Lucy Pebble’s Miracle
It was the middle of February. Lucy Pebble sprang out of bed very excited. She was going to have a new brother or sister at long last. And today would be the day. Wearing a tweed cap and green jacket, Paddy Pebble was perched at the table eating a breakfast of slugs. After he had finished, he pushed the food over to his daughter then began to peck the underside of his wing. Making sure that every last flea had gone.
‘Oh I can’t eat.’ She exclaimed, hopping around him. ‘I’m too excited.’ Lucy danced over to where her mother rested in the corner. A white scarf wrapped around her head.
She noted with concern that some of her feathers had fallen out, her wing was still bent from where Harry Falcon had hurt her and her breast wasn’t glowing bright orange as usual. In fact she looked worn out.
Lucy cocked her head to one side to listen for signs of movement coming from the egg but couldn’t hear anything. ‘He is awfully quiet.’
‘Leave your mother alone and go to school. There’ll be plenty to do when the little mite is born.’
‘Yes, and I’ll be his big sister. Whoopee!’ Jumping around again.
Lucy grabbed her lunch. A large dock leaf, wrapped around a number of dead beetles then gave her father and mother a peck on the cheek.
‘Be careful – ’
‘Of the Reilly crows and Harry Falcon, I know dad, you’ve said this a thousand times.’
‘Go on then and don’t delay after school, I need you back home to help your mother.’
Lucy emerged from the nest, took a quick look around her then flapped her wings and bounded from the branch. She flew to a sycamore two trees away, where all the other robins from her class stood twittering around one another in excitement. Lucy swooped down on to a wide branch.
Bobby and Sarah were there already, perched on individual leaves along with Rory, Toby and Tina but she couldn’t see Mary Sue.
The twittering stopped as soon as the headmaster arrived. Leaning on a stick, Mr Feathersby took his place on a narrow branch just overhead them. He wore a black jacket with matching dickey bow and he had a hawk like nose quite unlike any other robin Lucy knew. She’d often wondered if he had been in a fight, maybe with Harry Falcon just like her mother.
‘Who,’ he coughed, ‘will start our flying lesson this morning?’ scanning the eager faces in front of him.
‘I will,’ piped Rory, eager to show off his talents.
‘Very well then, lead the way.’
‘Excuse me sir,’ said Lucy just before they began to leave, ‘where is Mary Sue?’
He looked down at the array of faces before him, squinting his eyes, trying to focus and finally settled upon Lucy’s upturned face. ‘She is helping her mother with the new arrivals Tina.’
‘It’s Lucy sir.’
‘Run along now and join the others Tina.’
But Lucy didn’t bother correcting him, she was in another world. That will be me tomorrow she thought, I will have a little sister at last or maybe even a brother. Together with the other students, she followed Rory and soared into the sky over the tree tops of Willow Grove, flying deeper and deeper into the glen, with the wind in her tail and the heat of the sun on her back.
They took a short break, and then after everyone had returned to school, the next lesson began with how to avoid being caught by bigger animals.
‘What is the first important thing?’ Mr Feathersby asked.
‘Fly fast and you won’t get caught,’ they all replied together.
‘And the second?’
‘Look for some place to hide,’ said Lucy. ‘Some place small where they can’t get near you.’
‘Well done, Sarah,’ he said patting her on the head.
Rory giggled. Lucy rolled her eyes. He really does need to get his eyes checked.
‘Very good, now on to our final lesson,’ looking at each of them in turn solemnly. ‘When your new brother or sister comes along, everyone of you will have the task of taking care of him or her, which includes helping to find some food. This is very important and should not be taken lightly.’ Lucy looked up at him eagerly. ‘Who can tell me which berries are safe to eat, and which berries are not?’
‘The haw is good,’ said Rory.
‘And the blue berry,’ said Sarah. She turned to the others. ‘My dad says they are the sweetest.’
‘You haven’t tasted anything until you’ve tasted the black berry,’ said Bobby scornfully. ‘And my daddy knows where to find them.’ He rubbed his belly and groaned, ‘Oh I wish I had some now.’
