The Story Behind the Story: One of my readers (via social media) sent me a picture of a mist-shrouded forest; serene and a touch of the ethereal to it. I knew a little bit about the reader from her posts and comments on my writing: she was a single mom, raising a child under challenging circumstances and struggled at times with what she faced. She also loved fairies, had a wonderful sense of humor and appreciation of the beauty in our world (despite all she dealt with in life). When she sent me the picture, she asked: “Can you write me a story about this scene?” I did and WINGS was the result.
Some of the reader comments (the full story follows them):
“Just beautiful! I cried a few tears as I read this… Every time I think Dennis Lowery can’t write any better, he does. This story gave my wings a much-needed pick me up… I love that each story he writes, I find myself in it. This story is the perfect focus on the woman with kindness from the man, tragedy, pride, vulnerability, joy, and peace.” –Sarah Odendahl
“That is a really good read. I quite enjoyed it.” –Jocelyne Corbiere
“That was a beautiful story, and full of meaning. Sometimes, we need to stop and fill our minds and hearts with love and tenderness for life can be very hard.” –Kathryn Nokony
“Dennis, I just loved it, actually read it twice… Forgive me but I see romance in so much, and when she asked ‘What will you do with me?’ It’s not what you wrote, but the way you wrote it, that made it come alive. Also, when she said ‘You’re a man,’ all of “his” response was so well-written. I promise not to reveal too much of the story because I encourage everyone to read it — but when each character shared their story of pain and courage; different but yet familiar, and she said: ‘To fly…’ and stated her outcome so far. I had to take a break from the story; I felt tears running down my face because it became so real to me… The ending was surprising but great. What a great message in this story… Thank you for sharing your great gift with me. A great, compelling, short story… ‘Wings’ touched me deeply, your writing moves me!” –Bernice J.
“That’s a fantastic short story. My girls love fairy stories.” –Liz Moshier Echols
“Every time I read one of your stories I’m in awe! Keep ’em coming please.” –Regina Dollar Castleberry
“I love to read your stories, you take me right there.” –Jo Myers
“That was beautiful!” –Janet Mix
“This was gorgeous! My only regret is how short it was. That was beautiful, a very cool story!” –Macady Watson
“Love the story…” –B. Ambrose
“I love your stories, especially Wings. You’re a great writer!” –Lisa Fuller
“Great story! They will meet again!” –Susan Gabriel [And you never know… she may be right]
“Well-written and I would love to read more of your work in the future!” –Yannick Bretschneider
“Oh my gosh…I wish it would’ve been longer. It is a shame she went through all that. It also would have been so nice to get more backstory on both the man and her. But this story was absolutely flawless in my opinion.” –Luke Cooper
“This is such a unique story, and the words are so descriptive!” –ARS
“So beautiful. It had me in tears. But then, Dennis Lowery always seems to touch my heart with his words. I think this might be my favorite.” –Nina A.
“This story was beautiful!” –Alison Fu
“Incredible, and so moving!! Thank you for the beautiful story, Dennis.” –Linda Anani
“So beautiful. Almost brings a tear to my eye.” –Lisa Korn
“You soar, Dennis Lowery. One of my very favorites…” –Lena Kindo-Kamara
“Very nicely written. My favorite genre.” –Paul Wade
“I enjoyed reading Wings, definitely magical, Thank you for sharing. Now I want more. You’re an excellent writer” –Yolanda Ocasio
“I think this story sends a positive message to young people who are not happy with their bodies, or life situations. I enjoyed reading this short story, Dennis Lowery Thank you.” –Hazel Payne
“So beautiful…” –Sherry Thompson
“You know women so well… you have fulfilled your purpose.” –Renee McDaniel
“Magic. And even better you were able to write it so quickly. You know the writing is so good that you can feel that you are in the story. That is one heck of a trick.” –Mike Trani
“Fabulous Dennis Lowery – truly enjoyed my morning read. Loved it.” –Diane Carolyn
[She quotes from the story] “Why do you go on then?’ ‘Because,’ and he smiled at her from the knowledge that only comes from experience, ‘Because, I deserve to find what I’m looking for.’ As we all do. Wonderful story Dennis Lowery.” –Samantha O’Brien
“Loved it.” –Robert Partridge
“It is beautiful!” –Claire Toffolo
“I love this part… ‘We fly highest and farthest then. That freedom… the feeling of our wings drinking in the wind, is what fairies long for.’ Truly beautiful, and so much feeling, Dennis Lowery.” –Margie Casados
He came upon her in the twilight mist. She was on the ground at the foot of a pile of large rocks that had sheared off the escarpment above. He looked closer at the deep gash that ran from her forehead into the thick tangle of auburn hair. It had happened some time ago, perhaps that morning, because even with the dampness of light rain, it had clotted and dried.
He kneeled, and the cold of the ground and the damp chill of the evening coming on with sundown settled into his joints. In the waning light, he saw the bruises on her face. Her clothing was torn in places, and it was likely there were others he couldn’t see. He stood and looked around. He had traveled far, and this was a strange country. Not so young but not so old, in his 40s, no family left and tired of the sameness of his own land, he had followed a dream. To find a place where magic still lived and perhaps a place where he could heal. Discovering a young girl hurt and unconscious at the foot of a mountain was not something he expected.
