A Million Fragments of Feathers by Georgia Stuart-Mills

"A Million Fragments of Feathers" is one of the March Writing Challenge entries that was chosen  to be a featured story.


The dandelions come out today.

They are scattered across the fields, each lonely fleck of sun-given yellow standing in their own random place, and yet together they seem to form some kind of impossibly intricate, meaningful pattern of perfect gold that only nature can understand.

I reach down to pick one, but I pause. It suddenly seems abhorrently wrong to take the dandelion from its designated place in the soil. Why should the life of one flower be destroyed and the others left to flourish?

I brush the gilded petals, each the epitome of silken fragility, and leave the flower to its ignorant peace.

The breeze weaves through the long grass and touches my skin with its sweet leniency. With it comes the tang of salt, and it brings the assurance that I so desperately need – that I have needed for a year – that the sea is close.

My pace quickens and then I’m on the edge, staring out to the grey-blue oblivion. The sun is melting into it now, and my absent thoughts tell me that it will be gone soon, but I don’t gratify the knowledge with any attention. The sky is bleeding with all shades of crimson, and it is so vibrant that I wonder with a delicate smile whether the blood of the sun will rain down and find me.

Beneath me, so far away beneath my bare feet, the waves slide into the bottom of the cliff. In some strange way it looks like the sea is sighing; the webs of seaweed the ribcage, the water the air.

My gaze skates over the unbreakable distance. Darkness is creeping from behind me, but the promise of starlight is far away. I can’t see it. I can’t see it.

My stomach sinks further with every empty second that my heart beats out. Soon it might reach the sea, and the current will drag me down to a place where I won’t be able to feel anymore. As my eyes flicker over the flat horizon, that fate suddenly appeals to me.

Has it really been almost a year? I can remember the day he left me as though it only happened this morning. The dandelions had faded into frail, wispy orbs, and as he kissed me on this very cliff, they fell apart in the wind. The soft spheres had crumbled into a million fragments of feathers, and they had followed him as he had sailed away to meet the sun, leaving the fragments of me that he had promised to piece together again, one day.

That day had come – the dandelions, the dandelions are here. They mean nothing to anyone else, but to me they bring the hope that has been missing from my world since he left. He’d promised to come back the day their shining petals returned to flower. But the sun is going, and the sea is pounding harder against the rocks beneath me, and he has not come back.

I spiral into the shadow that I have been for the last year. Tears veil my eyes in a crystal blanket, distorting the world and blending the sky into the sea. The shadow is a fire, and its flames snake around inside my head, burning me as though I am nothing more than paper, so easily torn, so easily broken.

As I disintegrate, I almost miss the white sail.

A fleck of paint appears on the sun’s blushing face, a blemish so perfect. My breath shudders out and the last of my tears falls over the cliff to join the sea.

The space between us closes. He has returned; the thief of my heart, the wielder of my soul. The shadow of me flees to the stars, and I am flown to their dreams, but I cannot dream with them, because now I can live again.

The boat sidles up to the rocks, and I can see him now. My heart resumes beating as though it had never forgotten how to. Time blurs, and then he is on the cliff with me, holding me, kissing me. Piecing the feathered fragments together again.

This time, the dandelions will not leave without me. They will not take him over the sea to find the sun, leaving me behind.

This time, I will fly with them.



Georgia Stuart-Mills

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