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Paper Cranes
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Paper Cranes
A short story depicting love, loss, and regret.
[1,082 words]
Meruthiel(not real name) is a 15 year old who has random bouts of inspiration, and appreciates any kind of feedback about her work and ways in which she can improve.
[January 2009]
[email protected]
Paper Cranes

Paper cranes.

I received paper cranes from you every birthday. I always wondered why. When I was 5, you gave me 154. On my seventh birthday, I received 169 more. I never thanked you, never acknowledged your paper cranes. What kind of present were paper cranes? I was materialistic. I was unappreciative. I was selfish. Upon turning 13, I had 556 paper cranes. For some reason, I don't know why, I kept your paper cranes. Put them in a box and hid it at the bottom of my cupboard. I never touched that box except when I added to my stash of paper cranes, and even then I just stuffed them in. I kept the lid locked, for fear my friends would think I was silly. For fear you would think I actually loved the paper cranes you gave me.

For fear you would think I loved you.

I was afraid of you, ever since I was a child. You were so disconnected from us, so aloof, so mysterious. I could not understand you. I could not understand your thoughts. You never showed warmth or love towards me, never took me in your arms, never comforted me or told me bedtime stories. It was as though you built a bridge between you and me, and stayed on the other side. Maybe the distance between us was because I never tried to cross. I did not know what to make of you, and you never did me any harm. You were just there, an ornament in the background. Background, that was what you were. As time went by, I took your presence for granted. Most often I ignored you altogether. You did not matter to me. That was what I thought.

634, 765, 872.

I had 872 paper cranes by the time I was 19. You were old now, old and shriveled like a dry prune. Pink gums showing from the lack of teeth, hunched over and bent like a tree stump. I was disapproving of you and your mannerisms. Old, traditional. I looked down on you. And yet I always counted the paper cranes you gave me, eagerly waiting to see how many I would get. Why? I have no idea. I was 20 when you gave me my 999th paper crane. 999. I was very puzzled. Did you miscount the paper cranes? Why 999? I had assumed you would be folding 1000 paper cranes. There was significance in that number, although I could not recall what at the time.

Your health was deteriorating by now, and I hardly saw you at all. But I waited. I waited for that last crane. A year past, and my birthday came. I went to you again, expecting a paper crane. But you shook your head. Wait, you said. You told me to wait. I shrugged and was about to walk away, but then you called me back. Asked me what the paper cranes you had given me all these years had meant to me. I told you I didn't know. I told you I didn't care. You nodded. Thinking you were satisfied, I turned away. I didn't look back.

I wanted you to think I didn't care.

A month later, you had an accident, and we sent you to the hospital. I knew this was almost the end, and decided to relent a little on my cold facade. I looked through your room, the one room I never touched. I didn't know what I was looking for, but when I saw the book, I knew I had found it. Leafing through the sheets, I arrived at the page on how to fold paper cranes. I saw you had scribbled untidily at the bottom of the page, in your illegible handwriting. 1000 paper cranes=1 wish granted. I was even more confused when I saw this. Wish? You had a wish? What was it? I had to find out.

Quickly, I snatched a piece of paper from your table and roughly folded a paper crane. When I got to the hospital, I went to your bedside and sat beside you. You slowly turned to look at me, with two rusty orbs. I was afraid of that gaze. Steeling my resolve, I gingerly held out the paper crane I had folded to you, asking what it was you had wished for. Surprise, yes I think it was, flitted across your face and you just smiled at me. Painfully, you held out your hand and I dropped the paper crane into it. You brought the crane close to you and cradled it in both hands. Feeling very awkward, I excused myself, going to get some water to drink. When I arrived back, you beckoned me to come closer, and gave the paper crane I had folded back to me. I was bewildered now, and a little hurt. You didn't want my gift? Not wanting to be in the room with you any longer, I ran out, went back home.

You left us that night. I felt nothing.

I sat staring at the paper crane you had given back to me, still not understanding. It was then that I realized the crane in front of me was different from the one I had folded. It was more exquisite, made by an experienced hand. An indescribable emotion clenched my heart as I clutched the paper crane. I brought it to my room and opened my cupboard, taking out that locked box. 1000. At last, I had 1000 paper cranes. As I examined the last crane, it came to my attention that it was not as well made, the edges not tucked in tight and snugly. Something struck me then and I fumbled with the crane, unfolding it and smoothing out the paper, turning it over. And I saw them. Scrawled in the same untidy writing in the center of the paper were the words

'I love you.'

Disbelief crept over me, and silence sang a solemn song. I hurriedly grabbed one of the paper cranes in my box, and then another one, and a third. Unfolded them. And there they were. The same three words. All along you had expressed your love to me through the paper cranes, and I had never known. Even as I sat in my room, regret pinching at me with cold fingers, it was too late. You were already gone.

You said you loved me 1000 times.

And I told you I didn't care.




"I liked it! The end was sad, and I think a lot of people can relate (I'm imagining it as a father-daughter relationship; don't know if that's what you intended). I also like the part where you describe the eyes as "rusty orbs." I think you show lots of potential for your young age!" -- Elizabeth Flores, Ohio, USA.
"Wow the end struck hard. Makes one think of what they have before they lose it. Makes one realize appreciate all they can have with a person and not take that person for granted. " -- Camille, Lawrenceville, GA, USA.


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© 2009 Meruthiel
January 2009

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