The Boy with the Golden Eyes

When I first met Flick, it didn’t occur to me that he was a strange creature. He had a pair of jet black wings sprouting from his back, beautiful golden eyes, and a mouth that never smiled. All I saw was a sad little boy who needed my help. His wing had been injured and his shining eyes had a haunted look that always stayed with me. I was only seven then, and I had spent two lonely months out in the middle of nowhere, desperate for a friend.

I gathered supplies and helped him doctor his wing while I told him about my boring summer vacation in the country. In return, he solemnly told me of beautiful places beyond the clouds that he was afraid he’d never see again.

By the end of that day, we were laughing together as we ate freshly baked cookies and drank cold milk. That night, I dragged sleeping bags and pillows to my treehouse to make him comfortable. I told my parents I was making a fort and wanted to camp outside. They were relieved I was out of their hair, so they let me. Flick and I ate our midnight snack, bundled up in the sleeping bags, and fell asleep snuggled together under the stars.

The next day I showed him the creek. We watched tiny fish burrow into the muddy bottom. We chased frogs and laughed as they squirmed out of our hands. We swung across the water on the rope swing. We waded in the cold water and batted away thirsty mosquitos. All of the things I had done all summer long but had held no magic, since I had done them alone. I was thrilled to share these things with my new friend.

When mother asked why I needed two sandwiches for lunch, I told her I had an imaginary friend. Somehow it didn’t seem right to tell her about Flick. She seemed nonplussed, but made the second sandwich anyway. Maybe she thought I was going through a growth spurt and didn’t want to admit to eating two sandwiches myself. It didn’t occur to me to wonder what she thought. It just seemed like she should believe me.

For a week, Flick slept in the treehouse at night and played with me during the day. We did the things that children do, and by the end of the week, he seemed less sad to me. But then one morning, when I brought him a doughnut from the box father had brought from his trip to town, he seemed sad again.

“I have to go home today,” he told me softly.

My doughnut lost its flavor in my mouth, and I swallowed hard.

“Ok,” I said, feeling the corners of my mouth turn down.

“My wing has healed enough for me to fly, and I do not belong here, Claire.”

I nodded, struggling with tears.

He touched my cheek where a tear had escaped. “I will always remember your kindness. Come. Let us play. I will leave when the sun sets.”

That evening, as the sun sank toward the horizon, he withdrew a pouch that he had made from his pillowcase. “These are my heart feathers. Each one has the power to summon me. Use them if you ever need me, and I will come.”

With that, he flexed his wings, testing them gently. He nodded, crouched, and then sprang, flapping wildly. I sank to my knees and watched him until I couldn’t distinguish his form from the shadows of night.

I cried to my parents that night, telling them that Flick had left me. They didn’t understand, of course. If he was my imaginary friend, couldn’t I call him back? My tears eased, and I nodded. Yes. I could call him back. I showed them the bag of feathers. How silly it all must have seemed to them: a bag of black feathers with the power to summon my playmate.

I called him back the very next day, and he was overjoyed to see me. He had made it home, and his family was glad for his return. We spent the day at the creek. But as the sun set, he had to leave.

“But you stayed so long last time.”

“I was bound to Earth for a time. But now I am free, only bound for a day each time you call. I must go now,” he said, giving me a kiss on the cheek.

The next day I wanted to summon him back, but I was mad at him for staying only one day. My anger didn’t last, though. A child’s anger never does. A week later, I called him again, and he came.

“Claire, as much as I love to see you, you have to let me stay home for a little. They don’t understand why I keep coming back here.”

My feelings were hurt, so I didn’t call him again until my last day of summer vacation. “I’m going back to the city tomorrow. Will you still be able to find me?”

“Of course,” he promised. And I rested easier, knowing the magic would travel.

But even in the city, back at school with my classmates, I was still a lonely child, so I called him for silly reasons as the years went by. My classmates were mean or my parents were harsh. One day, I ran away from home. I became horribly lost, and despaired until I remembered the bundle of heart feathers. I called on Flick, and he guided me safely home.

As I grew older, I became aware of the dwindling nature of the pile of feathers Flick had left me. They had seemed so plentiful when I was a child. I had woven them through my hair, carelessly strewn them about my room, and even accidently let one blow away in the breeze. And so I began to ration them. I started summoning him only on my birthdays.

I don’t know when I realized I was in love with him. Perhaps on my sixteenth birthday, when his farewell kiss awoke something inside of me. The next time I called him, I professed my love. He didn’t take it well, assuring me that he was wrong for me. We could never have a life together. He wasn’t human, and he could only come for one day each time I used a feather.

“Why can’t you give me more?” I demanded. “I could call you every day.”

He shook his head sadly. “No, dearest. I gave you the only heart feathers I had. You saved my life, and so I am forever indebted to you. You can call on me, but you cannot keep me.”

I didn’t call him for years after that. His rejection burned, and I felt humiliated. But even in my hurt, my life continued on. I met a shy boy named Sam whose eyes reminded me of Flick’s. After a short courtship, he asked me to marry him. The night before my wedding, I summoned Flick to tell him.

“I am happy for you, Claire. You deserve this more than anyone.”

I was heartbroken. I wanted him to be jealous. To fight for me. Somewhere in my heart, I still thought of Flick as mine, and me as his. So I cried, but he kissed each tear away. I clung to him, sobbing into his chest.

“This man you marry. He will be good for you. He is a kind soul. Let me go, Claire. I care for you more than my kind should care for a human. Please, live your life.”

