by Vanessa Gebbie 

I just knew that all would be well with Andrea. She was that bit different, you see, highly strung, but then class birds are. Get ruffled easily. You need to treat them right. But then my mother always said, "Breeding is best. Aim high, Douglas."

Couldn’t have aimed much higher than Andrea. Not many like her about. Turned heads too… it was that colouring. She shone like she was her own light source. Had expensive tastes…but then there’s no point aiming at a bird like Andrea and expecting her to put up with take away Chinese, doner kebabs down the precinct, oh no. My mother said I wouldn’t have a hope in hell, but I knew better.

I reckoned it would be the accessories that would make all the difference. Think feathers. A cage is a cage is a cage, right? Wrong. You get yourself a classy bird, and you have to make an effort, furnish it, woo her, start the nesting process for her. Plant the seeds, as they say. All this in-breeding, you know… some of those instinctive female urges have dulled. My God, did I go to town on the little things.

I’ll never forget it, that Wednesday night, nesting supplies tucked away, unobtrusive, packaging disposed of… low music playing…(got rid of the Otis Redding, concentrated on something a little more eclectic…) and I’m waiting for the ring at the door. Bottle of Bolly chilling in the fridge, strawberries at room temperature of course, and the room freshly painted. Oh yes, white paint fresh and shiny everywhere, window frames, doors, skirting, all gleaming like freshly scaled smiles. Suddenly, she’s there, perfume wafting over the paint, heels clacking on the tiles, nails clicking against the glass, tapping her fingers nervously on the coffee table. Great. I like a little nervousness. "Steady on Douglas," I said. Inner voice. Control. "No need to get excited, she’s here now."

Andrea, beautiful Andrea. "Sad beautiful Andrea," my mother said. Of course, I didn’t see the "sad". "Late thirties," mother said. "Biological clock, darling. Looking for a nesting site." I unashamedly planned all this. It’s all biology after all. Nesting supplies encourage courtship, breeding, and nesting behaviour. She needed that, dear Andrea. She’d left it far too late, but with a bit of help, all those instincts flooded back. Before I could say "Well done, Douglas" she was heading for the bedroom.

Her life with me was all joy, I made sure of that. She had no need to amuse herself; it was all on tap. I even installed a double swing with bell. It amused her, that bell. The swing was big enough for both of us, but she used to use it all by herself while I watched, and when she was ready, she’d ring the bell for me to join her.

A real pair of lovebirds, we were. When she wasn’t on the swing, me waiting for her to ring that bell (oh… she did like company) or preening at the dressing table in front of the gilt mirror I put in the bedroom, she would be in the bath. In bubbles. Or in our playpen. Wonderful invention, cage within a cage, the playpen, guaranteed to ensure the cleverest bird doesn’t get anxious while confined.

I thought I was such a cool guy. I left small dishes of treats within reach of those pretty nails, so Andrea never got hungry. Not like that.

Of course, I kept her in the flat. Never let her out, far too good a catch, you see, didn’t want her to escape. I did everything just right. Just like mother said.

At least, that’s what I thought. I thought I’d followed the instructions pretty much to the letter. Andrea had a wonderful home, expensive playthings, food, drink, all provided by her man. We had wonderful sex for a while. The swing helped.

The one thing I never bothered with was chat. Well, blokes don’t, and to be frank I didn’t bother because mother said "don’t worry about communicating, Douglas. Be strong. Live your life like a man." So I did. I never really listened when Andrea talked to me. Well, quite honestly, at the end of a busy day, the last thing you need is deep and meaningful conversation, know what I mean? She cried sometimes. But then women do. That’s what females do, right?

There’s another day I’ll never forget. Andrea had been a little peaky for a while, and I was so excited. I thought this was it. Soon, she’d be telling me that my nesting accessories had done the trick, that she was incubating some lovely little surprise for me. To make mother so proud of her Douglas.

But it was not to be. I let myself in, carefully, in case she flew at the door and tried to escape, like she sometimes did, but there was no little flurry, no sign of my Andrea. I walked through the rooms, calling for her, for my pretty little bird, checking that the windows were still locked, and of course they were. I think I must have known. I found her in the bedroom, lying on the bed, her neck stretched out, her beautiful wings bedraggled, broken. There were small feathers and dust on the windowsills and on the glass, as though she had beaten herself against them for hours. My beautiful, beautiful Andrea was dead. I was inconsolable for a while.

But mother has been such strength. She came round to help me clear up, and said, "Never mind, Douglas, No bird is indispensable. We’ll contact the pet store tomorrow, and see if we can’t get another exactly like Andrea."