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“We are gathered here today to mourn the life of Julia Harrison,” the priest had began, “She was a wife, a mother, a dear friend, a sister...” Jude had drowned out his monotone voice at this point. All she could think about was the dark oak casket surrounded by flowers, right in front of her face.
The casket that held her now dead mother, Julia.
Tears wouldn't fall from her eyes; she wouldn't let them. She knew her mother wouldn't have wanted it. She knew her mother would want everyone to be laughing, dancing, having fun, and thinking about the good times they've had with her.
Julia wasn't like most mothers these days – she never got out of her “hippie” stage. She was always free-spirited, promoting love and happiness wherever she went; her extraordinary personality made her unforgettable. Jude went to her for everything, and was with her way more than her father. Jude thinks that's probably why she is the way she is today – just like her mother.
Her father on the other hand, completely lost who he used to be. All he is now is just a light pat on the back and a hand squeeze kind of guy. He used to be just like Julia, but once he realized the fun was finally over, he switched from lose shirts and sweatpants to Armani suits and ties, all prim and professional.
Jude despised him for it.
She had no idea who her father was anymore; he'd become an entirely different person. It didn't help that her mother and father were fighting all the time just a few months before Julia had died, either.
Jude sighed to herself, slouching farther down into her chair. She pulled her jacket tighter to herself as the cold November wind blew, making her hair cover her face. She just kept staring at the casket, the reality still not hitting her yet. She still couldn't believe her mother, her best friend, was dead. It seemed like only yesterday Jude and her mother were up in Jude's room, laughing, talking, and just enjoying life.
She placed her hand in the right pocket of her jacket, messing around with her mother's locket. She ran her thumb over the small gold heart, feeling the grooves and edges, the metal cold against her skin. This locket was Julia's favorite, given to her by Max, Jude's father, when they were on their honeymoon. Her mother never took it off, and inside were pictures of Jude and Max, as happy as they can be; as happy as they used to be. Julia gave it to Jude, a few days before she died. She asked Jude to keep it, fill it with pictures of people special to her, and pass it onto her children, and so on. She remembers that day like it was yesterday.
“Jude, I have something for you,” her mother had said, her voice barely above a whisper, and a weak tired smile was on her lips.
“What is it, mom?” Jude had asked quietly, walking towards her mother's hospital bed, and grabbing her small hand in hers. Jude took a good look at her mother that day. Julia had skin as pale as snow, dark circles clearly seen underneath her eyes from weeks of little to no sleep. Her body was now skin and bones, mostly from the chemotherapy. She was losing bits of hair here and there, bald spots seen as bright as day in comparison to her dark, almost black, hair. Jude sighed in sympathy for her mother; she hated seeing her like this.
“Come here, come closer,” Julia beckoned, waving her hand towards herself. Jude smiled softly, happy to see her mother excited about something at least. Jude walked over to her mother and stared into her green eyes, remembering how much life used to be in them. Her mother held out her hand towards Jude; it was shaking a little from how weak she was. Jude placed her hand over her mother's closed palm, already having an idea of what she was going to give her.
“Now, Jude, I don't want you getting all emotional about this,” her mother said jokingly, noticing tears already forming in her daughter's eyes. “You know I hate sadness,” she added.
“I know, Mom, I know,” Jude said, her voice barely above a whisper now as well. Her mother tried to smile wider, to lift Jude's spirits, but she could barely lift her head off the pillow as it was.
“Hold out your hand, sweetie,” She said as Jude took her hand off her mother's and held it out in front of her, palm facing upwards.
“Good, now close your eyes,” She continued, her voiced sounding more excited by the second. Jude obeyed, never peeking once. Jude then felt the cold metal in her hand' she could feel the small chain in her hands, the texture of the small gold heart rubbing against her skin as she closed her hand around it.
The locket; her mother's favorite locket.
This only meant one thing: she knew she wasn't going to live much longer. Jude opened her eyes, trying to choke back a sob, and keep the tears out of her eyes for her mother's sake.
