St. Louis. The city by the river. City of the Blues. The Arch, Gateway to the West,
perched on the edge of the Mississippi. It was August, tail-end of summer. Hot, 40
percent humidity. Omari thought back to the events of last summer, and thought that
she’d take this real heat over the kind of heat she endured last year. Still, she missed the
breeze coming off the ocean, the smell of the salt. And she missed Noah.
Omari had flown into St. Louis for an AVMA conference. Last year she had
foregone any regular attendances, and she had blown off one lecture date in San Diego
without any notice. The reason she had skipped out had been valid, proven by extensive
news coverage regarding the events that had changed her life, but they hadn’t been happy
anyway. And her continuing education credits were due if she wanted to renew her
license. She had to go.
So she had left Noah in Santa Cruz. He was back working in the ER, fulfilling his
duty to keep his spot on staff in the actual hospital. No big deal, she told herself. It was
only a week, but she had this sneaky mushy feeling creeping in as she thought of
spending the week alone. They had been nearly inseparable for the last year, and she was
amazed at how strongly she was reacting to the division. At least there was someone to
watch Lotus so she didn’t have to stay in the kennel at work.
She was tired, and glad that the conference didn’t begin until tomorrow. The
security line at the airport had been horrendous, and her last minute flight had three long
layovers, one lasting nearly two hours. Omari was irritated by commercial flights. You
were shoved in this ridiculous peapod of a plane and forced to sit next to a bunch of
smelly and irritated passengers. Furthermore, she either had to purchase additional seats
so she could relax the muscles in her back, or keep her wings folded and cramped behind
her. Either way, it made her cranky.
On that particular trip she had to choose the former option—no other seats were
available. The people were next to her were angry because her wings kept creeping into
their personal space. She couldn’t blame them. She didn’t like her wings touching
strangers anymore than strangers liked being touched by them.
Relieved to be in the hotel room at last, Omari dumped her bags on the floor and
fell back onto the bed. She stared up at the ceiling and enjoyed the silence. Something
about the irony of someone with wings being stuck on a jetliner was almost humorous to
her as she lay on the bed, inhaling that particular smell that hotels have. The smell of
plastic and cigarette smoke, the lingering scent of other people that clings to the carpet.
If Omari had her way, she would have flown herself, but Noah preferred if she
didn’t. He said the idea of her traveling wide expanses of the country by herself, camping
at random places when she needed to rest, or staying at some seedy hotel in Podunk,
Nowhere did not exactly make him feel secure. She was flattered that he cared so much,
and she couldn’t blame him for feeling nervous at the idea of a long solo flight. She
didn’t have the best track record where safety was concerned.
Another irritating new airline rule was the inability to have any carry-on luggage.
Especially anything liquid. New concerns regarding explosives that could be hidden in
water bottles had prompted the permanent ban of any liquids on commercial flights, and
had temporarily, at least she hoped only temporarily, caused the ban of any carry-on item
outside of baby formula. She understood the need for security, but the lines it was
creating to get through security were positively monstrous. That also meant that there was
nothing to eat on board beyond what the airline provided. Since she switched flights so
many times, none of them were long enough to provide any kind of a meal. Not that she
would probably have wanted to sample any such...tasty vittles, but it had been hours since
the snack she had grabbed in the terminal during the one extended layover.
With a long sigh she got up from the bed and stepped into the bathroom. She
looked as harried as she felt. Whatever makeup she had been wearing was smudged away
and her ankle length hair blond hair looked stringy and frazzled. It felt like the devil was
sticking a pitch fork in her stomach, not so subtly reminding her how quickly she became
hypoglycemic when she didn’t eat frequently. High metabolism. But she decided to take
a shower anyway. Nothing quite like a nice hot shower to erase tension from the travel
She closed her eyes and let the water fall across her face. Still ravenous, but
feeling better, she toweled off and got dressed again. She made a token attempt at drying
off her hair, but she had so much of it that she just put it up in a braid after getting most
of the excess moisture out of it. She only bothered with a token amount of make up, and
stepped out of the bathroom.
Back in the larger area of the main room, she flapped her wings once to shake the
rest of the water out of her feathers. The burst of wind ruffled the phone book sitting on
one of the tables and sent a notepad sailing to the floor. She grabbed a small purse and
nearly dashed through the door without a room key. She retrieved the small plastic card
from the dresser stand and left the room.
Once in the lobby, she realized that she really wasn’t dressed for the formal
restaurant in the hotel. She thought about eating there anyway just because it was close.
Then she saw a sign on the wall announcing the dress code. She looked down at her jean
shorts, flip flops, and tank top. Yeah, definitely not cutting it. And she wasn’t exactly
inconspicuous, being the only person in the lobby sporting white wings. What’s a girl to
She sauntered up to the front desk and asked the attendant for advice on some
place quick but good to eat. He was wearing a nice suit, but it looked too big for him; he
seemed too young to even be working the front desk, like a boy dressed up in his father’s
suit. He was probably actually in college. He looked her up and down as discreetly as he
could manage, taking in her casual appearance, and no doubt her ample breasts.
“If you walk down the street, there’s a place called Malachi’s. It’s a bar and grill.
If you’re into those kinds of places,” he added hastily, remembering that he was at work
and he needed to use his manners. Use his “inside voice” his Mommy had probably told
him when he was a kid.
Omari was tempted to give him a sarcastic answer, somewhere along the lines of,
“So I look like a girl who likes a good bar, huh?” but she held the comment in check.
Over the last year she had managed to get her emotions under much better control. She
thought Noah had a great deal to do with that. He had this way of leading by example,
never criticizing her for any of her faults.
“Thanks,” was all she actually said. She walked through the revolving doors and
left the lobby.
It was dark outside now, but still hot. When you lived on the coast of California,
no matter how hot it got during the day, it always cooled off at night. Not in St. Louis. It
was still almost as hot and every bit as humid as it had been when the sun was shining. It
surprised Omari, and she was suddenly glad to be wearing her cool, if possibly
The hotel she was staying at, which was also hosting the convention itself, was in
a western suburb of the city. The hotel was the largest building in the immediate area,
sticking out of its dusty surroundings like tall saguaro cactus in the desert. She looked
down the street and saw a small enclave of buildings, one of which she could see was
crowded with cars and people gathering outside. That must be Malachi’s.
Still slightly damp from the shower, the humidity was high enough that instead of
evaporating the rest of the moisture, the atmosphere served only to cover her with an
even thicker sheen of wet. She walked down the sidewalk, hearing music getting louder
and louder as she approached the bar. She could see immediately that it was a nice
enough place, despite the rowdy group patronizing it. There were tables out front where
some people were sitting and others were dancing to the country music spilling out the
front door. It made her think of Noah again.
She looked at her watch and knew that Noah would still be at work, wouldn’t
answer the phone if she called him. She had called him when she first got into St. Louis
several hours ago, before she had waded through the tides of travelers and retrieved her
baggage that had accidentally been put on another flight’s carousel. Before she had spent
an even longer time waiting for a taxi to take her to the hotel. It should have been enough,
but she wanted to hear his voice again.
She breached the edge of the mass of people surrounding Malachi’s, and suddenly
felt like she was engulfed by the swell of the music. Most of the people seemed too drunk
to notice her, but a few were staring pointedly. She wondered if it was the first time they
had ever seen someone that was Feathered. She was too hungry to care. Oddly, there was
more space inside than there was outside. She squeezed through the door way, almost
stumbling, and suddenly found herself with five fold the personal space. It was quieter
too. The music had mainly been coming from speakers mounted outside.
Most of the people were at the bar, leaving an assortment of empty wrought iron
tables in the sparsely decorated room. A single candle and a menu sat on top of each table.
She sat down at one further away from the door, where it was a little quieter. She was
tired and not really in the mood for any kind of celebration. She was surprised by the
kinds of items offered on the menu, not your usual bar fare. It sported items such as
linguini with lemon and artichokes, and crème brulee. But Omari wasn’t hungering for
anything fancy, and selected the club sandwich with French fries.
While waiting for a waitress to come by and take her order she stared at the odd
row of fat Christmas lights stapled around the perimeter of the ceiling. She thought the
place was strange with its mixture of seedy bar grunge and upscale sheik. The nearly bare
wooden walls, the primary color Christmas lights, next to decorative wrought iron tables
with their tasteful candles, and an amazingly clean oriental rug covering the entire floor.
And not a dart board or karaoke machine in sight.
A nice waitress introduced herself as Mandy and took her order. She added two
pints of red ale, brewed on the premises according to the menu. Why not? Good beer was
never a bad thing. She thought the woman’s eyes lingered on her for a moment longer
than they should have. Not a stare, but she felt physically touched by her gaze. The
woman looked ready to ask her something, but turned towards the kitchen and left instead.
Omari shook off the strange feeling.
While waiting for her food, she played absently with her cell phone, wishing
silently that it would ring, but knowing it wouldn’t. Noah was busy, and there was no one
else that would be calling. The thought made her depressed, and she fought against it
without much success.
There was a commotion at the door. The swell of people currently hobnobbing
outside seemed to be pressing at the entrance.
“Francesca is here!” someone said.
She heard more shouts along the same lines. Someone named Francesca was here,
and apparently she was popular. Omari threw her head back and stared at the ceiling,
letting her hunger and travel weariness get the better of her. Now her relative peace was
about to be destroyed. If she hadn’t been so stubborn, she could have just gone back up to
her room, put on some nicer clothes, and had dinner at the hotel. Alone at the hotel. She
closed her eyes and tried to stop being so negative.
When she opened them, she had to blink a few times to make sure she wasn’t
imagining things. She shook her head back and forth a few times. People were quickly
surrounding her table, increasing the noise, heat, and claustrophobia faster than Omari
would have thought possible. On top of the bar was a Feathered person, but none like
Omari had ever seen before. She was little. Very little, maybe not even breaking five feet
by the look of her. She had her short curly black hair pulled back from her face in a
ponytail, revealing features that managed to be petite and strong at the same time. Her
lips were smudged with a dark maroon color, she wore dark jeans and blue sequined
halter top. Her wings were black, matching the color of her hair, and seemed even larger
than they really were because of her small stature.
Omari stood up and stared at her, not really sure what to do or say. She realized
she was being as slack jawed and asinine as the strangers she usually found gawking at
her. Next to the petite woman, Omari positively felt like a horse. A big horse, a
Clydesdale even. This was St. Louis after all, home off the Budweiser Clydesdale team.
This must be Francesca, she thought. She sat back down, and could still see
Francesca dancing on the bar, serving drinks to the rowdy bunch carousing beneath her.
Omari tried to ignore them, but they had enveloped her table like a squirming blanket full
of bed bugs. And she couldn’t help but try to catch glimpses of Francesca.
Her food was delivered and she momentarily forgot about the diminutive figure of
Francesca bouncing and flying about the bar more like a pixie than an angel. She tore into
the sandwich and oversized glass of beer with complete concentration. It was good, but
she didn’t stop to savor the tastes. Her sandwich and the beer were gone before Omari
knew it. The waitress came by to check on her, and stopped mid-sentance when she saw
both her glass and her plate lying empty.
“Can I get you anything else?” she asked.
“Yeah, you can fill ‘er up again. And how about another plate of fries?”
“You got it.” She paused clearly torn about her next choice of words. “So, are you
a friend of Francesca’s?”
Omari could see the tension in the friendly girl’s face. At least she had the sense
to think that there may be a possibility that just because Omari and Francesca both had
wings, that they might not be friends. Because of that, Omari wasn’t mad at her for
asking. She might have asked the same thing if the roles were reversed. She was glad that
she had gained enough patience to think of that possibility, contain that unnecessary
“No, actually. I’m not from around here. I’m in town on business.” It sounded like
such a trite statement to her: here for business. Definitely in need of more beer. She
didn’t like feeling like a pompous jerk.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean anything by it, but I just thought you might be friends or
something,” she said, clearly flustered.
“Don’t be. It is an unusual coincidence, I will admit. So how about that beer?”
“Coming right up.”
When Mandy came back, she still seemed embarrassed. She dumped the fries and
beer on the table without saying anything. After scarfing the second batch of fries, and
making a dent in the beer, the crowd starting getting to Omari again. She would have just
gotten up and walked away, but something made her stay. She wanted to talk to
Francesca. When Mandy sauntered by again, weaving through the mass of people, she
noticed she had come through another door. A back door. And before it closed, she
though she caught a glimpse of moonlight, a slice peeking through the crack.
“Hey,” she called. “Is there another patio?”
Mandy hesitated. “Yes. But people don’t usually sit back there. It’s…not that nice,
“That’s exactly what I want,” Omari said.
She stood, taking her beer and leaving the empty fry platter. Her wings brushed
strangers, and she didn’t care for the way it felt; each touch acid to her decomposing
nerves that alcohol wouldn’t quell.
On her course through the swarm, she meandered closer to the bar. Her eyes
locked with Francesca’s. The petite woman didn’t pause in her dancing, not one inch of
her performance veneer cracking. But there was a moment, and they both felt it. Omari
wasn’t leaving without talking to this woman.
Mandy held open the back door for her. She stepped onto a dilapidated patio that
had seen better days. Cracked flagstones were all but lost in tall grass and weeds. A few
of the same iron table sets that decorated the interior were rusting away, sitting askew at
odd angles, pushed up by the untamed grass. These tables had sad umbrellas shooting up
from their centers, their fabric faded and torn, the green stripes on the white canvas just a
memory claimed by the sun. One bright and abrasive halogen bulb shone down like a
spotlight onto the mess. A few pots, also cracked and choked with weeds protruded from
the wilderness, a sad attempt at landscaping long forgotten. Cigarette butts littered the
concrete strip that lay just in front of the grass. It was ugly for sure, but fantastically quiet
compared to the inside of the place.
“You sure you want to sit here?” Mandy said.
“Definitely. Just bring me another one of these.” She jangled her now glass, now
half empty (not half full by her accounts.)
Mandy jammed a brick in the doorway before leaving. “Don’t move this, or you’ll
be locked out,” she said.
Omari nodded, but didn’t really care. She could fly over the fence to escape if
really necessary. She sat down at one of the tables that looked the most upright and stable.
The silence felt good, like cool water on a burn, for the first few moments. Then it hit her
like a third world bus full of screaming chickens and pigs. She was alone, isolating
herself, drinking like the year’s grain crops were blighted and this might be the last
chance to get her fill; she was depressed. Damned depressed.
And there was no real reason for it. She was in the best relationship of her life,
and he was waiting for her at home. She was a prestigious speaker at the AVMA
conference. She had survived a year of harrowing events and emerged unscathed on the
other side. She had also emerged an unconvicted murderer and bereft of any friends
outside of Noah. And she was pissed off that she wasn’t getting drunk. The same strange
metabolism that made her prone to hypoglycemia also processed out alcohol and other
potential intoxicants with alacrity.
Why don’t I just go back to the hotel? She thought. But somehow the idea of
being alone in a hotel room was even more unpleasant than sitting alone on the neglected
patio of Malachi’s. She barely noticed when Mandy came out and dropped off another
towering mug of beer. It was good because her other glass was now empty, and she
hadn’t even felt the first touch of the alcohol yet. She sat there caught in those vicious
cyclic thought patterns that self pity can put you in, staring at her surroundings,
wondering if there was ever a time when the patio had been beautiful and stuffed with
inebriated partygoers. She listened to tendrils of music and the buzz of too many people
talking at once floating through the door crack.
“So, what’s your name, honey?” The voice was deep, but still feminine. She heard
the door shut behind her. Omari knew who it was before she finished turning around. The
petite figure of Francesca leaned against the doorway, puffing on a cigarette.
Omari smiled, and she wasn’t sure why. Perhaps it was Francesca’s stature which
was so at odds with her powerful voice and presence.
“Omari,” she said and didn’t rise. The two studied each other for a moment.
Francesca’s gaze was aggressive, sizing Omari up like a man.
“So what brings you to St. Louis?” Francesca asked.
“How do you know I don’t live here?”
“Honey, I know all the Feathered that live in this city, and you ain’t one of them.”
She threw her head up and blew a long plume of smoke into the air.
“You a FLAI member?” Omari asked.
FLAI stood for Feathered Living Advancement International, pronounced “fly” of
course. As the acronym suggested it was an organization devoted to the rights and
liberties of Feathered people. People with the genetic Icarus syndrome that exhibited
various characteristics, but all had one thing in common: they had wings. Her former
friend Lana had been an active member. Omari’s lip twitched a little when she thought of
Lana and repressed vengeful feelings. She could almost feel the physical memory of
running her fingers along the scar tissue on Noah’s legs. Those raised marks on his body
were Lana’s fault, and Omari had to purposefully shove the images of love and betrayal
and fire from her mind. She was in the middle of a conversation.
“Hell no. You think they want a Feathered bartender in FLAI? Not a chance. They
don’t care that I happen to own the bar.”
“Yeah that doesn’t surprise me. They’re always trying to get me to join, but I
can’t stand their prejudice in that respect.”
“So wuddayou do, if FLAI is so desperate to get their meat hooks into ya?”
Francesca said with an arched eyebrow.
“Nothing too special. I’m a veterinarian. That is, as a matter of fact, what brings
me to St. Louis.” Of course, there were other reasons FLAI wanted Omari in their
“AVMA conference at the hotel down the road,” Francesca said knowingly.
Omari studied her for a moment. Francesca had known who she was all along. If she did
indeed keep such good tabs on all the Feathered personnel in the city, then it would not
have escaped her attention that a feathered person would be making an appearance at a
large conference just around the corner. It probably also didn’t hurt that she had spent the
better part of a year plastered all over the television and newspapers.
“You knew who I was the moment you stepped in tonight and saw me, didn’t
you?” Omari called her out.
“’Course I did. I think every person with a pair of wings in this country knows
who you are.”
Francesca saw the look of slight surprise on Omari’s face as she processed the
reality of strangers in other states being able to recognize her on sight.
“Never really thought about what a mini-celebrity you’ve become, didja?”
Francesca said as she ground the spent cigarette into the concrete. The stub lay like a
corpse in a war zone among the other squashed butts.
“Guess not,” Omari said, and wanted to change the subject. “So you own this
“So why’s it called Malachi’s and not Francesca’s?”
“Malachi was my Dad’s name. He opened this place, and I kept going when he
passed away. Family business and all. I coulda gone to school and done all that like you
did, but you’ve gotta be true to your family. And it’s not so bad. You get to make people
happy, take away their pain for a short period of time.”
You gotta be true to your family. As far as Omari was concerned, she didn’t have
a family. She didn’t have any reply for Francesca, afraid of what might come out of her
mouth. She nodded succinctly to let Francesca know she understood.
“Aren’t you going to ask why I’m so small?” Francesca said and crossed one leg
over the other, still leaning against the building. Her fingers were restless, like they
wanted to be holding another cigarette. The sequins on her shirt caught stray flashes of
light, throwing small rainbows onto the pavement.
“No, it’s none of my business,” Omari replied.
“But you’d like to know anyway, wouldn’t you?”
“I’ll show you mine if you show me yours,” Omari said and grinned.
“Not like there’s much to tell. I just caught a stray hint of dwarfism, that’s all. My
hair doesn’t grow long like most of ya’ll either, and I lost out on the super intelligence.
But I got these nifty black wings in the bargain.”
“Are you strong?” Omari asked.
Francesca ran her tongue around her lips once and strutted over to one of the
umbrella poles. She picked it up, and snapped the steel pole in half with out a second
thought, without any effort. She held up the two pieces, a rebellious smirk on her face.
“Well I suppose that answers that question,” Omari said. “I’ll remember not to
challenge you to an arm wrestling contest.”
“I’m the strongest of any Feathered I’ve ever met. Ironic, huh? God
“So, you ready to see St. Louis?”
“What makes you think I haven’t already?”
“Honey, if you’d seen St. Louis like you’re supposed to, you wouldn’t have that
look stuck on your face.”
Without another word, Francesca launched into the air, her black wings
disappearing into the night. Omari stood and stared up with her, one hand resting on the
table, a physical and mental anchor.
“Well, what are you waiting for!” Francesca called.
With one last bit of hesitation, Omari jumped into the night after Francesca. Her
black hair and wings melted into the darkness, her presence in the sky belied only by a
stray flash of sequin. As always, Omari felt a rush of pleasure as she sailed through the
air, stream lining her body in an attempt to catch up with Francesca. Her small body
seemed to shoot through the air, Omari fighting to keep up with her as they hurtled over
old brick buildings and shimmied between intrusive skyscrapers.
Following Francesca’s lead, she touched down and took a seat atop the Gateway
arch overlooking the Mississippi. The view of the city from that vantage was spectacular,
and she thought of how the arch was a great deal bigger up close than she had imagined.
“It really is nice up here,” Omari said.
“You spend your whole life here, in St. Louis?”
“Pretty much. Never really had much of an urge to leave. You find your niche,
and then it becomes a groove, and before you know it you’ve dug yourself a nice little
cozy ditch, and you ain’t coming out anytime soon.”
Omari made a face. “Being stuck in a ditch doesn’t sound very pleasant.”
“All just depends on your perspective. If there’s a tornado going overhead, then
curling up in a ditch is just the right place to be.”
“Guess I just never thought of it that way.”
“So, how about you? Where’s your ditch?”
“California, Santa Cruz. I was born in Georgia actually. Dad was in the army. We
moved to California when I was too young to remember. I always just thought it was
because Dad was transferred to Fort Ord in Monteray. But I know that’s not true. Not
completely at least. They moved because of me. They moved so that they could figure
out why their precious baby daughter was born a freak with wings. And profit from it.
Biotech inc was based in San Francisco, so conveniently close to base. Probably felt like
destiny to them.”
“You’re just dripping with sunshine there pal. I take it you never mended fences
“Nope. Seems like I’m better at just knocking the fences over.” She thought of
Lana and still burned with the anger of betrayal. “What about you? Your family?”
“I miss them. They’re pretty much all gone, ‘cept my little sister.”
“Don’t be. They died in a car crash. Hit by a drunk driver no less. A plain,
common way to die.”
“Doesn’t make it any less horrible.”
“That’s just the way life goes sometimes. You make the best of what you’re
handed. When they died, I dropped out of college to run the bar and take care of my little
“How old were you?”
“It was 14 years ago. I was 20.”
“That’s a raw deal you were handed there,” Omari said and frowned.
“Life is usually a raw deal you gotta try and make the best out of.”
They both paused and looked at the Mississippi glowing below in the light of the
“Thanks for taking me up here,” Omari said.
“You looked like you needed the escape. I don’t know about for you, but for most
of us winged folks, just getting up in the air, feeling that wind beneath the feathers is
good enough to perk us up.”
“I have to say I’m no different on that account. So tell me, where in this fabulous
city of yours do you live?”
“No where near it actually. I live on the other side of that mighty river there,”
“Surprising, you’d think you’d want to live closer to your bar.”
“Family farm. We’ve always lived over there. But my sister Gina lives in an
apartment here in the city so that she’s closer to her college. Sometimes if I have a real
late night, cleaning up from a bar fight or something, I’ll buzz on over to her place and
spend the night. And if it’s been a reaaaally long night, then I just hit the hay right there
in the bar’s store room.”
“Always good to have a back up plan.” Omari thought of how many times she’d
just crashed out in her office, or even on top of the big flat x-ray table at work, and she
lived damned close to her work. Sometimes when you just had to get right back up and be
there again in the morning, or there were a bunch of critical patients that needed to be
monitored, it just wasn’t worth going home.
“So how long you fixin’ to stay in town for?” Franceca asked.
“Just for the week, until the conference is over. I got someone waiting back home,
and a veterinary practice that seems to fall apart without me.”
“Oh, got a man in your life, eh?”
“Indeed, he’s an ER doc. Good guy. Nearly got him killed last year in that whole
biotech mess.” Omari bit her lip.
“That’s unfortunate—he’s okay though, right?”
“Pretty much. He’ll have burn scars for life, but he’s alive.”
“Then that’s all that matters.”
“You got a guy?” Omari said, trying to shake off thoughts of Noah’s seared flesh.
“You betcha. Been together 15 years. Ruddy son of a gun, as Irish as the day is
long. Name’s Shea. Ah, I do love that bastard,” Francesca said and smiled.
“You going to marry him?” Omari asked.
“Oh eventually yes. He’s been asking forever. Wants to do a whole big thing in
Ireland with his folks and whatnot. Trouble is, Shea’s folks ain’t too keen on me, and
neither is Ireland itself for that matter. You know, with me being Feathered, with black
wings, and being pint-sized to boot, they think I’m some kinda small demon. I walk down
the street over there and set off this furious streak of people crossing themselves left and
right. Gets old after awhile, you know?”
“I’ll say. I have enough of a time dealing with the just the wings, and this is in
California where people expect you to be different.”
“I was actually going to man up to the whole marriage challenge later this week
sometime—Tuesday to be exact. That’s our fifteen year mark. Figure I’ll actually put a
date down and stick to it, just deal with all the jerks on that bloody island and do it
because I love him.”
“That’s amazing. I’m so happy for you. Fifteen years, married or not, is
something to celebrate. How did you guys meet, anyway?”
“He stepped on me.”
“He stepped on me with all that farm boy grace. I was down at the feedstore,
picking up this and that, and he pretty much just run me over. I fell flat on my back, he
stripped and drove both his knees right into my stomach. He threw his hand out for
balance, and ended up with a handful my left boob. Guess it was love at first smash and
Omari laughed, “That’s quite a way to make a first impression.”
“Luckily I don’t break easy, but oooh boy, did he ever feel bad. Insisted on
buying all my stuff for me, and wanted to take me out to dinner to make up for it. The
rest is history.”
“So he lived on a farm too, eh?”
“Yup. Turns out his family owned the place right next to us. He’s a shy kinda guy.
I’d seen him around, but we never really talked. After we met, stuff just started
happening to both of us. His folks had come over from Ireland to start a farm here when
he was just a kid. They were trying to escape all of the religious turmoil going on over
there at the time. Right when he turned eighteen and finished high school, they had to go
back. Family issues on the island, old uncles and aunts that needed to be taken care of
that couldn’t really travel. Shea stayed here to take care of the farm. Soon after that, my
folks died. We were pretty much the only thing left for each other, and it’s stayed that
way ever since.”
“You’re so lucky to have found someone like that. How does Shea feel about all
those guys ogling you when you’re up on the bar every night?”
“Oh he stays away from Malachai’s. Like I said, he’s a quiet guy, mostly stays on
the other side of the river and takes care of the farms. He knows what goes on over at the
bar, but we trust each other. Anyway, we’ve been going on and on about me. What’s the
story with your guy?”
“We’ve only been together a year, but it’s going really well. Like I can imagine
staying together for fifteen years kind of good. If, I can manage not to screw it up. I’m
pretty good at that.”
“Enough of the pessimism. If you love him enough, and I can see from that look
in your eye that you do, then you’ll make it work. Simple as that.” Francesca crossed her
legs and looked nonchalantly into the sky, as though it really were that simple.
“That’s an amazing attitude,” Omari said and wasn’t able to completely hide the
skepticism in her voice.
“Trust me, it’s a good way to go. So what’s the story with this guy?” Francesca
“Well, his name is Noah, and I met him when I fell out of a window.”
Francesca peered around Omari’s wings and looked her them up and down.
“Saaay, last time I checked you could fly,” she looked down at the city far below, “either
that or you’re really good at teleporting.”
“Well, those crazy biotech bastards filled my house with carbon monoxide, trying
to kill me or collect me, or whatever they really wanted to do with my body. I was trying
to fly out the window with my dog, who happens to be a great dane…so yeah I fell and
shattered my leg. Totally lucked out with my doctor though.”
“Sounds like it.” Francesca smiled.
“He’s sweet and funny, damned handsome. This is the first time I’ve really been
apart from him since we got together.” Omari sighed.
“Ahhh, makes sense now. You’re all kinds of missing him. That’s a good sign.”
Omari smiled back. “It is, isn’t it?”
“I should let you get back to your man. And I hate to say it, but even after all that
nice food and beer, I’m starving again.”
“Haha, it’s that metabolism, ain’t it?”
“You know it.”
“Say, I know a place with great food. You game?” Francesca said.
“You said the magic word. I’ll follow you anywhere if there’s food involved.”
“Great, then you’re coming back to my place with me. If you like, you’re more
than welcome to spend the night too, although I know you got the conference going on
tomorrow. I understand if you want to call it a night.”
“I’d just hate to impose on you and Shea like that. We just met and all.”
