Author's Notes: Before you start to read the story, I wanted to say thanks to all people who helped me with it: Marco Berzacola for drawing beautiful pictures that inspired me to write it; Vika Kovalenko for helping me with translation; Chris Dawson, Rich Wilson and George Harrison for proofreading and corrections. Also thanks to everyone who have read it in the past and posted their opinions, and who have drawn their own pictures based on the story, I appreciate it very much!
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The Simpsons were sitting around the kitchen table, as if they were having some kind of negotiations. They were looking at each other - the kids with curiosity, Marge with anxiety... it was hard to read anything from Homer's expression, maybe discontent at the fact that he was away from the TV. The family meeting, a rare occasion lately, had begun. Marge started her speech.
"Okay... kids, Homer, we have a lot of things to discuss, that's why I gathered you here together. Now that Lisa has... hrrmmm... changed, especially after last night, we need to make some changes to our lives. The situation is, to put it mildly, unusual, nothing like this has never happened to us before... so I suppose any of you can talk as an adult now."
All of them unintentionally looked at Maggie, who was trying to reach Lisa's wing from her baby's chair.
"What's the problem?" Bart wondered.
"Bart, we have to make a choice. We can keep on hiding Lisa from people, but this isn't easy. The rumors are spreading across the town already, and we can't stop them. I was at the hairdresser's today... all my friends were there, talking as usual, but when I entered, they completely stopped talking! They've never behaved like that before... I'm starting to fear that someday we'll see a mob in front of our house, trying to break off the door... it's not like we haven't seen that before... but they'll be here for Lisa this time. Besides, Lisa lives as if she's under house arrest now. " Lisa nodded. "She can't go out, can't see anybody... but she needs freedom, now even more than ever."
Lisa nodded again.
"So what's the second option?" Bart asked.
"The second option... we can just show Lisa to the others, and try to live as if nothing has happened to her. She'll spend time with other kids as usual, go to school..."
"I wouldn't like that," she said quietly. "I don't have any friends who can accept me like this. They'll turn away from me... and other kids will mock me... they did this even before, but this time it would be much worse, since they'll have a better reason..."
"I understand, honey," Marge answered. "It's just one of the possible options, and I like it no more than the first one. But there is the third option... we can move away from this town, at least for some time, and settle in some abandoned place, far from any curious eyes. You'll be safe there."
"There is also the fourth option, Mom," Lisa said darkly, her head lowered. "Remove them, before the situation has gone beyond our control. We can find a doctor who can hold his tongue... Dr. Nick, for example. I'm sure he can easily perform such an operation..."
They all looked at Lisa with shock.
Homer shook his head. "Oh, sweetie, don't say that... it's kinda over the edge. Your Mom's idea sounds much better to me. We can move, if we need... after all, we've done this before so many times already."
"Lisa... do you really want to do this...?" Marge asked.
"I don't know... like you said, it's just one of the possible options." Lisa raised her head and looked at her Mom. "Of course I don't want to do this, Mom... I want to learn to fly... but I don't want to put you in trouble. You've gone through too much of this already."
"Bart, what do you think?" Marge turned to her son.
"Hey, what do you expect from me?" he answered. "You think I like this crappy 'move' idea? Of course I don't. Unlike Lisa, I have a lot of friends here, favorite places... damn, my home is here! Why should I leave it all behind only because of Lisa's problems? But it seems like you've already made up your minds, so I'll just sit quiet." Bart folded his arms.
"You wouldn't be sitting here if we wanted to make it without you." Marge frowned. "Don't you understand, Bart? We're talking to you and Lisa like adults right now. We can't just order you to obey, you have to make the decision by yourself. And if you're really against this idea, we won't move anywhere. We'll stay in Springfield."
"Really. Well, I guess the meeting is over... and things remain the same..." Marge looked at the others and got up.
"Okay, okay... wait a sec!" Bart looked at Lisa. "Why are you guys always making me feel like the bad guy? I said I didn't like this idea, and that's true... but we can move, if we have to. Maybe this is really the only way."
"Are you sure?"
Bart paused, then nodded his head. "Yes... at least, it's better than hiding from the people here."
"Thanks, Bart." Marge smiled, the first time this morning. "Well, kids, seems like we're moving again?" Bart and Lisa nodded, even Maggie started to suck her pacifier vigorously, showing that she agreed with them. "Okay... me and Homer will start searching for a new house. I think we have to visit estate-selling agencies right now... you're staying home alone, and please, for God's sake, don't go out of the house, like last night. We can't risk so much now."
