Unearthly Page 86

Go away, she says. I step back from her, hurt. Is she mad over what happened today? That I chose Tucker?

Please, she says. I can’t tell if she’s speaking out loud or in my head. But she’s not talking to me, I realize. She’s dreaming. When I touch her again, I feel what she feels: anger, fear. I remember how she looked in the Black Wing’s memory, that image of her he’d carried for so long: the short brown hair, bright lipstick, and dangling cigarette, the way she’d looked at him with this knowing little smirk. She wasn’t afraid then, not of him, anyway. Not of anything. She’s a stranger to me, that younger version of my mother. I wonder if I’ll ever know her, if now that my purpose is over she’ll be free to tell me her secrets.

Mom sighs. I pull the quilt up to cover her, smooth a strand of hair back from her face. Then I slip quietly from the room. I go back to the kitchen, but I can still feel her dream if I tune in to it. This is something new, I think, this ability to feel what others feel, like when I felt Tucker as he kissed me, like what I felt when I touched the Black Wing. I reach for Mom with my consciousness, and I can find her, feel her. It’s amazing and terrifying at the same time. I cast myself upstairs to Jeffrey’s room and I can feel him. Asleep and dreaming, and there’s fear in his dreams too, and something like shame. Worry. It makes me worry for him. I don’t know where he was during the fire, what he was doing that weighs on him now.

I go to the sink for a glass of water, then drink it slowly. I smell smoke, the scent of the fire still lingering in the air. This makes me think of Christian. Three miles due east, he said, as the crow flies. Three miles isn’t so far. I imagine myself slipping across the earth, like I’m traveling along the roots of the trees and grass, stretching a line between me and Christian’s house like a piece of string between two tin cans, my own makeshift telephone.

I want to feel what he feels.

And then I do. I find him. Somehow I know it’s him and not anyone else. He’s not asleep. He’s thinking of me, too. He’s thinking about the moment when he wiped the smudge of ash from my cheek, the way my skin felt under his fingers, the way I looked at him. He’s confused, churning, frustrated. He doesn’t know what’s expected of him anymore.

I get that. We didn’t ask for any of this; we were born into it. And yet we’re supposed to serve blindly, to follow rules we don’t understand, to let some larger force map out our lives and tell us who we should love and what, if anything, we should dare to dream.

In the end, when Christian and I flew away together, there were no flames below us. There was no fire chasing us. We weren’t saving each other. We weren’t in love with each other. Instead, we were changed. We were thrown for a cosmic loop. I don’t know if I’ve fallen from grace, or if I’m on some sort of Heavenly Plan B. Maybe it doesn’t matter.

One thing I do know is that we can never go back.

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