This story is my contribution to this week’s Trifecta writing challenge. Without the title, it is exactly 333 words, and it’s in response to the THIRD PROMPT. (I’m trying to do the first two prompts as well, but I’m an extremely slow editor…)
Instead of Talking About Forever, We Shall Talk About the Birds
I will always remember Caitlin as a little blonde in a plaid pinafore. Never mind that she eventually became a cheerleader and a huge bitch… My earliest memories are of her and Matthew. We met in preschool and built our first castles together. We thought they were amazing, even at two feet tall. I remember playing on the playground, swinging our bodies into the sky, and watching the birds that circled above our heads. What I can’t remember is why I ever liked her.
I remember everything I liked about him. He was funny and talented. Most of the boys I knew were dumb, but he was like me. We were the proud recipients of all the same made-up awards. Fake gold pins are tacky, but at least we were tacky together. Caitlin was the opposite. Petite, athletic, and blonde, she became part of a different crowd, a snarky crowd that enjoyed whispering. She became unknown territory, volatile and treacherous, whereas Matthew was steadfast.
In high school, Matthew became a catch overnight. One day I looked up and he was a foot taller than me and handsome, with dark eyes and quick wit. The nerdy kid was still there, but it only seemed to enhance, to shade in what would have otherwise been one-dimensional. Because he was colorblind, his best artwork was stark; machinery, cartoons, birds. Pen and ink was Matthew’s primary language.
It was Matthew who first told me. He omitted the gory details. Afterwards, he spoke about the migratory habits of birds, how one day they’re there, and the next day they’re simply… gone.
Sometimes I see birds flying near the horizon, where the sky meets the earth, and I think about Caitlin. How could she be twenty years old, and think that her best years were behind her? I wonder what it was that made her so mean. I wonder what made her so unhappy. Perhaps we weren’t so different. Perhaps she only needed to fly, but I’ll never know.