“I,” she declared in a voice brimming with confidence, “am a heather bird.” He looked up from the book he was reading, probably something in German or some other impossible language, and stared at her with a cocked brow.
“A heather bird,” he repeated. The word rolled off his tongue like honey. He had never heard of this “heather bird” before, but he couldn’t say that he didn’t like it. She nodded happily, sweet innocence shining on her face.
“A heather bird.” She sighed, throwing her arms up into the air as she flung her body to the side. She was wearing a soft lilac shirt, a beautifully lavender skirt, and a wrap that was a lovely shade of plum. She extended her arms and danced as if the wrap were her wings. As if she was gliding through the room.
“Heather birds are bright purple,” she murmured. Her russet hair trailed after her, like a swallow’s tail as she twirled about the room. He had to admit it: He enjoyed watching her. This girl was by no means the brightest bulb of the bunch, but she always knew how to bend her legs, how to smooth her hands, in order to tell a story with her body. He set his book aside, deciding to give the girl his full attention.
“Why are you a heather bird?” he asked. She smiled gaily, her olive eyes glittering silently.
“Because I am not a drab pigeon.” She twirled, leapt, spun through the air. “Nor am I a meek dove.” She stomped her dainty feet, flicked her wrists like an enraged diva. “I am a heather bird.” Her movements became soft again, ballerina-like. He stepped forward, catching her hand in his. The girl leaned heavily against him as he led her through a practiced dance, as if she were happy to give up control of her body. He gently pulled her into a calm ballroom dance. As he inhaled, he caught her since: mint and sugar.
“Do heather birds smell like candy?” he whispered against her neck. He felt her giggle lightly; sweat glittering on the supple flesh before him.
“Well, this heather bird does.” He let go of her waist to twirl her briefly before drawing her back to his chest. He held her there for a moment; his blue-gray eyes drinking in her face like a pious man gazing into the face of his goddess.
“If you are a heather bird, then what am I?” She sighed dreamily. Her eyes weren’t looking at him. They never spared him even a glance. No, they were far, far away in a place where only she belonged. A sharp ache ran through his body. He twirled her away again, breaking the contact between them. His soft waltz slowly quickened its pace until the two were performing the sharp angles and kicks of a tango. In his anger and sadness, he spun and jerked her as he would, not much consideration for his partner in mind. She said nothing, but followed him obediently, matching the physical demands with equal passion. They finally came to a pause in the middle of the room. His chest was heaving as he once again held her close to his body. A soft hand laid itself across his chest.
“Your heart… Is there a little hummingbird in there?” The same hand reached up to brush against his moist skin. The hand was a cool and silky relief against the raging fire within him. His face was tilted down a bit so that he was gazing into the swirling emerald orbs of his beloved. His breath caught in his throat.
“You are a heather bird, too, my sweet.” She smoothed his hair like she once did when she was young and sane. “A beautiful heather bird with wings as wide as the sky.” Her eyes were focused on him. On his face. On his eyes. On him. Not on the imaginary garden she created after her mental breakdown. Not on the happy memories she kept locked in her heart. But on him. On her son. The woman leaned up, pressing the petal-softness of her lips against his cheek. Clarity shone through her gaze like never before.
“Heather birds only produce prettier, shinier heather birds, my dear.” And just like that, that moment of lucid consciousness was gone. His mother was once again a giggling girl inside his arms, reliving times long gone by. She twirled away again, a lithe figure swathed in mauve.
“Hey.” He turned to see one of his friends, just as young and inexperienced as he was, standing at the door way, staring strangely at the girl-woman who was, and occasionally becomes, his mother.
“Who was that?” A genuine smile bloomed across his lips.
“A heather bird, my friend. A heather bird.”