I am the master of tip toe. I have been raised on light footsteps and bare feet. I have been taught to blend into shadows and to breathe slowly after great bursts of action. My instinct in danger is to run and never look back, and to run on quick feet. Always on light, quick feet.
My father calls me Owl; I am his nightbird. I am to be sensed, never seen, never heard. He says my only flaw is my golden eyes. Even in the darkest room, my eyes are wells of molten gold, as if the sun peered through my retinas as an open window to life on Earth. It relishes my hate of the dark.
I run on the bittersweet taste of dark chocolate before bed and the sound of grinding coffee grounds at dawn. Father says I am not to drink coffee; I have to learn to live on my own energy, not the artificial kind. He does not know that I am tired. I am constantly tired, like a slovenly turtle trying to make its way across a road without being violently crushed. I would be crushed if I ever refused to do what he says. He needs me. I am his gateway to power.
When he thinks I am sleeping, I whisper hateful words about him. I trace every flower on the wall repeating those nasty words and slowly peel back the cheap paper from the corners. Then I glue them back to start again so Father will not use hateful words when he sees the gloomy walls turned to scrappy plaster. But he does. Quite often. He will be plagued with guilt when the sun rises and will shower me with little gifts hidden in my ballet slippers and under my pillow. I always throw the gifts away.
I stare at the skylight above my bed in the attic when I’m not balancing on a beam or on another errand. It is covered in crinkled brown paper, secured with thick tape at each corner -except one. That is my window. That microscopic corner is my only view to the outside world, which, to me, is only sky. Endless, open sky. In my dreams I grow wings; I fly over mountains and valleys and grand cities, sparkling like jewels in the night. I hope to see them one day, but probably never will.
But I do leave the house; only when the light is gone. I breathe in the thick warm air while I travel from the basement door to the car. I fetch things for my father in dark apartments and warehouses. I don’t know what they are, and I never ask.
I have been caught only once. The beautiful sky decided to disappear behind a wall of dark shadows and shed droplets of water onto my face that night. Father said I had to scale the wall with the razor blades. So small that they were nearly invisible to passers byers, small knicks of razors stuck out from the brick wall. And I had to climb it barefoot, with no gloves. “Owl, silent as a fox,” he said. I wondered if he had ever met a fox. I scaled the wall, the only sound being the rain pattering on the gravel. My bloody hands grasped the white windowsill and my small body slipped through the window into a dark room. A man was waiting inside; shadows concealed his body but the candlelight highlighted the holster on his hip. I remember his face, slivers of lips, and a light stubble growing from under his long nose and down his neck, not managed. And his eyes… they were akin to mine. A rich, glistening gold. Maybe those two eyes were the reason I botched the mission. I was distracted. I had never seen eyes like mine before. Then the world went to hell when he grabbed onto me. I remember what I did next, but only in pieces.
I remember how cold the pistol was in my hands, and how the handle was ivory, detailed in whorls like the blowing of the wind. I remember the ear shattering noise that made me go deaf for several minutes and a luminous flash of light. I remember the feeling of hot blood on my hands, dripping off the tips of my fingers like paint. It was sticky and remnants of it dried under my fingernails. There were noises from below; people. Despite my feet being painted in red, I sauntered around the room, perched on the tips of my toes. I became silence. I became shadow. I became the master of tip toe that ghastly eve.
I got what I came for and scaled back down the wall, leaving a trail of blood in my wake. I dropped from exhaustion when I got to my father. The last thing I remember is the round thing that looked down at me from above. It was circular and white and aglow. The moon.
Father let me know of his displeasure with my mission. I have the scars to prove it. He stopped letting me out of the car so far from my new assignments. I was to not look around. I was only allowed to see the inside leather lining of his menacing black truck, as I crouched behind the driver's seat and watched tall, ominous shadows pass in the windows. Trees? I wouldn’t know. He blinded me from the rest.
That miniscule corner above my bed gives me hope. It gives me life. There is color out there, not black and white walls decorated with dated lamps and brown wicker furniture. I have seen the light change in that corner. Every dawn, every dusk, every day. The blues and reds and yellows. The purples and oranges. I dream of running my hands through all the colors.
There will be no revelation for me. I am a dreamer born in a nightmare, the sun in a realm of darkness. I wait for the day when I open my golden eyes and I am surrounded by radiant, sanguine light.
But my father still calls me Owl.
I am still his nightbird.
And I will always be the master of tip toe.