Blackbird

by Lucy Gardner

We said we were friends forever.

Forever to the blackbird is not forever to humans.

We were eleven, starting school, rain peeling from the sky like the skin of water on the ground. Our feet splashed on the concrete, goose bumps on the stone. Plastic grass dripped like curls of bone and vertebrae under the weather, a lanky tree sapling cried with buds as big as teardrops.

A blackbird’s father hopped over the cracks in curb, worms flowing from his beak for his son.

Laughter dripped down my chin into the air, sound the consistency of blood. Looking at each other, the chatter drooling down lips, we knew we would be friends forever.

We were just two people in a library, the spines of books stretching forever and ever to the back wall, sat at a table the colour of bone. Sunlight dribbled through the window, sliding down the windowsill, glistening on a young blackbird’s feathers outside. The librarian’s ominous stare fell over her precious books, her skin taught and face like a skull.

Laughter caught on the back of my lip, I could see it reflected in your face.

Together, we remember when we were younger, the preschool plays and the friends we shared that flew away from the nest of our primary school. We agree we are not the people we were: sometimes we are capable of disagreement, sometimes you chastise me and I snap back. The backbone of our friendship is crumbling under the weight of forever.

Above our head, a young blackbird sits with sodden feathers in the guttering. Laughter hit me in the ear, blackening my eyes. Once again, we were laughing at each other.

Recently, we were sprained. Arguments fracture the bones of our friendship: laughter cannot cast them back together, laughter splits them further. We laugh and snap at each other. It’s not just you. Even though you ignored me when I needed your support, I also tried to rub you out.

A blackbird huddled against the snow by the pipework of the history block, his wing injured and his body weak.

Now, we watch each other in despair and hate. We do not speak to each other, we speak to our mutual friends but not to each other. I’m still confused about what happened, the x-rays of our friendship were blurry.

Last time I saw you, I didn’t notice the blackbird lying on the cobbles, feathers scattered around the stone, soaked with blood and rain.

Our friendship lasted for a blackbird’s forever, because a friendship is like a bone. Once it is broken, it is never the same. We tried to fly on clipped wings, tried to walk on broken legs. But we could have at least tried to patch it up, couldn’t we?

Lucy Gardner’s “Blackbird” won first place in the 11-14 short story category of our 25th Birthday Writing Competition.