Shaking his head, the man stooped again to pick her up and felt something odd on her back. He hoped it wasn’t more injury. As he got his arms under her, she opened her eyes and sat up. She coughed and stared at him, her eyes wide. But their focused, citrine glint showed she wasn’t confused or disoriented. “What will you do with me?”
She was cold and wet from the day’s rain, which had stopped, and from the thick mist blanketing the ground. He took off his cloak and wrapped it around her shoulders. Curious, but not asking about the tinge of trepidation he sensed behind the question, he answered her. “Well, the first thing is to build a fire so you can dry out and warm up.”
“You’re a man,” she said, part statement and part question. “Why are you helping me?”
“I spotted what looks like a cave or an overhang where we can get out of the weather.” He began to gather sticks and slabs of bark from nearby trees, foraging under the brush and farther back to find what was dry. “It’s not far,” he came over to where she still sat on the ground. “Can you walk?”
“Why are you helping me? My people don’t know any kindness from… others.”
She stood and though young was as tall as he. Getting a closer look, he realized what had felt strange about her back. He had heard stories of mythical creatures that lived here—the lands far to the east of his own—but never thought he would see, let alone meet one.
“Human men take advantage of us,” she locked eyes with him, “especially lady fairies.” She put a hand on the long, slim blade sheathed at her hip. “I won’t let you hurt me.”
The gray sky grew darker, and the low, bunching clouds foretold more rain. They now stood facing each other. She had cast off his cloak and shaking with the chill, asked again. “Why are you helping me?”
He glanced at the mantle at her feet that had been a gift from his wife. Given to him knowing how he loved his walks even in autumn and winter. The bite of ice in the wind made him shiver, but he ignored the desire to drape its warmth across his shoulders. “You need it,” he said, picking up and handing her the cloak as the rain began to fall. He turned toward the opening in the rocks. Entering, he found it not deep but dry. He kicked a clear spot in the dirt at the back of the cave and dropped the load of kindling. More was needed if his bones told him right. A hard freeze was coming with nightfall.
She was still standing in the rain but wearing the cloak. Passing her, he gathered more and larger pieces of wood from the copse of trees that began where the rocks and boulders ended. Four trips yielded enough for the night. With the fourth armload, he found her in the cave sitting with her back against its stone terminus. Her knife out and in the hand that rested on her lap. Using flint and steel, he struck long runners of sparks into the kindling. They caught, and he nursed them with breath and handfuls of dried grass and twigs from an old, abandoned nest he’d found with the last load. As the fire took, gobbling the wood and wanting more, he fed in bigger pieces. It soon warmed the cave and cast light in a circle that grew until it reached the girl.
She had used cloth from the pouch she carried at her side and rainwater to wash away the caked blood. Her face, though pale and strained, was striking. The clean lines of her face and cheekbones caught the light. Returning his attention to the fire, he asked, “Are you a princess?” Thinking a girl beautiful as she must be. “Running away from an evil prince?”
“No,” she said with a half-laugh half-cry. “I’m anything but.”
He watched as a tear rolled down her cheek, and unlike those from humans, this one was dull, opaque and without shine. It dried instantly.
“How did you end up here?” he asked, cocking a thumb toward the outside where he had found her.
“I was headed to the Peak,” she saw that meant nothing to him, “where fairies learn to fly,” and gestured at the ceiling of the cave.
He knew she meant the craggy rocks, he’d seen earlier, far above where they were at the base of the mountain. When he had raised her from the ground, he’d noticed the two hand-sized humps high on her back. His look moved from her face to her shoulders, half-turned toward him. She knew by his glance what he was thinking.
“They’re late,” she said harshly and turned away. But realizing that gave him a better view of where her wings should be, she spun and faced him. Her face — even angry or maybe because of it — had the fragile beauty of fine porcelain and gleamed in the light. Her eyes flashed at him, and the flicker faded. She seemed so young, lost, and lonely.
“In my land, we’ve forgotten that fairies were…,” his eyes flicked to her shoulders again, “are real. Or most believed that if they existed, it was long ago. She looked up at him, sensing his regret as he continued. “Why did you leave your people?” He asked, adding more fuel to the blaze.
“I was common, nothing—no one—special.” She shifted closer to the fire, wrapping his cloak tighter around her. “I’m a year past the age when girl fairies should get their wings.” Her bitter tone grew stronger. “I met a boy fairy before then, one who I thought would be my lifemate. And he thought the same of me. So he said…” she paused, taking a deep breath. “When my wings didn’t come, he acted differently toward me—as if I had a problem—as if I had become ugly.”
It all came out in a spurt—a stream dammed for too long then released. Gray tears pooling in her eyes, dimming their bright yellow glow he’d seen earlier.
“He couldn’t accept me… as I am… and for what I was. What I had become. Wingless.”
“And so, you left,” he said, understanding in his own way exactly how she felt.