The evening came. The sun was falling slowly behind the horizon, painting all things around it in fiery orange colors. Lisa stood at the window in her room, watching the beautiful sunset, when she heard the sound of the arriving car. Homer and Marge came in. They looked noticeably exhausted, but had content expressions on their faces.
"Kids, we're home!" yelled Marge, coming into the family room. Lisa padded downstairs.
"How was your trip, Mom?" she asked.
"It was good, Lisa. We found a suitable house for sale outside town. It's located in a small village to the southwest of the river, almost on the coast. The best thing is that the place is abandoned; nobody lives there right now. And our new house is on the very edge of that village, almost hidden in the forest. The area is so nice, and natural. I'm sure you'll like it."
"Wow, you didn't waste your time," Bart said, coming to them.
"Well... actually, we didn't buy the house, we just rented it," Homer replied. "We just don't have enough money to buy new houses... anyway, just think of it as ours now."
"So when are we leaving?" Bart asked.
"We'll start packing our things tomorrow. Then we'll wait till dusk, and try to leave town as quietly as we can," Marge answered.
"Sounds like an escape..." Lisa sighed. "Wait, what about Snowball II and Santa's Little Helper? They're going too, right?"
"We'll take them too. And remember, kids: when you pack your things tomorrow, note that we can't take everything with us. Take only what's most important to you - your clothes, linen and so on. If we need to, we can take the rest of our things later. Just pretend that we're going on vacation."
The next day passed in a bustle of activity. The family was packing their things into suitcases and piling them into their cars in the garage, without even leaving the house. The only person who had once appeared outside was Marge; she had to drive to the Kwik-E-Mart in the morning to buy some food. Even Homer stayed at home. However, he made a call to the nuclear plant and claimed that he was sick.
"You know, Lis..." Bart grunted, desperately trying to force another suitcase into the car.
"I never thought we... nrgh... had so much indispensable... nnrgh!... stuff."
Bart strained again. The suit's locks popped open and all its contents fell into the car and onto the garage floor. "Damnit!" he cried.
Packing finally came to an end. When the evening fell and the street outside the windows went dark, the Simpson family assembled in the empty kitchen one last time.
"We're leaving very soon, now..." Marge said distantly, more to herself than the others. "Kids, Homer, let's go over it one more time - do you think we missed anything?"
Lisa shook her head along with the others. Her private life consisted only of her diary, saxophone and small amount of books that she could not go without. All of these items were packed in the car already.
"Well... let's go then."
Homer went downstairs into the basement to cut off the water and electricity. His muttered swearing was audible for some time, then all lights in the house simultaneously went off. Lisa looked around. The quiet, dark, and empty house that she had spent her entire life in, now looked so foreign to her.
Bart, Lisa and Maggie took their seats in Marge's car. Marge sat on driver's seat and started the engine.
"Are you ready, kids?" she asked, turning to them. Bart and Lisa nodded.
Homer was already sitting at the Sedan's wheel. He opened the garage's front door with the remote, and they carefully drove out. The door closed behind them with soft knock, as if marking the end of their current life, and the beginning of the new one. The Simpsons started on their journey toward another life...
The ray of bright light touched Lisa's face, waking her up. Lisa turned over, but it didn't help. She raised herself a little, trying to draw the curtains without opening her eyes... but her hand met empty air where her window should've been. What the...? she thought.
Lisa opened her eyes and looked around. She was in a quite unfamiliar place, a small room with dingy green wallpaper. The room, brightly lit by the morning sun, was almost empty, except for the wooden bed and big wardrobe in the corner. A couple of suitcases lay helter-skelter in the corner, and her saxophone case was among them. In a moment, Lisa remembered the events of the previous day...
...They were leaving quiet and sleepy Springfield, the town that had suddenly become like a dream to them. Two lonely cars on the seemingly endless highway, lit by the stars... Homer's car was ahead as he led the way. Marge with the children were following him a short distance behind. They were quiet and subtle in their departure, disturbing the surrounding calmness only with their headlights and motors' low noises. They were acting almost like outcasts... and this was not far from the truth.
It was the dead of night when they arrived at their new home. They stopped the cars, unpacked some of their possessions, and entered the house. They were so exhausted by the ride that they were barely able to find their rooms, make their beds, and collapse into the weightlessness of sleep...
