From the Sky - Part IV

I put the field glasses on a small picnic bench near the tree. Uncle and I sometimes ate snacks there, sitting in the shade of the honey locust and watching birds alight on one of Uncle's many bird feeders. I ran to the tree. Up the trunk I shimmied, trying not to catch my school dress on thorns or loose bark. I climbed past my usual perch about ten feet up. Higher, higher, I went, knowing enough not to look down. Twice I nearly lost my footing. My school shoes really weren't cut out for climbing. The soles were slippery against bark still damp from an early morning shower that gave way to a cloudless sky by the time I got off the bus. My heart pounded hard in my chest after each slip, but still I climbed. I finally found a sturdy branch just above the nest. I looked down to see four small scarlet tanagers! I'd been expecting blind, vulnerable hatchlings, but these young birds were nearly ready to leave the nest. I felt so fortunate, seeing them before they flew away into the world. Uncle had said that scarlet tanagers usually nested in oaks, so I felt doubly blessed that their home was in his honey locust.

A car door slammed.

Angry, sharp footfalls on Uncle's walk.

I looked down, growing dizzy immediately when I saw how high I'd climbed. How on earth would I get down? There was Aunt Rae storming up the sidewalk and straight into Gio's kitchen. A few moments later, raised voices. The kitchen door burst open and Rae and Uncle Gio came out into the yard. Uncle looked half-asleep. His hair was disheveled and he was rubbing the back of his neck.

"Her bag is in the kitchen," said Aunt Rae sharply. "She was here."

"I didn't see her. Maybe she's home."

Aunt Sal's voice: "No, she's not!" I turned my head. Sal was standing at the end of the walk, near the open gate. "I just knocked. There's no answer. The mail hasn't been brought in, either."

"The park, then. Or maybe she's with a friend," said Gio. "Why isn't she in school, anyway?"

"They had a half-day," Sal replied. "I was at the market and saw one of her friends, that little Tessa. She was with her mother. They told me."

Aunt Rae moved closer to Gio, and wagged her finger in his face. "If something happens to that girl, Gio…"

"Nothing is going to happen. She went for a walk, that's all. I'll watch for her. She'll be back."

Aunt Rae again: "Gio, we had a dream. Sal and I. The very same dream. We saw a blackbird."

Uncle seemed to pale. "Nothing will happen to Renata," he said softly. "I am the one with a curse."

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