Graying the Lines

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Young Adult  |  House: Booksie Classic

Chapter 3 (v.1) - Chapter 3

Submitted: August 21, 2018

Reads: 106

Comments: 4

A A A | A A A

Submitted: August 21, 2018

A A A

A A A

Chapter 3

 

 

Victor

 

 

"Hey! Victor! Hey! Hey, Vic!"

I heard him call me from the cemetery gates. “You comin' or what, man?”

 I rolled my eyes at his enthusiasm. Chase had been my best friend for years, but sometimes I swear he’s part Pomeranian. I couldn’t keep up with his energy. Still, I’d known what I was in for when I promised to take him to the mall. He planned on getting tattoo number six or seven in a three month period and all to impress an artist he so adoringly dubbed “Tattoo Baby.” Naturally, he worked his angle on any girl, tattooed, pierced, and way out of his league. Chase had her schedule practically memorized; according to him she left in an hour and he didn’t want to miss her. I was holding him up.

 “Yeah, I’m coming,” I sighed, picking up the pace. Chase buzzed with energy a few feet in front of me and continued to chatter on about his crush. This had become an ongoing game of his, but he was young and I’d decided a while ago to humor him. He would try to convince me that he’d surely get her number this time, and I would joke that he’d run out of space before he even got close to getting that girl’s phone number. I tried to keep the occasion light, for is sake, but I worried about him. “Tattoo Baby,” as far as I knew, was human, and us dark angels are not allowed to mate with their kind. The result, if either of them slipped up, could be deadly. But more importantly, at least to the Old Ones, it would draw unwanted attention to our kind. And that was the rule you were never supposed to break. I wouldn’t tell him this, but I hoped she’d never agree to a date, for her own safety’s sake.

 “Come on, man, what’s your deal?” he stopped me. “You promised you’d do this with me today, and I need my ‘wingman’ with me, don’t I?” He laughed at himself. I shook my head at him, crossing my arms in what Chase liked to call my “stone cold, no bull shit,” stance. Apparently, I did this a lot and it was a dead giveaway whenever I was frustrated. I don’t remember when I started doing it, but Lou told me I got it from my dad and I should be proud of that.

 My father was a Guardsman. It’s one of the most important jobs a dark angel can have. They protect us from being seen by humans, they make sure that no drunken night walkers stumble across our gates, and when they need to, they move about the city, controlling any rumours or theories about our kind. Humans have had their stories about us as long as we’ve existed together, and mostly, they’re harmless. But if one ever gets too close to the truth, or digs too deep, as they sometimes do, my father’s job was to steer them away. Unlike white angels tucked away in their own untouchable realm, we live on earth. There are angels all over the world, all over the US, but our base is hidden in one of the oldest cemeteries in the state of California, maybe even the oldest, but the never-ending rows of crumbling concrete make it impossible to date. I tried once, I spent a lot of time there when I was younger. Before I could fly, I made my fun running through the grey rows of stone. There was one headstone, with the name unreadably worn down that I could have sworn read “1763.” But that was 18 years before humans were supposed to have settled here in Los Angeles.

Our dark and dusty home under the cemetery is mostly what you’d expect, with a hidden stone door and a heavy staircase downwards. The “Man with a Plan” does pride himself on being dramatic. Our realm, as hidden and protected as it is, is still accessible to anyone stubborn enough to dig for it. And although no dark angel would admit it, I think they fear humankind, almost as much as they hate them.

 “Hello in there?” Chase snapped his fingers in front of my nose. I blinked and shook my head, returning to the moment. “Dude, you think way too much,” he sighed, turning and lifting his face to the sky.

“Yeah, you should try it sometime,” I told him, but he didn’t hear me. I looked upwards. There was nothing but the thick off-white color of cloud cover to see. I couldn’t stand the clouds, the thick dome fitted snug against the sky, it looked like it could fall in and crush me at any moment.

 “Shall we take the express route?” Chase asked smirking at the sky and slowly opening his wings. I reminded myself to lighten up.

 “Let’s go,” I half-laughed, and looked to around to make sure there were no humans nearby, then I jumped into the air with Chase not a foot behind me. The breeze caught my wings as I pumped them and rose into the sky.

