The Robin || A Short Story


When Christina was eight-years-old, she had once thought it was wise to climb the tree that stood proudly in the far corner of her local playground. It was the same place her family had always taken both her and her brother growing up. The swings creaked and the slide could be a tad wobbly, but it had that homey charm that doesn't come from complicated designs or a fancy pants location. It was surrounded by the most beautiful park, and you in Spring the entire place would smell of newly blossomed flowers. Both children and parents seemed to favour this particular park over the others, almost as if it had magical powersThe atmosphere was always electric and being her quiet self, Christina often preferred to sit under the climbing frame and watch it all unfold around her. Her parents had tried to persuade her to go and play with the other children multiple times, but her response was always 'But I'm having fun. Aren't I meant to?'. Eventually they stopped pestering her, but it didn't dampen their worries or late-night talks about her. Teachers had said she was the same in school, and suggested that they try to get her to interact more with children of her own age bracket. But it was difficult. If Christina was anything, she was stubborn.

As the months passed, other children caught onto her hiding spot and decided to sit there themselves. They'd asked if they could join her and despite the fact that she had said yes, that she didn't mind, she had actually felt like she was being cast out of her own spot. She didn't even attempt to exist there with them, it just seemed illogical and she felt as if she would be a nuisance. Instead she took it upon herself to find a new place. Eventually she had settled on sitting beneath a tree that was rooted a mere few steps from the swings. The tree itself was at the very least 30ft tall, you could barely see the top if you stood in close proximity to it. In the eyes of the little girl, it looked endless. There were barely any leaves coating it's ancient looking branches due to the current autumn weather, and it gave the impression that it would creak from a mere touch. She loved the spot instantly. Leaves crunched under her as she moved and there was a smell of oak that reminded her of Christmas time, when she would venture out to collect wood with her Grandpa for the roaring fire he loved so much.

Later that night she lay in bed and couldn't stop her mind from trailing back to her spot, a buzz of excitement lining her stomach at the thought of going back. Her father had promised that he'd take her back after school on Friday, which was three sleeps away. It was so strange, that tree had been there for as long as she could remember and it had never occurred to her to sit beneath it. It was so incredibly beautiful and she had simply walked passed every visit, not even giving the thing a second glance. How many other pretty things had she missed in her life, due to her need of similarity? 

Change wasn't her speciality. She had cried and cried last year when her mother had come home with a new car. They didn't understand what was wrong. "This is now ours. We'll make new memories." they said. But she liked the purple colour of the last car and she had a seat in it. It was hers - suited to her. She knew every nook and cranny and she longed for the day when she could sit up front. And just like that, it was gone. It wasn't fair that she didn't get a say. After all, it was a part of her life too, right? The change affected her. The same thing happened last weekend when her parents had surprised their children after school with a dinner out, instead of the usual meatballs and spaghetti that they had on a Friday. She had gotten upset. It frustrated her because she knew it was silly to be crying over this. It should've been a fun experience and she didn't want her parents to be hurt, but it was her instant reaction. She had looked forward to sitting at the table and eating her father's speciality all day. Then poof, it was gone. Her brother called her stupid and she had she cried herself to sleep that night. How could she get them to understand when she didn't herself? She wished and wished to fly away but it never came true. Now as she looked up at the white doves painted onto her ceiling, the glow of her night light making them appear pink, she wondered if she was a version of her tree to her family. Maybe they just hadn't looked hard enough to see her properly yet.

She dreamt of fairies that flew on pink doves that night.

Friday came excruciatingly slow, but like everything, it eventually came around. Christina was bouncing and skipping during the entire walk to the park. Her father laughed and she wanted to dance in the sound. They rarely had just daughter and father time nowadays so she cherished these moments. She dragged her father instantly to the tree and made him sit, he looked around and said how pretty it was. "But you know, honey. At the park, you're meant to play on the things that, you know, make it a playground." He gestured toward the swings and her brows instantly scrunched together in confusion. 

"I like it here." she said. He gave her that dad smile and moved to stand, his knees cracking in protest. 

