The Little Prince
I think he was a sign. It couldn’t have been anything else. He came and stood right next to her. At first he turned away. At first she wasn’t sure. Nothing that beautiful could just come and stand right there, next to her. She sat, she didn’t move, she didn’t reach out. He looked at her, his eyes like dark pools. He wasn’t scared. She could tell. She edged closer. She lay on the grass near him, her arm propped up on her elbow. She reached out. Her fingers caressed him, just under his jawbone. He didn’t flinch, he just lifted his chin and closed his eyes. She said ‘beautiful boy’ and caressed his chin again and then his beak. His plume stretched out behind him, like a train, a beautiful train. A crow squawked and his head twitched sideways but then relaxed again almost putting his beak back in her palm. She held his little head in both hands and smoothed his neck, his front, and gently his broad smooth back, he flounced a little and did a little circle, coming back to her swiftly.
The boys had seen him and named him and the youngest had asked if he could stay and she had said it was up to him, she couldn’t make him stay, besides he probably had a home he was so tame. The little boy pleaded. Make him stay he said. Make him stay. She felt sad because she knew that she couldn’t make him stay, it would be a lie to say otherwise. He roosted at dusk and slept in a thick hedgerow like a little prince upon a throne, with his rich robes hanging over the edge. The boys said good night to him out of the windows, pleased that they had had the time with the bird and trying not to think that this would be last time they would see him.
In the morning she awoke and saw that he was still in the hedgerow and she woke the boys who came down in their pajamas and fed him birdseed like little servants handing up breakfast to the little prince. She took the boys to school, cycling down the lane in the sunshine and when she came back she went into the garden to see him, but he was gone. Her heart felt sad and she walked to the end of the garden, through the orchard and stood high up on a cut off trunk to see if she could see him in the fields. There! There he was. He strode along the far corner of the field, pulling his long plume behind him. She called to him, the name that the boys had given him, but he did not turn. He fluttered and hopped over the fence and then he was gone. She stood quietly for a while, not wanting to go in case he was to turn and come back to her garden and she could see him again and caress his soft chin and the boys would be happy.
Photograph by William Warby