But she can be so cruel and it comes so suddenly and such birds that fly,
dipping and hunting, with their small sad voices made too delicately for the sea.”
— Ernest Hemmingway
The windows of the house are always shut. Everything here stays locked, the father tells his daughter before he leaves her alone. He does this every so often, now that he thinks she is getting better from her sickness.
One evening, she wakes in her bedroom. Clean, dim. It’s early morning. Silent, then crashing from the living room. She investigates to find a pile of broken glass. (Her father takes the couch after the first year, saying it’s to protect her. But that’s not true. It’s so he can make certain that she doesn’t walk out. Her father is gone now, though.)
The sound of wings calls her attention. It moves around in the shadows. She squints to see a golf ball-sized shape failing around, its wings beating against the floor. Feet bare and calloused and scarred from walking across broken glass after breaking dishes one time, she crouches to track down the little sound.
She comes upon a small body, flipping and flopping in a pathetic pile of blood and gray feathers, its beak smashed in. If it’s one thing that she knows, it’s that sense of terror that it radiates when she comes near it. Of course, it’s afraid, and it has every right to be.
She catches it with little effort. Between frantic flaps, the winged creature clicks and caws, not letting up in its endeavors to escape. Stop fighting, she tells it repeatedly. It’s so tiny and weak and sad and she truly pities the poor thing.
When the front door opens, her fingers are wrapped around the bird’s head. What remains of its beak digs into her palm. She could end its suffering right here and now. One clean twist... and it would feel no more pain.
The front door creaks open.
Rey, what’re you doing? her brother’s voice calls out. He finds her sitting in the corner of the living room, stroking the gray head of their feathery intruder. It coos softly, twitching. He squints in the dark room. What’s that?
It’s okay, she tells her brother calmly. It’ll be okay.
She holds the bird while her brother finishes cleaning up the glass on the floor. A few hours later, her new little friend gives a final shudder and dies.