“Nonsense, we’re brethren, good as family.”
“Well if you insist,” Omari said, her mouth watering at the thought of food.
“Excellent. I hate to be a killjoy, but we’re actually going to have to go back and
get my car. It’s not safe to fly on that side of the river at night. Most everyone out there is
either a farmer, or ex-military, and that means they’re armed. They see anything flying
around out there in the night and they’ll shoot it for sure. Cops out there are bored too, so
same problem. I don’t know about you, but as exciting as it sounds I try to avoid
midnight fire fights in the sky.”
“I’m with you on that one. I’ve had my fill of that business for the year.” Omari
said, shaking her head.
Francesca raised an eyebrow. “You’re going to have to tell me more about what
actually happened to you last year. The stuff they left out of the papers.”
“How much food do you have exactly? That’s a tale that will take some time.”
“Girl, I live on a farm, I could feed an army. Let’s get off this hunk of steel!”
Francesca got to her feet, bent her knees and pushed off into the sky, flying at that
incredible speed again. Omari followed, struggling again to keep up with her. She
pumped her wings, making her body as aerodynamic as possible, attempting to feel and
use the natural wind currents flowing through the buildings. Again, all she could make
out of Francesca’s body shuttling through the night sky were the stray flashes of light
reflected from her blue sequins. If she were wearing dark clothing, her black hair and
wings would just fade into the evening shadows, a strong breeze blowing through the
night and nothing more.
They landed in the dilapidated backyard of Malachai’s. Omari was traveling so
fast that she knocked over one of the rusty tables and its accompanying umbrella.
Franesca landed silently, her tiny feet touching down gently on the strip of concrete by
the back door. Omari dusted herself off and righted the table while Francesca chuckled at
“Damn! You’re like a stealth bomber or flying ninja or something like that. I feel
like an awkward ogre flying—and landing—next to you!” Omari said and walked
through the grass to where Francesca was standing.
“That’s how you get away with flying in a big city even when there’s restrictions
against it. Fly fast and silent in the dark, and they’ll never even know you’re there.
Practice makes perfect. You kept up with me, that’s a start!”
“Yeah but there’s a reason I was never a ballerina. Lack of grace and all.” Omari
looked behind her at the bent grass and even more crooked looking table behind her.
“I’m sure you have more than enough other talents to make up for it.”
“Oh yeah, if you’re ever in a fight, you want me on your side. Trust me.” She
“I’ll remember that. Okay, let’s get outta here and get some real chow. Let me just
make sure everything’s alright inside, and give Shea a call so he can start rustling up
“Shea can cook?”
“That’s one of the other things he can do well besides farm work and car
mechanics.” Francesca laughed. “Why else do you think I’d go through the trouble of
avoiding being stoned in Ireland to marry him?”
“Good point. You said he likes to work on cars too? So does Noah, and so do I.
Both of us have custom Mustang jobs.”
“Yeah, but can he cook? That’s the real clincher.”
Omari thought of the delicious dinners and tasty breakfasts Noah would whip up
for the two of them even when he was tired from a long shift at the hospital. “Oh yes, yes
“Sold! Don’t let this guy go.”
“Sounds like Noah and Shea would probably get along. We’ll have to get them
“Good luck pulling Shea off the farm. You’ll have to drag Noah out here if you
want that to happen.”
“Noah’s a pretty worldly person, I’m pretty sure that can be arranged.”
Francesca pulled keys out of her pocket and unlocked the back door. Malachai’s
was still crowded, but no where near what it was before. Before anyone could see them
again, Francesca unlocked another side door that led into a surprisingly spacious store
room. It felt like a hidden room within the bar chaos, the muffled crowd noise
surprisingly quiet with the door closed. She saw the corner where a pile of blankets and
pillows were stashing for emergency sleeping purposes. A tall woman with short brown
hair was sorting through cans on a shelf against the wall.
“Hey Ellen, how is everything going?” Francesca said.
The woman turned to Francesca and Omari. If she was surprised to see Omari in
there, she hid it well. “Oh hi Francesca. Everything’s fine. Crowd died down a little when
you left, but other than that it’s all good.”
“Great, because I think I’m going to cut out early for the night and show my new
friend here some Midwestern hospitality.”
“That’s nice. What was your name?” the woman asked Omari.
“I’m Omari. I’m in town for the veterinary conference going on at the hotel next
door, and Francesca’s been nice enough to show me around the city a little.”
They shook hands.
“Nice to meet you, I’m Ellen. I pretty much run things around here when
Francesca isn’t around.”
“She pretty much runs things even when I am here. I don’t know what I’d do
without her,” Francesca said.
Ellen smiled. “Always good to know that I’m appreciated. Well, I’m going to
bring this stuff back to the kitchen. Go ahead and take off and I’ll make sure everything
gets cleaned up and shut down.”
“Thanks Ellen, you’re the best.”
Ellen left carrying an armload of cans, the noise from the bar brief and loud as she
exited and quickly shut the door again.
“Lemme give Shea a quick call, and we’ll take off through the back way.”
Francesca grabbed a plain beige phone off the wall and waited while her call was
connected. “Hey babe, I’m brining some company over. Can you get some food started
for us? Yeah, she’s Feathered like me, so you know the kind of portions to fix. Thanks
Omari chuckled, “I guess he’s familiar with our appetites.”
“You betcha. You’re in for a treat my dear.”
Francesca moved some boxes aside and unlocked another side door that led
directly to a side alley with a small parking lot for the employee cars. There were several
vehicles parked there at the moment, one of them being one enormous shiny black truck
with monster truck sized tires.
“I like my employees, and myself as well to be able to get out of here
inconspicuously if they have to.”
“I’m going to take a guess and say that the very not inconspicuous truck is yours,
“Good eye girl, how’d ya know?”
“Oh, just a wild guess. You did say you guys were into cars in a big way…guess
you meant it.”
Francesca hit a button on her keys, the lights on the beast flashed and the door
locks clicked open. Somehow Francesca hopped nimbly into the truck despite her
diminutive size, while Omari and her long limbs struggled to clamber into the
Omari shook her head and wondered if she always seemed this awkward and
clumsy, or if it was just the juxtaposition with the graceful black winged Francesca that
made it seem that way. Scenes of her knocking over dishes with her wings in the kitchen
while Noah shook his head and grinned, or of her tripping on seemingly non-existent
bumps in the floor at work, and getting her long hair caught in the door of the Mustang
flashed through her head. Okay, so being next around Francesca just made it more
Francesca fired up the engine, and a strong but amazingly quiet engine came to
life. “Strong and silent, just the way I like ‘em. Let’s go!”
If there was anything that Omari and Francesca had in common, it was their
driving style. To Omari the next best thing to flying was driving, and it was one thing she
was definitely not clumsy with.
They got on the freeway and before Omari knew it the busy streets of St.
Louis suburbs had faded away into glimpses of rolling farmland. She looked at her watch:
only ten o’clock. It seemed like they had spent a lot more time up on the arch than that. It
was two hours earlier in California, but Noah would be, or at least should have been
finishing up his shift at the hospital soon.
Without any apparent precursor, no sprinkling or feeling of mist in the air, it
began to rain. Hard. Omari could barely see out the window.
“Holy crap. Talk about a flash thunderstorm. We got some nice downpours in
Santa Cruz, but nothing like this. Maybe you should pull over for a minute until this
Francesca said nothing as she poured all her concentration into the road in front of
her. The truck slowed to a much more moderate speed and she popped it into four wheel
drive. The rain slammed down even harder, dropping onto the window in heavy sheets
between gusts of wind. The truck rocked back and forth with each burst and Francesca
held tight to the wheel to keep it on the road. A loud siren rang, and Omari looked around
to see where the sound was coming from, assuming it was an approaching emergency
“Shit shit shit!” Francesca said, looking over her shoulder. Power lines were
exploding in the far distance along the road.
“Is that what I’m thinking it is?” Omari said as the reality of the situation hit her
and she realized why there were no lights or police cars accompanying the sirens.
“Welcome to tornado alley my friend,” Francesca said as a strong gust of wind
nearly shoved them off the road. “Shit!” she said again, “we’re right in its path. We’re
never going to be able to get outta of its way in the truck. I can’t go fast enough without
being driven into the fields. Listen, on the count of three I’m going to throw this thing
into the ditch, and we’re going to have to get outta this truck and fly for it. Faster than we
flew from the arch. Grab onto my arm and don’t let go, just do your best to try and match
my speed. Ready? One two three!!!!”
“Uhhhh…” was all Omari managed to get out before Francesca jerked the wheel
and they went down a steep incline into a deep drainage ditch.
Omari followed Francesca’s lead and jumped from the car. The air was still
surprisingly warm, but vicious, impossibly strong and laden with rain that stung her
eyes. Standing was difficult, and she was trying to imagine how she was going to be able
to fly. But Francesca didn’t give her long to think about it. She seemed to come out of
nowhere, appearing on Omari’s side of the truck, grabbing her hand and forcibly pulling
her into the sky.
For several moments Omari was disorientated by the dark, the wind and rain
pelting her from all sides. Her only anchor was Francesca’s hand that dragged her
shocked corpse of a body away from the disaster that was fast approaching them.
“COME ON!!!!” Francesca screamed, and Omari heard her even over the
incredible racket of the storm. It snapped her out of the confusion, and she spread her
wings. Francesca was not lying. Omari had never flown this fast before. Usually flying
was a relaxing, exhilarating experience. This felt like the life and death struggle that it
was. She used every ounce of her strength and concentration to move herself forward,
keep up with Francesca’s delicate but immovable fingers that were wrapped around her
wrist like a Chinese finger trap, and fight against the wind that threatened to throw her
back to the hard fields below with every gust.
After several minutes of flying like that, something changed within Omari. A
switch flipped. Adrenaline flowing, the fear was gone, replaced with excitement and an
immense rush of energy. No thoughts of death, of losing her life and the people she cared
about. Just power, pure power. Within moments, Francesca was no longer pulling Omari
into the mysterious swirling dark. Omari was leading Francesca. It was incredible.
Her inner sojourn was broken once again by Francesca’s insistent grip, the
paradoxical strength in those small fingers. This time, she stopped them nearly dead in
the air. Omari hadn’t realized it, enveloped by the adrenaline trance, but the wind’s
ferocity had diminished. Omari flew to face Francesca, barely able to see her hovering in
the greenish murk of the tornado touched night.
“We can’t keep flying like this. You don’t realize it, but we’ll pass out soon if we
keep at it for much longer. I think we’re a fairly safe distance away now. We’ll bunker
down in the ditch, recover our strength, and move on towards my house when it seems
safe,” Francesca said, and it was much easier to hear her.
“What about your truck?”
“We’ll go back and see if there’s anything left of it later, when it’s safe. First, we
gotta take care of ourselves, and then make sure Shea and my sister are okay,” Francesca
said with a hard frankness that made Omari wonder if she was harboring a deeper worry
than she let on.
Omari just nodded, but then realized that Francesca probably wouldn’t be able to
see it. “Okay, I trust you.”
They descended back to the ground, landing on pavement, the edge of the road.
Omari had no idea how she had managed it, but Francesca had somehow managed to
keep them on course the entire time, even while Omari was leading, flying blindly into
the night. She was constantly being amazed by her unusual new friend.
She followed Francesca over the side of the road, into the deep drainage ditch.
Much of it seemed to be filled with pools of water, her shoes filling to her ankles with
debris filled liquid. Not that it mattered, she was already soaking wet, but for some reason
the feeling of soggy shoes is always unpleasant. After a few moments of walking, they
found a patch relatively clear of excess water. Following Francesca’s lead, she lay down
in the muddy grass, facing her.
She opened her mouth to say something to Francesca when she was hit by a wave
of vertigo, like a pitcher of margaritas had stealthily made their way into her bloodstream.
Adrenaline crash, blood sugar crash. Not good. Francesca seemed to be battling the same
effects herself, clutching the grass beside her as though it would stop the world from
“You okay?” Francesca said with a shaky voice.
“Nope, I don’t think so. You were right. That would have been a bad thing if this
happened while we were flying. I was so caught up in the rush of everything, I didn’t
even realize how drained I was.”
“I don’t have to tell you that falling out of the sky does not make for good times,
and we both have guys so we don’t need any sexy paramedics to come rescue us.
Fortunately,” she paused and Omari heard some rustling as Francesca rummaged through
her pockets, “I always keep something on me for emergencies like this.”
In the darkness with the vertigo still plaguing her vision, Omari couldn’t see what
Francesca had in her hand. “What is that?”
“Emergency fuel. Here.” Francesca missed a few times, and then shoved
something rectangular into Omari’s hand.
All of the whirling was making Omari nauseous, “I don’t know if I can keep
“You’re going to have to. Nothing else is going to make it stop, and we’ll never
get out of here if you don’t eat that. Trust me, I did a lot of research, and these are the
most effective energy bars for people like us, and situations like this,” Francesca said, her
speech somewhat muffled and punctuated by smacking sounds as she began to eat her
“Sounds like this isn’t the first time you’ve had something like this happen.”
“I may not have been a boy scout, but you know, always prepared anyway.”
Omari thought of Francesca’s outfit and tried to think of where she might have
hidden the food, but then she decided she was better off just not knowing. It was, in fact
recommended that all Feathered people keep some kind of emergency food or
supplement on them at all times because of their predisposition to hypoglycemia. Noah
had lectured her on several occasions for not following that suggestion. He had taken to
carrying things with him in case she forgot to eat, or overexerted herself and got low
blood sugar. She was glad Noah was home safe, and in no danger from Midwest storms.
Poor Francesca, not knowing if her sister and her fiancée were safe. She didn’t even
know these people, but was filed with anxiety at the thought of them being hurt. Omari
knew what it felt like to be alone. They were the only two people Francesca had in her
life. If something happened to one of them she would be devastated.
She opened the foil wrapper on the bar and forced herself to take a bite. It tasted
good actually. It was a brand Noah had actually bought for Omari before that was
marketed towards feathered people. It was crammed full of carbs, protein, vitamins of all
kinds, especially balanced for their strange metabolism. Nonetheless the first bite was
After the first bite she immediately felt the difference. Quick delivery system. Her
vision stopped spinning so much, so the world seemed a little clearer. Not that this was
necessarily a good thing. They were face down in a ditch on the side of the road after all.
By the time she finished eating the whole thing, she felt markedly better.
“Once again, you’re right. That really helped. I feel like I’m ready for act II now,”
“Enjoy the ditch—we still have to fly our way out of here. See? Didn’t I tell you
being in a ditch wasn’t always the worst place to be?”
“That you did, that you did. But I don’t know what I’d give for some dry clothes
and a warm bowl of food right now.”
Omari hadn’t realized it, but despite the relative heat, she was shivering. And
from the looks of it, so was Francesca. Maybe it was just an effect of being wet.
“You cold?” Omari asked.
“Yep. It’s shock. Flying like that by itself can sometimes throw you into shock,
but you add in the tornado and there you go: instant shock. Just add water. And wind.”
Duh Omari thought. Of course they would be shocky. The trauma of the escape,
the exertion, the hypoglycemia. She was a doctor after all. Funny how the obvious can
escape you in the midst of chaos.
The same thought seemed to go through Francesca’s mind, and she said, “Wait,
aren’t you a doctor?”
“Hey, mental confusion is a symptom of shock. Gimme a break.”
“So, you ever think of going into human medicine? I mean, one could argue that
with these wings, we’re one step away from being birds. You could specialize in
“Yeah, I’ve heard that argument many times. But there’s the thing: we’re still
human, and animals are a heck of a lot nicer to deal with than people.”
Francesca laughed. “You got that right. I won’t argue with you on that one.”
“So, speaking of career changes, what were you studying in college before you
“What were you planning on doing with that?”
“No idea. Guess that’s the beauty of a philosophy degree. Lot’s of thinking, not a
lot of jobs for that that jump right out at you. I don’t know, I thought of maybe going on
to grad school, being a professor, that kinda thing. No big deal though. Now I just study
philosophy right from the trenches. No better way to find out about life and how people
think about it than hanging around a bar for fifteen years,” she paused, “ha, probably
better money that way too.”
“How much longer you think we should rest down here?” Omari said.
“What, tired of chatting already?” Francesca said, suppressing more giggles.
“Nah, but a change of scenery might be nice.”
“How you feeling?”
“Still a little shaky, but I think I’m okay to move on.”
“Storm looks like it’s died down, and shifted course too. Should be okay to go if
you think you can make it another couple of miles.”
“I think I can make it. Let’s give it a shot. I know you want to check on Shea too.
You think he’s alright?”
“Should be. We’re one of the few places around here that actually has a storm
cellar. As long as he got down there, he should be fine. He’s probably just as worried
about me. If we’re really lucky, the tornado itself missed our place, and we’ll just have
some regular storm damage.”
“Your place ever taken a direct hit from one before?”
“So far, so good. But you never know around here.”
“Just like living in California with the earthquakes. I’ve lived through some pretty
big shakers, but I’ve always been fortunate enough to have never really sustained any
significant damage, other than broken plates and the like. But you know what they say,
we’re always waiting for the big one. Guess I get to add tornado to my disaster resume
The both stood up and shook off as much excess water as they could. The air was
strikingly calm now, the rain only a whisper of a mist, the night seeming unnervingly
silent. Omari still felt cold, a reminder that she was still fighting the effects of shock.
“Ready? Sure you’re going to make it?”
“Pretty sure. I’m a stubborn one, hard to put me out of commission.”
“Stay close behind me so that you don’t get lost in the dark. Thankfully I can
pretty much literally navigate my way around these parts blindfolded, so I won’t get us
lost. Looks like the power’s out across this entire area, and I don’t want you going astray
in someone’s corn field.”
“Too bad I left my cell phone back at the hotel, we could try calling.”
“No use. After a big disaster like this all the towers will be jammed. Messages can
only be delivered the old fashioned way: pony express. Or Feathered Express in this case.
So hi ho silver, let’s go!”
They took to the sky again, and Omari wobbled for a moment before getting the
feel of the air under her wings. They flew at a much slower pace, and there was no
competing crosswind to fight with, but nonetheless the flight was effortful. She thought
of how sore she was going to be in the morning, with the first inklings of muscle pain
already creeping up on her. She wished she could see the ground below, but it was almost
all dark. A few homes here and there were lit up by generators, which was promising
because that meant that their homes were still standing. That was the thing about
tornadoes though. One home could be demolished, and the house across the street could
be left untouched.
Omari kept a close watch on Francesca. She’d had a lot of practice at this point
tracking her elusive form in the sky, and it was almost automatic. Francesca began
descending, and Omari followed. They touched down in another field, and Omari
struggled to see the landscape around them in the dark. Despite her straining, she couldn’t
make out the form of any buildings or other smaller structures.
“This isn’t good,” Francesca echoed Omari’s thoughts.
She followed Francesca as she seemed to be scanning the ground for something.
Their feet hit something hollow and wooden sounding. Francesca kneeled down and
pounded on the heavy trap door.
“Shea!” she called, “are you in there?”
There was no response for a moment, and then they heard some movement, metal
creaking noises as the door opened upward. Backlit by a few lamps from below, Shea’s
face was a mandala of happiness when he saw Francesca standing above him. He grabbed
her and pulled her down into the storm cellar.
“Sweetheart! I’m so glad that you’re okay!” he said.
“Happy to see me then?” Francesca said sarcastically but hugged him back just as
Omari peered down at them, and her stomach growled when she saw the lines of
cans along some rickety shelves tacked against the walls.
Shea seemed oblivious to Omari’s presence as he plastered Francesca’s face with
“Honey,” Francesca gently pushed him back, “this is my new friend Omari. Girl,
what are you doing up there still? Get the heck down here!”
She climbed down to join the reunited couple. “So you’re the infamous Shea?”
“Infamous, eh? Makes me wonder what my little dark fairy has been telling you
Shea was a big guy that looked like he belonged on a farm. He was taller and
more muscular than Noah, which meant that he towered over Francesca. His red hair was
on the long side, and shaggy, like if he ever had it cut, he did it himself. His face sported
the middle beginnings of a beard that threatened to take over his face like a field of kudzu
on the verge of an invasion.
“Nothing bad, except for the part where you stepped on her fifteen years ago,”
Omari said as a joke, but felt bad when Shea’s cheeks flushed red.
Francesca laughed, “He still feels bad about that, after all these years!”
Shea looked indignant. “It’s not nice to step on pretty ladies.” His voice had a
strange accent to it, a combination of a tad of Irish picked up from his parents, and the
southern Midwestern accent prevalent in the area.
The temporary merriment in the room disappeared as Francesca’s face went
solemn. “So, have you been outside to check the houses yet?”
Shea looked down. “Yes I have. I took one of the big flashlights out to do a quick
survey of the damage. It’s not good honey. The barn and all the animals are fine over at
the other farm, but my old house is gone. Totally gone. Nothing left of it. The other house
is severely damaged, but it’s still standing. It’s possible that we might be able to salvage
some of it. I’m sorry hun. I know that house meant a lot to you, growing up with your
family in it and everything.”
“And you. We had a lot of good memories in there too. But it’s just a house.
We’re both okay, and that’s what matters,” Francesca said stoically. Omari had a feeling
that she would cry later when it all had time to settle in. She knew from her own
experiences of disastrous events that you hold it together while you have to, and then fall
apart later in private.
“We’ll rebuild it better than before,” Shea said, leaning down to hug his fiancée.
“I know you’re trying to make me feel better, but it’s probably too far gone to
really save. We’re better off just starting over from scratch. Besides, it’s been silly having
to go back and forth between the two houses all these years. We may as well tear it down,
and build a new house in between the two properties. In a way, the storm will have
helped us do something we’ve been meaning to do for a long time, but probably never
would have done on our own. We’ve still got each other, and we’re both pretty good at
landing on our feet.”
Omari smiled at the couple that looked so physically different, but were so
obviously meant for each other. She thought of Noah, and hoped that when other people
saw them together, they though the same thing. Noah! She was supposed to call him a
long time ago. He would definitely be home from work, and wanting to know if she made
it into St. Louis okay.
“You sure there’s no way a cell phone would work right now?”
“I highly doubt it. I have no idea what the damage is like back in town. The
regular phone lines might still be working back at the bar. Why?” Francesca asked.
“I never called Noah when I got here because he was at work. He’ll be worried
about me, and I was just hoping to be able to give him a call.”
“Well, we need to get over to the bar at some point in time to check out the
situation over there too. Hopefully it’s still standing. Usually the city doesn’t take as
much of a beating from these storms, but even if only the power’s out, it’s going to be
really chaotic,” Francesca said.
“How are we all going to get over there?” Omari thought of flying all the way
back carrying Shea, and she just didn’t think it was going to happen.
“How did you girls get over here to begin with?” Shea asked, “where’s the
“Sorry sweetie, but we had to leave the truck and fly out. The twister was right on
our heels, and we couldn’t drive fast enough in the rain. Hopefully it’s still in one, piece,
but I’m doubtful.”
“My truck survived the storm fine, and I just put gas in it yesterday, so if the
roads are clear we can just drive back in that.” Shea cast an appraising eye on the two of
them. “You two really look rough. Poor things. I don’t know if you could fly back there
even if you tried.”
“I’m with you on that one,” Omari said, realizing that she was still feeling
somewhat cold and shaky. She stared longingly at the cans on the wall again.
“Why don’t you girls sit down, and I’ll pull out the camp stove and make you
something to eat before we try to go anywhere. You both look about ready to collapse.
Oh, and there’s some old work clothes you could both change into. They’re not pretty,
but they’re clean and dry. I’ll go outside for a moment while you change,” he said.
Shea left the cellar and closed the door behind him. Francesca handed Omari a
pair of baggy jeans and a flannel shirt. It felt so good to be dry that she didn’t mind that
the smelled a little musty.
“Nothing fancy, but it’ll do for now,” Francesca said.
They sat down on some folding chairs, just enjoying the feeling of being safe and
calm. Shea came back down a few minutes later, carrying some assorted goods in his
hands that looked like vegetables and chicken.
“Figure I might as well salvage some of the stuff left in the fridge. Power’s
probably never going to be on in there again and it’s going to go bad anyway. Better to
get some use out of some of it. How does Chicken and mashed potatoes sound to you
ladies?” he asked.
Omari wondered if her tongue was hanging out of her mouth because Shea
laughed and said, “I’ll take that as a yes.”
Somehow Shea proceeded to take bunch of cans and a bag of chicken breasts, and
transform it into a feast on a camp stove in their little cellar sanctuary. It smelled simply
fantastic to Omari, and she was glad that it looked like he was cooking up larger than
normal portions in an attempt to use up any food left in their dead refrigerator.
“You think that looks good, you should see what this guy can do with a real
kitchen,” Francesca said.
“Aww, you flatter me,” Shea replied.
Before long Shea was piling chicken, mashed potatoes, and some assorted
vegetables onto paper plates.
“Thank you so much,” Omari said as she the plate and a can of soda from Shea.
“No problem at all. Wish this hadn’t happened and we could have had a proper
meal. I was about to start cooking something when the storm hit and I had to round up all
the animals and head down to this cellar.”
Omari was thinking that under the circumstances this was almost better. Nothing
like a brush with death to make you appreciate the finer things in life. Both her and
Francesca practically swallowed the food, every bite of it tasting like the best thing she’d
ever eaten before. Shea ate a little himself, but insisted that the bulk of it be eaten by
Once they were sated, Shea asked if they wanted to rest for a little while before
attempting to make their way back into the city.
“Do you have our portable storm radio down here somewhere?” Francesca asked.
“Unfortunately, that broke remember? We had it out in the barn during that one
power outage, and a cow stepped on it.”
“Ooohh yeah. We should have bought another one. Those things are great. You
wind them up and they run without any batteries. Perfect for situations just like this. I do
have another one that I keep at the bar too, so we can grab that if we’re able to make it
out there,” Francesca said.
“If you want, you guys are welcome to stay the night at the hotel with me. Even if
the power is out, it’ll probably be more comfortable than the floor at the bar.”
“We may take you up on that offer, but if the power is out I’ll be tempted to stay
back at the bar to prevent looting. It’s amazing, the power goes out and people go crazy,
every man for himself. Kind of discouraging for the state of humanity.”
“So you girls ready to give this a try? We can listen to the radio in the truck to get
a better grip on what’s going on with the rest of the surrounding counties. That storm
really just came out of nowhere. I knew we were supposed to get some rain tonight, but
usually there’s a little more of a severe storm warning before something like that happens.
Gotta love mother nature,” Shea said.
They cleaned up a little bit, grabbed a nice assortment of flashlights and lanterns
along with the camp stove, and headed back for the surface. Shea had moved the truck
closer to the cellar door so that they wouldn’t have to fight their way through too much
debris, “You guys have been through enough tonight,” he had said.
Shea’s truck was just as large as Francesca’s, but his was red. She smiled,
thinking how cute it was that they had matching custom cars just like her and Noah. She
was sad they lived so far away from her home, and that this disaster had to occur just as
she met them. If there was one thing Omari needed in her life, it was more good friends.
Francesca squeezed into the middle of the cab, folding her wings tight behind her.
“Good thing I’m so small, or we might not all fit in here,” she said.
“I know, I’m not a small woman to begin with, but my wingspan is actually
bigger than most normal Feathered people. A freak among freaks.”
Omari looked over and saw Francesca glaring at her. “Girl, don’t even talk to me
about a freak of the freaks. You’re talking to the pint sized black winged avenger here.”
“Oh yeah. Point taken,” Omari said and struggled not to laugh. Francesca started
laughing herself, and soon they were both giggling good naturedly.
Shea navigated his way through the tall grass that was strewn with broken boards
and other assorted objects and got back on the road. He handled the big vehicle as
smoothly as Francesca, and Omari was impressed. She had respect of anyone with good
Francesca turned on the radio and fiddled with the dials until they picked up a
station that seemed to be broadcasting storm information.
“The large thunderstorm system that pummeled the St. Louis region this evening
has diminished in strength and moved further east where it is dumping large amounts of
water on those counties. Several tornadoes spun off in the metro east area of Illinois.
Widespread damage is being reported, and five deaths have already been reported with
these storms. Power is out in an unprecedented portion of St. Louis counties tonight, in
what authorities are calling the biggest outage in the lasts fifty years. A state of disaster
has been declared, and both the states of Missouri and Illinois are requesting federal aid,”
the broadcast said, and continued to report Red Cross shelters that were available, along
with other safety information.
