I slowly drifted off to sleep.
I dreamt I was a bird. Pale brown wings fluttered by my sides. I gently pushed them down, then up again. The glittering sea flickered by down below. Wind swept around me, dancing with me. Sunshine warmed my back. The rushing of the air and the song of a wolf were the only noises. I banked left, towards green. A cry went up above me, and I looked up. A peregrine falcon was framed in the sun, its silhouette stark against the light. It dove, and leveled out beside me. We looked at each other as we flew for a few moments. I saw something it its eyes, familiar and daunting. A flicker of the same wary recognition I felt went through the falcon’s gaze. We studied each other.
Then a hawk’s scree escaped my throat, echoed by the falcon’s cry. The feathered hunter dove downward and away, and I stooped to the treetop level, skimming the canopy. Chitters and hoots and growls and howls resonated upward through the leaves.
I flew silently, wings beating at a consistent rate. I followed the slope of the forest up, and over a ridge. The trees opened to a vast valley. Flowers and trees of all colors and shapes filled the view. There was a mist over the basin, and the sun was on the horizon, rising slowly. I banked in a circle, confused, and saw that, yes, the sun was still over the ocean, but it was faint, and fading. The whole of that side of the world seemed to be dissolving into nothing. It spun to the side as I made my complete circle. The mist and sunrise and wild unknown stretched before, solidly and tangibly.
I swooped down to one of the near trees of the valley, a vivid thing with violet flowers and small, pale orange fruits hanging from the branches. I fluttered over a branch, and landed. The branch swayed under my weight as I shook out my wings and pulled them back in to my sides.
A deep breath escaped me. I relaxed in this newfound paradise. A birdsong swelled all around, with harmonies of roars and howls. One voice rose above the rest.
I strained to decipher it, recognizing the language of song. Closing my eyes, everything started to fade away, instead of sharpening. Panicking, I flung my eyes open, but it was already gone.
My eyes opened to an all too familiar scene, and to see it anew from the outside made my heart ache. Five years ago, kneeling on the floor, with photographs scattered all around, was a girl. Was this girl. Was now. The girl was mourning the loss of a dearly loved boy. She clutched a scarf to her chest, and I remembered the woolen texture of the green fabric against my cheek. The false light of her lamp shone off the tears streaming down her face, so twisted in silent misery. She rocked back and forth on her heels, clutching the scarf and scanning the pictures, over and over again.
Again and again, over and over, her blurred gaze franticly jumped from his face to their faces, from memory to memory, trying to hear his vivid laugh. Trying to feel his gentle touch.
I felt the deep pain trigger in me. Memories long buried and guilts long rested burned forth, all at the sight of this broken, broken creature, huddled around the last pieces of the boy she was supposed to spend he rest of her life with. Grasping at the memories as though grabbing them would bring him back.
I carefully walked to her.
“Kallie,” I whispered.
She shuddered and flipped around, searching the shadows through clouded eyes. “Shane?” Her sobs became quieter. “Shane?” Her eyes were bright and wide. Hope filled her features. Oh, the damned thing. That damned hope.
“Oh, Kallie,” Soft tears slid down my cheeks and a knelt down beside her.
She flinched and sobbed loudly. His name escaped her one last time in a deep moan, low in her chest. She shuddered and shook as I took her into my arms. I held her close, stroking her head. I was not surprised to feel the feathers. There were feathers wound in small braids in the underside of her hair, and I remembered the boy’s eyes, green and charming as he laughed.
Feathers? They suit you. My featherine girl. My featherine Kallie.
No one called her Kallie but him. He was the only one who ever called her that, and only when it was just them, like it was their little secret.
Her sobs were deep and gasping as she clutched my arms.
She would sign her name Kallie for months after, to everyone’s’ confusion. She would wear the feathers he’d given her tucked in her hair. She would cry, oh how she would cry, long into the night, night after night after night, for the piece of her soul she’d lost. For the piece of her heart she’d buried in that cold October ground. For the future ripped so brutally ripped from her. For the bright light the world lost. For the death. For the loss. For his pain.
“You’ll make it Kal,” I whispered into her hair, “You can’t tell now, but you are going to make it. He’ll always be with you, but Shane is where he needs to be. He went home. But he’ll never leave you, oh never, darling. He’s with you always. You’re strong. You’re brave. You’re going to survive.”
She pulled away from me just enough to look me in the eyes. The vertigo that assaulted me then, staring into the eyes of the broken soul of my past self, and her staring back at me, was like none I’ve ever known.
“Will I ever see him again?” she whimpered.
I cupped her cheek in my hand. “Kalyssa Everly Mako, you will see him everywhere. You will see him in every blade of grass, in every bird, in every cloud in the sky. You will see him in his family. You will see him in the crackle of flame, in the crash of seas. You will see him in yourself. But one day, you’ll go home, too, and you will see him and he will be strong, and healthy, and full of joy. You will always see him, Kallie. And he is always seeing you.”
She sighed, the tension draining from her body. She curled up in my arms more comfortably and closed her eyes.
She drifted to sleep, and I drifted awake.