My idea for this was inspired by something I read about abuse. It was about the subtleties in an action from an abuser that can instill fear in someone. I wanted to write something psychologically weird and dark because that’s not usually what I do, as well as character-driven but with very few characters. I’m really trying something new as far as the writing style. I wanted short sentences that are powerful rather than long descriptions like I would normally feel comfortable with. The ending of this weird story can also be taken literally or metaphorically. Did she actually turn into a bird? Or did she actually just jump off? I tried to make the reader feel confused about Lavender and her mannerisms. I wasn’t sure how to write a character who deals with abuse, so there might be cliches. I don’t know, I just wanted to write something weird.
Grass is making me itchy and the sun is so bright I can hardly see but it’s not very hot, more of a partly cloudy and wet day that makes you sleepy but I wasn’t sleepy because I was with her. My friend, my only one, who is dropping flowers in my hair and I’m squinting at her and feeling the corners of my mouth curl up like my frizzy hair. I’m combing my thick hair with my fingers as it trailed down into the damp grass. My pants were stained with mud but I didn’t really think much of it. I just watched her and we sang all sorts of songs I have never heard before.
But Mom is here now. I hear her footsteps rustling, unlike a deer and unlike a friend, she struts towards me from thicket like a beast. I knew I was out too long and I’ve gotten filthy and I should be ashamed but as Mom grips my hair I cry because I want to stay. I want to stay in a forest clearing in the half-sun with my friend. She just flitted around desperately and helplessly as I watched her get smaller and I’m forced back into the bubble of the forest. My pants feel the wet mud and my breath hitches and I cry like a brat because I am one.
I miss her.
The creaking of my feet on my parent’s front porch makes me feel at ease. My feet lightly touch back onto the ground over and over again as I rock in my mom’s rocking chair. The front porch is my air source in this bubble. Inside the house is too tight and outside in the woods I’m too free. It’s a lovely twilight outside, the sky is red and purple and the trees filter the moonlight into my eyes. There are a few critters who form a line in the wood cracks and I smile and tell them hello. I scoop a few ants up in my hands. They’d be squished if anyone else here saw them. It must be difficult to be so small in a forest where everything is so big. I look at the little critters crawling around in my pale palms and they walk around wildly and it’s funny. I know they’re safe now but I wish they knew that too. I let them down in the leaves off of the first porch step, while holding my breath.
Inside again, I must eat dinner. I’m lucky to have such a delicious dinner, it’s beans and chicken that doesn’t taste that juicy but it has some flavor. Across from me is Dad, his beard is graying and there’s a bean in it.
“You look tired,” He says to me, his mouth full.
I touch my face, self-conscious
“Stop touching your face and eat your food.”
I do. My parents take care of me.
In the kitchen, mom begins the dishes. Her hands fly across cold glass, decisively swishing soap onto the counter, sighing. We have a fluorescent light hanging in he kitchen, but it’s kind of dim now. Mom hates it.
I want to go outside to the porch. My heart feels weird when she washes the dishes like this. A passive-aggressive, silent way of completing a simple action.
Her fingernails clink against the saucepan and she’s not talking and I swallow my throat because her expression is that expression. Crinkles in her powdered face that traced a frown around her thin, shiny lips. Over-plucked eyebrows furrowed downward and oval glasses pushed up her nose. I won’t speak when she’s busy like this but I need to eat but I can’t make a sound. I notice Dad’s eyes. They look downcast, guilty, annoyed but not present. He probably pissed her off. I don’t know how to read my father’s emotions all the time, but he’s too unpredictable for it to matter. He swallows more chicken and I feel too close to him.
“Lavender.” Mom did what I didn’t want her to. “Why the fuck are your shoes still on?”
Her voice scares me and I look down and she’s right; I should have taken them off.
I immediately stand and start to take my sneakers off my feet. The brown floor as twenty-five lines in the wood. It’s a good number.
“STOP!” Mom screeches.
“This is why there’s so much fucking mud in the house always. We have a place for shoes.”
I don’t know what to do and I don’t know what to do, my heart is sprinting. The bubble inside the house is causing my breath to disappear. I glance at Dad who stands up to his full 6”4 inches of height.
I was standing and now I’m not, and this piece of floor has seventeen lines in the wood. My elbow hurts and dad’s hands are on my ankles yanking.
“I can do it—” I gasp.
He only pushes me over again and my ankles hurt and now my socks are going to get dirty.
