Colored Feathers

Sara Siddiqui Chansarkar 

She climbed the wrought-iron ladder and pulled a suitcase from the loft, the large maroon one her mother had once filled with beads and frills and embroidered napkins for her wedding. Her mother’s voice inside her head warned, If you plan for the worst, it’ll happen. Think only good things. But she cupped her hand around her lips and whispered the voice into silence. Even as she tried hard to think of the yellows at the center of daisies and the purples of plums, she knew she had to prepare.

Day after day, she filled the suitcase with shavings of herself – pieces that didn’t belong there, in the house, the marriage – neatly arranged, layered with colored feathers, for use at someplace, sometime. At night, she stowed away the suitcase under the bed. The bag bulged like an over-risen loaf, the leather cracking, the contents spilling out at the sides, the zippers catching fabric and snagging longings. A pair of sandals with a cushioned footbed waited beside the suitcase.

What’s poking under the bed? the husband complained in a slurred voice one night as the mattress sagged under his weight. A corpse you’re hiding there, woman? With a knee to the center of her spine, he kicked her off the bed. She lay on the cold floor staring at the darkness under the bed until light crept between the window slats, and the outline of the suitcase emerged like a curled-up swan. Outside, sparrows chirped under the eaves, a song of sweet escape.

Later, she pressed the bulging suitcase into surrender, tucking in the contents, and zipping the jaws shut. As she strapped the sandals to her feet, moaning at the softness against her callused soles, something fluttered inside her belly. She pressed a hand to her wren-colored dress and discovered a honeydew hardness. A glance at the one-page calendar on the paint-peeled wall showed she hadn’t bled in months.

Let the seed grow in shelter, her mother’s voice in her head again, this time soft like a plea. She collapsed into a heap beside her freedom, hugging her knees like a pheasant of winter, head burrowed into its wings, eyes frozen shut. Day after day, she unpacked the suitcase, flinging the contents into road-ruts to be discolored by rain, nipped by free birds.

Sara Siddiqui Chansarkar is an Indian American writer. Born to a middle-class family in India, she later migrated to the USA. Her stories and poems have appeared in many publications, in print and online. She is currently a Prose Editor at Janus Literary and a Submissions Editor at SmokeLong Quarterly. Her debut flash fiction collection “Morsels of Purple” is available for purchase on See more online. Reach her on Twitter (@PunyFingers).