*This short story is inspired by Matthew 11:28-30.*
As she watched the small waves crash onto the shore of Lake Michigan, the sound of loud traffic from the Mackinac Bridge broke her concentration from a purposeless daydream. She looked upwards into the sky, eyes closed, and took a deep breath, welcoming the bittersweet scent of the spring air. She looked back into the water, noticing a white swan floating about the lake, riding the waves. She admired its beauty for the first time since the adventures of her childhood.
Aveline reminisced the first time she had come here as a child. She was with her father, running along Lake Michigan’s edge as she became mesmerised by a swan’s pure white beauty. She held her father’s hand tightly and exclaimed, “Look, Daddy!” He knelt down beside her as he told her all about swans. She didn’t understand any of it, but her childlike wonderment focused her fascination.
As she stood in nostalgia the swan abruptly flew off into the deep blue horizon. She wished she could fly off on a whim like the swan, without a care in the world for what comes next. She envied the swan, swimming as it would on the lake, and taking flight without any indication as to why, or where, it was going.
Aveline turned around and walked atop the rocks and high grass back to her Jeep. It was time she got back home. While she drove across the Mackinac Bridge, she had to help herself from being distracted by the radiance of Lake Michigan’s sunset. Blue atop the hot pink, mixed in with the golden hues all blended together into a nameless colour stretching across the horizon. The sunset lost its radiance as she reached Mackinac City and finished the rest of her drive home.
Aveline cursed the white swan as she ambled into her house, caught in a trance of her father as she sat on her bed. Glancing at the framed photo of her father on her nightstand, tears escape her eyes. She always admired his sharp handsomeness in his Army Service Uniform. People always call him a hero, but she doesn’t believe that, because what’s a hero? She thinks of him more as a martyr, dying for what he believed in—freedom, patriotism, God… She shed salty tears as she reminisced more memories of him. How she misses him is an ineffable sense of misery. It’s been seven months since she lost him in Afghanistan, but she can never get over it. Such a loving, compassionate, gentle, loving man was taken from her, and she never stops mourning. Everyone tells her to move one, but how can you move on? She doesn’t know if she ever will.
Aveline forces herself to stop looking at her dead father’s picture and lies down beneath her blankets, reminiscing still. It’s hard to imagine he’s gone. She and her father both shared a love for nature, going on trips to Yosemite National Park, Yellowstone… Now every time she stops to admire nature, she reminisces of her father and weeps. How can such a wonderful man be taken from this dark world? She would never understand. Perhaps because she doesn’t want to.
Caught in a dream world, Aveline is walking through a grass field. She is all by herself. She doesn’t need to worry of the judgements of other people, or of the sadness that awaits her on the other side of this realm that constantly besets her. In her own private dream world, she comes across two swans. One white, the other black, she is befuddled as to what they’re doing here, and how they got in. Her dream world is impermeable, yet they managed to find their way in.
She watches them as they both stare blankly at each other, watching each other, daring the other to move first. She blinks, and suddenly sees her father standing behind them. Stunned, she wishes to move, but she cannot seem to find the strength. She commands her muscles to run to her father and embrace him, but she is paralysed. He just keeps looking at her, smirking. Aveline stops fighting her paralysis, looking deep into her father’s gentle gaze. For the first time in a long time, she feels at peace. Finally, she stops reminiscing.
Suddenly, the white swan begins to attack the black swan, biting at its neck and wings. The black swan tries to fight back, but it is powerless against the white swan. It was as if she were watching an ant fighting an elephant. The white swan effortlessly snaps the black swan’s neck. A flash of white, and the blood is gone from the white swan, its white feathers unblemished. Finally, Aveline can move, and she walks toward the white swan. She notices her father is gone, but it doesn’t sadden her. The white swan opens its wings as they get bigger and bigger, and it begins to wrap its wings around her. She allows herself to be enveloped by the pure white. She feels soft, warm, comforted, and peaceful.
Enveloped by the Holy Spirit, her yoke upon Him, the white swan gives her soul rest.