3rd Place – March 2020

Waiting for Love

By Breakfield & Burkey

The greyish fog covering the water dissipated in the gentle breeze as the sun rose, illuminating the horizon to a pale blue sky. Clouds thickened with the periodic gusts, maintaining the warmer temperature. Motion of the swollen lake’s water made images along the banks blur. I remembered last year when the wind stilled and the water quieted, the mirror images were crystalline. This was my favorite place, filled with memories.
I returned to the lake with my parents and brother several days ago, due to the promise of an early spring. Last year, I hadn’t wanted to leave Daren to spend months in our winter home, but I had no choice. Now I was back, waiting for him to return. I had fretted to my mother when he was not there the day we returned. Enveloping me into her ample bosom, she cautioned me to think good thoughts about the great days ahead of me.
As spring progressed and more birds returned to the lake, people flocked to the area to take prized pictures of an ever-changing canvas of colors and creatures. Small woodland creatures, creative insects, and slithering reptiles would emerge, carving out a place to live. The variety of birds was amazing. Some of the prettiest birds were the green parrots returning from Mexico, congregating with their constant babble. They would rise like a green blanket if startled.
Lost in contemplation, I recalled last spring that continued through to the long, warm, dog days of fall. My friends and I spent hours exploring every nook and cranny of the lake. At one end of the lake all birds gathered at the waterfall to enjoy the splashing water and natural slides created by tree trunks caught on the edges. It was the ideal waterpark for feathered creatures of all shapes and sizes. A dense wooded area on one side had paths with fallen deadwood making delightful places to play hide-n-seek. Hours of playtime.
Having two homes was a fact of life in our family for generations. Our winter home was smaller and consequently easier to maintain. Several members of our family stayed in our makeshift shelters of winter eating the reserves gathered upon arrival. Luckily, none of us were picky eaters. I had some favorite delicacies which I looked forward to during the months we spent at the lake house. During the winter we always slept a lot or listened to the adults tell stories.
As much as I loved my father’s stories, my favorite Uncle Bailey was the best storyteller.  He would have all the youngsters hanging on his every word as he related one adventure after another. Perhaps he embellished a bit as my mother always accused, but we enjoyed each story, picking out the lessons buried within. Uncle Bailey always said while he was waiting for the love of his life, Aunt Belle, he traveled far and wide getting into some mischief, which were his stories’ origin.
Uncle Bailey and Aunt Belle’s children left long ago to make their own way in the world. This when Uncle Bailey and Aunt Belle began to travel rather than staying near our lake house. In fact, none of the rest of our family ever stayed with us, except in the winter.
Friends we met here tended to return, which was how I’d met Daren. Daren’s parents and my parents had met before I was born. In fact, Daren and I arrived the same year as most of my playmates. We grew up together, learning as much from each other as from our parents. At one point we must have reached a suitable age because our parents let us roam and play until dark when they would call us home for supper and bed.
The first time I realized I liked Daren as more than just a friend, we were playing near the waterfall. I was jumping around, then suddenly slipped off a slick rock and plunged into the water. Daren was right there giving me a leg up and making certain I found a dry perch. He patiently waited while I shook myself off while the sun warmed me through. From that moment on he stayed right beside me. If our friends wanted to play tag, we teamed up to avoid one of us becoming it. Our friends teased us, but we drew closer, not paying attention to their taunts.
When I told my mother about my feelings for Daren, she said to take care not to grow up too fast. We talked about the importance of choosing the right partner. When I prompted her, she told me how she had fallen in love with my father.  They often teased each other and could be seen frequently cuddling. At the winter house, they rarely left one another’s side and giggled about nonsensical things. As we made our way to the lake, mother said my brother and I were old enough to make all our own choices.
Distant sounds roused us early this morning and my brother took off. I was sad and glad at his pending happiness. Before he left, he ruffled my head gently, saying he’d check in on me in few days. I fell back to sleep with tears in my eyes.
Outside the world had changed. The smaller plants were beginning to put on weight, with a few showing their true colors. Like skeletons without form or skin, the tallest barren trees showed no inkling of buds. They looked as empty as my heart felt, missing Daren and wishing he were here. Grabbing some grub, I ascended to resume my vigil with eyes to the south.
This morning, as the clouds thinned, several families were cleaning and opening up their summer homes. A few of my girlfriends waved as they resumed their assigned chores. I perked up, realizing this might be the first day of play since I had returned. I decided to practice my patience and think more good thoughts with my eyes squeezed tightly shut.
Thinking the wind had caused the branch to shift, I opened my eyes to see Daren seated beside me. I got giddy with excitement as I bumped into him and nearly fell. Then he steadied me as we both giggled in relief. I noticed he’d filled out nicely over the winter.
“You’re here, finally! I was so worried you wouldn’t return.”
“Now, Daisy, I promised I’d be back. I know our parents seemed unfair in separating us, but we knew we’d be together. You’re prettier than ever.” He nudged me with his beak. “Did you have a good winter?”
“I had a lonely winter without you, Daren. I like being near you to talk and play.”
Daren chuckled low in his throat and bumped my side again. “I like being with you too, sweetie. My winter was pretty dull, and my parents were constantly going off to be alone. I think they’re ready to have their children out of the house.”
“Funny you mention that. I noticed the same thing. My parents are very close, but, I suspect, oblivious to us.”
“I don’t know, honey, I think they’re happy. Your father winked at me as I flew over here. And, your mother nodded at me. I think she likes me.”
I noticed a bit of green budded on the branch. “Look, Daren, the tree is coming back to life. Let’s go see what else is happening around the lake.”
We both took off toward the waterfall as I called back, “Be home later, mother.”
“Go have fun, Daisy! You too, Daren.”
The waterfall made a low noise which would undoubtedly increase with the next rain shower. We splashed and played, joined by a few of our friends who were also paired up. It seemed all our games would be as couples this year. Chattering like magpies, each of us shared our winter activities and plans for our time at the lake. After snacking on whatever was at hand, each couple slowly made their way to a quiet private spot.
Daren and I found a secluded area to cuddle. After a while I leaned in and kissed him quickly. Not to be outdone, Daren kissed me back.
At the end of the kiss, Daren asked, “Daisy, will you spend your life with me?”
I bumped him and said, “Daren, you’re the love of my life. I’m all yours as long as we return to this lake every year.”
“Yes, honey. We’ll always fly home together.”

Writers’ workshop and writing group