Nestling by Hibah Shabkhez

She scanned the ground, shaking her head to unblur her eyes. Slitheries or crunchems? He would eat the slitheries if she took him those, but she knew it was the crunchems he loved. So it was the crunchems she hopped towards, even though he was so difficult to fill up on them. It was the first time they had hatched only one egg, and the gawky creature who had emerged was utterly unlike any of their older slender-winged families. They had mourned the inexplicable smashing of the other eggs, but once he hatched they were too busy to remember them very often, except for the occasional pang when they saw other new parents with a full nest.
       But they were so very proud of him too, their big strong boy with a voice like a trumpet, not the feeble cheeping of the Daffensy children or the thin treble of the Glendows. One day soon he would learn to fly, then come back to build his own nest with his mate as other once-nestlings had done. She dipped down and picked up a crunchem almost too large for her beak, and remembered with a frown Mrs Daffensy’s bitter words “You’ll break your wings and your heart over him, and then he’ll fly away. And one day his egg will be the only one left in a nest for another pair of simpletons to slave over.”
       She had shoved the unmistakeable meaning of those words sternly aside, but they would never quite leave her. As she bent tenderly to place the morsel in the his beak and saw the hunger in his eyes turn to a moment’s contentment, her mother-heart fluttered and filled with joy, and she knew he was worth every sacrifice, every misgiving, every heart-break.

Hibah Shabkhez is a writer of the half-yo literary tradition, an erratic language-learning enthusiast, a teacher of French as a foreign language and a happily eccentric blogger from Lahore, Pakistan. Her work has previously appeared in The Mojave Heart Review, Third Wednesday, Brine, Petrichor, Remembered Arts and Rigorous. Studying life, languages and literature from a comparative perspective across linguistic and cultural boundaries holds a particular fascination for her. Follow her on Twitter @hibahshabkhez.

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