I’m outside again but not all the way. I’m out on the porch and my socks touch the wood over and over as I rock in the chair. I hear a dove call from afar but I haven’t heard one in ages. Not since I saw my friend. I close my eyes and picture her face. Then, I bring my hands to my lips and call back.
I love the morning the most. In the morning, it’s loud. It’s busy and everything comes alive. Leaving the porch is risky, but if it was just to go to the creek, Mom doesn’t get mad. I’ve been there dozens of times. I know the trail down towards the creek well because nothing seems to change but the leaves and the plants. Still, I have to control my breaths. Slow and long, I can’t let myself get out of control. I stick to the path. The farther I move from the house my stomach flips up and down anyway and I can never decide if I like the feeling or not.
I haven’t been out of the forest for years. Not since I was about six. But I feel safe in the woods. My parents feed me, I have a bed. I hate having wishes, Mom told me it makes me selfish, but I can’t help wanting to see my friend again. I saw her in the forest clearing when I was thirteen and I played with her everyday until Mom told me I couldn’t. I’m not allowed over there anymore. It’s been a while since I’ve seen the sky without trees. I hop over a stump and crispy leaves stick to my socks.
Down at my feet is a bird. A dove. Crumpled up, weak looking, but alive. I lift her up in my hands being careful not to damage the creature. My eyes burn with tears. Waiting for me this whole time…My friend. My chest heaves as a sob passes through me. I need to save her. I whip around and start to run, my lungs compressing as I rush her back to my parent’s house.
“Mom, please help!” I cry, busting open the door.
Mom turns her head from the couch and makes a sour face.
“What are you holding?” She asks.
“A bird. She’s injured and I’m afraid it will die.” Tears drown my vision.
“It will die. We can’t do anything about it. Get it out of my house, it’s disgusting,” She says calmly.
Dad walks towards me and I step back, wary.
“Give me the bird.”
“I-No, I,” is all I could get out before Dad takes my wrists and snatches my friend from me. He’ll help her. He’ll do something.
“Please, don’t do anything to her, please let me help her. She’s my friend and she’s important, please.”
“Dave, please get the dead bird out of my house,” Mom says.
“She’s not dead, can we save her? Please.” My voice weakens.
Dad carries the dove towards the front door and I collapse on the floor, bruising my knees. He raises the body of the bird with one giant hand and he throws her hard out into the forest.
“Get up!” He growls.
I’m shaking. She’s gone again and I’m alone. My body shutters and I sob, clutching my brown hair in clumps on my head. The world is blurry and I am alone. The door is still wide open.
I hear a dove call from the treetops. I move towards the door and lift myself up. My feet are always on the ground. I look at my socks, caked with mud.
“Collect yourself, Lavender. It’s just a fucking bird. There’s thousands of them. Go outside and come back when you’ve calmed down,” I hear Mom say. Dad shuts the door behind me and I stand on the porch again. I walk towards the closest tree and I listen. I listen and hear the doves.
My fingers reach up to a twig attached the the grand trunk. I could hear better if I could just get closer. My knee scrapes up against the bark but I lift myself up past the first twig and find my footing in the ridges between the twig and the trunk. It was a thick tree, and the lower branches could very well support my weight. I heard the dove call again and I continue to cry. My knees are purple and my eyes feel swollen.
My hands find another branch and I shimmy my body higher. My ankles throb. Dad hurt me. I’ve been hurt. Why do they do that? I look down but I don’t care about heights. I scuffle up again for another branch. If I could get to the top would she be there? I see little bugs I’ve never seen and I suddenly feel afraid. I see my house and I climb higher like a child but it’s different from that. I stop at the branch I’m at and I balance myself to tie up my hair.
My feet dig into the sides of the trunk and I can’t believe how high I am. I feel dizzy and elated and terrified it’s thrilling. I listen against the wind for the doves. I feel like I might be almost there and I keep climbing, my ankles pounding with my heart. Go somewhere new. See something else. Go somewhere new. See someone new. My mind screams. There are too many ridges in the trunk to count. On this high branch I commend myself for my strength. I allow myself to praise me. The birds call again and my breath hitches and I Breathe. The bubble is below me. I can breath I can breath.
At the peak I blink through tears. She’s here.
“You’re here.” My voice breaks. She was fine after all.
Black little eyes stare at me. She’s lifting her wings up.
Her feathers match the clouds as I see her go, from the peak, alone. Without me. I’m alone. I scared her away. My breathing quickens again and I step towards her body, my arms turning milk white and my useless mouth shrinking into a beak. I should follow her longer I just made it here. I don’t remember who hurt me. Feathers erupt from my thin frame and I can fly.