Melissa’s family decided to go to the beach over spring break. They had to drive for hours to get there. As they drove further south, they found sunny weather and blue skies. The warm sun felt fabulous. It had been a long, cold winter.
It was evening when they arrived at their hotel. It was large and painted bright green. After they checked in, the desk clerk gave them a map. “A lot of our guests get lost,” she said. “I marked your room right here.”
Melissa peeked at the map. It was quite confusing. It looked like there were a number of separate buildings and sunrooms and courtyards. “That looks like a long walk from here,” she said.
“Oh, you can drive to the closest parking lot,” the desk clerk said. So, they took their suitcases back outside and drove around the back to another building nearby.
“I am so tired,” Melissa’s mom said. “Let’s just find our room and get to bed. We had a late lunch.”
“But I’m hungry,” Michael said.
Melissa’s dad pulled out his wallet. “Here, I’ll give you money for the vending machine. I’m sure there’s one somewhere. Take your sister. Melissa, do you have your phone?”
“Yes,” Melissa said. “Can I take the map?”
“Here you go,” he said. “Take your suitcases in before you go.”
Michael and Melissa cut through the courtyard to get to the vending machine. “Left, left, and then right,” Melissa said. Michael nodded. Soon they’d found the vending machines. While Michael was making his choices, Melissa bought a granola bar and some rice cakes. It was time to go back.
She looked at the map. If she turned it around, it should be easy to figure out, right? Unfortunately, they turned wrong at one of the corners and ended up somewhere else.
“This map doesn’t have room numbers,” she said. “How are you supposed to figure out where you are if you’re lost? I’m going to complain in the morning.” Michael rolled his eyes and leaned against the wall. Melissa pulled out her phone. Should she call? How would their parents find them? She had the map.
Just then, a parrot waddled down the corridor. It looked up at her. “Lost?” it asked.
“Yes,” Melissa said. “All the rooms in our hallway had a picture of the sun by the room number.” She looked around. “These have trees. Do you know the way to the sun hallway?”
“Map,” it said. Melissa held out the map. The parrot tapped on a short corridor and then bobbed its head and waddled away. It held up a little ankle bracelet in front of what Melissa had thought was a doorstop. The door opened up and the parrot slipped inside.
Melissa looked back at the map. She was almost back to the courtyard. She’d just have to go left and then right. She marched off. Michael followed her. “Melissa, did that parrot just talk?” he asked.
“Yes,” she said.
“Oh, okay,” he said. He opened a bag of chips and started eating. When they got back to the room, their parents were watching the weather channel.
“It’s going to be beautiful tomorrow,” Melissa’s mom said.
The beach was crowded the next morning. Melissa’s parents put out beach towels and umbrellas and told Melissa and Michael not to wander too far. Michael left his sandals by the towels and ran towards the water.
Melissa decided to explore. She trudged over to a large sand dune. Her feet slid down the sand as she climbed. It took longer than she thought. From the top she could still see her parents’ umbrellas.
Behind the dune there was a little, hidden bay filled with birds. There were birds of all colors and sizes darting here and there. A parrot was perched on a wooden pole near the edge of the water. Melissa shuffled over, the warm sand dusting her feet with each step and sticking between her toes.
“Hi, were you the parrot that helped me last night when I got lost?” she asked.
“Yes,” the parrot said.
“Well, um, thank you,” she said. “I got back to my family just fine.” The parrot nodded and looked away.
Melissa looked around. When she looked at them, a group of brown birds scuttled away. She looked the other way and a large white bird flew off chattering in a scolding voice. Two blue birds nearby looked away when she looked at them. She felt out of place and awkward.
“I bet my parents are wondering where I am,” she said. “I’d better go.” The parrot didn’t look at her. “Goodbye. Thanks again,” she said. She climbed back up the sand dune. When she got to the top she looked back. She couldn’t see the little bay.
Melissa hurried back to her parents. “Mom, Dad, I know where the birds go for the winter,” she said. “Right here.”
Melissa’s dad nodded. “That makes sense. If I could come stay here for the whole winter, I would too.”
Melissa ran to join Michael by the water. They had a wonderful day. Melissa hoped the birds did too. She looked around for the parrot the next day when they went back to the beach, but she never saw it again.