Mr. Fauntleroy slid against the birthing room door, crushing his hands against his face. More than any father in the world, he’d wanted to hear a piercing squall. His arms longed to hold a purple, prune-like baby. But when he heard his newborn son chirping, he knew his wife had brought another peregrine falcon into the world.
Pieces of the cracked egg, cinnamon brown and spotted, would need to be collected and glued back together. His wife insisted on having the eggs displayed, much like mothers who pressed their children’s christening outfits into paper boxes for safekeeping.
“Four eggs now,” he said, wiping his pale face. “Four little children who look nothing like me.”
Unlike other suspicious husbands, Mr. Fauntleroy knew that the nestlings were his. His three children all had the same sleek feathers and piercing dark eyes as their mother, Georgina. Although they could only talk to him in unintelligible cheeps, chirps, and shrill screams (he never learned that language well, even while courting Georgina), the little peregrine falcons still treated him with love.
His eldest daughters, the twins Canola and Emily, brought him fat, dead mice from their hunting lessons. They perched on his shoulders when he vacuumed the carpets or visited the neighbors. Whenever Mr. Fauntleroy settled into his easy chair for an evening of perusing the newspaper, his younger son, Jeremy Jr., would tumble into his lap and fall asleep to the rhythm of Mr. Fauntleroy’s breathing.
Canola, Emily, and Jeremy Jr. perched outside the birthing room window. Mr. Fauntleroy wished he had wings so he could join them.
“Dearest?” he said, knocking on the door. “How’s the baby?”
Georgina’s sweet voice replied. “Blind and hungry. Perfect. But there’s not a spot of human on him, honey. I’m sorry.”
“It’s no matter.” Mr. Fauntleroy swallowed. “I’ll come back when you’re both rested.”
He walked downstairs and, on the way to the kitchen to pour himself a glass of lemonade, Mr. Fauntleroy saw his wedding portrait. He had been twenty-three when he and Georgina married. In the portrait, he sat on a stump in the middle of a forest glade. The branches overhead were strung with lanterns and pearly ribbons. Georgina was perched on his arm; she was too heavy for such a thing normally and her talons had accidently pierced his suit.
Georgina came from an ancient and revered family line. Some said that she was descended from harpies; Mr. Fauntleroy thought that made sense since his wife had the head of a woman but the body of a peregrine falcon. In the portrait, her marble cheeks were rogued and her eyebrows darkly penciled in. Her black hair had been gathered in a pompadour, exposing her long neck and the string of diamonds on her collarbone.
Mr. Fauntleroy touched the portrait, right on his wife’s long grey wing, and sighed. None of their children took after Georgina facially either; they had all been born in eggs, poking their beaks—instead of soft, useless noses—through the cracks.
Sometimes Mr. Fauntleroy dreamed of the next child, the one with arms and legs. He didn’t care whether it was a boy or girl. He’d name it Garnet anyway. A moody human child with murky eyes and feathers in its hair.
Always the next child. He ached for Garnet the way one does a ghost, yet his mind seemed to be working backwards. Such a child only existed in his and Georgiana’s minds.
Mr. Fauntleroy had great plans for Garnet. They would walk out to the field together, tossing grass and crunching into sour apples, while watching the rest of the family take off into the sky.
Kimberly Karalius holds an MFA in fiction from the University of South Florida. Despite living in Florida, Kimberly wishes for snow. Her chapbook, POCKET FOREST, has been published by Deathless Press. Her fiction has appeared in literary journals such as Luna Station Quarterly, The Medulla Review, and Hogglepot. She’s never been able to understand birds and feels worse off for it, like Mr. Fauntleroy. She blogs about writing and Disney here: http://kkaralius.blogspot.com/
Artwork: Natalia Pierandrei, original artwork created for Gingerbread House Literary Magazine