CREATIVE CONTEST: “Birds of a feather” by Megan Carro-Le May

Here is the first participant in Quench’s Short Story Contest; a story presenting colourful and imaginative details. Enjoy!

Birds of a Feather by Megan Carro-Le May

Birds chant their morning song as a warm honey-coloured ray of sunlight warms the room. Slowly, Melody opens her eyes, peeking up from under the duvet. She stretches, yawns and smiles. Today is her birthday. She hops out of bed and hurries downstairs eagerly. Bouncing into the kitchen, she calls out “good morning!”, no one answers. Dirty dishes lay all around the sink and old takeaway boxes crowd the table tops. A smell of mould lingers in the air.  The sound of keys in the front door comes from the hallway, they must have gone to buy her a last-minute present she thought.

“Why the fuck do you keep lying to me? You are nothing but an old ass-hole!” screams her mother.

“I’m the ass-hole? What about you and your man friends you spend all your nights with?!” shouts back her father.

As they enter the kitchen, her mother shoves past her father furiously barely noticing Melody, who watches them sadly.

“Why can’t you just admit that you’ve cheated on me you whore!?” bellows her father, slamming his fist down on the counter, glaring at his wife.

“What did you just call me?” she asks through gritted teeth.

Melody clears her throat. Both parents suddenly realise of her presence and look down at her.

“What?” says her mother frustratingly.

“Today is my birthday. Since it’s a lovely day I thought we could all go to the park for a picnic.” She smiles shyly.

Her father laughs. “There are bigger things going on Melody” he turns back to his wife “Thinking about it, how do I even know she is my child?”

Melody sighs and walks towards the window. Outside, few clouds paint the bright blue sky and the sun shines down onto the few trees in the back garden, casting dark shadows across the untamed grass. A bird flies from its nest picks at the grass, holds a worm in its smooth beak and returns to the tree where its baby awaits eagerly breakfast. Melody watches the birds longingly, she could not remember the last time her mother made her breakfast or walked her to school. Tears rose in her eyes and start to fall down her rosy cheeks. She wipes them away determined. She would not let her angry parents ruin this day for her. She pushes past them still fighting in the kitchen doorway and goes to her bedroom to get dressed. She picks a bright orange dress, with a black ribbon around the waist with some golden sandals. She then creeps downstairs and discretely steals a twenty-pound note from her mother’s purse.

She skips down the street, humming happy birthday to herself. In the shop, she buys a meal deal and a chocolate fudge cake. At the till the old cashier says:

“You look especially lovely today little missy”

“It’s my birthday, I’m going for a picnic in the park,” answers Melody smiling.

“Well, your parents are very lucky people so have such a sweet and gorgeous daughter.”

Melody’s considers this before answering “I don’t think they even realise I really exist. I doubt I’m even theirs.”

The cashier looks horrified, but Melody grabs her shopping before she can say anything else. The park is a short run from Melody’s house, she flies down the street her brown hair flowing behind her.  Once there, she sets out to find the perfect spot. The picnic table by the lake is already taken by a family and their two young children, so she settles for a spot under an old oak tree. It provides some shade and she can still see most of the lake. She scoffs down her sandwich and crisps before getting out the cake. She imagines eleven lit candles and is about to blow them out when she is interrupted:

“You do realise that there aren’t really any candles, right?”

Melody looks up to see one of the children from the picnic table standing in front of her.

“Could you move, please? You are blocking the sun” asked Melody. The boy ignores her and continues:

“You look sad sat under this tree; Why are you sad if it’s your birthday? It is your birthday, right?

“I’m not sad!” snaps Melody “I was perfectly happy before you came along. Now go away! Go back to your perfect little family!”

The boy looks at her pityingly, before turning around and running back towards the lake. Melody looks back at her cake. It looks pathetic with no candles, she wants a home-made one with sparkling candles and a family. Furious, she smacks the cake, sending icing flying across the ground. She pulls her knees up to her chest and buries her head in them as she sobs. On a nearby branch, a bird begins to tweet. Melody looks up through her puffy red eyes to see a little fellow, with a brown back and orange chest. It sings again, before flapping its wings and flying off towards the beautiful blue sky. Melody watches it go yearningly, she does not feel like going back to the house. Looking at her half-destroyed cake, she imagines the candles again and makes a wish as she blows them out. Looking back at the lake and the trees she takes a deep breath. Another little orange bird lands by her foot. Melody watches as another bird joins her, this one yellow with black wings. They continue appearing, one after the other, each one a new colour. After a short while, the little girl is surrounded by a rainbow carpet of birds, all chirping. Melody smiles and laughs.

Hearing the sad girl’s laugh, the boy looks over from the picnic table. Under the oak tree are a dozen small birds singing beautiful musical notes. One with pale blue feathered wings flaps about eagerly before rising from the ground. The other birds follow suit and together they fly off into the endless sky. Puzzled, the young boy runs over to the tree, only to find the remains of the little girl’s picnic and a black ribbon blowing gently in the wind.