The biggest lie I ever told you was that I was leaving you for another man. I remember the stillness of the kitchen, you poised with the breadknife, the loaf you never cut.

“Who is he?” you wanted to know. “What’s he like?” The only fictional character I ever created ambled between us and watched you crumble. You sat at the table, and I could see the tremble in your fingers. I thought then that perhaps the truth would have hurt you less. You might even have believed me. You always said I didn’t trust you enough.

I watch you sometimes from the willow tree behind the house. I can see into our bedroom from up there. When I watch you sitting on the ottoman with your head in your hands, I know how much you loved me. I want to fly in through the window and tell you I made it all up. I want you to look into my eyes and know that I’m still here.

I hadn’t undressed in front of you for weeks. I couldn’t let you see the black marks, the raw sores weeping with pus as the first feathers pushed their way through my skin. My clothes were baggy by then.

“You’re losing weight,” you commented one day. “You don’t need to, you know. You’re perfect as you are.” I almost laughed.

The day of the breadknife and the trembling hands was the first day I couldn’t fit my arms into a blouse. I wore a poncho that day and kept my hands by my sides.

“Martin,” I said. “His name’s Martin.” All I could think of were the forked tails of the house martins next door, the metallic flash of their wings as they dived beneath the eaves. How I’d envied their flight.

The only things I took with me were TCP for the sores and the thick blanket out of the car.

“You haven’t even packed a suitcase,” you spat from the porch as if that were an insult. You wiped your eyes on your sleeve.

I spent the next few nights by the river waiting it out, getting smaller and darker with every hour that passed. When I couldn’t use my hands anymore, I practised beating my wings, and when I finally flew, it was like I’d been unchained.

This story was first published in Prole, 2013