“Wow. Why do I get that trouble just seems to follow me around. I come to town
and the biggest disaster in fifty years strikes the area. Guess I should have stayed in
California!” Omari said.
They continued listening to the news and other specific reports of the damage
done to various regions. It seemed trivial, but Omari thought of how the conference was
most certainly going to be cancelled, and once again she wasn’t going to get her
continuing education credits that she needed to renew her license.
Various forms of debris were littering the road, leaves and large branches blown
in from the trees that clustered at the edges of the farms throughout most of southern
Illinois. The large truck took everything easily, crushing everything in its way with its
large tires. Omari was amazed at the smoothness of the ride despite the condition of the
road. That is, until they came to what appeared to be an entire tree obstructing their
pathway. The large trunk lay across the pavement and into the fencing on either side of
the road. Shea stopped the truck.
“Well girls, you think I ought to try and smash through the fence with ol’ Bigfoot
here, or should we give it up and head back to the storm cellar for the night?” he said.
Omari and Francesca looked at each other.
“Oh, I think I have a better idea,” Francesca said, and winked at Omari.
Shea’s eyes widened, “You don’t mean to try and move that thing by yourself do
“No, Omari’s going to give me hand. Right?”
“Right,” Omari replied.
“You guys sure about this? I know you’re both strong, but you’re still recovering
from the escape flight.”
“We’re not going to let a little thing like a tree in the road stop us. And we don’t
want to ruin the one functional vehicle we have. Come on Omari, let’s go.”
The two of them got out of the car and approached the tree. Omari wasn’t quite
sure what kind of tree it was, most of the leaves had been knocked off, but it seemed to
be some kind of maple or elm.
“I think if we both grab it at the same end, and then try to pivot one part of it off
the road so we can get past, it will be easier than lifting it up from both sides,” Francesca
“Agreed. Let’s do this thing.”
Spotlighted by the truck’s oversized headlights, the two of them took hold of one
side of the trunk.
“On three. One, two three!” Omari said, and they hefted the tree into the air.
Omari was concerned about lifting too high for Francesca’s height, but it wasn’t a
problem. There was no need to lift it so high. Between the two of the, they easily picked
it up and walked it over to the side of the road. They set it down and dusted off their
Back in the truck again Shea was shaking his head. “I know you’re strong honey,
but that never stops surprising me. My little pixie is really Paul Bunyan.”
They continued down the road, avoiding debris here and there, listening to the
radio for continuing updates on the havoc unfolding in the city. Omari got the distinct
feeling they were driving into an ant’s farm of trouble, with panicked people running
about everywhere bouncing off one another.
“Hold it. Stop for a second,” Francesca said.
Shea stopped the truck again and peered into the darkness, following Francesca’s
line of sight.
“What are you looking at?” he said.
“I think that’s my truck,” she replied.
Omari glanced in the same direction on the side of the road and saw that she was
right. It was the truck lying upside down in the middle of an adjacent field. It was
impossible to tell just how damaged it was in the peripheral glow from the truck’s
headlights, but upside down is usually a bad sign. She was suddenly very very glad that
Francesca had forced them to bail and take to the sky. Omari had the Feathered trait of
being able to heal incredibly fast, but she felt pain the same as anyone else, and some
injuries there was just no coming back from.
“Nothing we can do right now. We’ll check it out later when everything calms
down and we can get someone to tow it out,” Francesca said.
“I’m sure we’ll be able to fix it. I can fix anything when it comes to cars,” She
said, and put his hand on Francesca’s.
He put the truck back in gear, and they left the shadow of the fallen truck in the
distance. Soon Omari could see the faint glow of the city, and the edge of the Mississippi
approaching in the distance. But it looked odd. Instead of the blazing indicator that they
were entering a major metropolitan city, there were just a few lights dotting the landscape
here and there.
“We’re lucky that the bar is on the northeastern edge of the city. I would not want
to try and fight my way into the middle of it right now,” Shea said.
Nonetheless, as they reached the freeway exchange they suddenly found
themselves in the middle of a mess of cars, gridlocked and honking in the dark. Their
progress nearly halted as they inched along, and lines of police and other emergency
vehicles occasionally inched by on the shoulder, lights and sirens blazing.
“Almost there, almost there,” Francesca said, gritting her teeth and squirming in
Omari felt the same way, shifting positions anxiously, trying to slow down her
breathing when she realized that it had sped up with her increasing frustration. Only Shea
seemed calm, as though they could be stuck there for the rest of the night and he would
Finally the large hotel and the adjacent bar came into view, and everyone breathed
a sigh of relief.
“Well, the power is definitely off,” Omari said.
“We knew that was probably going to be the case. All well. At least we made it
here, and everything seems to be in one piece. Do you mind if we go to the bar first and
check everything out before you head back to your hotel room?” Francesca said.
“Not at all. I’m curious to see if any of the landlines still work so I can call Noah.
Do you guys have a generator or anything like that?”
“We did, but it actually broke the last time we had a storm, and I haven’t had a
chance to get a new one yet. Funny how you forget things like that and then it comes
back to bite you in the ass.”
They pulled back into the side parking lot and entered the store room, each of
them wielding a flashlight. Lanterns were set up in various places, and the door to the
main portion of the bar was propped open.
“Ellen?” Francesca called, “are you still here?”
“Is that you boss?” the voice said.
“Dang right. Better not be anyone else coming in through that back door.”
Ellen appeared in the doorway. “Good to see ya. It was quite the show in here for
awhile. Power’s out all over the city. I haven’t seen a storm like this in some time, and it
just came out of nowhere.”
“Was everyone okay? Anything broken?”
“No, everyone is fine, and the building seemed to hold up just fine too. I think we
just got the edge of the whole mess. Worst thing is the power out and the traffic. It’s
lightened up a bit, but it was pretty bad there for awhile. We’re lucky it’s so late at night,
or no one would have been able to get anywhere.”
“Is there anyone else here right now?”
“Just me and Mandy. We carpooled together. If it’s okay with you, we were going
to get out of here soon,” Ellen said.
“Sorry to leave you here alone with something like that going on. You and Mandy
go ahead and go home. Is there anybody else back at your place? Do you know if your
house is okay?”
“Yeah, me and Mandy are rooming together with two other gals in this big old
Victorian house. The phone lines are still working, and they said our place doesn’t have
any real damage except for a broken window from a tree branch. According to the news,
most of the damage was in the metro east area on the other side of the river. That’s where
all the actual tornadoes were spinning off,” Ellen paused for a minute, here eyes widening,
“oh goodness, that’s right, you guys live over there!”
“Yeah, it’s been an exciting night. We’re all okay, but the farmhouses are mostly
gone, so we’re actually going to bunk up here for the night. Just be safe getting home,
okay? The roads are still pretty gnarly out there,” Francesca said.
Emily expressed her condolences about the house, gathered her stuff and her
roommate Mandy, and left the bar. The resulting silence in the previously rowdy bar was
eerie to Omari.
“Well guys, it could have been worse. Way worse. I’m going to do a quick round
of the place just to double check and then I’m going to set up for us to bunk here for the
night,” Francesca said.
“Are you sure that you don’t want to come back to the hotel with me? They
probably have a generator and some limited power available.”
“Thanks a million for the offer, but I’ve seen this city go vigilante before and I
want to keep an eye on the place.”
“That’s my sweetheart, an unshakable faith in the human race. But she’s right. We
have enough to worry about fixing without this place being looted,” Shea said.
“Well if the phone lines are open I’m going to call Noah to let him know what’s
going on, and then the hotel to see what the situation is over there before heading over,”
Francesca nodded, and Shea followed her out of the store room into the main bar.
Omari grabbed the phone off the wall and quickly dialed the number for Noah’s cell
phone, in case he wasn’t at home. He picked up after one ring.
“Hello?” he said, and it was so good to hear his familiar voice. The weight of the
entire day dropped just like a sky full of rain, and she was tired.
“Hey, it’s me.”
She heard him let out a sigh. “Hi Omari. Sounds paranoid, but I was really
worried about you when you didn’t answer your cell phone.”
“It’s not like I’m accident prone or anything…”
He laughed, “Good thing your boyfriend happens to be an ER doctor.”
“How was your shift?”
“Not bad, nothing too crazy came in. Routine stuff for the most part. Headaches,
food poisoning. Still left a little bit late, also as usual. How was your flight? And the hotel?
It’s awfully late out there now.”
“So I take it you haven’t turned on the television yet.”
“Okay, don’t freak out or anything, but there was a big storm tonight that went
through the area and a bunch of tornadoes spun off of it.”
Omari proceeded to tell Noah the harrowing events of the evening, including the
dashing tale of her and her new friend escaping the twister.
“I knew I had a bad feeling about this trip. You’re sure you’re okay though?”
“Yes yes, you know I’m nearly indestructible.”
“Nearly is not good enough for me. I miss you already, and it’s not just because of
the brush with death. Although, that doesn’t help. So what’s the deal with the conference
now? And the airport? Can you fly back?”
“Well truly I could fly back on my own whenever I want to. I can go for quite a
long ways when not attempting to fly at the speed of light.”
Noah sighed. “You know what I mean.”
“Guess you’re still not keen on that idea then. I’m not sure about the actual airport,
or the conference for that matter. Figure I’ll get all that info in the morning after some of
the mess has been sorted through out here. And I thought the earthquakes and wildfires
were bad in California. I’ll take them back!”
“I’m just glad you’re not hurt. I like playing doctor with you…but not in that way.
Are we ever going to be able to keep you out of trouble?”
“Doesn’t look like it unfortunately. You’re just going to have to continue being
my guardian angel. You leave my side and look what happens!”
“Well, I’m sad that your conference was ruined, and your new friend’s house, but
I’m not sad that you’re going to be coming back early. I really do miss you.”
Omari felt herself grinning and that butterfly attack feeling in her stomach that
you get as a teenager with your first love. “I miss you too honey.”
“I love you too. Are you sure you’re going to be alright? You don’t want me to
come out there?”
“No, no, don’t worry about me. I’ll figure out what’s going on in the morning and
let you know if I’m going to need you to pick me up from the airport.”
They said their goodbyes, and Omari hung up. She went into the main bar where
Francesca and Shea were seated across from each other at one of the tables.
“You going back to your hotel room?” Francesca said.
“Yeah, I’m going to head back there after I give them a quick call to see what the
situation is. You’re totally sure you want to stay here?”
“We’ll be okay. Power goes out all the time here in the summer. We’ve got plenty
Omari went back in the store room and dialed up the hotel. They had power on a
limited basis from generators. The emergency lights were on throughout the hotel, and
they had flashlights and lanterns available for use in each room. And hot water! They
were asking guests to limit showers to ten minutes and use any lights sparingly. Good
enough for Omari. She was suddenly very glad a large expensive hotel had been chosen
as the site for the conference.
She relayed the news to Francesca, who again refused. “If the power still isn’t on
tomorrow we may take you up on that. If it is on, we’re going to try and get over to
Gina’s apartment. You should come with us and have breakfast.
“That would be nice. I have to figure out what’s going on with the conference.
Noah also seemed pretty anxious to get me back out there, so I also have to check on
flights back to California.”
“Sounds like a plan. Why don’t you take a bag of food back to the hotel with you
for now?” Shea said.
“Oh that’d be great.”
“Good thinking baby. It’s going to take awhile for us to recover from all that
activity. Better to keep our blood sugar up.” Francesca said. She took a bag and gathered
some snack foods from the shelves.
“Well, it was nice meeting you,” Omari said, and they laughed.
She hugged Shea and Francesca, said goodbye, and headed out the door.
Omari looked at her watch: it was almost 2am. The air was still warm and sticky.
On the west coast, even the warmest of days could become strikingly cold in the evening.
She reached the hotel lobby where there was a security guard that checked her ID
and room card and reiterated the instructions about power use. The vast lobby was lit
dimly by the emergency lights that lined the walls. Yellow caution tape was strung across
the elevator doors to prevent people from trying to use them.
Omari climbed up from the wide marble steps and was thankful her room was
only on the third floor. Back in her room, she had a sense of déjà vu as she collapsed on
the bed. She could feel the soreness setting into her back muscles. It was not going to feel
good in the morning, and she wondered if she might have torn something. She’d have
Noah look at it when she got home. Of course, by that time if she was lucky her body
would have healed itself.
In accordance with the rules, she only turned on one of the lights at a time. Omari
was torn. The bed was right there, but a hot shower, even a quick one would feel so good.
She hauled herself up and hobbled into the bathroom.
The water ran black with mud and dried dirt that was still clinging to her body,
along with odd bits of grass. The warm water felt great on her sore muscles, and she was
reluctant to turn it off when the time limit was up. She toweled off and dug through her
bag for her comfy night clothes, gobbled a quick snack from Francesca’s bag of goodies,
and crawled under the snuggly made hotel sheets where she quickly fell asleep.
When she woke a ray of sunshine had snuck around the edge of the curtains and
was staring her straight in the left eye. She blinked and rubbed her eyes, winced a little.
Just as she suspected, the muscles in her back were on fire. Something was definitely torn,
or at least pulled. Her left arm was particularly painful. Moving it at all was not
comfortable. Great. She looked at her watch: it was 8am. So she’d gotten less than five
hours of sleep. Her body would heal whatever damage she’d inflicted, but unfortunately
it needed sleep and a large amount of calories to do that. Without those two ingredients,
she tended to heal slowly, at the rate of a normal person.
She thought about going back to sleep to facilitate the process, but it was
sweltering in the room. No air conditioning. They had disabled he central cooling system
to conserve power, and Omari was covered in sweat. Between the heat, her shoulder, and
worrying about the Francesca and the convention there was no going back to bed. She
groaned and rolled out of bed, wishing that normal medications weren’t metabolized so
quickly out of her body. Taking aspirin was basically just like eating candy.
She got back in the shower, turning the water back up to hot, despite the
temperature outside, in an attempt to make her muscles relax. It seemed to help a little,
but the cooling she expected to happen when the water evaporated from her body did not
occur. Too much humidity in the air for that to happen. Looks like it was just going to be
a sticky day.
After gingerly putting on some clothes, wincing when she had to lift up her left
arm to get her shirt on, she dialed down to the lobby to see what was going on with the
conference. The conference had been cancelled for the day, but depending on the power
situation they were intending to resume the convention on Tuesday or Wednesday. Omari
was both relieved and a little disappointed. She had wanted to go back to Noah, go back
to California where there was a sweet ocean breeze, electricity, and no tornadoes.
On the other hand, she was glad that she would have the opportunity to spend
more time with Francesca and Shea, and maybe help them out while all they tried to put
their lives back together. After hanging up with the lobby she called down to the bar to
see if they were both still down there.
“Hello?” Francesca said, sounding tinged with sleep.
“Did I wake you up? It’s Omari.”
“No you didn’t, we got up a few minutes ago actually. Shea was just about to put
a pot of coffee on the camp stove. So what’s the story?”
“The conference is cancelled today since this part of town is still without power,
but they’re hoping to have it back on by tomorrow. So I guess I’m going to stick around
and wait to see what happens with that. I came all the way out here for it, no reason I
should give up just because of something little like a tornado…”
Omari heard Francesca chuckling. “I hear ya. Well, the other side of town has
power. Either they weren’t hit as badly, or they just got maintenance crews out there
faster to fix it. So my sister Gina has power at her apartment. And that means air
conditioning. If you hadn’t noticed, it’s about a zillion degrees out there right now. The
joy of summer in St. Louis. What do you say to a cup of coffee at the ol’ saloon and then
we venture to the other side of town?”
“Another offer I can’t refuse.”
Omari hung up with Francesca and dialed Noah. With any luck he wouldn’t have
left for work yet. He usually worked a later shift on Mondays.
“Hello?” he said.
“Oh good. Your cell phone still isn’t working. Lines must still be jammed. Glad
the landlines are still okay. How are you feeling?”
“Errrr, well I’m alive, so that’s good.”
“I think I might have torn something in my shoulder or my back during that
frantic flight yesterday. It really hurts to move my left arm,” she said and grimaced as she
moved the offending arm around.
“What am I going to do with you? You really are lucky your boyfriend is an ER
doc. I’ll take a look at it next time I see you.”
“I’m just lucky I have a boyfriend as sweet as you.”
After a few more minutes of Noah chastising her and her typical disregard for her
own body, she let him know what was going on with the conference and everything.
“I know. I already called the front desk at your hotel, and I talked to the director
of the conference,” he said.
“Wow. I mean really, wow. You went a step further than I did. I only called the
front desk and talked with the manager down there. So I guess I’m going to stick around
and see what happens.”
“I knew that’s what you were going to want to do.”
“I know you really wanted me to come home, but it won’t be too much longer
even if the conference is on again.”
“No it won’t, because I’m flying out there tonight.”
“Are you serious? What about work?”
“Not to worry. I’m a likeable guy, I got some people to cover my shifts for me.
And the airport is 100% open for business out there, so my flight comes in at 6:00 pm
“Really? You’re not joking? Noah! You didn’t have to go through all that trouble
“No, but I want to. Besides, I know I can’t count on you to take care of yourself.
Someone’s got to do it,” he said, and Omari could see him grinning, pushing up his wire
rimmed glasses in her head.
Omari sighed, “I do love you, you know that?”
“I do, and I will see you at 6pm. Do you want to meet me at the airport, or do you
want me to take a cab to your hotel?”
“I’ll meet you there. I want to greet you when you get off the plane. Plus maybe
we can go get something to eat somewhere in the part of town where there’s still power.
My new friends may even be able to give me a ride.”
“Alright sweetie, I’m going to pack some things and get ready for my flight.
Someone from work is going to give me a ride to the airport.”
“Okay, have a good flight. Love you.”
“Love you too.”
After hanging up with Noah she gathered her purse and cell phone just in case it
started working again, and left the room.
Outside it was even worse. 9am and the sun already seemed to be hanging high
overhead, steam rising from the pavement, vaporizing the water from last night’s storm.
She walked quickly, holding her wings higher over her head to protect her face and body,
dealing with the discomfort moving her wings caused her in favor of warding off the
The inside of the bar felt comparatively cool, even though it was still hot.
Francesca and Shea were seated in the main dining area with a pot between them and
three cups on the able. They were both still wearing the rumpled work clothes that they
had on yesterday.
“Hey there neighbor. Pull up a chair and pour yourself a cup,” Shea said.
Omari smiled, “Don’t mind if I do. It’s amazing, it doesn’t matter how hot it is,
coffee is never a bad thing.”
“Glad we’re on the same page,” Francesca said as Shea poured Omari a steaming
“So, how are you feeling this morning?” Omari asked.
“I’m a little sore, but it’s not the first time I’ve flown like that. My body’s built up
a bit of a tolerance for it,” realization seemed to float across her face, “oh, but the first
time I did it I felt like crap the next day, tore a bunch of stuff in my back, couldn’t fly for
a week. Oh man, I’m sorry, you’re probably all kinds of not feeling good.”
“I’ve felt better. But then again I’ve felt worse.” Which was true. Shattering your
leg and getting burned over a large percent of your body was definitely worse.
“Well take it easy. And definitely don’t try to fly anywhere for awhile, okay?
Give your body some time to heal.”
“I’ll take your advice. Plus, I’ve got my very own knight in shining armor riding
into town tonight.”
She told them about Noah and his little secret plot to come out here and keep her
company until the conference mess was over.
“That’s great. We can give you a lift this afternoon if you want, so you little
lovebirds can have your reunion,” Shea said.
“Don’t you need to go check out your property, and take care of Francesca’s
Shea looked thoughtful. “We’ll figure something out, play it by ear and see how
the day goes. I actually already took a quick trip out there this morning to feed and water
all the animals, but we may need to head back there again before the sun sets again.”
Omari didn’t say anything, but she didn’t even want to know what time Shea had
to have gotten up to have accomplished that feat, but he didn’t seem to be at all fatigued.
They finished their coffee, and Francesca went around checking to make sure that
all the doors were locked before they left again for the truck. The roads were surprisingly
clear, despite the lack of functioning stoplights. Omari had a feeling it would be worse
later on in the day when everyone was trying to get home from work again. Things sped
up even more when they reached the heart of the city where fortunately the power had
already been restored, and all of the traffic lights were functioning.
Downtown, Omari gazed at all of the old brick buildings and cobblestone streets
that stood right next to brand new corporate skyscrapers and high rise apartment
buildings. It was like having one foot in the past and the other in the present.
“Lots of history in this city. St. Louis used to be an important city, perched right
here on the edge of the Mississippi when river transportation was so essential to
commerce,” Francesca said.
“It’s a really pretty place, with all these old buildings.”
“Yeah, but it’s got its filth just like every other city. We’re almost to my sister’s
place. She lives really close to Washington University so that it doesn’t take her that long
to get to class. Riding the bus in winter around here is not the greatest thing.”
“I’ll take your word for it.” One thing Omari did not care for was the snow. Hence
her choice of living in the bay area of California. It got cold, but it did not snow.
They came to the base of a large apartment building, and pulled into the cement
parking garage in its basement. Omari was doubtful that the large truck would be able to
clear the entrance bar, but it made it somehow.
“How old is this building? It looks brand new,” Omari said.
“It is. It was just built about three years ago. Gina used to live in this old
Victorian with a bunch of other roommates, but everything in there never worked, and
she was having some problems with the other people she was living with giving her crap
about her wings. Plus the neighborhood was kind of shady, so we moved her over here
when this place opened up.”
“Wait, your sister has wings? Your sister is Feathered?”
“Yeah, didn’t I tell you that?”
“Uh, no I don’t think you mentioned that. That’s really unusual to have siblings
that are both Feathered. Is she your height?” Omari asked.
“No, she’s average height, but she’s got the same black wings. We’re just a pair
of anomalies I guess. Something genetic I suppose. I’m sure there are people that would
probably just die to get their hands on our DNA, but I’ve been pretty successful at staving
people like that off thus far.”
“I’m surprised no one has come head hunting for you yet. You know about all the
trouble I’ve been through.”
“I know. That’s why I’m pretty protective of her, especially with her going to a
university that’s well known for it’s studies in biology and genetics.”
They got out of the truck, taking up two parking spaces, and got into an elevator.
Air conditioning! It felt wonderful to have some indoor relief from the heat. Francesca
pushed the button for the 15th floor.
“Wow, she’s really high up there,” Omari said.
“Well, it’s not like she wouldn’t be able to get out if the building caught on fire or
Omari nodded. She had a point.
They got off on the 15th floor. It looked like the hallway of an expensive hotel
more than an apartment building, and Omari said so.
“Yeah, you don’t even want to know how much we pay a month for her to be able
to live in this place, but it’s worth it for her to be able to be safe and happy,” Francesca
said as they came to a stop in front of one of the doors. She rang the doorbell, and waited.
After several moments there was no response, so she rang again. Still no response.
Instead Francesca tried knocking, loudly, and then banging. Still no answer.
“What the heck? She said she was going to be here waiting for us,” Francesca
“Maybe she’s just in the shower or something,” Shea suggested.
“I hope I have her key with me. If I left it at the house I’ll probably never find the
Francesca rummaged in her pockets until she came up with a large ring of keys,
thumbing through the hanging pile of shiny metal until she came up with the one that was
a little larger and more ornate than the others. “Phew, glad I didn’t leave them on the
There’s another ring? Omari thought and wondered just what Francesca had so
many keys to. Francesca opened the door and called out to her sister, but there was no
answer, and the inside of the apartment seemed quiet.
The place looked like something out of a magazine. All of the furniture was
modern, hip and coordinated. Not only that, but it was immaculate. Omari never quite
understood how people managed to make it look like no one lived in their house, like it
was a perpetual store display that was never touched by the daily clutter of humans
Shea closed and locked the door behind him. “Gina? Gina are you here?” he tried
calling while Francesca quickly went to check the other rooms in the spacious apartment.
“She’s not here.” Francesca sat on one of the soft looking white couches and
grabbed the phone. After several seconds the answering machine apparently clicked on,
and she left a message for her sister.
“The cell phone is working, it let me leave a message. Where is she, and why
won’t she answer her phone?” Francesca said, an edge of panic creeping into her voice.
“Maybe she just ran to the store or something,” Shea said, attempting to reassure
his fiancée, but Omari could hear the concern in his voice as well.
“Is she absentminded? I’ve known a lot of people who would just wander off
when I was supposed to be meeting them somewhere because they just forgot,” Omari
“No, that’s not like her at all. If she says she’s going to be somewhere or do
something, she will. And even if she had to run out and do something, she would leave
me a note, or call my phone since they seem to be working again.”
“Why don’t we wait here for awhile, clean up and see if she shows up. If she
doesn’t come back in like an hour, we can go look for her,” Shea said.
Francesca let out a long sigh, “I guess so.”
“Omari, do you mind watching television or something out here while we take a
shower? I’ll make a nice breakfast for us when we get out and we wait for Gina to come
back,” Shea said.
“Not a problem.”
Omari took a seat on the couch, which did turn out to be very soft and
comfortable. She didn’t want to admit it, but her left shoulder was feeling more
uncomfortable as the morning went on instead of the other way around, and it was nice to
sit down. She turned on the television to a news channel, watched scenes of destruction
from the night before. She heard the shower turn on, and the muffled sound of Shea and
There was a stack of photos on the coffee table peeking out of an envelope. Omari
picked it up and saw a sticker with the date they’d been developed on it. The photos had
been taken recently, a little over a week ago. The first one in the stack was of an
attractive young woman that looked eerily like Francesca, only taller. The two could have
been twins if not for the height difference. Gina had the same strong facial features, curly
froth of dark black hair, and black wings. In the first picture she was with a group of girls
at what looked like a trendy bar.
Several similar pictures followed, and in the middle of the stack, the scene
changed. Gina was at a park with an attractive looking Asian guy. They were feeding
each other food on a picnic blanket. More pictures of them kissing and laughing in the
park came after, including some of them getting rowdy and having a good natured
min-food fight. They looked like a new couple very in love. Whoever this guy was,
maybe Gina was with him.
Francesca and Shea reappeared, Shea wearing the same clothes as before,
Francesca wearing a dress she must have borrowed from her sister’s closet because it
hung past her ankles. Nonetheless, she still looked nice in it.
“Hey guys, do you know where Gina’s boyfriend lives” Omari said.
“Gina doesn’t have a boyfriend,” Francesca replied, a puzzled look on her face.
“Are you sure? Then who’s this guy?”
Omari held up the stack of pictures. Francesca took them and quickly shuffled
through the pile.
“I have no idea who this is. Not only have I never met him, but she’s never even
mentioned him. She’s always said that guys are just too much trouble and she doesn’t
really want a boyfriend until she’s done with school.”
“Maybe she was just worried about what you would think and didn’t want to
make you mad. You can be a little overprotective sometimes, you know,” Shea said
gently, knowing that Francesca was going to be upset no matter what he said.
“Yeah, but she knows I love her, and she can do what she wants. I just want to
keep her safe.” She gripped the photos hard and Omari could see her clenching her
“Why don’t you try calling some of her friends and see if they know where she
might be, or if they know anything about this guy she’s apparently seeing. Maybe the guy
dumped her already and she didn’t want to tell you because it’s embarrassing. In the
meantime I’ll make us some food.” Shea patted her shoulder and went into the kitchen.
Francesca was clearly upset. “I only have the numbers for a few of her friends. I
wish people still used phone books so I could go through it, but now everyone just keeps
all their numbers in their cell phone. Damn technology.”
“I took a shower this morning, but my shoulder is really hurting me. Would you
mind if I got in there again to get some more heat on it?” Omari said.
“Oh yeah, of course, I’m sorry. Put some ice on it when you get out too.
Alternating hot and cold helps.”
“Thanks. It’ll feel a lot nicer getting in the warm water with the air conditioning
out here. Nothing like a hot shower when it’s 100 degrees outside.”
Omari left Francesca to phone around for Gina’s friends. Omari was hoping that
Gina was just caught up in a romantic escapade and forgot about her sister coming over
because her new boyfriend called. Love is a blessing and a curse that way.
The hot water felt really good again, but this time didn’t seem to cut through all
the pain in her shoulder. Omari was beginning to consider taking a large quantity of some
over the counter pain meds just to try and take the edge off. She was grateful that it was
her left side, and not her right. What the heck had she done to make her shoulder and
back hurt that badly and why wasn’t she healing it? Maybe Noah would have some
insight into the situation when he got here.
