This story is by Joya Williams and was part of our 2020 Fall Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
She held her face up to the sun and smiled. It was a part of her morning routine. Her skin bathed in the warmth of its glow. She was sure if she stretched out her hand, she would feel its unforgiving burn on the tips of her fingers. She was brave not stupid. No one could harness the sun. Not even her. With eyes closed, she could almost smell the wind as it brushed her chest. It whispered softly to her.
Her body swayed of its own volition. It took all of her willpower to resist its pull. But she knew it to be a fickle friend; it had led her into trouble more times than she cared to remember. Blowing her this way and that. Abandoning her when she needed it most. But she always forgave it, because it had also brought her to the heights of exhilaration; and she loved the rush like a surfer loved the ocean.
“Not today. I’m in no mood for your tricks,” she said, trying to ignore the call.
It pulled her again, and she looked down at her feet and the nothingness beneath them. The ground far away and long forgotten. It was years ago that she had discovered that she could fly. It was by accident. Or at least not by her design.
“Stay close to me Anaya,” her mother said as she gripped her hand tightly. They were doing their weekly shopping.
“Okay mommy,” she answered but had already gotten distracted. They were threading their way through the street market on a Saturday morning in July. Maneuvering through the thick crowd was like trying to walk through mud. From the vantage point of a 10-year-old, she spied a bright red ribbon through the mesh of arms and legs, as they ebbed and flowed with the sea of people. The vice grip on her shoulder pinched painfully, but like a child, her feet followed her gaze as she tried to make out the origin of that bright red ribbon. She wasn’t sure if it was the pain in her shoulder or the suffocating heat of the bodies pressing against her, but she suddenly needed to be free of it all. The next thing she knew, she was on the outside of the crowd, her mother nowhere in sight.
“Anaya!” came the frantic cry from inside the throng of shoppers. Not far from where she stood, but far enough for her to feel alone and scared.
“Mommy!” she called. She tried to calm the breath that rushed in and out of her and tried to remember what her mother always said to do if she got lost at the market. Stay put. Yes, that was it. She stood rooted to the spot for what felt like forever. But there was no sign of her mother. The waiting only served to fuel her anxiety, so she turned blindly to where she’d seen the red ribbon. She thought she felt a whisper blow lightly past her ear.
She turned quickly, but she was still alone in the middle of the market. Suddenly, she felt herself being pushed forward; moving against her will. Out of the corner of her eye, she could see the large cart barreling through the grounds of the market. It was overflowing with garbage and being pushed by a young man wearing headphones, who was completely oblivious to the young girl being pushed into his path. Her breath left her in a silent rush; no time for a scream.
The cart was almost on her and she could hear cries of “Watch out!” She wasn’t sure what lifted her out of danger’s path. She only knew that she was on the other side of the giant garbage cart, standing on a small patch of sunburnt grass and out of harm’s way.
Her mother found her there a few minutes later, surrounded by strangers staring at her.
“Anaya! Are you okay?”
She couldn’t answer, her breath constricted in her mother’s embrace.
“Let’s go home. I’ve had enough of this place,” her mother said as she dragged her by the hand in the direction of the bus stop. Running to keep up with her mother, she pretended not to hear the whispers behind her.
“Did you see that?”
“Did that little girl just fly over that cart?”
She clung tightly to her mother’s hand, not sure of what had happened. She only knew that she wanted to go home and forget it.
“Me too mommy,” she said as they left the market.
Now many years later, she was an adult and not so scared anymore. In fact, embracing her ability had made her brave, given her courage in situations where others had none. She was open-minded and adventurous. But she had also had a period of rebelliousness, thinking she was invincible and giving her mother a hard time. She felt limitless, without boundaries, as if nothing could tie her down. But it was the wind that had pushed her and carried her on that first day. It was also the one to teach her lessons in humility. Even if that meant, hitting a tree or suddenly falling into a rotting garbage dump. It helped to lift her up and also brought her back down to earth when she needed it.
“This is a gift to be cherished and used for good,” her mother said when she first found out her daughter could fly.
“But what good can I do?” she asked.
“Open your eyes, Anaya. If you look for your purpose, you will find it.”
From that moment on, she searched for her purpose. Who was she supposed to be? Why had she been given this gift? But no answers came.
“So, now you have nothing to say?” she spoke to the wind. “Now, when I need answers?”
It was on a summer night when she sat on the roof of her building unable to sleep, where the answer came to her. The air was thick and even the slightest movement resulted in perspiration beading on her forehead and dripping down her back.
A soft whisper of cool breeze tickled the fine hairs on the back of her neck. With it came another sound. A cry of distress from the street below. She didn’t even realize that she was no longer on the roof, hovering over the scene of a man and a woman. His hand raised in anger as the woman cowered on the sidewalk; her hand lifted above her bruised face, in a futile attempt to protect herself. A shabby suitcase lay forgotten on the sidewalk behind her.
“Where do you think you’re going?” he yelled.
Before he could strike, he was lifted into the air and carried swiftly and without sound through the night. His cries of fear echoed over the dark streets. She dumped him unceremoniously in front of the police station. Just then, two officers stepped out of the building; they had just received a report of domestic abuse on Garland Ave. It was a confusing call, something about the man being carried through the air.
“Maybe she’s delirious,” one of the officers said. “She must be hurt pretty bad. We better hurry – “
They stopped as they saw the man lying on the ground in front of them; he matched the description of the woman’s husband. His face mirrored their own shocked expressions, and before they could question him, he pointed to the sky.
“She brought me here,” was all he managed to say.
They looked up at the night sky, but she was already on her way back to the woman that stood confused but relieved in the same spot. She could tell that the woman had no idea what had happened, but there was a look of relief that spread across her face at the realization that her husband was finally gone. A cell phone sat loosely in the woman’s hand. Maybe she had finally found the courage to leave him. Had she tried before and perhaps the police hadn’t believed her stories? Well, maybe now they would. The woman looked up at her in the darkness, her figure illuminated by the dimly lit bulb of the streetlight. Thank you, she mouthed with tears in her eyes.
“Free yourself,” she responded with a smile and disappeared into the starry night sky. Anyone that cared to listen could hear the sound of a tattered suitcase bumping lightly against the uneven sidewalk towards the corner of Garland Ave., and Main St.
The next day, the paper spoke of the mysterious, flying figure that saved a young woman who was being abused by her husband, as she tried to leave the marriage. Names like “Black Shadow” and “Night Hawk” were casually bandied about on the news. They tried to label her. But she was free, limitless; she could not be held down by anyone’s definition.