The Blackbird

Sayrie never remembered a time in her life that Dakota was not there. He was there since her earliest memories, even, everyone tells her, since before she was born. They were practically siblings, and were recognized by everyone who met them to share a bond that could not be interfered with. But when Dakota disappears and is replaced by a person Sayrie has never even met, no one except her seem to notice the difference. The only clues she has as to what happened to him is a crow that never wants to leave her side and a girl with Dakota's same startling blue eyes...
She doesn't realize she's in danger until it's too late.

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1. Go Fish

Oh if I were a blackbird
I’d twitter I’d tweet,
With all abandoned
 I’d fly careless and free,
But I am no blackbird
I just have my need,
Fly away pretty blackbird
Twitter tweet tweet.

Oh if I were a blackbird
I’d make up a song,
With no one to hear me
I’d sing all day long,
But I am no blackbird
I have done my wrong,
Sing away little blackbird
Sing your sweet song.

Oh if I were a blackbird
I’d dance in the rain,
With sorrow behind me
I’d lack any pain,
But I am no blackbird
God I’m barely sane,
Dance away lonely blackbird
Dance in the rain

    The end of the pen she was writing with tapping impatiently against her chin, Sayrie scanned her notebook with fierce concentration. After crossing out a few lines and a moment of thought-wrenching silence, she slapped the notebook down on the desk she had been working on and dramatically pulled at her own short brown hair, frustrated.
    “It’s just not right,” she moaned. “It’s too predictable, the melody, and the lyrics are repetitive. I suck at this.”
Dakota, his long limbs sprawled across his queen-sized bed, briefly glanced up from the book he was reading.
    “Um-yeah. I’ve been telling you that for years.”
After a few incomprehensible words were muttered irritably from Sayrie’s general area, Dakota delved back into his book. Sayrie sighed, glanced at the clock and threw her bare feet onto the desk.
    “That’s disgusting, get them off,” Dakota protested half-heartedly.
The offender just childishly grinned and kicked her legs provokingly. The flimsy wooden desk squealed and shuddered, but fell silent at the removal of her legs once the fact that Dakota was not to be roused was realized. 
    “I’m bored,” she offered.
Dakota sighed and put down his book to sit up cross legged, his overgrown dark hair falling, disorganized, across his forehead and into his surprisingly blue eyes.
    “Go to your own house then. I’m not here to entertain you, unlike you I actually live here.”
Despite his passive words he had reached under his bed for a deck of cards as he spoke, and shuffled them while Sayrie happily jumped up to sit across from him. The only card game Sayrie knew how to play was Go-Fish, but to her knowledge that was all Dakota knew also, for he had never offered to teach her the rules of anything else. They had learned the simple rules of the game from his uncle when they were little, Sayrie five and Dakota six, and eleven years later it was still commonly played between the two. It may have had to do with the deck, which was at least twelve years old and contained two jokers and had some old gum smeared permanently into the back. Although old for a deck of cards, it still hadn’t lost the interest it held for them when they were small. Now, sitting on Dakota’s bed, her legs curled contentedly underneath her, Sayrie tried to scrape the old gum off the pack with her bitten fingernails for the thousandth time, unsuccessfully. 
    “Ten.”
    “Go fish. Uh... Queen?”
    “Nope. Four.”
    “Yeah.” Sayrie tossed the card limply at him as if it were a dead fish. “Ugh, you always win. I don’t even know why I even try...”
Dakota smirked at her in the obnoxious manner he knew she hated.
    “Because you’re addicted to losing. Obviously.”
She smacked him hard with a scowl (“What’s with that ugly face!?") and went back to her cards. The game continued with relatively little interruption. At the end, Dakota’s win, Sayrie aggressively stomped off, fondly said goodbye to his parents, and exited through the front door. Her own house was less than twenty feet away, as Sayrie’s and Dakota’s families had been neighbors since before Sayrie was born. Once inside her dwelling, she plopped herself down on the couch and picked up the remote to change the TV channel to a good ol’ episode of Jersey Shore, despite her family’s protests. 

    Sayrie Bryant had her future set out for her since before her birth. Her parents, Mina and Francis Bryant, were determined for their unborn child to have an organized life and had carefully mapped her future by buying a house that was a five minute bike to the neighborhood elementary school, a ten minute drive to the nearest high school and a thirty second walk to a friendly family with an adorable ten month old son. Mina Bryant, a former Russian actress who was then eight months pregnant, quickly and deviously won them over with her soft, endearing accent and homemade sweets. Francis, a much-smiling photographer who was of more common stock than his wife, played his part of dutiful husband and invited them over for the occasional barbecue. By the time Sayrie was actually born the two families were close friends, and her doting parents looked on with satisfaction as she and Dakota, upon meeting, smiled at each other toothlessly with wonder.