When Omari got out of the shower the smell of food wafting through the air
greeted her. Her stomach grumbled and she remembered the only thing she’d consumed
that day was the cup of coffee back at the bar. That could have something to do with why
her shoulder wasn’t healing like it should have.
“Oh my, that smells really good,” Omari said.
“Eggs and potatoes. It would be more, but it looks like Gina needs to go grocery
shopping,” Shea said and handed her a plate.
She pulled up a tall stool to the kitchen’s long counter and started to eat.
Francesca was still sitting in the living room, the plate of food in front of her on the
coffee table, untouched, while she flipped mindlessly through the stack of photographs.
“No luck with any of her friends?” Omari asked.
“No. None of them have heard from her, and none of them seem to know who this
mystery guy is. I don’t like it. I don’t like it one bit,” Francesca replied.
“What do you want to do?”
“I think we should go out and look for her. You know, check out all her familiar
spots, that type of thing. I don’t know what else to do, it’s too early to try and file any
kind of police report, and I can’t stand just sitting here waiting. Would you mind staying
here just in case she happens to show up while we’re out looking?”
“Sure. Noah’s flight doesn’t get in until around 6pm.”
“Oh that’s right. I hope that we find Gina before then.”
“If not, and you’re not back yet, I can always just take a cab to go get him, so
don’t worry about it.” Omari said around mouthfuls of egg and potato.
“But we’re not going anywhere until Francesca finishes her breakfast,” Shea said,
casting a disapproving eye at her untouched plate.
Francesca rolled her eyes, “Yes dear.”
Shea just smiled. “She knows I get on her case because I love her.”
Omari smiled back thinking of Noah and how similar he was to Shea. They were
both thoughtful and considerate. Only in Omari’s opinion Noah was far more
Francesca finally set down the photographs and began shoving forkfuls of food
into her mouth, while Shea finished cleaning up the kitchen. Omari was only halfway
through her food when Francesca declared herself done with breakfast.
“Can we go now?” Francesca asked Shea.
“Yes, now we can do whatever you like.”
“Thanks for doing this Omari. Please help yourself to anything in the apartment
while we’re gone. We pretty much pay for everything anyway, so have at it. I’ll call and
keep you updated.”
“No problem. Good luck, I hope you find her.”
Francesca practically dragged Shea out the front door, leaving it to slam loudly
behind them. Omari savored her food and was going to wash the plate when she was
done, but just found it too painful to deal with. Moving her arm around that much was
just not happening. She sighed and left the dishes in the sink, and started going through
Gina’s cupboards until she found some plastic baggies. She filled one with ice and went
to lie on the couch. She lay on her stomach so that she could rest the ice on top of her
shoulder, and watched more of the same stuff on television.
She knew nothing was going to have changed, but somehow she was still
mesmerized by the incredible amount of destruction that had occurred over night. The
couch was comfortable, and the ice on her shoulder helped with the pain, and she soon
found herself falling asleep.
When she woke up her back was wet, the ice having all melted, and leaked
through the cheap plastic bag. At some point she had shifted in her sleep and the bag had
fallen onto the couch next to her. She sat up and sighed, rubbing at the giant wet spot she
had left on the couch. At least it was just water and would dry. She also found that she
was hungry again, really hungry, which was unusual even for her, and was considering
raiding Gina’s fridge. Omari rubbed her eyes, and moved her upper back around to see
how it was feeling. She winced. Still painful, but a little improved.
It was quiet in the apartment, and a bit warm despite her back being wet.
Something wasn’t quite right. Shaking her head and rubbing her eyes, she still felt groggy
and disoriented. Even in the middle of healing a significant injury she didn’t usually feel
this weird. Her left arm was stinging in addition to the pain running down it from her
shoulder. After opening and closing her eyes several times to focus, she saw a small
irritated spot on her upper bicep that appeared to be a puncture wound. What was going
She thought she had left her cell phone on the table, but she reached for it, she
found it wasn’t there anymore. The television was off. The door was open. Omari jumped
to her feet, almost stumbling, and coming into a defensive stance with her hands held out
in front of her. Her heart was racing. Someone had been in here, and she wasn’t sure if
the person was still here or not.
How did she sleep through all that? It wasn’t like Omari to sleep that deeply,
especially after all the traumatic events of last year small noises of the house settling at
night or Noah shifting gently next to her in bed tended to wake her up. Not good, not
good. Her thoughts were still fuzzy, her balance off. Doing her best to organize the
sensory information in her mind, thoughts coming only in disjointed snippets, she tried to
rationalize what was going on. She wasn’t thinking right, the puncture wound on her arm.
She’d been drugged. Someone had drugged her. Someone who knew what they were
doing: Feathered people don’t go down easy. She looked around for something she could
use as a weapon, the fog slowly lifting from her brain, and snatched a medium sized knife
from a block on the counter.
She did a careful sweep of the apartment, doing her best to keep her balance while
her body metabolized the remainder of whatever chemicals were still in her system, as
she checked all of the rooms and closets in the apartment. When she was sure there was
no one in there, she re-locked the front door. There was no sign of forced entry. Maybe
Gina had come home while she was gone, didn’t want to wake Omari up, and had then
forgotten to relock the door behind her. Of course, unless she had spoken with Francesca,
why wouldn’t she be alarmed by a strange Feathered woman sleeping on her couch? No,
that didn’t make much sense. However had come in must have had a key. She searched
around for her cell phone again so she could call Francesca, but was unable to find it
She did, however, notice a piece of paper on the coffee table next to the stack of
photos that hadn’t been there before. Omari picked it up. In big sharpie-written capital
letters was written: YOU’RE NEXT, MY PRETTY THING. Her eyes widened, and she
dropped the paper, both because of the shock and the instinctive knowledge that she
could be destroying fingerprints. She ran for the landline, not sure if she was going to call
the police or Francesca first. Her fingers pressed buttons on the key pad, but there was no
dial tone. The line had been cut.
No panicking. Omari taught martial arts, and an important component of her
training was being able to control your emotions and stay calm in moments of stress.
Someone had been in the apartment, drugging her, leaving her a threatening message,
stealing her phone and taking out the landline, but had not harmed her. Collecting her
thoughts, she tried to plan out the next course of action. It was 4 o’clock! She had been
knocked out for several hours, and the person could have been in the apartment anytime
during that interval. And there was now no doubt that Gina’s disappearance was not just a
benign occurrence. Finding Gina was a top priority.
First, a phone. She needed a phone, and the apartment was clearly not a safe place
to be anymore. Could she trust a neighbor? Often stalkers lived close by to their victims,
or were even acquaintances, and this person clearly had a key. By that rationale almost
anyone in the area could be responsible. She would just have to take her chances with a
neighbor and hope they weren’t involved. Ordinarily Omari could take care of herself,
and anyone going up against her hadn’t always lived to tell the tale, but she wasn’t sure
how she would fare against a potential attacker with her reactions still clouded by drugs
and her shoulder damaged.
Not wanting to leave the apartment unarmed, she replaced the larger chef knife
with a smaller, but still sharp paring knife that she put in her purse before closing and
locking the front door. She had to knock on several doors before someone finally
answered. It was an elderly man who looked to be in his 80s, his flannel shirt buttoned
unevenly so that one side of the collar rose higher than the other. Omari let out the breath
she didn’t realize she had been holding. There was very little possibility that this man had
been her attacker.
“Oh hello there, who are you? Are you a friend of my daughter’s?” he asked,
pulling out of a pair of glasses and putting them on his face.
“No, I’m not. I’m a friend of your neighbor across the hall. Do you know Gina?”
Omari asked, giving into her paranoia and looking over her shoulder for anyone possibly
coming down the hall.
For several moments the gentleman said nothing. “Oh yes, Gina. She’s a very nice
“Can I come in? Something has happened to Gina, and I need to use the phone.”
“Of course.” He stepped aside and Omari walked in. Without waiting him to do it
himself, Omari locked the door behind her and set the chain. He didn’t seem to notice.
“My, you have wings too, don’t you?” he said, squinting.
“Yes I do. I’m Omari. Where is your phone?”
“I’m Frank. It’s right over there,” he said.
Despite the man’s dress and his appearance, the apartment was graced by new
modern furniture reminiscent of Gina’s apartment and the style of the building in general.
She suspected the man’s daughter probably had something to do with it. She half
expected him to have one of those old beige rotary phones, but he had a brand new sleek
looking black cordless. After a few moments of hesitation, Omari dialed Francesca’s
number instead of the police.
“Hello?” Francesca said.
“I’m so glad to hear your voice,” Omari breathed in relief.
“Omari? What number are you calling from? I’ve been trying to get in touch with
you on your cell and the apartment phone for hours, but you haven’t been answering. I’m
sorry we’ve been gone so long, but I’m just not ready to give up the search yet.”
“We need to call the police,” Omari said and explained what had just happened.
Omari could hear Francesca fighting to keep back tears, her voice straining and
cracking, incredulous as she asked for more details.
“Are you okay?” Francesca asked finally getting control of her voice.
“I think so. I have no idea what I was injected with, and I’m still feeling
“I’m so sorry to have gotten you mixed up in this. You should go to the hospital
and have yourself checked out. I’ll call the police,” Francesca said.
“I don’t think I need to go to the hospital. I think I’ll be okay. Why don’t I just
meet you at the police station?” Omari said.
“I’m worried about you. Who would do something like this? How could…” she
began to say something about her sister, but stopped, not wanting to give voice to the
possibility that her sister had been harmed.
“We don’t know that anything has happened to Gina. We don’t know anything
about anything yet. Better to just not think about it yet,” Omari said, knowing how
platonic those suggestions were, and how impossible it would be for Francesca not to
begin creating horrific fantasies of what could have happened to her sister.
Francesca let out a rush of air, “I know, I know. Wait, where are you now?”
“I’m across the hall in the neighbor’s apartment. His name is Frank.”
“Okay. Good. Frank is safe, he’s a nice man,” she paused, attempting to collect
herself as her voice trembled, “I’ll call the police, and get down there as soon as I can.
You stay there, and keep the doors locked.”
They hung up, and Omari glanced around for Frank who had disappeared from
the living area. He was in the kitchen, putting a kettle of water on the stove.
“Would you like a cup of tea young lady? From the sounds of it you’ve had quite
the afternoon,” he said.
“Yes, that would be nice,” Omari said.
Frank came back into the living room and sat in a chair across from Omari.
“What’s the matter with Gina,” he said, “I hope that she is alright. She’s awfully nice,
brings me fresh fruit from the farmer’s market every week when she goes.”
“I’m not sure,” Omari said and tried to give Frank a simplified version of the
“That sounds dreadful. Who would do such a thing?” he said.
“I don’t know, but you need to stay inside and keep the doors locked okay? The
police should be here soon,” Omari said as the tea kettle began to whistle. Frank got up to
relieve the kettle of its cry.
He returned with two steaming mugs. Omari looked in hers and saw red tendrils
sneaking out hot water from an expensive looking mesh teabag filled with whole small
flowers and herbs.
“I hope you like it. It’s very fancy, berry flavored. My daughter brings it over for
me,” he said.
“Thank you, it looks delicious. And thank you for letting me stay over here. I
wasn’t sure where to go when I woke up and found the apartment like that.” Omari took a
small sip. It was still just short of boiling hot, but Omari didn’t care. The burning liquid
helped chase off the remainder of the tumbleweeds clogging her thoughts. It had quite an
unusual flavor, but was still very good.
“Any friend of my neighbor is my friend too,” Frank smiled and sipped his own
They chatted for awhile about Omari being a veterinarian, and Frank told her how
he used to be a professor of genetics at Washington University, or “Wash U” as the
natives called it. He knew a lot of Gina’s professors in the department, and she would
come over to ask him questions about her homework. Omari realized that despite his
rumpled clothing, his shirt with the buttons done up wrong, that Frank was still very
sharp of mind, and had probably worn his clothes the same when he was thirty.
Frank was in the middle of relating an anecdote about the shenanigans of the mischievous
biology department at Wash U when there was a knock on the door. Omari didn’t wait
for Frank to check it, running over to jam her eye against the peephole.
“It’s me Francesca! Let me in Frank, or Omari,” Francesca’s muffled voice came through
Omari slid the chain off its cradle and unbolted to the door to let Francesca and Shea in.
“I’m glad you guys made it here safe. What did the police say?” Omari said and turned to
lock the door again, but Francesca was already on it, standing on tiptoe to reach the
“They’re going to be coming any moment to check out the scene. I have to give them a
picture of Gina so they can distribute it to units, in case anyone sees her. Hi Frank.”
Francesca waved to Frank.
“Please, have a seat you two.” Frank motioned to the couch.
“Thank you,” Shea replied for Francesca who had gone into business mode. Omari knew
that mindset. Focus on the action at hand so you can deal with what had to be done. If
you let yourself think about the situation in depth, then you would fall apart.
They re-hashed the events again, Omari asking more details about their search and what
they had found while combing the city. She could tell Francesca was feeling guilty.
Guilty about not being able to protect her sister, guilty about not coming back to check on
Omari when she didn’t answer the phone. Omari tried to think about ways to console her,
but knew from experience that it wouldn’t do any good. Even if they got her sister back
safely, and they caught who was responsible, seeds of guilt have a way of sticking around
and sprouting roots once they’re in the ground. All you can do is lop off the weed that
appears on the surface when it periodically shoots up.
Frank had just gotten up and was offering Shea and Francesca some tea when there was a
knock at the door again. This time Francesca beat everyone else to the door, standing on
tiptoe again to gaze through the peephole.
“Police, please open the door.”
Two officers entered, both of average height, one of them actually shorter than Omari.
Omari was glad they were armed because their physical statures were very impressive by
The ensuing conversation was very disjointed, with Omari, Francesca, Shea, and the
officers all attempting to speak at the same time. Frank just sat and listened patiently
from his chair, sipping his tea. Eventually the two officers seemed to understand the story,
and who was involved how. After hearing that Omari had been assaulted by the drugging,
they immediately called for a paramedic backup to check her out, despite numerous
protestations from Omari. They also requested additional back up to process the crime
scene of Gina’s apartment.
The taller of the two officers stayed back in Frank’s apartment to finish up questioning
them and taking their official statement, while the other went to do the initial work up of
Gina’s. Francesca had been doing a good job of remaining calm, but the longer she sat on
Frank’s couch, the more she began to fidget, bouncing her legs up and down.
“Have there been any other recent cases of girls going missing recently? I haven’t seen
anything on the news, but that doesn’t mean anything,” Francesca asked the cop who had
introduced himself as officer Herschel. Omari was still hungry and his name tag kept
making her think of chocolate.
“I’m not at liberty to discuss any open cases,” was all Herschel would say, despite the
flurry of questions that this response prompted from Francesca. It was clear to all of them
that there was something going on, and that there were likely more disappearances or
kidnappings occurring that they were trying to keep away from the public.
Omari felt like she would have been more outraged by the probably cover-up,
endangering innocent people by not alerting them to the possible danger of a serial
kidnapper, but despite her earlier denial, she wasn’t feeling very well again. The
dizziness and mental confusion she had shaken off before had returned more determined
to complete its intent of putting her out of commission than it had before. Her shoulder
was throbbing again too.
“Ma’am? Ma’am are you okay?” Herschel asked, seeing the glazed look in Omari’s eyes,
the color draining out of her face.
“Yeah, Omari, are you sure you’re okay?” Shea said, the concern bare in his voice.
“Maybe you should lie down. You’ve had a traumatic couple of days from y’all
have told me.”
“Yeah, Lie down Omari,” Francesca said.
Everyone vacated the couch so that Omari could stretch out. Something was definitely
not right. Her heart was racing, beating in an irregular pattern, her skin cold and clammy,
sweating when she shouldn’t have been in Frank’s cool apartment. She tried to say
something, but she knew that it didn’t come out right. The room looked strange, things
dancing in her vision that she knew shouldn’t be there. She was hallucinating. Why was
“Omari? Omari?” she heard someone say, but couldn’t tell who, the voice too distorted to
discriminate. What was going on? Her body should have metabolized any of the drugs
out of her system already. She tried to think, but it wasn’t working. Fleeting moments of
clarity were stolen by swirling colors and unnatural sounds.
Someone was touching her. She felt cold things on her skin, on her arms, something
sharp poking her, but it was as though she was disconnected from herself, feeling if she
were at the bottom of a well looking up at something happening to her body on the
ground above. Her thoughts drifted to Noah. Noah, where was Noah? She said his name
several times, or at least she thought she did. And then she received relief from the colors
and the sounds, replaced by the sensory numbness of true unconsciousness.
For the second time that day, she awoke bleary eyed and disoriented. Looking at her
hands, she knew she was in the hospital, a bracelet and IV stuck in one arm, hospital
gown and blanket gracing her lower half. Her left arm was bound up in a sling.
Something bad had happened today. And then she remembered. The hurricane yesterday,
waking up in Gina’s apartment, violated by a stranger, hallucinating at Frank’s. She
looked to her side, and saw a familiar figure standing there.
“Noah?” she said, wondering if this was a continuation of her delusion.
“The one and only,” he said and smiled. His long light brown hair was tied back in a
ponytail, his striking blue eyes lighting up behind his wire-rimmed glasses at the sound of
her voice. Omari didn’t think she could even hallucinate eyes that amazing.
“What happened to me? What time is it?” she asked.
“It seems, as usual, that you’ve managed to get yourself in trouble and wind up in the
hospital again. Now, I know you have a thing for cute ER doctors, but come on.”
Omari smiled back, in spite of the fact that she still didn’t feel wonderful, the room
spinning even though she willed it to stop. Noah was in street clothes, but he flashed an
ophthalmoscope in her eyes, took a stethoscope off from around his neck and listened to
“How are you feeling? Still dizzy?” he said.
“Been better really. And yeah, I am still feeling a little dizzy, how’d you know?”
“You’ve still got a little nystagmus. Your eyes are darting back and forth like a teenager
in the 70s having a roaring good time playing Pong.”
“Ah yes, of course. You wouldn’t believe it, but I’m actually a doctor of sorts myself.”
“Yes you are, my sweetheart, but you seem to have a difficult time with the maxim,
‘physician, heal thyself.’ I’m going to give you a little more medication to take the edge
off the spinning. How’s the nausea?” he asked, switching back to his business voice.
“It’s not bad actually, even with the bit of dizziness.”
“Good. I’ve got you pumped up on all kinds of stuff. Feeling drowsy? You’re on high
doses of a bunch of meds, but you metabolize everything so fast.”
“Yeah, I’m a little drowsy. But say, honey, I know you’re all concerned about me, but
you want to tell me what happened real quick?”
Noah had taken out a syringe of something and was injecting it into her IV line. “That
should help, but you might fall asleep again.”
Omari frowned. “Hey, no fair drugging me up to avoid my questions!”
Noah sighed and sat down after glancing at all the monitors she was hooked up to,
satisfied with her medical status for the moment. “Well, first of all, you tore a bunch of
muscles in your back and shoulder. Somehow in all the strain from that you’ve actually
managed to put some fractures in your clavicle and your scapula. I don’t even want to
know what kind of forces you need to do that. So, your arm gets to stay in that sling for a
few days until you heal that. And no flying until I say so.”
“Huh. Well, that would be why it was hurting so much today. I know I wasn’t just being
a baby,” she paused, “doesn’t hurt now though. Maybe all that passing out gave my body
time to heal that.”
“I don’t think so. You were just radiographed recently. The lack of pain would be all the
pain meds I have you on. Figured you’ve suffered enough the last two days, give you
“I probably don’t even want to know the dose you had to give me to make it feel this
much better, but thank you.”
“I spoke with the cops, and with that Francesca woman. They told me the story of what
happened,” a look of deep concern lined his face, and he touched her hand, “I’m so sorry
honey. That’s so frightening, and I can’t tell you how grateful nothing else happened to
“So what did happen? Last thing I really remember is lying down and having
“Well, you almost died.”
“No really. You could have died. Your sympathetic nervous system just went haywire.
You were having hallucinations and a tachycardic arrhythmia. Your blood glucose
plummeted and you had a seizure in the ambulance on the way over here they said.
You’re lucky the paramedics were almost there by the time you started going downhill.”
Omari swallowed, hard. “Why did that happen? I had eaten very recently, and I hadn’t
done any strenuous activity since the day before. It takes a lot more than that to make me
have a diabetic kind of episode like that.”
“I think it was a combination of things. You’ve had a lot of stresses put on your body. All
of the shock from both events over the last two days, the physical damage you did to your
shoulder, and then the drugs you were injected with. All of these things probably
contributed. The drugs alone could have produced an effect like that, but stacked on top
of everything else, it was a recipe for disaster. Being Feathered, you have really different
and complicated physiology. In some ways you’re harder to hurt than your average
person, and in other ways you’re more vulnerable.”
“Thanks for the reminder. Any idea what I was given?” Omari looked at her arm and
could see that the place where she’d been injected had become swollen and angry
“You metabolize everything so quickly, it’s difficult to know all of what you might have
been given, but your tox screen came up positive for ketamine. It explains the sedation,
confusion, and latent hallucinations. You must have been given a really massive dose for
it to have still been in your system that long after administration. From the looks of your
arm, you also seem to have had something of an anaphylactic reaction to the injection.
Might have something to do with your body being thrown totally out of whack.”
“But I’m better now, right? I feel pretty dang good, actually. The sling is kind of
uncomfortable, but other than that, I’m okay. When can I get out of here? You know how
much I hate being in the hospital. Plus, I’ve got my own personal tag along physician.”
Noah sighed. “For someone who hates hospitals you sure spend an awful lot of time in
them. And you’re lucky it’s just a sling. I had half a mind to make them put you in a cast,
knowing how hard it is for you to just sit still and let things heal. You know how much
you love casts. A regular person would have needed surgery and probably some pins to
hold that clavicle in place. And, as usual, you’re lucky you’re feeling so much better this
soon after an event like that. Part of why you feel so good is all the medications I’ve
given you. You’re going to at least have to spend the night here, and maybe tomorrow
night too, depending how well you do. But you’re going to have to be careful. Your
system is still fragile, and I don’t want anything to set off another chain reaction.”
Omari looked out the window and saw some of the lights of St. Louis glowing below her.
“What time is it anyway?”
“Almost midnight. You’ve been unconscious for hours.”
Omari shook her head. “Wow. By the by, not that I doubt your qualifications or anything,
but you don’t work here. Shouldn’t there be another doctor assigned to me?”
“Francesca left a message on my phone about what had happened and where you were.
Fortunately my plane landed shortly after you got here. I had a rental car waiting for me
just in case anyway, so I took a few driving tips from you and got here quickly.”
“Awww, I’m glad I’ve been able to teach you some useful skills.”
“Francesca and her fiancée were here already when I arrived. They’re nice people. Both
of them were really worried about you.”
“Well from what you’re saying, I almost died in front of them, so I can’t blame them for
being freaked out.”
“Anyway, it turns out that the guy in charge of your case went to med school with me.
He’s a buddy from way back. So, when he found out that I was your boyfriend, and a
specialist in working with Feathered patients, he unofficially stepped back for me. Nice
guy, but he admitted wings scared him anyway.”
“Typical. At least he let you take care of me. That makes me feel a lot better.” Omari had
bad experiences in the past dealing with doctors who had absolutely no idea how to take
care of the unique medical problems caused by her genetics.
“You should give Francesca a call sometime. I know it would make her feel better.
Between you and her sister, she was really broken up.”
“No word on Gina’s whereabouts then?”
“Nothing. Francesca stormed out of here proclaiming that she was determined to get to
the bottom of this “conspiracy” if it was the last thing she did. She didn’t really go into
details with me about what she was going to do, and I was too busy being focused on
keeping you alive to really pay attention. What conspiracy is she talking about?”
Omari thought for a moment. “Before I started hallucinating I remember her asking the
cop if there had been any other recent disappearances. His answer was very press
conference, “I cannot divulge that information to you” in nature. We all got the idea he
knew something that the police are probably trying to cover up.”
Noah shook his head. “I think I’ve had enough of conspiracies. But there may be
something to that theory. They have a guard posted outside your door in case anyone tries
to come after you again.”
“Great. Yet another hospital stay with an armed guard on my door. Wonderful.”
“You need to learn to stay out of trouble.”
The stoic look that had been gracing Noah’s face crumbled. He started sobbing silently,
tears dancing down his cheeks. He sat on the edge of the bed and threw his arms around
Omari, being careful not to crush her injured arm. Omari hugged him back with her good
arm, trying to keep from getting her IV line tangled.
“I’m just so glad that you’re okay. I love you so much. I don’t know what I’d do without
Tears began creeping down Omari’s face, dropping onto Noah’s shoulder, leaving dark
spheres on his blue shirt. “I love you too. I’m so sorry that I’m a freak. You deserve a
normal girlfriend and a normal life. It’s not fair to put you through things like this.”
Noah pulled back so he could look at Omari, using his thumb to brush tears first from her
checks and then his. “This is not your fault. Nothing that has happened to us is your fault.
These are things that you have no control over. You are beautiful and special just the way
you are, and I wouldn’t take you any other way. Besides, you’re the one that always ends
up getting hurt.”
Using her good arm, Omari deftly undid the first few buttons of Noah’s shirt, revealing
the scars beneath. “What do you call that? Who’s fault was that?”
“Not yours. Last time I checked, you were not the one responsible for setting fire to your
house. And the last time I checked, you were the one that rescued me from that fire
despite injuring yourself severely in the attempt.”
“I healed fine. No scars.”
“Yes, but you were burned far worse than I was. I’m lucky you are Feathered because a
normal person really would have died from that. And even though you have incredible
healing abilities, you still feel pain just like the rest of us.”
Omari shuddered, briefly sticking her toe in that memory that was sealed off like pond
frozen for winter. Don’t step too heavily on the ice, or you’ll fall through. And that burn
pain was not something she ever wanted to live through again.
“I still feel responsible,” Omari said.
“I know you do, but it’s not going to change how much I love you. I just want to keep
you safe, and it seems to be a darned hard thing to do.”
Omari thought of Shea and Francesca, and how they’d been support for each other
through all the hard times in their lives. Maybe they hadn’t been through the same kinds
of things that Noah and Omari had survived in their short, turbulent year, but nothing had
been able to sever their relationship. Omari sniffed, brushed away the rest of her tears,
and smiled. If they had made it through all of this, then there wasn’t anything they
couldn’t get through.
She wondered if Noah was thinking the same thing, because he returned her smile. He
pulled back from her embrace, took her face in both of his hands, and kissed her
“Nice kiss, but a little tame for someone that’s had two brushes with death in as many
days, don’t you think?” Omari said.
“Well, I am your doctor. Wouldn’t want to lose my license for making out with my
patients now would I?” A switch flipped, and Noah was back in professional mode again.
“Are you feeling tired yet? That medication should be kicking in.”
Omari felt her eyelids drooping. “Hate to admit it, but yeah.”
“You’ve been through a lot today. Lay back and get some rest honey. You really are a lot
sicker than you think you are.”
“You did too good of a job making me feel better, that’s why,” Omari said, her voice
trailing off as sleep began to overtake her.
“Goodnight sweetheart. I love you.”
“Love you too,” Omari mumbled before finally drifting off.
When she woke up the next morning, the sun was already hanging low in the sky. She
could hear the busy hustle of a crowded hospital pouring in through her open door.
“Wakey wakey sunshine. How are you feeling now?” Noah asked. He was reading a
magazine in the corner, and came over to start examining her again.
“Good overall. My shoulder actually hurts a little more than yesterday though.”
“That’s because I backed off the pain meds. I can give you another dose of something if
“No, that’s okay, I think that I’ll be fine. I’ve handled way worse pain before. What time
is it?” she asked.
“Almost noon. She had a nice Twelve hour nap.”
“That’s good. Your body needed that time to heal. Seriously.”
“What have you been doing this whole time?”
“Watching over you, mostly. Great thing about not actually working here is you’re my
only patient. Are you hungry?”
“Starving, now that you mention it. I wasn’t hungry at all yesterday.”
“I was weaning you off your dextrose drip that they put you on to stabilize your blood
sugar, so it’s good that you’re hungry. Hopefully we can get your body back to
functioning the way it’s supposed to. What would you like to eat?”
“You’ve got more experience navigating the perils of the hospital cafeteria system, so
you pick something out.”
“According to my friend, the food here is actually pretty good. Wish I could say the same
thing for my hospital back home.”
Noah left and came back a few minutes wielding a tray full of food.
“I broke the rules, stole extra portions for you,” he said.
