LITTLE, SINGING BLACKBIRD – by Sophia Whittemore
There were birds between the stalks of corn. The wind wailed like a broken woman, howling her melancholy out for the whole world to hear. I wore a short coat that cut off at the thigh and had an umbrella swinging loosely from the belt at my hip. I’d borrowed the coat from my sister who had died from fever shortly after returning home from her faraway boarding school. Mother cancelled my schooling after that, insisting I be taught solely at home by private, matronly tutors. My hair got caught in the buttons of my sister’s coat, and the collar buttoned up too snugly. It felt as though someone was choking me, watching for my every move as my mother did. She said the next time I would roam free would be after I had married, in order to avoid a scandal. She would be upset if she knew. My lip curled at that, images of fatty cheeks in ruby-tinted rage. Yes, she would be very, very upset.
So I sat at the edge of the moors, watching the birds as they flew, imagining that I flew among them. Women had been hung for less, as witches who danced round trees and talked to animals. I didn’t believe in any such sorcery. I was my own woman, not at the mercy of the craft of a child’s fancy. I hadn’t been close enough to a church to see if holy water burned. I hadn’t been in one since my father’s funeral as a little girl. I hated buildings like my home and my parish. The institutions were stifling, just as my mother stifled too. No, I wanted the life of a bird. I wanted wanton immorality and abandon. I wanted life. I wanted glee.
What’s that? Yes, my mother is calling me.
I turn around.
I must obey.