Whenever Rebecca visited Great Aunt Maude at the home, the peacock would stand at the back of the lawn and unfurl its feathers.
“He fancies you,” Maude would say.
“I bet he does it for all the girls.”
But he didn’t. The peacock spent its days wandering around the lawn, pecking at the flowers and occasionally catching mice. In the evening, it would fly with a strange kind of grace up to its rooftop nest. Maude said that in the morning the peacock would always be up before all of the residents, sitting in the shade under the trees.
That night, in bed, Rebecca told Frank about how Great Aunt Maude thought the peacock liked her.
“Isn’t that woman ever going to die?” he said.
The next time Rebecca visited it was a bright day. The peacock was at the back of the garden, its feathers unfurled in an impressive display as it strutted between the trees and the wall.
“Why don’t you take a walk over to him?”
So Rebecca took a few careful steps towards the bird.
As soon as it realised what was happening, the peacock began to sing. The sound of it was immense. Rebecca had no idea peacocks had a mating call, never mind one which sound like that. The eyes at the tips of its feathers seemed to stare at her. She turned and walked quickly back to her seat.
“I’ve never heard him do that before,” said Maude, when the peacock’s song faded.
Somewhere deep inside herself, somewhere near her heart, Rebecca could feel the sound of it still vibrating.
That night, Frank woke her. “Would you stop shifting around in this bed? It’s like you’re trying to bloody take off.”
Three nights later, the garden of the home was in darkness as Rebecca climbed over the wall. She dropped down onto the grass, and as she walked towards the trees, she picked a single tail-feather from the ground and brushed it gently against her lips.
When she reached the middle of the lawn, she lay perfectly still, feeling the beginnings of the vibration deep inside, in that place near her heart. Part of the peacock’s nest was visible on the edge of the roof, silhouetted against the sky.
After what felt like a long time, Rebecca saw the bird lift its head. For a moment, there was an absolute stillness, and then, as the vibration inside of her increased, she saw the shadow leap into the air.
The bird swooped, and as Rebecca closed her eyes she felt the burgeoning of her new feathers.