For seven years she’d watched them. Watched as they raised their young. Watched the chicks grow from awkward, gawky balls of blackness. Watched them as they left the nest and fledged.
For seven years she’d watched all this, watched as the adult pair flew together for the rest of the year. Partners. For seven years she watched all this and thought how lovingly he groomed his mate. Groomed his mate until her feathers shone in the sunlight.
She knew the call that was his above all the birds. She knew his walk and his white-marked tail feather and she wondered whether it was age, this greyness.
For seven years she waved her husband off to work. Watched him drive to the end of the road. Watched him turn the corner and vanish out of sight as she stood and waved. For seven years she did this. She was sure and never missed a day.
In the autumn of the seventh year she waved to her husband. She watched and waved until he disappeared from sight. Then she looked upward and saw the crow on the roof. He was cawing and bowing as if to her and he was alone. And she watched him, heard his call and saw that he was picking moss from between the roof slates. And all the time she watched. And all the time he was alone.
The sky was dark but split with light, as some autumn mornings are. He was lit in the brightness of the shards and he watched her. He watched her as she closed the door and went into her house. He was alone and she was alone. He knew all this because for seven years he’d watched her. He knew her wave, he knew the soft sound of her voice; knew that she loved autumn best of all the seasons.
For seven years he had watched her.
Later, and when evening began to fall she heard his call as he flew across the sky to his roost. Other birds called but it was his call that she knew and she listened. And then she watched until he disappeared from view. Watched as he hid himself amongst the tall trees whose branches offered little shelter. The tall trees whose winter coat was almost cast and who gave little shelter to him. Up in the tall trees he cawed. He cawed and he watched her.
For seven nights he watched her. And she saw him fly to roost. For seven nights after seven years he watched her. And she was alone and he was alone.
And in the morning and for seven more mornings he watched her. Watched her as she stood by the door and waved to her husband. And as he watched her he cawed and she saw him and smiled. And he picked moss from the slates on the roofs and he took the moss he had gathered to the tall trees and there he lined a nest with the soft, green moss. And he was alone.
And after seven mornings it was done. And he watched as she waved, but this morning she didn’t go inside. Not today, not on this day. On this day she watched and she waited and she heard him call. So she stood and waited and he came down the path and his feathers were purple black in the morning sun and he called to her as he stood on the path. And she watched him. And she saw that he was as a man. And she stepped down the path and she went to him and he said her name and she knew it, even though it was just his call. The call he had used for seven years and seven nights and seven days. And he was as tall as a man and he took her in his wings. The black purple wings that shone in the sunlight. And she went with him. And her husband lost her. But she watched her husband, still. And she called to him, but he never knew her call or that it was her. He never knew that it was she watching him, and flying past overhead as he turned the corner and disappeared from sight.
©Margaret Holbrook. October 2013.