A short story based on the image shown
from a prompt from Writers Unite! – August 2019
Love from a Hummingbird
A Short Story by Lynn Miclea
Matthew pulled on the oars, gliding the kayak gently through the canal. He breathed in, taking the rich, humid air deep into his lungs. He loved being out here in the bayou with nothing but the gentle flow of the water, the overhang of trees brimming with fragrant green leaves, and the birds that silently watched as he eased by.
He loved these inlets and byways that he had discovered off the main river. He was a few miles from the main tributary that fed this area, and it was private, serene, and cozy here. He rarely saw another person this far off the main waterway, and he liked it that way.
He wished Amber could have been here. But it hurt too much to think about that, and he pushed it from his mind and kept paddling.
He aimed the kayak down another channel, farther away from the original river. Huge cypress trees lined the banks, weeds jutted out of the water, and a few wading birds stood along the side. A deep sense of peace permeated the entire area.
Finally reaching his destination, Matthew paddled the kayak onto a small sandy shore, one of the few small islands that he knew in this area, and one that he had only been to one time.
He got out and pulled the kayak up onto the soft sand so it wouldn’t be sucked out with the gentle pull of the water. He knew Amber would have loved this. She had loved the water, she had loved kayaking, and best of all, she had loved him.
He pictured her in the blue and purple dress that he loved the most — the one she wore on their second date when he had taken her dancing for the first time. He could still see it and the way the beautiful, silky dress swirled and flowed as she moved, the blues and purples swishing back and forth. He shook his head. He couldn’t think of that now. The ache in his heart felt like it would overwhelm him. One hot tear slid down his cheek, and he quickly brushed it away.
He pulled out a plastic bag from one end of the kayak and sat in the warm golden sand. Unwrapping his chicken sandwich and opening a small bag of potato chips, he settled in and took a deep breath. He couldn’t bring Amber back, and he needed to find a way to live without her.
Against his will, his mind drifted back and he pictured her honey-blond hair falling in waves below her shoulder. Dancing with her and holding her close. The softness of her skin and the smell of her hair. He took a deep breath. The pain of her illness and then her death six months ago threatened to overwhelm him. His eyes burned with tears.
He ate his lunch, swallowing past the lump in his throat. He opened a can of beer and gulped it down. It was hard to do anything without thinking of her.
Looking around at the rippling water and the canopy of trees, he knew there was nothing like this anywhere else, and it was the only place where he felt at peace. He tried to appreciate the beauty of the area and ignore the aching emptiness he felt. It was not the same without her, and it never would be. But he still loved being here, and he listened to the subtle sounds of the water, birds, leaves, and insects that surrounded him.
After finishing his lunch, he put all the trash in a bag, placed that in the kayak, and then inched the kayak into the water. Holding the kayak steady, he carefully climbed in, let out a loud belch, and dipped the paddles into the water.
Matthew moved the kayak out toward the larger inlet. Having only been to this small island once before, he hesitated when he came to the first split in the water channel. Which was the way home? Was it to the right or the left? He thought it was to the left. But it didn’t look familiar. It must be to the right. He paddled to the right, passing more cypress trees.
The waterway didn’t look right. He suddenly wasn’t sure anymore. How could he get that turned around and confused? Was he that distraught? A gnawing fear clawed at his belly as he realized he wasn’t certain which way he had come. Each way he looked now looked the same, and none of it seemed familiar. He had been here just last week. Was he now lost? That was impossible.
He continued paddling, moving the kayak forward, expecting to find something familiar and have it all click in and make sense. He was sure any moment he would know exactly where he was. But nothing looked familiar. His hands grew damp and he stopped paddling.
Which was the way out? Which was the way back home? Where were his familiar landmarks?
Matthew ran his fingers through his hair. This was not the way he wanted this day to go. How could he get lost? He let out his breath slowly. He did not want to paddle in circles or go too far in the wrong direction. Which way should he go? It had to be the other way.
He looked around, trying to find a familiar tree. Something moved across his vision. A small bird — a blue and purple hummingbird. He looked around at the cypress trees again. Then more movement, insistent this time — the hummingbird flew in front of him and looked directly at him. Then it flew off and stopped. It turned back and looked at him.
“What do you want?” he murmured to the bird.
The bird stared at him. Was he supposed to follow the bird? That was absurd. How would a bird know he was lost or what he needed or where he wanted to go?
Something inside him urged him to follow the bird.
Matthew shook his head. “This is crazy,” he muttered under his breath.
It made no sense, and he shrugged. But he was out of options and didn’t want to go in the wrong direction. What did he have to lose? Maybe the bird knew something he didn’t. And something about it just felt right.
He slowly paddled after the hummingbird. The bird took off, stopping every now and then to look back as though checking to make sure he was following it. The bird went around a turn in the stream, and Matthew worried that he would lose sight of it. But once he reached the turn, the hummingbird was there waiting for him.
He started feeling comfortable. Two more turns, and he saw his landmark — the large tree with the old log angled up on it. Now he knew where he was. He smiled to himself and turned to thank the hummingbird, but the beautiful blue and purple bird was no longer in sight.
Had he imagined it? No, he knew that bird had been there. And it had definitely brought him home. That beautiful blue and purple hummingbird — the same colors as Amber’s dress that he loved. How was that possible? His mind swam with questions. It didn’t make sense.
He pulled up to the dock by his home and pulled the kayak up onto the dirt by the side of the dock. Sadness and longing pulled at him, and he sat on the edge of the dock, his feet dangling over the gurgling water.
As he looked back over the bayou, movement drew his eye to the beautiful blue and purple hummingbird that hovered in the air for a few moments, looking at him, as though making sure he was safe, and then it took off. He knew it was the same bird.
A combination of warmth, sadness, and grief filled him. Tears ran down his face, and his body shook with sobs. A few minutes later, he took a deep, ragged breath and then slowly let it out. He wasn’t sure what to believe, but something in him shifted.
His beautiful, sweet Amber, so young and taken too soon. Maybe she was still here with him. He stood up and turned. Something landed on the dock at his feet. Something soft — a feather. He bent down and picked it up. A soft blue feather tipped in purple.
His heart leaped into his throat. “Amber…” he whispered.
Copyright © 2019 Lynn Miclea. All Rights Reserved.
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