The friend of the night
You never know who you're going to meet next.
There was always something about the night that attracted me. Something peaceful about the quiet and the dark. And even during the coldest days, I still sat outside at night, just drinking my hot cocoa and looking at the stars.
I need the quiet to think. To feel. It’s always loud in my house. Either because my brothers are shouting and fighting each other, or because my parents are always arguing about something. I’m the quiet one in the family. But just because I don’t talk as much as them, it doesn’t mean that I don’t feel or think as much as them. Actually, I feel like it’s safe to say that I think more than all of them combined.
It’s all I ever do really. Think. And think. And think some more. Because there’s nothing else I can really do in this God-forsaken town. So I choose to do most of my thinking at night. When it’s quiet in the house and no one can disturb me.
So here I am, sitting along the steps that lead to the garden. It’s summer so I’m planning on staying here for a while. Just me and the stars. God, how I love the stars.
I can see the Cassiopeia, and the Pegasus. Or maybe I’m seeing it all wrong. But I just love looking at them. Since I was a little girl, I’ve always felt a connection to them. And maybe that’s why I love the night so much. Because that is the only time of the day I get to see them.
I took a sip of my iced tea without looking away from the sky. As I continued breathing in the fresh air of that warm summer night, something moved up the tree across the garden. I didn’t give it too much importance, I’m used to the sounds of the night. But then there was an eerie screeching noise. I stood up in surprise, looking around to see if anyone else had heard it as well.
Another screeching noise sounded. Nothing. I couldn’t see anyone or anything. I knew it had to be an animal of some sort, I just didn’t know what kind or if it was dangerous.
My heart started beating faster as the screeching noise had now turned into hissing.
“That’s it for today. I’m going inside now.” As I turned around to go back to the house, I heard the sound of flapping wings. I turned around and there, sitting on one of the higher branches of the tree, was a beautiful barn owl.
Its eyes were locked on me, but it didn’t look frightened or frightening. It looked calm and at ease. As if it knew me. As if it trusted me.
“Oh, hi little owl! You scared the life out of me, you know.” The owl’s focus was still on me. Listening to every word, as if she could understand.
“Why are you looking at me like that?” The owl moved her head as if wanting to be petted. “I can’t really reach up there, you know. I’m not that tall.” The owl opened her wings and flew towards me. As she landed on the lowest branch of the tree, she looked at me as if saying “you can pet me now”.
And so I did. Her feathers were as soft as clouds, and I noticed that she had darker brown feathers around the rim of her facial disc, as well as on the tail. Her eyes closed as I petted her head. When I stopped, she looked at the sky and I followed her eyes.
The stars were shining more tonight. It had been a clear sky for that whole week and it looked like tomorrow would be the same. These are my favorite nights. When I’m able to see all of the stars with no clouds covering them. When I can be sitting in the garden with only the moonlight shining on me.
“They look lovely don’t they?” The owl looked at me as if agreeing.
I sat down at the feet of the tree and stayed there for what felt like an hour. And when the sun started rising, the owl started screeching again as if to tell me that it was time for her to go.
I looked at my watch. Six hours had passed and I didn’t even notice. I was feeling so relaxed with her and the stars that I completely forgot about everything else.” The owl flapped her wings and screeched once again before flying away.
I smiled watching her go. But then dread came over me as I realized that it was time for me to go back inside. I could see now that the light in the kitchen was on. I took a breath with every step until I reached the door.
My mom was in her robe, eyes still half-asleep, holding a glass of water in her hand.
“Have you been outside alone all this time?” she asked.
“I was outside yes, but not alone. I made a new friend.”
“You made a new friend? In the garden at night?”
“Yes. I met an owl.”
“An owl? There are no owls here.” she took a last gulp of water before putting the glass in the sink.
“Well I saw one today and she was beautiful.”
She looked at me confused, rolled her eyes, and said:
“Go to sleep that you’re starting to see things.”
As she was going back to her bedroom, she murmured something about being “too early for this”.
I took a deep breath and went upstairs to get ready to go to bed. As I lay in bed, staring at the ceiling, I wondered if I would be able to see the owl ever again. I hoped I did.
That night, as I was pouring my iced tea into a glass to drink while sitting outside, I looked at the tree to see if she was there. She wasn’t.
My mom had told my brothers about my new friend and they had spent the whole day making fun of me saying that I had an imaginary friend. I needed to be with her again. I needed to see that she was real and that they were the ones who were wrong. But she didn’t appear that night. Or any other night for the next three weeks.
I felt so alone during those nights. After that night with her, It felt lonely to sit on those steps all by myself.
And then, one night, as I was getting ready to sit outside again, I could see the owl through the kitchen window. She was standing on the same branch of the same tree as the first night as if waiting for me.
“Well, there you are! Where have you been? I missed you!” I said as I got to the garden.
The owl screeched as she had done the first time we met.
“Goodnight to you too.”
I sat by the feet of the tree once again and we stayed there keeping each other company in that dark night. Looking at the stars and breathing the warm air. At that moment, I wished for her to stay with me forever. To never feel alone again.
As I sat there, drinking my iced tea and talking to her as if she understood me, I heard a low hissing sound. And then, psh…psh… psh…psh…psh…. She flopped her wings screeching and flew away just to come back one minute later with something in her mouth.
Confused about all of this, I looked closer and saw the nest. She hadn’t abandoned me for the last weeks, she had babies. And she was feeding then now. In front of me.
She really did trust me. I knew that now. And I realized then that my wish had come true. She would stay with me forever. She made her nest in my garden. She trusted me to show me her babies. They would grow up here with me and have their own babies here as well.
I felt an overwhelming joy. I smiled and thanked her. I would never be alone again.