On the morning of her 31st birthday, Norah awoke to a goldfinch on her windowsill. It seemed like a sign, and she was the kind to watch for signs, so she put on her favorite blue dress, headed out the door, and got in her car. It would be a good day; the warbling song of the finch told her so.
In almost every way, Norah was normal. She lived in a normal house, had a normal job at a normal desk, and drove a normal car. She was wholly unexceptional. Though she’d done well for herself, her life continued to be mind-numbingly normal. Get up, go to work, come home, pay the bills, repeat. Repeat. Repeat repeat repeat…
But in one way, Norah was very not normal. She could fly.
She’d only done it once, but she knew she still could, as sure as she knew she could still ride a bike though she hadn’t been on one in years. When she was 11, she’d been bouncing on her parents’ king-sized bed when it happened. Norah had been sure she’d hovered at the top of her jump for longer than normal. She’d been starting at the throw blanket her mom had tacked up on the wall behind the bed (two chickadees sitting on winter barren branches) when she had realized that she should have fallen back to the bed already. After a moment of panic, she’d somehow returned to the mattress. From then on, she knew. She was different. She was special.
She’d always loved birds. Her mother had even called her Bird when she was younger, because she used to sing and hum and whistle every waking moment. She loved watching birds, loved hearing their songs, loved knowing that she and the birds shared the skies, although she’d never dared to fly since that day twenty years ago. She couldn’t risk anyone finding out about her secret; she’d be labeled a freak or a marvel, and either way her life would be over. She’d probably be taken to some secret lab for testing and be poked and prodded and questioned for eternity. So she kept her secret to herself, knowing that she could join the birds in the sky if she ever wished.
She often did wish.
She’d been an exceptionally bright child, which made her normalcy even harder to bear. She’d been groomed to believe she could be anything she chose, when in reality she didn’t have any talents except typing rather quickly and somehow putting people at ease. That made her quite good at her job as a receptionist in a law firm; clients often came in angry, and she was able to diffuse their frustrations without their realizing. Before they knew it, they’d be chatting happily with her about the weather or the baby giraffe at the zoo, waiting for their attorney to come out for their meeting.
She was good at putting on a mask and showing people that she was a happy, cheerful, well-adjusted young woman. But inside her entire being was swirling with the crushing weight of inadequacy. She could have done anything with her life, and this is how it turned out? Where had it all gone wrong?
She’d been driving for over an hour, and she was well out of the city by now. Her coworkers might be wondering where she was, if they even took notice of her empty desk. She doubted they would. They only noticed her when they wanted to pick at her, bit by bit, until she was nothing.
The sight in front of her was shockingly beautiful. She got out of her car, felt the chill of the morning air against her skin, and sighed contentedly. The hills shone through the morning mist and the trees rose silently toward the sky. The first rays of the sun touched the steep gully walls, setting them on fire. Norah’s heart started to beat faster. She was done hiding. She’d show them, she’d show them how very not normal she was. How spectacular she was. How she could fly! Let them tease her then. Let them make her feel unworthy, less than, ignorant, stupid. Let them try.
She took a breath, gathered her focus…