Lisa awoke to that feeling of extra weight behind her shoulders that she had become almost familiar with. She waved her wings a little, just to feel them again, to make sure that they hadn't disappeared since last night and still obeyed her. She then opened her door, stepped into the hallway, and looked around. The house plan, at least that of its first floor, was very similar to the previous one - the same stairs leading to the hallway, the same narrow corridor between the bedrooms. The pleasant smell from the kitchen reached her nose... Marge was cooking something nice. Lisa remembered the door which she just had passed through, and went downstairs.
"Good morning, honey!" Marge smiled. She stood at the stove, making pancakes on the hot plate. Bart and Maggie were sitting at the table already, eating their breakfast.
"Good morning," Lisa answered somewhat uncertainly.
"How did you sleep?"
"All right... when I woke up, I didn't even realize that we had moved somewhere. All of it had happened so quickly... and where's Dad?"
"He left for work." Lisa looked at her mother, worried. "Sorry honey, I know we're hiding from people, but he has to continue working at the plant anyway. Otherwise, Mr. Burns will fire him... and this is definitely not a good time for that. We have to settle here before burning all our bridges behind us."
Lisa lowered her head. Marge went to her daughter and hugged her.
"Cheer up, Lisa! Things aren't so bad. To be honest, I've wanted to change our surroundings for a long time. Your father likes our new home too. Besides, it's such a beautiful place here! You should look at it. There's a forest all around us, big mountains to the west of here, and the coast to the south... we couldn't have found a better place to spend this vacation."
While she was talking, a weak smell of burning things spread into the air. Bart twitched his nose with suspicion.
"Mom, the pancakes!" he yelled. Marge quickly returned to the stove.
"Okay Lisa, eat your breakfast. I know, you can't wait to go outside, but you have to eat something first."
Lisa sat down at the table and started eating. Bart asked her about something, but she didn't hear him. Her thoughts were far from here... she felt like a wild bird had settled into her soul, calling her to freedom. Bart looked at his sister and decided not to repeat the question. He only rolled his eyes and returned to his plate.
When breakfast was over, Lisa got up from her chair. She thanked her mother, gently asked Bart not to spy at her today, and stepped out of the house without into the beauty of nature. It was a beautiful forest, but she was hardly interested in it now. She found her bike in the shed near the house, got on it and pedaled her way to nowhere, disappearing into the forest.
The further she moved away from the house, the higher the anxious feeling rose in her heart. She wanted to test her wings so badly. She had to do it sooner or later... and finally, there was the perfect opportunity to do that.
But what if she failed? What if they were unable to even lift her off the ground?
Lisa realized that she could not bear this uncertainty anymore. She stopped her bike on the edge of the small glade. It was covered with thick grass, like with a soft green carpet. She leaned the bike against a tree trunk, stood in the middle of the glade and tried to calm the trembling in her hands.
Heck, what am I afraid of? she thought. Even if I'll fail, what about it? What will I lose then?
You will lose your dream, not more and not less, she answered to herself. No... I'll do it. I must do it.
Lisa summoned all her courage, spread her wings, and made her first real flap, putting all of her strength in it.
The result was so unexpected that Lisa was absolutely unready for it. The sharp tug at her shoulders area had thrown her up and forward about a meter. She lost her balance instantly and turned over in the air. Feeling that she was falling back to the ground head first, Lisa forgot about her wings and stretched her arms forward instinctively, to cushion the fall. It helped - to some degree, at least. She crashed down on the grass and was carried some distance by her momentum, plowing into soft dirt with her nose.
Lisa was lying on the ground for some time, catching her breath, before she stood up again. Whoa, she thought, I'd better be careful. She returned to the center of the glade and tried again, much more gently this time, flapping her wings and feeling like the ground was disappearing from under her feet with every flap. She increased the speed a little and then suddenly realized that she was hovering in the air at a height of several meters, swinging up and down smoothly. "Am I... flying??" she said to herself.
"I'm fly-y-ying!!!" she cried happily when this simple idea became clear to her.
Lisa's common sense told her not to get up too far until she was used to using her wings. Nevertheless, she flew up above the tree tops to find her way home. The house couldn't be seen anywhere. Lisa tried to turn around in the air and nearly fell down. Flapping brokenly, starting to feel tired, she regained her balance with great difficulty, and found the familiar roof in about two kilometers from her location. She noted the direction, landed smoothly and folded her wings back, starting to feel a respect them. Then she got on her bike again and headed back home.
