This is a revised version of Clipped Wings, and many thanks to alligator20. She is a genius. As I said before, this doesn't have wuite the haunting quality I was looking for, and any and all snippets of advicewill be most welcome.
I was never sure whose story it was – mine or hers. I lived too much of her life for it not to be hers in some way. We should have been one person, or so I had always imagined. Growing up in her supple, gentle shadow, my shadow fell into hers and I followed, for what is a girl without a shadow? Five years separated us, but as the youngest and the baby, she took me under her clipped wing, shielding me from our rowdier siblings. Her eyes said she wanted out, and I, desperate she should not leave without me, trailed her every move, clinging to her hand. A wide eyed, shy child, she was my voice.
We grew up in a small town near the mountains, with birdsong and the fens, interspersed with wide fields and cloistered forests.
My room overlooked the tangled foothills, and from my window I spun words that hung upon the air in shifting patterns, long after my lips had ceased to move. They haunted me, flitted behind me in broken whispers as I moved on to the next tale. Eventually, they settled on wood, paper, cloth. I cannot find her now, but I have her life captured and bound in tiny etchings, marked in my child's precise hand.
Her life, my life. The radiant oldest daughter and her dark haired bird, changed by misfortune into a lost, solemn girl-child. "Give her wings, El," they told her. "Set her free, get her flying."
Did I fly? I do not know. She did.
Rain fell, a steady rhythm on the window pane. I think only I heard it from my seat upon the sill, tucked away behind the curtain, my face pressed upon the cool, hard, glass. Music played somewhere, drowning out the tattoo of heavy drops from less attentive ears. Laughter, light and gay and slightly drunk mingled with the notes. Rain slid down the glass, and in the reflections of a thousand beads of water, I watched the festivities. Light, a heady, golden glow lit the room with the memory of summer, but it was dark and chill outside, and I could see the shadows flowing from the corners. The darkness of the stones kept themselves at bay, content to while away the years in a semblance of sleep.
A peal of laughter turned my head, and I softly drew back the curtain, my hands cold against the warm folds of cloth. El was leading a dance, and laughing as she fumbled the steps. Several of the older boys were watching her with an interest that I, in my silent way, pitied them for. The beat changed, and they paired off. One of them quickly scooped her up. I smiled slightly at the irritation she concealed behind her carefully composed and beaming face. Only my eyes, practiced as they were, caught it.
The youth whispered something to her, and she laughed again, the irritation lingering. El did not wish to dance with her handsome partner. His kind always expected something from her, something she wasn't willing to give. But while I could read this plainly, they turned their eager eyes elsewhere, ignoring the warning written in her eyes.
El freed herself from his attention, and worked her way towards the cider for a drink. Casting a suddenly anxious gaze around the crowded dance hall, I made a small movement, and she caught my eyes, grinning. Understanding flashed between us, a palpable thread that shimmered softly above the dancers. She knew why I sat as I did, withdrawn and alone, just as I knew why when a slender, doe-eyed girl slipped up beside her, she turned from me and rejoined the dance. Hidden by their skirts, I could see their left hands, intertwined and reassuring. Then Doe Eyes, who was always sweet to me, folded herself into El and lost herself to music and my sister.
I marveled at their grace, my dark eyes gleaming in the lamplight. Harsh, rowdy laughter from a crowd of young men told me they found El amusing, and though she danced merely to spite them. Doe Eyes real name was Sarah, but El called her Doe, and therefore so did I.
Rain fell harder, and the music softened, a flute now lilting gently, a song that melded the rain into melody, and echoed the feel of stone. Low murmurs died away, as the crowd listened to the flute. Doe took the floor, and the people cleared a circle for her. No one could put more emotion in to music than the delicate brunette, who seemed a deer trapped in a girl's body, with a deer's fragile grace.
As she danced, I saw the rain melt through the roof and fall around her, the golden light dimming and fading to the silver of twilight. I sank into the shadows, drifting. El, beautiful, green eyed El, watched Doe with a look I recognized, and craved. Even the boys took a rest from my sister, and gazed at the dancer in silence, enraptured.
Leaving my window, I sidled up to El, and tucked my small hand into her larger, graceful one. She squeezed my fingers, tucking me against her waist. The flute rose, a haunting tune that was familiar to me, child of silence.
Then it ended, and Doe shyly dipped her head, and drifted over to us. Smiling in her contagious, wistful way, she wrapped me in a hug, and stole me away to get some cider. I sipped the sweet liquid obediently, snuggled safely in her lap. El joined us on the bench, which had been moved against the wall to clear the floor. Sucking my thumb, I leaned into her. El ran a had through my hair, talking softly to Doe. I drifted into sleep.
Later, as the dances started up again, Doe and El slipped away. Sensing the absence of my shadow, I followed. Past the door, rain ran down in silver sheets. Through this veil, I saw El, her black hair dripping, her arms wrapped tenderly, desperately, around Doe. They fit perfectly, Doe's smaller body molding into hers, mouth upturned to El's. I stood in the doorway, light spilling out around me, wishing.
There were many nights like that one, where I stood and tried to soak up their love, face tilted up towards the stars.
My parents knew. El did not lie, especially when it came to Doe. That did not stop them from arranging her marriage. I was in my fifteenth year. There were no tears, no curses. She was simply gone the following morning, as was Doe.
I didn't recover from the loss for years. Shocked, abandoned, and broken, I wrapped myself in memory and shut down. By the time I awoke, I had been married, and given birth to my daughter. It was her touch, her first cry, that brought me back to life, and the light of the world was not as harsh as I remembered. I took her walking, cradled in my arms, humming old verses and snippets of rhyme. Sunlight worked its way into my heart, and cast itself in my daughter's hair. Color returned to me, and I, child of shadow, tread in the light. And if where my feet fell, a second pair failed to meet them, it was not a loss. As long as my shadow was with El, part of me was not alone.
I did not name my child El. I named her after sunlight, water, rain. For the second time in my life, I gave away my soul and for the second time in my life, I gave myself unconditionally to love.
I did not love my husband. He was good to me, and kind, but he had spent too many years with my empty shell to know what to do when he found I had returned. In truth, he was no happier with the marriage than I, and had a lover, to whom he was devoted. But he did not wish to hurt me, nor did I wish to take away his happiness, so I let them be.
Eventually, in an unspoken agreement, we separated. I cared for myself and my child, and waited, testing my wings.
I would fly, even though she, like my shadow, would not be back.