Kamika Cooper and Tora Estep

Little Birds No. 2
Tora Estep
Inspiration piece

The Bluest Bleu
Kamika Cooper

The winters were getting colder, though the summers lasted longer, and the birds who usually took flight toward the south in search of warmer winds had stayed on much longer than expected. It was as if the lingering sun had deceived them into believing all would be well. Mornings found them happily greeting the day with song, though the leaves had long-since died and fallen – the trees were bare. Then, without warning, the temperatures would turn unforgivingly and miserably cold. And so it came to pass that the eldest and the youngest of the three Bleu sisters packed up their families and abandoned their fast-paced, east coast city lives to return to the calm warmth of their birthplace in the New Mexico desert.

A few years had passed and, though surrounded by the love of their growing children and their ageing but youthful parents, they found themselves missing their middle sister, Rita. They were persistent in their attempts to convince her to come back home where life was slower and less expensive under the dependable warmth and light of the desert sun. But like the eastern city birds, one in particular which loved to sing quite loudly outside of Rita’s window each morning, she refused to take flight.

“It’s dangerous there, Rita. It’s time to come home.”

“Gretchen doesn’t want to leave. I love her and cannot imagine my life without her. You understand, right?”

“Of course we understand,” said Joy.

“We just don’t agree,” added Angela. “It’s not as if we don’t love her too. But you are our family, our priority. If she is unwilling to come, perhaps it’s time to move on. You can find love here.”

“We need you. Don’t you need us?” Joy began to tear up and soon, all three were dabbing at their eyes.

“Of course I do. But my marriage has to come first now. I cannot depend on you two forever.”

“Why not?” they asked in unison.

“C’mon. We knew the day may come where we would have to go our separate ways, right?”

Joy and Angela were at a loss for words. It never occurred to them that the three sisters would ever go their separate ways and, regardless of what she said, they did not believe that Rita was entirely convinced of it herself. Slightly varying in the exact words, the point at which the tears would begin to fall, and whose tears fell first, this was now the motif of every conversation among the Bleu sisters.

The 39 year-old identical triplets were each born eight minutes apart – Angela arriving first and Joy, last. They were not used to being far away from one another and never succeeded at doing so for long. When the time came to go to university, all three decided to venture east. Joy attended NYU, while Rita and Angela attended the University of Maryland. Unable to withstand the 400 mile distance between them, Joy transferred at the end of their first semester and joined her sisters at the University of Maryland. From then on, even after all three got married and Angela and Joy began to have children, they never lived more than 15 miles apart. Now, these past few years apart were taking an emotional and psychic toll on the three. Rita tried to hide just how much being separated from her sisters affected her, but they knew her as well as they knew themselves. The connection between them was almost tangible and they knew Rita was unhappy.

Rita and her wife, Gretchen, had been residing in their city flat for almost eight years, with only slight increases to their rent. But the city’s population and the demand for housing had recently doubled and continued to snowball unchecked. The cost of living intentionally rose to discourage undesirable residents, but the result was a socio-economic clash of sorts. The couple’s quiet evenings at home together after a long day’s work were now polluted with excessive city noise: Sirens, traffic and loud, sometimes inebriated, neighbors served as the immutable soundtrack as their formerly serene neighborhood began to see steady increases in violent crime.

“Maybe my sisters are right.”

“What, that we should get a gun?”

“You don’t even know how to use a gun, Gretchen, and can barely harm a fly. It’s time for us to move on. Please come home with me.”

“Ri, I understand that you miss your sisters, your parents… your nieces and nephews, but I cannot imagine leaving the city. Our entire life, our friends, our jobs, are here. This is our home.”

“I think this was our home and it’s not anymore. Wouldn’t it be great to live our lives a little more quietly? Our friends can visit and there are new friends and new jobs to be had. Please, baby? We are each other’s home, no matter where we live.”

Gretchen wrapped her arms around Rita, knowing it was hard for her. Rita had never been one for the city life; the place was too alive and appeared to never sleep. It was clear to her that the sole reason Rita had remained there, was for the sake of their marriage. Sooner or later, the tug-of-war, in which Rita was the rope, would come to an end with Joy and Angela as the victors. The three were wildly inseparable in ways Gretchen could never fully understand. She had no siblings, and her own family had never been as close as the Bleus, whose family was the size of a small village. Nonetheless, she herself missed Joy and Angela – especially Joy, the most unpredictable of the three. In them, she found sisters she had always wanted, but never had.

“I will think about it, Ri.”

Over the next few weeks, things quickly deteriorated. Rita witnessed a violent attack four blocks from their flat and had to outrun two thugs who took notice of her as she stood helplessly shocked, unable to assist their victim. Hiding behind trees and bushes along the way, she made it home safely, but refused to leave the house afterward. Courting agoraphobia, she refused to go outside and was inconsolable. The noise from the street, already an increasing discomfort, now grated at Rita’s very core as she became increasingly fearful and withdrawn. She would not accept invitations to coffee from friends and, eventually, stopped accepting calls from her sisters.

One morning when the bird outside of their window began to loudly sing her usual morning song, Rita, at her wit’s end, stormed over to the window, opened it and yelled, “Shut up, Birdie!”

The bird abruptly stopped singing and stared at her. It was only then that Rita actually took notice of the bird’s beauty. Her feathers were the most beautiful and striking blue she had ever seen. It was as if a tiny wave of the Atlantic Ocean had transformed itself to feathers studded with gems, and planted itself in a tree. The bird seemed to glow and shimmer in the morning sun, staring right into her soul, making her feel ashamed at having tried to silence something so innocent and beautiful. Suddenly the bird took flight – beautiful blue wings spanned large and glorious to reveal stark white feathers underneath. She did not return to her branch the next morning, nor the next and Rita began to realize how reliant she had become on the morning songs.

On the third morning of the bird’s departure, Joy and Angela showed up at Rita and Gretchen’s flat having traveled through the night.

“Gretchen called us”, Joy said. “We came to get you. You are coming home with us.”

“But, I…”Rita stammered.

“You can’t just cut us off, Rita. We are soul mates.” Angela smiled, placed her hands on her sister’s cheeks and kissed her forehead.

Depressed and defeated, Rita could no longer hide her need for her sisters and Gretchen, getting a glimpse of an evil eye from Joy, didn’t bother to contest. Enveloped by unbreakable sisterly love, Rita and Gretchen packed their belongings, surrendered their flat and headed toward the warmth of the Southwest sun.

Within their first few days in New Mexico, Gretchen watched as the light, peace and happiness returned to Rita’s eyes. In that light, Gretchen found her own new and unexpected happiness – a deeper appreciation for her wife and her sisters. One morning, as they lay in bed together, wrapped in each other’s arms, they heard a familiar bird song. Rising out of bed and walking toward the window, they grasped for each other’s hands as they stood in shock. Ocean blue feathers studded with glistening gems greeted them, with two other identical blue beauties flanked to the bird’s left and right.

“It’s her,” Rita cried. “How is this possible?”

“And it looks like she has friends,” Gretchen smiled.

“Sisters,” Rita said.

Warm in the morning sunlight, serenaded by the birds, they knew they were exactly where they were supposed to be. They were home.


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