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It was late but bright

Author: AJ Johnstone

It was late but still bright. Lucy finally had a moment to sit down in her lush garden. The birds sang beautifully. ‘I wish I knew more about birds,’ Lucy thought. Then she remembered that Millie had a little illustrated children’s atlas with the most common British birds listed in there. Lucy fetched the book from the living room.

‘Let us see,’ she said to herself while carefully turning the pages. She knew Robin’s shy singing; they had the whole family of these sweet “Christmas birds” living in the hedge at the border of theirs and the neighbours’ gardens. She thought she’d recognise a nightingale’s singing too – so soothing and musical.

The song she was after was certainly not that of a robin or a nightingale. Lucy was looking for a picture of a small brown and cream coloured bird with a much lighter belly and a funny, messy tuft whose singing was quite intense and somewhat repetitive; like all it ever managed to learn was that one phrase, so it kept mastering it to the point of self-exhaustion. ‘There you are,’ Lucy smiled at the picture of an Alauda arvensis. ‘Skylark is one of the most skilled singers. Male skylark can sing more than 300 syllables and each bird’s song is a little bit different.’ Lucy was surprised to read this; clearly her songster’s skills were way below average for the species.

Lucy put the atlas away, satisfied with her findings. She adored her garden especially at this time of the day when the busy noises slowly fade away into the night, leaving the stage to nature.

It had been an emotional roller-coaster of a month. It started on a high note, with big hopes and well-defined plans. Lucy was supposed to move to a new role at work: more responsibilities, a bigger team; better pay too. She was secretly hoping she would be able to reduce her hours to spend more time in the afternoons with Millie. Millie, Lucy’s daughter, was about to start school next month and Lucy tried her best to adjust her life accordingly to be there for her little one. ‘At least for the first few months,’ she thought.
Lucy had also put an offer down for a little pad in Italy, in one of her favourite places, close to Lake Orta and close to Mary. Lucy was ecstatic that with a better salary she could afford her own holiday home! She meant to fly to Italy in early July to finalise all the paperwork and to see Mary after nearly two years of only phone calls – the longest time ever without a hug from her beloved stepmom.

‘What a difference a day makes,’ Lucy sighed. She loved that song, not in the current context though. Last month her company made her redundant, after nearly 7 years of pure dedication. When Millie came along, Lucy was off for just a few weeks. This is how important she thought she was. ‘How pathetic,’ she thought. She made a plea to herself to never put a job before family. The experience of being laid off made Lucy rethink a lot of things; she reordered the roles she had in life. The spare time she suddenly gained allowed her to slow down and assess how she used to live her life. It certainly was not healthy. It was only now that Lucy truly understood the meaning of Mary’s advice to put herself first. From now on she was going to put herself first.

All the cancelled trips, all the changed plans did not bother her anymore. ‘The pandemic is just a phase, it will end eventually, we will get through this,’ she told herself.

People she loved were all still here, on this amazing planet, even if geographically apart.
It was getting darker, more birds joined in and there were fewer cars to be heard. The calming scent of the Scottish heather started coming through too. Lucy closed her eyes and took a deep breath. She immersed herself in this féerie of sounds and smells. It was so soothing, beautiful, and relaxing. She felt so light, carefree and happy.

‘Would you like a glass of prosecco to celebrate this beautiful evening, my love?’ Hamish’s gentle voice called Lucy back.

‘Absolutely,’ she replied. There was so much to be grateful for.