 

 We circled as we neared the mall, looking for a place to land.

 “Hey! Down there?” Chase pointed to a cornfield behind the wide parking lot. During the fall they had a maze and cider and doughnuts there, but today the stalks were green and high-growing. I nodded and swooped towards the corn. My feet landed in the dirt between the stalks and Chase came down hard, his feet skidding along, ripping a few stalks from their place. He turned around, pleased with himself, and jogged to my side.

 “So what will it be this time,” I joked pushing stalks aside as we trekked our way out.

 Chase shrugged, considering it for a moment. "I don't know, I need something that makes me look tough, you know, something cool. . ." He slowed his voice as he said it, narrowing his eyes and nodding his head, pleased with himself.

 “Hmm, okay, alright,” I hummed, pretending to give it serious thought. We pushed our way through the corn stalks in front of us. “So a ballerina or a butterfly's not gonna cut it?” I teased.

 “Shut up,” he glared at me jokingly, giving my shoulder a shove. “And what are you gonna get, huh? A uh…”

 I watched him struggle to find a good comeback. “A tiara?” I offered. “On the small of my back maybe?” I lifted my t-shirt and posed for dramatic effect.

He whipped me with a cornstalk and I brushed it off. “Come on, why do you have to interrupt me all the time, I can make up dumb one-liners too, you know?” He grumbled.

“I know you can, buddy,” I nodded sarcastically and pat him on the shoulder. He was a couple years younger than me and I’d always teased him when he got too cocky for his own good. But the play stopped there as we emerged from the corn and stepped onto the broken asphalt of the mall parking lot. I felt the energy shift immediately like the air had grown cold. I looked up to see a human boy in a grey hoodie as he approached a bright green car in the middle of the lot and took something silver out of his pocket. They weren’t keys. I could tell by the way he scanned the parking lot that the car did not belong to him. With a closer look, I could see what he was holding. They looked like an industrial pair of scissors. He was going towards the brake lines. I should have kept my mouth shut and let him go about his business. But I’ve never been good at that.

 "Hey! Kid! What do you think you’re doing!?" I shouted. "Hey! Back off, man! Get out of here!" I ran towards him a little to scare him off. He got up and quickly took off running across the parking lot. He looked back a few times to make sure I wasn't following him. I stopped running once he had reached the other side of the lot. I took a look around; the few other people moving around the lot had stopped what they were doing to stare are the commotion and now they were looking at me. I didn’t care. They’d get bored and move on soon. There were a few seconds of tense silence and then. . .

 "What the Hell was that for?!" Chase gaped at me as I turned around.

 “He was trying to cut that guys brake lines! He could have killed whoever the belongs to!”

 Chase gave me an incredulous look. "So what? Why do we care? We don’t know the guy. He obviously had it out for whoever owns that car, I bet he had it coming! He probably deserves a little scare.”

 "What do you mean ‘Why do I care?’ because it’s illegal and someone could get hurt!" I looked back at him, hard.

 "He could get hurt, or more likely, the cars just gonna roll backwards and get dented when he turns it on,” Chase argued. “And what are you trying to say? I’ve done illegal things before. Hell, one or two people have gotten hurt before, and they definitely had it coming. But they recovered. You think I’m a bad person?”  

 My hand went to my forehead and I sighed. He wasn’t the best of people. He was reckless and acted before thinking about what would happen to the people around him. He was chaotic and loud. But these things are typical of dark angels. Some fights you gotta give up. "We've been over this, Chase, you were a kid, we all made mistakes when we were kids. But you don’t have to be that person now, you can find better things to do with your time.”

 "Maybe I wanna be ‘that person,’” He retorted. “Maybe I don’t see anything wrong with that.” He stepped up to me puffing out his chest. I knew he was looking to pick a fight, dark angels have a habit of it, but I wasn’t in the mood.

“I’m not gonna fight you, Chase.” I took a step back. I could feel the anger stirring my blood but I didn’t want to push him.

“Whatever, man,” he scowled. "Go home. I don't wanna go in there with you anymore, you're just being stupid."

 I jumped as that anger flashed it’s way forward and took control of my tongue. "Oh, I’m being stupid?" I pointed at him. "You're the one trying to hook up with a human! Man, you know how much trouble that could get you in?”

