Grace Clark

School: Monifieth High School, Angus
 

The robin

 

The night the robin came was cold. Lady White had covered the city in a blanket of snow, all the buildings were black on white, white on black. The only colour was the robin. His scarlet breast like a beacon in all the white, his song of the Lady White and the joy of the snow was the only sound that anyone could hear.

He swooped through the smoke of London listening, head cocked to one side, as the bells struck midnight. Into the countryside and through the big wood. He had to fly low to get around all the branches, but he was no fool, he had made this journey before and he knew just when to soar to make sure the fox didn’t catch him as it leaped up, hoping that this robin was a novice flying for the first time across the frozen forest.

As he flew across the peaceful lake, he saw a gliding swan trying to keep a hole open in the freezing water so that she could swim and fish, so that she had enough to eat over winter. Icicles hung from the branches of trees, and through the holes you could see little squirrels settling down in hibernation, all snug in their little nest inside the trees. As he flew on, the trees grew thicker and the shadows on the forest didn’t have as many little crackles of cold moonlight in them.  

 Normally this robin would fly straight south for, as time went by, it was getting colder and getting harder to find food. But something made him stay. It was the sobbing that only a child can make when they are utterly broken inside. As this child wept uncontrollably, the robin felt such sorrow that he resolved to find her. So he sang. Now, not many people know this, but a robin, when he is encouraged to sing properly, sings with all his heart and soul, and this robin’s song was no different.

Yes, it was about the beauty of winter, but it was also about the hardships that come too. He sang of the warmth of the fire, and of the poor huddled in corners to keep warm. He sang of the great fun the children had playing in the snow and the lonely girls and boys walking the streets, their icy blue feet getting colder and colder as they trudged from house to house selling pitiful matches or bootlaces or candles just so they could have a hunk of bread to eat for dinner. And, lastly, he sang of the burn of winter that takes thousands of people in the night.

Then he saw her, sitting on the doorstep of a pitiful old run-down cottage with half the thatch missing from the roof and a jagged hole where a window would once have been. She was a small thing, barely more than nine, and she had a russet red, scraggly blanket draped over her pitiful, patched, mud brown dress. She wore no shoes but had sack-cloth tied around her feet to keep them from getting frostbite.  She grasped a small wooden toy - some sort of bird - with tiny feathers carved on its wings and a smooth head where she had rubbed it.

As the robin flew close to the window, he heard voices inside. It was a couple in the middle of an argument. The man was obviously drunk and was bellowing at his wife about how there was no food on the table and she was shrieking about how there couldn’t be any food as he spent all the money on drinks in town and that he always came home drunk and worked himself up into a right rage and that he should be more careful with their money.

 The robin flew round to the front of the cottage and when the girl looked up, she saw a little brown bird with a red breast chirping and strutting right in front of her. Soon though, she was laughing through her tears. She closed her eyes, listening to the music and the next thing she knew, her mother was shaking her, grumbling about her catching her death.

The robin flew on, but the further he flew, the more he wanted to find the girl a present. He searched through the forest and plucked a pure, white, winter rose from a bush, then he flew back the way he came. As he approached the cottage, he heard the girl humming, but he also heard her tears. She was out the back of the cottage, chopping some logs into kindling. She was humming his song, the song that he had sung to her the night before so, as she hummed a line, he piped it back. She turned, startled, and the robin dropped the rose at her feet. She picked it up and pressed it to her face, sighing her gratitude.

The robin flew off once the girl had fallen asleep, but he still felt guilty about how poor the little girl was, so he snatched up a chestnut from the forest floor and returned again.

A night and a day had passed since the robin first visited the little girl but still he flew on, determined that he could make it back to her and then onwards before it became too cold. Finally, at dusk, he reached the run-down shack, but the girl was nowhere to be seen.

Then he caught sight of the red blanket she always wore. And he saw her. She was lying bundled up in a ball. Her face was freckled with frost and her raven black hair speckled with white. In her tightly clasped hands was the little robin toy and the rose, dropping petals. It was in that moment that the robin understood that she was dead. He vowed not to leave her side so, a few hours later, the cold sun rose over the two still, still friends.

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