Mr Feathersby tapped his stick on the branch impatiently. ‘Enough! Now give me the name of a bad berry.’
Lucy chewed her wing for a moment then said, ‘I know, I know…the crab haw.’
‘Correct, that will be all for now. Class is over; remember to come early for the choir tomorrow.’
Twittering and laughing, happy to be free to do as they pleased for the rest of the evening, Lucy and her friends sprang from their leaves and headed home.
A strong wind had picked up. The branches were kicking up an awful fuss; groaning and creaking, shivering in protest to the rain but Lucy was so excited she didn’t notice. Higher and higher she flew over the leaves glistening with water, over the crocuses hanging their heads and on past Cindy squirrel.
Lucy gave her a wink. ‘Hi Cindy, how is Scuttle today?’
Cindy squirrel was gathering acorns and putting them into the pocket of her red and white apron. She turned at the sound of the voice and looked up to see her little friend skim past her house. ‘Oh he is much better now. Your father is looking for you Lucy.’
‘Really!’ She exclaimed, her eyes shining, ‘great, that means my brother or sister is born. See you Cindy.’
‘No, wait, I don’t think that’s what it is,’ but she was already gone.
Lucy burst in the door. ‘Where is she?’
Paddy Pebble frowned, ‘Same place she always is.’
Bubbling with excitement, she hopped over to where her mother sat head bowed, trying to cover the egg with only one wing this time. ‘Do I have a sister?’ she demanded, her eyes glowing. ‘Guess a brother would be okay too.’
‘It isn’t born yet love,’ said her mother gently. She started to cough then after a moment added, ‘Maybe tomorrow eh.’
Lucy dropped her head and mumbled, ‘Yeah maybe tomorrow,’ then feeling a sudden spurt of optimism, she lifted it again and declared with confidence, ‘I’m sure it will be tomorrow.’
The following day came and went with no sign of movement from the egg. Bobby’s new sister was born as was Toby’s three brothers. Lucy began to think it would never happen.
‘I got two new sisters today,’ Mary Sue announced proudly.
She turned to Lucy, ‘What did you get?’
She hung her head. ‘Don’t know.’
‘You don’t know,’ she exclaimed. ‘What do you mean you don’t know?’
‘She means they aren’t born yet, silly,’ scoffed Bobby giving her a glare.
‘There must be something wrong with it then.’
Lucy flapped her wings and charged towards her. ‘You take that back Mary Sue.’
‘Don’t get angry with me Lucy Pebble, the truth’s the truth. You know as well as I do, that every egg must hatch within twenty one days, else it’s no good.’
Lucy felt tears spring to her eyes and felt like scratching all her feathers out. But what if Mary Sue was right?
She heard Bobby say, ‘Don’t listen to her Lucy, sometimes they can be late. Ask Mr Feathersby.’
Lucy hopped over to her headmaster and asked, ‘Excuse me Mr Feathersby, may I talk to you for a moment?’
He leaned forward on his stick, fixing his gaze on her for a moment, trying to figure out which student was standing before him, then after much concentration said, ‘It’s Miss Pebble isn’t it?’ She nodded. ‘Of course you may, but make it quick; Sylvie Starling is waiting for you to join the choir.’
Lucy took a deep breath. Her voice shook as she asked the dreaded question, ‘I’ve been waiting for my brother or sister to hatch and there’s no sign of anything happening.’ She looked up at him hopefully and said, ‘Can they arrive late sometimes?’
Bernie Feathersby bent his head and began to peck at imaginary flecks of dirt on his jacket as he tried to think of the right words to say to the young robin. He gave a deep sigh then said, ‘I’m sorry, there’s no easy way to say this, but twenty two days is too long my dear, all fledglings must hatch within twenty one days.’
Lucy’s mouth trembled as she tried not to cry. He placed his wing around her and murmured, ‘Don’t upset yourself. You’ll get your chance again. Now run along, you’re going to be late; we’ll talk about this some more tomorrow.’
