There are ants in my Lucky Green Boots Circulation: 142,874,434 Issue: 200 | 22nd day of Swimming, Y7
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Learning to Fall


by erileen

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I was sitting under the magnolia tree with the sun dripping its light down behind the hills, its florescence burning into the greenness. I ran my fingers through my fur and gazed absently through the abyss.

      I tapped my pen on my notepad, which was nearly full not with words but with scribbles - scribbled out ideas and pictures and some words that weren't fully conjoined by thought. I smiled though, because it was a product of my own work - a product of what I loved to do.

      I saw my twin sister, Riih, galloping over, sun streaked over her red-furred body, making her look like she was adorned with red stripes. I sighed and wondered if I could pretend to be sleeping to avoid her frequent and sometimes tedious questioning.

      "Rit," she smiled, her teeth perfectly white. "How're you?" She plopped down next to me, invading my personal space. I scooted over a little; I needed breathing room. She lassoed me with a chain of flowers. "I made this for you. Fresh picked. I can show you how, if you want." She started yanking the flowers off of the magnolia tree to demonstrate.

      I slapped her paw. "Don't do that!" I frowned. Riih sighed, discarding the flowers.

      "What's with you? Is the tree your new best friend or something?"

      "No."

      "Then what is it?"

      "It's my - my -" I considered whether or not to confide my reasoning to her. "My…thinking place." I confessed.

      "Thinking place?" Riih asked, her face screwed up in her own quirky, odd grin. She laughed a little. "Rit, you can be so weird sometimes." She got up so quickly I felt my head spin. "C'mon, I'm meeting some of the girls at the bottom of the hill - we can go see them together!"

      "Nah, no thanks." I said.

      Riih groaned and stamped her paw in the freshly dug up dirt. Eri had been planting flowers outside and only halfway completed the job before she headed inside for a shower. "Rit, you're so antisocial!" she screeched. Her words reverberated through the muggy air. We were quiet for a moment. Suddenly, she realized her error. "Rit," she whispered, sinking down to my eye level again, "I'm so, so sorry…I didn't mean to -"

      "Whatever." I whispered, clutching my notepad hard, glaring at the scribbled out words, vowing not to cry. I didn't want to let my tears of frustration fall. "Just go, okay?"

      Riih silently got up, crossed the yard, and started down the hill. I knew that she was trying her hardest to make me the social butterfly that she was, to include me in her friends, her fun. But I just didn't work that way. I was quiet, withdraw, a blatant introvert. I could sit by myself under the magnolia tree for hours, just thinking. In my thoughts and dreams, I can run wild and free and let my imagination escape into an unknown world, or place. In my thoughts, the words come out like water from a spigot - fresh, clear, crisp. In real life, when I talk, I'm slow, like thick maple syrup pouring onto a pancake.

      Riih is almost the exact opposite of everything I am and everything that I stand for. I don't believe that she thinks in her head - it's almost as if she knows so much that her thoughts can't fit in her brain, and they spill out all over the place in her words. But her thoughts are always clear and crisp, even if they are outside her head. She's an extrovert, and if you lined up all of the people she'd ever charmed in her life, they could stretch on for miles. She can't sit still for one minute, and sometimes at night I'll hear her roll out of her bottom bunk, quietly slip out the door, and go running. Her energy is boundless.

      When I can't sleep at night, I climb out the window and look at the stars and dream about them. I think of how they got there and where they might have been before they became stars. I think about how they came to be, and how their sparkle is so glorious.

      Ever since Riih and I had our first big argument, she's been keen on getting me to know her friends, taking me to her "fun parties." But whenever I go with her, I always can feel her friends' stares; see their scrutinizing eyes taking me in. I'm not beautiful like Riih. Riih is shorter than me by several inches, and much lighter than me in weight. Her body, with its beautiful athletic build, incorporates and hides any extra weight laying on her.

      I'm tall, gawky, extra weight showing itself blatantly on my body, not bothering to try and conceal itself. It shouts to the world that I'm clearly chunkier than Riih, and not perfect. I feel awkward going places with her. All eyes follow her, and when they land on me they tend to look away.

      "Hey," I heard someone say. I snapped back into reality. It was Ana, my older sister. She was a beauty too, and it almost felt disrespectful to call her skunk-colored, because "skunk" is so undignified to describe what Ana really was - gorgeous.

      "What're you doing out here?" I said, tapping my pen to my chin again.

      "I was trying to do homework, but it's not easy when all I can hear is you and Riih squabbling."

      "We weren't squabbling." I muttered.

      "Then what do you call all of that ruckus that was coming from down here?" she said.

      I didn't answer - just stared down at my notepad. Ana opened her mouth to say something, but I snapped, "It's over, okay? Let it rest."

      Ana sighed, and opened and closed her mouth a few times, as if she really wanted to say something but couldn't. She closed her eye and breathed in the soft smell of the evening air. I looked down at my notepad and pretended to be jotting something down, just so Ana would leave. It worked - she went back into the house.

