It was tiny she thought as she looked with big eyes at the small creature that moved about her outstretched palm. Fluff not quite feather yet covered the bird as it hopped about. Everything was small, even the noises it made. She felt its warmth, saw the heart pulsate in steady rhythm. She was only seven and knew that her mum would never let her keep it, but looking down she felt so full of love, there was so much want to look after it, feed it, befriend it, so they could relax together without the anxiety that was so apparent now.
Soon her mum would come out and wonder what she was up to, then she would tell her to rid herself of the little fluffy thing and wash her hands. That’s what she would do. Unless, unless there was an exception. She had learned about exceptions a while ago. There was what she could and couldn’t do and then there were exceptions. Although exceptions were mostly made for other people she knew that one day she would be allowed to have one of her own.
Maybe this was it.
She decided not to tell her mum, instead got a shoebox from the garage and made a little nest for the bird. Worms and water was what birds liked and that’s what she would provide for the little thing. She would have to give it a name so they could be proper and call each other something, even though the bird wouldn’t be able to call back cause it was probably not a parrot and only those could speak.
She put the shoebox on the shelf in the garage when her mum called for dinner, looked inside with gentle eyes once more, before putting on the perforated lid to allow for airflow. After dinner she would try to come out again, say good night to the little bird, would know what to call it and thought Lizzy a good name. Lizzy the bird, she thought, as she was walking towards the house, after her doll by the same name.
‘Doreen, go wash your hands and get to the table,’ her mum said when she walked in through the kitchen. ‘And hurry, your dad is in a mood and you are holding things up.’
Doreen anxious now, not wanting to be shouted at, sped up, rigidly soaped her hands and scrubbed her nails, then looked in the mirror. Saw thick blonde hair and re-did the red clips that kept it from falling in her face. Her blue eyes sparkled with excitement when she walked into the dining room and said hello to her father. Who looked her over, then nodded in approval and told her to get seated.
‘Little people like you still have to obey the rules, just like big people.’ He pointed at his watch.
‘Sorry dad,’ she said and looked down on her plate, moved the food around with her fork and started eating.
When they finished their meal Doreen got up to help her mum clear the table, careful not to trip she carried the plates and glasses into the kitchen. Her mind was on Lizzy. She was about to sneak from the kitchen onto the lawn, when her dad’s voice stopped her.
‘I don’t know where you are trying to go. but it’s the wrong direction, your bedroom is upstairs.’
She stopped dead, then slowly turned and with hanging shoulders walked past her father who looked at her wondering what his daughter was up to.
After Doreen had gone to bed and was asleep for some time he said to his wife, that now at almost eight, Doreen started to develop her own mind as to how to do things and they had to be careful to guide her in the right direction. His wife gave him a tired nod from across the room.
The next morning the girl woke when she heard her father leave the house. For a moment she lay there, listened to the silence before she could hear her mum in the kitchen. She thought of Lizzy and jumped out of bed, got dressed then ran down the stairs and through the kitchen onto the sun covered lawn. Her mum shouted a good morning and looked on as the little girl crossed the lawn and went into the garage.
She was behaving a little strange, she thought, a tad out of kilter, then went on to prepare breakfast for the two of them.
Doreen went up to the shelf to take down the box, careful not to wake the bird in case it was still asleep. She carried the box outside and knelt down on the grass before she took off the lid to look at the little piece of fluff that was curled up on itself, lying there quietly and unmoving. For a moment Doreen just sat quietly watching.
She waited for movement, then stretched little fingers and gently stroked the small creature. The bird felt clammy and cold, not like it had the day before when she saw its chest pulsate with heartbeat. Her fingers pushed and the bird rolled, its little head lolling from side to side.
‘Lizzy,’ the girl sobbed, her big blue eyes filled with water her shoulders shaking back and forth. Suddenly her mum was standing next to her. She looked down at her daughter and from her into the box with the dead creature.
‘What’s that in the box Doreen?’
‘It’s Lizzy,’ she said through a steady stream of tears, ‘she’s dead.’
Death, thought her mother, what a strange concept at the age of seven. ‘Where did she come from,’ she asked.
‘I found her under the big tree by the fence yesterday.’
‘And you didn’t tell!?’
Doreen shook her head.
‘Well, lets bury it where you found it,’ her mother said. She went into the garage to get a shovel, then walked up to the tree by the fence, dug into the soft soil till a hole was made big enough for the shoebox, that had once carried Doreen’s shoes and had now turned into a coffin. Looking down at her daughter she could see that Doreen was in fact wearing those shoes.
The little girl was still crying when she put the coffin into the hole, her mum quick to cover it with soil.
‘Do you want to say something? Now is the time,’ she said impatient.
‘Lizzy,’ Doreen said, ‘she was a good bird, please keep her warm and look after her god. Thank you.’ Tears were rolling down her cheeks, when her mum turned to take the shovel back to the garage.
‘Now go wash your hands,’ she said as she walked away.