To 2015 - 2016
False Spring

By Allison Rothrock

  1. Untitled
    By Sneha Iyer, 12
 "Where are you going?" he asked, and there were a number of things that she could have answered.
She could have said that she was flying away to Europe, or taking the line all the way to the Pacific. She could have said something believable, like she was going to the doctor or the grocery store. She could have told him that she was going to that fringe of city on the curving horizon. That she was going home.
But then her stomach fluttered and a wave of dizziness rolled over her like a summer storm and all she that she said was, "No thank you. No ticket for me today."
The driver did not hesitate when he closed the doors, and the bus slid away, paling into the morning mist.
She watched it go, almost all the way to the hilltop; her dark dress fluttering futilely in the breeze like the wings of a pinned bluebird.
In the very least it was a quiet day. When she lived in the city that would have disturbed her; a disorienting subversion of its natural thunder. But in the uneven patchwork of the suburbs, noise was off-putting, sharp. She was not used to children.
Her stomach twinged and she touched its curve, hesitantly, as though it was some alien protrusion.
She was especially not used to winter. The city made its own season, independent of nature; the choleric festivities flung golden light into the streets, fabricating a summer in the ice-ridden night. But here the winter ran deep in the dormant soil, turning the trees to black fissures and the grass to still, pale marble like a grand sculpture. Silence laid in thick strokes between the striking blacks and whites.
In the day, the two stark colors ran together and made grey. A whole world of grey. A grey in the grasses, veiled and vanishing; a grey in the fronds. A grey in the ring of her husband's eyes, steadfast like stone. And sometimes she swore she could see it, just a hint, at the root of her bright locks, like frost combing the edge of a flower.
And of course, it was in her ring. A shining, inseparable grey. In the autumn, before she was so far along, she used to work it off, leave her finger fallen-leaf red, and escape into the far-off neighbor's bed. But her finger was swollen, now. She could not get it off. She tried to, like she did before. But it was tight, and it would not come free.
She ran her fingers through the breeze, white-chilled fingers open, as though loosing a kite. She remembered a picture book she had read when she was small, about a Japanese village that tied their woes to kite strings and let them fly.
For a fleeting second, she imagined dearest, darlingest neighbor Amicus (or maybe neighbor Carrow? They all looked the same here, like the houses) and Dr. Alicto, with the face of an indignant plum, suspended cartoonishly in the air and couldn't help but crack a bit of a smile.
And then it was gone.
It was cold and her wedding ring hurt. Maybe it had finally cut off her circulation.
Her house was a long way, and, reluctantly, she began to return through the churns of slush.
She wished that the birds would sing. They hardly did in the city; and it was one thing that she liked about the suburbs. But winter tore them away, too, like paper in the wind, shredding and scattering in pursuit of the sun.
The only bird that remained was her daffodil-yellow canary--kept in a cage beside the bed. It had been a wedding present from her father. He had reminded her with a wistful fondness that she had begged him for a bird for years when she was small, but a soldier's pension and relocation meant that there was no room for pets. She didn't have the heart to tell him that a bird looked more like a mess these days. His smile had been so genuine, though, and she had to keep it.
The bird was quite messy; its cage took two cleanings a day and it scattered as much food as an unattended baby. Still, she had a subtle, minor affection for the twittery little thing. Even on the darkest night, the peak of December, it sang like a false spring.
But here it was silent, the air as cold and thin as the paper shadows beneath the trees. Her suburban home was cradled, dead quiet, in its bell jar, like a pickled fetus.
Walking up the lawn, she dragged her toes through the snow, drawing long tracks out of her footprints. It felt silly here in a way it never did in the rambunctious city. Halfway up, she stopped, feeling unjustly sheepish.
It was almost second nature to go to the bedroom--nothing else happened--and she found herself there without really meaning to be there, but with no particular meaning to being anywhere else, either.
A strange feeling crossed her, not for the first time, that she was almost sure they called something more severe than simple homesickness.
She went to the window. Above, a vast, untouchable sea of whitish grey stretched to infinity.
If she squinted hard, she could see the hill on the horizon, the city rising upon it like the frayed edges of the sun.
She wrenched the window open. A thick stroke of chill ran goose bumps up her arms. For a moment she hovered, on an edge hidden in the folds of winter.
Suddenly the canary burst into a sharp rhapsody and her stomach fluttered and her wedding ring was tight on her finger. Her legs went runny and she gripped the windowsill tightly, a wave of weakness rolling over her.
She had never loved him, not more than the others. Truth to be told, she hadn't even known he was different until the first ring came, nacreous silver like a near-gone moon. She hated to wear it, and three months later realized that it was a size too small. But by then she was walking down a distant aisle, like a sheet-ghost in her veil and trailing ivory silk into the breeze.
They couldn't agree on flowers. In the end, two quietly clashed. Six white, white dahlias in hand, six sun-bright daffodils fountaining from the table.
The canary finished its song as abruptly as it had begun. She straightened up, drowning out the memories.
She picked at her dress. It had suddenly gotten clingy and tight--was it always like this?--and she was struck with the sudden urge to strip it away from her body and fling it as far as she could. Break and tear and ravage those expensive stitches. It wouldn't matter, she didn't care. It was his money, his dress.
The canary twittered, gripping the wire netting of its cage.
Her anger rolled away, easily as it had washed over her, and she cursed her surging hormones.
"Miss it?"
It occurred to her that that bird had spent its life in the cage; it knew no more of freedom than it did of tax returns.
Quietly, she asked, "Does it get better?"
The bird hopped and selected a choice seed from its dish. It clung to the wire of the cage, head tipped back in a subtle gesture to avoid knocking up against the netting. There was a vague sort of intelligence in the creature, in the complex mechanic of its instinct.
It would spend its life there, stuck as her wedding ring.
With soft, putty fingers, she pried open the cage, and hesitated. She was aware that it would probably die, alone and estranged in the vast and silent snowed wilds of the winter. She was also aware that she didn't care. The shrill little bird was scooped up, wriggling in confusion, and deposited on the ledge of the window.
It was a moment before the creature settled, twittering. She expected it to flit away, a tiny seed of yellow in all the stony grey, but it was tame before the cinereal jags of the trees as it was before bars.
She sighed. The suburban world suddenly seemed very, very indefinite. She thought to return the bird to its cage. It would die out there, anyway. It was too cold and white and winter for its thin dandelion feathers.
The bird hopped around the windowsill, its head cocked, almost questioning.
"Go, fly, get out!" she urged, half-heartedly. She felt silly, silly as a grown-up who dragged her toes in the suburbs, silly about the whole thing.
She reached out, swiftly, to return it. It must've been a startling move, for it suddenly crouched, unfurling its marigold wings, and bursting into the air.
Hands red on the white of the windowsill, she leaned out to watch it, a low, sun-colored shrapnel piercing the whitish infinity beyond.
At first it was low and hesitant fluttering over the houses, then slowly higher and higher until the breeze caught it and it dwindled against the great grey sky. She watched it grow pale and tiny, until it was no more than a dandelion tuft, flashing, quivering, and dancing in the wind. Rising, a flicker, until it finally floated away.