 "Oh for fuck’s sake!" He droned, rocking back on his heels and rolling his head along with his eyes. "There you go again! Trouble trouble trouble! We’re angels, man, who cares about trouble? We’ll survive it! We always do. You know if you care so much about following the rules maybe you should be a white angel! Isn't that all they do? Follow rules and fight crime and shit!" He spat. In our community that was a low blow. White angels don’t have good standings among dark angels and for good reason.

 "Hey, you know that's not me! I’m a proud dark angel, always will be, okay!" I shouldn’t get so defensive about something like that, I’d met my share of the so-called “pure ones.” Some of them are exactly like the stories the Old Ones tell. . . some of them.

"Oh sure, just because you were the son of a Guardsman you think you’re all high and mighty and shit, right?"

I glared at him, bunching my fists. He should know better than to bring up my father, but he mistook the source of my anger.

"Oh, oops, I'm sorry," he put his hand on his chest in a plastic apology. "I didn't mean to use a 'bad wooord.'” I took a deep breath and growled through the frustration. Chase could be a real petty piece of shit when he wanted to be.  

"Oh you know what? I don't care! Why should it matter to me? Go! Just go fuck your stupid human girl then! You’ll get her killed, but why do you care as long as you’re having fun!"

I watched his face turn bright red. Great. Now I’d made it even worse. I hated my own temper and I hadn’t even wanted to come here in the first place.

"The fuck do you think I am, Victor? I’d never actually hurt her! Just because you played your games with human girls doesn’t mean it’s I’m doing it with her!”

"Hey! I told you those days are over, man, I'm done getting people involved and you know that!" He was hitting all the stops today. Chase knew I wasn't proud of my past and the, so-called “games” I used to play. There was a long pause and a tense moment of silence between us filled only with our heavy breaths. Then he spoke in a much quieter tone.

"Yeah, I do know that. And you know what? Sometimes I wish you still would. Just so you would do something fun again."

" I explained as calmly as I could. He didn't know what I knew about the "games" we all used to play. He didn’t know who had given me the idea in the beginning. Or why.

your lame idea of living life and play it safe. And me and Tattoo Baby are gonna have lots of fun." He boasted. “And I’m gonna take risks and push the rules like a real dark angel!” I rubbed my face with my hands. He had no idea the risk I took every day just by being here. He couldn’t know. I wanted this to end.

"Oh fuck you, you fucking child! You know what? Fuck you!" I shook my head at him and he turned towards the mall leaving me standing there, attempting to even out my breathing. I took that as an invitation to leave. Letting out a final breath, I turned and jumped into the air, my head too swarmed to remember to look over my shoulder. Once I was high enough, I went on autopilot. I stretched my wings out and let my eyes close. I let myself glide along and feel weightless.

But the weightless feeling didn't last long. I’d only been flying maybe ten minutes before I hit something that knocked the breath out of me and I crashed in a flurry of black, white and red. I was knocked out of the air and fell fast towards the grey roofs of the inner city buildings. At least I had the good sense to open my wings again to slow my fall. I managed to land somewhat roughly with my feet on the ground in a back alley behind a department store. Instinctively, I looked around for whatever it was that hit me.

Rubbing my shoulder, I turned around to find what looked like a mound of dirty white feathers. My first thought was that someone had chucked a downy pillow out the window. But after looking a few moments longer I saw it for real, a pile of wings, ripped fabric, and red hair. A white angel.

I stared, frozen for what seemed like minutes. It had been a few long years since I’d been this close to one. I suddenly found myself very glad Chase wasn’t with me. For most dark angels, running into a “Pure” is a big deal, and never a good deal. They don’t come down to Earth much, besides the occasional “dispatch angels,” or “mercenaries,” as we called them. And when they did show up, they were either to be avoided at all costs or brought to the boss immediately.  Most dark angels would have hissed in anger, some angels, the older ones, usually more traditional, might have kicked at the heap or spit on the unuckly traveller. But in case it isn’t abundantly clear already, I'm not like most dark angels. I drew closer.

