The Protected Ones – (day 1)

by

Cindy Mantai

Christmas morning dawned bitter cold as Perdy struggled across the frozen brown earth. She kept her eyes trained straight ahead on a nest of tightly woven twigs and leaves, which held a clutch of 18 newborn chicks. On the icy breeze that blew suddenly across her face, Perdy thought she heard a faint peeping. Thrusting her chest toward the ground, she scurried quickly toward her waiting brood.

On the other side of town, a mother held a suckling newborn tight against her body and sang a lullaby to take her mind off the cold. Marion was young and alone. As her baby drank his fill of milk, she struggled to keep her mind from leaping forward into the terrifying visions of what their future might be like. Gwyneth, Marion’s guardian angel, had told her not to be afraid.

“You and your child will be protected,” Gwyneth had murmured as she helped Marion pack her few possessions into a cloth sack. “I have surrounded you with white light. Go now and know that God is with you.”

Perdy reached her nest and thrust her body over her babies, enveloping their tiny heads with downy softness. She folded her gray and chestnut-colored wings tightly against her sides and snuggled deeper into the nest to try and block out any trace of wind or cold. She was young and alone, and when she wasn’t being careful terrible images stole into her mind and terrified her. The 18 peeping chicks beneath her belly needed food and warmth and protection, and Perdy was just one partridge. How could she feed her family and maintain enough strength to fend off the elements and predators? She suddenly felt bone-tired and, tucking her head underneath one wing, fell asleep.

Spring came and in the orchard the pear trees had burst into bloom. Snowy blossoms covered every bough and a low, steady humming of bees filled the April sky. Marion sat underneath one of the trees on a blanket, cradling her infant son David in her long skirt. A few yards away, Marion spotted a small gray bird running quickly toward the edge of the orchard, with eight miniature versions of herself trailed out behind her. The bird kept her chest low to the ground as she ran, and only once did she look back over her shoulder. Marion knew that the bird had seen her because she suddenly stopped dead in her tracks. Her chicks clustered around her feet and she covered them with her wings, as if they had gone unnoticed and she still had time to hide them from impending danger.

Marion and Perdy looked at one another beneath the fragrant canopy of pear blossoms. Instinctively, Marion drew David closer to her, thinking that perhaps the mother partridge might charge them out of protectiveness of her young. But as Marion sat looking into Perdy’s eyes, she knew intuitively that the bird would never harm her or David. She and the mother partridge were the same; two young creatures alone in the world, protecting the only family they had. Something between them connected and understood. Perdy lowered her wings, clucked sharply to her children and the family turned tail and ran toward the meadow beyond as fast as they could go.

Six springs later, Marion sat on a blanket in the white, fragrant orchard while David searched for grasshoppers and swallowtail. Perdy passed a few feet in front of Marion with her new clutch of babies, her face turned straight ahead toward the opposite end of the orchard and the meadow. Something made Perdy stop and look back over her shoulder at Marion. As they had years earlier, they looked into each other’s eyes. Once more, there was an understanding, and after several moments Perdy, as she had before, clucked to her brood and continued on her way. Marion smiled as she watched the little feathered family scurry away, the chicks stopping to gobble up an insect or a blade of grass as they ran.

Twelve springs came and went, and Marion and Perdy continued to cross paths as Perdy led each year’s brood of chicks toward their nest in the meadow. One mid-April day in the thirteenth year, Marion decided to take a walk into the orchard, her favorite place to rest and enjoy the sunshine. She found a familiar tree and spread her blanket out, the tree’s snow-white branches spilling petals with each tendril of breeze. Marion gazed around her and thought about David and his new family. She thought of Gwyneth, the wise guardian angel who had assured her so long ago that she and her child would be all right. Marion had dutifully prayed each morning, asking God to keep her and David safe. Now she was content to enjoy her solitude and look forward to happy days ahead as a grandmother.

Something caught Marion’s eye and she looked up into the tree to see a small shape of gray and chestnut nestled into the crook of two branches. A head emerged from underneath a wing and she recognized Perdy looking down at her. They stared into each other’s eyes and Marion reached up her hand to pet the bird’s soft chest. Perdy didn’t move and Marion stood, caressing her, for a long time. As night approached, Marion covered Perdy’s body with a blanket of petals and said a prayer, thanking God for the chance to comfort her friend in her final hours. As Marion gathered up her blanket and headed home, she turned and said a final goodbye to beautiful Perdy – the partridge in the pear tree.

To find out more, visit Cindy’s website at http://cindymantai.com.

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19 Responses to “The Protected Ones – (day 1)”

  1. A.M.Harte

    The last paragraph brought a tear to my eye. I’m glad Perdy had someone with her in her last moments!

  2. Icy Sedgwick

    Aw, poor Perdy. But I’m glad they both found a friend when they needed one.

  3. Angie

    ohhh, that’s so sweet! well done!

  4. Terry B

    That was lovely and a good lesson to all of us.

  5. Jim Bronyaur

    Wow… so powerful. And quite opposite from mine! 🙂 WHICH is why I love having the two writers each day. You took the story and brought tears to everyone eyes while I scared them.

    Thanks so much Cindy for joining me again on this project.

    Jim

  6. Tony Noland

    The connection between the two mothers was great – warm and sweet. Nice work!

  7. TEC4

    That was truly lovely … the last paragraph moved me deeply. Very nice story.

  8. Laura Eno

    Very nicely done!

  9. Chuck Allen

    A great story!

  10. Gracie

    Lovely. The last paragraph made me tear up, too. I’m glad they found each other. Wonderful story!

  11. Sue

    I loved the story! Especially the connection of the Mom’s without words. I truly believe we are all connected in this world …heart to heart, no words necessary! Thanks for sharing Cindy!

  12. Patti Larsen

    NICE! Tears, yes… awesome story, thanks for sharing!

  13. Susan May

    Wow! Lovely and well written. I love the way you changed perspectives in the first few paragraphs, very interesting.
    It choked me up at the end, a bittersweet tale.
    Well done!

  14. Carrie Clevenger

    Nice contrasting story to Jim’s. Heartwarming tale here.

  15. Cecilia Dominic

    How very sweet! I like how you brought them both from being young and scared to wise and comforting each other. This one made me smile.

    CD

  16. David G Shrock

    Lovely tale.

  17. Eric J. Krause

    A very sweet tale. A fitting and happy end for this lovely partridge.

  18. PJ Kaiser

    OK, I confess, I have tears in my eyes … such a sweet story, Cindy. The circle of life comes to a close for little Perdy. Glad that Marion’s guardian angel watched out for her and her son 🙂

  19. adampb

    A beautiful symbiosis between mothers with some delicate, earthy imagery.
    Adam B @revhappiness

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