The Turtle Dove

Out on the rocks. The seagulls were calling ceaselessly. It was the same each day, they screamed and screamed, but I wondered why…why did they screech so, when they were free?

I had a little turtle dove, I had raised it from a chick. It perched upon my hand, so light and fragile. Each morning, I would let her out through the open window of my little tower room, overlooking the sea. She would wheel and wheel away, further and further, until she was lost in the mist. Then I would come for my daily walk, meander across the rocks, perch at the edge of the outcrop of the bay. Warmer days I would bathe my feet in the stinging salt sea, colder ones I curled up in the bay, wrapped in shawls. I spent hours each day watching the tide move in and out in its tireless dance. Back and forth. Out and in. Just like me it spent each day the same. I could no sooner change my rhythm than the tide could – not until the boat came in.

When I returned to my bedroom, I always found my little turtle dove, perching on the windowsill. No matter how far she flew, she always returned. I thought, my love must come back too, like my turtle dove. He will find me again. But at the same time, each time I let her fly free I thought, this time…this time she will not come home.

That is why each time I stayed a little longer on the rocks. I waited a little longer, because I was afraid to return to an empty room. And because my eyes were so trained upon the horizon, I sometimes froze there like a figurehead. Come back to me, come back…I willed it, I willed it so hard, wished so hard with my eyes tight shut, some days I was sure some spell would awaken inside me and I would open my eyes to see his boat coming in to the bay, shining a light, the bell ringing; he waves at me, he is all brown and his hair is a little grey…

It is so cold now on the rocks. Today I stayed an hour and ten minutes. I can’t feel my feet, and it’s starting to drizzle. I climb the stairs of the tower, I climb and climb and I open the door, and there’s nothing on the windowsill, and the cage is empty, in fact there is no cage at all! Where is my cage! Where is my turtle dove! Where is my lover!

“Mrs Perdew,” says the nurse. “Come and sit down. It’s cold, I’ll put some more coal on the fire, and I’ll get a pan to warm the bed. You mustn’t wonder off like that. You must eat something Mrs Perdew. My word, Mrs Perdew, you’re quite pale…”

(Prompts: crave, rock, [painting of woman with bird])


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