Continued from last week…
As she watched her, the lark felt something stir in her wooden body. Finally, she said to the girl:
“Take me back to the woods. Therein is a wise person who may be able to help you.”
So the girl took the lark back into the heart of the woods, to the hollow in the roots of the Great Tree, and promised to return the next day.
“Why have you come back?” asked the Tree, once the girl had gone.
“Please,” said the lark, “the person who brought me here- She is troubled. I thought perhaps you may be able to help her.” And the bird related the girl’s sad story.
“Mmmm…” The Tree rustled its leaves thoughtfully. “I cannot work miracles,” it said at last. “My cure comes with a heavy price: When the boy awakens, he will not know her. He will not remember their love.” The lark was greatly disturbed.
“O Great Tree is there no other way to make him better?” she asked. “The girl has waited so long to gain his love that I fear you are giving her an impossible choice to make.”
“It is not impossible for one who has a pure heart.” The Tree straightened up then and stretched out its branches.
“Wait!” cried the lark, “You have not given me the cure.” The Tree looked at the bird long and hard.
“You already have it,” it said and then became still.
That night the lark could not sleep. She thought of the girl sitting beside her dying love. She thought of the boy, hovering between life and death. She thought of herself and all the things she loved- the little red berries, the wind and the blue sky- and felt fear creep up on her.
She did not want to sleep forever, while the berries ripened, the wind blew and the sky beckoned hopelessly to her. She did not want to be shut out of this world-She wanted to be a part of it. So as she drifted off to sleep, the lark decided that she would not tell the girl about the cure: she simply could not. As promised, the girl came the next morning.
“Tell me, friend,” she said, taking the lark in her hands, “tell me you have found a cure. He is fading fast and I fear I will lose him if something is not done soon.” The lark looked into those kind brown eyes, the anxious face and felt as if she was being torn in two. She simply could not- she could not lie.
“I have a cure, my voice,” said the lark. “My song will cure him but…” Here she stopped, unable to go on.
“Tell me,” the girl said gently.
“He would have forgotten. You will be as much a stranger to him as you were six years ago.”
The girl did not cry as the lark thought she would. Her eyes did not even fill with tears. Instead, she sat for a long time with the bird in her hands. When she spoke, her voice was steady.
“He will not know that I love him?”
“No. I am sorry,” said the lark, and she truly was.
“But he will be alive and well?”
“Then, please, will you sing you sing for him?”
The lark looked up at the girl.
“Yes,” she said. “I will.”
The lark’s heart was very heavy as the girl carried her through the woods, her home. She knew she would not see it again. She asked the girl to place a red berry in her beak. The juice stained her feathers and ran down her throat, sweeter than honey. The lark stretched her neck and let the breeze ruffle her tiny feathers. And she gazed and gazed at the bright blue sky.
The girl took her home and placed her on the small table beside the bed. They were both silent for a moment- the girl tormented by her sweet memories, the lark looking at the sky. And as she looked through the window, the lark could feel her heart breaking, crumbling into little pieces.
A story by me
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To know what happens next, read Free,
The Nation next week