 “Shit, hey, are you… okay?” The girl let out a small whimper that turned into a wince of pain. I knelt down next to one ruffed, dusty wing. It sat at an awkward angle to the ground, bending in a way that could only mean it’d been broken. I squeezed my hands at my side. I wasn’t sure what to do. The bones would heal this way if she didn’t fix it and the girl wasn’t moving. I sighed to myself and I reached out to open it and lay it flat on the ground.

“Ah! What are you doing!” She shot at me from behind the arch of her wing. My hand jumped back to my side. With a fluidity I didn’t see very often, she turned herself over on the ground and propped her knees beneath her to glare at me. She was half way searched me. They were so green so bright, and clear. Not filled with hazy hatred or judgement. Just. . . pure curiosity, and maybe shock.  

I closed my eyes and turned my attention back to her broken wing, reaching for it slowly this time. “You need to try to open your wing or it’ll set wrong.” I explained as calmly as I could. I tried to guide her wing out to a more natural position. She yelped as I pushed down a broken bone. Then in a flurry, she shot up and pulled her wing from my grasp clutching it against her body as if hiding some kind of secret among her disheveled feathers. I raised my hands in surrender and gave her a cautious look.

 She hid her body behind her good wing, peering over the side of it. I watched her inquiring jade eyes scan first my face, then my dark apparel, and finally my coal black wings, set half open and ready for any sudden need.

 “You- you’re a dark angel?” She examined.

 “Yeah,” I answered matter-of-factly, flicking my wings once and closing them into peaks behind my shoulders. “Looks that way.”

 “I’m not supposed to be talking to your kind.” She said, suddenly remembering the rule that had been imprinted into her mind over the years. But she had yet to move away.  

 “My kind?” I tried to laugh, not entirely sure whether that was meant to be an insult or not. I’ve heard it said in every which way before. “What do you mean ‘my kind’? I’m an angel, same as you.” I explained lightly. We were different though, and others would have fought much harder to make that clear. A hammer somewhere in the back of my head tried to crack its way forward with a sharp warning. I should go, now, before this conversation went any further. I feared I’d already found my way back to old habits. She was still watching me. I decided I’d curse myself for it later.

“No,” She corrected, standing up and brushing off her sensible white skirt. “You’re a dark angel. And dark angels are cruel and cold and chaotic and always getting into trouble.” The way she said it sounded as if she was reciting from some ancient textbook. I thought about it as she stomped past me, her footsteps echoed against the flagstones. I couldn’t argue with that last part. Dark angels are natural

. An inherent distaste for rules, or being told what to do is supposedly wired into our DNA. But still, it stung.

 “Hey!” I called after her. “Just because I’m a dark angel, doesn’t make me ‘cold and cruel.’” I followed her as she paced.

 “Well I haven’t met one who isn’t,” She shot back.

I laughed once. “Have you ever met any dark angels before?” I looked at her pointedly. She immediately paused in her pacing and turned her body to me, eyes on her scuffed, sandal clad feet.

 “No,” She spoke quietly.

 “Well then there you go,” I shoved my hands into my back pockets and sat back on my heels. Something about the way she stood, looking out to the street and back down the alley, feet dragging through the dirt, struck something in me. I pushed it aside. “Now, you’ve met one, and a decent one at that,” sometimes. I told her, leaving out the last part that pushed at my thoughts. “You’re just lucky you didn’t run into Lou.” I thought aloud. This would be a much shorter story if she had.

 “Who’s Lou?” She asked, lifting her head to look at me again.

 “He’s the head guy down here,” I told her. “He runs the place, manages the city security and keeps track of

everybody and all.

 “Oh,” she sighed. I watched her for a moment as she stood there rocking back on her heels. She kicked at a rock with her toe and continued her look onward and then back the way she’d come. Then it hit me.

 “You’re not supposed to be here, are you?” I asked quietly.

She shook her head. “Of course not!”

“Yeah, but I mean, no one knows you’re here? No one sent you.”

She froze. I took another step towards her.

“You were flying pretty fast there. You headed any place specific?” Another shake of the head. “So you’ve got nowhere to go?” It was supposed to be a question but came out more a plain dull statement. I knew the answer anyway.

 “No,” She answered. It was almost a whisper. “But I’ll figure it out, I always do.” She began to walk away again.