    Sayrie sat on the only chair on the balcony, a steaming mug of hot chamomile tea perched precariously on the armrest. She appeared to be mumbling softly to herself, but if one got close enough, they would hear that she was not talking but singing, a habit thought strange by everyone except her close friends and family. 

Oh if I were a blackbird I’d twitter, I’d tweet...

Although Sayrie had her father’s short, skinny build and vaguely curly mouse-brown hair, when she sang it was her mother’s voice being exhaled through her small mouth, gentle and lilting. For a hobby she wrote songs, which were collected in a small hidden drawer next to her bed. Not all of them were especially good, but all were beloved and precious to their creator. As she hummed the rest to herself, a rather small crow landing on the railing. It cocked its head and looked at her curiously, it’s blue-black feathers fluttering in the slight breeze. Sayrie stopped her humming and returned it’s unblinking gaze, noticing that it had one blue eye. A car drove by, it’s engine stuttering spasmically  and a beat pulsing through the cracks in it’s windows.

With all abandoned I’d fly careless and free...

    “That’s funny,” Sayrie murmured quietly. “You must have heard my singing.”
After a moment of contemplative silence she slowly, as not to surprise the bird, unraveled her legs from the wool blanket she had been warming herself in. Standing up, she edged toward the sliding glass door and tried, without success, to open it without noise. It squeaked painfully, but when Sayrie turned her head the crow was still there. She squeezed herself through the small crack she had made and into her room. After a quick look around, her eyes focused on what she was looking for: a small bag of sunflower seeds that lay forlornly on top of her dresser. Snatching a handful, she forced herself back out onto the balcony through the crack in the sliding glass door. The crow was still balanced on the railing, but shook its wings nervously when Sayrie began to approach it.

But I am no blackbird I just have my need...

 Noticing the bird’s apprehension, she instead walked to the other side of the railing and scattered the seeds there. A few strays fell and bounced onto the top of her dad’s mini-van that sat parked in the driveway. Her mission accomplished, she settled back into her chair, blanket folded across her lap, and picked up her tea.
    “You may not be an actual blackbird,” Sayrie laughed, “but you’re close enough.”
For the next ten minutes she stared contentedly up into the darkening sky, sipping at her rather cold tea as the crow hopped onto the other side of the railing and scratched at the sunflower seeds. Sayrie watched it with guarded brown eyes as she set down her empty mug, and went inside, closing the sliding door firmly behind her. The crow, it’s beady blue eye glinting, gazed after her.

Fly away pretty blackbird, twitter tweet tweet.

    Dakota watched from his open window, his blue stare icy. He knew it was aware he was watching it. He hoped desperately that it wasn’t what he thought it was. He just wanted a bit more time.                                                             Dakota slammed his window shut and pulled a fold-up chair out of the closet, along with a comforter. He pulled both up to where he had been standing before. Not once did his eyes leave those glossy black feathers as he settled himself down. With a sigh, he prepared himself for a long wait. It might not be what he thought it was, but he wasn’t going to take chances. 
As he sat down, the bird took flight, it’s wings flapping to steady itself as it landed on the roof just a few feet away from his window. It stared at him face on, and Dakota took in it’s one blue eye. With a gasp he stood up and stumbled backwards, tripping on the chair he had been sitting on. Both fell to the ground. Wasting no time, he picked himself back up and hastily pulled down the shades, his hands shaking. Once he had also locked his door, he sat on his bed, head in his hands. It was what he had suspicioned, yet so much worse...
Dakota’s head snapped up. He had to tell her. Maybe not tell her, just say goodbye. He leapt to his feet, then sat down again. No, he couldn’t. Even that little gesture would give away too much, and she often over-reacted to things she didn’t fully understand. He peeked through the shades of the window. The crow was still there. He drew back.Some things would happen soon to her, some confusing things, but she would have to sort it out. He didn’t know when exactly, but he knew he couldn’t hide forever. As soon as they happened he would be gone, guaranteed. There was no question.Shaking his head at the finality of it all he smiled grimly. Either way, he knew one thing.
It would rain tomorrow.

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