Birth of The Free Bird

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The next few days, heavy rain resumed to torture the inhabitants of Easton. Umbrellas and rain coats were worn back on by the people as they walked outside, creating a common scenery on the less busy road. Most of the people had got back to spend their times inside the houses, afraid of getting drenched in the rain. Only for some people that had no choice but to be drenched in the rain to keep their business going and their stomaches full.

In the market, a middle aged man with the help of his eldest son, Neil, were busy putting dozens of varied fruits and vegetables into few boxes to be delivered to the Mayor’s house. Neil made sure to arrange the fruits and vegetables properly and neatly, separating one kind from another. When the man saw the boxes were all almost full and the fruits and vegetables were arranged beautifully in the boxes, the man smiled, feeling satisfied.

“Alright, boy. I would bring the trailer here so I can deliver the goods in time.” Said the old man. He quickly put his rain coat on and disappeared from the stall to the back of the shops behind them, where they usually parked their trailer.

After the three boxes of vegetables and fruits were neatly packed. Neil quickly covered the vegetables and fruits they had left on the stand with the rug, to keep them from getting wet due to the rain. He was happy that his father and he were able to sell their goods quicker than usual. It was thanks to the Mayor who always ordered vegetables and fruits from his father once a week. Now they only have a couple of kilograms worth of fruits and few bunches of leafy vegetables. Neil was confident they could close the stall early.

“Do you still have some carrot?” Asked the voice of the woman who got Neil startled as he did not see her coming.

When Neil fixed his eyes on the woman, he was quickly inspecting the whole face of the woman who looked a little bit too odd to him. Like other people in Easton, the woman had her rain coat on but it failed to cover her head which caused her white hair to be wet. Her complexion was as pale as a ghost. But that was not what made Neil stare impolitely at the woman across from him. It was her eyes that he could not take his eyes off of her: they were as white as pearls, staring straight back at Neil.

“I need some carrots if you still have some, please.” The woman spoke, pulling Neil’s back from his thoughts.

“Er, yeah … sure.” He answered, picking up a few of carrots from under the rug. He looked up at the woman and mentally counted the carrots he got on his hands before saying, “Would ten of big carrots be enough, Lady?” His voice was soft and polite, in spite of his offensive stare which he thought went unnoticed by the lady.

“Eleven big carrots, you mean. You missed the one that slipped off of your grasp.” Said the woman, pointing at one of the carrots that Neil forgot to count underneath his hands. Neil gaped at the woman. “Count again, boy. Slowly.”

She can see? Neil wondered. He double checked the numbers of carrot he got for her and nodded at her. “Right, eleven carrots. Two and half pence they would be. Do you need anything else?”

The woman shook her head. “That would be all, Thank you.” She put her groceries bag on the stand so Neil could put the carrots into her bag.

As if he wanted to test the woman’s vision, Neil deliberately left two carrots on his side as the rest of the nine carrots went inside the woman’s bag. He smiled smugly as the woman did not complain. His theory was correct. The woman was indeed blind, even though he could not really pin point how the woman could notice the other carrot that slipped off of his hands. It was just a lucky guess, he concluded.

The woman picked the bag and gave the boy the coins for the carrots. Neil counted the coins from the woman and noticed it was only two pennies that he received. He looked up at the woman who was ready to leave his stall.

“You gave me less penny.” Neil complained.

“You gave me less carrot.” The woman remarked. Neil’s eyes got widened for the second time as he got caught cheating the lady for the sake of testing his stupid theory. “I won’t pay for something I don’t get.”

Feeling embarrassed, Neil looked away from the woman and muttered “Sorry.” He felt like a fool for trying to deceive the lady. He was so sure that his theory was right. But he did not expect to be caught redhanded like this, fooling the lady for he thought that the woman was blind. What did those white eyes mean if they did not indicate that the woman could not see?

“I would-“ Neil was going to give the lady the other two carrots for free as he would like to apologise to her for being rude. But as he looked up, he found the spot where the lady was standing before was empty. He walked over the stall to go to the front and looked around the road trying to find the white haired woman but he could not find her. It was as if she was never there. How could she disappear so quick? Where did she go? If Neil doubted that the woman could see before, he was now certain that she could see! Blind people would not be able to walk that quick. Unless, if the woman knew this place so well. But then again, where did she go to disappear in such a short of time? Neil could not stop thinking about the lady and wondering who she was. He was sure that he never saw her before. Was she from the other village?

“What are you doing standing there in the rain?” Neil’s father who just got the trailer and towed it towards his stall, found Neil was standing in the rain looking confused.

“Papa, did you see a woman with white hair?” Neil asked, his voice was shaky from the shock and the cold that started to chill through his bone.

“No,” He answered, looking around confused. He then looked at his son who stood still in the rain. “Quickly come here and help me to put those boxes on the trailer, I will have to deliver them before it pass afternoon.”

Despite Neil’s confusion and shock over the woman he just encountered, Neil managed to help his father loading the boxes onto the trailer. If Ned was older, he was sure to be the one who delivered the goods to the people who ordered it, towing the trailer by himself. Right now, he was not as strong as his father. He would only turn thirteen in a few weeks. But that was still far from being strong, he thought. He could not wait to pass sixteen so he could fully grow as an adult and help his father in the market.

Neil gazed at his tall father’s figure who was covering the trailer with a special rug to ensure that the boxes and the goods inside did not get wet. His father’s brown eyes met Neil’s. A warm smile spread across his face as he looked at Neil.

“Now, now, you can close the stall and go home. We’ve had enough for today, my boy.” His father spoke. “Leave what we have left on the stand. I will collect it on my way home after I deliver this good. Edmond must be happy to see you home early. “

“Okay, Papa. I will close the stall and go home.”

“Don’t stop by at your friend’s house.” His father warned him. Though his tone of voice was calm, there was an underlying meaning behind it. As if Neil would receive a punishment if he did stop by at his friend’s house. “Go straight home.”

Neil nodded. He did not know that his father was aware of what he often did when his father dismissed him from the market early. He would stop by at Brandon’s or Thomas’s house, playing with them for a few hours before he went home. But he always made sure to arrive at home before his father. Edmond must have told him.

The thought of his younger brother annoyed him. It was not that he did not love his brother, but recently Edmond had been such a pain in his neck, following him like an annoying fly. As he got older, Neil preferred his friends to Edmond. He began to feel embarrassed to keep playing and watching over his little brother. He felt the need to be around children his age so he could develop himself properly.

“’Right, Papa.” Neil responded obediently. His voice was steady, showing his father that he would not stop by anywhere else.

Satisfied with Neil’s answer, the old man departed from the market, towing his trailer full of boxes of vegetables and fruits.

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