This story is one of the April Writing Challenge entries that was chosen to be a featured story.
“What do you think you’re doing?”
Sarah’s voice brought me back down to earth. I blinked, and looked at the mess I’d collected in front of me. Grass, sticky weeds, dandelions ripped from their roots. I stared at my hands. There was dirt under my nails.
Something sang out in the trees above us, a melody of chirping and chirrups that harmonised above the sound of the wind through the trees. She looked around, searching for the source of the sound.
“I tried to help a bird once,” she said. “It was a little sparrow with a broken wing. I put him in a box I’d filled with sticks and leaves and even put in some bread and milk for it. I wasn’t too sure what birds ate but I thought he’d be grateful.
“He wasn’t. He shrieked and panicked and fluttered around the box like a tiny rocket, even with his broken wing, crashing and banging into the roof and sides. I sang to him, but it only scared him more. He didn’t eat any of the bread or drink the water. My dad came home and I showed him the cage, thinking he’d be proud. He wasn’t. He took the bird outside and stood on it.”
I was quiet as I watched her, hoping she’d look at me so I knew what she was thinking. But she wasn’t watching me. Her eyes lifted to the tops of the trees. I plucked a daisy from the grass and twirled it between my fingers until the petals fell off.
“Sarah?” I asked. She turned around to look at me, the sun haloing behind her head and making her hair look like it was on fire. “Why’d you tell me the story about the bird?”
She stood up then, brushing her hands off on her jeans. “People don’t like being held against their will. They want to do their own thing, even if it turns out bad for them.”
I watched her, confused. Then there was a shout through the trees, someone looking for us.
She turned around quickly, startled by the voice. She leaned in close.
“Don’t be the bird, Rosie. If people are trying to help you, let them.”
She stood up and the sun shone bright in my eyes now that she had moved. I squeezed them shut tightly. When I opened them, she was already gone.