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She sat in the tree in the school yard, high enough so that the leaves covered her completely, folding around her like a warm green nest. She sat on the thickest branch with her legs crossed beneath her. Her book bag rested on the branch beside her, but she didn’t touch it.
She had a black pen in one hand, and she was gazing intently at her arm, on which she was drawing an elaborate humming bird. She moved the pen carefully over her skin, making sure every line and dot ended up exactly where she wanted it. She knew it would have to be perfect.
“Isolde! The bell just rang!” The girl peered out through the cocoon of branches, squinting down at the ground. Emma stood there, waving up at Isolde with both hands. She sighed. Why couldn’t recess be longer?
Isolde shoved her backpack out of the tree. It landed below with a dull thunk. Isolde dropped to the ground after it, landing lightly on the balls of her feet, brushing twigs and dirt off her pale gray school uniform. Her friend shook her head.
“One of these days, you’re going to break something doing that.” she said wryly. Isolde smiled but didn’t say anything. Isolde rarely said anything. Emma noticed the drawing on Isolde’s arm, and she grabbed Isolde’s wrist to inspect it. She let out an exasperated sigh and rolled her eyes.
“I swear, you’re going to give yourself ink poisoning. Then you’ll be sorry. Why do you draw on yourself so much anyways? You could just draw on paper, you know.” Isolde just shrugged.
The two girls trooped back into the school building together. Emma jabbered the whole way, and Isolde nodded and listened. She was a very good listener.
The two girls took their seats in fifth period together, and the teacher turned to the class, calling for order. The kids all settled down, and Isolde pulled her pen back out of her bag.
As the teacher began to talk about the days lesson, Isolde resumed drawing. It was almost done, and she was very satisfied with it. She carefully began moving the pen over her skin again, drawing in a few minor details she’d forgotten in the tree. She pulled out a blue pen and began adding in more color. The bird looked incredibly life-like.
Isolde sat at the back of the class, so it made it easy to do what she wanted to without being noticed. She glanced at the classroom windows, which were thrown wide open to let in the fresh summer air and sunshine. She smiled to herself. Perfect.
She rested her arm on her desk and leaned over it, blowing gently on the bird she’d drawn there. She blew out one long breath steadily, until she absolutely had to take another. As she leaned back in her seat, she watched the bird intently. The drawing blinked, once, then turned it’s head to gaze at Isolde. She watched, fascinated, as the bird peeled it’s wings off her skin, stretching them out to their full length.
The bird lifted it’s body and head off her arm and stood there for a moment, hopping around in her palm, trying to get its bearings. Then it lifted it’s wings, no longer paper-thin, but now solid and thick instead, and jumped into the air. It’s wings made a faint humming noise as it zipped around the room, looking for a way out. Kids cried out and pointed to the bird in surprise. One boy shot a rubber band at it, and Isolde frowned at him angrily.
The humming bird finally located the windows and darted outside, into the bright morning sunshine. Isolde watched it go with a mixture of sadness and fascination, a small smile on her lips.
As they were leaving the building after school, Emma noticed the bird was missing from Isolde’s arm.
“Hey, what happened to that bird you drew?” she asked. Isolde just shrugged.
“Did you wash it off?” Emma asked. Isolde shrugged again, which Emma considered answer enough.
“Hey, did you see that bird in English? It was beautiful, wasn’t it?”
Isolde ducked her head and smiled.