“I’m so lucky. I feel like I’ve been having men bring me piles of food for the last two
days. And yet somehow I still can’t get my blood sugar regulated.”
Noah got quiet, the happy look falling from his face.
“What? What’s wrong?” Omari asked.
“Well, you know hypoglycemia is a common problem for Feathered people, right?”
“Uh huh, tell me about it.” She rolled her eyes.
“Well, there’s been talk of a new problem cropping up among the Feathered population.
It’s somewhat like regular diabetes, where there’s a problem with insulin production and
regulation, but it’s more severe than that. There are other factors involved that they’re not
quite sure about. There is no problem with blood sugar getting too high, like in regular
diabetes. There’s some reaction occurring where the afflicted will have a sudden and
precipitous drop in blood sugar. It’s like their body goes into metabolic overdrive and just
zaps all the glucose available all in one go. Then, pretty much the same thing that
happened to you yesterday happens to them. Seizure, and then sometimes coma, and in a
few cases, death.” Noah paused and Omari swallowed.
“You think that’s what’s going on with me?”
“I hope not. I hope it’s just all those combined effects that gave you so much trouble
yesterday. I didn’t mean to scare you, but I did want to make you aware of how important
it is to take care of yourself.”
“And they have no idea what’s causing it?”
“You know as well as I do that Feathered genetics and medical problems are still mostly
a mystery. That’s why you get misguided medical care every time you wind up in the
hospital. Thanks to us, actually, a lot of research programs were put on probation while
their ethical standards were investigated.”
Omari frowned. “I don’t want to be responsible for anyone getting denied important
medical treatment. I never even thought about that before.”
“Again, not your fault. You also wanted to make sure that no one else was ever
experimented on against their will. There’s a difference between that and performing
responsible research that will provide more benefit than harm to its subjects. It’s what
separates Harvard from Dr. Mengele’s lab.”
“I suppose you’re right. Do they have a name for this syndrome yet at least?”
“They’ve been just been calling it Acute Feathered Hypoglycemia Syndrome, AFHS.”
“I actually didn’t care what they were calling it, I just wanted to know if it was prevalent
for them to have given it an official name. What are they doing for people that have it?”
“Not a whole lot. Just having them carry around packets of dextrose or something else
with a high sugar content, and counseling them on any warning signs of a possible
“Just forget I mentioned it for now, okay?”
“Right. I’ll do my best on that one. Fortunately, I do have other things to take my mind
off of it. You know, like the person who drugged me yesterday and probably kidnapped
“For now, why don’t you just worry about eating?”
Omari could feel her stomach growling. “For once, I’m not going to argue with you on
Noah had brought her a nice variety of breakfast foods that Omari was surprised were
still available at that time of day. She ate a nice stack of pancakes with eggs that were
actually good. Perhaps not quite as good as the eggs Shea had made for her the day
before, or as good as the eggs that Noah would make her back home, but down right great
for hospital food. After eating a majority of the food, Omari was feeling even better.
“So, what do you say you get me out of this joint?” She asked, pushing her plate away.
Noah folded his arms. “I don’t know if that’s a good idea. I think you should probably
stay another night.”
“It’s not like I’ll be alone. I’ve got you to look after me if I start to go downhill again or
“Well, I would really like to take you back to California. At least whoever is stalking you
out here isn’t likely to track us across several states.”
“We can’t leave yet. Gina is still missing, Francesca and Shea are basically homeless
right now. The power is still out in half the city. Oh! And the conference! Crap, if they’re
back on again I’m supposed to present today. Damn it!” Omari sat up as though she were
going to get up and fly back to the hotel right then.
“Easy there lady,” he put a hand on her chest, pushing her back into the bed, “most of the
power has been restored to the city. Some of the smaller rural towns on the outskirts of
the city in both Missouri and Illinois are still without power, but they’re saying that they
hope for everything to be resolved at the end of the week. When I talked to Francesca this
morning she said that was an empty promise, but you never know. Oh, and I talked to the
convention coordinators today too. Told them you were in the hospital, and they said it
was no big deal. Half of the people presenting and just attending the convention left
already because of the power out. They’re going to do another one someone time in the
near future in a new city because of all the chaos caused by the storms.”
“I am never going to get my continuing education stuff squared away,” Omari said.
“There’s usually other things you can do for units. You know, online seminars, local
events, that kind of thing,” Noah said, stroking her arm.
“For now I’m just going to be busy being thankful that you’re alive. All the details we
can work out later. Speaking of people being thankful that you’re alive, why don’t you
call Francesca? She’s still really concerned about you, and it would probably be nice for
her just to hear your voice.”
Omari nodded. “You’re right. Will you hand me the phone?”
Noah passed the hospital phone over to her, and Omari dialed Francesca’s cell phone
“Hi Francesca,” Omari said when she picked up.
“Oh, Omari, I’m so glad that you’re okay. I can’t tell you how frightening that was
yesterday. And I feel responsible.”
“Don’t, really, don’t. It’s not your fault.”
“Noah and Shea have both been saying the same thing, but it’s hard not to feel that way.”
“The real thing that matters is Gina. Have you found out anything? Any news? How are
you holding up?” Omari asked.
“I’m okay. I think having something to focus on doing has helped. I haven’t really been
allowing myself to focus on everything that’s happened. I haven’t been able to find out
anything yet, but I’ve been digging. I have some connections I’m going to pull up today,
people in the police department that I know. You don’t own a bar for fifteen years
without running into some people and either making friends, or finding out some secrets
that people wouldn’t appreciate having spread around, if you know what I mean.”
“Is there anything I can do to help?”
“No. Thank you for everything you’ve done. Just focus on yourself and you know, not
dying. That would be great. Did Noah say how long you were going to be in the
“Not sure. I’m working on making him let me go this afternoon. I think I’m breaking him
down, so maybe something today.” She turned and looked at Noah when she said this. He
nodded and mouthed, “yeah yeah yeah.”
“Great guy you found by the way. I can only think of one guy who might compare to
what you have, and I’ve already got dibs. Can’t go wrong with a handsome doctor,
“Ain’t that the truth.”
“Thanks for calling and making sure I’m okay. So are you planning on flying back to
California once you twist Noah’s arm enough to let you go?”
“No. I was going to stick around and help you out with the hunt for Gina. I don’t think I
can just go back and leave you with all of these problems.”
“Nonsense. The best thing you can do for me is keeping yourself safe. I won’t hear of
you sticking around on account of me,” Francesca, her voice suddenly filled with
emotion, and Omari wondered if she had started crying.
“Okay, don’t worry about it. We’ll discuss it later. I know you can take care of yourself,
but I just don’t want to abandon you to deal with everything by yourself.”
“You really are a good person Omari. And, don’t forget, I’ve got Shea to take care of me
too, so I’m not all alone on this. That makes a big difference.”
“You are very right about that.” Omari glanced up at Noah who was messing around with
her IV line.
“Well girl, I’m going to let you get some rest. You be careful, okay?”
“Same to you. Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do…well, don’t do anything Shea or Noah
wouldn’t do. That’s a little better.”
They hung up and Noah replaced the phone on the bedside table for her.
“So, if I do let you out of here, what exactly were you planning on doing?” Noah asked.
“Depends on what my doctor’s note authorizes me to do.” She raised one of her
Noah folded his arms in thought. “If I had my way, I’d make you come back to Santa
Cruz with me, and take the next week off of work to relax and make sure you’re better,
let your shoulder finish healing.”
“And if I had my way I’d stay here and help Francesca in her search for Gina.”
“Honey, I know you want to help out, but this person has you targeted. Haven’t you had
enough of being hunted? I mean, there’s a guard outside your door right now, in case this
guy wants to come back and finish what that note threatened to do.”
“This means you’re going to let get me out tonight though, right? Pretty please?”
“I guess. At least stay here for the rest of the afternoon, and I’ll see if I can get you
released this evening. Fair enough?”
“Yay! Thank you honey.”
“Only because I’ll be around to take care of you. We’ll decide what to do
“We can stay the night at the hotel, but I want to get a flight out tomorrow
morning, okay?” Noah said, crossing his arms so Omari would know he wasn’t going to
give in to her this time.
Omari sighed. “I just don’t feel right leaving everything like this.”
“I know honey, but you were so incredibly lucky that you weren’t kidnapped. Whoever
this is clearly enjoys toying with his victims, otherwise you wouldn’t be here right now.
Francesca is right. It’s more important to keep you safe right now. So just relax now. If
you get all worked up I’ll make you stay another night.”
Omari reluctantly agreed. They spent the remainder of the afternoon reading magazines,
watching television, and doing the odd medical test so Noah could get the actual
attending physician to sign off on her release.
“You know, you really must be in good with this guy. I haven’t even seen him in here
once. He really must trust you. Plus, he’s breaking some mighty big rules letting you take
over my case like this,” Omari said as Noah was taking out her IV line.
“He’s a good guy. Plus, he’s really busy and knows I’m something of a specialist in
They went through some more rigmarole, checking out with the security guard and
notifying the police of what their intentions were as far as her whereabouts. Omari got the
express feeling that they were concerned about her safety. The officer she spoke to told
her they would have liked to have assigned someone on patrol duty to look after her, but
as was typical they didn’t have the kind of staff for that. She hung up with an
admonishment to be careful and call the unit in charge of her case if she noticed anything
Noah helped Omari change back into her street clothes, which was something of a
challenge between her wings and her left arm that was confined to the sling. They took an
elevator to the bottom floor of the hospital and got into the little commuter car that Noah
had rented from the airport.
“Thanks for springing me from the jailhouse,” Omari said, attempting to buckle her
“Just behave yourself, okay? I don’t want you end up back in there again.” He reached
over and clicked her belt in.
“Yes sir. Do you think I should call Francesca? I haven’t heard from her since this
“Why don’t you wait until we get back to the hotel? It’ll be hard to hear her on the cell
phone in the car.”
“Good point. Ever since the tornado it seems like service has been less than optimal
anyway. What did you want to do for dinner anyway? I’m supposed to keep my blood
sugar up after all, right?”
“Since you’re doing so well, if you’re up to it we can either go out to a restaurant, or we
can just get some food and bring it back to our hotel room. I’ll leave this call up to you.”
“I have a bit of cabin fever…you know how I don’t like to sit still for that long.”
“Yes I do. Have the same problem myself, as a matter of fact. My doctor buddy gave me
a suggestion for a good Thai place if you’re in the mood, but he says it can get pretty
busy at night in that area. It’s just down the street from here in the University City loop.
He said the whole are is a popular hang out for all the college kids that go to Wash U.”
“Sounds good to me. I don’t mind a crowd, and it will probably be safer to be in a highly
populated area right now anyway.”
“You just let me know if you’re starting to feel strange, or overwhelmed. I just don’t
want you to overdo it.”
Noah proceeded past old brick and Victorian houses that seemed to pepper the entire city.
He made a left, and they were amidst a mass of cars. Numerous stores and restaurants
lined the street, with throngs of pedestrians crisscrossing between them. Omari couldn’t
believe this is what it looked like on a Tuesday night. She wondered what the place was
like on the weekend.
“Welcome to the loop,” Noah said.
They passed an old historic looking theatre with a bunch of non-standard movies listed on
the marquee. People were queued down the sidewalk waiting to get inside. Omari
assumed that it must be the local independent theatre and thought it might be nice to see a
movie later in the evening. Like many people in Santa Cruz, she enjoyed a night of
watching off-beat independent cinema over whatever the latest blockbuster hit was.
“That’s the Tivoli. Real famous theatre in this area. And over there, that’s Blueberry
Hill,” he pointed to a club down the street that had an even larger tongue of a crowd
rolling forth from its mouth, “it’s something of a tourist trap, but real famous blues bar. It
gets some big names down there in the basement.”
“Is there a reason why you know all this,” Omari said, “or were you just reading tourist
brochures while I was unconscious?”
“Actually, I’ve spent a good amount of time in St. Louis. Kentucky is just around the
corner, and I used to come out here to visit that same doctor. His family lives here, and
sometimes I’d spend the holidays with them. It’s been a long time though. Didn’t I
mention that to you before you left for this trip?”
Omari tried to remember, but came up with nothing.
“You know, I’ll be damned, but I don’t remember you saying anything like that. I’m
going to chalk it up to hypoxic brain injury from the seizure…”
“Either that or just your usual wandering attention span.”
“Why, I have no idea, what you’re talking about,” Omari said and pantomimed being
overtly distracted by all of the bright lights.
They both laughed.
“This place kind of reminds me of downtown Santa Cruz. The independent movie theater,
all the used book and music stores, and other random vendors. It’s just a hell of a lot
hotter, that’s all,” Omari said.
“I thought the same thing when I came to Santa Cruz for the first time. Except I got
spoiled by the beach and the nice weather and wanted to stay on the west coast.
Otherwise, I wouldn’t have minded moving into this area. It was really nice to see Brian
again though. I feel bad, we were really good friends and then we drifted apart when I
moved to California.”
“Yeah, Dr. Cohen. The guys we’ve been talking about this whole time.”
“I just realized that you hadn’t mentioned his name until now.”
“Seriously, Omari, are you sure you’re okay?”
“Because I’ve said his name numerous times today, and last night, that’s why. Are you
having memory problems?”
“Not that I can remember…”
“Sorry, I couldn’t resist. Really, I’m sure I’m fine. There’s just been a lot going on these
few days, I’m sure that’s all,” she said.
“Maybe we should take you back to the hospital and get one last CT of your head.”
“Don’t be silly. If I forget your name, then we can be concerned. Barring that, then all we
need to do is get some Thai food.”
Noah continued frowning, and looking at her back and forth between watching the road
and the swarms pedestrians forging across it.
“I’m thinking I must have been crazy to let you go out tonight. We should just go back to
the hotel room. I think this is going to be too much for you.”
“Come on! Seriously, I’m okay. And I am not going anywhere without Thai food.”
“I mean it Omari. I don’t know what I was thinking. This is just not going to be good for
you. I think I let my concern for your feelings cloud my judgement as a doctor, and that’s
“I think, your paranoia about my well being as your girlfriend is affecting your judgment
as a doctor.”
“Regardless, would you just humor me and let us take the food back to our hotel room?”
“You’re really not going to let me win, are you?”
“I’d prefer not to in this case. Stress can trigger an episode of…” Noah trailed off, and
Omari didn’t think she’d ever seen him this serious. The man had nerves like reinforced
rebar, and it took a lot to shake him up.
“You’re worried that I really do have that AFHS thing, aren’t you?”
He reached over and squeezed her hand. “I don’t know, but I would be lying if I said it
hasn’t been on my mind. To be honest, I was concerned about it before this whole chain
of events, but I didn’t want to say anything. Seemed like I was just being paranoid, you
know, with you not actually having any full on episode or anything. But you have been
having more and more trouble regulating your blood sugar, and all the literature says that
symptoms do seem to develop gradually at first,” Noah blurted out in a rush.
He had stopped the car at a metered parking spot directly in front of a crowded restaurant
that had a neon outline of the country of Thailand in the window. Omari waited to reply,
allowing Noah to concentrate while he parallel parked in the cramped space, avoiding
oblivious pedestrians and other cars in a rush to find parking spots for themselves.
Fortunately the only thing available for rental had been a small commuter car.
“Noah, we don’t know if there’s anything wrong with me. Yesterday I was shot up with
what was probably a massive dose of ketamine, and whatever else. That alone can cause
delayed delusions and cardiovascular problems. Plus, my body was already dealing with
trying to repair my damaged shoulder, stress, and a lack of sleep. For all you know I’m
not going to have any other problems,” Omari said once he parked the car.
“I know, I know, it’s unlikely, and I don’t want to scare you, but you know as well as I do
that it only takes one time for your blood sugar to drop too low and then to fall into a
coma and die. Will you just humor me this time?” Noah looked into her eyes, and Omari
didn’t think she’d ever seen him look so shaken. Truthfully, Omari was beginning to
worry herself. Thinking back, she had been having more and more trouble with her blood
sugar suddenly dropping, even after just some moderate activity. She thought back to an
aikido class, the Japanese martial art that she taught a few times a week. She’d been at a
class a few weeks prior where she’d had to run back into her dojo’s small kitchen to get a
snack after just a few warm up exercises. She hadn’t thought much of it at the time, and
chose to push it out of her mind for the time being. One crisis at a time.
“Okay, okay. But you better get a lot of food mister. If I’m going to be cooped up
in a hotel room all night, I at least want a good stash of food with me.”
Noah smiled finally, some of the uncharacteristic seriousness falling away. “Hey,
at least the company won’t be so bad.”
“That’s true. I couldn’t wish for more charming companionship. But I really
would have liked to have gotten the chance to enjoy St. Louis. Too bad everything ended
up getting so screwed up, as usual.”
“I’m sorry baby. I know it’s not fair. I promise sometime we’ll come back to St.
Louis and I’ll show you around the way you should have been able to. Will you wait here
in the car while I grab the food?”
“I know it’s right in front of the restaurant here, but keep all the doors locked,
“I think I can do that…I’ll try not to get distracted by the bright lights and wander
Noah left, and Omari fidgeted in the passenger seat, watching as an interesting cross
section of people sauntered down the street. It was still hot and sticky, but Omari seemed
to have acclimated to it somewhat. Everyone was dressed sparingly, flashing skin in the
night. Omari wondered how smart it was for all these young, attractive, and in many
cases solitary women to be walking around like that. Amongst the young and clearly
university crowd were some unsavory looking individuals, and she was sure some of
them were on the hunt for some unsuspecting prey.
That thought made her mind drift to Gina. Something like that could have happened to
her. Innocent young woman wandering around the wrong part of town at the wrong time.
Someone could have followed her home, convinced her to open the door, kidnapped her
and stolen her key. She had just disappeared so suddenly, when she was supposed to be
meeting Francesca at her apartment. And why did this person just drug her, and leave her
in the apartment? Why not kidnap her right there and then?
Omari was lost in thought, when her cell phone began beeping. Picking it up, it flashed a
half dozen missed calls and voice messages. There must have been no reception before,
because she never heard it ring. The calls were from Francesca. The first five messages
never went through, as though there was never enough of a connection on either side to
leave a voicemail. Then the last message finally persevered. There was a click, some
static, and then Francesca’s voice, “Omari! Help!” and then nothing, disconnected.
Omari’s eyes went wide. Francesca was in trouble. Damn it! If only the call had held long
enough for her to tell her where she was. Omari had jumped out of the car to go get Noah
when she saw a woman with wings walk by. She was coming out of the shadows from a
narrow alley way next to the restaurant. Omari gasped because in the dim lighting, it
looked just like the pictures of Gina.
“Gina?!” she said, and ran to the mouth of the alley. But as she got closer, she
realized that it couldn’t be Gina. This woman had long dark hair, but it was straight, and
her wings were the standard iridescent white.
“Omari, dear,” the woman said, and she had just long enough to hear the danger
in her voice, like the promise of a deep cut from a sharp knife. All it needed was the
opportunity to get close enough.
Omari was about to ask who the hell the woman was when she roughly grabbed
her right arm, the one not covered by the sling, and jammed a needle into it. The woman
moved so fast, it was already over, the entire contents of the syringe injected into her
flesh before she could even react.
“There there dear, time to go nighty night,” she heard the woman say.
Omari’s legs started to buckle and she felt strong arms pick her up, cradling her like she
was a baby. She saw feathers spreading, felt a warm breeze rush past her face as they
went airborne and she plummeted back to the bottom of the well in her deep
She awoke to pain. It felt like someone was taking an ice pick and jabbing it repeatedly
into her shoulder. For a minute she thought she was back in the hospital. Blinking several
times she clearly saw that she was lying in a hospital bed, wearing another hospital gown.
But her feet were shackled to either side of the metal posts, stretched uncomfortably wide.
And the reason for the pain in her shoulder became apparent: her arms were twisted up
behind her back and bound painfully tight above her head. Looking down at her chest she
could see a piece of her collarbone poking up unnaturally through her skin, not actually
penetrating through the other side, but bulging expectantly like a new plant pushing it’s
first green shoot up to the sunlight. Someone had succeeded in finishing the partial
fracture in her clavicle.
The pain was intense, and the vertigo had returned. She tried to make out her
surroundings, but it was dark, wherever she was, cool and damp, as though she was in a
“Help!!!” she screamed, and then cried out in pain, knowing it wasn’t going to bring
anything good, but she couldn’t help it. She tried to thrash against the restraints, but any
movement brought such pain and increased vertigo that she immediately stopped, crying
out involuntarily again.
“My my, our little blonde flower has finally awoken,” a man’s voice said.
She heard footsteps echoing in the room as they approached, a silhouette
becoming clearer with every reverberation. Omari thought she was hallucinating again,
because even in the midst of the vertigo, she was clearly seeing a male winged figure.
Impossible, she thought. Feathered males were simply not possible, and to her knowledge
none had ever been born, let alone survived. Part of their genetic mystery, all Feathered
people were female, and incapable of bearing children. They appeared to be genetic
mutations occurring during the mating of two apparently typical parents. This fact is one
of the things that led her best friend Lana to betray her to a biomedical corporation
promising her a child if she managed to hand Omari over to them. Since Omari’s parents
had volunteered her as a guinea pig to the company when she was a child, they had a
great deal of research collected on her particular genome. The project had been shut
down due to questionable ethics standards, but had been resurrected covertly decades
later after the genetics revolution, and the millions promised to those who could master
the trick of manipulating that sticky double helix. Sure, violate human rights today, but
produce a lucrative and important scientific discovery and the government tends to look
the other way on such things. Lana had wanted a baby enough to sacrifice her best friend
for that purpose, and Omari still hadn’t come to terms with the betrayal.
Omari closed her eyes and shook her head, still disbelieving what she was seeing. Men
could not be Feathered. It simply didn’t happen. Had she been injected with ketamine
again? The man was pale, the white of fresh jasmine blossoms, his short spiky hair
matching that virgin white and blending into the fluffy splendor of the wings spread wide
around him. It wasn’t just the color of a person who didn’t venture out in the sun often;
he was albino, his eyes the scared pink of a laboratory bunny.
He leaned in close to her face, caressing her check, running his hands through her long
hair that had been released from its braid.
“So pretty. I think you’re the most beautiful of the collection, my dear,” he said, his voice
sounding too masculine for his delicate glowing color and pink eyes. But at close range
Omari could see a powerful frame beneath the light blue shirt he was wearing.
“No, no it can’t be. Impossible,” Omari said, momentarily forgetting her incarcerated
state of being, mesmerized by the ghostly man.
“I am magnificent, aren’t I?” he said, “you should be honored to be here.”
“Where am I?! Who are you?! Let me go, you’ve broken my collarbone!” Omari
said through gritted teeth, trying not to move as the man continued to run his hands along
“So glad you asked. I’m Dominic. A one of a kind, as you can see. As for where
you are, that’s not for you to know right now. Consider yourself a guest. As for your
collarbone, I’m sorry. I didn’t realize so little force would break it like that, but it is
proving useful for restraining you. I’ve heard that you’re quite the dangerous one, and I’d
prefer not to take any chances.”
“What do you want with me?! Let me go, you bastard!” Omari said, trying to jerk her
face away from his relentless stroking, but any movement caused pain to shoot down her
arm, the pieces of her broken clavicle rubbing against each other.
“Careful dear, you’ll hurt yourself more. It’s quite simple you see. You’re going to
become a part of my family.”
“You’re going to bear my children,” he said, a dreamy look migrating across his
face, as though the idea brought him great pleasure.
“What?!” Omari repeated, incapable of saying anything else in response and sure
that she had to be hallucinating still.
“At least I hope you will. You had a nasty reaction to that injection Samantha
gave you yesterday. Hope you don’t have that syndrome that’s been cropping up. Can’t
be helped if you do. May as well end your suffering if that’s the case. Don’t want that
business floating around the gene pool. Gina’s actually working on that now, but I
figured it could take weeks. Figured we should start the process now, and just abort if
everything doesn’t go as well as we hoped.
“Gina?” Omari said, gasping with the pain, trying to fight past the disorientation
“Ah yes, Gina. She’s been very useful to me and Samantha. Very helpful. She
needed a little persuading, but that’s what Aaron is for. For some reason, males make
very good bargaining chips with you women. Call it insurance. Your Noah—for instance,
I’m sure you care very much for him.”
“Noah?” Omari said, thinking back to where he was the moment before she was
kidnapped. “What have you done with Noah?!”
“Nothing right now, he’s just fine. Maybe a little uncomfortable, but okay. Just
remember. None of the males are essential to our mission. They’re expendable.
Misbehave and I might not be feeling so generous anymore. Just keep that in mind.”
“I’m not having any children with you, you twisted bastard,” Omari spat.
“Oh?” he pinched her cheeks between his thumb and forefinger and planted a kiss
on her mouth, “it only takes one time, you know. And, you’re ovulating.”
He smiled, and Omari’s eyes widened. “No. No, you couldn’t have…”
“Samantha will be in shortly to feed and take care of you. I suggest you eat,
otherwise I can guarantee you that your Noah won’t. I want my future child to grow up
healthy after all. You have to eat right.”
He finally released Omari’s face, turned around, and left through a door at the far
side of the room. Omari tried to make out her surroundings. She appeared to be in a
modified basement of some kind, but it was difficult to tell between her dizziness and the
lack of light. A single lamp was shining by the bed next to her, leaving the rest of the
room in darkness. She struggled to calm her nerves, but it was too much. She didn’t even
know what to concentrate on. Her thoughts bounced from Noah, to the extreme pain in
her shoulder, and Dominic’s claim that he had raped her in an attempt to impregnate her.
The door opened again, and a brighter, overhead light came on. She was in a
basement of some kind, but there was an odd covering on the walls. A drab olive green
carpet adorned the floor, and a single threadbare couch pushed against the far side of the
room was the only other furniture other than her hospital bed and a small steel table. The
woman who had grabbed her in the alleyway appeared carrying a tray, her wings folded
neatly behind her, a calf length black dress swishing from side to side as she approached.
“Hello darling. Sorry about your shoulder. Dominic can get carried away, but he
just doesn’t want to take any chances. Can’t blame him, you know. He’s just thinking of
the big picture,” she said, setting the tray down on the steel table.
“What are you going to do to me?” Omari asked, sizing up the contents of the tray.
There was some food, several syringes filled with different colored liquids, and other
various medical supplies.
“I’m going to feed you, and give you some medicine, that’s all. I can’t let your
hands down. Dominic will be upset. But if you’re a good girl I’ll wrap it up and set it so
that it won’t hurt as much unless you’re trying to move. And if you’re really good and eat
everything without a fuss, I might even give you some pain meds before I do it.”
Omari wanted to explode, screaming at the woman for doing this to her,
kidnapping her and allowing some insane man rape her and break her collarbone. But the
woman was offering relief from her broken collarbone and maybe information if she
played her cards right.
“Why are you doing this? And who are you?”
“I’m Samantha. I’m a nurse; I work at a hospital around here. Dominic is my
husband. I’m helping him to fulfill the destiny of our race, and so will you.”
“What? Destiny of our race?”
“Dominic is the first of his kind. A Feathered male. With him, we can reproduce,
we can truly become our own separate race, not just a freak mutation occurring at random
intervals. You should feel honored. You will be among the first to start our heritage.”
“Why? Why kidnap me, and Francesca’s sister. Why not just have a child
Samantha frowned. “I would, but I am a failure in that way. I am truly infertile. I
can only help by recruiting others for the cause.”
“By kidnapping other women?” Omari asked, gritting her teeth, trying not to
“I don’t think of it as kidnapping. Just borrowing until you come to your senses
and volunteer on your own. Once you experience the joy of pregnancy, and the furthering
of our kind, you will be thankful. Now, would you like to eat first, or would you like me
to deal with your shoulder first?”
Omari thought for a moment. She was overwhelmingly hungry, but her shoulder
was in agony. “Shoulder, please.”
“It’s going to hurt. You’re going to have to eat even if you don’t feel like it.”
“It hurts now.”
“Alright then. Just remember, you have to eat, or he really will hurt your
boyfriend. Since you’re not causing any trouble, I’ll give you a little something to take
the edge off first.”
She grabbed an alcohol swab and a syringe from the tray and pulled up Omari’s
hospital gown. She swirled the swab around in a circle on her hip a few times before
pulling the cap off the needle and plunging it into her muscle. Omari winced and tried not
to pull away. As soon as the first syringe was done, she followed it up with two more
“Sorry, I know that stings, but you should start to feel better in a few minutes,”
Samantha said and grabbed several rolls of bandage material.
