Heather sat on the front stoop of an apartment and watched pedestrians rush by. A light flurry fell softly to the ground, blanketing the city in snow. Mothers holding tiny babies pulled them in closer to keep them warm. Children ran by giggling as their parents looked on fondly. Couples strolled by, gazing lovingly into each other’s eyes. None of the people ever glanced at Heather, and she felt a pang in her heart as she realized that this was the way it would always be.
After several minutes, Heather rose to her feet and purposefully strode four blocks away to a small bakery. There were no customers inside, but that was because the shop was hidden away in an alley. Although few people ever came here, the food was deceivingly good.
Heather slipped through the doorway. A bell began to tinkle, startling her. Silently, Heather slipped up the creaky back stairs to the rooms beyond. She entered a bedroom, and moved her slim fingers over the duvet. Her gaze traveled to a desk, the surface a deep red mahogany. A beam of light from a window drew Heather’s eye to a crumpled piece of paper, which she opened carefully.
Life has been a prolonged torment for me lately. All I can think about is Heather. As I work each day, I see things that would make her laugh, and I think of her. I can’t focus on anything, and I’ve been talking to Heather like she’s there. I miss my daughter so much, but there is nothing I can do about it.
Heather stared at the letter, tears pooling in her eyes. She couldn’t leave her mother like this, guilty for something she didn’t do. But how? How could she fix her mother’s broken heart? As Heather mused, the clock struck four. Her mother would be back from her errands any minute now, but Heather was too engrossed to notice. The downstairs bell tinkled, and footsteps sounded on the stairs. The bedroom door opened, and Heather’s mother collapsed on the bed. Heather jumped, caught by surprise for the second time. She approached her mother. This was her chance.
“It’s me, Heather,” she said tentatively. Her mother stared dully into the distance.
“It’s not your fault, you know.” Still no response. And with a sinking feeling in her stomach, Heather realized that her mother couldn’t hear her. No one could. She buried her face in her hands. How would she do this? To her surprise, her mother sat straight up in bed, and began to speak in a quavering voice.
“Sometimes, I have the notion that her voice is whispering to me.” Heather tried to keep in her tears, but to no avail. They spilled freely down her cheeks. Frustrated, Heather knew she could never truly talk to her mother again. She would have to come up with another way.
That night, as the last of the sunlight faded away, Heather reclined on the roof of the bakery. As she allowed her thoughts to drift, the event Heather had tried so hard to forget came back to her.
“Hurry up Heather, we’re going to be late!” shouted her mother, honking the car horn as she frantically waved her hands, motioning for Heather to come. The two of them were going Christmas tree shopping. Heather smiled. She knew her mother was just as excited as she was.
Heather ran to the car, jumped in, and closed the door. “Here we go,” said her mother. “Now, what kind of Christmas tree are we looking for…”
It was a beautiful morning. The sun was out, and the cold crisp air was refreshing. Heather took a moment to look at all the holiday decorations. Christmas was her favorite holiday.
A few minutes later, they arrived at the Christmas tree farm. The air was rich with the scent of pine, the ground littered with needles. Heather shivered and pulled her warm knit hat down over her ears. She scanned the closest row of Christmas trees, looking for one that would be the perfect size for a bakery.
Soon, Heather and her mother were securing the Christmas tree with rope on the top of their car. In her pocket was a tiny angel ornament with white sparkling wings which had a shocking resemblance to Heather. She squeezed it tightly, already envisioning the place she would put it on the Christmas tree.
On the way back home, the winter sun shone surprisingly brightly for such a cold day. Fluffy cumulus clouds dotted the sky, looking like puffy marshmallows. A light breeze blew, blowing away the tiny clouds formed by Heather’s exhales. When the car paused at a red light, her mother leaned over to give her daughter a hug.
Suddenly, a car driving 15 miles per hour above the speed limit slammed into the car. The world spun around Heather and she was jerked back and forth. The car door burst open, and suddenly she was flying through the air, then landing hard on the cruel black pavement. Heather tried to turn and spot her mother, but her body refused, and all she could see was the blindingly bright blue sky.
When Heather finally managed to turn her head sideways, the decorations that she had been happily looking at before loomed in and out of focus. People were swarming around her, their concerned faces peering at her with sadness and dismay. She tried to catch a conversation, but the words were too loud and jumbled. Then one voice rose above all others.
“My daughter, Heather. Have you seen her?”
“Ma’am we’re helping your daughter to the best of our abilities. Right now, you’re shocked and injured. We need to get you to the hospital.”
“But my daughter… I need to know if she’s okay.”
Out of the corner of Heather’s eye, she spotted a stretcher being carried into an ambulance.
“My mother…” Heather croaked. “Can you take me to her?” She understood that these people wanted to help her, but all the noise was making her dizzy.
Then the pain hit Heather, intense pain that allowed no room for rational thought. The agony was all over her, and there was room for nothing else except it. The chaos all around Heather faded and within seconds, she was gone.
Heather stood a few feet away from herself as her broken body was loaded onto another stretcher and carried into the ambulance. The wind called to her, begging Heather to float away on the breeze. For a moment, she let herself be blown about, and it felt like being tickled by a thousand tiny feathers. Heather was tempted to stay that way, but then she remembered her mother. Before she could free herself, she had to see her mom one last time…
Heather rose at sunrise the next morning. At first, she couldn’t tell where she was, but then it came to her. The roof of the bakery. Heather laughed quietly as she remembered the angel, still in her coat pocket. She gazed at its wings curiously, feeling the feathers meticulously detailed in. Wavy dark brown hair framed a melancholy face with green eyes and a button nose.
As Heather looked around the bakery, she was surprised to see the Christmas tree she and her mom had bought in the corner of the room. Heather reached out and hung the angel ornament around a branch. Maybe, just maybe, her mother would notice it there.
Fortunately, luck was on Heather’s side. Her mother descended the stairs a few minutes later, grabbed her apron, and started mixing sugar and flour to make a cake. When she finally placed the cake in the oven 20 minutes later, Heather’s mom took her apron off and sighed. Then, she noticed the angel.
“How is this possible?” Ella whispered. “That angel was in Heather’s pocket… How did it get onto the tree?”
Hesitantly, her hand reached out to feel the angel, caressing the wings. For the first time, she noticed the surprising similarities between the angel and her daughter. Heather watched as a smile, the first one for days, lit up her mother’s face.
Heather felt lighter as she followed her mom throughout the day, knowing she was finally happy. The bakery shelves soon filled up with freshly made croissants and other pastries. At that point, Heather knew that it was time for her to go.
Standing on the bakery roof, Heather felt the wind blow through her hair. She looked out over the rooftops, and then down upon the bakery, viewing her home for one final time. Heather smiled, and in one swift motion, unfurled her wings and flew.