“All he told me was a lie.” She looked up at him. “I had no family. There was nothing there for me. Nothing there with him. No one for me, and I was so lonely.”
He closed his eyes, the weight of his past, and how it had taken all his strength to bear it was not forgotten and opened them to see her still watching him. “And even without wings, you came here.” He handed her a cup of water poured from his canteen, noting her blade was now back in its sheath.
She nodded. “Hoping that would draw my wings forth… but not for them… for me!” He studied her bruised face. “I came to fly… or fall.” She bowed her head and whispered, “I fell.”
Not wanting to give her pity that would hurt more than her cuts and abrasions, he said. “In my life,” stretching his legs, he stood with a groan and a crackling of joints. “I thought I was trapped between what had happened and what could never be.” He studied her from across the fire. The flame’s dance of light and shadow on the stone behind her as she sat with her head down. He turned his back to the fire and contemplated the darkness beyond. “The road is so much longer when we have no dreams to believe. And we have no destination… life has no purpose.” He heard the steady sound of water running down the mountain and knew it would wear away more rock. “It stayed that way until I decided one day to walk and not stop until I found what I sought.” Turning around, he stepped back to the fire to find her now studying him.
“Have you found it?”
“Not yet.” He could hear the same yearning in his own voice.
“Why do you go on?”
“Because.” He smiled at her with the self-awareness that only comes from experience. “Because I deserve to find what I’m looking for.”
She stared into the fire, her eyes mirrored the light, and the silence stretched from moments to minutes.
“Tell me about your kind… fairies… what do they enjoy? What do they love?” He asked.
At first, it didn’t look as if she would answer.
“We love to ride the wind… especially after it rains when the richness of the air, the moisture, gives our wings more flexibility.”
He watched her straighten and square her shoulders. Her eyes widened at something not there with them.
“We fly highest and farthest then. That freedom… the feeling of our wings drinking in the wind is what fairies long for.” Her eyes locked on his. “To dance through the sky is why we exist. You can always tell when a fairy is happiest. When we fly, we cry with joy, and the tears trail behind us in a stream of colors.”
Something in his eyes showed he knew what she meant and had known a similar longing. She grew quiet again, but it was a more thoughtful, less painful, silence.
“Sometimes, all we need is just one thing—one meaningful thing—to carry us, to help us get on.”
“Get on with what?” she asked.
“With life.” It had grown late, and he banked the fire, saying, “Time for sleep, you need rest. Tomorrow is a new day.”
Her head was already nodding, chin to her chest, as he stepped around the fire, spread a blanket, and eased her onto it. Covering her, he brushed the strands of hair from her face. So young and so beautiful, he thought, just like my daughter if she had lived.
* * *
He awoke to realize dawn had passed, and it was near midmorning. The days and miles behind him had worn him down. The fire had burned to embers, and as he sat up, he realized his cloak now covered him. Standing, he looked over to where she had slept. She was gone.
Outside, he stood near where he had found her and then slowly turned, his breath a wreath around him in the freezing air. The sky had cleared, and as his eyes searched the rocks above, a bright rainbow arched overhead. The largest he had ever seen, so high and extending so far he couldn’t see its end. He heard the sweep of wings and laughter carried on the wind. A message for him that said she would live and somehow, someway, somewhere… find happiness.
He smiled at the magic and realized that he had found part of what he searched for. Meaning and purpose, where his choices and actions made a difference, not only in his life but someone else’s too. He would never leave behind his past—never recover who and what was lost—but his step would be lighter as he continued his journey.
# # #
NOTE FROM DENNIS
Having just read this story, I think you’ll understand its context and message, but I want to touch on it here.
In our lives, we all go through adversity. Good things we expect to happen… don’t. People who seem believable; they seem honest in their words and intentions. Prove they are not. Someone we love is lost. And it devastates us. We cry over what’s happened (or not happened) because we’re hurt, sad or bereft.
But—in life—at other times bad things we’ve worried over, never materialize. Someone we don’t trust based on appearances or our superficial judgment proves us wrong. They speak the truth and stand by us when we have no reason to expect them to do so. They earn our trust by their actions. And sometimes when something beautiful happens, we cry because we’re happy… the most profound kind that touches the wellspring of our soul.
One of the most important things to realize in life is that hard times and sadness are transitory (though they may not appear so at the time). Moving beyond them, changing bad into good only happens if we have faith in ourselves and believe that if what we want is worth it, then doing what may be hard is what we must do.
And this is perhaps the most important thing to learn: We must try… must take that first step. Then another. And another. Even though we may get lost along the way. Even though we may make many attempts and still fail.
We must understand that perseverance—self-determination—more than anything, gets us (you) through tough times, tragedy. And even when we (you) feel no one loves us (you) because of who we (you) are… or sometimes… who we (you) are not. How others think of us (you), how they treat us (you)… is external. That’s right, I’m making it (the ‘you’) personal. Because that’s what life is. It’s personal. Once you realize it’s what’s inside you that controls your life, then you can decide and take action so better things happen in your life. Sadness turns to joy. Doubt turns to earned trust. And you can fly… leaving a rainbow behind you for those around you to see. Just like the fairy in WINGS.