“What did you just give me?”
“This and that. Some fertility stuff and something else to help you relax and ease
Omari, ignoring the inclusion of fertility medications, was already noticing a difference,
her breathing slowing, and vision beginning to steady. She found herself liking the
woman despite knowing better. It was simple association. Even though this woman had
been instrumental in her capture, her new connection with Samantha was one of relief.
“I would say no falling asleep until you eat, but what I’m about to do is definitely going
to wake you up. Just remember to keep breathing.”
Omari nodded, no stranger to pain, knowing that even with some of the pain meds that it
was going to hurt. Bad. Samantha pulled up on her arm with one hand, and pushed down
at her protruding collarbone with the other one. Omari cried out and bit her lip, hearing
the scrape of her own bones as Samantha forced them back into place.
“Don’t move, or I’m going to have to set it again.”
Omari fought the urge to wiggle, tears streaming silently down her face as Samantha
began wrapping her entire upper torso in tight bandages.
“Relax, breathe, I’m almost done.”
She did her best to comply, but her breathe came out in short, violent gasps, every
movement still causing pain.
“There, all finished. As long as you don’t move around too much, this is going to be a lot
more comfortable, especially with those pain meds. I’m sorry I can’t let your hands down
though. I’d have to re-set the bones again if we did anyway. Dominic is just…not very
stable. There’s something not quite right about him.”
“How did you get mixed up with someone like him?” Omari asked, beginning to feel
better again, as promised.
“Just look at him, he’s gorgeous,” Samantha said, adoration shining in her eyes.
“He’s an albino freak with some insane vision of Feathered world domination,” Omari
said, forgetting her vow not to upset the woman.
Samantha continued as though she hadn’t heard Omari, “Dominic is so beautiful, but
such a temper he has. Such a temper,” her face clouded with memories forgotten for a
reason, her brow furrowing with the unwanted recollection.
“Yes, I noticed.”
“You just can’t make him mad, that’s all. Must not make him mad. He’s strong, so very
strong,” she said as in a fugue.
Omari wondered what memories Samantha was sifting through, exactly how she had
gotten wrapped up in Dominic’s baby cult, and what had happened in her life that made
her susceptible to a charismatic leader such as him. Just watching her face, Omari had no
doubt that if offered the special Kool-Aid, Samantha would drink it. In an odd way, she
felt sorry for the woman.
“I’ll keep that in mind.”
The lights seemed to flip back on inside of Samantha, “Yes well, that’s why you must eat
now. You promised now.”
“I remember,” she said and Omari was actually hungry.
She allowed Samantha to feed her a sandwich and some juice, followed by several other
snacks. It was very strange to be having this woman hand feed her.
“Do you know anything about Noah?” Omari asked, “Can I see him?”
“He has not been harmed. But I cannot let you see him. Dominic has forbidden it.”
“What about Francesca? And Gina? Is there anyone else here? And where is here?”
“I can’t tell you where we are, but don’t worry this place is safe. And soundproof too,”
Samantha said, motioning to the odd covering on the walls. Omari wondered what
exactly would be less safe than where she was right then. She had been drugged,
kidnapped to some soundproofed basement where she had been abused, and then raped.
Raped. Raped. She shut the door in the face of that thought. There would be a time and
place to process those feelings, but until she escaped she could not visit that reality.
“What about the others?”
“Gina is a nice girl. She’s helping Dominic out a lot by using her lab at Wash U to screen
the girls for genetic anomalies. You see, we don’t want to breed the albino trait into the
babies if we can help it. He has to stay out of the sun you know. Before we were just
going to breed and hope for the best, but once we found out about Gina, we knew she was
going to be perfect for the project. Both as a carrier for the babies and for the research
equipment she has access to. Her boyfriend Aaron is with Noah.”
She thought of the guy in the happy picnic pictures in Gina’s apartment. That must be
Aaron, the boyfriend that for some reason none of her friends seemed to know about. She
wondered just how long Aaron had been held prisoner by Dominic and Samantha.
“What about Francesca?”
“We collected her too. We weren’t going to, because of her height, but she was causing
too much trouble after Gina went missing.”
“What are you going to do with her?” Omari asked, hoping she wasn’t going to be
disposed of to hide any evidence of their plan.
“Gina says that she might not be useless after all. She says that it may be possible to
breed Francesca too, depending on what caused her to become so small. The black wings
are a very desirable trait that Dominic would like to have in the gene pool, so it might be
worth the risk.”
Omari was glad Francesca should be safe, but sadness gripped her when she came to the
realization that Dominic might have already raped her. She thought of Francesca’s
Herculean strength and wondered how they were managing to keep her captive.
“She was difficult to catch. Put up a real fight, and I’ve had to keep her sedated. She’s so
strong; I couldn’t believe it, especially with her side. She already destroyed a pair of
restraints. Dominic got very angry, so I haven’t been taking any chances with her.”
Omari’s own strength wasn’t as great as Francesca’s, but she still demonstrated abilities
far beyond the normal human. If her shoulder wasn’t broken, and she wasn’t busy
fighting whatever had been making her so ill, Omari could have broken out of the soft
restraints herself. It would be very painful, and she would have to wait for the exact right
moment, but it might be a chance for escape. She just wished she knew where the others
were. She might have to escape first and come back with police help, and just hope no
harm came to the others while she was gone.
“How are you feeling, dear?” Samantha asked, stroking Omari’s face just as Dominic
Omari struggled not to pull away. She had to stay on this woman’s good side. It was her
only chance for escape. She might even be able to convince them she was on their side,
and they might let her go willingly. But if Dominic was as crazy as he seemed to be, and
there was any inkling of a police invasion, he might do something to Noah and the rest
before they were rescued. She didn’t like the thought of that, but it might be the only
“Tired,” Omari said, and it was true. Despite the grandiose schemes of escapism,
thoughts of slumber were gaining popularity in her body’s autonomic poll of what to do
“Good, then you should rest. You’re ovulating now, so Dominic will want to attempt to
fertilize you again soon. The more times, the better the chance you will actually get
pregnant. And if all of your medical screens are clear, we’ll get to keep the baby too.
Won’t that be wonderful? You could be the first to have a little Feathered baby,”
Samantha said in a dreamy voice.
It took everything Omari had not to scream. The woman was so clearly brainwashed,
either ensorcelled by the magnetic force of Dominic, the idea of having babies, or both.
Or, perhaps Dominic had in fact originally kidnapped Samantha, just as they had been
kidnapped, and she had Stockholmed with him. A Patty Hearst situation where after so
much abuse she sided with her aggressor. She thought of how Samantha had said she was
infertile, and therefore worthless to Dominic in that sense. Had she been repeatedly raped
for them to figure this out?
“Be good now and take a nap, okay? I’m going to turn off your light.”
“Okay,” Omari said and forced a smile.
She left, turning out the light, and leaving Omari in darkness. Samantha’s words
ricocheted around the crowded expanse of her mind: you’re ovulating now, so Dominic
will want to attempt to fertilize you again soon. She had to get out of there before that
happened again. She thought of him sliding those moonlight white hands down her body,
his pink tongue in her mouth. The image alone should have been enough for her to stay
awake, take advantage of the painkillers to help her escape the restraints. But it wasn’t
enough. She found the mischievous hand of sleep pulling her back out to sea, and no
matter how she struggled, soon the shore was no longer visible and she was floating alone
in the black waters.
When she next opened her eyes, it was still dark. It was disorienting, not having any
sense of time, and only a vague idea of space. She wondered how long she’d been asleep
since Samantha had visited her, and how much time had passed since she’d first been
kidnapped. Her shoulder hurt again, and her body just felt stiff from being stretched into
the awkward position, but the pain wasn’t as intense as it could have been. That told her
it probably hadn’t been long, if the pain meds were still having an effect. Had Dominic
been back in again? Though drowsy she hadn’t really been sedated this time. At least she
hoped that Samantha hadn’t given her something to totally knock her out. She would
have woken up if he tried to do anything, right?
She was filled with the overwhelming need to get out of her restraints. The thought of
him violating her again was abominable, and in the back of her mind there was Noah.
Dominic wasn’t stable. What if he randomly decided to take out his frustrations on Noah?
That wasn’t acceptable. She had to get out.
This was going to be painful. First, she would free her legs. That would be the easy part.
The hard part would be not making any noise when breaking the shackles, and not
screaming when she freed her hands. Supposedly sound proofed or not, she didn’t want to
take any chances. Taking a deep breath she rallied all her strength, and began pulling. It
was harder than she thought it was going to be because of the way she was stretched. She
couldn’t get any real leverage, and thrashing her feet around moved her shoulder. There
was no giving in, and finally with the euphoric support of adrenaline, she pulled the
restraints from the bed.
With her legs free, it was easier to move around position herself. The plan was to free her
good arm, and then use it to unlatch the restraints on her injured arm. Omari wasn’t sure
how well this was going to work, considering her bad arm was shackled closely to her
good one. The key was to work quickly, before the adrenaline ran out and the pain came
back. Pulling with as much strength as she had, Omari went in short aggressive bursts,
gasping and straining with each round. Every yank sent electric shocks of agony down
her arm, but she could feel the restraints giving way.
One more go, and both of her hands were released from above her. She wasn’t expecting
both of them to give way, and both her were brought forcefully down in her lap. The
power of the motion popped her collarbone back out of place. She heard crunching and
bit down on her tongue to keep from screaming. Blood poured into her mouth, that thick
metallic taste sliding down her throat. Rocking back and forth, jarred by the shock of
what she’d done, she tried to bring herself back to focus. She had to move through the
pain, there was no time for it right then.
She took a few deep shuddering breaths, attempting to ground and center. The next step,
if she could just concentrate on the next step, then she could ignore everything else. She
had to get the restraint cuffs the rest of the way off, and she had to do something to
stabilize her shoulder. She knew that if she could get her shoulder immobilized in the
correct position, it wouldn’t hurt as much anymore. Collarbone fractures even in normal
people would heal on their own if the affected arm was allowed to heal in a sling. It was
just being manipulated and aggressively shoved into bad positions that was causing her
such sever discomfort.
The padded cuffs on her feet were easy to unbuckle with her good hand. Without much
difficulty she gingerly undid the cuff on her bad hand. That left only her good arm with a
cumbersome cuff left around it, and she was disappointed to find that her bad arm was
not functioning like it should. Her fingers were sluggish and clumsy, and felt cold. Bad
sign. It was possible that during all of the trauma she managed to pinch some nerves or
blood vessels. The clavicle protects many important structures. Nature puts things in
places for a reason.
Using her teeth to stabilize it, she used what little coordination was left in that
hand to undo the cuff. With her good hand completely free, she unwrapped the bandage
material from her arm and fashioned a sling of sorts. She tried to make a figure eight of
sorts across her chest to really pin the arm in place. That way if she ran into Samantha or
Dominic, she could still potentially be effective in physical combat. Fortunately, Omari
was skilled in physical confrontation, and Aikido, her style of martial art was particularly
effective for using an opponent’s strength against them. With her arm affixed securely
she might be able to pull off some maneuvers that would allow her to get out safe.
It was still dark in her room, and she debated on whether or not to turn the light
on. She decided to take a gamble and turn on the overhead light on. Without illumination,
there was no way she was going to be able to see what she was doing or where she was
going. The lamp flickered on, revealing the sparse room again. Her first reaction was to
try and leave through the door Samantha and Dominic had come from. It was the only
obvious way out. But the more she thought about it, if this was a basement, it was awfully
small. Now Omari didn’t know a great deal about the sizes of basements in the St. Louis
area, but she was fairly certain they would be bigger than this. Plus, where were the
others being held? There were at least five other people being held captive, presumably
on the same premises. Omari suspected the basement had been artificially divided.
The walls had an odd padded substance on them. Some kind of homemade sound
proofing. It was a long shot, but there might be some kind of weakness in the wall. If she
were able to get some of the material off the wall, she might be able to see find it.
Samantha had left a pair of rather wicked looking surgical scissors on the steel table next
to the bed. She was hopeful they might actually cut through the material on the walls.
The scissors were cold in her hand, the light on the adjacent farm wall dim.
Setting the scissors down, she felt the base of the padding, searching for a weakness of
some kind, an easy place to start. She came to what felt like a seam, and hoped that it also
corresponded to a seam in the wall itself. It was worth a shot, but she needed to work fast.
Dominic or Samantha might be back any time.
Just as she hoped, the precision steel scissors cut easily through the fabric, making
a slit as tall as she was in just a few moments. Using her bandages as a second hand, she
reached behind her and slipped the scissors through some of the upper layers of the
bandages across her back so they wouldn’t stab her, but she wouldn’t lose them.
The wall underneath basically looked like weak particle board, and she had
indeed found a seam where the walls were nailed into a post of some kind. Omari was
sure she could rip it out and get to whatever was on the other side. Hopefully the sound
proofing actually worked, and they wouldn’t be able to detect what she was doing. It was
a long shot, but all she could do was hope. If she was really fortunate, Francesca would
be on the other side of the wall. If she could free her, their chances of escaping were far
better together, especially with Francesca’s freakish strength and speed on their side. She
was curious how Samantha was able to kidnap Francesca in the first place.
Only one way to find out what was on the other side of the wall. It was awkward
pulling with just one had, but Omari was strong enough, and the wall poorly constructed
enough that the nails broke the flaky particle board and slipped out like a soapy ring on a
wet finger. Excited by her success, she kept pulling, until she actually snapped that small
section of particle board. To her amazement, it wasn’t nearly as loud as she thought it
was going to be, breaking with little more than the soft crunch of a cracker being halved.
To her surprise, there wasn’t even a second layer of particle board behind this one,
as if the inner wall had truly been constructed in haste. Perhaps this extra partition had
been created when Omari had presented herself as a victim, erected in haste so they
would have a safe place to house her. The outer walls were probably more firmly
constructed, and better sound proofed so that the important part, not letting the neighbors
hear screams from their captors was achieved. There was simply another layer of the
thick fabric on the other side, which Omari cut with the scissors again, creating a door to
the other side.
Rallying herself with the possibility of walking right into either of her captors, she
walked through her homemade door, wondering if like Alice going through the looking
glass if she was going to find her missing cat or come face to face with the Jabberwocky.
It was dark in the new room, and she spread the partition she’d made wide, pulling back
more of the fabric in attempt to let as much light in from her room as possible. The room
was almost identical to her own, just as she suspected. At the other end of the room was
another hospital bed just like hers, with a figure strapped to it. Could she really have been
so lucky as to stumble onto Francesca’s room?
She hurried over to the bed, flicking on the lamp next to the bed. Francesca lay
there asleep, an IV line stuck in her arm. Omari swore under her breath. In her excitement
she’d forgotten that what Samantha had said. She was keeping Francesca sedated because
she was too dangerous, too strong to be left awake even in restraints. She didn’t like the
thought of leaving Francesca, but she just didn’t think there was going to be anyway to
carry her out and fight off the wonder duo if she encountered them with just one good
About to begin investigating for any other potential escape routes, Omari saw that
most of the medical supplies were actually stored in this room. A small shelf was stacked
with various vials of medication, bandages, and other miscellaneous items. Depending on
what Francesca had been drugged with, Omari was hoping she might be able to give her a
cocktail of some stimulants and wake her up. It was worth a shot. She wouldn’t risk
giving her a large dose of anything, not knowing if her body responded to medications
like most Feathered people, requiring far greater quantities of anything for them to have
Grabbing a syringe, she drew up a moderate quantity from several vials by laying
the bottles on their sides. It was difficult to do with one hand, and it was such a practiced
motion that she performed on a daily basis at work, that she momentarily struggled to
bring the harnessed arm up to assist with the action. Once she was able to get the
quantities she wanted, she held the syringe straight up in the air, squirting droplets out
and flicking the plastic tube on the edge of the shelf to chase any stray air bubbles out.
Not wanting to mix any drugs together, she slid the wheel on the IV line to stop the flow,
and disconnected it from the catheter in Francesca’s arm, no small feat with one hand.
Using her mouth to unscrew the capped need, she quickly connected the syringe tip
directly to the end of the catheter before blood could pour back out, and injected the
Counting on that dose doing the trick, she pulled the catheter out and taped the
site off. Omari was hoping for a dramatic awakening, the heroin overdose sitting straight
up, returning to life like a car crash. She waited, and nothing happened. Even though she
hadn’t given her very much in Feathered terms, it had been no small dose of drugs. It
might just take longer. Omari used the time to methodically release Francesca from her
arm and leg restraints, placing her appendages back into more comfortable positions. She
was about to let go of Francesca’s left arm, when Omari finally got the sudden return to
consciousness that she had been waiting for.
Francesca opened her eyes and sat up with a sharp inhale, her pupils dilated so
that her eyes looked completely black. Having given up on the theatrical awakening,
Omari jumped back.
“Francesca? Francesca?” Omari said, waving a hand in her face. Crap, had she
overdosed her afterall?
She thrust her fingers against Francesca’s throat, feeling for her pulse. It was
rapid, but not what she would have considered dangerously rapid, and her breathing
seemed to be somewhat shallow, but also not necessarily worrisome. Francesca blinked a
few times, and then turned her head to stare at Omari.
“Omari?” she said, shaking her head, slowly seeming to realize where she was
and what was going on.
“We have to get out of here.”
“How long have we been here? How did you escape? What happened to your
“No time to explain. Do you think you can walk?”
Francesca wiggled her legs, becoming more cognizant with every moment.
“We’re going to find out.”
“Is there any way out of this room that you don’t think will lead to Dominic and
Samantha? Do you know where the guys are being kept?” Omari asked, searching the
dim room with her eyes.
“I think the boys are in the room next to us, but I’m not sure how to get in there. I’m
pretty sure that I’ve heard them in there at times. I almost made it out once though. I
ripped through these shackles they had hooked up here and took off through that door.
There’s stairs that lead up into the main house. We’re in the basement of some old
Victorian building. I tackled that albino asshole and was about to make it out the front
door when Samantha nailed me again with a hit of something. Knocked me out again,
and I’ve been in and out of consciousness ever since.”
“I’m surprised she was able to get you once, let alone twice.”
“There’s something weird about her. I think she moves fast, even for one of us. You
know how I’m unnaturally strong? Even more so than you? I think she’s literally faster
than a speeding bullet. I don’t know how we’re going to get past her.”
The more Omari thought about it, the more it made sense. She couldn’t think of any other
way that Samantha could have captured Francesca, and twice at that, like she said. They
were just going to have to rely on luck, and hope that Samantha wasn’t around, or armed
with sedatives. Even in her head, it sounded like a feeble hope.
“Should we try to rescue the boys, and take them with us?” Omari sked.
“No, I think we should just get out of here, and bring help back. I don’t think either of
them will do anything, because they’re the only bargaining tools they have. Dominic will
count on Samantha being able to recover us before we’re able to get to the police. We’re
just going to have to believe in that.”
“And there’s no other way out besides the front door?”
“Nope, this is the only option we have. Me, drugged up and groggy still, and you with
a…what happened there?”
“My collarbone is broken and really painful from the way they had my arm pulled high
over my head.”
“Jesus. Well we have you with a broken collarbone and me coming off being sedated for
who knows how long.”
“I just hope the medications I gave you to wake you up wear off slower than the sedatives
that are probably still floating around in your body. One of the most difficult things about
dealing with Feathereds in the medical sector is their unpredictable reactions to
“I’ll take your word for it.” Omari extended her good hand. “You ready?”
“Ready as ever. Gimpy bobsy twins, forward march!”
Omari pulled Francesca out of the bed. She wobbled for a few seconds, and then
stabilized. “I’ll be okay,” she said as Omari gave her a worried glance. She wondered if
she looked as ragged as Francesca, both of them wearing the same hospital gown,
Francesca’s hair a frizzy free form art sculpture that looked like it belonged on the front
lawn of some museum.
The door in this room was also on the far wall, but as they approached, even in the gloom
Omari could see a nice array of sophisticated looking locks.
“How did you get out the first time?” Omari said.
Francesca raised an eyebrow. “I just broke down the door.”
“Yeah. That’s a new door.”
“Should I try to pick the lock?” Omari thought she might be able to use the delicate point
of her trusty scissors to work some magic.
“Why change horses in midstream? If it worked once, it’ll work again. Why do you think
they’ve been keeping me sedated?”
Before Omari could reply, Francesca had already thrown her shoulder against the heavy
looking door. But the door itself held; it was the frame around the door that shattered, and
let the door, hinges intact, fall to the ground. Francesca dusted her hands off. “See?
Toldja it would work again?”
“Again, remind me not to arm wrestle you anytime soon. I don’t wan to ruin the one good
arm I have left.”
They stepped into a narrow corridor, and Omari saw how they had set everything up.
Four separate doors all led into the same hallway, each probably home to its own
personal cell. Omari couldn’t help but wonder which one held Noah, but there was no
time to investigate. There was no way their escape hadn’t been heard. At the end of the
corridor was a flight of steps, and a light was shining down from above. Someone was
home. Wordlessly, they both ran headlong up the steps, knowing there was no time to
hesitate. It was now or never, one chance to get out and save the people they loved.
As they reached the apex of the stair case, a figure appeared at the door crowning the
escape from the basement, shadows casting an enormous winged silhouette against the
wall. Was it Samantha or Dominic? Omari had only a moment to debate which would
be worse. Samantha was quicker, and more dangerous, but the thought of letting Dominic
touch her again, for any reason…
“My my, what have we here? Two little birdies flown from their cage. What naughty
little birds, where do you think you’re going?” that low voice said, and Omari’s stomach
sang with repulsion.
“Shit,” Omari said under her breath. “Any chance that you’ll just let us go?”
“Little birdies belong in their cages. Samantha dear,” he called.
Both Francesca and Omari froze, expecting Samantha to appear, but nothing happened.
Dominic attempted to hide his own surprise at Samantha’s absence. Francesca had
knocked him down before. Perhaps Dominic was truly weak, relying on Samantha’s
warped psychological dependence on him, so that he could just use her to do his dirty
work. He was albino after all, genetically deviant. He might be feeble as well. And it was
two against one, even though they were both impaired.
“Looks like your buddy won’t be coming to your rescue this time.”
A smile oozed across Dominic’s face. “Is that so? If my Samantha is occupied elsewhere,
then I’ll just have to take care of you myself.”
The look in his eyes told Omari that there was truly something wrong with him. He
wasn’t like Lana, desperate for a baby, or Samantha, kind at heart but scarred by some
traumatic event. He was warped from within, a sociopath. She knew there was no room
for doubts when dealing with someone like that. She had to believe that they were strong
enough to get past him.
“This is your last warning. Let us go.” Omari said filling herself with bravado. Believe
you could conquer your opponent, and you would, wounded or not.
A quick glance at Francesca told her that she might be doing this one handed and alone.
Her friend was looking wobbly and disoriented, and she feared her suspicions about the
drugs might be true. The stimulants were wearing off, and the sedatives hasn’t been
processed out of her body yet.
“Omari? I’m not feeling so great over here pal,” Francesca said, putting a hand against
the wall and nearly falling backwards down the stairs.
“See, look at that? That little birdie is sick. Why don’t you just help her back downstairs
like a good girl,” he said and took a step forward.
“Don’t touch me,” Omari said. The force of her voice made him pause, his back foot only
half off the ground. “Sit down Francesca. I’ll take care of him myself.”
Francesca did as was suggested. “I just need a minute. If you can hold him off, I’ll be
okay. Just gotta fight the drowsiness.”
Omari didn’t want to touch his body, but it was inevitable. Taking a deep breath, she
opened her mouth as if she was going to say something to Dominic, but instead she
launched her body forward, leading with her good shoulder to minimize the shock to her
broken collarbone. Coming at him from below, her shoulder hit him in the solar plexus,
and she thought she heard something crunch. Dominic screamed and they flew into a
tangled pile, several feet away from the mouth of the stairs.
They were in the parlor of an old high-ceilinged Victorian house that someone had
furnished classically, polished dark wood gleaming everywhere, a fancy chandelier
hanging above a solid table. They nearly crashed into another wide ornate staircase. It
was dark outside. Omari had a momentary view of moon showcased in the window at the
apex of the stairs, shining down like a car with one headlight on a lonely road. She landed
on top of him, in a perfect full mount. She had hoped to use the moment where he lay
there gasping, trying to catch his breath to be able to catch both of his hands, flip him
around, and put him in a nice arm lock, hopefully buying enough time for Francesca to
recover and escape.
Her timing was off; the lack of one arm and the lingering sluggishness from the drugs
was impairing her motor planning. Before Omari could even snatch one of Dominic’s
arms, he had sat up, throwing Omari off balance and grabbing her around the waist. The
blood vessels in his pink eyes bulged, making his eyes vascularized crimson orbs in the
stark white of his face.
“You bitch. Who do you think you are? I bring you into my house, give you the gift of
my seed and this is how you repay me? You aren’t worthy of the honor. And you know
what happens to bad animals that bite their master? That spoiled slut Gina found out, and
now so will you,” he said through clenched teeth, his eerily beautiful face smushed with
rage, like play dough squeezed by an overly excited preschooler.
His hands gripped painfully around her midsection, and she cried out. Losing her focus
she squirmed futilely, feeling like a mouse in the mouth of a white barn owl.
“Let me go!” Omari shouted.
Dominic made a noise somewhere between a grunt and a scream, and they were in the air,
his white wings looking impossibly large inside the house. Omari knew she had
underestimated him. He was strong, maybe not as strong as Francesca, but she knew the
element of surprise was the only thing that had allowed her to get the drop on him. His
wings propelled them over the perfectly polished wooden table, and Omari knew that if
she didn’t do anything to stop it, she was going to smash full speed into the wall, and that
might be it for her. She struggled, prying at his hands that were now sunk deep into her
flesh; she could feel his middle finger digging into the underside of her hip bone, but was
unable to remove it.
There was only one way to slow them down. She had to use her own wings to try and
propel them forward. She spread her wings and screamed, her collarbone clicking back
and forth. Even with her wings out, she was too slow, and she slammed into the wall with
a loud crash. Her vision went white with the force of the impact, the dry wall crumbling
where her body hit, a picture hanging nearby falling to the floor and breaking.
Struggling to maintain consciousness, she felt Dominic lifting her body again, this time
he propelled her downward, and they smashed through the heavy wooden table with such
impact that it split in half. Omari felt something hot and wet sliding down her back, and
she knew it was her own blood. She was injured, badly. She had to overcome Dominic
and stop the bleeding, or it was all over.
Laying in the broken debris of the table and scattered feathers she felt Dominic’s hands
move from her waist to her throat, and he began strangling her. Omari gasped, pulling at
his hands with her free arm. She panicked as her air supply shrank in his crushing grip.
She had to focus, to pull back from the situation, find strength from somewhere to get
him off, or she would pass out and never wake up again. Omari meditated every day, and
had experience bringing her autonomic functions under control. She called on this
training now, falling back into her own subconscious, squelching the rising panic,
gathering reserve strength.
Her body must have gone still because she felt his hands loosen around her throat,
thinking she must be dead already or unconscious. And she sprang, opening her eyes,
ripping her injured arm from its protective sling at the same time she spread her wings
and rose into the air. Once again using the element of surprise, she swooped behind him,
pinning his arms against his back with her left hand, and using her stronger arm to grab
him around the waist. She lifted him into the air, and he struggled, trying to break away,
but Omari was on autopilot, ignoring any pain or thoughts of mercy. She wanted to get
away, but a part of her wanted to hurt him back.
Gaining momentum she pumped her wings hard, flying up the staircase, Dominic
screaming as he saw what was coming. He smacked face first into the wall with an
ominous crunch, denting the dry wall as Omari had and staining the pink floral wall paper
with his blood. They fell to the floor beneath the window, both bleeding profusely. Omari
could see the blood dripping down his white skin and thought of the one family trip her
father had taken her on as a child. They had gone hunting in the woods while it was
snowing, and her father had shot a deer. Omari had sat on the ground and cried, watching
the Doe’s blood pouring out across the white snow.
Dominic wasn’t moving. Was he dead? Unconscious? Omari panted, her vision going
blurry and then clearing again. Where was Francesca? Was she okay? And Samantha.
She still hadn’t turned up. As she was thinking about these things, she felt a hand on her
chest. She’d let her guard down, and Dominic was looming over her again, his blood
dripping onto chest, his face a mass of liquid red and lacerations. He said nothing, and for
a moment she wondered what he was doing, staring at her with look of glazed emptiness.