When Lisa appeared before her family again, she was looking anything but pictorial. Her whole dress was stained with the green spots of the crushed grass. There were several spots of dry dirt on her face, and her swollen nose was also notable... but the grin that she wore said that she could care less about her appearance.
"Lisa!" Marge gasped. "What's happened with you?!"
"I'm okay, Mom!" Lisa answered. "Just my first flight experience, that's all."
"Oh! And... how was it?" Marge asked.
"Not bad, I think..." Lisa tried to speak calmly, but gave up and began to laugh. "Oh, Mom, what am I talking about, it was wonderful! I did it! I really can fly! To be honest, not very well yet... but I will learn. Now I really believe this is possible. Mom, it's like a miracle!" Lisa was giddy with excitement.
"I know, honey... I always believed in you. Go wash up, change your clothes and come back. Your father has returned from work already; at dinner you will tell us your story."
Lisa nodded and stepped inside the house.
The next two weeks were probably the happiest in Lisa's young life. She woke up every morning, had her breakfast, then went far away into the forest and disappeared there for the whole day, coming back only at dinner time. She didn't want to escape from her family - she just needed quiet and calmness around for her practice... or at least, she sincerely thought so.
It was horribly hard to learn to fly. Lisa wasn't a bird; she was only a human with a bird's wings. She didn't have anything like a tail that could act as a stabilizer or help to change direction in the air, and her body was too far from a bird's smooth shape. All she had was a strong pair of wings, and the irresistible desire to learn to use them... and that was quite enough. Her attempts were getting better and better every day, and Lisa couldn't stop admiring her wings. During practicing, they had become noticeably stronger and tougher. She could fly for several hours continuously now, without any visible detriment to herself.
Keeping in mind her dream, she was wary of flying when the sky was cloudy. She preferred to spend this time at home instead, reading her favorite books or exploring the ornithology course, which Homer had brought from Springfield for her.
"You know, I've really loved the rain lately," Marge said to her on one such day. The storm was rumbling outside the house, the Simpsons were sitting at the kitchen table, and playing Scrabble. It was Homer's turn.
"Why?" Lisa looked at the window with annoyance. She was eager to get outside... but today wasn't her day.
"Because that's the only time you spend at home. You're disappearing 'round the clock recently... I'm starting to forget what you look like, Lisa."
Marge was referring to something that had happened some days before. Lisa had flown so far away from the house that she couldn't find the way back before nightfall, even from the air, and had to spend the night in the forest, on a tree branch. When she returned home next morning, she was shocked by her Mom's frightened expression and the tears on her face. Marge couldn't even call the police to find her. That day Lisa made a silent vow not to get too far away... but it was so hard to keep.
While she went over these thoughts, Homer took his turn, and placed the "T" letter before the "V" one. Bart immediately started to argue with him about using abbreviations.
"Sorry, Mom," Lisa answered. "You're right... I really have to spend more time at home. But if only you knew how hard it is! To just sit here while there's a whole world just outside the window..." Lisa trailed off and suddenly felt the prick of her conscience. Her mother, like all the others, was unable to feel the sensation of freedom that came to her in the sky. Maybe it wasn't fair to talk with her about this... but Marge responded like she had read her thoughts.
"I understand you, honey," she said quietly. "Maybe it's hard to believe, but I know how you feel - because I'm still your mother. Live the way you want to live - to restrict your freedom is the last thing I want to do now. Just don't forget about your family... I don't know why, but I've had a strange feeling lately. I'm starting to fear that some horrible day you will finally turn into a bird and fly away from us forever..."
"Oh, Mom, don't say that!" Lisa shook her head, but started to think about Marge's words. Her mother definitely had a point. The last days Lisa had completely isolated herself, lost in contemplation about her wings and stopped thinking about anything else... when she did things like this, it was easy to become wild.
"Your turn, sister." Bart interrupted. Lisa cast aside her thoughts and returned to the game.
Several days had passed. On one day Lisa was returning home from her daily practice. It was right after noon, and although Lisa wasn't tired at all, she knew that if she didn't return home in time, she very likely could lose her dinner. Approaching the house, she could hear Marge's anxious voice beneath her.
"Bart! Why did you came back alone?!"
Lisa landed near her brother, almost knocking him off his feet with the wave of air.
"What do you mean 'alone'?" Bart had just came back from his 'outskirts raid', which he did when he was more bored than usual. He looked puzzled. "With whom did I have to return, I wonder?"
