Short fiction

The Ribbon

It was a garden like any other. A patch of grass behind a beautiful house. A mansion, some would say – but it is only a mansion if there are a few people living in it. For the Stewarts, a family of twelve, the big building was a tiny house.

Three generations lived there, and three generations shared the garden. The children would be outside in the mornings. After lunch, grandmother and grandfather would sit on the ground under the big old oak and reminisce about their days. Then Mr Stewart, the father, would come home and enjoy an evening chat his wife. After dinner, the sun would set and the garden would become quiet, resting for the next day.

But it was not only people that enjoyed the garden’s gift of beauty. A pair of rainbow birds had nested in the branches of the old oak. They chirped all day and at night shared a peaceful hug.

But tonight was somehow different. The Stewarts were restless in their beds. For an unknown reason most of them had trouble falling asleep. It was probably because the rainbow birds had not stopped chirping. They were excitedly discussing something, when everyone and everything was supposed to be fast asleep.

It was a red ribbon.

They had found it in the grass next to some seeds. After those were gone, only the fascinating piece of cloth remained, shining in the evening sun. They poked at it with their beaks and it danced around. They would then stop and look at it for a few seconds, confused by the stillness which engulfed it. They repeated this until they realised the red thing was either dead or was never alive in the first place. In any case, it had to have a purpose and they were determined to find out, because not knowing worried them.

You are probably wondering – what species were the rainbow birds? I never found out. They were small and fast, like swallows, but they had rainbow tails and wings with all the colours in the sky.

Their bodies were warm and soft, with shorter fluffy feathers allowing them to sleep peacefully through cold nights. One had a pastel yellow tummy, the other – light green. Robin Stewart, the third child, called them Lemon and Lime and frequently chased them around the garden.

Lemon and Lime were bewildered by the short red ribbon. They took it home and tried placing it on different parts of their nest. Nothing looked right. Then they put it around themselves like a fancy blanket but it slid off their feathers and fell into the darkness. The two birds got into an argument – what were they to do with it? It concerned them greatly, yet they had never before flown into the night.

Lemon didn’t wait for Lime to finish her warning and jumped off the branch into the darkness. He couldn’t see the ground so he spread his wings as soon as he felt the air getting colder. He glided around the tree trunk slowly, cruising down and when the fluffiness of his belly felt the sharp grass, he knew it was time to land. He looked up but couldn’t see the nest. A new worry appeared in his head – what was Lime to do without him, who would warm her while she slept? Would she be able to sleep at all?

He shook those thoughts off, he was on a mission. He waddled through the tall grass, trying to feel the silky ribbon with his little feet. Step after step, all he could feel was the cold soil. He chirped with disappointment. In a few seconds, he heard a worried chirp in response. It sounded distant but he knew it was Lime giving him courage from the top of the tree.

The cold was getting under Lemon’s rainbow feathers and he shivered every few seconds yet he pushed forward with one clear objective in his mind – to find the ribbon and its mysterious purpose.

Time passed. Finally, the night as if smiled on his fruitless efforts and parted the clouds, allowing the moon to illuminate the old oak.

Lemon chirped happily, loudly, hoping Lime would hear his excitement. However, there was no response.

He spread his wings and took off, finally able to see the tree. He flurried around, looking for the ribbon. Not long after, his eyes caught the glimmer of the silky material and he dived in, almost like a predatory bird, full of excitement. He finally found it!

He let out a few more chirps of pride. When he heard no response, a growing sense of disappointment settled in his tummy. Why was Lime not supporting him? Was she already asleep?

He secured the ribbon in his beak and set off. On his way up he got more and more agitated.

The moon hid between a curtain of black clouds just as Lemon reached the nest. He landed quietly, angry on the inside but still not wishing to disturb Lime’s peaceful sleep. He could barely make out her silhouette yet that didn’t stop him to flutter closer to her, drop the ribbon at her feet and snuggle up close. He tucked his beak under hers and ruffled her soft feathers.

He froze. She was cold. She wasn’t moving at all. Her little chest was not moving rhythmically as it used to.

Something was wrong. Lemon panicked and chirped, nipped at Lime, urging her to respond, to chirp back. Yet she remained silent.

Unsure what to do, Lemon picked up the ribbon. He flew in circles. Once, twice, soon she was completely wrapped in it. Please get warm, he wished as he frantically fluttered around her. The night responded to his heartfelt plea in silence. The moon did not show herself.

Lemon cuddled up close to Lime, just as any other night, hoping that she was going to be okay. His little heart felt like it was going to explode. It was beating too fast.

The sky changed from black to dark blue. Shivering, Lemon finally felt the sweet embrace of sleep. He closed his eyes and in his dream, he saw himself and Lime flying together towards the sun. And in their beaks, much to their pride, the red ribbon shined in gold, finally connecting them, as it was supposed to all along.

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