It was warm in my mother’s arms as I drifted in unity with all there was.
I heard her voice above the tumult.
“What do you want to be?” She whispers.
Anguish engulfs me. I do not wish to separate from her, but I must answer.
“Hope,” I breathe, “I wish to bring peace, if only for a moment.”
She shifts, and I feel her sorrow, for we are one.
“You do not choose a simple path,” she says.
“Will you choose something safer? If you take joy, you will be bright and carefree. Your wings will be quick, and your feathers radiant. You will feel excitement and freedom.”
“Not this time,” I reply.
“But you are my favorite, will you choose mystery instead? You can hold the key to knowledge and be the master of mystery.”
“No, I must follow my path,” I say.
“I can not bear to see you crushed. How about passion? You can fuel the world with your fire and zeal. They will listen to your voice.”
“I must try,” I declare.
“I am afraid when you go,” she confides, “I am empty without you.”
“Yet I will lift her.”
“You will be neglected, shoved deep down when you are most needed.”
“Yet I will thrive when she nourishes me, growing to encompass all who are brave enough to see.”
“They will despise you and fear you.”
“And I will love them.”
The oneness shifted. It was time.
The girl cupped her hands around the gray bird, holding it tight to her chest. “I will keep you safe,” she whispered as she stroked its delicate feathers.
She plucked a shirt from her closet and cut the narrow strips of the pink fabric. A small box sat on the dresser. It would be a perfect home for her new friend.
“What do you think, little one?” she said to the bird.
She tucked the fabric into the box and set her friend lightly on the pile.
“You stay right here, and I will find out what you eat.” she smiled.
A loud pounding sounded on the bedroom door. “Lani! What are you doing? You should have been down here twenty minutes ago.”
As the door swung open, she threw a dirty sweatshirt over the top of the box, trying her best to conceal it. Her father’s face was red and angry. He had been drinking again.
“What the hell are you doing in here?” He roared at her.
“Nothing, dad, I was just…” She trailed off as he made a beeline for the box, ripping the sweatshirt off.
“What is this?” He thundered, “It could be diseased and have parasites. What were you thinking bringing a wild creature into the house!”
Snatching the box from its place on the dresser, he tramped out of the room.
Her face heated, and she felt the tears building. Biting on her lip hard, she crammed her sorrow back. She would not cry this time. “Dad,” she pleaded, “it will die if I don’t help it!”
By the time she caught up with her father, he was already at the front door. “I will not have this thing in my house, Lani. It’s disgusting.”
“Please!” The tears were flowing now, her body heaving with silent sobs. “You can’t take her away from me, she is mine, and she will die without me!”
Stopping just before his hand touched the handle, her dad turned to look at her. “Things die,
Lani. You think you would know this by now.”
His face was red with anger, and it looked like he was going to dump the poor creature on the front stoop. Lani’s breath caught, and she exhaled, willing the pain away. “I hate you,” she hissed, stomping back to her bedroom.
A few hours later, a knock sounded, softer this time. Lani covered her head with a pillow, trying to ignore it.
“Lani?” Her dad’s voice sounded muffled. She felt him removing the pillow. Sitting up, she glared at him.
A gentle cooing sounded from the box. Dad had returned it to its place on the dresser.
“Lani, I’m sorry,” he mumbled, words slurring. “I’m just a little lost without her.”
Lani wanted to ignore him. She didn’t want to cry anymore. Her mother would have been right here with her, nursing the bird back to health. He didn’t care about anything.
“It’s a mourning dove,” he said. “I looked it up on the internet. I put some fruit and some sunflower seeds in there. If the thing is not doing better in the morning, we will call the Savey Center, okay?”
She sat up in her bed but was silent. Her father turned to leave.
“Wait,” her voice cracked.
He returned, sitting on the edge of her bed.
“Does it ever go away? She whispered. “The pain?”
He sighed and stroked her hair. “I don’t think so, pumpkin.”
Wrapping her arms around him, she let herself cry this time, feeling his warmth surround her. Scratching from the box interrupted the hug, and she turned to see what was happening.
The gray wings stretched, and the cooing grew more insistent.
“Would you look at that? Perhaps she wasn’t as injured as we thought?” Her dad smiled and walked to the dresser to retrieve the box. “Let’s see if she is ready?”
“Wait. Can’t we keep it? I promise to take good care of her!”
His face shifted, relaxing for the first time in months, “If we do, then how is she going to take a message to your Momma?”
He stroked the doves’ feathers and whispered into the box. The bird stilled a moment before cooing.
“Your turn, Lani,” he said.
She sniffled and wiped her eyes, not knowing what to say. As she bent over the box, a warmth surrounded her. “Papa,” she whispered. I don’t think that I have a message for mama. I think she had a message for me.”
She opened the drapes and pushed the window open. Scooping the bird into her hands, she reached out.
The dove stretched its wings and pitched into the cool air. Lani leaned against her father as they watched the bird climb higher into the sky. It circled once, crying back to them, before disappearing into the sky above.