Angel fire, p.68
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       Angel Fire, p.68

         Part #2 of Angel series by L. A. Weatherly
Page 68


  “How badly did your mother have angel burn?” I asked.

  Seb propped his wrist under his head as he thought; the firm muscles of his arm flexed slightly. “Very badly,” he said. “It was different from your mother though. I think my mother’s mind was damaged, but she could still talk, still do things. ” He knew I’d had to hide my mother’s mental illness from everyone when I was younger. Apart from Alex, he was the only person I’d ever shared that with.

  “The main thing was that my mother had cancer,” he went on. “That’s what killed her. ”

  I nodded. He’d told me before that when he was nine and living on the streets, he’d found out his mother was dead. She hadn’t visited him even once after leaving him at the orphanage – not in all the years he was there. It made my throat tighten whenever I thought of it.

  Seb stretched his white-socked foot so that it nudged at my ankle. “Willow, don’t. It’s all right. ”

  This happened a lot now, so that our half-psychic, half-spoken conversations would have sounded very weird to anyone else. I shook my head. “It so isn’t. I hate that you were in that place. ”

  “The reformatorio was much worse,” he said with a shrug. “And it was in the orphanage that I found out about my angel. There was a room they locked me in. . . he first came to me there. So it was worth it. ”

  He wasn’t as relaxed as he sounded. I felt his slight tension as he remembered, and got a flicker of fear – a dark, cramped room where he’d been imprisoned for days. Oh, Seb.

  “Besides, I would never have started to read books without the orphanage,” added Seb. “Never. And I think reading has been to me what fixing cars is to you. ”

  I slowly shook my head. “You’re never going to convince me the orphanage was actually a good thing. I’ve seen it, remember? I know what you went through there. ”

  “Yes, I know you do,” he said softly. He gave a small smile. “You’re the only person in the world who’s ever known me. ”

  Our auras were mingling where his foot rested near me on the sofa; I could hardly feel where mine ended and his began. I smiled too. “Maybe that’s because you’ve never told anyone the truth in your life. A gondolier? Really? And you stole his cigarettes. ”

  Seb looked genuinely surprised. “But it’s true, what I told him. My people were Italian. There was a gondolier strike in Venice, in eighteen-forty – they came here by the thousands. ”

  My eyes widened. I almost said, Really? A gondolier strike? And then felt how teasing his aura had become, and burst out laughing. “Oh, you’re good,” I said. “Real good. ”

  “So are you,” said Seb, his voice casual. “Look at your aura. ”

  Startled, I brought it back into view. Its lavender lights had shifted to forest green, companionably matching Seb’s. “Oh!” I gasped, sitting straight up. The second I did, it flicked back to lavender. I stared at Seb. “How long has it been like that?”

  “The last few minutes, maybe,” he said with a grin. “So you see, you can change your aura. ”

  I half laughed, groaning. “When I don’t know I’m doing it – great. ”

  But the tiny victory helped, and I started practising with Seb every spare moment I had – even in the evenings sometimes, while Alex and the others went over whatever video footage Kara had managed to take that day, trying to get the door code. I helped with that whenever I could, but I was so aware of time ticking away, and the days passing. I had to learn how to do this.

  Not that the others seemed broken-hearted that I was doing something else. I kept trying to act normal around everyone, but knew that nothing I ever did would be “normal”, as far as they were concerned. With Seb there, I didn’t feel nearly as self-conscious about it now, at least. That prickling, too-aware feeling that I often used to get had faded away completely. It was a relief; I’d hated feeling so vulnerable and scrutinized.

  Seb never said much when the others were around. If he did, it was always some mild comment that sounded innocent on the surface, but then you could see the person frowning as they thought about it, like, Wait – what did he mean by that?

  It made me laugh, but it also exasperated me. I knew from his hand that Seb usually got along with people perfectly well; there was just this spark of mischief in him that couldn’t resist a situation like this – everyone being so suspicious of him when he hadn’t even done anything.

  “Playing with their minds doesn’t actually help, you know. ” We were out in the courtyard, where there was a battered picnic table; the Shadow stood parked near the back door. In the evenings, when the rest of the team was home, we usually ended up out here, or up on the balcony.

  “I can’t help it,” said Seb seriously. “I say things without thinking, all the time – the words, they just fly right out of my mouth. It’s very unfortunate. I think there must be a medical name for it. ”

  “Really? Maybe we should donate you to science so they can study you. ”

  Seb’s mouth twitched. He was sitting up on the tabletop, wearing a cotton long-sleeved shirt with his Cinco de Mayo T-shirt over it. “Yes, maybe. But I’m the teacher, so you can’t. Come, querida, try again. ”

  I nodded, though it was getting pretty hard not to feel discouraged. I could change my aura’s colour for a few minutes at a time now, but only if Seb was right there, sort of bolstering it up. Whenever I attempted to shift it on my own, it collapsed right back, no matter how relaxed I thought I was. My dreamy state felt like a self-imposed con now – and it was like my aura knew it. With a mental sigh, I closed my eyes, gearing myself up for another bout.

  “No, stop,” said Seb suddenly. “You’re all—” He laughed as I looked at him. “Like this,” he said, hunching his shoulders tensely. “It’s a gentle thing, like play. Look, forget about changing your aura tonight. Let’s try this. ”

  He jumped down off the table and went over to the back door; leaning inside, he flicked off the light that hung over the doorway. The courtyard plunged into dimness, still lit by the ambient glow of nearby street lights, but much more mysterious now – shadowy.

  “All right, are you ready?” said Seb as he returned. His eyes were impish.

  I shook my head, smiling now. “Ready for what? Is this some secret half-angel thing?”

  “Yes. Well, sort of. Here, stand up. ” He tugged me to my feet. “Okay, look at my aura. ”

  I brought it into view. He’d shifted to his natural colours – the bright, shining silver and the deep forest green. “Now watch,” said Seb. He held up his hand, wrapped in a silvery glow. Then he whipped it through the air. A silver trail followed, so quickly it seemed to glitter. He lashed his hand back again; made gleaming circles and loops.

  My mouth had fallen open. “Oh my god, let me try that—” I focused on my own aura, and a few seconds later was doing the same – swirling my hand and making silver trails all around me, as if I were one of those gymnasts with the long, streaming ribbons. I laughed to see Seb writing his name in the air; my own name followed, shimmering and vanishing in a heartbeat. We were like two kids with sparklers. I couldn’t stop smiling; I wished I’d known about this when I was a little girl. How cool would that have been, to have had a perpetual sparkler?


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