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Short Story - Bird Call

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Today marked the fifth month anniversary which deserved no celebration. I buried myself in my tear-stained quilt – an attempt to shut myself off from winter’s glare. A loud bird-like cackling interrupted my deep slumber which usually lasted until noon, but judging by my bone-deep aches of exhaustion, it was cut too short. A harsh glow came from the corner of my eye. A message. It’s thanks to technology that communication has never been easier! Rolling over reluctantly, I propped myself onto my elbow and reached over to my phone. Eight o’clock. It’s another pity-filled bubble. What loser can’t keep a job? You’d think that the messages would stop, but it only seemed that they came more frequently. Mum. Dad. Kat. Jamie. After that, it became a muddle of polite lies.

Picking up my phone, I opened my messages:

“Kat: New Message”

Unlocking my phone, the message read:

“Stacey, just landed in Fiji with Tyler and the kids. Sorry - I forgot to bring your groceries, you know how life is. I’ve messaged Mum and Dad, and Jamie – they might come round. Gtg - your older sister is treating herself to a spa day! Love you!”

A bullet of numbness punctured my guts, a sharp jolt settling into a familiar throbbing ache. She was going to Fiji – I remember now. It wasn’t fair. Fair of her to leave me. Fair of me to ask her to stay. You pushed her away, and anyway, why would anyone stay around a failure like you? As if Jamie would help me, he hadn’t been useful to anyone for a long time. I remember during my university final exams after Mum broke her leg, we had to nurse her. He slunk into his ignorance; only radio silence. Once he moved out from home, he left this chaos called family. Anyway, Mum and Dad were always “too busy”. Why would they want you as a daughter?

Rising shakily from my refuge, I plodded down the corridor to the kitchen. I opened the fridge door. Empty. I opened the pantry. Empty. You should’ve seen this coming. You’re so stupid. I was about to close the cupboard door when a red container entered the corner of my eye. I reached poured out its last bowl of cereal. Clumps of coarse granola clung to my throat, as I shoved each mouthful down with a gulp of water, forming a bland glue in my mouth. Numbly, I sat in silence as my throat burned, accepting that I’d have to leave the house.

As I rinsed my face, the cool water nudged me awake. The mosaic of muted colours flung itself at me, as I opened my wardrobe. I tried on a black shirt, and wrapped my cardigan around my shoulders, the periwinkle one Kat gave me. As I raised my goose bumped arms, the sleeves formed wings; fabric drooped forlornly around my frail figure. You’re an ugly duckling, aren’t you? Slipping on some track pants, I lumbered to the front door, grabbing my car keys and dusty handbag. Grasping the brassy doorknob, I turned my wrist to the right. Click.

A chorus of squawks serenaded me into winter’s crisp breath as I made my way to my rusty bucket of a car. Yanking the car door shut, I shoved the key into the ignition bringing the engine to life. I froze. Which pedal is which? The black interior and shadows blurred. What am I doing? Without realising, my right foot pressed down and the car violently lurched forward. My heart dropped, the bullet of numbness lodged further into my gut. I shifted the gear into reverse and accelerated jerkily, relying solely on muscle memory.

My eyes darted. Road. Rear mirror. Side mirror. Blink. As I approached a crossing, the light flickered red. Vehicles zipped past like flocks of birds, dive-bombing into the sea of traffic. Scanning the other cars, I peered through the windows, straightening my back, imitating the drivers’ unconscious dignity. They know you haven’t driven in months, impostor. Green. You should have stayed home.

Stepping into the parking lot, the stale car fumes made my temples throb. The symphony of screeching tires accompanied my slow crawl to the doors. Squinting, I looked at the light box. “SHOPS”.

Yanking a basket from its stack, I went to the confectionary aisle. Sugar was the thing that got me through those cubicle days. A collage of royal purples, shiny reds and tawny blends exploded in my eyes. Screaming children. Screaming colours. Take it! It’s calling you. I inhaled sharply, but the wind was knocked out of me. You’re too fat. Stop snacking. Knees wobbled. Heart pounding. Everyone’s watching you. Oxygen left my lungs as soon as it came. They will fill that hole in your heart. Come on! Take it! Laughing. Yelling. Children crying. Silence.

My vision cleared. I stood in front of the frozen food section, a bag of frozen wedges burned against my forehead. The cold air embraced me. Fire shot from my hand as the dewy plastic slipped onto the floor. Bending down, I picked it up and tossed it back into the freezer.

Walking out of the frozen food aisle, I spied a box of rich ruby fruit jumping out from the large yellow ‘on special’ tags. I picked up a juicy plum which sat in my palm, balanced and soft. Trolleys trundled past, shoppers hastily checking the fruit before taking it. The plum was smooth and soft as it rolled freely into the plastic bag.

I stepped into the cereal aisle and was met with packaging that all looked the same. Clumped muesli. Granola. Take it! It’s good for you – read the facts! I smiled to myself as I pushed past to the palette of vivid colors, where other families stood. Scanning through the vibrant cardboard boxes, I saw the cornflakes box, the image captivated me. The emerald rooster called to me, opening its orange beak to me, asking me to come, come back to reality.

Author's Note

This is a creative story I have written for school, and is the first story I have not based off a historical figure. Constructive criticism and feedback would be greatly appreciated. Please fill out the poll if you do not have the time to leave a comment. Thank you for reading!

© 2018 Zoe S