The Feather

Author's Note: I wrote this story as part of an application for a writing workshop that I'd like to go to this summer (yes, this is the same one that I wrote "An Unconventional Princess Story" for last year). Please let me know what you think about it and whether there's anything I can do to make it better! Thank you!

I knew there was something special about the feather from the moment first I saw it. Perhaps it was the way it floated down towards the earth from so high in the air. It would sink a few inches and then be captured on a gust of wind, causing it to spin around like a tiny ballerina. As it spun, it would be blown up back towards the clouds, only to be pushed back down again a moment later.

It was the first day of summer, 1971. The date was June 21st, or at least that's what I remember. It was a Monday and I was six. The day was as perfect as it could possibly have been. The sky was the brightest blue I had ever seen and the clouds were white and as fluffy as a pillow. My mother had taken me to the park so that I could run around and get some fresh air. We had just moved from Hanover, Michigan to Alliance, North Carolina and I had spent most of the week inside our new house, trying as best as I could to help my mother unpack.

I didn't know anyone in the town yet and I wasn't the sort of girl who'd walk up to children who were perfect strangers and ask to play with them. So, as a result there wasn't much I could do at the park except try my best to keep myself entertained. I spent my time that day running around on the grass, doing cartwheels, and attempting handstands. My mother sat on a park bench a ways away, reading a paper back novel she had picked up at the local drugstore on the way there. Every minute or so she'd look up and make sure I was okay. Then she'd return continue reading.

There was only so much time a girl could run around by herself before she either got too bored or too tired to go on. After about a half hour of running around, I was getting to the 'too bored' point. I was lying on the grass, having just fallen over from another attempted handstand, when I first spotted it. My mind was beginning to wander. Why couldn't the sky be this blue every day? How many more days until school started? Was The Partridge Family on tonight? If it was I'd beg my mother to let me watch it.

Not only was the feather floating down from the sky in such a fascinating manor, but it was the whitest thing I had ever seen in my life. It was even whiter than the day's clouds and it almost hurt me to look at it, but I watched it anyways. I couldn't pull my eyes away from it. It was as if the feather was the most amazing sight I had ever seen. And, in a way it was.

As I watched the feather, I stood up, craning my head all the way back as far as it would go so that I could keep on watching.

After a few seconds of standing this way, I heard my mother call. "Honey," she said, sounding somewhat perplexed. "What are you doing?"

"I'm watching the feather!" I replied, never taking my eyes off of it.

"What feather?"

"The white one in the sky!"

I pointed up, following the feather's path with my finger.

There was a pause as my mother looked up to see where I was pointing. "Oh," She finally said. "Alright. Just don't look into the sun. You'll hurt your eyes."

Luckily, the feather never moved in front of the sun, but even if it had, I would have continued to watch it all the same. I persistently followed the feather's path with my eyes, standing in the same head back position, oblivious to anything else in the world besides the feather. I stood there like that for what seemed like hours, watching as it flipped and danced on the wind, making its way slowly towards the earth. Then finally, the feather dropped into my eager hands.

I gazed down at it, my mouth wide open in awe. It was amazingly light. I could barely feel its weight in my hands. Now that I could get a better look at it, I discovered that the feather was even whiter than I had thought. It was a bit larger than a seagull's feather and much softer to the touch. I tested the shaft's strength gently. Would it bend? It did, ever so slightly.

Suddenly it was if a spell had been lifted from me. I could hear the shrieks and laughter of the other children in the park once again and I realized I wasn't alone. I looked towards my mother and then back to the feather. I could show off my prize to her!

"Mama!" I shouted, grinning and running towards her. "Mama! Mama!"

She looked up, folded a corner over in her book, and closed it, placing it gently in her lap. Then she smiled back, and waved. "Yes?" I came to a stop in front of her, slightly out of breath with excitement.

"Look!" I said, proudly holding the feather out in front of me so that she could examine it.

There was a pause and my mother looked at me curiously. "What is it, honey?"

"It's the feather!" I insisted. "Isn't it pretty?"

There was a second pause and then my mother smiled and laughed. She patted me on the head and said. "It's beautiful, darling. Are you ready to go home now, or do you want to keep on playing?"

