I remember the day Elly flew right into my life. It’s as vivid as a dream while you’re in it, not like the hazy fuzz you’re left with once you awake. The sky was so blue and so bright. The clouds were perfect tufts of cotton and spread far apart. Everything was easy and carefree back then as I was only twelve and it was summer. I had no obligations, no responsibilities.
I would stay up as late as my eyes would allow and sleep in for as long as the summer sun would let me. Most mornings I would awake to the prying rays of sunshine, but the morning I met Elly was different. The light hadn’t made its way through my pink lace curtains yet. The little pink ponies on my bed sheets danced as I tossed and turned. As my consciousness started to awaken and my senses came out of dormancy, I realized that I was being awoken not by sight, but by sound.
I’d heard blue jays before. They loved hanging out in the oaks in my back yard, but the call sounded off. It sounded like the blue jay was calling out to me. I threw off my covers and jumped out of bed. Startled by own haste, but fully dedicated I ran towards the back of my house and pushed the screen door open.
“Cassy,” my mom cried out as she followed in my footsteps to the backyard.
There she was in her many shades of blue and the white around her eyes seemed particularly pale. She stood right next to the roots of the big oak, looking up at it with longing. I kneeled beside her and she scuttled to the right in a desperate attempt to get away from me.
“Don’t worry little bird,” I said as I scooped her up. She lifted her little broken wing in one last attempt to escape. “I won’t hurt you. I’ll take care of you.”
“Cassy,” said my mom with an all too familiar look. “I know what you’re thinking and it’s not a good idea. Just let her go, I’m sure she’ll heal on her own.”
But I was sure that this little bird was calling out to me. So despite my mom’s wishes, I brought her inside and bandaged up her wing. I bought her a cage and gave her the name, Elly. Her wing healed in about a week, but from that day forward she was my pet, companion, and confidant.
School started up again and she’d spend hours in my room alone, but I’d always come home with stories of math quizzes, friend drama, and boys. She was the diary that no one but I could read. She was the most loyal friend I ever had.
Once when I was fourteen, I came in to find her cage empty. You know that sinking feeling you have in your chest when something’s gone horribly wrong? I looked up to find her in the top shelf of my closet.
That wouldn’t be Elly’s last escape. Over the years, she’d broken out of her cage a million times. I’m seventeen now and a few weeks ago I started to worry that when I go off to college that someone will leave a window open and Elly will escape for good.
“Elly got out of her cage again.”
“I’ll go look for her.”
“I already put her back in her cage. Don’t you think it’s time you let her go?”
“Mom, we’ve talked about this. Elly is more than a pet, she’s family.”
“I know. It’s just. I know you feel like you were supposed to find Elly that day and that it was your purpose to help her heal, but she’s been healed for 5 years now. Maybe it’s time for her to go out and find her purpose. For 5 years, you’ve been trying to make this bird yield to your will, but you’ve got to let go.”
My mom wasn’t wrong. I’d been selfish. I took this precious animal and forced her to be what I needed in my life. So, I took Elly out to the backyard. I thought again about the day she flew into my life. I remembered how she longed to fly up into that old oak tree. I looked her in the eye and felt the release as I opened the cage.