no longer safe from. Electric fingers shot with a flash in front of her, emerging from thick black hands. Fingers that she recognized. Lightning.  

For a split second she felt an unbearable burning. Then, the cold returned, and she couldn’t see anything. 

Suddenly, something brushed against her right wing. Squinting her eyes, she made out the form of Buford flying next to her. She heard his familiar squawk, but just barely. In an instant, the wind struck them both with great force. Jennybird spiraled away from her friend, directionless and out of control.  

“Jennybird!” cried a muffled voice, drowned out by the powerful wind that whipped her tiny body this way and that. She struggled against the wind, looking desperately for any sign of her friends, of the familiarity of mountains, rivers, forests. But only pain and cold were all that was left.

Delirious with pain from the cold, she felt her body become numb. Jennybird began to drift, her thoughts as cold and desolate as the storm around her.  Her head pounded with harsh voices from within her, and they were as strong and as terrifying as the howling winds.

“JENNIFER BIRD!” the familiar, biting voice of Mrs. Peacock shrieked.

“Weirdo!” came the screeching howl of Samantha Charles.  She couldn’t focus, or even begin to wonder why after all that had happened, she remembered these painful words from these human children who barely knew her.

The cold, the darkness. She knew it would last forever. That nothing else Jennybird had felt even mattered. Her home was gone.  Her friends, the birds she’d met, were gone.  Her...father.  Even he was gone.

The buffeting winds howled all around Jennybird.  Cackling, taunting.  She surrendered to their grip. It was over.

But then, she heard something else.  A small, familiar voice, within the winds.  

  Jenny,it said.  She knew the voice, but she didn’t know how, after all that had happened, it could be…

Jenny,the voice said again.  It can’t be,she thought to herself.  It’s...impossible.

“Jenny!” and Jennybird knew the voice. Through the midst of the darkness, she knew her eyes were open, because she saw him. 

Her own father. Hovering in the midst of the storm, stretching out his arms.

“Jenny!” her father cried. Her strength gave out and she collapsed in his arms.

Jennybird let go.  Her eyes barely open, she could see whiffs of silky cloud.  She felt the cool air and the wind, and surrendered her battered bird body.  

She knew that she would be hitting solid ground within a matter of seconds. But she could not, and did not, billow her wings to resist.

Dad,was all she could think.  Though she could no longer see him, she felt him all around her. Dad, I know you’ve got me.  

Jennybird allowed herself to fall. She was falling, and her life was about to end…so why did it feel like she was floating?

Suddenly, she was afraid. She knew that this was an illusion, that in reality, wind stones and biting cold surrounded her. She knew she was about to die. Then how, and why, did she knowshe was safe?  

Trust,came the soft voice again. Though the piercing, howling voices of the wind were all around her, the little voice was all she heard. Jenny, I’ve got you, whispered the voice of her dad.

It felt like warm hands were massaging her sore muscles and battered wings. Warmth.  Someone was taking care of her.

As the ground rushed up to meet her, she knew her life would end in an instant. But she listened to that little voice, and trusted.

 

The eyes of Jennifer Bird, the Jennybird, eased open.  She saw calm, pale blue, with puffs of white. She blinked and turned her head from side to side.

Jutting up into the blue sky was something she’d never thought she’d see again.  A mountain range. From the ground, she’d known it so well. But now, instead of gazing up at how big it was, she looked down. How majestic, to be looking down at the life she knew.

A tiny bird flew ahead of her. Jennybird flapped her wings, realizing that they were stronger than ever. The bird ahead of her glided steadily down toward that mountain path that curved deep into bosom of the earth.

The bird flew gracefully, twirling upside down and spinning in a dance with the wind and the sky.  As the bird danced, Jennybird followed its lead. She trusted the bird she was following, though it was unrecognizable to her eyes. Weightless, she allowed herself to descend.  

The two birds descended together in joyful flight. Jennybird soared on the wind, the rays of sunlight caressing her feathers again, warmer than ever.

As Jennybird flew closer to the other bird, she noticed it looking back at her. She was close enough now that she could see its wings, bright blue with a hint of white and yellow. A medium sized yellow beak. She remembered her reflection in the clear waters of the ocean, and knew that they were kin.

This didn’t make sense. What had happened to the billowing storm?  She’d never seen another bird like her before; there was only one Jennybird, or so she had thought. Even in her confusion, she still trusted.

The two birds were close to the ground, and Jennybird could feel the dust rising from the mountain path. There was something familiar about this place.

Memories came flooding back to her. Riding bikes up a little street, until the latest hours of the afternoon before sunset.  Of watching her father chop firewood. Of him holding her as they silently enjoyed the warmth of the fireplace, and staying up to read late into the night.

 

Suddenly, she saw it, and her little heart skipped a beat. The bird guided her to the edge of a dusty gravel road, and they soared together over what she now realized was driveway of the cabin in the mountains. The cabin where her and her father always used to drive to, and spend their summers together. The only place that she had ever felt at home.

The bird descended, skittering to a halt in front of the cabin. 

She soared toward it, picking up speed. But all of a sudden, Jenny realized she was falling, not flying, and fast. She threw out her wings to soften her landing, but instead of wings, her arms flapped uselessly and wind rushed through her fingers. She plummeted like a stone, and knew she would crash into the ground any second. She closed her eyes and prepared for impact. When the moment came, she felt something soft break her fall. Someone had caught her, and was holding her in strong arms. Jenny opened her eyes. 

It was her father.

The two of them held each other, for what felt like a very long time. Then, his arm around her shoulder, they turned to go inside.  

 

That night, Jenny’s father made her dinner. They sat next to the fireplace, and he read to her for what felt like hours.  Then, he hugged her, kissed her on the forehead, and tucked her into bed.  

Jenny had the most amazing dreams.  She dreamt that she was a bird, migrating south with three other birds, two crows and a seagull.  Flight was joyful, and familiar, as if she’d done it a million times before.

Jenny woke early in the morning to the smell of her father cooking breakfast. From her open bedroom window, she heard the sound of a bird squawking. Her feet creaked on the old floorboards as she walked to the window, and leaned her head out to look. Perched on the branch of a great oak tree were an old seagull, and two nearly identical crows.