Winter slid slowly into spring. It had been one of the warmest, wettest winters on record, and spring looked to be much the same. By mid-April the birds were already singing in the trees, and lawns were lush and green.
Once it had become clear that I would be unable to do homework or write tests without assistance, Sister Maria Corvi had made arrangements for me to spend time in the library, reading to the kindergarten classes and helping any way my casts would permit.
The questions about the casts had provided some morbid interest in class, and had prompted a few callous jokes at my expense, but the veneer of novelty wore away quickly and everyone had accepted the story I had told them, about the broken window in our house and the way it slammed down on my hands as I was trying to close it. My mother had so horrified herself that she had stopped drinking, and for a little while, things had been good in our house.
My thumbs had remained unbroken and therefore free of the casts, able to move at least in a limited way. I was spared the indignity of needing help dressing, or – god forbid – in the bathroom.
I made it up to the Silo several times, but the climb was difficult and dangerous, so Amy decided we would sit at its base. Sometimes when the sun was warm and the ground was dry, we’d sit by the road and wait for cars race by. They’d crest the small hill in silence and blast past us, the drone of their engines fading and dropping in pitch. Seconds later we’d brace ourselves as the gust of wind from their passage would swirl around us and push into our lungs, making it hard to breathe. But it was a country road in a small town, so the cars were few and far between.
“Do you think you’ll still be able to play?” she asked.
I thought about this for a while before answering.
“Probably. They don’t think it’ll affect my ability to do stuff, so yeah.”
I was thinking about my mom, and Jay. I was questioning myself, what I could have done to have stopped them, how I could have changed things so that whatever it was about me that made them so full of anger, whatever it was that made them hate me so, could go away.
Silence settled around us like a cloak. A brilliant red cardinal strutted across the road between us and the crest of the hill, pecking at the pebbles on the ground.
“When are you going to stop crucifying yourself for everyone else’s sins?”
I looked at her. She had a thick woolen sweater on, and a knitted hat. She looked like any ten year old girl, pretty and vital and full of energy, but her eyes were deep and full of concern.
“When are you going to stop letting them hurt you? Stop letting them use you as a punching bag and a dumping ground for their problems? Stop carrying the weight of their worlds on your shoulders? How hurt do you have to be before you tell them all you’ve had enough?”
She was very upset, I could see it, but she was trying hard to remain calm, not to cry. She turned away from me and watched the bird pecking at the road.
“You can’t change the things that happen to you, Adrian. You can only change the way you react.”
A car startled both of us, blasting past at what felt like a thousand miles per hour. Amy actually screamed. The wave of wind it pushed blew her hat off and almost knocked me over.
The cardinal, now nothing more than a crumpled heap of feathers flopping down the road in the wake of the car eventually came to rest directly in front of Amy. There was no blood, but it was twisted at odd, unnatural angles. One wing raised and lowered in the breeze, and its glazed eye stared straight through me.
“Or will you wait till its too late?”