Angel fever, p.65
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       Angel Fever, p.65

         Part #3 of Angel series by L. A. Weatherly
Page 65


  Nina nodded, giving it a worried glance. “Most of us live at the elementary school now – on Birch, remember? You can park it under the covered walkway there, so it’s not visible from the air. Jonah and I will meet you over at the town hall. ”

  Not visible from the air – I couldn’t believe the way sceptical Nina was taking all this in her stride. Two years ago she would have poured scorn on the very idea that angels really existed.

  I shoved my questions away for the time being and started back to the truck. “Okay. Meet you there. ”

  As Seb and I drove to the school, a weighted silence settled down on us again. I glanced at his familiar profile and cleared my throat.

  “Seb, look, I know you’re still angry at me…but do you think we could just pretend everything’s okay for the next few days?” I managed a smile. “If we actually survive this, you can go right back to not talking to me, I promise. ”

  He gave a quiet snort. Finally he shook his head. “You are the most infuriating person I have ever met,” he said tiredly. “But, yes, you are right. ”

  We’d reached the squat brick building of the Neil Armstrong Elementary School by then – I rocked us onto the sidewalk and parked under the covered walkway at the front. As Seb and I got out, our eyes met. He still looked irritated, but the corner of his mouth lifted a fraction.

  “Friends?” I said.

  He made a face. “No, I don’t think that’s the right word. ” He pulled out his rifle from the back and slung it over one shoulder. “Even when I want to strangle you, you know, it doesn’t matter. We are still…” He stopped with a weary shrug.

  My chest felt tight as I nodded, understanding. The bond we shared would always be there, like a deep river connecting us. Whether we wanted it to be or not.

  As Seb and I walked down the familiar streets, I couldn’t stop staring. The fact that some homes were okay made the damaged ones look even worse. In the town square, half the buildings were sagging – broken windows, smashed-in walls. The drugstore had collapsed completely.

  At the square’s centre, the town hall rose up from a snowy lawn, its tall brick structure stolid and unchanged. Nina and Jonah stood waiting on its front steps. They had their arms around each other; when they saw us, they stepped apart.

  I blinked. Oh. So…apparently Nina didn’t have a thing for Scott Mason any more.

  As we joined them, I bit my lip and glanced back towards the square. “I didn’t know you had such bad tremors here,” I said. Stupid comment. But I hated to see Pawntucket so slumped and defeated.

  Nina nodded, studying the square with sad eyes. “We keep meaning to rebuild, but…” She sighed.

  “I guess it hasn’t really been a priority,” Jonah said quietly. “One day, I hope. But come on, let’s get inside. ” His eyes met mine. “We’ve got a lot to talk about. ”

  I’D ONLY BEEN IN THE town hall twice – once on a field trip in third grade and once to pay a parking ticket when I was sixteen. It smelled just the same, like dust and lemon cleaning polish. Jonah led us to a room on the ground floor. At one end was a battered-looking desk with a shortwave radio; at the other, a fireplace.

  Jonah crouched in front of it, feeding the small blaze with scraps of wood. “Sorry it’s so cold in here,” he said. “The town’s only got one generator – we save it for the service station and heating the school at night. ”

  It felt strange that Jonah knew more about my hometown than I did now. I glanced at Nina, still hardly able to believe I was here. “How are you?” I asked her quietly. “I mean – how has everything been?”

  “Bizarre,” she said with a tight smile. “These last two years have definitely not been normal. Not for you either, I guess. ” She hesitated. “So did you know you were half-angel? Or what?”

  I shook my head. “Not until I was sixteen – it was that day I followed Beth to the Church of Angels, actually. ” It was also the day I’d first met Alex. At the image of him falling into step beside me as we walked through the parking lot, I stopped short and looked away. “It’s, um…a long story. ”

  Nina studied me with a frown, looking exactly the way she’d always looked when I’d tried to evade something. Thankfully, this time she didn’t pursue it.

  “Are you sure your name is really Fisk and not Freedom?” Seb asked Jonah from beside the desk.

  Relieved to have something else to think about, I followed his gaze – and saw scrawled notes on a yellow legal pad beside the shortwave. A puzzle piece slipped into place.

  “You’re the Voice of Freedom!” I burst out.

  Jonah’s cheeks reddened as he straightened. He briefly pulled off his cap and ran a hand over his head – his dark hair was close-cropped now, the curls gone. “Um, yeah…I guess you could say that. ”

  I felt a sudden fierce pride that the Voice of Freedom was coming from Pawntucket. “We listen to you all the time,” I said fervently. “People hear you – they tell us so in dark towns, when we go in to recruit. ”

  Jonah’s eyebrows shot up. “Really? That is so good to hear. Sometimes it feels like I’m just broadcasting into nothing. ”

  “No, you’re definitely making a difference. Don’t give up, not ever,” I said – and then winced, remembering the angels gathering in Schenectady.

  A tense silence fell. Finally Jonah poured water from a plastic bottle into an old-fashioned kettle and hooked it over the fire. As we all settled near the hearth, he glanced at Nina. “So, where should we start?”

  “How about with why you’re in Pawntucket?” I tried to smile. “I think you’re literally the last person I expected to see here. ”

  Jonah had to be in his early twenties, but his quick, embarrassed grin made him look about eighteen. “Actually, I came looking for you. ”

  “Me? Why?”

  “Well, you and Alex,” he clarified. When I didn’t respond, he went on. “See, after the Second Wave arrived, I – I guess I didn’t deal with it very well. ” He made a face as he traced a pattern on the faded carpet. “I mean…everything I’d ever believed in was gone. Everything. And we hadn’t managed to stop them, and—” He broke off. Nina’s expression had softened as she watched him.

  Finally Jonah let out a breath. “Anyway, after a while I realized I could do something about it, if I could just find you two. I knew you’d still be fighting; I wanted to join you. But the only place I knew about where you and Alex might come to was here. ” He hesitated, looking up. “Listen, I hope I’m not saying the wrong thing, but – where is Alex?”

  I tensed. I’d never had to say it out loud before; everyone at the base had already known. The words came out harshly. “He’s dead. He died over a year ago. ”

  Jonah closed his eyes tight, as if he’d almost been expecting this. “I’m sorry,” he said. “I would have liked to have known him better. ”

  “Oh, Willow,” whispered Nina – and I knew Jonah must have told her about me and Alex being a couple. She leaned over and squeezed my hand. “Are…are you okay?”

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