Helen followed her older sisters from the kitchen to the family room.  To anyone else, her sisters were unremarkable in size and form, but Helen saw herself reflected in the width of their hips, the pronounced shape of ankle and calf, the length of their necks.  Blair and Bianca strolled comfortably together, shoulder to shoulder, chattering in low voices, giggling at some private joke.  Helen coughed and blinked back tears.  Home from college, she suddenly felt like she didn’t belong and she just couldn’t figure out why.

Conversation at dinner had focused on Blair’s wedding and Bianca’s new job.  When Helen mentioned her classes, her professors, her new friends, there were few questions or comments.  That didn’t bother her, not really.  She knew tonight was about bridesmaid dresses and cakes, flower arrangements and the perfect font for the invitation.  But Helen had a vague feeling of unease and knew it was because she’d caught her sisters exchanging surreptitious glances at each other every time she spoke.  Was she talking too much?  Was she boring them?  She wished she had confronted them.  She wished she had just pulled back the curtain and said, “Hey, what the hell?  Have you two been talking about me behind my back?  Are you two making fun of me?  I’m not a little girl you can placate with a cupcake or a mani-pedi or a promise to watch Harry Potter movies.  I’m a woman now.  Respect me!”  Of course she hadn’t done that.  Maybe she could ask them politely, directly.  “What’s going on, girls?  I see the looks; what am I missing?”  But she knew she wouldn’t do that either.  She knew she wouldn’t do that because she was too scared.  She was different now, and she needed to be different.  She couldn’t risk her sisters pulling her back.  Still it made her sad.

Blair and Bianca sat down on the couch in front of the big screen TV, ready to watch something, some serial they’d both been following.  “I need some air,” Helen told them.  “I’m just going to go for a walk.”

Again the raised eyebrows, the flared nostrils, the quick significant glance at each other.  “Can’t you wait till morning?” Bianca asked, her tone petulant.

“It’s getting dark,” Blair interjected.  “It’s not safe.”

But Helen had already turned to head for the door.  “I’ll be fine,” she called in the best imitation of cheeriness that she could muster.

Outside, Helen strode down the well-lit path from yard to sidewalk to corner.  Under the deep darkness of the neighbor’s valley oak, she stretched out her arms and took flight.  Her feathers were white, her face was shaped like a valentine.  She was choosing a life of freedom, head and heart working together.


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Photo by James Wainscoat on Unsplash.




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