the map of Love & War

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November 23rd, 2012

A Bird in a Storm

The sky outside Gracey’s bedroom window was darkening as low growls of thunder rolled overhead. Somewhere in the distance, lightning broke through the gray, casting thin orange and pink electric light over the desert’s face. Gracey chose a sweater from her closet, pulled it over her head, skin pimpling over. She breathed out, her eyes falling on the open, still‐empty box on her nightstand that used to contain her engagement ring.

If it rained, the gifts on her porch would get soaked. The beautiful boots would be ruined. Gracey bit down on her lip, the difficult choice before her rolling around in her brain. Her engagement had ended ten years ago. More than enough time had passed. She could let herself move on. She didn’t need the ring now, and her old boots were in bad need of replacing. And the boots on the porch under that threatening sky would be an awfully nice early Christmas present.

Gracey sighed, pushing the thought away. Whoever or whatever had taken her ring had done so without her permission, and however nice the boots may be, they couldn’t make up for that lack of respect and for the violation she felt in the pit of her stomach. Not just the violation of her home being invaded, but the violation of having something so dear to her touched without permission. Not just touched, but taken. Taken to who knew where. And by who knew what. Gracey shuddered at the thought of it.

Shikigami, Satsuko had said. She’d looked the term up, but hadn’t understood what she’d read. Some kind of Japanese magical creatures summoned by a sorcerer to do their master’s bidding. A sorcerer, for crying out loud. The baker chuckled mirthlessly, shaking her head. She kept thinking things at her home couldn’t get any stranger. The universe kept proving her wrong.

Gracey crossed her arms over her chest as she padded into the living room. She pushed the curtains open, looking out over the porch. Drops of rain her beginning to fall. Gracey leaned forward, trying to get a better look at the shoes. To Gracey’s small relief, the boots seemed to be out of harm’s way, and would avoid getting wet unless the wind changed and blew the rain the wrong direction.

Behind her, a door creaked open. Surprised, Gracey spun around, expecting to see Tiny coming out from the bathroom or possibly the laundry room — which would, admittedly, be a stretch, as the younger Daylittle didn’t seem to know how to turn on the washing machine, let alone how to properly separate whites from darks.  But the room was empty. Gracey stood still a moment, eyes wide, expecting to catch the glimmer of moving shadows, or to feel the temperature in the room drop several degrees. But the shadows remained in place, and the room did not grow suddenly chill. Gracey’s brow furrowed as she moved slowly toward the sound.

The hallway was empty. No doors were opened. In the distance, thunder rolled. Gracey took a tentative step forward. “Tiny?”

There was no answer. Lightning flickered in the kitchen windows.

Pulling herself together, Gracey entered the kitchen. Everything looked normal. All of the cabinets were in closed. The pantry was sealed. Nothing was out of place.

She was about to leave when she noticed a thin sliver of light along the back wall in a place it shouldn’t have been. The back door was slightly ajar. Pale lavender light flickered.

As Gracey went to the door, her eyes went to the floor, landing on something she hadn’t noticed before. It was a small piece of metallic, aqua colored paper, folded into the shape of a crane. Origami. A smile broke over Gracey’s face, and she realized she’d been holding her breath as she exhaled, leaning down to pluck the gift from the linoleum. She fingered the paper bird’s wings, its small, elegant beak. She briefly considered unfolding it to see how it was done. But she thought better of it. What if she couldn’t fold it back?

It might make a good excuse to go visit Satsuko, she thought.  Ask her how she did it. Tell her I want to learn.

She sighed. If she wanted to visit Satsuko, she could just go. Why did she feel like she needed an excuse? She rubbed her thumb over the bird’s shiny surface. Because Satsuko was Tiny’s friend, not hers. She didn’t even know if the bird was meant for her or for her sister. She only knew that Satsuko had left it.

Gracey smiled and tucked the bird into the nest of curls that was her hair. Closing the back door with one hand just as the rain began coming down in earnest, Gracey turned, folded her arms tightly against her chest, and made her way back to her bedroom.


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