August 26, 2037
Heartstrong Valley, Colorado
“So, do you think you will have fun on your first day?” a scarred but glowing mother asked her four-year-old daughter.
As she walked hand in hand between the woman and Ira, the little girl’s bright green eyes flashed with excitement and apprehension as she gazed up at Meryl. “I think so. Though, I am a little scared.”
Picking her up and placing her on his shoulders, Ira ruffled Sora’s neat, stark black hair and encouraged, “You have nothing to fear; school is like a journey. All you have to do is to create the path.”
Their daughter nodded and contemplated her father’s words.
Ira had stated all along that their child would inherently gain Meryl’s wits and quick thinking; he was right.
“Do you have everything you need?” Meryl asked again and listed as he set the little girl down. “Notebooks, pencils, lunch…”
“Yes, mom.” She hugged her mother’s middle as she barely came up to her waist.
Down the road, the school bus trudged along. As it drew nearer, dust and dirt picked up in its wake, clouding the far distance.
“Will Uncle Pie be home when I get back?” Sora asked as if she had just remembered a long lost question.
“Of course he will. He always is.” Ira shook his head with a laugh.
“What about Uncle Garth, Uncle Chris, and Uncle Charlie?”
“No, sweetie,” Meryl answered. “You know they live in the city. But, they will be here this weekend.”
Three years after Meryl and Ira’s marriage, Charlie, who practiced medicine now, and Garth, and Chris, who had opened a shop, found an apartment in Aurora for easier transit. However, most days, they stayed at The Valley to spend time with their family.
As the proud parents hugged their daughter in turn, Ira added, “Aunt Alice may stop by, too.”
“Yay!” the little girl jumped with joy. “I love the stories auntie tells me!”
Meryl quickly glanced at Ira with a look of incomprehension. When he only smiled, she gazed back at their precious child, “What stories does Auntie Alice tell you?”
Sora grinned broadly; her small fingers clasped together. The jubilation was uncontainable in this bright child. “She tells me about a blackbird and a raven’s perilous journey! How they stopped the evil phoenix who had risen from ashes, and how they saved the world!”
Ira, who apparently knew about this, hastily turned his laugh into a cough.
Meryl was so stunned that Alice Rowland would devise such a scheme; such a story to tell. What details did she reveal?
The arrival of the bus pulled both parent’s from their many thoughts. “Good luck,” she hugged and whispered in Sora’s ear. She was still concerned as the doors opened.
“Bye!” Sora waved and stepped onto the transport. The parents watched her hesitate as she reached the last step; then she found a seat, next to a new friend.
The doors closed and the bus drove on, throwing dust into the wind.
Ira and Meryl continued to wave at Sora, who waved back. Then, the bus turned a corner and was out of sight. Meryl lingered in her spot, sighing a little sadly.
Ira knew what she was thinking. He wrapped his arm around her shoulders and the couple watched the empty distance.
The warm silence was marred by the horses whinnying in the stables.
“I will have a few words for Alice when she stops by,” Meryl blurted out suddenly, even though she smiled.
Ira laughed heartily, “Don’t bother, Songbird will find out the truth sooner or later. Alice is as stubborn as Alec is. I’ll bet they hatched the plan together. Speaking of which, Sora is probably not the only reason she is dropping by. She and Uncle Pie have been spending a lot of time together.”
“I’ve noticed.” Meryl chuckled as she looked back, at the dusty road.
Ira noticed her desire to hold on to their daughter. He kissed her cheek reassuringly and said. “Hey, she’ll be alright. You have nothing to fear.”
“I know.” Meryl sighed happily as, hand in hand, they walked back towards the house.
Meryl knew everything would be all right now. She knew that her daughter would be safe from any harm, that she would grow up in a delightful environment with a wonderful life and a loving family.
After all, Raven and Blackbird had fought side by side to create a better future for the world, and especially for their little Songbird, Sora.