Starling

 

“…in constant repair” she wrote. The letter sat unfinished in front of Mai. She held the pen between her fingers, poised to continue. Mai tapped the pen on the wood tabletop, not knowing how to continue.  She sat in the silent room waiting, and then it came…

In constant repair
I am calling to you
Opened to the point of breaking
My heart is here
Set out for you, waiting

Somewhere in my dreams
You came to me
Whispered the words
To guide me
To hold me up
And hold me still

In constant repair
After the storms have passed
Wandering in the dark streets
Lost in the winding maze
I need you to come for me
take me home
take me home
take me home

Mai stopped writing. She picked up the vanilla coloured paper and crumpled into a tight ball. She threw it across the room. The paper landed with a soft plock onto the pile that sat beside the empty trash bin, just as Justin walked into the room.

‘How’s the writing going?” he asked. Mai’s brother looked at the mountain of crushed paper and smirked. “Looks like you killed a tree already”

“Shut up Justin. What do you want?” Mai snapped. Justin threw up his hands in defence.

“Hey take it easy. Just because you’re frustrated don’t take it out on me” he said. Mai took a deep breath and sighed.

“Sorry, it’s… it is frustrating as hell. There is something there, waiting to be written but I just can’t make it come out.” Mai buried her head into her arms. She heard Justin walk up to the table and put his hand in her back between her shoulder blades.

“Well, worrying about it isn’t going to help. Why don’t we go out and see a movie or do something? You need to take a break.” He said. Mai looked up at him and saw him nod towards the pile of failed starts.

“Maybe, but I need to write this… “ she said pushing out her bottom lip.

“Yeah but you need to live too. Come on – you’ve been doing this for hours, take a break.” Justin insisted.

“Alright, get my coat. We can cut through the park. I need some fresh air.” Mai said, giving in. Justin was right, she thought, the story would come when it was ready to and the best thing was to get out. Justin flashed a grin and disappeared to the front hall closet. Mai heard him rummaging around when the phone rang. She picked up the receiver and tucked it in the crook of her neck, as she bent down to pull on her shoes.

“Hello?” Mai said. The line was full of static and crackled in her ear. There was a loud snap and a screech of digital sound. Mai thought suddenly that someone was trying to send her a fax, though she had no fax machine. A wrong number probably

“Hello?” she said again. There was no response. Mai shrugged and put down the phone. Justin came back into the room carrying Mai’s red pea coat and scarf.

“Who was that?” he asked, draping the coat over the back of the overstuffed armchair at the doorway.
“Wrong number I guess.” Mai said. She stood up and straightened her sweater. She shrugged on her coat and was tying the scarf when the phone rang again. She picked up the receiver again and answered.

“Hello?” she said into the mouth piece. The same static roared into her ear. Mai held the receiver away from her ear.

“Ow!” she said. Justin looked at her concerned. She covered part of the phone with one hand and whispered to him.

“Same static. Must be the same person again” she said. She listened to the call again. This time she heard a faint voice through the popping static. Mai could barely make out what the person was saying.

“You are going to have to speak up I can hardly hear you!” she said. The line hissed even louder. Mai made a face at Justin, who shrugged. The voice on the other end of the line suddenly came through clearly.

“Help me. I’m bleeding. There’s been an accident. She’s dead. I can’t reach her. We are on…” a woman’s voice pleaded. The static over powered the line again before she could finish. Mai’s stomach dropped.

“What? Who is this? Who’s dead?” Mai said quickly. Justin came over and stood beside her.

“Justin, I can’t hear her. Can you check the other phone? Maybe her number is on the display.” Mai said, she held up her hand before Justin could say anything. “Hello? Please? I need to know where you are so we can send help” Justin came back with the other phone. He showed it to Mai. The number was unknown. He turned on the phone and listened while Mai strained to hear the woman’s voice.

“….. fallen trees… side of the highway… ravine.” The voice continued. The static made it impossible to hear every word.

“Please say it again we can’t hear you” Mai said. Suddenly the line went dead.

“NO!” Mai said. Justin put down the phone in his hand, and took Mai’s. He punched the buttons hoping to be able to redial. Mai slumped and sank down onto the sofa while Justin tried to call back.

“Dammit. Can’t call back.” He said. “What are we going to do?” Mai looked at him blankly.

“I don’t know. What can we do?” she asked. A feeling of dread crawled over her. “Wait until she calls back.” Justin looked at her. Worry etched into his face.

“If she calls back.” He said.
~

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