Angel fire, p.16
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       Angel Fire, p.16

         Part #2 of Angel series by L. A. Weatherly
Page 16


  For some reason, Seb couldn’t stop himself – he reached for the shirt. As his fingers touched the thin cloth, he gasped a quick, stunned breath.

  Familiar. How could it feel so familiar?

  Lucy came dancing up, her eyes alight. “Look, aren’t I pretty?” Squeezing his arm, she shook her head at him, showing off her new earrings. Then she glanced down at the shirt and her eyebrows rose knowingly. “Ooh, what’s that? Are you buying me a present?”

  “I – uh, no,” Seb said faintly, hardly noticing she was there. He was still gripping the shirt; he wasn’t sure he’d ever be able to let go of it. He watched as the stall owner examined a pair of girl’s jeans; the man pulled a small, framed photo out of the pocket and squinted at it.

  “Pretty girl. I can sell the frame; the photo’s no good to me. Do you want it back?”

  The stocky guy glanced at it. “Nah. How much for the frame?”

  Seb’s throat went dry. Without taking his left hand off the shirt, he said, “Wait – can I see that?” and plucked the framed photo from the stall owner’s hand.

  The picture was of a little girl with long blonde hair, peering up through the trailing fronds of a willow tree. For a moment, Seb almost couldn’t breathe as he looked at her smiling face; it felt like he’d been punched in the stomach.

  Lucy stood staring at him; at the other end of the stall, Amanda had appeared, flipping through the CDs. “Hey, what’s wrong?” said Lucy. “I didn’t catch all of that. ”

  “I’ll take this,” Seb managed to get out to the stall owner. “And the shirt – how much do you want for them?”

  The man gave a bemused shrug. “A hundred pesos for both? It’s a nice little frame. ”

  Seb dug the money out of his pocket, shoved it at him. He put the shirt and photo into his bag, zipping it tightly as if to protect them. “Where’d you get these?” he asked the stocky guy. His voice was shaking. “Who’s the girl, do you know?”

  The man looked shifty suddenly. “No one in particular. Why are you so interested?”

  “Because I need to find the girl,” gritted out Seb, each word low and distinct. “Did you steal this stuff? Where from – just tell me!”

  “Hey, I’m no thief! No, it was just on the side of the road. Like someone had lost it all. ”

  He was lying – his aura had turned a devious mustard yellow. Seb’s muscles were trembling; he knew he was close to lunging at the guy and attacking him. He stepped closer. “Don’t lie to me, man. I’m asking you one more time – where’d you get it?”

  “Seb!” cried Lucy, tugging at his arm. “God, cool it – what’s going on?” He shook her off, not taking his eyes from the thief. The man swallowed, a nervous expression on his face now.

  “Look, I don’t want any trouble,” put in the stall owner. “You boys got a problem, take it somewhere else. ”

  “Tell me,” said Seb in a low voice, ignoring him. And he knew that his tone was the same as from the dark time when he was thirteen. He’d enjoyed fighting then; he didn’t now, but he’d have no hesitation about doing it.

  He could sense the guy realizing this, coming to a decision. “You won’t find them,” he said finally. “It was hours ago – they’re gone now, okay? They were gringos, they’d only stopped to get some food. And that’s all I’m telling you. ”

  It was the truth. Seb let out a breath. Amanda was standing beside Lucy now, both of them gaping at him as if he’d gone insane. Maybe he had. “Sorry,” he muttered to Lucy, taking a step backwards. His pulse was throbbing in his ears. “I’ve got to go. ”

  “Go? You mean back to the hostel?”

  “No – no, I’ve got to go. ” And before she could answer he turned and took off at a run through the marketplace, leaving her startled face behind him in a blur. He had to get someplace private; had to look at this stuff again. He must be going crazy – this couldn’t possibly be true—

  The hostel would be full of people. Veering east, he pounded down the streets and into the Plaza de Armas, with its small, pattering fountain, its mix of palm trees and spruce, and the white stone cathedral that looked almost pink in the sunset. There was a bandstand across from the cathedral – an elegant wrought-iron structure from a different age. Seb saw that it was empty and took its four steps at a single leap. Breathing hard, he pulled the photo from his knapsack and then hesitated, clutching it tightly, the image hidden as the small frame dug into his palm. It couldn’t be true. He had just wished for it so often that he’d finally gone insane. He was going to open his hand and it would just be a human girl, that was all – just a human girl.

  Swallowing, Seb finally dared to unclench his hand and look down. He stared. Without realizing it, he sank to the worn wooden floor, still holding the photo.

  From the time of his earliest memories, he’d been able to see auras – the angry, crackling red of his mother’s boyfriend’s energy as he beat Seb; the soggy blue of his mother’s as she’d put him in the orphanage, crying that it was Seb’s fault for not getting along with the man. His own aura, whenever he’d brought it into view, was the only one he’d ever encountered that was mostly silver, with forest-green lights shifting through it. The difference had bothered Seb deeply – he’d been convinced that his aura’s strangeness had been the reason for the beatings. That had been the start of his lifelong habit of shifting his aura’s colours, of learning how to blend in. He hadn’t known then that it was pointless around humans – that nobody except him could see the bright shapes of energy anyway.

  But he didn’t just see auras when he met people face-to-face; he could see them in photos, too. And now. . . Seb gazed down at the framed photo in his hand, and it was as if the whole world had stopped breathing. It was true. He hadn’t been mistaken. The little girl peering up through the willow branches had an aura like his own: silver, with lavender lights.

  Another half-angel.

  It was her.

  Seb’s heart thundered in his chest. Jesus god, he had to find her. Where was she, though? Who was she? “Them”, the guy had said, so she was travelling with someone. He’d seemed certain that they wouldn’t still be in Chihuahua, but—

  Seb closed his eyes and sent his other self soaring, even though he usually kept his angel self hidden in cities – the violent encounter with the angel years ago had taught him that. Right now, he didn’t care. Lifting up through the bandstand’s roof, he stretched his shining wings and glided over the city, scanning its roads, its parks, the highway that stretched through town.

  There was nothing, of course. Nothing.

  His angel rushed back to him. Seb opened his eyes and stared unseeingly at one of the ornate iron posts. The possibility that he might have finally come so close to finding his half-angel girl, only to have missed her somehow, made him sick with dread.

  His gaze fell on the knapsack near his feet. Suddenly he remembered the girl’s shirt – the feeling of familiarity that had swept over him in the marketplace. He pulled it out; the material felt soft against his fingers. With a steadying breath, Seb closed his eyes again.


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