Chapter 21: Flightless Bird
Sometimes when you take a different angle on life, everything can change.
When you finally see the truth of the miracle we call earth, it becomes less of a miracle and more of a curse. It is fractured, scarred and broken. But that’s what makes it beautiful.
The same goes for a person. The same goes for the love of your life.
He smiled now, and my eyes danced across every inch of what lay before me.
We were on a hill, the edge of it jutting off just a few metres in front of us. Surrounding the hill, the lights of The Valley shone and exposed itself for our eyes to see. Outside that were it’s surroundings, tree’s and lakes and hills and tiny buildings that had been abandoned long ago. In short, we could see everything. Every inch of the small town that confined us stretched out beneath the sky. The only difference was that we were no longer in it’s clasps. We were tasting freedom, and it was good.
A lone brick wall stood just to the left of me, made up of bricks in all different shapes and sizes. It looked unsteady and none of the bricks fit each other, but despite that it hadn’t tumbled. Tall, oak tree’s gathered around us, leaves getting caught in the gentle breeze; much like how my breath kept catching on the edges as I noticed every detail of where I was stood.
In one of the trees, fairy lights had been draped around it carelessly, clinging to the branches. They sparkled like the stars that were starting to appear in the sky above us, as the moon kissed the sun goodbye.
“You haven’t seen it all yet Sunshine.”
His hands hugged my shoulders, turning me to face the finishing touch. There was a river at the bottom of the hill, that winded it’s way just around the outskirts of the small village. My eyes trailed its path, seeing how it got lost in a cluster of trees that ran across the highway. I remembered that I’d probably seen this river before but from a different angle, that summer night me, Austin and Alice had sat drinking cheap beer as the sun went down.
I could hear the water trickling in the silence as I watched it glistening in the moonlight. It reminded me of teardrops because of the way the pools of water spilled off the edges of every dip and turn.
My eyes reflected the gleaming water, as a tear struck my eye.
“Wow.” I breathed.
" That was my first reaction too.”
I’d been distracted by my surroundings for awhile now, but despite that I was still aware of his hands, that had started at my shoulder but had travelled further. Now, his arms wrapped around me, his head balanced gently on my shoulder. I thought of pulling away for a second but then I changed my mind.
“How’d you even find this place? ” I murmured, lost in thought.
He paused for a second, eyes wandering.
“I’ve been everywhere. Just came across it by chance like I do with most places.”
His replies were simple, not giving anything away. There was something about his mystery that enchanted me, but something else that made me wonder what exactly he was hiding.
“Tell me more about yourself.” I suggested, pulling away from him slightly and turning my gaze on his wandering eyes.
“I could say the same for you.” He shrugged.
“Okay...well then I will. ”
He untangled his arms from me and strolled over to the brick wall overlooking the edge of the hill. Hopping up onto it, he raised his eyebrow and patted the spot beside him. I walked over, hesitant.
“Well for starters I’m a little afraid of heights.” I gave a nervous laugh as I made my way up onto the brick wall, legs practically dangling off from the edge of the hill.
“It’s okay, I used to be too.”
I frowned, “Used to be?”
“Yeah, until I realised that in the grand scheme of things, the fear of falling is a lot less frightening than the fear of never letting go.”
My eyes widened as I took in what he’d just said. It was...
“I know, deep right?” He gave a throaty laugh.
“What are you trying to let go of?” I pushed for more information.
The wind howled suddenly, making me gasp and my legs swing. I tilted forwards before leaning back again, the drop below us staring me in the face.
The Boy That Hates Books grabbed my hand, steadying me and staring the fear in my eyes head on.
“Don’t worry, ” his eyes spoke a promise, ” I’ve got you.”
Silence blanketed us for endless moments after this, our conversation a whisper in a long forgotten breeze. That was before he broke the silence with the use of my name, and everything inside me came alive once again.
“We’re on top of the world Kirsten.”
“Yeah, I guess we are.”
The smell of him mixed with the fresh air, and the pure exhilaration of being up here like this. The sound of car horns and ongoing life sung in the Valley, and we were the only ones seeing it exposed in the way we were now.
“Look at it. Isn’t it the most beautiful, broken place you’ve ever seen? Like an artist has taken his paintbrush and splattered the colour everywhere without a second thought?” His anger shone through, as if he was screaming at our fractured society with his mouth shut. “Don’t you just hate it Kris? How humans have to be so selfish, so thoughtless to ruin such a place like earth. We breathe Kris, but have you ever felt the air rushing to your lungs like it’s really supposed to? Have you ever felt like a bird on flight, weightless and free?”
I was mesmerised by his words, to the point where I was finding it difficult to speak. My heart was pounding so hard I was almost sure that he could hear it too.
“No, I guess I’ve never felt like that.”
“Well I really hope that one day you do. It’s the best feeling ever.” He smiled.
“You have? How?”
There was not a moments hesitation before he said these words. Not a single sign of doubt or any evidence of regret.
“I feel it every time I look at you. I feel alive.”
And in that moment everything seemed to fall into perspective.
Yes, my father and my sister were runaways. My mother was torn apart and imprisoned by her own grief. My two best friends had left for what could be forever, and had left me wondering if there was something hidden beneath their perfect facades. There was a fugitive somewhere, hiding and lurking in the darkness. I was sat beside a stranger, who held within him more mystery than anything else, but yet he had brought me to the most beautiful place I had ever seen. And he was making me feel something no one ever had before.
He was making me feel like I didn’t need to read books to escape reality, because my reality with him was better than any fairytale world I’d ever known. I was, for the first time, happy to be alive. Happy to be me.