“Are we really slaves?” asked Chase.
“No, honey, what makes you think that?” asked Ella.
“I heard uncle telling father that this war has made us all slaves to torment and fear. We are always on the run hiding so the Nazi won’t find us and take us to concentration camps. I am tired of being afraid, mother. I remember when we used to be free.”
Ella bit her lip to keep from crying. The last thing her son needed was to see her weakness. She had to remain strong for him.
“I remember when we used to be free, too. That’s what I hold onto to keep my head up in this treacherous war.”
She smiled to reassure him and gave Chase a kiss on the forehead.
“We’ll be free again, son.”
But would they really? Even as she said the words, doubt filled her. Ella turned away and stared into the pond hoping Chase did not see the doubt that plagued her.
Ella’s memories of freedom seemed so distant now, and it only seems to get further and further.
“Honey, wait up!” yelled Ella’s husband.
Ella laughed and continued to run through the meadow. It was such a beautiful, sunny day as the cool, refreshing breeze caressed her face. She was not about to slow down for her husband to catch up. It felt too good to not run. Under normal conditions, Ella knew her husband would be way ahead of her, but because four years old Chase was on his shoulders and he had a heavy picnic basket linked on his arm, it was hard for him to keep up with her.
Once Ella made it to the top of the hill, she surveyed the ground looking for the best spot to set up for their picnic. Once they were settled on a blanket under the shade of a tree, Ella immediately began dividing up the food while Chase slept by her side. All the action seemed to have worn him out.
“I don’t know about you, darling, but I’m famished,” said Ella as she handed her husband his plate.
“I am starving, too. It looks and smells delicious as always, dear.”
After blessings were made and they began digging in, Ella said, “I’m so glad you could get away from your candle shop today to spend peaceful, quality time with Chase and I.”
“Me too, dear,” said Ella’s husband between bites.
“It feels good to get a break from making candles to spend time with my beautiful wife and son. How could I have declined your offer? It was much too tempting with such a beautiful woman to share such a day with.”
Ella blushed under her husband’s appraise and hid her smile as she chewed on her sandwich.
“I’m the lucky one, dear,” she said more to herself once she finished her meal and laid back against the soft blanket.
She stared at the sun as its rays peaked through the branches of the trees above them. The sun seemed to be winking at her. Ella laughed and winked back.
She sighed in contentment. It was the perfect day to be out with her family. It felt good to get away from the loud bustling town for a change though she did enjoy hearing the laughter of the Jewish children running through the streets after one another, the mothers holding their babies while laughing and carrying on about the latest gossip, and the fathers bidding on items to buy. Ella was blessed with a lovely town, but moments like the moment now was what she lived for.
Ella turned her head slightly and saw a red cardinal sitting on one of the branches, singing a beautiful melody. Another bird joined him, and they flew off together towards the sun. Ella smiled as she watched the exchange. The birds were free. Their wings of freedom always flew them to new heights and places. They did not have a care in the world. They never had to watch their backs because they could always fly to new heights. They always had a happy song in their hearts because they knew they would always have their wings of freedom. No one could take that from them. They never—
“Hey!” yelled Ella as she abruptly sat up.
Cold water fell down her face and neck as loose tendrils of her hair plastered to her face. She spat water out of her mouth and began wiping her face with her hands.
Just then she saw her husband drop a bucket and run off laughing. Realization dawned on Ella, and she threw her head back in laughter.
“You little sneak!” she laughed after her husband.
She hopped to her feet and ran after him. He slowed down still laughing as she caught up with him. He picked her up before Ella could respond and began spinning her around. Ella raised her hands in the air and laughed. She was flying just like the birds. She was free.
A bird whistling on a nearby tree shook Ella out of her reverie. She turned to the sound and saw a bird perched on a nearby branch. It was not a bright-colored, beautiful red cardinal. Instead it was a black raven. It was not singing a beautiful medley. It was only whistling. Ella looked up and saw a group of ravens fly by. Ella brows furrowed together as she looked back at the single raven. Why would he not fly with the others? Did he not see he had the ability to soar in freedom? Instead he just sat there.
The raven matched Ella’s inner turmoil. His blackness matched what was going on inside of Ella. Ella no longer had a beautiful melody to sing just like the raven, and she could not fly on the wings of freedom any longer.
She was no longer that red cardinal.