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The Window

The window called to her longingly. A shimmering sea breeze wove its way through the bedroom, wound around the young woman's neck like a scarf. She could see over the cliffs from this window, the window that could take her anywhere, her father told her so. He used to tell her extravagant tales of princes and princesses, mermaids, pirates, sea monsters, and it was all happening somewhere in the world, just outside her window.
The woman had loved her father dearly. He was all she had had for a long time; her mother had been pregnant with what would've been the woman's younger sibling. But one day, as her father put it, she flew away. "Where?" the girl had asked. "Over the horizon," the father had told her, "She's gone to fly with the birds." Her mother had loved birds, the girl recollected. "Can I fly with her?" "Someday. Someday we will see her again. But not today." "When?" "Not today." And that was that.
Her father was her teacher. He taught her languages, grammar, mathematics, astronomy, and folklore. But most important, he taught her how to climb trees, which taught her to be happy. When she was in a tree, she used to pretend her mother was one of the birds that flew by her. And when none of those birds seemed like her mother, she used to imagine a large, majestic white bird flying from the horizon. The white bird would perch in the tree, ogle her, and ask, "Who are you, and why are you in my tree?" The girl would respond sometimes with only her name, sometimes with her purpose in the tree, or both. She would never tell the bird she was her daughter. No, that would ruin the game, and only the girl could know this secret. She didn't know how she knew this, she just did.
As the girl matured into a woman, she questioned her mother's ability to "fly." She wanted to fly, too; she wanted to be with her mother. She needed her mother. Too many years alone with a father and silly fantasies as company. It wasn't enough for her, and flying would set her free. She came close once, she would have flown out the window. But her father stopped her, stopped her from seeing her mother. "Don't fly away from me, please," he said, cradling her close. He didn't understand, she thought. "But I have to see her. I have to see her, and you stopped me!" she screamed at him; she never screamed. She tore from his arms and ran. She ran as fast as she could, into the woods, farther than either of them had gone before. Tears drew tracks down her cheeks, red, fiery, angry tears. Finally she tripped over a branch that lay wayward in her path. She fell and didn't get up until the father found her, curled in the dirt, eyes tearless, but whimpering like a child. He carried her back to their cottage. She kept to her bed for weeks, eating little. She moved when he wasn't looking, and spoke to herself when he wasn't listening. She kept the window open, not to attempt flight, but to see what she had lost. All those tales of royalty and poverty, magic and mischief. She began to write. Stories of ferocious dragons, daring heroines, bloody battles, and secret treasure skipped about the floor. They jumped on the bed and painted the walls, and when the time came, they were carried by the sea breeze out the ever-open window.
The young woman did not read the stories to her father; he knew them by heart. But when she was asleep, he would tiptoe into her room and read the stories by moonlight glistening through the window. Soon after he brought paper and charcoal with him. He would sit until almost daylight, drawing pictures to his daughter's tales, renditions of his own. He drew the dragons and heroines described in her stories, and he drew the best of the battles and the finding of the secret treasure. The more she wrote, the more he drew, until one night when he was sitting by the window, the woman awoke suddenly. Startled to see her father in her room, she demanded he tell her what he was doing at this obscene hour. He showed her the drawings, explained to her his ritual every night.
The woman noted her father's etched and cracked hands, the growing hump on his back, and the steady whitening of his hair. She had lived with her father all her life in this house. He had always cared for her, and she, now realized, must care for him in return. He talked now of more tales she could write and he could illustrate, of the world knocking on their door to hear the stories from the storytellers. She listened patiently, all the while helping him into her bed. She placed the blanket over his old, frail body, kissed his forehead, and made to walk to the open window. He reached to grab her hand and whispered low to her, “You never flew away." His smile brought tears to her eyes. She kissed his hand and placed it upon his chest. She watched him sleep; his even breathing, hand holding the blanket, eyes searching the Heavens for his wife, her mother, just beyond the horizon. She sat at the window and watched his falling chest fall shorter distance. She listened to his breathing grow lighter, almost ceasing. Soon she could hear nothing but the crashing waves below. But somewhere outside her window, she heard the cry of a large, magnificent white bird who had found its long awaited mate. She didn't know how she knew this, she just did.





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