Angel fire, p.101
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       Angel Fire, p.101

         Part #2 of Angel series by L. A. Weatherly
 
Page 101

  Seb’s gaze on me was very still. “And if he tries to make up with you? What will you tell him is the reason for not touching him?”

  “I don’t know,” I said softly. Alex had always refused to even consider the idea that I might cause angel burn. No matter what was happening with his aura, I knew he was unlikely to start believing it now. Even if he checked out his aura and saw the damage, I could just hear him saying that it didn’t matter; that we couldn’t be certain it was because of me.

  “I don’t know,” I repeated – but really, there was only one option, wasn’t there? My brain flinched away from the thought of it. “Hopefully. . . hopefully he’ll still be angry at me, and it won’t even be an issue. We can just keep avoiding each other. ”

  And after the attack – if by some miracle we managed to succeed, and there was an “after” to think about – I could never be with Alex again. I just prayed that whatever damage I’d already done to him would get better in time; that it wasn’t permanent. I felt cold even in my jean jacket as I stared up into the shadows. How ironic, though. I’d just told Seb that we could never be together, but if we hurt humans with our touch, then there was no one else in the world for either of us, was there? Literally, no one else in the world. And so perhaps we would end up getting together someday – years from now, maybe, once this pain had faded a little – but I knew it would never be anything like what I’d had with Alex. Nothing else would ever be like that. Not in my whole life.

  “No,” said Seb, his voice fierce.

  I glanced over at him. He was staring at me angrily, his hand a tight fist on his thigh. “You were right, what happened was a mistake,” he said. “If it happens again between us, it won’t be because we’re the only two half-angels. It will be because you’re in love with me, as much as you are now with Alex. I don’t want you any other way – I’d rather be your brother for ever. ”

  “Seb. . . ” I didn’t know what to say. Oh god, now I’d hurt Seb, on top of everything else.

  He shook his head. “This isn’t the time,” he said shortly. “But I know what we could have together, Willow. And I won’t take anything less. ”

  I let out a breath. “Look, I’m sorry. It was just a stupid, random thought, that’s all. You weren’t supposed to hear it. ” I didn’t blame Seb for feeling the way he did, but knew it meant that nothing would ever happen between us again in that case, not even decades in the future. I covered my eyes with both arms, suddenly feeling beyond weary; battered by the past few days. “Can we just. . . not talk about this any more?” I asked in a small voice.

  I sensed rather than saw his cool shrug. “We’ll never talk about it again, if you don’t want. ”

  I didn’t answer. If Seb was still hurt, I seriously couldn’t deal with it right now.

  We didn’t speak for a long time. Another candle choked out, casting us into a deeper gloom that seemed hideously symbolic. I could sense my angel inside of me, and had a flash of hatred for her so intense that it curled my stomach. How could I ever forgive myself for hurting Alex? How could I go through life, knowing my touch would damage anyone I got too close to?

  Anyone I got too close to. The thought froze me so that I could hardly breathe, and I sat up with a gasp. No. No.

  “Willow?” Seb moved quickly from the wall; the sleeping bag made a soft noise as he kneeled beside me.

  “Mom,” I whispered. “Seb, what if. . . what if I was making her angel burn worse all those years?” I covered my face with my hands as I began to shake – seeing her sitting in her chair, her dreamy smile. And all the hours I had spent sitting next to her: holding her hand, stroking her arm. Each memory was like being kicked in the stomach. I couldn’t live with this; I just couldn’t – if it was true, then I didn’t even want to live any more.

  “Stop, querida, stop—” I felt Seb start to take me into his arms.

  Somehow what had happened between us made it impossible for me to touch Seb now – even though he was the only person I could touch. I pulled away. “Don’t! I can’t – I can’t let you hold me any more—”

  “Willow!” Cradling my face in his hands, he gently forced me to look at him, his expression distraught. “Listen to me. Tonight didn’t happen – I’m still your brother. Please, let me help. ”

  I hugged myself, struggling with everything I had to hang on. “Nothing can help,” I got out finally. My voice sounded dead and buried. “Nothing, not ever again. ”

  I could feel Seb’s compassion, so tender that something inside of me gave way. He put his arms around me again as I started to cry, drawing me close against his chest. I didn’t have the energy to resist this time – didn’t even want to any more. I let him hold me, and I cried against his warm shoulder while the shadows played on the wall beside us.

  Eventually I must have fallen into an exhausted sleep. When I woke up later, Seb and I were both lying down. My eyes felt bruised and puffy. The crying hadn’t helped – my head throbbed with thoughts that hurt too much to dwell on. Only one candle was going now, its flame sputtering weakly.

  Seb was still holding me; he’d fallen asleep too. In the dim light, I stared at his sleeping face – at the mouth that I’d kissed so passionately – and knew with a sinking heart that he was wrong. Tonight had happened. And because of it, the dearest friendship of my life had been soured. Seb could never really be my brother again.

  I didn’t have the boy I loved, and I didn’t have my best friend, either.

  The next morning, as Seb and I walked back to the house from the Metro station, I could hear the tinkling, glittery sound of glass being swept up. Storekeepers were out taping sheets of cardboard over broken windows; burned-out cars sat here and there like weird sculptures. But shoppers strode by as usual on the sidewalk, and in the street, cars and taxis swept past. Already, life was returning to what passed for normal, here in Mexico City in the wake of the Second Wave.

  Though Seb and I tried to talk the same as always, awkwardness had settled between us like a thick fog from the moment we’d woken up that morning. As we reached the street where the house was, Seb stopped suddenly, touching my arm. “Willow, please – can’t we just forget it happened, and be like we were before?” His hazel eyes were deep wells of worry. “We kissed; that’s all. It doesn’t have to change what we are to each other, not unless we let it. ”

  I shivered, not looking at him. All I could think of was Alex. I hated my hands as they gripped my elbows, knowing that I’d hurt him with them. Except it wasn’t just my hands, was it? No, it was all of me, like poisonous venom oozing through my veins. Every time I’d caressed Alex’s body, kissed his lips, I’d caused him harm.

  “I’ll try,” I said at last.

  “Querida—”

  “Don’t—” I broke off and shut my eyes hard against the sudden pain; it was a fist gripping my heart. “Don’t call me that,” I said.

  “All right,” said Seb softly. And I knew that this time he meant it, and that the easy banter we’d once shared was gone. Though it made me feel ten times worse than before, in a weird way it also seemed like no more than I deserved.

 

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