I didn’t think about what to say next. I just said it. Once again, I should have kept my mouth shut and left her to figure things out on her own. But there was the ever present possibility, that whatever else happened to her could be far worse than me. It was a royally stupid idea.

 “Why don’t you come with me then?” I offered her my hand. “I can get you cleaned up and I know someone who can properly set that wing.” She examined her wing, flexing it and cringing at the pain. I could almost feel the discomfort myself. “Come on, you can’t really go anywhere until you get that fixed anyway. It’s not safe to walk around like that,” I reminded her. She glared at my hand, and I watched as she eyed it cautiously, as if just the touch of my skin would shock her. My skin wouldn’t harm her, but my tears would, my blood, my sweat, my spit, they were like acid to a white angel, just like hers would be to me. I hated the thought.

 I was about to drop my hand when, hesitantly, she reached out and took it. She kept quiet for a moment, examining it, studying my touch.

I wasn’t sure what to do but watch her. After a few seconds I coughed to break the awkwardness. “Okay. Good,” I nodded in approval and began to walk back down the alleyway where there was more cover. I dropped her hand again after I was sure she’d follow me. “Now, we’re gonna have to fly there if we want to make it before night-fall. So you’ll have to use your other wing, okay?”

 She stopped for a moment, and her eyebrows shot up. “You expect me to be able to fly like this?” She asked, exasperated, wincing for effect.

I huffed. “You only broke one of them, you can still use the other,” I laughed slightly at her frightened expression. Dark angels were known for rough housing and broken wings were fairly common so they flew cooperatively all the time.

 “But I’ll crash!” She argued. “Or I’ll fly crooked at the least!”

 “Well that’s why you’ll be holding on to me,” I explained. “Now, come on.” I pulled her towards me, wrapping an arm around her waist so as not to let her fall. I kicked off the ground and pumped towards the sky. She didn’t jump on time at the takeoff and soon I was carrying all of her weight. She wasn’t heavy but it made the flying harder. We were beginning to drop.

 “Open your wing,” I told her as calmly as I could.

 “What?”

“Your right wing! Open it on the count of three.” Briefly I wondered what kind of mess we must have looked like to the humans on the ground. I’d been told dark angels looked like ravens in flight to humans. I started to count. “One.three!” On three she opened her wing and I folded mine into my shoulder. And just like that we stopped struggling and started gliding, each of us controlling one wing.

I looked over at her face. Her eyes were wide in a panic that shortly changed to bewilderment as she scanned the city skyline. It was nearing evening and the street lights were beginning to ignite one by one, emerging like fireflies beneath us. I loved flying at this time of night, but I’d still been known to take it for granted.

 "You've never even been out of the gates have you?" I asked her, studying her marvelled expression.

"No," she answered, as if it was a silly question to ask. "But I wish I had. It's beautiful out here." She sounded surprised as she took in every inch we could see. She was right. It really was beautiful from this high up. It was every dark angels preferred mode of transportation for a lot of reasons.

"They really make sure to keep you all caged up up there, don't they?" I asked without thinking, although I already knew it was true. I wondered how much she knew. She didn't seem to hear me. She kept on staring at the city lights. I continued to watch her and a moment later she closed her eyes and let the wind blow her hair back over her shoulders while I guided us the right direction.

I didn't really realize the significance of it then. I didn't even think about it. It was like falling back into old patterns, easy and comfortable. I looked again at her naiveté, her smile and her hair, her free arm stretched out underneath her wing, opening her fingers to feel the cushion of air slip through. . .and I felt an old sense of dread creep it’s way in.

 

 We landed with a jolt and I heard the girl beside me hiss. I could tell her wing had already set wrong. Angels heal faster than average and the main support bone pushed against her skin. I was surprised it hadn’t pierced it.

 The Girl I thought, shaking my head. I hadn’t even thought to ask her name.

 “I’m Victor, by the way,” I introduced myself, ruffling and resetting my wings. She looked up at me wide-eyed, head not quite down from the clouds. The expression on her face looked like the one my dad used to tell me I had when I was learning to fly. The sleepless shadows under her eyes dropped me back into the present.

