Unearthly Page 50

She puts her hand over the receiver. “I really think you should talk to him.”

I slide my French toast into the trash, then casually rinse my plate in the sink, put it in the dishwasher, and dry my hands on a kitchen towel. I hold out a hand for the phone. Surprised, she gives it to me. I put it to my ear.

“Clara?” Christian says hopefully.

“Take the hint,” I say into the phone, then hang up.

I hand the phone back to Mom. She’s smart enough not to say anything as I stalk past her and up the stairs toward my bedroom. I shut the door behind me and throw myself onto my bed. I want to scream into my pillow.

I won’t be that girl who lets the guy treat her like crap and still fawns all over him. I went to prom with Christian Prescott. It wasn’t supposed to be magical, I tell myself. It wasn’t supposed to be romantic. It’s my job, pretty much. But it wasn’t supposed to end with me being dumped out of Tucker’s truck at the end of the night.

So that’s it, I decide. From now on, this Christian thing is strictly business. You go to the forest, fly him out of there, apparently, drop him wherever he needs to go, and that’s that. No need to be his friend, or anything else. No hand-holding. No staring rapturously into his eyes. At the memory of the vision, the vividness of it, my chest gets tight. His hot hand against my cheek. I close my eyes. I curse the warmth that floods my belly. I curse the vision for, I don’t know, leading me on.

My cell phone rings. It’s Angela. I answer it.

“Don’t say anything,” I say.

There’s silence on the other end.

“Are you there?”

“You told me not to say anything.”

“I meant about last night.”

“Okay. Let’s see. My mom has decided to run Oklahoma! this fall at the Garter. I am trying to talk her out of it. Whoever heard of Oklahoma! in Wyoming?”

“Was everybody talking about it?” I ask. “After we left?”

She pauses for a minute, then dutifully changes the subject. “Nice weather we’re having today. Almost like summer.”

“Angela.”

She sighs.

“Yes,” she admits.

I groan. “Do they think I’m a total dork?”

“Well, I can only speak for myself.” I can actually hear her grinning. I start to smile in spite of myself. “Come over for dinner,” she says. “My mom’s making fettuccine Alfredo. I’ll find something for you to punch.”

I literally go limp with relief. God bless Angela. I’d never be able to make it through the day in the house with the constant ringing of the phone, and Mom breathing down my neck. “When can I come over?”

“How soon can you get here?” she says.

Angela and I see a double feature at the Teton Theatre, a horror movie and an action movie, sheer mindless fun, just what the doctor ordered. Afterward we hang out on the empty stage at the Garter. I’m beginning to love this place. It feels like it’s Angela’s and mine, a secret hideout where nobody else can find us. And Angela’s good at distraction.

“Here’s something that will cheer you up,” she says as we sit on the edge of the stage with our feet dangling into the orchestra pit. She stands up and summons her wings. She closes her eyes. A fly falls onto my shoulder. I quickly shake it off. The flies in the theater creep me out. They’re always flying up into the lights and getting their wings singed, and then they drop out of the air and buzz around on the stage, alive. I look back at Angela. Nothing’s different.

“Am I supposed to see something?” I ask after a minute.

She frowns. “Wait for it.”

For a minute nothing happens. Then her wings begin to shimmer, the way the air does over concrete on a hot summer day. Slowly, they start to change form, smoothing out, curving into a different shape. Angela opens her eyes. Her wings look like a huge moth’s, still pristinely white but smoother, segmented, dotted with small white scales like what you would see on a butterfly’s if you looked real close.

My mouth drops open. “How did you do that?”

She smiles. “I can’t change the color,” she says. “I thought it would be so cool to have purple wings, but it didn’t work. But I can make them look like pretty much anything if I try hard enough.”

“What do they feel like when they’re like that?” I ask, watching the gigantic butterfly wings open and close behind her, back and forth, such a different movement from our feathered wings. She looks like a Goth Tinker Bell.

“More fragile. And I don’t think they would fly the same way. I don’t even know if I could fly like this. But that’s a limitation of my brain. I think our wings can be whatever we want. We see feathered wings because they are iconic of angels. But really they’re only a tool. We choose the form.”

I stare at her. It would never have occurred to me in a million years to try to change the form of my wings.

“Wow,” I say, pretty much speechless.

“I know, right?”

“What do you mean, they’re only a tool? They feel real to me,” I say, thinking about the heaviness of my wings on my shoulder blades, the mass of muscle and feather and bone.

“Have you ever wondered where our wings go when we don’t have them out?”

I blink at her.

“No.”

“I think they might exist between dimensions.” She brushes sawdust off her pants. “Watch this.”

She closes her eyes again. The butterfly wings dissolve, becoming a misty cloud that hovers around her head and shoulders.

“Do you think I could do that?” I stand up and summon my wings awkwardly. I can’t help my sudden flash of jealousy. She’s so much stronger than I am. So much smarter about everything. She has twice the angel blood.

“I don’t know,” she muses. “I guess I could have inherited the shape-shifting thing. But it makes more sense if we all could do it.”

I close my eyes.

“Butterfly,” I whisper.

I open my eyes again. Still feathers.

“You have to free your mind,” says Angela.

“You sound like Yoda.”

“Free your mind, you must,” she says in her best Yoda voice.

She raises her arms over her head and stretches. Her wings disappear.

“That was unbelievably cool,” I tell her.

“I know.”

At that moment another fly drops right down the front of my shirt, and between the shrieking and digging around to get it out, and the hysterical laughing afterward, I’m so grateful that I have a friend like Angela, who always reminds me of how cool it is to be angel-blood when I’m feeling like a freak of nature. Who can make me forget about Christian Prescott, even for a minute.

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