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Based on the Harris Burdick pictures

Whoosh. All around Lani was the rustling of feathers and the cacophony of graceful papery wings. She lunged for the window, her heart racing, but it was too late. The doves were soaring out the window and into the foliage below. How did this happen? Well, it all began when somebody left the window open…

Lani sat in the back of the car, gazing out the window, acting indifferent. The long curls of her chocolate-colored hair hung loosely in front of her face, hiding the glistening tears that threatened to spill like a waterfall from her hazel eyes. As a young girl, she had always assumed teenagers were perfect - strong and charismatic, always knowing what to do or say.  Even though Lani was fourteen, she felt more vulnerable than ever as she hugged her knees to her chest. After what felt like an eternity, the car lurched into a familiar cobblestone driveway.

As she stepped out of the car, her mother and father embraced her, handling her as gently as a porcelain doll.

“Lani, we all miss your grandma very much, but it’s been three months, and we have to clean out the house for whatever will happen next.” Her mother spoke in the same soothing voice she used when she had nightmares as a child. Knowing she had to be strong like her parents, Lani straightened. She gathered her courage and entered the house.

As she stepped onto the threshold, a torrent of emotions exploded inside her. Knowing she would only think of her again, she pushed them back. It was oddly quiet. Too quiet.

“Grab a box and start packing what can be kept. Throw away what can’t.” Lani’s father handed her a box and a black plastic garbage bag. Her dark curls swinging, Lani nodded.

“I’ll clean the kids’ bedroom,” Lani murmured and turned to the stairs. It was the bedroom she had always stayed in when she visited, where she had spent countless summer nights. She had admired the view out her window, way up on the third floor.

Delicately turning the knob, Lani opened the door to the room. She was calmed by the ivory doves painted on the wallpaper. She had always adored the birds as a child, when the dappled light peering in the window made the doves appear to dip and dance. She had pretended to be one of them, spreading her wings and flying away on the breeze. They even sparked her love of art. Lani would sketch the doves over and over until she had the delicate figure just right. She could draw it in her sleep now. Doves were her grandmother’s favorite bird. Sometimes, when she thought Lani was asleep, she would watch her grandmother kiss her goodnight, then look on curiously as her grandmother ran her hand along the azure walls, tracing the birds with her thin fingers.

Lani pried her gaze away from the walls. They’re just pictures, she reflected. They aren’t important right now.

In a haze, she set down her box and began to carefully pack old sketchbooks, pencils, pretty pebbles, and other trinkets that lay askew on the deep mahogany dresser.

Before long, Lani had sweat running off her forehead. It was stifling in the room. Quickly, she unlatched the ancient window and heaved it open, unleashing a cloud of dust. I doubt this window’s been open in a long time, she mused to herself.

Finally filling a box, Lani sighed and made her way back down the winding staircase. In the kitchen, her mother was rooting through the pantry, carefully loading canned food in a box labelled ‘DONATE’.

“Finished with a box already?” said her mother. Lani nodded. In contrast with the other rooms, the room was practically empty now due to the scarce decorating.

“Well, I suppose there isn’t as much of your grandmother’s art on the walls,” commented Lani’s mom. “Nobody would ever imagine covering up that mural. You know, she painted it herself.” Lani raised her eyebrows. Her mother nodded in confirmation. She couldn’t believe that she had never comprehended before. It seemed so obvious now. Perceiving the mural in a new light, she sputtered a quick goodbye to her mother and headed back up the stairs again. Lani distinguished a strange swishing coming from the bedroom as she arrived at the top. As she cautiously unfastened the door, she let out a startled squeak. As she dashed into the room, she realized the room was filled with birds. But not just any birds. Doves.

Whoosh. All around Lani was the rustling of feathers and the cacophony of graceful papery wings. She lunged for the window, her heart racing, but it was too late. The doves were soaring out the window and into the foliage below. The doves were formed from paper and paint, but were just as lifelike as any bird. Leaning out the creaking window, Lani swiped and seized one dove by its tail feathers. I have to keep this safe, she thought as it struggled. She dashed back down the stairs and out the door, tucking the dove gently into her largest coat pocket. She had to locate those doves. They were the last thing she had from her grandmother.

The doves were rising above the house and into the leafy forest. Without a second thought, she sprinted into the woods. The white doves overhead were easy to track as they wove through the emerald canopy. Finally, she glimpsed them landing just ahead. Lani leaped into the foliage and approached a clearing.

She was struck with a tsunami of memories. The doves were delicately hopping in the leaves, some seeking seeds. This clearing was where she had spent so much time with her grandmother. She recalled planting miniscule daffodil bulbs in the spring, hiding away together on Thanksgiving. The memories brought both a smile and tears to her face.

Maybe I don’t have to cling to items in order to remember her, she thought. I’ll always keep and treasure the memories that really matter. Ready for them to fly off, she stepped away from the doves. Tears were streaming down her face.

Suddenly, a rustling came from her pocket. The final dove. Gently, she took the dove out of her pocket, letting it back into its flock.

The beautiful ivory birds gathered together, unfurled their wings, and ascended into the autumn sky.


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