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A Bird Belongs in Flight
A Bird Belongs in Flight

A Bird Belongs in Flight


He walked onto the deck quitely.

It wouldn't be sunrise for a few more hours so Philip was surprised that he and James, who had taken the night shift, weren't the only ones awake.

Rae sat against the gunwales, her chin on top of her knees as she blindly stared out.

Philip found himself walking to her and sitting next to her, letting his legs out straight in front of him. Rae flinched slightly when she heard him sit but held still, as if to ignore him.

“Couldn't sleep?” He asked after a continued silence.

Rae shrugged. “Maybe.”

“Wanna talk about it?” A head shake. “Ah, okay.”

Philip awkwardly fiddled with his fingers. He was always bad at conversations, but this felt even worse for some reason. Maybe he should have just let her be.


Philip pulled himself from his thoughts and looked to the kid beside him. “Huh?”

Rae pursed her lips nervously. “Noah.”

“Oh.” Philip nodded to himself. “Yeah, he's doing alright.” Noah was Rae's adoptive brother, the two were very close, they had been together when Philip had found them stowing away on the ship. Noah had been very ill when they first had been found. “Not very happy we won't let him see you though.” Rae pulled her legs closer to herself. “But you should be able to visit soon, he's not very sick anymore.”

“Do you believe in angels Mr. Taylor?” Rae whispered.

Philip frowned. What an odd question. “Well, what kind? A type of person or the ones with wings?”

“The ones with wings.” She clarified. “The ones in the stories that protect people.”

Philip thought about it for a moment then shook his head as he made up his mind. “I don't think I do.”

“How come?” Rae asked, tilting her head towards him, her eyes staring right past him.

Philip found himself shrugging. “They are just a story, a tall tale somebody made to help themselves or another feel safer.”

Rae closed her eyes. “But so are you, Mr. Taylor.”


Rae chuckled to herself. “A tall tale. A story to make people feel safe. Isn't that just what you are? Every kid raised in the seas has heard of you, Philip Taylor, the great protector of dock and sea. By that logic, you too aren't real.”

Philip stared at her. “I- I’m not sure what you mean.”

Rae shrugged her shoulders with a knowing smile. “I believe in angels. I like to believe that one day when I die one will come to me and offer me wings of my own.” She cracked open her eyes slightly and smiled distantly. “And you know what I will do with those wings, Mr. Taylor?”

Philip nearly forgot he had a voice for a moment, eager for her answer. “What?”

Her smile only got bigger. “I'm gonna brush my fingers through them till all the feathers are straight and then I’m gonna put them on. Then I'm going to spread them out as far as I can.”

“Really?” Philip asked, captivated by the narrative. He would be lying if he said he too hadn’t fantasized about having wings.

Rae nodded eagerly. “And then I’m going to jump into the sky and fly until I can’t anymore. No fear of falling, because I’ll already be dead so even if I fell it wouldn't matter, now would it?”

Philip considered that. “I guess it wouldn't.”

Rae contently nodded again. “I would never come back. Just me and the sky till the end of time.”

“Sounds lovely.” Philip breathed, closing his eyes as he thought about it. It would be a wonderful thing to fly.

Rae gave him a lopsided smile. “You must be a tethered bird too then.”

Philip shrugged, not fully understanding what she meant. “I suppose.”

“Some of us,” Rae’s voice had fallen back to a whisper. “Where born in the wrong bodys. Some of us were meant to fly. That's why I want to believe in angels.”

“So that maybe, you have a chance to fly. To have the body you were meant to have, one with wings.” Philip considered. He looked to his hands then back to the girl beside him.

Finally, he stood and reached out to Rae, letting his fingers brush her arms so she knew he was there. “I can’t give you wings, but I could take you to the crows' nest, I find myself there whenever I’m wanting wings the most.”

Rae hesitantly took his hand and let him pull her to her feet.



Philip carefully led her up the last of the ropes and Rae followed, not once releasing his hand. The last time she had been up in the ropes was when she and Noah had been trying to escape Philip when they had been caught. Before that? She didn't even know.

Back before... everything, she would spend nearly every waking minute up in the ropes. She remembered when she and Noah moved to land how wrong it felt spending all her time on the ground. The winds and sky had become her friends.

Noah would see how uneasy she was or how much she missed the skies and he would grab her and force her up a building. They would spend hours on the roof just chatting.

Then she lost her sight. It wasn't safe to climb up high anymore.

But here she was.

Philip paused for a moment then helped Rae climb into the crows' nest.

Rae scrambled to her feet and gripped the edge of the nest.

She was back.

The last time she had been up high she had been clinging to the mast with everything she had, knowing one wrong move would get her killed. But now she could focus on the wind around her, letting it sing songs in her ears and feeling her eyes water at the cold that bit at them. Oh, how she wished she could see it all, though imagining it with the wind against her face was almost as good.

“You like it up here,” Philip noted as he joined her side.

Rae nodded. She was too happy to even speak. He would never understand how relieved she felt to be back up high and not terrified to fall.

Philip chuckled cheerfully and Rae found herself smiling.

After a long moment of her just enjoying the wind and Philip at her side, he finally spoke up again.

“Getting you to come back down is gonna be a nightmare isn't it?”

Rae smiled wide and nodded. She was back in her element. There was no way she would go down too soon.

She pretended to spread out her wings and imagined herself flying away.


Philip held back tears as he pulled Rae’s small body close.

She was just a kid. Only a teenager.

James stood above them in utter shock as he watched them, the bloody sword in his hand trembling.

The other's fighting had come to a stop, but Philip hardly noticed it.

“Hey! Stay with me!” Philip commanded. But Rae was hardly breathing, blood soaking her shirt. It was one of Noah's.

Rae’s blank eyes stared up at the night sky, desperately trying to see something, anything.

“Do you believe in angels Mr. Taylor?” She asked after a silent moment, her voice a tiny whisper.

Philip felt more tears fill his eyes. “Of course I do.” His voice broke. “They are stories as real as myself.”

Rae smiled blithely. “I do too. I think they give out wings.”

Philip blinked away his tears. Rae was hardly moving, her breathing tight and short. “I think it's about time they finally got you yours, yeah?”

Rae sluggishly nodded. “I would like that.”

“The first thing you'll do is run your fingers through them,” Philip whispered. “And then you'll stretch them out as far as they go.”

Both had smiles on their faces now, Rae’s soft and content, Philip’s sad and broken.

“And then,” Rae’s voice was nearly silent now. “I’ll fly.”

“And you'll never come back. Just you and the sky.” Philip whispered, his heart feeling impossibly heavy in his chest.

Rae’s eyelids drifted shut as she let out a final, shuddering breath. “Thank you for my wings, Mr. Taylor.”

Then she was still.

James let his sword clamber to the deck. His green eyes were big and he looked like he was fighting a million battles behind them. He and Philip met gazes and James made a strangled cry sound, like he finally realized what he had done. They stared at each other for a long moment.

Finally, Philip let out a sob and pulled Rae’s cold body close to him, looking away from James.

Somebody came up to him and gently placed a hand on his shoulder. He ignored them.

Then Philip spoke, every sentence wet and heavy with grief. “I'm happy for her.” His voice was hoarse. “She can finally fly.”

The hand gripped his shoulder tightly. “But- she can't.” Noah's voice was broken and wet. “She- no. I- she can't leave.”

Philip shook his head, adjusting Rae so she wouldn't slip from his trembling arms. “No bird should be forced from flight. She's happy now.”

She had to be happy now.

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26 Jan, 2022
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