I nodded as I stared into his beautiful eyes. I saw his love for me there. And somehow that was enough. He kissed me, then. Not one of those chaste kisses on our previous partings, but a passionate one. And before I knew it, he was winging himself away from me.

If only that were the worst heartbreak I had ever known. In the years that followed, I began to build a life with Sam. He treated me like a princess, and I relished in it. We planned to start a family, but no child ever came. And then, Sam grew sick, and before our fifth wedding anniversary, he had left me, too.

I used one of my four remaining feathers to call Flick. He held me all night the night of Sam’s funeral, and helped me survived until the next day. I did not beg him to stay, although I could tell that he wanted to.

“Do not despair,” he told me. “There are other humans out there for you. I wish I had known Sam’s fate. Perhaps I could have spared you this pain.”

With only three feathers left, I somehow managed through a year of numb grief after Sam’s death all alone. I met another man after that named James. His eyes reminded me of Flick’s, of Sam’s, but there was cruelty in them that I ignored. We had been together only a short time when he raised his fist to me in anger. But the intensity of his apology the next day made my resolve waver. He stayed with me, after all, when people had only left me before.

Years went by, and I married him. Each apology was more beautiful than the last, and I lived for those moments where I was the only thing in his universe.

But one day, for whatever reason, he went too far. I lay broken, convinced I was going to die. And he left. He left and was gone for I don’t know how long. I finally used the feather I always kept near my heart, woven into a necklace I kept under my shirt, to call for Flick.

I had never feared Flick my entire life, but when he arrived and found me broken and dying, he became fiery vengeance. He put his hands on me gently, and my pain faded.

“Rest now, and have no more fear.”

James never came back, and I knew, deep down, that Flick was responsible.

Life was both easier and more difficult once James was gone. Money was tight. My parents were old, and it took everything I had to care for them. I worked myself to the bone, and they still both left me, anyway. Two funerals within six months of each other, compounded on top of hospital and Hospice bills. I was destitute, and finally fled the city, to our beloved summer home.

The cottage was in horrible disrepair, but I went to work fixing it up. The labor was backbreaking, but I couldn’t afford to hire anyone. I finally used one of my two remaining feathers to call Flick.

He surveyed the work that remained, looked at me until it felt as though my soul was laid bare, and promised he would stay until the work was done. Together we fixed the house, got the water wheel working, installed a woodburning stove, and plowed the land so that it was ready for seeds. It took a week to finish everything, including repairing the furniture and mending the linens so that the inside was as livable as the out.

On the evening of the seventh day, I could tell it was time for Flick to leave. He had that sad expression on his face. The same expression he had had all of those years ago when we were children and he had left me the first time.

He opened his mouth to speak, but I placed my hand over his lips.

“I know,” I said simply.

He smiled and kissed my palm.

“How is it you were able to stay so long this time?” I asked. I hadn’t wanted to question it as he stayed, but since he was leaving, I had to ask.

His expression turned thoughtful. “It’s something to do with this place, and your need. And…my wish for myself.”

I cocked my head, curious.

“I want you to be happy, Claire. Each time I have come, I have done what I could to make sure you were on a path toward happiness. I have always wanted what is best for you. I realize now that I have as little control over that as you do. But this place…it is where you gave me back my life. And so it is where I give you back yours. You have all that you need to succeed here. I only worry that you will be lonely…”

He touched the single heart feather I had remaining, tied into a necklace over my own heart. I put my hand over his, over my heart and his heart feather. “You will always be here with me.”

He nodded, and I could see tears glistening in his eyes.

“I can still call you one last time, Flick. I look forward to that day.”

“As do I.”

I worked in a shop in the small town nearby, grew enough food to almost live on myself, and fixed my own clothes whenever they wore too thin. I had animals, and they were my family. I had the people in the nearby village, who always made sure I had what I needed. It was a quiet life, but it reminded me of the good years. The years with my parents. The times with Flick.

Those nights when I felt crippling loneliness, I only had to touch the feather over my heart to remind me that Flick was watching over me, and that someday he would come when I called again.

In my elder years, the shy postman took a fancy to me, and would save my deliveries for last so that we could visit on the porch, drinking lemonade. He helped me keep things fixed up. He helped when my animals were sick. He would visit me in the shop, while I still worked there, and delivered my supplies when I no longer could. When he died, a part of me died, as well, and I wasn’t ever the same after that.

As my last summer drew to a close, and the cold of autumn began to creep in, I knew it was almost time. The doctor’s last visit had been a solemn affair, and he had said it was time to say my Earthly farewells.

I didn’t have many of those left. The girls at the shop. The folks in the town. Everyone else had forged the way ahead already.

On the last day of a gorgeous Indian summer, I touched my last heart feather and whispered Flick’s name. He knelt by my bed, and we spent hours talking about the old days. He stayed by my side as I faded in and out of consciousness. And as the sun set, I knew it was time for him to go.

“Thank you for coming to see me this one last time,” I breathed. “Thank you for coming all those times I called you.”

“Thank you for showing me the kindness and love that humans are capable of,” he replied, squeezing my hand.

“I know it’s time for you to go. It’s the last time you will ever have to leave me,” I said, closing my eyes.

“Yes, it is the last time I will ever leave you,” he said. He cradled me into his arms. I felt movement as he carried me, and then the cool air of the fading summer day. And then we were flying into the air, past the clouds, to see his homelands, as golden and beautiful as the winged boy’s eyes from the summer I was seven years old.

Sara is a Kansas-grown author of the fantasy and horror persuasions. She is convinced that fantastical things are waiting for her just around the corner, and until she finds the right corner, she writes about those things instead.

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