This story is the sole property of Laura Tear. I do give give permission for it to be copied or distributed.
Time passed, and I stayed with the Walker who had found me. He taught me how to talk and read when he was there. He would often go away for long periods of time and come back tired. When I asked Jared where he went, he would say "Work, and one day you'll have to do that too,"
I liked the idea of going to this Work he talked about. I got the hang of speaking quickly. It only took me a week. It wasn't perfect, but it was enough.
At the end of my second week, I left the house during the day while Jared was gone. I wanted him to like me, and whenever he was home he didn't talk to me much. His face would go red and he'd turn away. I think I must have done something wrong. I'd been making an effort to get along with the dog that had scared me so much my first day and I'd seen Jared taking him for a walk in the past, so I decided I would do it to make him happy.
I liked the feeling that making him happy gave me. It was warm, and safe. Nothing like I had experienced in my past life. I'd been trying for a while to remember what the fairy had told me, and part of the reason I was leaving was so that I could ask her if I could find her.
I didn't know anything about the world outside of Jareds' house. Luckily, the dog did. I let the dog pull me along, and I stared in wonder at my surroundings. Never before I had experienced the world in such a way, and I couldn't imagine ever going back to life as a swan. Unbelievably, the dog took me to the very pond I was looking for. It must have walked the path many times, or it sensed my need to be here.
I walked around the pond several times, the dog walking patiently at my side. I don't know why I had ever been afraid of her now. She was a kind dog, like her owner. I'd call her my friend, but swans can't be friends with dogs. I thought maybe I could be friends' with this dog. My thoughts were interrupted when I saw the slow human, the one who always saved the nice bits of food for me, sitting in a chair beside the pond. Now that I was a human, I could see that the slow one was very old. He walked with a stick, which I guessed must be to hold him up. I decided to sit with him, I wanted to understand why he had always fed me.
He welcomed me to sit with him when I asked, and offered me some bread to feed the other swans. The dog meanwhile sat beside me and gazed at the birds with an intense desire to chase.
"The black one hasn't been here recently," the old man said sadly, and I stared at him. A human noticed my absence, and the feeling of knowing I was missed brought me some pleasure.
"The other swans don't like her very much because she's different," he informed me. "I think she's beautiful because she's different. Reminds me of my wife, a beautiful little thing she was. She was very different from any other woman I'd met,"
I stayed with the old man until all the bread was gone, and listened to him tell me stories of his wife. I understood that she wasn't here anymore, but I didn't understand when he told me she died. When I asked him to explain what death was, he gave me a strange look but I think he must have realized that I wasn't being facetious. He tried his best to explain death to me, and when I finally understood he patted my shoulder while I cried for his wife.
"What happens after death?" I asked him eventually, and he sat for a long time without saying anything.
"I think we get reborn, and if we are good in one life we get reborn as something better in the next,"
I liked that idea and decided that I believed that as well.
I had to go home soon because I was getting hungry and the old man was tired.
"Will I see you again?" the old man asked and I nodded. I liked him and wanted to hear more stories about his wife.
When I arrived back at Jareds' home, he was there and in a panic. It took him a while to calm down once I had arrived, and he was still grumpy that I hadn't left a message about where I was going.
"I thought you might have died!" he said, and I remembered the old man's sadness when his wife died, so I hugged Jared.
I never did talk to the fairy again, and so I found out the hard way what she had said. I spent the next two weeks with Jared. I would visit the pond with the old man and the dog during the day and be at home with Jared at night. We grew close and bonded, and on my last night as a human we shared each other's bed.
That night, I transformed back into a swan and as I did so, I remembered what the fairy had told me. "You'll only have one month. Good bye little swan,"
The fairy had given its life to grant my wish, and I didn't know why.
I flew back to the pond that night, and though I felt like crying I could not. Swans can't cry. I couldn't say goodbye to Jared, or even the dog or the old man. I couldn't experience life the way I had in the past month ever again and as more time passed my thoughts grew less.
I didn't know it, but the next morning, Jared had woken to find a black feather on his pillow. He spent the next month searching for me, I often saw him by the pond with Dog. Dog would recognize me and would pull at his lead so that he could come and sit with the old man and me. Jared never found me, and eventually he gave up. He still walked by the pond every afternoon though, but it was not as frantic as it had once been.
As for me, every day when Old Man came to the pond to feed the other swans and I, I would sit with him on our chair and he would croon to me in the human sounds I couldn't understand anymore. Deep down I understood that he was talking about his wife, and I think that deep down Old Man knew I was his black haired friend. Sometimes Jared and Dog would be walking while Old Man and I were sitting and Dog would bark at us to say hello.
One day, Old Man stopped coming to the pond. I still went and sat on the chair in case he came. Eventually Jared started coming to the pond with another human, a girl. Dog still came with them, and sometimes they'd let him off his rope and he and I would sit together at the chair and wait for Old Man together. I spent the rest of my days by that pond, and eventually I died, as all things must.
The next day, Dog found the body of a black swan by the side of the pond and Jared and his family buried it.
"She didn't have a name Daddy!" Jared's daughter said indignantly, after all how could something be buried without a name?
"How about we name her…" Jared paused for a moment "Clara?"
A wet, screaming baby is brought into the world and it's parent's look down on it lovingly.
"What do you think we should name her?" the mother asked.
"I think we should name her after your old man's wife," the father replied with a smile. "Clara."
My name is Clara and, I haven't always been a human. I used to be a swan.
I hope you liked my short story.
I loved writing it.
Did you catch the reference to Old Man and his wife at the end? In case not, Clara is his grand-daughter now.
Regards, Laura Tear