The first time Blaire was kicked out of her mother’s house, she was nine years old.
Mama was having one of her fits, the ones where she would yell and storm around the house, breaking anything that got in her way. “Damn it, Blaire,” she said loudly. “Why, if your good-for-nothing scoundrel of a father were here, I’d - ”
“Don’t talk about Daddy that way,” Blaire whispered.
Her mother turned on her, eyes wild and unfocused all at once.
“You think you know your father better than I do?” she asked, furious red splotches blooming across her cheeks. The liquid in her bottle sloshed around as her hands shook. “Get out! Go! And don’t come back!”
Blaire grabbed her coat and ran for the front door, tears falling from her eyes as quickly as she could wipe them away. As she stumbled down the sidewalk, a flock of blackbirds suddenly wheeled through the sky overhead. Blaire looked up, breath taken away by the stunning freedom with which they took to the air. As their little black shapes vanished into the horizon, she was struck with a longing to follow them, to spread wings of her own and leap off the earth, and to never come back.
But as Blaire’s heart soared off to fly with the blackbirds, her feet carried her down a familiar road, past the firehouse and down a residential side street. Outside the third house to the right, a man was up to his elbows in grease, taking apart the engine of a red motorcycle with a black leather jacket hanging on the handlebars.
“Hey, Blaire,” he said, surprised but pleased to see her. When he saw her face, his smile became serious and he wiped his greasy hands on his jeans. “Uh oh,” he said. “Something happened, huh?”
Blaire nodded mutely and ran into her father’s arms.
“Sh, honey, it’s gonna be okay,” he murmured into her ear, rocking her gently back and forth. “It’s okay now, I’m here.” And so it was.
The next time, Blaire was twelve, and it was nighttime.
Blaire’s mother slammed things around as she tore through the house, channeling her anger into wild gestures that sent glass, clothing, and furniture cascading to the ground in waves, but Blaire stayed ahead of the tide, already running before her mother could tell her to.
“Don’t touch me!” Blaire cried. “Leave me alone!” And she raced outside, hugging her thin pajama shirt close for warmth as her mother shook a bottle at her, shouting words Blaire was too far away to hear.
A few blackbirds stared at her from a telephone wire, fluttering their wings restlessly. Blaire paused to gaze back at them, sighing wistfully. Now more than ever she wished she could join them up there, surveying the world from the clouds, beyond where the earth could hurt them. Blair gazed longingly in their direction for a long time before resignedly turning toward the firehouse and the third house on the right of the residential street.
Her father answered the door in his pajamas, wearing a bathrobe and Bugs Bunny slippers. When he saw who it was his eyebrows turned down sympathetically. “Hey, honey,” he said. “Come on in, I was just making some hot cocoa.”
The next time it happened, Blaire was sixteen, and she didn’t wait to get kicked out.
Her mother was ranting to herself, banging around the kitchen and looking for a fresh bottle, totally distracted. Her purse was on the table, and next to the purse were her keys. Blaire stared at her mother for a long time, taking a mental picture of her and trying to make it a good one to remember her by. Then Blair took the keys, made a mental apology to her father, and drove away.
Blair didn’t drive to the residential rode by the firehouse. She drove to the horizon, letting the sun lead her. She spread her wings and gave into the callings of the blackbirds, not knowing when she would stop or if she would at all. For the first time in her life, Blaire was doing what she had always wanted to do. For the first time in her life, Blaire was free. And that should make her happy…shouldn’t it?
When Blaire was far away, she parked on a hill overlooking the horizon and sat on the hood of her mother’s car with her head between her knees, and there she stayed for several hours while the sun went in and the stars came out and a nighttime chill ate up all the warmth in the air. In fact, she may very well have just stayed like that forever if she hadn’t heard another vehicle approaching.
Blaire looked up to see a familiar red motorcycle roll to a stop next to her. The rider took off his helmet and joined her in her silent vigil until she spoke.
“How did you find me?” she asked in the hollow voice of someone who had been crying, but long since let the tears dry up.
Her father gave a long sigh, heavy with the pains of the intervening years. “Well, you didn’t think I’d let you just run off and leave me, now, did you?” he asked quietly.
Blaire closed her eyes.
“I’ve been thinking about this too,” he mused softly, his voice the only movement in the still night. “I think you’re right, I think the only way to escape some things is to run from it.” He snuck a sideways glance at her. “Which is why,” he continued, “We’re going to run from it the same way we do everything else. Together.”
Blaire’s eyes prickled with unshed tears and she slid down from the hood of the car into her father’s arms. She buried her face in the cool leather of his jacket and breathed in the evergreen scent of his aftershave. Her gaze floated up to the branches of the tree where the blackbirds watched, but they no longer promised Blaire a home.
She already had one.