 “Lani,” she half-smiled, offering me one of her hands. I took it and gave it a quick shake and a curt smile, before turning to continue the short walk to our destination. “Lani Peterson.” She added.

 “Okay,” I nodded. She looked at me as if waiting to hear more. “What?” I asked, giving her a side glance.

“Don’t you have a last name?”

 I shook my head with a laugh. “Nope.”

“How do you not have a last name?” her bewildered voice sounded at my shoulder.  

“It’s a tradition,” I started to explain. “When dark angels come of age they choose their own names. Some choose a last name, I guess, but most don’t. It gives us a chance to be unique.” I explained.

“Oh. That’s interesting,” She mused. “We don’t even really go by nicknames.”

 “Seriously?” I laughed at her. “That’s bullshit. I think you should have a choice in what you call yourself.”

She flinched slightly when I said  it. “Don’t say things like that,” she blamed. She cupped each of her elbows with the opposite hands.

 “Jeez, sorry, I’m surprised you even know what a cuss word is,” I joked.

 She stopped, and when I turned around she gave me a very cold look, but there was something else to it too. “I know a lot more than you might think.” I blinked, She held my gaze for a few seconds more and then began to walk off.

 “Skids’ place is this way actually,” I stopped her, pointing a thumb over my shoulder at the two looming rusted double gates propped open in front of the cemetery.

 “Who?” She turned back to me confused. Her solid arms still crossed over her chest.

 “Skidmark,” I explained. “He’ll fix your wing and give you something clean and dry to wear.”

 She looked at me sideways. It was giving me whiplash, watching her decide whether or not to trust me. “How do I know you’re not trying to trick me? How do I know you’re not going to grab me and lock me up or burn me or something?”

 “Jesus, what are they teaching you about dark angels up there?” I laughed it off. I thought I’d heard all of the offensive things they could make up about us, but her words still surprised me. Maybe they hurt for a different reason too. But as I remembered, I hadn’t exactly hit the mark at first either. There was a learning curve.

 “Anything I’d need to know,” She clarified. I could tell by her tone she didn’t entirely believe that herself. “So what makes you think I’m going anywhere with you?”

I stuffed my hands into my front pockets, and folded my wings up into points behind my head. I shrugged, deciding that she was going to be a difficult case and accepting the challenge. “You’ve got nowhere else to still it was the truth. She’d be eaten alive in the city. “Besides, I got you here okay didn’t I? If I wanted to hurt you, I could have dropped you from a thousand feet in the air, that probably would have done the trick.”

She uncrossed her arms in defeat, and began to shuffle her feet again. I watched her bring her left arm up to rub her fingers up and down her right elbow. A nervous habit I assumed. I thought I saw something on her wrist but she dropped it back to her side when she caught me staring. I was about to say something else, but then she came back with one last attempt to keep herself.

“I can take care of myself, you know,” she told me. “I’ll find some place quiet to stay, get food from a grocery store.”

 “With what money?” I asked pointedly. “You wouldn’t steal it, would you?” It came out harsher than I meant for it too and I hoped she wouldn’t think it was another dig. “Look, I don’t doubt your resourcefulness, okay? And if you really think you can make it out here, in a city you’ve never been to, among people you have no real experience with, then I’ll let you go. Hell, I’ll give you a twenty to start you off,” I told her. “But it takes a little more than a place to sleep and some food to survive down here.”

There was a flicker of contempt in her bright eyes and then she looked away again, weighing her options. If she really wanted to go, I knew I should let her, but the instincts I’d been raised with fought that decision. So I gave it one more go. “Look, I know a thing or two about white angel curriculum. I know they don’t really teach you how to take care of yourselves, and they do that for a reason, Red.” I told her as she ran nervous fingers through her bright red hair. I wondered where she got a color like that from up there. It took her a second to register the reference.

 “Don’t call me ‘Red’,” she snapped. “I have a name.”

 “Come on,” I tried to change the subject.  “At least let me fix your wing for you and then you can do whatever you want. It’s the least I can do.

 She didn’t take as long this time to decide she could trust me. I could tell this girl was easily charged by her emotions but at least she was sensible when she needed to be.

 “Okay,” she sighed.

“Good. Follow me.”

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 


© Copyright 2019 Mica L. Rich. All rights reserved.

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