It's here in the sky that I have always felt free. High above the snow tipped mountains and evergreen treetops. My wings glide against the wind, I’m gracefully falling like a leaf in autumn. I pump them once, twice to gain speed and height before letting the wind take me again. The morning air is crisp, but as I am now, I hardly feel it. The plumage of my tawny feathers does well to brace me from the cold.
Another hawk joins my flight, but unlike me when he lands he will still be a bird and I will walk away a man. We circle each other creating figure eights in the clouds. He calls out with a shrill cry to the rising sun. I join in with him, my cry blending with his, exalting this carefree feeling.
I wish to stay here with him. Letting this day pass and the next until my hawk takes control of my mind so I can forget all that troubles me. My only care would be what I will catch for dinner, or what branch I will rest at when the sun goes down.
I know that I can’t though. I have to change back and return home. There was something that I must do. For my happiness. I fall with him one last time. Our cries echoing together with the sound of the wind, the rustle of the forest, creating nature's oldest and purest song.
My fellow hawk pulls up from our descent toward the icy mountain water.
I do not.
Instead I tuck in my wings and allow myself to shift back mid-air. I nose dive into the lake. The winter water is just above freezing and is exactly the jolt I needed to continue with my day.
Naked as the day I was born; I walk onto the beach. Unfortunately, we are not able to shift with our clothes on. So nudity is seen often among my people. Growing up in our clan you get used to seeing a man or woman walking around with nothing on after a shift. Only the children blush.
I don't get dressed right away mostly because I’m alone out here on this quiet mid-day. I flew for hours. My muscles ache and yet I feel rejuvenated. My worries pushed aside momentarily. So I sit down in the nearby grass to bask in the sun and stare down the beach of crushed rocks. Enjoying the feeling of the water slowly drying off of me.
I shift just my eyes back so I can view the mountain lake in all its glory one last time. The murky water practically crystallizes and suddenly I can see the waking trout deep in the lake. The rabbit across the water scurrying into a nearby bush. A team of ants forty feet away bringing their spoils back to their queen. The world is a more vibrant place when I look through these eyes. A perk of my animal spirit. I can see so much better as a hawk than as a human.
I will miss this place.
I’m pulled from my meditation by the presence of another. The steps are soft and slow, feminine. I can hear her walking out of the trees; I move to stand up but I don't turn around. A slender and lightly freckled arm slides around my waist, her skin like the softest of silks against mine. She kisses my neck the same place she always has. On the beak of the hawk I have tattooed across my back.
It's a large tattoo that starts at my neck with wings spanning across my shoulder blades and down my arms, talons dropping toward my right hip. The face of the hawk is on the back of my neck- sharp eyes taking in what I cannot see. It’s an amazing likeness to the raptor I turn into.
The ink appears so realistic most of the time I expect the hawk inside my soul to give form to the art on my skin. To leap off my back and take flight into the sky. Leaving behind the part of me that is human.
“I've been looking for you for hours, Orion.” Her voice lifts my spirits until I remember why I am here. I'm avoiding her. Avoiding our whole community. So they won't figure out what I plan to do until I'm ready to announce it to everyone.
I do come out and fly most days. I have to. My hawk calls to me. He needs to get out. To feel the sun at our back and the wind in our wings. But today was different. My inner hawk didn't need me today.
Today I needed him.
He doesn't think the same way I do. He feels things differently. I needed to be him to forget the reasons why I shouldn't do what I plan to do. Before I talk myself out of it.
I want to shift back now so I don't slip up and tell her anything. I usually can't hide anything from her- she sees me. Really sees me. I contemplate shifting again, this time I’d keep to the sky until nightfall so I don’t have any run-ins again. She couldn't follow me if I flew away. She doesn't have wings.
Shrugging out of her embrace I turn to face her. Soren Delaney. A wolf shifter. She's been my best friend since I could walk. We don't label ourselves as a couple because technically dating is against Elder Law. The kiss she gave me and the hug we shared is prohibited.
If we were to be caught, Soren would have to stand trial. Which is not really a trial at all- to them the woman is already guilty. She would be forced to stand in front of our people, shamed as each Elder takes a turn attacking her. A claw strike here, a bite there. They would make me attack her first. It's usually across her breasts, my claws on her flesh forever like a scarlet letter.
She wouldn't be killed- just hurt badly for her indiscretions. The guilty young female would then be sent to another community to be a breeder. A woman taken in as a second or third mate to increase shifter population. The Elders never hold the men at fault. Nothing would befall me.
Despite the punishment handed out to young lovers who have been caught in the past, we’ve continued to pursue something more than a friendship, although we haven't gone further than some heated kisses and light caresses in the dark. I think we are drawn to the fact it's forbidden. There was this rush when we met up in secret. It has always reminded me of when my hawk free falls from the heavens.
I don't feel that rush today though.
Tucked in her other arm is my clothes. She must have found them while she was walking out of the forest. She hands them to me with a sly smile.
“Great view here today, Am I right?” I can tell by the flirtatious tone in her voice she's not referring to our surroundings.
“What do you want, Soren?” I let some annoyance slip in my words. I don't want her here. So close to the winter solstice. Tonight Soren and I and the rest of our age group will move into the big house for the next seven days in preparation of our clans Mating Ceremony. A week from tomorrow, on the
winter solstice, if I was staying, we would both be pledged to other people. A look of hurt passes across her heart shaped face at the tone in my voice, her smile vanishing.
**Will Continue Tuesdays and Fridays.....