“I thought you should have it, Jude. You know how important that locket is to me. It's like another child,” She said, trying to laugh, but it came out more like a cough. Jude took a hold of her mother's hand, as she shook her head, trying to say she was alright.
“I want you to fill that locket memories personal to you, as did I. I want you to pass that onto your children, and your children's children, and so on. Just promise me that, Jude. That's all I ask,” Jude looked at her mother, staring right into her eyes, vowing right then and there that she would keep her mother's promise.
“I swear, Mom, I won't let you down,” Jude whispered, repeating her promise to herself, her hand gripped tightly around the locket now.
Jude looked up into the woods nearby, spacing out, just thinking about her mother. All of a sudden, she noticed a tiny creature in the distance; she couldn't make out what it was, but she did see that it was pure black, and its green eyes stuck out against the browns and pale oranges of the fall trees.
She got up out of her seat, not caring that everyone was looking at her. She felt someone tug at her arm, pulling her back a bit. She heard the voice of her father,
“Where do you think you're going?” He asked in a rough voice. Jude ignored him, shrugged his hand off her forearm, and kept walking towards the woods.
She didn't understand it; she was overwhelmed by the feeling of being drawn to the creature. She felt like she should chase it, capture it, keep it for herself; like it was hers and no one else's.
Once she reached the woods and went to the small branch the creature was standing on, she realized it was a blackbird.
Blackbirds were her mother's favorite animal; she always remembered her mother saying in a past life she was a blackbird.
Jude walked cautiously closer towards the bird, as to not scare it away. But miraculously, it never moved; it just kept staring at her. She noticed its short stubby legs, its claws peeking from underneath its body. Its feathers looked coarse and rough, its color as black as the night sky. The thing that most intrigued Jude was its eyes; they reminded her so much of her mother's emerald green eyes.
“Hey little fella,” Jude said quietly, to once again try not to startle the bird. She slowly reached her hand out to it, as the bird poked its head around it, as if shifting it like a dog. Suddenly it pecked her finger, a small drop of blood forming. Jude immediately reacted her hand and said,
“Whoa, fella, what was that for? That hurt!” It pecked her finger once again, by flying towards her cradled hand. Jude stepped back for a bit, finally realizing why the bird was hurting her.
“Oh, I see; you're a girl aren't you?” Jude asked, feeling a bit stupid talking to a bird. She chirped happily in response.
“Sorry about that,” Jude began, “Let's try that again,” She said as she slowly reached out her hand again towards the bird. The bird immediately hopped onto her hand, her claws digging into Jude's skin a bit, and then finally crawling up her forearm to stay. Jude smiled,
“Aw, thanks! You do like me after all,” The bird chirped in response. Jude suddenly got an idea, “I think I'll name you Julia, after my mother,” Jude began, “She was always quick to accept people, and never judge,” Jude said the last part quietly, a frown forming on her face. Jude lost her train of thought until Julia chirped, bringing her back to reality. She shook her head back and forth, then finally looking down at the bird; she had the sudden urge to pet her feathers.
Jude was actually surprised to find out they were so soft. Julia climbed downwards towards Jude's hand and nuzzled her head into it, while Jude pet her back.
“Come on, let's get out of here,” Jude said as she walked out of the woods. Instead of going back to the funeral, she went towards her car. She didn't even notice her father get up and follow her.
“Where are you going now?! You need to get back to the funeral!” Her father yelled; Jude paid no attention. Her father asked about Julia,
“What the h*** is that on your arm?” Jude kept walking,
“Her name's Julia, Dad. She's a Blackbird,” She replied as she petted Julia again. Jude moved the bird to her shoulder.
“Well let it go, and get back to the funeral, Jude!” Her father persisted.
“I'm not letting her go, and I'm not going back. You know how mom hates funerals. I figured shed want me to leave by now,” Jude argued back to her father, her voice staying completely calm.
“Go back now young lady,” Her father threatened; it didn't work.