"With Maggie! She went after you this morning. I told you to keep an eye on her!"
"I don't remember this!... and I didn't see her today, anyway." Bart looked around.
A worried expression appeared on Marge's face. She walked around the whole house, looking everywhere and calling for Maggie. Nobody responded. Finally, Marge came back to Bart and Lisa.
"She's nowhere to be seen... oh, what should we do, kids? There's a forest all around, even an adult can get lost easily here, let alone my baby... and your father's still at work, I can't call him!"
"Calm down, Mom," replied Bart. "We'll find her. Let's make a big circle around the house and call her at the top of our lungs... if she's somewhere near, we'll find her. Or we'll lose ourselves."
"Yeah, Mom," added Lisa. "You two go on, I'll try to find her from above." Without wasting any more time, she flew up again.
Lisa quickly realized that that was much easier to say than to do. It was almost impossible to find anything from the sky. The forest that stretched down there up to the horizon looked like a monotonous green surface. Lisa flew down and kept going at a level with the tree tops, almost touching the leaves with her hands and frightening away the birds. She made several incremental circles like this, looking down and calling out Maggie's name frequently.
She was lucky her younger sister was dressed in her usual blue baggies, easily noticeable against a grass background. Maggie was sitting on the ground near a small tree, leaning against its trunk and sobbing quietly. She hadn't even thought about giving a shout in response, despite the evident fact that she had heard Lisa's yells - Maggie always was an incredibly quiet baby. Lisa landed nearby, ran up to her sister and hugged her, and Maggie calmed down.
"I've found her, she's okay!" cried Lisa to the forest.
"Well done, Lisa! Come on back home!" Marge's distant voice sounded with relief.
Lisa took Maggie's hand in hers. "Let's go, Maggie. We worried about you so much!" She stepped homewards, but suddenly felt some resistance. Lisa stopped and turned around. Her sister stood still. A questioning expression was on her face.
"What's wrong, Maggie? Don't you want to go home?"
Maggie rolled her eyes, as if she was surprised at her sister's dullness. Then she raised her hand and poked her finger into the sky, sucking her pacifier.
"Oh... I see. You don't want to go home... but Maggie, I really doubt that I could lift you up. I'm neither a plane nor balloon, and I can hardly handle my own weight..."
Her sister watched her without blinking. Lisa realized that she couldn't say no.
"All right... let's give it a try. But we have to find an open place first. I can't fly up right here - the trees are growing too densely." She took Maggie's hand again.
They found a tiny glade in a few minutes. Lisa stood in the middle of it and picked up Maggie with some difficulty, embraced her under her armpits and connected her own hands together.
"Hold onto my hands, Maggie. Are you ready?" she asked. Without waiting the reply, she spread her wings and flew up, with some surprise to herself.
It took only few minutes to get used to this extra weight. The practice definitely wasn't just a waste of time - her wings were quite able to handle it now.
The next half hour passed like in a dream... Maggie, giggling happily in Lisa's hands, was pointing her finger to the places where she wanted to go, and Lisa obediently carried out her silent orders. They were hovering above the forest, passing by their house and looking down on Marge waving to them. They were flashing by the mountain range to the west from the woods... they were crossing the plains, watching their own shadow outrunning them far below... they flew abruptly up, to the heights where Lisa started to feel dizzy... they flew down, planning their flight in the very last moment - Maggie didn't care about the possible danger; she just wanted more and more. Eventually, Lisa started to feel tired and started to head back home.
"Sorry Maggie," she murmured in her ear, "but we have to go back. My wings are getting tired..."
Maggie made a disappointed face, but didn't object. Lisa returned to the house and smoothly landed down near Marge.
"Phew," she said, panting. "Here she is, safe and sound. Sorry we're late - we had a small detour to take there."
"Maggie, my baby!" Marge grabbed Maggie and hugged her, then looked at her with a frown. "Don't you ever do that again!"
Maggie started to suck her pacifier. "I regret nothing", could be read on her face.
Bart ran up to them. He was gasping.
"Mom... Lis... I think we have some problems." He pointed to the road.
Lisa looked and noticed a dust cloud far off in the distance. It was gradually increasing in size. Without any words, Lisa rushed into the house, went upstairs, ran to her room and looked outside through the window. It was a big column of cars, with the familiar Channel 6 van among them.
TV reporters, Lisa thought with despair. They had finally found her.