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Birds of a Feather

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Mimi got to the park early in the morning. She liked that time of day, when there weren't many people there yet and the playground was almost empty. She liked to sit on the set of climbing ladders - not too high because her Mum always told her not to climb to the top. And even though Mimi would really like to sit on the highest bar and see the world from there, she also knew her Mum was right. Mimi sometimes got bad headaches and dizzy spells and it would not end very well if she got one of those so high up there.

The doctors said it was because she was very ill and they sometimes made her stay in the hospital for days on end. They also gave her medicine and said there was always hope, but early on Mimi saw her parents crying and knew that hope was something they no longer had. She knew she would probably not live long enough to turn twenty. Or even fifteen. But she was pretty calm about the whole 'dying' experience. Some people lived to be ninety and some didn't.

She shrugged and swung her legs to and fro. From her vantage place on the set of ladders, she watched a man who was sleeping on a nearby bench. He had a guitar case with him and a bag of apples. And was wearing a jumper that Mimi thought looked a bit like the jumpers her Dad got from her Grandma every Christmas. They always provoked a deep sigh out of him, but Mimi didn't really know why. This last one was white with little pink stars all over and a giant yellow pear in Santa's hat on the front and Mimi thought it was the best jumper she'd ever seen.

This man's jumper was not quite the level of her Dad's jumpers, but Mimi was glad to notice it was close.

She also noticed the man had the bunny key ring she left for him the first time she saw him. That meant he liked it, and Mimi was happy the man now had something that would remind him of home. The bunny on the key ring had wings and Mimi thought the man simply looked like he was missing his. At first she had trouble putting her finger on what exactly was missing from the man's appearance, but once she figured it out, it really was quite obvious. And everybody knew all winged beings lived in Heaven - even Dragons (the mountain peaks counted as Heaven, in Mimi's opinion) - so the bunny was the perfect pick-me-up gift, especially because the man looked so sad then, when she saw him first. Like he was missing his home too.

Mimi pondered that for a moment, watching as the man woke up. They talked, she got an apple in exchange for the bunny (Mimi thought it really wasn't necessary - after all, it was a gift - but well, she liked apples) and it turned out the man's name was Wataru.

And then Mimi remembered she really had to go. She had to be back to her hospital room before noon, in time to take her medicine again. Sometimes there was no helping these things.

When she was leaving the playground, Mimi waved to a strange foreign man standing there on the edge of it. Well, the strange thing about him was that he had wings, but Mimi thought they suited him.

The man gave her a confused look, but waved back and Mimi grinned, glad to see Wataru's family being so close. Or maybe not family exactly, after all this man and Wataru looked nothing alike. Mimi was glad all the same, though, because here at least was someone who probably came from the same place as Wataru and so her new-found oniichan wouldn't be so lonely anymore. Because he somehow seemed to be now.

That was also why Mimi came to the park whenever she could (whenever her doctor allowed her) to keep Wataru company. And why she told him she'd decided to marry him when she grew up. That at least made him laugh.

More often than not, the man with wings was also there, but the first time Mimi wanted to call out to him, he put his finger to his lips and shook his head. So Mimi remained quiet about his presence, especially since it looked like Wataru didn't see him at all.

She was happy, though, that Wataru would have a friend when she was no longer here. For now, they sat and talked, Wataru learnt how to play his guitar and then even started to write songs. Mimi liked the one he sang to her very much.

And then one day she fell so ill she couldn't go to the park anymore and knew she wouldn't be going there anytime soon. Not the next day or even the day after that.

She'd made an origami bunny for Wataru - another small gift, but it was all she could do. Maybe her Mum or Grandma would give it to him one day.

And then it was time. She left, clutching the apple Wataru gave her all those weeks ago. She loved the scent - it almost seemed to tell her stories of vast gardens and golden autumn afternoons.

Funny thing, that, Mimi thought, closing her eyes . The apple was still as fresh and fragrant as the day she got it.