"Okay. You play here, I'll go do my grown up thing." He gave her a lingering kiss on her forehead before strolling over to the bench that he usually sat on, already pulling his phone out of his pocket. 

"He didn't get it." she sadly said to herself, watching him go.

The weeks that followed where uneventful. The evenings got colder and it rained more often,  but the novelty of her new spot didn't wear off. Every Tuesday and Friday Christina would be elite with enthusiasm during the entirety of her school day, her toes itching in her wellies with the desire to stomp on leaves. 

It was a Friday afternoon when it all went wrong.

It had been raining throughout the day and it plummeted Christina's spirits, the thought of not going making her feel dreary. But much to her excitement, the weather started to clear up later in the afternoon and the droplets of rain lessened with each passing hour. The breeze still felt wet but it didn't warrant a cancellation of their trip. Her dad came to get her, only her, her brother had gone to his friends house for the evening. It was perfect. 

The moment they got there, she ran ahead and he took his usual seat on the damp bench. Within short distance from her spot, Christina suddenly came to a standstill. A robin whose chest was painted with the brightest of reds flew straight above her head and landed atop one of the twiggy branches. Ever since she was a little girl, Christina had a fascination with birds. They always seemed so free and kind. She wanted to become one with them. The young girl's heart was beating wildly as she turned her head to see what her father was doing, a surge of glee flooding her insides as his nose was buried deep in his phone. Without a second thought Christina ran toward the tree, her tree, and began to climb. 

It was difficult at first to find the right spot to stand, but it was almost as though the trunk adapted to her shape and small feet, and made the hollows just for her. The grips of her yellow rain boots aided in her climb and the cold sank straight through her kitten shaped gloves as she lifted herself into the air. Higher and higher she went. She didn't dare look down or back, instead keeping her determined eyes on the bird she was soon to become one with. It's head bobbed as it watched the small child inch closer.

'I'm doing it!' Christina internally squealed. She could hear her own pulse, and there was a loud buzzing filling her ears to go alongside it. She felt as though she'd been climbing for hours, even though barely a minute had passed. Her calves were shaking from the effort she was putting into it, but she didn't care. She wanted to fly. She was going to fly. That's when her foot applied just a little too much pressure on a branch and down she fell. She hit the ground with a loud thud and she instantly felt sick. A feeling of warmth was spreading behind her head. It was strange. It felt as though it had taken so long to climb, yet barely a second to fall. She could hear her dad's panicked voice and his approaching footsteps getting louder, but she didn't move. 

Tears welled up in her eyes as she watched the bird fly away. 

She had needed seventeen stitches – thirteen on her thigh and four on the back of her head. The doctors had said it was lucky that she was so bundled up as it could've been much worse. Her mother had scowled her like no other and she was even grounded for two whole weeks, which was completely illogical to her eight-year-old mind as she was usually spoilt rotten when sick or hurt. Throughout the entire hospital visit, she cried. Not from the pain or fright, but because she thought the birds had rejected her. They didn't want her to fly with them. That night in bed, she cried again.

It had been days of tears and rest until her father eventually knelt down beside her bed and begged her to tell him what was wrong. He was fearful that she was hurting more than she said and didn't want to confess it, in fear of angering them some more. His daughters chest heaved as she sobbed out her confession, her reasoning behind all these long nights making him want to laugh from relief. Her big brown puffy eyes looked at him as she said the words that had been circling her mind "Why didn't they want me?"

"Sweetheart, you can't fly with them. They couldn't of accepted you for a very important reason." He stroked his little girl's hair and a small hiccup came out muffled with her words. 

"But why? What reason?" she cried. 

Getting up, he sat down beside her on her wooden framed bed and took her into his arms. He had held his wife as she cried from fear last Friday night, and now it was his other girl's turn. "Because, you have to fly with the humans. You have to fly with your family. I know it can be hard sometimes, but all that matters is that we fly together. Okay?"

He'd nicknamed her Robin after that night, and it stuck.

- Anne.

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