“And now you die!” he screamed, and she saw a large blade in his hand, a folding buck
knife raised over her head that had probably been concealed in a pocket.
She raised her right arm and caught his hand, preventing him from plunging it into her
chest. They both grunted with the concentrated effort of the standoff, both using all their
strength to try and overpower the other. Omari pushed back with her hips and sat up,
gaining some leverage, but Dominic was still gaining, the blade getting closer to her chest.
And she remembered. The scissors. She had left them tucked into the side of her
bandages. If she was lucky, it would have survived all of the wall smashing. Using her
other arm, she reached across her body, searching for the feel of cold metal. Her eyes
widened when her fingers closed around the pointy end of the object, still held securely in
The search had distracted her from the knife struggle, the point of the blade now touching
her chest, and she grimaced as it cut shallowly just below her breast. Dominic didn’t
seem to notice what she was doing with her other hand; blood running into his eyes, he
was concentrating all his effort into driving the knife into Omari’s chest. In one smooth
movement, Omari extracted the scissors and with a loud scream and drove them into
Dominic’s side. She landed a lucky hit, the surgical sharp blades stabbing between two
ribs and penetrating deep into his chest cavity. Dominic cried out, dropping his blade, and
falling forward onto Omari, groping blindly for the steel protruding from his flesh.
“Nooooo!!!! What have you done to my Dominic!” a voice came from the bottom of the
Omari turned her head, the collapsed Dominic still in her lap, his proud white wings
drooping limply. Blood was pooling on her legs, oozing out from around the stab wound,
staining both of their wings. Samantha was at the base of the stairs, a mixture of rage and
horror tainting the entirety of her being, usurping her voice and enveloping her body
language. Omari opened her mouth to say something, but it was too late. Samantha had
spread her wings and was flying up the stairs at full speed, irrational and controlled by
fury, intent on hurting Omari for injuring her precious Dominic.
Francesca was right: Samantha was fast.. She didn’t even see the woman the moment
before impact. There was just a blur, and then pain, and a loud sound as the three of their
bodies were all propelled through the window. Things happened so fast. Omari felt glass
shards cutting her body and she groped blindly, unable to see what was going on. Her
hand caught the window sill, a chunk of broken glass spearing her hand, but she didn’t let
go. She saw Dominic’s body go flying over her, followed by Samantha’s limp figure. She
must have hit them face first, so hard and at such speeds that she was knocked
unconscious. Without thinking, Omari reflexively reached out her other hand, and
grabbed her leg as it flew past. She screamed, feeling something else tear in her arm with
the force of the movement, the chunk of glass in the windowsill ripping further up her
With the very last of her strength, she spread her wings, lifting into the air, her hand
sliding off the glass shard. But that was it; she was at her limit. Still severely bleeding
from several places, she tried to slow their descent as much as possible, weakly flapping
her wings ineffectively, and she was almost grateful that she blacked out before hitting
the ground below.
The next time Omari woke, she knew before even opening her eyes that she was in the
hospital. The smell alone told her that, that antiseptic sterile scent that she spent entirely
too much time experiencing. At least, that smell told her that she was still alive. She had
survived the fall, and all the damage from the fight with Dominic and Samantha. But,
from the pain that soon washed over her, not without its consequences.
“Ugh,” she groaned, and hesitantly opened her eyes, wondering who she would see there.
Noah! And Shea, Francesca, Gina, and her boyfriend. What had become of all of them?
Forgetting the physical discomfort was in, she sat up, just hoping that they were all okay.
The first person she thought of, the one she loved, the one she was concerned about,
answered her concerns. “I know I’m a doctor, but we really really do need to stop
meeting like this,” he said.
“Oh thank goodness you’re okay,” she said.
“Same to you,” Noah said.
“How long was I out this time? What day is it anyway for that matter? I lost track of the
days after the first time I was hospitalized.”
“Well, it’s not August anymore. Say hello to September.” Noah leaned down and kissed
“Oh my God. If I had my way, I would just erase August from the Calendar. Nothing
good can seem to come from this month. What do you say we just skip it this year?”
“I’ll talk to the government about that.”
Omari smiled, her vision clearing, seeing nothing but Noah’s face in her field of vision,
his hair usually so meticulously pulled back into a ponytail while he was in public was
loose and falling into her face.
“I will never get tired of seeing those eyes. And I can’t tell you how happy I am to see
you alive. Truly. I had no idea what those bastards were doing to you.”
The euphoria of seeing Noah alive faded a bit, and the questions returned. What had
happened to the others? What exactly had happened period?”
It was as though Noah could see the questions doing a drive by, shooting holes in into
innocent windows in her thoughts. “I know, you have tons of questions. But, as usual, the
first and most important one is how are you feeling?”
“I hurt.” And the more Omari thought about it, she really did hurt, “Oh my God, do I
hurt.” She tried to do a quick run down of all the damage she had sustained over the last
“Well, this time you’ve actually only been in the hospital for a week, but you’re still
healing more slowly than you should. That’s why you still hurt. You really did a number
on yourself this time, even for you. Multiple broken bones, dozens of torn muscles,
fractured skull, severe lacerations, especially of your left hand, and massive blood loss.
You’re like a cat with extra lives. You really shouldn’t be here right now. The damage to
the back of your skull was particularly devastating. Even knowing how Feathered people
reject foreign objects from their body, I was tempted to suggest putting metal plates in
your head. The bones were shattered,” Noah said, and Omari knew that he was in his
objective, diagnostic doctor mode. He was Noah the hardened ER physician, not Noah
her boyfriend, or he wouldn’t have been able to say these things without breaking into a
fit of sobbing.
She thought back on the battle with Dominic, and was rather surprised she was alive
herself. Not really wanting to, but knowing she would have to face it sooner or later, she
took stock of her body. Besides the usual menagerie of tubes and wires, her head was
covered in a swath of bandages, and more than anything her back hurt and her wings hurt
from being slammed into the walls, the table, and through the window. She was casted
across her entire chest and left arm, her left wing stretched and wrapped into an awkward
position. Only her hand remained free, but was still wrapped with a massive amount of
bandages. She remembered getting her hand caught on the horrendous glass shard and
winced at the memory.
The bottom half of her body was another story. She hadn’t remembered injuring that part
of her, but then thought of how she had blacked out directly before the Samantha and her
hit the ground. It was like a flashback to last year, only worse. Her left leg was cast all the
way from the foot clear up to her thigh, meaning that almost the entire left side of her
body was immobile, bound in plaster.
“Jesus, what happened to my leg?”
“They’re calling it the “Omari special” now,” Noah said. “You landed directly on that leg
again. Again, multiple fractures, and then you collapsed with Samantha on top of you,
and hit your hip on the concrete, breaking your pelvis in several places on that same side.
I don’t know when you did it, but both your wings are broken, the left one more severe
than the left, which is why it’s splinted straight out like that.”
“My left side is trashed. Really is a good thing that I’m not a lefty,” Omari tried to say
with some levity, but groaned.
Noah frowned. “You’re still in pain? I’ve got you back on a good dose of pain
“Maybe I’m building up a tolerance…seems to be a regular occurrence here for me to be
in need of analgesics. If I’m maxed out, I’ll just deal with it,” she said, but knit her brows
and grunted with pain despite her best efforts to suppress it.
“No, I know you’re no pansy. Definitely not a stranger to pain I’m sorry to say. And
you’re not totally maxed out. I’ll get you some more in a second so you can go back to
sleep. I hate to say it, but that’s really what you need right now. Time to rest and let your
body heal. Hopefully your typical healing speed will return, and you’ll be back to your
old self soon.”
“So I’m going to make it then?”
“You better. I won’t take no for an answer.”
“So tell me more. You know I have a lot of questions. What about you? Were you okay?
You seem to be in one piece.”
“Mostly. Not just because I wanted to be just like you, but my left foot is broken too.”
“What?!” Omari said, trying to glance down to see Noah’s foot.
“Calm down now.” He put a hand on her chest, pressing her back into the bed. “I’m fine.
It was a very minor fracture. I’m in a walking cast, but being your typical non-feathered
human I just happen to heal at your typical slow speed.”
“Dominic stepped on my foot when I talked back to him, ground my toes into the ground
in that basement we were being held in. Compared to you though, it’s nothing to the pain
and injuries that you’ve sustained.”
Omari set her jaw. “That bastard. I’ll…”
“Kill him?” Noah raised a hand to his mouth. “About that…”
“Oh no. Oh, not again.” Omari thought of the damage that she had done to Dominic.
Slamming his face into the wall, stabbing him with the wicked scissors, and the fall to the
ground after Samantha had launched them out the window. There was little hope that he
had survived, even if he healed Feathered fast.
“I’d say I’m sorry, but I’m really not. Once you’re better there will be more hearings
again, but even with your prior history of homicide in the name of self defense, I don’t
think there’s any way a jury would bring any sort of sanctions against you. When I saw
the house, I couldn’t believe that you survived that. There was so much damage to the
walls and the furniture. I mean, we were all tied up and tortured in the basement, and you,
with all the injuries and the…abuse that you sustained,” he said, but had to look away.
Omari suspected that his physician’s veneer was on the verge of crumbling.
““What? Abuse…” Omari trailed off, remembering both of her captors words about
being the receptor of Dominic’s “seed.”
“I’m so sorry honey. Your rape kit was positive. He…” Noah broke off again, shaking his
head and running his fingers anxiously through all that long brown hair in an
And still, Omari wasn’t ready to deal with the reality of what Dominic had done to her.
Even knowing that she had ended his life, it wasn’t enough to avenge the feeling of
“We don’t have to talk about that now. When I’m better,” she said, and tried to follow her
own advice and not think about it. Especially the part where Dominic’s ultimate goal had
been to impregnate her, make her bear the first and only Feathered-made baby, a true
child of Icarus, born of two winged parents.
Noah wiped at the corners of his eyes, and she knew he was struggling to continue to be
Noah the doctor and not break down into the Noah that loved her and was still amazed
she was alive after all the damage she’d sustained since she had journeyed to St. Louis.
“Tell me more about what happened. Tell me about Francesca and Shea. Please tell me
“Are you sure you want to hear all of this now? You’re still in a fragile condition. I don’t
want to upset you. Maybe when you’re more fully recovered.”
“No,” she said forcefully, “I know you’re worried about me, but I can’t rest until I know.
Just tell me. Tell me the whole story now and I promise that I’ll get some rest like a good
Noah sighed and shook his head, still playing with his shiny straight hair and fiddling
with his glasses. Omari was finally awake enough to notice that he was wearing wrinkly
blue shorts and a faded green T-shirt with an old print of a neon gecko on the front of it,
the puffy silk screen peeling off in places. She saw the cane he was using to walk leaning
against her bed, and the walking cast on his left foot. She thought that they both could
stand to look after their left feet a little better.
“Okay, if you’re really certain that’s what you want. I know you won’t take no for an
“Awww, you do know me. And that’s why I love you, amongst other reasons,” she said,
shifting slightly and trying not to wince.
“Why don’t I get you those pain meds first,” he said, reaching for his cane so he could
rise and retrieve the medication.
“No,” she insisted again, “I can take it. Pain meds will make me drowsy again. Tell me
what happened, and then you can do whatever you want with me.”
“Where do you want me to start?” he asked, settling back down on the side of her bed,
still fidgety and cleaning his glasses for want of something else to do.
“Where else? How about the beginning, that’s usually a good place to begin.”
“That’s a little difficult. The whole story is a little complicated Why don’t I start from my
own beginning, and go from there? I sort of know what happened to you from everyone
else’s reports, and from evaluating you injuries and the incredible destruction wrought on
“Whatever floats your boat. First, just tell me if Francesca and Shea are okay.”
“Both of them are alive, and will be physically fine. Besides Dominic, you were the most
critically wounded of everyone.”
“Good. Carry on.”
Noah told of how when he emerged from the Thai restaurant in the loop, he was
approached by a pale man in a long white coat. He was fascinated by the strange man
because of his striking clothes and obvious lack of coloring. Noah had immediately
pinpointed him as a true albino. The man asked him some innocuous question, like what
time it was, and when he was distracted the man injected Noah with some similar
sedative, dragged him into the alley, and flew away probably directly behind Samantha
who had been carrying Omari.
“When I woke up, it was dim, but there was a light on. I was tied to a chair with my arms
behind me, and there were three other men in the room with me. One of them was Shea,
who I recognized from his hospital visit with you, and the other was stranger, a young
Asian man. Both of them were awake, and lucent, asking if I was okay. I assured them I
was, and once I was conscious enough I began asking them questions.”
“Did they say how long they had been down there?” Omari asked.
“The Asian guy, Aaron it turned out his name was, had been down there for two months.
Shea had been taking fairly shortly before I was.”
Noah went on to tell how Aaron was in fact Gina’s boyfriend, and had been kidnapped to
manipulate Gina, who worked in a genetics lab at Washington University. Dominic had
apparently been stalking Gina for a long period of time, waiting for the perfect moment to
abduct her. She had been perfect, a beautiful and vulnerable young woman, who also
happened to be Feathered, with a new boyfriend to use as a hostage.
“Why didn’t she ever go to the police? Or try to tell Francesca what was going
“I don’t know. I think she was just too frightened of what Dominic would do to
Aaron. Shea and I spent some time talking to Aaron while we were down there, and he
said that if Gina ever disobeyed slightly, Dominic would drag Aaron out and hurt him in
front of Gina. He’s missing all the fingernails on one hand.”
Omari winced, thinking of how much that must have hurt. She hadn’t even met
the guy, but poor Aaron had been missing for nearly two months, being trapped with that
maniac for by far the greatest period of time.
“Didn’t anyone report him missing? Parents? Friends?”
“Aaron is from China, and his whole family lives over there. He came to St. Louis
to go to medical school, and doesn’t talk to his family very often because it’s so
expensive. He had a few people looking for him, but Gina told them all that he had a
family emergency back in China and had to go take care of it.”
“And how did I get mixed up in this whole mess?”
“You’re somewhat famous as a Feathered personality, and so is your DNA. So
much research has been done regarding your physiology, especially concerning fertility
and reproduction. It’s the same reason why Nuvotech risked so much to obtain you as a
guinea pig last year. When you came to St. Louis, and then involved yourself with
Francesca, who he was having Samantha keep tabs on already, it must have seemed like
destiny for him to have you.”
“Were there any other woman that he’d kidnapped?”
“No, just Gina. With Dominic being an Albino, I guess he really wanted to have
more research on his own genome. He was insane, but not necessarily foolish. He just got
carried away and accelerated his…plans when he caught you.”
“So why the hell did he sedate me, and then leave me the first time? Why not grab
me and go the first time?”
“My thinking is that he wanted some lab samples to make Gina run before
committing to fully kidnapping you. And he was arrogant enough I think for him to
believe that he could capture you at any time. He was a psychopath, he probably enjoyed
toying with you as well. But then with you having that unpredictable reaction to the drugs,
and threatening to go home again, I think he wanted to make sure you didn’t get away.
Maybe he was smitten by your beauty.”
Omari thought of how Dominic had said he wanted to get started making the first
generation of Feathered children, and they could abort if she truly did have the AFHS
disease. Again, she pushed the thought of her being raped out of her mind. Still not ready
to process that.
“So what’s the story with him anyway? He’s a little conspicuous, being the only
male person with Icarus syndrome, and an albino on top of that. How come nobody knew
“From what Samantha said to the police, he had something of a Norman Bates
thing going on. His parents were ashamed of him, and highly abusive, basically keeping
him in the basement of that house for most of his life, until one day he finally killed them.
She says the bodies are buried on the property somewhere. The way his parents treated
him made him hate normal people, made him want to spawn a new throng of Feathered
“Eww. Creepy. What did he do for a living? And how did he manage to hide his
wings for so long?”
“Computers. Worked from home, rarely went out, concealing his wings when he
did. It’s amazing how easy it is to be agoraphobic in this day.”
She thought for a moment. “So if that information came from Samantha, that
means she survived the fall.”
“She did really well, considering flying through a window at top speed and falling
from a second story window. She landed on top of you, so you cushioned her fall
somewhat. That’s probably part of the reason why you fractured your pelvis.” Noah’s
face set in an angry grimace that she wasn’t used to seeing on his usually collected
“But, other than Dominic, everyone else is okay then?” she asked.
Noah was quiet, not wanting to meet her gaze. “Gina. Gina…didn’t make it.”
“Oh no.” She thought of what Dominic had said about Gina in the midst of their
battle, when she first understood that Dominic meant to kill her.
“After Dominic kidnapped you and Francesca, I think she just couldn’t take it
anymore. She didn’t want him to torture or kill anyone, so she came into the room where
the three of us men were being kept, and tried to free us first. But Dominic caught her,
and dragged her out of the room. The coroner’s report says she was strangled to death.”
Noah picked up her hand and held it in his.
“Oh my God.” She had never even gotten to meet poor Gina. And Francesca.
Francesca had lost the only family she had left.
“Samantha said she was trying to keep Gina alive while you were fighting with
Dominic, but it was no use. He crushed her trachea, and she died.”
Omari couldn’t help thinking of Francesca, and how devastated she must be.
“What about Shea? Is Shea alright?”
“Broken hand. Dominic caught him trying to pick the lock on our handcuffs and
was not amused. Other than that, he’s fine.”
At least Francesca still had Shea, and she wasn’t completely alone. Francesca had
raised Gina after their parents had died, and was more like a daughter to her than a sister.
Omari couldn’t fathom what that was like, losing someone that close to you. Again,
Omari struggled to push those thoughts away, wanting to get the full story.
“And Samantha? Where is she now? And who is she?”
“Turns out she was a nurse at this very hospital.”
“Oh well that’s a comforting thought. Remind me to keep my guard up until I get
out of here.” She glanced surreptitiously out the door for any suspicious personnel. “How
did she get mixed up with this guy?”
“Says she met him on the internet and fell in love. But when she was supposed to
meet him for a date, he kidnapped her. I’m not exactly certain what he did to her, but not
nice things. From what we know about that bastard, probably tied her up, forced
intercourse on her, and kept her in the basement. At some point in time she did what a lot
of people do in a situation like that, and bonded with her aggressor. They have her in
custody at a psychiatric facility. I don’t think they’ll throw her in jail. I guess her parents
were alcoholics and some possible incest in her family, so she’s got a traumatic
childhood combined with her own story of being kidnapped. She’ll probably end up
staying in the psych ward, even if we all testified and tried to bring criminal charges
Omari nodded her understanding, thinking that even with Samantha being
responsible for her broken leg and pelvis, she didn’t really want to push criminal charges
against the woman anyway. Even with
“Is that everything?” Omari asked.
“In an ugly swollen nutshell, I think so.” He kissed her forehead. “Now can I give
you some more pain medication?”
Too many places on her body were throbbing for her to even pick which one was
the worst. “Yes, please.”
Noah walked with a lopsided gate because of the cast, preparing a syringe and
injecting it into her line.
“It looks like you need to get some rest and heal up too, my fearless hero,” Omari
said as she watched him hobbling.
“You’re the hero. You nearly destroyed your body trying to rescue us. Taking
care of you is the least I can do. My foot will be fine. The brace is really more of a
precaution than anything. You’re the one that’s going to be in here for a long time,
whether you like it or not.”
“I had a feeling you were going to say that. I know my injuries are severe, but
why am I healing so slowly?” Omari said.
Noah paused again, averting his gaze and fiddling with her monitors.
“Noah? What aren’t you telling me?”
“I…I think you might really have AFHS. I overheard Gina talking to Dominic
about some of the tests she was running on you at the lab. There’s no real test for AFHS
yet, but there are some preliminary indictors that they have been investigating over at
Wash U, and you were positive for them.”
“And you think that might be impairing my ability to heal like I normally do?”
Noah nodded, the worried look back on his face, as though the threat of this
syndrome was more frightening than any of the injuries she had sustained. “The labs
combined with the symptoms…there’s little doubt in my mind that you have it. And it
tends to be a progressive disease, with the attacks increasing in severity and frequency.
I’m just thankful you didn’t have one while you were fighting with Dominic. There’s no
way you would have survived. With all the blood loss, and all of the physical and mental
trauma, it’s really a miracle that you didn’t have an attack. I’m just so thankful you
He choked up and had to stop, struggling to maintain his professional demeanor.
She knew that once he let go of that, he would break down and there would be no
stopping the tears. She understood that he wanted to be strong for her, and how important
it was for him not to lose it right now.
“It’s okay sweetheart, I know. It’ll be okay. We’ll get through this.”
“There have been some reports of the disease going into remission for a long time. The
symptoms will present, they’ll have a few attacks, and then nothing else. At least so far.
Maybe you’ll be lucky. It’s a good sign that you did go through so much without having
an attack. Hopefully another day or two of you on fluids will get your body’s repair
forces geared up again, so I can take you home where you belong.”
“I’ll second that.”
“Now get some rest so that can happen,” he said, and Omari wasn’t going to
Omari spent the next several days sleeping for long stretches of time, enjoying the
rest because they were her only truly pain free periods of time. She did notice a gradual
change in how her body felt, and shortly after her healing accelerated. Noah divided his
time between sleeping in the chair next to her bed and a nearby hotel when Omari finally
convinced him that he was starting to look worse than her and needed a break. When
Noah finally said she was well enough to have visitors, Francesca came by to visit.
“Hey lady,” she said, carrying an oversized bundle of flowers.
“I should be the one bringing you flowers. But I’m still a little tied up,” she said,
motioning to her left side that was still encased in plaster, “although Noah says that these
damn things are about ready to come off. I’ve started to heal normally again.”
“That’s great. How are you feeling?”
“Been better…but I’ve also been worse. How about you? How are you holding
“Shea has been wonderful being there for me. It’s been tough. Gina’s funeral was
a few days ago. Even with the funeral, I’m still in denial. I just feel so awful, you know?
With Gina gone, and you injured so badly. I still feel like this is all my fault.”
“Hey, unless you’re a winged albino male, then none of this is your fault, okay?”
“Thanks for saying it. I don’t know if I’m going to be able to stop feeling that way.
You know, for a gal with wings, you sure do manage to fall off the tops of buildings a
Omari laughed. “I know, seems to be a constant problem for me. Where are you
guys staying right now?” Omari asked, suddenly remembering that not only had
Francesca lost her sister, but she had lost her house in the tornado.
“We’re renting an apartment close to the farm so that was can easily drive over
there and take care of the animals until we’re able to rebuild our house. It’s been tough
trying to keep Malachai’s open and help out on the farm. With Shea’s hand broken he
can’t do everything by himself anymore.”
“I’m sorry. I wish I could help out.”
“You’re helping me out just by getting yourself better, okay?”
Omari smiled. “If you say so, then you’re the boss.”
“Speaking of bosses, Noah ordered me not to stay and bother you long so that you
can finish getting better. I just wanted to drop these by, and properly say thank you for
rescuing us all. I’m still ashamed I wasn’t able to do as much to help you escape. I just
passed out in the stairwell while you were busy almost getting killed.”
“No worries. You would have done the same if I’d been the one to fall over on the
stairs. They were keeping you on way more drugs than me because of your strength, and
the fact that I was already hobbled by my broken collarbone.”
“You really are a good person Omari. A truly great friend. I hope you know that.”
“I’ll give you a proper hug whenever all that comes off.” She motioned to
Omari’s cast mayhem.
They said their goodbyes, and Omari fell back asleep shortly after Francesca left
Her eyes closed as she gazed at mass of soft pink rose blossoms on her bedside table,
thinking of spring and the promise of renewal after the upcoming winter.
Two days later, the casts all came off, her healing speed returning to somewhere
near normal. The stitches in all of her multiple lacerations were all removed, and the
mobility was returning to her gravely injured left hand that had been victim to the glass
shard. Noah had been especially concerned about her skull that had sustained a very
dangerous fracture, but had healed as well. The only thing left were her wings, which
Noah refused to remove the splint from.
“Come on, that’s the most uncomfortable thing of all, having my left wing pulled
out to the side like and the right one jammed up against my body.”
“I’m sorry, but it’s just because of the way you fractured them. At least all of your
feathers seem to be growing back nicely.” The feathers on both her wings had been a
tattered bloody mess from all force of all the blows against the wall and the pavement.
“Thanks, but I still want you to let my wings down. I can’t wait to stretch them
and get back in the air,” she said and Noah bit his lip.
“I’m concerned about them healing right. I don’t want you to have any permanent
damage because they weren’t splinted long enough. And it’s going to be a long time
before you’re well enough to fly.”
“You saw the x-rays. You know my wings are healed. I know you want to keep me safe,
but you can’t keep me on the ground forever. Flying is everything to me. Having my
wings bound feels like being buried alive.”
Noah continued to bite his lip. “Okay, I guess I can unwrap them so you can stretch. But
absolutely no flying yet, got it? I don’t need you falling out of anymore windows.”
“Everyone keeps reminding me of that. If people would stop trying to kill me, then I
would stop falling off of things. I’ve been flying my entire life, and it wasn’t until last
year I started having problems. Trust me, it’s not my favorite idea of how to spend an
Noah grabbed some bandage scissors, blunt at the tip and on one side, unlike the scissors
she had used to stab Dominic, and began cutting away the rigid padding on her wings. He
threw the discarded wrapping in a trash can, and then literally peeled off the custom
splint that had been molded to her wing. Omari stood, wobbled for a moment, her legs
weak from being bedridden for several weeks. Noah reached for her, but she waved him
“I can stand on my own. I just haven’t gotten up and walked around in a long time. I’m a
Noah still looked disapproving, but let her be. Finding her balance, she moved to the
center of the room. Throwing her arms up in the air, she unfolded her wings, fluffy with
the bulk of new feathers that had grown in under the splint, and stretched them out until
her wing span touched both walls. She flapped a few times, ignoring the little twinge of
discomfort, muscle spasm from being crunched up in the same position for so long. It
was glorious, and a flurry of loose feathers rained down in her hospital room. One landed
on Noah’s nose, and he couldn’t maintain the stoic attitude he’d be affecting since she’d
been hospitalized. A huge smile moved into the neighborhood of Noah’s mouth, the
carefree, happy daredevil that was his true self emerging.
“You’re so beautiful. I love you,” he said, and enveloped her in an enormous hug. Omari
hugged him back, overcome with the joyous sensation of her returned mobility, and the
warm feeling of being wrapped in Noah’s affection.
“I love you too.”
They shared their first passionate kiss since in many weeks, and Omari forgot for a
moment that they were still in the hospital.
“So,” she said, pulling back from his embrace, “I’m all unwrapped. I don’t look like a
baked potato anymore, and pretty much everything has healed up. Any chance we can go
“Mmmm, I don’t think so,” he said, not completely losing the levity, but regaining some
of his physician’s voice.
“How did I know you were going to say that?” she said.
“I care about you. I just want to be sure before we venture back to California. Besides,
we’re going to have to stick around for a little while to clear up some of the legal issues
before we can go home.”
“I know you’re worried about me and this AFHS thing. I can carry around a portable
glucometer with me if it makes you feel more comfortable, so I can check my blood
“It’s no use. It happens so fast sometimes that checking your blood sugar won’t do any
good. It could be fine one second, and crashing the next. I just feel safer with you in the
hospital, where I know you’ll be taken care of if you have an attack.”
“I know that you’re scared for me, but I can’t spend the rest of my life in the hospital.”
“I just wish we knew more about it, and how to treat it, that’s all.” He ran his hands
through long blonde hair that was free and hanging down to her ankles still, already
having returned to its former length after having it shaved due to her head trauma.
“At least I work in a place where there’s medical equipment and people savvy with
emergencies handy in case anything goes wrong while I’m there. And the rest of the time
I’m usually with you, so I’m covered for the most part. Crap, speaking of which I
completely forgot about work. What kind of a business owner am I?” Omari shook her
head, embarrassed that she hadn’t even though about her clinic or her animals back home.
“I’d say you’re the kind of business owner that’s tried to die several times in the past
three weeks. Besides, I’ve been in contact with Sabrina about you.” Sabrina was her
clinic’s office manager. “Everyone is worried about you. This whole thing has been all
over the news again. If you’re not the most notorious Feathered person yet, then I’d say
you’re damned close.”
“Crap. I hate being on television.”
“That’s another thing. As soon as we leave, the press will be all over us.”
“All well. We’re going to have to face it eventually anyway. And there will probably be
more waiting for us when we get back to California. Might as well get it over with so we
can move on with our lives. Sooo, what’s the verdict? Look, I’m doing great.” She
bounced around comically to demonstrate how fit she was feeling.
