By Isabelle B.L
The golden oriole performed acrobatic displays to capture Annabelle’s attention. The bird’s golden head mimicked Annabelle’s brushstrokes.
Teardrops from the artist’s downcast eyes splashed into nature’s hues. The bird wished his beak were a paintbrush, his plumes pigments caressing her snow-white cheeks.
Chaffinches, partridges, and woodpeckers played hide and seek across Etna’s cherry orchards. Feathered friends landed on cactus pads drilling cavities into prickly pears. The bird surrendered appetizing and nourishing oriental hornets, acrobat ants, and Saga Pedos for the thin branch of an oleander tree.
Annabelle’s lilac scent beckoned. Her face moved toward the Ionian. Yearned-filled eyes caught the phantom-like sails moving across the turquoise-tinged sea.
Snickering from the painting room broke the reverie.
A green-feathered oriole landed on the wobbly tightrope. Four claws curled under the thin branch.
“Fly, dip, whistle a tune! You cannot be a human’s muse. It will kill you,” said the green-feathered oriole.
But only Annabelle’s footsteps, sighs, and solitary murmurs ruffled his sunlight feathers.
The bird’s golden plumes began to fade like the leaves of balcony plants intoxicated by overzealous maids. The bird flew to Annabelle and perched upon her bare shoulder. His mandible, stiff from days of immobility, began to pull the strings of her corset. Annabelle slapped her hand across her mouth and muffled a giggle, but the bird tilted its head to the side,
“What is so funny?”
Memories of invasion lingered. When he lived in his pendulous crib, a human hand seized him deadening his screeches until a swooping redwing thrush frightened the boy away. The bird nuzzled his beak deep into a tube of hair, and the memory faded like the last flickers of a candle.
The sun set and rose. The bird became the artist’s muse, but dazzling yellow turned into beige. Claws curled halfway, his beak a blunt knife.
Annabelle met the bird’s gaze. She inhaled the blossom-scented air and heaved a breath when the bird’s heart pulsated to an acceptable ornithological level. She caressed its delicate feathers.
“Thank you, my love, but you must fly away now.”
The bird surrendered to Annabelle’s command. He ardently flew around her head as if her words had resurrected his corpse.
The bird peered inside a window a maid carelessly left open. He flapped his wings energetically when a painting of a golden oriole sitting on the branch of oleander leaned against a wall.
But when the bird flew out the window, his wingspan decreased, and a feather lost its glimmer. Melancholy hovered like grey clouds.
Annabelle’s father and brother dipped their quills, signed their names on canvas corners, and hung their paintings in noble homes and prestigious salons in the other room. Annabelle’s observations and portrayal of nature gathered cobwebs.
The bird would have none of that.
After a nocturnal rainfall, the golden oriole, who would love Annabelle forever, dipped his beak into a patch of wet soil, flew to her paintings, and signed her name.
Isabelle B.L is a teacher based in France. She has published a novel inspired by the life of a New Caledonian feminist and politician. Her work can be found in the Birth Lifespan Vol. 1 and Growing Up Lifespan Vol. 2 anthologies for Pure Slush Books, Flash Fiction Magazine, Drunk Monkeys, A Story in 100 Words, Visual Verse, FlashBack Fiction, and elsewhere. Her work is forthcoming in Flash Fiction Magazine,someshortstories.com,andthe Best Microfiction 2022 anthology.