Stop. Start.

Sometimes I’m terrified of my heart; of its constant hunger for whatever it is it wants. The way it stops and starts.”

– Edgar Allan Poe

 

He was a bird. I was only human.

He flew overhead one day in the fall, blocked the sun, brought it back, let it pour warmth over me in the crisp autumn air. I watched as he landed in a whirl of wings, his feathers falling around us like rain. He spoke, smiling, and took flight again, holding my name on his tongue. I sat on a bench, wrapped in a sweater, watching him glide away. My heart trembled within me, but I told her to be still, to wait.

He flew to me often; we met between the earth and the air. I would smile as he beat his wings, bidding me goodbye until tomorrow. I felt my heart quiver each time he left me, but I crossed my arms over her, pressed hard, pushed her back. I did not want to love a boy with wings.

The days turned dark as the sun began sleeping early. Soon the trees began exposing their other roots as their crowns came to rest around their feet. I awoke late one night after a series of dreams he had woven through. She was beating furiously, reaching for his smile still etched on the backs of my eyelids. She spoke, quiet at first, then loud:

I want him, I want him….

I pressed my arms over my eyes, let his image blur into dissolving colors. Fear bubbled in my stomach and I shook my head as she pleaded—

I want him, I want him, I want him…

I whispered into the darkness, “I can’t.”

But I love him…I love him…

I shook my head harder, my voice firm: “No—”

I WANT HIM, I WANT HIM, I WANT HIM, I WANT HIM –

I screamed out, “NO!” My eyes burned. “I can’t love a boy who can fly away.”

She stopped. My chest cleaved and I sucked at the air. She started, then dissolved into tears that burned like ice.

The darkness swallowed us as we cried together, huddled beneath the covers. I shut my eyes tighter and tried to pretend I could not still see him.

For some time, I avoided him. Still, I yearned for him, felt hunger rise up at every thought of him. In late winter, as I went to town for coffee, I saw him again. He sat with a beauty wrapped in his wings. My heart reared, threw herself against my ribs so hard that I stopped walking. Their faces glowed through the snow like burning coals, so close together I could almost feel their warmth. I turned to run but she held me there, clawing at the bars of her cage. She moaned and cried and shook me—

No, no, no, no, no, no…

I clung to the wall, hoping to disappear, but his amber eyes found me. They were before me in moments, hair dusted with snow, smiles still etched on blushing faces.

The beauty held out her hand as he spoke:

“I want you to meet my…”

“I’ve heard wonderful things about you…”

I smiled mechanically, took the beauty’s hand, let it go, wrapped my arms around myself, as she raged and stormed within me. He talked, smiling, but his amber eyes no longer looked at me.

“Well, we should be going…”

“It was so nice to meet you…”

And then they were gone in a flutter of wings, leaving me standing in feathered snow.

Go after him! I want him! He’s mine, he’s mine!

She cried so loud I feared the world would hear her. I dropped to my knees as she shook me harder, threw herself around— I want him, I want him, I want him….

“No. We have to let him go.” I spoke aloud, out into the wintry air. People gathered around me as I sank down into the snow. She stopped. Darkness gathered in the corners of my eyes.

I want him, I want him…

She started.

Please, please…

“No,” I whispered. “No.”

Stop.

My body jerked with each halt, each shock.

Start.

My fingers writhed beneath me and I felt one of his feathers brush against my skin. I held it tight as his glowing face came swimming before my eyes.

“No,” I said again. “No.”

Her crying quieted, her raging calmed. I gasped, I shuddered—

Stop.

 

Kathryn H. Ross is an LA-based writer, reader, and storyteller. Her work has previously appeared in Across the Margin, Dali's Lovechild, 50 Haikus, and is forthcoming in Flash Fiction Magazine, Pigeonholes, and Brilliant Flash Fiction. She manages a blog with her writers group Thimbleschism and works as a freelance writer for various companies.

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