I brought that feather around with me for the rest of the summer. I showed it off to all the adults I could find. Most of them reacted the same why my mother had. They would stare at me for a moment and then smile and say something nice.

When September came around and it was time for me to go to kindergarten, I decided I would turn the feather into a necklace. My mother had just finished reading me a book about American Indians. It had said that the Indians wore necklaces with feathers on them and therefore so would I. After digging around in my craft box for a bit, I found some colorful yarn and some plastic beads. I wrapped the yarn around the shaft of the feather tightly so that it wouldn't fall off. Then, I put the beads on the yarn that would be the necklace part and had my mother tie it around my neck.

"It's absolutely gorgeous," She said, inspecting my new accessory. "Those blue beads match your eyes."

"And the feather's the best part!" I told her happily.

"Of course," She smiled and nodded. "Now it's time to get your backpack and get into the car," she told me. "You don't want to be late for your first day, do you?"

I scrambled to do as my mother said. I had been waiting all summer for this day. We had toured my new school in July and I had seen my new classroom. The alphabet and brightly colored pictures on the walls, not to mention the little desks in their perfect little rows with their name tags and pointy number two pencils, had left me wishing that school started right then and there. From that moment on I had talked about school almost as much as my prized feather.

I had also met my teacher that day. Her name was Miss Elliot. She was young and friendly looking and wore a cheerful yellow suit. "I hope you'll enjoy kindergarten in September." She told me, sticking out her hand so that I could shake it.

"I think I will." I replied with a bright smile.


"Want to see my feather?" I asked her.

"I'd love to." Miss Elliot replied, she leaned over. From the corner of my eye I saw my mother tug at her ear uncomfortably.

I pulled the feather out of my skirt pocket and watched expectantly for Miss Elliot's response. She stared at the feather for a moment and then smiled.

"It's very pretty," she told me, straightening up. "Where did you find it?"

"It fell out of the sky in the park this summer." I told her, as a matter of factly.

"Well then it must be very special," she had replied, smiling. "Take good care of it."

Seeing as it was the first day of school, my mother walked me into class. We weren't late, but there were already a good amount of children in the classroom. I fingered my feather on its necklace nervously.

"You're going to have so much fun!" My mother told me, her tone cheerful. She gave me a kiss on the top of my head and pushed me gently towards the other children. "I'll pick you up at three. See you then!"

It didn't take me long to find my place among the other students. I made friends within the first five minutes I was in the room and I had a great time with them once the real school day began. Miss Elliot read to us and gave us different games to play and pictures to color in. She had us memorize the letters a, b, and c and tell her different words that began with them. After lunch we worked on adding and subtracting.

It was nearly three before I knew it. As much fun as I was having, I was disappointed that no one had made any comments on my necklace. Finally, I walked over to a boy who was standing next to the toy shelf and said, "Like my necklace? It's supposed to be like an Indian one. The feather in the middle is special."

The boy stared at the feather for longer than any of the adults had. Then he looked back up at me and said. "There's no feather on your necklace, stupid."

I looked down at my necklace in alarm. Had I lost the feather? Had it somehow slipped out of the yarn? But no, it hadn't. I breathed a sigh of relief. It was still there, just as white as ever and held fast around my neck.

"Yes there is!" I said, scowling at the boy. "It's right here!" I jabbed my thumb at the feather.

"There's no feather there!" the boy retorted, scowling back. "Maybe you better get your brain checked or something because you're crazy!" He laughed and walked away.

I was still crying when my mother came to pick me up. "Aw, baby, what's the matter?" she cooed to me. My mother took my hand and led me out to the car. She couldn't get anything out of me except more tears until we got home. Then I finally told her what had happened.

"This boy said that my feather wasn't there!" I exclaimed, crying louder than ever.

"Sweetheart." My mother hugged me and let me cry onto her shoulder and gently petted my hair.

She waited until I had calmed down before saying anything else. As soon as my wails diminished into sniffles, she began to speak. "Honey, when you have an imaginary friend, or feather in your case, only you can see it." She explained gently.

