The crow settled on the upstairs balcony, as he had every day from the start of summer. She had learned how to recognize this particular one. His demeanor carried a certain aloofness. He was utterly careless about the fact that he infringed on what she considered to be her own private space.
She was eleven years old, left to fend for herself at her grandparents’ home in a different city, in a foreign country. It was just the three of them, which often made it feel like it was just her. She vaguely understood the reason for this “vacation.” Her parents were separating, and they wanted her to remain as naive as possible to the mess they had made.
At first, the crow annoyed her. No matter how many times she attempted to shoo him away, he stayed put. His face remained stoic through all of her fuss. Eventually, his relentlessness caused her to begrudgingly accept him as her sole companion on the balcony.
He was quite an ugly bird, as crows tend to go. She named him Handsome for the irony. Over time, she even began talking to him, sharing her secret thoughts. She told him how much she missed her friends. She confessed that she missed her parents too, even though she was angry at them for abandoning her here. He listened quietly.
In the evening, his attention would turn away from her, toward the children exiting neighboring houses and entering the pothole infested streets to play Cricket and chase each other. She would lean over the balcony, next to Handsome, watching them laugh and shout, longing to join them but afraid.
They would often beckon to her, the quiet visitor, telling her to come down. She always shook her head and stayed put. This was all temporary, and she wanted no friends to miss once it was decided that she would return home.
“Missing people hurts too much,” she told Handsome.
When darkness began to spread, Handsome would leave her alone, flying away without a second glance in her direction. The children would say their goodbyes and return back into their houses. That’s when she went downstairs to sit at an empty table and wait for the housekeeper to bring her dinner.
Many of her summer days passed this way, until one afternoon she wandered up to the balcony to find it completely unoccupied. Before, she would have been relieved, but now she searched across rooftops to see if she could spot Handsome. Hours passed, and there was still no sign of him. The children came and went. Finally, she retreated indoors.
The next day, Handsome was again nowhere to be found. She had no idea where to go looking for him, so she waited anxiously, reading her books on the balcony but looking up at any noise, hoping it was the crow’s return.
Time moved along, and the sound of children playing began to beckon to her more than it had before. Now, she was completely alone. The loneliness of Handsome’s absence made her decide that it was time to join the other children.
At first, she was shy, but sooner than she anticipated, she too was jumping over neighboring terraces and playing Cricket in the street. The children began to invite her to get street snacks with them, and she rarely sat at the dinner table by herself anymore.
As the last days of summer approached, her parents decided that it was time for her to return home. She said her farewells to the new friends she had made. She tried to memorize their last moments together so she could have them with her forever. As she walked to the taxi on the day of her departure, she thought of Handsome.
Right then, she heard a familiar noise coming from the second-floor balcony.
She looked up to see her foe-turned-friend perched at his usual spot, staring at her.
“Goodbye,” she yelled before getting into the cab.
“Caw,” he replied.
As the car drove away, she saw Handsome flapping his wings awkwardly behind her. She pressed her hand against the back window.
“Thank you for disappearing,” she whispered, “and thank you for coming back.”