It took only a moment to decide.
As happens every day, as she sang to me, her arm reached past my perch through the open cage door, to pour fresh water in my bowl. Just beyond her, overhead near the barn, were clusters of glistening red cherries bouncing in invitation in the morning breeze.
So I heeded, flapping clumsily over her arm as she spilled the water, her mouth an “O”.
I escaped my cage, my first time flying more than a few feet, awkward and careening. I made it to a high branch and grabbed hold tightly, staring down at her asking me to come back. Instead I listened to the cherries next to me, their sweet song of red juice pouring over the sides of my beak.
I ate more than my fill of freedom.
When the breeze picked up in the darkening hours, I missed the comfort of my indoor loft nest lined with cedar shavings and horse hair, with snug walls where I have spent many wintry nights, and soft summer twilights. My mournful evening anthem was hushed by the wing swoop overhead of a clicking owl, anxious for dinner. I listened to the chorus of coyotes nearby and tucked my head in fear, with no wire enclosure to protect me. I fell silent, barely sleeping.
At dawn, she found me picking at cat food in the dish near the back porch, with an ancient feline crouched a few feet away, tail twitching, ready for instant breakfast. I fluttered off, returning to relative safety of the orchard treetops, alert for hawks. For two days I explored the trees surrounding my little home, its door still open as a standing invitation. She filled my water bowl and brought my seeds just as she always did, singing. I listened carefully to the familiar tune, twisting my neck one way and then another to hear her better.
The cherry song no longer seemed as sweet.
The next morning, she found me in my little nest inside my dove house, the door still wide open. She filled my bowl with fresh water and brought me new seeds, closed the door, latching it snug and safe.
The cherries still beckoned but not to me.
Today, joyful at dawn, I woke her with my mourning song.