This story is by Page Craw and was part of our 2020 Fall Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
Mirabelle knew how to test my patience. She was a flibbertigibbet, but her enthusiasm, even for her ridiculous fancies, compelled my acquiescence every time. When I looked at her, my innards quaked, and it was hard to have a clear thought. She had me enthralled. I wanted to twist her cinnamon hair through my fingers, a much too forward move to pursue at my age. Yet, I desired to be near her at every opportunity, even if I had to restrain my impulses. She had promised to join me, and I sat at the edge of the woods and stared into the clearing, as the chill from the damp earth moved to my scantily clad extremities. I was small next to the chattering squirrel nearby.
I found a perfect grass blade and placed it between my thumbs in the correct alignment. I pursed my lips to blow a few times before a loud, high-pitched whistle emitted from my palms. Behind me, wildlife scattered at the blast. The squirrel disappeared from view. I blew it again for something to do.
Where was Mirabelle? My leather sandals dug into the dirt beyond me, a divot created in the moist earth. The blade discarded, I stood and stretched. I brushed the autumn leaves from the back of my britches. My felt hat askew, I adjusted it over my ears to ward off the cold.
Her voice lilted through the woods. “Yoo-hoo, Tattingay! Ha! Did you think I would never arrive? The urchins from the cottage needed to depart the path so I could proceed undetected.”
I struggled for the first glimpse of her through the undergrowth. She appeared with the exuberance of a child, and indeed her youth was her charm.
“Watch this!” She leapt upwards and landed without a sound on the spongy turf, then followed with several repeats of the same.
“What are you doing? Slow down, talk to me,” I said as my eyes absorbed her outfit. Her seasonal garment was always surprising in its originality—a lily once with a dandelion beret and her moss coat one winter was the first of its kind.
She observed my gaze and stopped her leaps into the air. “Do you like my sheath? It came from the hollyhock along the fence. Soon the flowers will be spent, but this one was fresh. I love the color.”
The white of the flower was vibrant against her skin, and its purple dots accented her beautiful red hair. I could only manage a sigh of appreciation, drowned out by the north wind’s downdraft as it gusted into the ferny glen. I clasped my arms around me.
“The draft will carry me on the wings of the wind to the lands where the warm breezes live,” Mirabelle said. “That’s why I have to jump so many times to catch it. It’s a matter of timing.”
“Who has been carried by the wind before? Tell me. This isn’t logical.”
“Do you know all that has come before, Tattingay?”
“No, but our annals would have proclaimed this if our kind had flown on the wind.”
Mirabelle’s face contorted with exasperation. Often it became necessary for me to protect her from our community’s disapproval when her sharp tongue and that look annoyed the elders. They said her ideas were unorthodox and her manner disrespectful.
“We know we are isolated here in this vale. Our annals may not represent all of our kind’s achievements,” Mirabelle said. “And what’s to say it can’t occur, even if it hasn’t already taken place?”
“A waste of energy, I’d say.”
“You have no imagination, and you’ll not progress with that perspective. Don’t you wish to advance?”
“Yes, but I’ll do it here—I don’t need to flee.”
“Every winter, the cold brings death to so many of us. We hide in cellars, or if we find nooks where chimney fires keep us warm, we risk detection when we sneak a bite to eat,” Mirabelle said. “The warm winds of summer go somewhere, and I want to follow them.”
“I thought you cared about one of the children in the cottage?” I asked.
“Yes, little Curtis. I think he spotted me once. He blinked and wiped his hand across his eyes, but by then, I had hidden behind the coal scuttle. I’ll miss him, but he’s getting older, and he’ll know I’m here before too long.
“And there’s his mother, a scary sort, who sweeps under and around. Corners aren’t even safe from her prickly broom,” Mirabelle said.
“Come to town with me. I’ll show you the sights, and we’ll find a safe harbor for the winter. I have a few more seasons on you, and I know my way around.”
“My sweet, Tattingay. Come with me instead. I’ve seen books left open on tables in the cottage with pictures of lands where the sun is high in the sky, and the earth glows with its warmth. Trees of single trunks reach upward and sprout branches at the very top, with fruit gathered just beneath. In one picture, a furry person with long arms and legs grasped the tree trunk. I would like to see that place.”
“You don’t know what lies ahead,” I said with apprehension in my voice. “You don’t even know if you can do this.”
“No, but I know I have to try, and I’ll have less chance the heavier I become,” Mirabelle said.
The wind separated a swath through the canes of grass.
Mirabelle looked in the direction the wind had taken through the glade. The stump of an ancient oak tree lay in its wake, and she sprinted toward it.
“We each have a course to pursue. I’m an explorer. We won’t live forever, and these harsh winters debilitate the strongest of us. My parents are gone already, barely here forty years.”
She reached the gnarly oak remnant. “Won’t you reconsider and come with me? My only regret, Tattingay, is to leave you.”
“I admire your spirit and your determination, although I still think your plan to fly on the wind is poppycock. Goodbye at this point is hardly warranted,” I said. “When you’re still here a few hours from now, my invitation will stand.”
“You are my best friend. Just wish me well if you won’t say goodbye.”
“Certainly, I wish you all the best, and I imagine you’ll need my advice in the near future. I’ll be here to offer it, Mirabelle.”
Mirabelle climbed onto the stump. I watched as she licked her finger and held it up to confirm the wind’s direction. “An inspired plan has occurred to me. Please, Tattingay, one last request. I require a stick to lean forward on since the wind needs to billow within my skirt to propel me on its course.”
I made no comment, and I moved to the woods to scout the underbrush beneath the trees. Soon I returned, with a broken tree limb.
“That should do quite nicely. Thank you, my friend. Now, this next part is somewhat indelicate as I must angle myself away from the wind. For decorum’s sake, I would ask you to move from behind to stand in front of me.”
I did as she requested and moved to the front of the stump.
Mirabelle’s pixie face wore a look of resolve.
“I feel the wind at my back. There won’t be any time once the wind lofts me away. So again, goodbye, my friend. The undiscovered world awaits.”
Mirabelle leaned outward, balanced on the stick.
My face had a smile tolerant at best. How long would Mirabelle’s nonsense persist, I wondered? With nothing else to do, I watched an ant ambulate on some pebbles in front of my leather shoe.
A whoosh of wind caught me off guard. I looked up in time to see Mirabelle sail upward into the sky.
“See—I’m flying!” were her last words as the gust swept her from view.
Tears unleashed as I realized the truth of her departure. I beat my head with my fist. Those ideas I had labeled as nonsensical, Mirabelle brought to pass by faith. I collapsed to my knees, alone and distraught.
“Oh, Mirabelle. Please forgive my unbelief.” The inhabitants of the woods heard my mournful confession. “I loved you all along, and now I have lost you to the wind.”
Nothing occupied my time more in the next few days than the development of the instrument to propel me southward to join Mirabelle. Unlike Mirabelle, who weighed mere ounces, my one-pound weight presented a challenge. Soon, before winter closed in, I had a kite at the ready. I stood on the highest promontory and prayed for an airstream to take me. Of a sudden the twine unwound, and the kite lifted. As I held on, the earth passed beneath me. My spirit soared and kept pace with the wind, and I smiled in the knowledge the current would join me to my Mirabelle.