Did I tell you the tale about the raven and the girl?
She would watch each morning as he would arrive. He’d hop from floor to tree, then from branch to branch. Until he reached the corrugated metal roof of the building that the tree leant against. He would always pause, survey his kingdom, then vanish across it’s flat surface, safely hidden by the the height and angle of the roof.
His brothers and sisters were always somewhere nearby. Arriving in a flurry of wings and noise, they would call to each other, laughing as they wheeled around the yard. He always walked. Or hopped. Preferring to take his time. To watch. Only flying at the last moment when he would finally launch himself up, low in the air, to join the others.
On the days they were late, the girl found herself pausing in her work to search the sky for them. Him. Other birds filled her bird feeders, a multitude of colours and feathery fluff balls of sizes. She moved softly between them or just sat quietly watching them, tolerated by these happy wild things. A robin liked to sit on her table and inspect her biscuit eating habits. But the ravens were different. They were the teenagers of the air. Loud and unruly, keeping their distance and flying off as soon as they noticed her presence. Quite often she would turn and find them in nearby trees watching her. Hanging out together.
She learnt to listen out for the sound of his wings. The noise they made as they rubbed the air. He was different to all the others and it was if her heart would flutter in time to his wing beat.
Then one morning she finally got close enough to see him clearly. He was walking carefully, turning over pebbles under the bird feeder, looking for any dropped offerings. Totally absorbed in his task, only pausing briefly when the right wing tip brushed the ground. He’d pull it up and carry on again, repeating the process every few steps as it kept drooping.
“Ahh that’s why!”
Even though the words were soft, under her breath, he turned and inspected her carefully. The first time they’d looked into each others eyes. Her cheeks flushed as this wild thing looked into her soul, weighing her up. She felt the world slowly spin before he finally broke eye contact, turned and took off to join his brothers and sisters in the trees. Only then did she realise that she had been holding her breath.
Trees filled up with leaves, then flowers, which hung heavy, trailing petals to cover the floor and break their landing when they had finally picked up the courage to drop gracefully to the earth. Spent in their beauty.
Then one cold day, when the world was covered in a tissue paper layer of mist, she had started filling the bird feeders before noticing a black pile of feathers half hidden in the bushes. With heavy heart she moved closer to remove the remains, a single tear slipping down her face. As her hand touched warm, she jerked it back, before carefully, ever so carefully, scooping up the fallen raven. His wing spilling over her hands. Just the one wing. Breath held, and in total silence she hurried back to her house, oblivious to the eyes watching her closely. Moving her hands gently over his body and wings, explaining quietly what she was doing, until she found a small piece of plastic caught round his neck. It had rubbed him raw. Wrapping him in a towel, she carefully snipped the tie, then as lightly as she could, washed and dabbed cream into the cut. Over the rest of the day he mainly slept, ignoring the food she tried to tempt him with, but allowing her to drip water slowly down his throat from a syringe.
That evening, she slept next to him, tossing and turning through the night. Her dreams were filled with birds the colour of night and a boy with a broken arm. He was always just beyond her fingertips, but she felt that his eyes held the stars, just that she couldn’t quite see. He was night and his breath, the tug of tides in her heart.
When she woke the next morning, he was gone, only the flutter of curtain to break the stillness that soaked the room. Opening the door, she ran barefoot into the yard, small birds scattered, a confetti of colour and feathers, but no black amongst them. Near her seat, something glinted. Walking over, ignoring the scolding by ruffled birds, she found a silver locket and chain in the dirt. A single black feather alongside it. Clutching the necklace tight in her hand, she turned slowly, scanning the trees for the eyes she hoped were watching her. But there was no sign. Even her heart fluttered in a hollow, echoey way.
That was the last time she saw them. The locket was always worn, warm against her skin, and if she closed her eyes, she imagined it was filled with the night sky. And every time she saw a flash of black feathers, her heart would skip, but they never sounded the same.
Inspired by my real life Jackdaws and Jack the boy with a drooping wing.