Just then, they were interrupted by a songbird perched on a branch above them. They looked up to discover a vibrant red male cardinal, Jennifer’s favorite. It was somewhat unusual for one to perch on a lower branch and Jennifer’s eyes gleamed as she listened to the bird happily singing his melodies.
“I just love cardinals! They’re so fiercely devoted and loyal to their mates,” she said. “I actually just edited an article about them. The males are the bright red color we associate with cardinals, like this guy above us, and the females are more muted in pale yellow tones. The male attracts his mate with song and sometimes they even sing duets together!” She smiled up at the bird with appreciation. “And once they find their mate, they mate for life.”
“They do, do they…” He looked at her with a knowing smile.
“My mom told me that when I was little, I used to watch the birds from our window for hours while they fed at our bird feeder and she said that whenever I saw a red cardinal, I would get really excited. It was probably their gorgeous color. She used to say that the cardinals were there to see me–and I believed her of course,” she said with a laugh.
“It wouldn’t surprise me if they were. This guy above us definitely seems to be drawn to you.” He certainly couldn’t blame the bird; Matt, too, was enamored with Jennifer and her sweet disposition.
As Jennifer began to feel more secure with Matt, she was slowly letting her guard down. Matt was very patient and sensed that she was starting to really open up to him, like a daisy flower that opens its petals to welcome the morning sun. Nothing would make him happier than to be her sun.
“I just remembered that my mom used to tell me this story about a red cardinal. Do you want to hear it?” Her eyes sparkled with enthusiasm.
Of course he did. “Absolutely.”
He smiled contently at her and relaxed under the tree, reaching for her hand to hold. He could have listened to her all day.
She began: “So once upon a time there was a beautiful young girl who lived in a small cottage with her family in the woods. The cottage was far from town and she had no siblings, so sometimes she got a little lonely. Every morning she would sit and watch the birds visit their bird feeder to pass the time. There were lots of birds, but she befriended one in particular, a striking red cardinal. He sang his songs all day long, hoping to attract a mate, and the girl happily listened and also shared her own secret hopes and dreams of one day finding her own special mate. He was an excellent listener.” Jennifer grinned at Matt who was listening very closely to the story. “Anyway, the girl sympathized with the cardinal and one day she came up with a plan to help him in his quest for a mate. She put out special birdseed, hoping to lure a female cardinal, and sure enough, a female was flying by and noticed the seed. Then she heard the cardinal’s beautiful mating call and was immediately drawn to him, stopping to listen. She immediately became enamored with his striking red color and beautiful voice and when he was done singing, the two birds happily flew away together, very much in love.
“The girl didn’t see the red cardinal for several weeks after that and she really missed him. But then one day he returned to the feeder with some baby birds in tow and she now understood. The cardinal thanked the girl for helping him find his mate and told her that she just needed to be patient like he was and sing her happiest tunes, and that one day her own red cardinal would find her. He said that as long as you open your heart, true love will always find a way in. The girl always remembered the cardinal’s words and one day the girl, now a beautiful woman, was singing in her garden when a handsome man was passing by and heard her singing. He needed to know who had such a beautiful voice and when he found her in her garden, he was very taken with her and instantly knew that she was the one, and she knew it too, and they fell in love and lived happily ever after…The end.” She sighed.
“That’s a very romantic story, and I think it’s pretty accurate too,” said Matt, squeezing Jennifer’s hand.
“My mom used to say that cardinals teach us that real love takes time and that you need to be patient and persevere, and when the right person comes along, you’ll know it because you’ll be able to see into each other’s hearts and souls. She said that with true love, all things are possible.” Her eyes squarely met Matt’s. “I think she was right.”
“I do too.” His eyes were fastened to hers.
A strange calm befell them, as if they were seeing the truth–and destiny–in each other’s eyes.
Together, they looked up at the cardinal who seemed to be looking down at them very intently as he continued to serenade them, in no hurry to depart.
“Do you think maybe he’s trying to tell us something?” asked Matt with a humorous twinkle in his eyes.
“Maybe he wants us to know we’re on the right track,” she said, glancing up wishfully at the cardinal and then over at Matt.
Matt nodded and gently stroked her arm as they relaxed under the tree and listened to nature’s music. Once the cardinal finished his final song, he promptly flew away, as though he had completed his task for the day.