"But it's not imaginary," I said through sniffles. "It's real." My mother pulled a tissue out of her pocket and handed it to me. I wiped my nose and then crumpled it in my fist.

"I'm sure it's very real to you," she said with a nod. "But now you're in school again and you're making friends. Maybe it's time that you forgot about your feather and moved on."

That was the last thing I wanted to hear at that moment. With renewed sobs, I pulled away from my mother and ran into my room, slamming the door behind me. I threw myself onto my bed, sobbing and stroking the feather. It was real! It was right in front of me! Why couldn't anyone understand it? Why couldn't they see it?

Sometime later I drifted off to sleep.

I found myself sitting on a cloud with a bright blue sky above me, not unlike what I had seen the day I had caught the feather. I gasped in excitement, trying to take in all the sights around me. The clouds seemed to go on forever. There were no openings down to the earth in them, at least none that I could see from where I was sitting. I wondered if this was heaven.

"So that's where my feather went!"

I turned my head towards the voice and was surprised to see the most beautiful women I had ever seen standing in front of me. Her dark red hair flowed gracefully down around her shoulders and her green eyes held a mischievous twinkle deep within them. She was dressed in a simple white robe, though her beauty seemed to transform it into the most fashionable gown ever created.

But perhaps the most amazing thing about the woman standing in front of me were her wings. She had a pair of big, snow white wings folded neatly on her back and they were covered in feathers exactly like the one around my neck.

I looked down at my feather and then back at her. "Is it yours?" I asked shyly.

She smiled and nodded.

I had been taught long ago to give things back to the people who owned them, so I knew exactly what I had to do. Without another word I reached around my neck and carefully lifted the necklace off of it. Then I stood up and approached the woman. When I was a few feet away, I extended my arms and offered the necklace to her, looking down at my feet shyly.

I heard her chuckle and felt her take it out of my hands. "I don't really need this feather back," the woman told me. Her voice was sweeter than any bell I had ever heard.

I looked cautiously up at her. Was she going to give me back the feather then?

"However, I do need a new necklace," she continued. "Would you let me have this?"

I nodded, still too shy to speak. "Thank you very much." She said, smiling at me again. She put the necklace over her head and then fixed her hair. Like the robe, the necklace looked wonderful on her although it was only a simple creation of yarn, beads, and a feather.

The woman pulled a hand mirror out of the folds of her robe and examined her new piece of jewelry, tugging it gently this way and that and adjusting her hair.

"Are- are you an angel?" I finally blurted out.

The woman silently put the lock of hair she had been adjusting down and then lowered the mirror. It disappeared into the folds of her robe once again. "I am," She said with a nod. She knelt down in front of me. "And that feather you watched fall out of the sky is an angel's feather. It takes a very pure heart to see one."

"Do I have a pure heart then?" I questioned.

The angel nodded. "And I think someone with a heart as pure as yours needs rewarding. Especially since you've given me such a beautiful gift." She brought up her right hand, which was closed around something. I gasped as she opened it. There was a delicate silver necklace with a small charm attached sitting on her palm. The charm, which was also silver and no more than a centimeter long, was a perfect replica of the feather I had kept close to me for so many months.

"It's for you," The angel said. "And I do believe everyone will be able see this one."

I grinned and gingerly took the necklace out of her hand. "Thank you." I said with as much sincerity as I could possibly manage.

"You're very much welcomed." Came the angel's response. Then everything began to fade back into the darkness of sleep.

When I woke up, the first thing I did was reach for the feather around my neck. Something I was holding in my right hand pricked me and I frowned. I sat up and opened my hand to see what the offending object was. My eyes widened when I saw the necklace the angel gave me. It was just as breathtaking as it had been in my dream.

I put the necklace on and never took it off.

Even now, when I'm married and have children of my own, I'm still wearing the angel's gift. I've told people the story of how I got it, but I've come to learn that only certain people, and even then usually only children, believe me. Most people just think it's an amusing story I came up with to make my necklace seem special.

I've often wondered if my heart is still as pure as it was all those years ago. I suppose I'll never know.

Unless of course I find another pure white feather floating down from the heavens.