“I said NO, Dad, and besides, I'm eighteen now, I technically don't have to listen to you anymore,” She finished, a small smirk forming on her lips. Her father groaned to himself, and stopped trying to follow her. Jude kept the smirk planted on her face as she got to the car and got inside.
She moved Julia to the front seat, having no where else to put her.
“Stay put in the seat, alright?” Jude ordered as Julia chirped, obeying her command.
Jude put the keys into the ignition, and started the car. She then started heading towards her house, every once in a while glancing down at the bird to make sure she was okay.
Once home, Jude let Julia roam free around the house; her gut instinct told her to trust the Blackbird. Jude threw her keys on the kitchen counter and went towards the fridge to get the ingredients to make a sandwich. As soon as the bread hit the counter, Julia started chirping like crazy. Jude mentally slapped her forehead,
“You're probably hungry, aren't you?” She chirped happily, flying over towards Jude. Jude tore apart a few pieces of bread, handling them to Julia, as she ate them up right away, not leaving a crumb on the counter.
“Geeze its like you haven't eaten in months!” Jude said, laughing at Julia's eating. After breaking up about two pieces of bread, Jude decided to make her sandwich and go watch television. Julia followed close behind as Jude went into the living room.
She flipped through every channel, not one seeming interesting. Julia has fallen asleep on the top of the couch, right by Jude's head. Jude turned off the television and laid down on the couch. She sighed to herself as she stared at the ceiling. Julia had awoken from Jude's sigh; her head perked up and she looked straight at Jude.
“I miss her, Julia, I really do,” Jude began as tears started forming in her eyes, reality finally sinking in, “I know she doesn't like it when I cry, but I don't think I can hold it in any longer! I just can't believe she's gone!” A sob escaped her lips as tears started falling down her pale cheeks.
Julia nuzzled her head into the crook of Jude's neck, until suddenly she moved and flew away, and disappeared. Jude didn't notice her leave; her head was filled with way too many thoughts at the moment.
Julia had flown into the kitchen, towards Jude's jacket lying on the kitchen counter. She dug her head into the right pocket, the coat falling over her small body, like a huge blanket. Once she had the chain on her beak, Julia dragged out the heart locket and flew back into the living room by Jude.
She dropped the locket by her forearm, and nudged Jude's shoulder with her head. Jude shook her head and noticed the locket down by her arm. A look of confusion spread across her soft features as she picked up the locket.
“What'd you give me this for, girl?” Jude asked. She looked at Julia and then back down at the locket. She was still confused.
She looked back at Julia, and when she looked into her eyes, she noticed something she never did before. Her eyes looked the exact same as her mother's did when she asked Jude to keep her promise about the locket.
Jude had to shake her head a few times to make sure she wasn't seeing anything. When her vision was clear, she looked back into Julia's eyes; the expression was still the same.
She thought she had an idea of what was going on, but it was impossible; it could never happen! But when Jude kept looking into Julia's eyes, the expression still never changing.
Jude was starting to believe her crazy theory; when people die, can they come back from the dead, by using another body? Coming back through living animals, none the less?
Was it possible that Julia really was her mother “reincarnated” as a Blackbird?
“Mom?” Jude asked hesitantly. Julia chirped excitedly, her eyes expressing the happiness.
“Is it, is it really you?” Jude asked, still a bit unconvinced Julia nudged the locket closer to Jude, looking up at her again with innocent eyes.
“So it really is you,” Jude whispered to herself, her eyes wide. Julia chirped happily again, as Jude smiled the biggest smile she had in a long time.
“I can't believe it! It's an absolutely crazy idea, but it's true!” Jude exclaimed with joy. “That's why I was so drawn to you, and you were never afraid of me...” Jude said, letting her sentence linger in the air. She smiled one more time, a real, genuine smile as she said,
“I'll never have to lose you, Mom, ever again,” The bird just chirped happily as she nuzzled her head into the crook of Julia's neck again, and as Jude kissed the bird on the top of its head.