“I feel like we have this argument far too often. Alright, you win again. As long as
nothing happens, you can leave tomorrow.”
“Yay!” she jumped up and kissed him on the mouth again.
“Okay, enough, don’t overdo it. Get back into bed young lady.”
Omari feigned being pouty. “Fine fine,” she said, but was in fact still feeling tired.
They checked out the next day, being fortunate enough to avoid any reporters. A police
officer had come to the hospital to take her official statements about the entire situation.
He informed her that under the circumstances, with all of the evidence and with
Samantha in custody, there was almost no chance of anything going to trial. He instructed
them to stay in town though for a few days, just for the remainder of the paperwork to go
Noah had been staying a hotel next to the hospital, but Omari convinced him to check
back into the same hotel next to Malachai’s that she had been staying in originally. Noah
had agreed, but with the caveat that they were not going to go bar hopping anytime soon.
Omari hoped that at some point his paranoia would recede and he would stop treating her
like a delicate flower. She knew it was just because he loved her, and felt powerless
against the strange syndrome she was supposedly afflicted with. But, so far, she had
turned out to be pretty durable, considering. Eventually he was going to have to attempt
to live her normal life.
The only good part of Noah being a hypochondriac was him attending to any need she
could come up with. He was normally a courteous gentleman to begin with, but now it
was like chivalry on overdrive. It was cute now, but Omari had a feeling it was going to
wear thin eventually.
When they got back to the hotel, Omari gave Francesca a call to see where she was while
Noah arranged their belongings. Francesca and Shea were both down at the bar, just
checking on things covertly. She wasn’t planning on going on “stage” as it were.
Francesca asked if Omari wanted to go out for dinner, just to relax and talk, celebrate her
release from the hospital.
“The warden has banned me from the bar scene, unfortunately,” Omari said, raising her
volume so Noah would hear her in the bathroom.
“It’s for your own good,” he called back.
“We don’t have to eat here. We could go somewhere more sedate and quiet. I don’t want
to risk making you sick either, truth be told.”
“Hey, Warden!” Omari hollered, “What if we got somewhere else to eat? I promise I’ll
Noah came back into the room, arms folded. “Omari. You know I didn’t even want you
to leave the hospital yet. Indulge me and stay in at least one night. We can all go out to
eat tomorrow night before we leave the following day.”
Omari turned back to the phone. “Warden won’t let me out today. Sorry. He says we can
go out tomorrow before we take off the next morning for California. How does that work
“Girl, with all you’ve done for me, I would jump into a volcano for you. We can
definitely postpone dinner until tomorrow. Get some rest and enjoy the time with you
man. I’m sticking with what I said from the beginning; you found yourself a good one. I
know he’s being kind of hard on you right now, but just humor him. He only wants to
keep you safe.”
“I know. I’ll do my best to behave. See you tomorrow,” Omari said, and they hung up.
Noah had creeped up behind her on the bed, and was softly kissing the back of her neck.
“Thank you for being understanding. I wouldn’t care so much if I didn’t love you.”
“I know. I understand, but eventually you’re going to have to loosen up.”
Noah had slipped his arms around Omari’s waist, resting his head on her shoulder,
nestled between her neck and her wings. In a move showing that she hadn’t lost all of her
strength and speed, she flipped Noah over, pushing him flat on his back against the bed,
her legs straddled across him. She balanced her hands on his shoulders and kissed him on
“See? I’ve still got it.”
Noah rolled his eyes, trying to sit up, but Omari was stronger than him. “Omari, come
one, let me up.”
She couldn’t help but laugh. “Okay. But admit that you don’t need to worry about me.”
“Will you let me up if I do?” Noah tried to say seriously, but his playful nature was
slipping in again.
“Only if you take your clothes off first.”
Omari grabbed the back of his head, her mouth finding his soft lips, sending her tongue in
like a spy to investigate. He wanted to struggle, but melted into her kiss, and Omari felt
his body respond to her invitation. It had been a long time. She ran her hand down the
smooth cotton front of his red button down shirt, feeling the taught muscles underneath.
Passing over his belt, her hand found him pressing against her through his khakis.
Unconsciously, her wings spread above her, her breasts peaking out from the blue and
white dress she was wearing. Her plump braid fell over the side of her left breast, trailing
over his thigh and across the generic floral hotel bedspread. With practiced movements
she relieved him of his glasses, and released his silky straight hair from its ponytail. Noah
made soft moaning noises as she began unbuttoning his shirt, her mouth relentlessly
toying with a nipple.
Omari never tired of gazing at him. With his hair down, glasses off, and naked upper
body exposed, he transformed from an intelligent, patient, and insightful doctor, to a
romance novel pinup. He was a shallowly buried treasure that Omari took endless
He sat up suddenly, taking Omari off guard. “No, no we can’t. It, it might trigger an
attack. I haven’t done any research yet, we…”Omari cut him off with a kiss again.
“I will let you know if I’m feeling anything out of the ordinary…good or bad.” She
Omari could tell he wanted to continue his protests, but his emotions, his desire for her
over rid his concerns, wiping out any anxious thoughts about her health. She stripped off
the blue dress patterned with a stark striking white fern design, revealing her even more
arresting body beneath. Despite all of the injuries she had been subject to, her flesh was
smooth and perfect again. Thanks to her remarkable physiology, she was left free of scars,
a goddess perched over Noah on the bed.
“No, No,” Noah breathed, his hands reaching feebly for Omari.
“Shhhh,” she replied, and began unbuckling his belt.
In the shower, Omari held Noah, swallowing small drops of water as she kissed lazily up
“Are you sure that you’re okay?” he asked.
“I’m fine. Really. You have got to trust me. That was amazing, admit it.”
“It was,” he said, but Omari could tell he was still mad at himself for letting passion get
the drop on his stringent rules regarding Omari’s wellbeing.
“I’d say it was therapeutic, if you ask me. I feel better than I have since this whole thing
began. I highly recommend a repeat at some point. A repeat dose, if you know what I
“What am I going to do with you?” he asked
“I think you already figured that out.”
“Well, after all that exertion, we are definitely not going out tonight. We’re going to stay
here and get room service.” He leaned his head back, letting the water run through his
“Can we watch movies and cuddle?”
“What more could a girl ask for then?”
The next day the spent lounging in the hotel room, despite Omari’s protests that they get
out and explore the city before leaving again.
“Haven’t you had enough adventure for one trip?” he said.
“We at least have to go to the arch before we leave,” she said, as though the entire trip
had been merely a sightseeing tour.
“I’ve already spent a lot of time here, remember?”
“Yeah, but have you ever actually been to the gateway arch? At night by the Mississippi
“Well, no, actually,” he said reluctantly.
“Then it’s settled. We’ll go there before dinner with Francesca and Shea.”
“Has anyone ever told you that you that you’re stubborn?” he asked
“Has anyone ever told you that you worry too much?”
The night was warm and humid, but not stifling, summer beginning the slow
decline into fall. A nice breeze was coming off the water, lights reflecting off the dark
liquid from the beams trained onto the massive arch.
“There’s just something about the air here. It’s so different than California,
beyond just the humidity. I can’t explain it.”
“Omari, you didn’t say there was going to be a big crowd here tonight. What’s
“Francesca may have mentioned that there’s free concerts and fireworks here
during the summer.”
“What? I didn’t know it was going on for sure,” she said, feigning innocence.
“I thought we were aiming for a quiet evening?”
They were walking along a concrete path lined by trees that wound along the river,
the specter of the arch looming in the distance. Omari stopped, facing Noah and taking
his hands in hers.
“Look, sweetheart I know that you’re a brilliant doctor. Think about this for a
moment. In the articles that you’ve read, and the other physicians that you’ve talked to
about AFHS, what is the big trigger for an attack?”
“Well, there’s multiple things really.”
“Come on. The big one. Numero uno,” she said, giving a little tug on his arms.
“Stress. Stress seems to be the huge exacerbating factor. Which is why I’ve been
wanting to keep you quiet for awhile, until we get home and find out more about this
“You want to know what makes me stressed out? Being in captivity. Think of me
as a bird. I mean come on, it can’t be that hard. I’ve already got the wings and everything.
Going out, seeing people and having a good time is relaxing to me. As long as I
remember to eat enough, going out and having a little fun shouldn’t cause any problems.”
Noah looked stunned, as though it had never occurred to him that his insistent
nagging might actually be more damaging to her than just allowing her to go out, be free,
and enjoy herself.
“Wow. I…I never thought of it that way.”
“Look. You and I both know life is short. And I didn’t need numerous encounters
with my own mortality to realize this. Neither of us can spend every moment wondering
if I might keel over at any second. I’ll do what I can to take care of myself and stay
relaxed, but you have to trust me, okay?”
“You’re right, you really are. I can’t say that I will be able to stop worrying, but
I’ll try to be a little better at letting you inform me of how you’re feeling.”
“So, does that mean we get to stay for the concert?” She bounced a little bit with
Noah breathed out. “Yes. If you promise to pay close attention to how you’re
feeling and not try to play the hero you usually do if you’re not feeling well.”
“Cross my heart and hope…well you know what I mean.”
They continued along the path, watching as the fireflies came out for their nightly
dance, blinking on and off in the bushes and around the trees.
“They’re so beautiful. I wish we had them in California,” Omari said, transfixed
by the whimsical orbs.
“I know, they were always one of my favorite things about the Midwest. We had
fireflies where I grew up in Tennessee. I don’t think there’s a kid alive in that area that
hasn’t had the experience of running out to the yard after dinner to capture them in a jar.”
“Sad. I’m going to miss them when we go back.”
“Well, if it makes you feel any differently, I’m happy just being able to bring my
angel back home with me. I’d leave behind an eternity of fireflies for that privilege.”
Omari smiled, kissing his check, and squeezing his hand, intoxicated by Noah’s
scent mingling with the humid melody of the Mississippi night.
The crowd was already getting large beneath the arch, people clustering on the
lawn and concrete steps that cascaded downward from the base of the historic arch. A
metal stage had been erected at the precipice of the river, with even more people
gathering at the concrete steps just in front of structure. The mass of loud people laughing
and drinking, enjoying the last dregs of summer made Omari happy that she was still
alive to enjoy nights like these.
Noah was trying to loosen up, she could tell that he wanted to relax, but he was
having such a hard time. Omari tried to think of what she would be like if Noah had been
the one so close to death. Last year he had been burned severely by an explosion in her
house, and he had been injured to be certain, but nowhere near the kinds of wounds she
had just lived through. Even so, seeing Noah in pain had been devastating to her, and she
still blamed herself for not protecting him. Noah was a doctor, watching helplessly as
someone he loved was hurt was so hard for him.
“How is your foot?” Omari asked. He had ditched the walking cast several days
ago, but she still caught him rubbing at it like it was uncomfortable.
“It’s fine, almost good as new.”
“Do you think you can handle climbing to the top of the hill? I want you to come
stand at the base of the arch. It’s gorgeous at night with all the metal reflecting off the
“Sure, I’ll be fine. It’s you that I’m worried about.”
“I know, I know. It’s going to be fine, trust me. Let’s go before the band starts up
and it gets crowded. We should still be able to hear the concert from there as well, and it
will be a little more mellow than down at the base of the stage.”
Noah followed her up to the grass beneath the steel ribbon blasting into St.
Louis’s skyline. Families with small children were milling around, trying to keep their
little ones corralled and not escape into the crowd of concertgoers. Noah put his hand on
one side of the arch and thumped it.
“Man, this thing is really solid feeling. It’s a lot bigger than it looks from the rest
of the city. You know you can actually go up in this thing?” he said.
A mischievous grin found its way onto Omari’s face, despite her best attempts to
prevent it. Noah noticed. “What? What are you smiling at? You really can go up in it
when the park’s open. There’s an elevator inside.”
The band had appeared on stage, and music pumped into the night, floating over
the water and up the hill. The singer’s voice exploded into the audience, as palpable as
the breeze coming off the river. Chills ran up her spine. She felt connected, to the crowd,
to the singer, to the city, the sky, and most of all, Noah. The sky was cloudy, only a
handful of stars peeking through the gloom. She stretched her head up, the massive silver
arch soaring overhead. The music flowed through her, beyond her. Reaching up her
hands towards the atmosphere, she knew this was magic. This was life.
“Oh, I know you can. I just think that there are better ways to get to the top,” she
Overcome with delight, Omari couldn’t help it. Noah seemed to realize what she
was doing, but not fast enough to vocalize any protests or wiggle away. Omari snatched
him, spread her wings and took to the air.
“Omari!” she heard him call over the wind.
“Just hold on to me,” she said, and Noah knew better to argue with her when they were in
the air. He wrapped his arms around her body, pressing himself tight.
Picking up speed, Omari spiraled up the metal pillar like a corkscrew, the feeling of being
in the air more amazing than ever after being constricted by splints and grounded for so
long. Despite his best intentions, even Noah was amazed by the experience of hurlting
through the air, the lights, the city, and the crowd growing smaller beneath them as they
reached the peak of the arch.
She set him down on the cool metal, landing directly next to him, a hand at his back to
make sure he didn’t fall. It had seemed like such a long time since Francesca and she had
been up there, when in reality it had only been a few weeks. It seemed like so much had
changed since then. Noah seemed to be transfixed by the view. He was by nature,
attracted to heights, and risky adrenaline filled activities. Omari tried to think of what he
would be like with a pair of wings strapped to his back, and she suppressed a snigger. If
Omari was considered somewhat troublesome, Noah would be impossible.
“Sorry, but come on, now that you’re up here, it’s worth it, isn’t it?” Omari asked.
“I can’t say that I condone your actions…but it is amazing up here. It feels like I can see
the entire city from here. It’s just beautiful.”
“I know. Francesca took me up here the first night I was in St. Louis. I couldn’t resist
brining you up here.”
“You had this planned the whole time, didn’t you” he asked.
“That still doesn’t get you off the hook for taking a risk like this. For me and for you.”
“I’m doing just fine, and this is far less dangerous than some of the rock climbing you do.
If you were to lose your balance and fall, I would do anything in my power to make sure I
rescued you. You know this.”
Noah said nothing, transfixed by the unfettered view. He was torn for his concern for her,
and his natural attraction to risky activities. She couldn’t blame him in this situation. It
truly was a fantastic view.
“It’s amazing how warm it is right now. We just don’t get this kind of weather at night in
California. And then it gets bitterly cold in winter. We’re a little spoiled in Santa Cruz.
We live by the beach and miss out on some of the most extremes of weather. You haven’t
really lived until you have to wake up at 6am and try to scrape all the ice and snow off
your car before sliding across frozen roads into work.”
“Yech. Getting up that early period is just a bad idea. That’s why you just own your own
business. Then you don’t have to worry about when you need to get up.” Omari always
tried to make sure she had the evening shift at her clinic, hiring other veterinarians to
work the opening shift. Noah also tried to grab a later shift at the hospital, which wasn’t
much of a trick to pull off.
The band below them continued playing, and even from that height they could hear the
music floating up on the summer wind. It was an alternative band, not one that Omari had
ever heard of, but the music was hypnotic. The crowd seemed to be enjoying it as well,
their distant cheers of pleasure also reaching their ears.
“What do you say we stay up here for the rest of the concert?” Omari said, raising an
“I’d say that I’m objectively opposed to it with your condition, but subjectively I think
it’s a great idea.”
“Good, because objective or subjective opinions aside, I’m the only one with a pair of
wings that can get us down from here.”
“If we drive back to meet Francesca instead of flying, I suppose that’s okay. No surprise
“Deal. I got my flight jollies out for the night already anyway.”
“And please tell me you investigated the city’s flying policy. We truly don’t need
any more legal issues to contend with for being up here,” Noah said.
“I wouldn’t worry too much about it. St. Louis is fairly relaxed, and everyone is
occupied with the concert.”
“If you say so. I think flying back down might be more conspicuous at this point
They spent the remainder of the concert cuddled together. As the music
came to a close, fireworks bloomed over the waterfront. The crowd cheered, transfixed
by the loud vibrant display. Noah kissed Omari, his face lit up by the crescendo of lights.
“We should get out of here before the fireworks are over and someone notices were up
here. Plus, we can avoid the traffic,” Noah said.
“And be on time to meet Francesca and Shea.”
Omari picked Noah up around the chest, spread her wings and used the warm updrafts to
glide to the ground unobtrusively in a copse of trees. Omari flapped her wings a few
times and sighed with satisfaction before refolding them.
“I know it’s an incredible feeling just to be in the air with you, but I can’t even fathom
what it must feel for you to fly so free in the skies like that. I wish it was something I
could share with you.”
Omari thought briefly of what it would be like for Noah to be Feathered like her, but her
mind immediately clicked over to an image of Dominic, with his pale flower petal skin
and pink eyes, the anomalous male with wings. She ran a hand through her hair and tried
to erase the memory.
“It is wonderful, but I like you just the way you are,” she said.
They made their way back to the car, and followed Francesca’s directions to a dim sum
restaurant that was on a quiet side street just beyond the loop. It was a small building, but
packed with large parties of people squeezing around small tables filled with dozens of
tasting looking dishes. Shea and Francesca were already there, and a number of plates
and a sizeable pot of soup were already on the table. Francesca and Shea stood, hugging
Omari and Noah and encouraging them to dig into the food.
They ordered several more dishes, all of which were delicious. They talked about happy
memories, avoiding the traumatic subjects of loss and sorrow that they’d all experienced.
Francesca told amusing anecdotes about things that had happened in the bar, While
Omari and Noah had their own interesting medical tales to relate. Shea was somewhat
quiet at first, revealing some of the public shyness that Francesca had told her about, but
by the end of the night, even he was laughing openly and telling stories about life on the
farm and his Irish family.
“I wish that we could stick around and help you out. I know you have a lot of work
rebuilding that needs to be done,” Omari said, swallowing a bite of a tasty bun filled with
sweet red bean paste, “but we both have things in California that we need to get back to.
My office manager is probably going crazy without me there. And our poor dog has been
in the kennel for weeks.”
“I would never expect you to stay out here just on account of us. Don’t worry, we’ll
manage, always do. But, whenever we do have everything put back together again, you
have to promise to come back and spend some regular time out here. You know, real
vacation time so I can take you around the city some more, and go horseback riding out
in the country.”
“Deal! I haven’t been on a horse in a long time, and I’d love to go riding with you and
Shea,” Omari said.
They finished up their meal, and they found themselves in the parking lot beside their
“Our flight leaves super early in the morning, so this is it. Good luck with everything
guys,” Omari said.
“You too. And I know St. Louis hasn’t exactly been kind to you, but don’t let that make
you be a stranger now, ya hear?” Francesca said, giving Omari a little punch in the
“No worries. Danger is my middle name, so we have to come back.”
They said their goodbyes, and everyone managed not to cry or get emotional. Omari and
Noah went back to their hotel room, and made sure to make the most of their last night
alone. In the morning Noah shook Omari awake and dragged her out of bed.
“I don’t care if we miss the flight. Let’s just stay here.”
“Come on, we’ve got to go. I’ll get you a cup of coffee from the lobby,” Noah coaxed.
Omari groaned. “I hate airports. I hate airplanes. I have wings for a reason.”
“Has anyone ever mentioned that you’re just a ray of sunshine in the morning? I better go
get that coffee. I’ve seen what happens when you get angry.”
Omari threw a pillow at his head, which he ducked and then went down to the lobby as
promised to bring back caffeine reinforcements.
On the airplane Omari fidgeted in her seat, still cranky and grumbling. She’d smacked
several people walking down the aisle trying to get to her seat, and a few of them were
still staring at her with looks of irritation. At least this time Noah was sitting next to her,
and he didn’t mind stray feathers intruding on his seat space.
“Wow, now I understand why you hate flying. It really is a pain in the ass for you,” Noah
“Thanks for noticing. You know how uncomfortable this is for my wings? Not to make
you more paranoid or anything, but they’re still a little achy from being broken in a
bunch of places.”
“I’m going to do my best here not to lecture you about flying before you were supposed
“Good, because trust me, I am not in a good mood as it is.”
“Aw, honey, I’m sorry. I know I’ve been a hard ass since everything happened, but I just
can’t seem to help it. Maybe I am overly paranoid. At least it’s not that long of a flight.
We’ll be landing in San Jose before you know it, and back home in Santa Cruz in no
Omari took a deep breath and tried to relax. “You’re right. It’s going to feel great to be
She spent most of the flight reading and trying not to think about how cramped she felt in
the plane. Gazing out the window she couldn’t help but think how much better it would
be dodging in and out of the clouds, gliding on the wind. The captain announced that they
would be starting their descent to the runway, and that everyone should take their seats
and fasten their safety belts.
Omari noticed that she wasn’t feeling very well, but attributed it to motion sickness. They
had some severe turbulence during the flight, and she figured it was probably to blame.
She leaned down and put her head on her knees. Noah was immediately concerned.
“Omari? What’s wrong?” the panic in his voice was clearly evident. She had seen the ER
doctor remain composed during many stressful situations, and it was unusual to see him
so frazzled this quickly.
“Um, just a little airsick I think is all,” she said.
“You don’t get motion sickness,” Noah said and put his hand against her throat to feel her
pulse, “your heart rate is slow. When’s the last time you ate?”
“Well, they didn’t give us any food like I thought they might, and we weren’t allowed to
bring any food on board, so it was like four hours ago at least.”
“Shit. What happened to that energy bar I gave you? You were supposed to eat that
before we got on the plane. It was concentrated enough to have lasted you most of the
flight,” he said.
“They took it at the security checkpoint. Guess you missed that part. You got
funneled into another line. I didn’t even think about it,” she paused, taking deep breaths,
“Oh, man, I really don’t feel good.”
“Omari! You need to be more careful. Just, just keep breathing. You’re going to be
Noah unbuckled his seat belt and started to stand up. A stewardess immediately ran to his
seat and instructed him to sit down.
“No, you don’t understand. She’s a diabetic. I need to get her medicine from my
baggage,” he said.
The stewardess was about to argue, but then saw Omari, who had begun to slump in her
seat, flopping back and forth dramatically with each sway of the plane. The flight
attendant backed off enough to let Noah get into his overhead luggage and pull out his
small carryon suitcase. Throwing random clothing into the aisle, he searched through its
contents until he found a small black bag. Inside there was a vial and a handful of
syringes with various gauges of needles. With the ease of many years of practice he drew
up some of its contents. Using one hand he rolled off a vein in Omari’s forearm, and
injected the solution.
Almost immediately Omari felt better. The Flight attendants were saying things to Noah,
cleaning up the mess he’d made in the aisle, asking him if he needed any other help, and
finally trying to make him sit down and buckle his seatbelt again. She lifted her head and
looked into Noah’s eyes, and saw pure terror. Omari was thinking about how all of his
paranoid thoughts had been realized in that instant.
“Thank you. I think I’m okay now. I feel better.”
“That’s because I just shot you up with a bunch of dextrose. Your blood sugar was falling.
You have to go back to the hospital when we land,” he said, and Omari thought she heard
a hint of shakiness.
“No. No more hospitals. If I really do have this syndrome, then there’s nothing they can
do for me here that you didn’t just do a few minutes ago. We’re just going to have to
accept the fact that this is something I’m going to have to live with,” she said.
She could tell he wanted to argue, but was so glad that the injection had worked he didn’t
say anything. Omari was wondering exactly how he had gotten the needles through
security into the cabin. Maybe he had declared them because he was a doctor? That didn’t
seem feasible, but security wasn’t perfect. She wasn’t sure exactly how he did it, but she
was glad he did. Glancing around the cabin, numerous passengers were staring at her and
whispering among themselves. Great, the big clumsy winged thing also had some weird
medical problem. Omari cast aside bitter thoughts, and chose to ignore them in favor of
consoling Noah who looked beside himself.
“I can’t believe I didn’t make sure you ate enough before the flight. I should have let
them know you have a medical condition and would need to eat in the middle of the
flight. How could I have been so stupid?” he said.
“Because I’m an adult, and I can take responsibility for myself, that’s why. I just got so
bent out of shape about getting up early in the morning and getting on this damn plane
that I forgot about eating okay? I promise that I’ll be better about it in the future.”
She thought he was going to spend more time lecturing her, but instead he just slid his
arms around her, hugging her awkwardly from the seat. She saw him wipe away a few
tears, smearing his glasses in the process. She took them off his face and wiped them on
her shirt before placing them back on his face.
“Thank you,” he said, attempting to compose himself.
“It’s all going to be better when we get home. We’ll get back into our routine, deal with
things as they come up, and try to live a normal life, okay?” she said and rubbed the spot
on her arm where Noah had given her the injection.
When they finally landed, Noah single handedly carried all of their carry on luggage,
insisting that Omari shouldn’t carry anything after an episode like that. Once they
deplaned and fought their way through the terminal to baggage claim, Noah sat anxiously
by the carousel waiting for their luggage, saying he wanted to get some actual food into
her as soon as possible.
Once all of their bags appeared, Noah stacked them all on a cart, herded them out to the
street and hailed a cab for the two of them to pile into. Omari wanted to wait until they
got back to Santa Cruz so they could get some real food, but Noah was adamant that she
eat something in San Jose. He had the cab drive go stop at a drive through, where he
ordered a large combo meal for Omari, who was less than thrilled.
“I’m not exactly certain that this is the best thing to stabilize ones blood sugar. You know,
all the grease, simple carbohydrates, and soda,” she said after promising the cab driver
she wouldn’t get any crumbs in his car. He said that he didn’t normally allow passengers
to eat in the car, but since she was so pretty he’d make an exception.
“I’m not out to stabilize it, just not let it crash like that again until we get back home and
I can get some real food into you,” he said.
Omari finished her food, and spent the rest of the drive back to Santa Cruz with her head
resting on Noah’s shoulder. He held her tight against his chest, as if something horrible
would happen if he let her go. It felt secure, but Omari wished there was some way she
could make him relax. In truth, she was as nervous as he was, but not for the same
When they finally broke through the trees and emerged onto the little streets of Santa
Cruz, a smile broke across Omari’s face. It was always nice to come home again, back to
the familiar comfort of her quirky hippie town. She could almost feel the wheels of her
Mustang gripping the road as she drove along Santa Cruz’s cliff lined coast.
The taxi driver stopped in front of Noah’s house that was now their house since Omari’s
had burned down last year. She still missed her house that had been so perfectly suited
for her, but Noah’s house was very nice indeed. Built right against the edge of West Cliff
Dr, his house was spacious and directly overlooked the ocean. They paid the driver, and
unloaded their bags into the driveway next to their twin Mustangs. They were both the
same classic year, the only difference being the color. Omari’s was red, while Noah’s
was yellow. The only thing Omari wanted to do was go inside and lay down in her own
bed, but there was something she had been ignoring, procrastinating even addressing to
herself that had to be dealt with.
Noah had already begun to move towards the front door, but stopped when Omari stood
frozen in the driveway. “What’s wrong honey? If I can’t get you to go to the hospital with
me, I at least want you to come inside and relax,” he said.
“There’s something I need to tell you.”
His brow furrowed with concern, and Omari hated having to tell him this when he was
already stretched to his limit of stress. “What?”
“What?” he said, not comprehending.
“I’m late. Like late, late. I’m never late.”
Noah’s eyes went wide, too many possibilities going through his head, just as they had
for Omari. Feathered people couldn’t get pregnant. But Dominic had been a Feathered
male, the only documented one in history. And the fertility drugs Samantha had been
shooting her up with. And the numerous times she had slept with Noah since then.
“No. That’s not possible,” he said without a drop of conviction in his voice.
“I’m very late. A week late. I thought it was a fluke, or stress, or this new disorder maybe,
and I would start eventually. But I haven’t, I…”
Noah cut her off. “I’m going to bring our bags inside, and then we’re going to the
hospital so you can take a pregnancy test.”
“No, not today, no hospitals. I won’t go.”
Noah bit his lip, trying to remain calm. “Then we’re going to the drugstore to buy a home
Omari hesitated, truly wishing she could just ignore this and wait for her period to start,
because there was no way it could possibly be true. But she knew there was no way they
could ignore this, and she nodded her head.
In the bathroom, Omari sat in front of the door, one hand on the knob, waiting several
minutes before opening it. Noah was standing there, wide eyed and waiting expectantly
like a French prisoner positioned under the guillotine.
She took a deep breath. “It’s positive,” she said.