By Susan Cleveland

Trying to keep her emotions in check, Lisa Gordon removed her smock and stepped outside of the coffee shop where she worked. The boss had just given her a warning, citing a complaint that’d been made. In her defense, Lisa maintained the irritable man would have probably benefited more from drinking the decaffeinated coffee she’d given him by mistake than the espresso he’d asked for.

“Look,” her manager began. “I haven’t had many complaints about you in all the years you’ve been here. It’s not that you messed up an order that worries me: it’s the customer. The guy’s a bit high-strung and his uncle owns the place. The squeaky wheel gets the grease, right? He could cause a lot of trouble if he wanted to. You gotta be more careful, okay?” 

Georgia Connors stood up after her employee lowered her head and nodded.

Frowning, Lisa trudged to her car and started the engine. She changed into a pair of sweatpants and a t-shirt within minutes of getting home. After filling her water-bottle, she slipped her house-key into her hip pocket and closed the door behind her.

Jogging slowly down the street, she made a right turn just before the crosswalk. The dirt path stayed level for the first hundred feet or so, then gradually sloped into a small meadow. The air was crisp and clean, with a soft scent of pine wafting from a nearby stand of trees. Red and yellow maple leaves strewn on the ground crunched underneath her feet.

Once she reached the edge of the woods, Lisa stopped to tie a shoelace which had become loose. She brushed a few errant strands of blonde hair away from her eyes and started walking uphill. The grade wasn’t steep, the forest floor leveling out again just a few feet from the bottom. A tiny stream on her right began widening into a babbling brook. Lisa walked alongside the rushing water, increasing her pace until her leg muscles burned in protest. Breathing heavily and drenched in sweat, she stopped at the halfway point to sit on a large rock. The boulder’s surface was surprisingly smooth, which allowed her the ability to give her backside a rest in relative comfort.

A handmade doll of the knitted-by-a-grandmother sort was bobbing in the middle of the water. When it’s crocheted head got tangled in a wayward branch, Lisa began to cry.

Hot tears spilled down her cheeks. Holding her head in her hands, she bent at the waist and cried. Not for the doll: for her daughter.

Although it felt like forever, it was only a few days ago that she’d helped her little-girl-who-grew-up-too-quickly pack for university. Her nineteen-year-old daughter had been given a full scholarship and left home to move 3,000 miles away. Suitcases in hand, Jeanie had caught the plane that would keep her away from her parents for two years. After returning from the airport, Lisa was surprised to see her husband haul out another large bag from the garage and stow it in the trunk of his car.

Thinking their daughter had forgotten some items that would be needed to be shipped, Lisa’s mouth fell open and froze when her husband informed her he was leaving home as well. 

“There’s someone else..” He’d told her.

“You have a girlfriend?” She’d asked in disbelief. “After twenty-one years of marriage? Why, David, why?”

“I dunno. It just happened, I guess.” Standing beside the driver’s door, he hadn’t looked her in the face. The small hole he’d been digging with the heel of his boot seemed to require all of his attention. He muttered something, which may or may not have been an apology. She wouldn’t have accepted it if it was one, because she no longer trusted him.

When the storm of her emotions ended, her sobs turned into sniffles. Lisa’s red-rimmed eyes looked around, hoping no-one had witnessed her outburst. Assured she was by herself, she dabbed at her face with the bottom of her t-shirt and took a few slow deep breaths.

The late afternoon sun poked through some trees overhead, aiming some rays directly onto Lisa’s sitting form, which felt like a comforting hug from Mother Nature herself. Warmed by the phenomenon, she began talking out loud to the forest.

“I can’t take it anymore. Getting bawled-out by my boss was the straw that broke this camel’s back. This past week has been terrible. I just feel so…broken.”

A soft breeze began to stir through the branches and descended down, swirling around her body. Though she wasn’t cold, her bare arms chilled in a layer of goose flesh when she heard a whisper coming from inside the wind.

“Being broken serves a purpose.” A voice said. “Look to your left. Do you see those two small eggs sitting on the ground?”

“Yes…”

“One of them will not hatch. Can you imagine what it must be like to be stuck inside an intact eggshell?”

“Dark?” Lisa replied meekly.

“That is correct. The creature in there is all alone. If there are no cracks, the light cannot get in. In order to see, the little bird needs to realize the broken pieces are necessary for its growth. Now, look at the other egg. The one that’s moving.”

“The one that’s trying to get out?”

“Yes. The one that knows if it wants to live, it’s going to have to struggle.”

“I never thought of it like that.” Fascinated, Lisa watched the event taking place in front of her eyes.

“Soon, it will be free. Please take a moment and look up at the bird in the tree next to you.”

“It’s beautiful.” She admitted wistfully.

“What are some of the things that birds do?”

“They chirp, I guess. And they fly. Is that what you wanted to hear?”

“Yes. The bird up there is able to do that now because it came out of the darkness. You can do that too, Lisa. You can see the light, you can sing and you can soar, from having been broken.”

She didn’t know who she’d been talking to, but when the sun’s rays moved away from her body and the breeze stilled, Lisa stood up, relaxed her shoulders, spread her wings, and began to sing.

Susan Cleveland is a freelance writer who lives in Atlantic Canada. Her stories have been published in the Scarlet Leaf Review, and in the “In The Fog” anthologies with Partridge Island Publishing. She works part-time as a Voice-over Artist for a local radio station. When she’s not writing, Ms. Cleveland enjoys spending time with her grandchildren, being walked by her dog, and investigating the magical healing powers of chocolate-chip cookies

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