      I didn't let my tears fall until the door closed and I heard Ana's heavy footsteps tread upstairs. Then I silently let my tears trickle down my face. Why was I so different from my extraordinary sisters? Why was I the weirdo, the one who couldn't connect with any others? I sighed, and started at my notepad. Almost without thinking, I wrote:

     Wishing for a friend,

     Compassionate and caring.

     Always by my side.

      It was a haiku, a terrible one at that. Yet it was my most productive moment of the day. I smiled to myself for a moment, and could almost appreciate everything that was happening.

      Suddenly, a little noise came from the top of the tree - a soft "woo." The noise floated down to me like a falling leaf - unassuming, humble, inconspicuous. It didn't cry out for attention or sympathy, though you could tell it was almost like crying. Again - "woo."

      I tried to peer through the thick leaves on the magnolia branches, but I couldn't see what was making the noise. "Maybe," I though, "it was just the wind. Either that or I'm really starting to go loco." I laughed out loud to myself, and then realized how odd that would seem to any passers-by. Suddenly, the "woo" returned - as if it was laughing with me.

      Determined, I grabbed around the tough bark of the tree, and tried to pull myself up. My back paws slipped on the trunk as I attempted to scrabble up, and I felt a few splinters lodge their way between my toes. Not concentrating on the pain and just staring upward, I grasped a branch, about eight feet from the ground. It was small and thin, and surely couldn't hold me for more than a few moments. I tried to get my back paw on a knot in the old bark to balance myself for a moment, but ended up slipping. My back feet flew to where they were just hanging in air, and all that supported me was that very thin branch. I hung on with my front paws, looking downward - afraid to let go. "If Riih was in situation," I thought, "she'd let go, because Riih isn't afraid to fall. I'm always afraid of falling." I confessed to myself. "That's what's wrong with me. I can't reach any new heights because I'm too afraid that I might fall."

      "I guess we're all afraid to fall sometimes, right?" I said, surprised to hear my voice reverberating through the quiet air. I wasn't quite sure who I was talking to - perhaps whatever had emitted the "woo" noise. I continued to talk, and I was surprised how easy it was for me to let my words flow. "I guess it's because sometimes we think that when we fall, we won't be able to get back up; we won't be able to reach those heights that we desire. But if we never fall," I continued, staring down at the far-away ground, "we'll never learn how to let back up. So some day when we crash into the dirt, we'll never be able to get up, because we've never practiced getting back up." I closed my eyes and hung for a moment, trying to collect more words. "It's like anything - it takes practice, right? So what's a free fall every once in a while?"

      The branch let out a loud crack! It flew through the air, whisking at high speeds. I was still hanging. I took a deep breath for a moment, and I wasn't scared. Closing my eyes, I let go of the branch.

      I cut through the air without a sound, as you imagine the first snowflake falls in the winter sky. It was so peaceful for that moment, because I barely had a sense of being. Then - slap! My back came in contact with the ground first, and then the rest of me. A small thud echoed through the land. I opened my eyes, and let out a little gasp to see something small and white flying towards me. It plunked onto my chest, and for a moment my reflexes seemed to falter. I craned my neck to see what was atop me - astonished, I saw a white Weewoo. She was tiny for a Weewoo, and I'd seen many of them flying amidst the trees out here. But never had I had one so close to me. I stroked her downy feathers, loving her. She stared at me, her brown eyes warm. We sat for a moment, and I felt a connection in her that I'd never felt in anything else before.

      "Hi." I said, and realized how ironic it was that I couldn't speak to many pets, but speaking to a small little bird was nothing for me. "You were up there in that tree, weren't you?"

      I knew she couldn't possibly understand me, but she let out a small, undemanding "woo." I scratched her head. "You need a name." I continued, "You have a name?"

      She stared at me blankly, and blinked her eyes.

      I started to straighten up, wanting to stand. My back ached as I sat up, and I rubbed it. The Weewoo hopped off my stomach and onto the ground, and stared at me expectantly as I stood up. I offered her my arm, and she happily climbed up and settled herself there. I walked with her.

      "Rae's a nice name." I said. "Rae's really pretty. Rae and Rit - well, Karritma really, but no one ever calls me Karritma - it's a real mouthful."

      As we passed the magnolia tree, she outstretched her wings and flapped them vigorously. She wanted to fly, but couldn't. "You want to get to the top, don't you?" I said. She blinked at me, as if perhaps she was comprehending my words.

      I'd learned how to fall today - I'd learned that it didn't hurt as much as you thought. Maybe…maybe now I could get to the top. I could reach that new height.

      I moved Rae to my shoulder and used a lower branch to help myself climb - I pulled myself atop of it and stood up, balancing carefully. I pulled myself to another branch…and another…and another. It seemed effortless as I reached toward the sky.

      I made it finally - to the top of the magnolia. I perched myself on a forced branch and peered just over the leaves, where I could see the big hill. Riih and her friends were there, laughing and talking loudly about something exasperatingly hilarious. I glanced over at Rae. "I always thought that friends had to be special people," I said to her, "but I was amazingly wrong. Friends don't have to be popular and amazing. Friends can be soft, quiet, and…unexpected." I said, playfully brushed her feathers.

      "Woo."

The End

Author's Note: This story is dedicated to larenbeka, for she is my Rae and is often the only one who takes the time to listen.

 
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