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Eva sits by the window, watching as the bird perches alone in the thick morning air atop the stadium light of the high school’s football field. The bird is a crow, big and black, with sharp-angled feathers poking out like spikes from his ill-contoured silhouette. Eva never thinks of him as ugly, however. He casually preens the night from his feathers, unaware of the girl’s longing glances from the high classroom window.
Eva urges him silently. “Go! Fly! Enjoy the free morning air! Do not waste time on silly cosmetics!” But she knows that it is within his right as a free citizen of the skies to do as he wishes.
Suddenly the crow spreads his wings and leaps high into the air! Laughing and calling, he flaps higher and farther into the morning’s foggy dimness, from her sight. She feels a sudden urge to clap and cheer for him, but contents herself with a small smile and continues on with the work sheet before her.
As the day progresses, Eva again finds herself next to a window, gazing out across the neighborhoods under an overcast sky. She fidgets in her seat and plays with the waves in her brown hair, watching anxiously as each crow flies by. The final bell rings and she files out of the classroom with her classmates. At the foot of the stairs she waits for David to join her, and as usual they walk together to their neighboring lockers. They have done this ever since they first received lockers in sixth grade, as the locker assignments were always done alphabetically.
“So how was your day?” David asks her. They walk close together in the crowded hallways, shoulders bumping, voices loud. David towers over her, and it is hard to imagine that they were ever the same height so many years ago when they were younger. Occasionally he pauses to wave to a friend down the hall. His popularity had skyrocketed in eighth grade, but Eva had never achieved that level of social status. She is content, however, with her own quiet, unassuming personality as long as David is.
Eva laughs quietly. “Just remembering the crows,” she tells him, smiling up at him sheepishly, but there is sadness in her eyes.
He looks down at her, concerned, but they’ve arrived at their lockers and she has turned away. They pack up in silence, letting their minds be carried off by other conversations in the hall. It doesn’t take for the side hall where their lockers are to clear out; everybody is excited for the long weekend ahead. “Eva, are you ready to go?” David asks her quietly.
Lost in thought, his voice comes to her a few seconds after he has spoken. “Oh! Yes,” she replies, startled. “Let’s go.”
“Hey,” he says. “I know it’s getting close to The Day.” He of course knows all about her younger brother, who had passed away the year before of a brain tumor. For a while afterward David had been the only one who could talk to Eva. Eva and David had always been like siblings; ever since they were very young they had been close, but this was the first time David had been the only one who could properly be there for her. It had to do with an event that David could remember quite clearly, that they both refer to as The Day.
Eva is walking very quickly, not meeting his eyes as she answers, “The Day is tomorrow.”
“I’ll be there,” David assures her immediately. A year before on The Day they had taken Eva’s younger brother to the zoo. David had insisted on being there because it was her little brother’s birthday, and had offered to help by pushing her little brother’s wheelchair. In the end, Eva’s younger brother could not have had the same amount of fun without David.
They had seen every exhibit and Eva’s brother had laughed and clapped for every animal, though he had been especially enamored with the hippos and elephants, as every seven-year-old boy is. As they were exiting the zoo, Eva’s little brother had noticed a great number of crows on the red brick path.
“Let’s chase them, David!” he had cried, and David had been only too happy to oblige. Two weeks later Eva’s little brother was in the hospital and a month later he had left the world of the living.
As Eva and David walk down the empty hall they both remember, not with sadness, but with happiness that day at the zoo. At the door of the school they each murmur their goodbyes and begin walking their separate ways home.
The next day David joins Eva at the zoo. Though there is no birthday like the year before, they have something different to celebrate. They walk through all of the exhibits, pausing for an especially long time at the hippos and elephants. When they exit the zoo, the crows are waiting for them on the red brick path.
“Let’s chase them, Eva!” David cries without a moment’s hesitation. They could not be happier to act like seven-year-olds.