Unearthly Page 16

The thing about my mother being a half angel made total sense—as much as my mother being some kind of supernatural being made sense, anyway. She’d always seemed suspiciously beautiful to me. Unlike me with my brooding stubbornness, my flares of temper, my sarcasm, she was so graceful and even-tempered. Perfect to the point of being irritating. I couldn’t name one flaw.

Unless you count lying to me for my entire life, I thought, allowing myself a flash of bitterness. Shouldn’t there be some kind of rule, anyway, that angels can’t lie?

Only she hadn’t actually lied. Not once had she ever said to me, “You know what? You’re not different from other people.” She’d always told me exactly the opposite, in fact. She’d always said I was special. I’d just never believed her until now.

“You’re better at things,” she’d told me as we stood at the top of Buzzards Roost. “Stronger, faster, smarter. Haven’t you noticed?”

“Um, no,” I said quickly.

But that wasn’t true. I’d always had a sense that I was different from other people. Mom has a video of me walking when I was only seven months old. I learned to read by the age of three. I was always the first in my class to master the multiplication tables and memorize the fifty states, that kind of thing. Plus I was good at the physical stuff. I was fast and quick on my feet. I could jump high and throw hard. Everybody always wanted me on their team when we played games in PE.

Still, I wasn’t like a child prodigy or anything. I wasn’t exceptional at any one thing. As a toddler I didn’t golf like Tiger Woods, or write my own symphonies by age five, or play competitive chess. Generally, things just came a little easier for me than they did for other kids. I noticed, sure, but I never really gave it much thought. If anything, I’d assumed I was better at stuff because I didn’t spend too much time sitting around watching crap on TV. Or because my mom is one those parents who made me practice, and study, and read books.

Now I didn’t know what to think. Everything was falling into place. And out of place, at the same time.

Mom smiled. “So often we only do what we think is expected of us,” she said. “When we are capable of so much more.”

At that point, I got so dizzy that I had to sit down. And Mom had started talking again, telling me the basics. Wings: check. Stronger, faster, smarter: check. Capable of so much more. Something about languages. And there were a couple rules: Don’t tell Jeffrey—he’s not old enough. Don’t tell humans—they won’t believe you and even if they did, they couldn’t handle it. My neck still tingled when I remembered the way she’d said “humans,” like the word suddenly didn’t apply to us. Then she had spoken about purpose and how, soon enough, I’d receive mine. It was important, she’d said, but it wasn’t something she could easily explain. After that she’d basically shut up and stopped answering my questions. There were some things, she’d told me, that I had to learn over time. By experience. And then there were other things I didn’t need to know quite yet.

“Why didn’t you tell me all this before?” I’d asked her.

“Because I wanted you to live a normal life for as long as you could,” she’d answered. “I wanted you to be a normal girl.”

Now I would never be normal again. That much was clear.

I looked at my reflection in the bedroom mirror. “Okay,” I said. “Show me . . . the wings!”


“Faster than a speeding bullet!” I announced to the reflection, striking my best Superman pose. Then my smile in the mirror faded and the girl on the other side stared back at me skeptically.

“Come on,” I said, spreading my arms. I rotated my shoulders forward so that my shoulder blades stuck out and squeezed my eyes shut and thought hard about wings. I imagined them erupting out of me, piercing the skin, unfolding themselves behind me the way that Mom’s had on the mountaintop. I opened my eyes.

Still no wings.

I sighed and flopped down on my bed. I switched off the lamp. There were glow-in-the-dark stars on my ceiling, which seemed so silly now, so juvenile. I glanced over at my alarm clock. It was after midnight. School tomorrow. I had to make up a spelling test I’d missed in third period, which seemed even more ridiculous.

“Quartarius,” I said, my mom’s name for a quarter angel.

Q-U-A-R-T-A-R-I-U-S. Clara is a Quartarius.

I thought about my mom’s strange language. Angelic, she’d called it. So uncanny and beautiful, like notes of a song.

“Show me my wings,” I said.

My voice sounded strange that time, like there were other higher and lower echoes around my words. I gasped.

I could speak it.

And then I felt my wings under me, lifting me upward slightly, one folded beneath the other. They stretched nearly to my heels, glowing white even in the darkness.

“Holy crap!” I exclaimed, then clapped both of my hands over my mouth.

Very slowly, afraid that I’d make the wings go away again, I got up and turned on the light. Then I stood in front of the bedroom mirror and looked at my wings for the first time. They were real—real wings with real feathers, weighty and tingling and absolute proof that what happened earlier with my mom was no joke. They were so beautiful it made my chest tight to look at them.

Gently, I touched them. They were warm, alive. I could move them, I found, the same way I could move my arms. Like they were truly a part of me, an extra set of limbs that I’d been oblivious to my whole life up to now. I would have guessed that I had a good ten- to twelve-foot wingspan, but it was hard to be sure. All that wing simply didn’t fit in the mirror.

Wingspan, I thought, shaking my head. I have a wingspan. This is insane.

I examined the feathers. Some were very long, smooth and sharp, others softer, more rounded. The shortest feathers, the ones closest to my body where my wings connected at the shoulder, were small and downy, about the size of my thumb. I grabbed one of them and pulled until it came free, which stung so fiercely my eyes teared up. I gazed intently at that feather in my hand, trying to get my head around the fact that it came from me. For a moment it just lay there in my palm, and then, slowly, it started to dissolve, like it was evaporating into the air, until there was nothing left.

I had wings. I had feathers. I had angel blood in me.

What happens now? I wondered. I learn to fly? I dangle from a cloud strumming a harp? I’ll receive messages from God? Dread uncurled itself in my gut. Our family was hardly what you’d call religious, but I’d always believed in God. But I was finding out then that there was a big difference between believing in God and knowing that he exists and apparently has some great master plan for my life. It was pretty freaky, to say the least. My understanding of the universe and my place in it had been turned completely upside down in less than twenty-four hours.

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