THE LANGUAGE OF BIRDS • by Rosalie Kempthorne

High society. Twenty-five floors high.

And the floors are all glass, mirrored, swallowing the lights from a panoramic city, distorting them, condensing them, fanning them out in a rainbow across the expanse of some two hundred square feet. A few rugs are dotted across the floorscape; the walls come alive with three dimensional, tactile modern art. Long sofas, footstools, impressive 60 inch screens that pulse in time with the music.

The glitterati come here to worship.

So did I. So do I.

I tell myself that I still belong. This can still be my world. The door opens. I make my gushing hellos, offer my wide, glowing smile. I brush cheeks with the upper elite, share expressions of welcome, of flattery. My eyes, their eyes, moving through the room.

They perch along the edges, in threes and fours, wine glasses rested lightly in manicured fingers. Their plumage is many-colored; shades of autumn and desert, grape, deep-twilight, ash. Necklines and wrists are a-sparkle.

“Look, there they are. Billy and Jamie.”

“Like fat waddling ducks.”

“And there: Marion Spencer.”

“Hummingbird, that one.”

“And she’s talking to a couple of parakeets.”

“Oh, so she is. They hate her, you know.”

***

I flow through the room. These faces are so familiar, and yet they’re not. Something hollow about the whole thing, something painted on, not really there. I can hear the flutter of conversations, the mention of my name at times, of his. Always, the two of us, links in a chain. His and hers. Well, not any more. Music bounces from wall to wall. Finger food sweeps around on wings.

“Garry Rymar. Peacock.”

He fits the part. All feathers and shiny things, polished shoes, lacquered hair. Right down to the colors: jewel green, deep purple, shades of not-quite-black. Glitter-thread woven into a charcoal, linen shirt. He glances my way, raises an eyebrow: his face is all full of suggestion. My place. Later. Why not? He’s out of the picture.

Behind me, somewhere, the chirping of a conversation:

“Just over there.”

“Where?”

“By the wall; where she flowers.”

“A duck.”

“Oh, cruel.”

“Well, an owl then. You must admit: an owl.”

Dull plumage, grays and browns. Eyes too old for her turned-away face. Shoulders sunk down inside her feathers. Deep. Diminished.

***

Champagne tastes syrupy. There’s pate on crackers. There’s baked and ginger-dipped parsnips. I find myself longing for a sausage smothered in sauce, wrapped in bread, crammed full of onions.

Blond hair. A pink dress.

The carrying pitch of woman’s voice: “Monica Simmons.”

“Well, of course she’d be here.”

“Flamingo. Am I right?”

“You are right. You’re nearly never wrong.”

“Yet I almost missed that sparrow over there. In my defense, though: who wouldn’t?”

Oh yes, I would love to spread my wings. Me, in glitter-black, in curves and folds, in diamonds, trying to embody elegance. Wouldn’t I like to throw my head back and scream? Make a scene to last forever on Facebook. But I’ve chosen another kind of scene, the one where I’m all cream and silver, where my earrings glitter against my newly styled hair, where my dress is new, my shoes, my necklace. Where I stand tall in the heart of this battlefield, and let them see that I’m still alive. Divorced and disgraced, but they can’t overcome me so easily.

Their voices whisper through the background.

“Wendy Pitt.”

“Whoever thought we’d see her again?”

“Looks good, though, considering….”

“Phoenix, would you say?”

“Phoenix, yes, I would.”


Rosalie Kempthorne has no idea what it takes to write a good Writer Profile, and all her previous attempts have so far come to nothing. She has much better luck writing stories. You can read more of her short stories on 365 Tomorrows, ABC Tales, Flash Frontier, or on her website: www.RosalieKempthorne.name.


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