I don’t believe it thought Lucy with a shake of her head, he’s wrong, they’re all wrong, they’ve got to be.
When Lucy returned to rejoin the rest of her class she heard Sarah gush, ‘The little sounds they make are so cute. This evening I will teach Dottie how to walk…’ and it went on like that for the rest of the day, talking and laughing, sharing their stories until Lucy no longer felt part of the group. She was alone.
That night just before she went to bed she overheard her parents talking.
‘We will have to let it go…I am so sorry,’ her mother squeaked, ‘it’s no use Paddy, my wing hurts so much I cannot mind the little mite any longer.’
‘I know, but you did your best. Wait ‘till your wing gets better there’s always next year.’ He heaved a long sigh. ‘Lucy will be disappointed but she’ll get over it.’
‘I’ll tell her now,’ Polly murmured. ‘Don’t want her waiting and hoping for another day.’
‘Leave it ‘till tomorrow, come to bed my dear you are exhausted.’
Lucy was standing outside the door. Her eyes wide in shock. She couldn’t let this happen. She burst into the room. ‘Just one more day please mummy. I can’t wait for another year. You can do it, I know you can.’
‘Lucy, what did I tell you about listening into other robins’ conversations,’ Paddy scolded. ‘Go to bed and let your mother rest.’ His face softened then when he saw how upset she was and he touched Lucy with his wing. ‘Next year will be better little one, I promise.’
As the door closed behind her, the only sound that could be heard was the whispering of the leaves jostling against one another above the house. She turned and stared over at the spot where her mother had sat only moments earlier and saw that the egg was still there. Lucy crept over and crouched beside it, to see if she could hear even the tiniest of movement but there was none only the noise of her own breathing. Tears dropping on to the shell, she hopped into the bed of sycamore leaves her mother had made and placed both of her wings over the egg. ‘It’s not fair,’ she whispered. ‘Everyone else has a brother or sister why not me?’
The wind howled through Willow Grove and rain formed a steady rhythm on the surrounding branches. The little robin felt her eyes begin to droop until they were so heavy she couldn’t keep them open any longer.
Lucy did not know what woke her. She felt uncomfortable all of a sudden. Something was poking at her ribs and wiggling about. She blinked for a moment. The table, seats and dresser slowly came into focus. What was she doing out here? Then she remembered. She gave a sniff wishing it had all been a bad dream when the sound of something cracking erupted from underneath her.
Lucy gave a cry of alarm and jumped up. Her eyes flared wide in shock. She could see a leg sticking out from the egg then a second.
‘It’s alive, it’s alive.’ She burst in the door of her parents’ room yet again, her face glowing, eyes sparkling.
Polly didn’t have to ask her daughter what all the racket was about, she could hear it for herself. The squawking of her second born. She stared at Paddy in amazement and together they ran out to the nest. The little fledgling peered up at its new family, then gurgling and gushing in delight kicked the remainder of shell aside and stumbled out to greet them.
Polly scooped the youngster up in her wings, while Paddy still in shock dropped a worm down its open beak. She looked across at her daughter then, a frown on her brow. Wondering how in the world the little fellow survived on its own all through the night with no one to keep it warm. Her gaze rested on a piece of shell that had gotten stuck on to Lucy’s wing and understanding suddenly dawned.
Tears rushed to her eyes. Polly gave the robin a huge hug. ‘You just saved your brother’s life. Your father and I are so proud of you Lucy.’
‘I’ve thought of a name for him,’ she began shyly.
‘Tell us,’ said Paddy Pebble moving to stand next to his daughter.
‘I’d like to call him Oscar, if that’s okay.’
‘Then Oscar it is,’ said Polly.
Lucy smiled happily and leaned over to kiss her mother’s pale cheek. She stretched out her wing then and said, ‘Come here little brother, I am your big sister Lucy, welcome to your new home.’ Then with a grin up at her parents she chirped, ‘Just wait ‘till I tell Mr. Feathersby and Mary Sue!’