She sat stock still on the bench watching the people around her. A bulky black jacket hung from her lean frame. It was worn from age and had rips all over it including two huge slits in the back. People gave her a wide berth as they passed eying her suspiciously once they caught sight of her tattered clothing. The worst of which was her battered shoes, once a relatively good pair of trainers, they were so worn that the soles were nearly see through and the laces only reached half way.
As she watched she focused in on a young man walking along with a little girl next to him. His clothes suggested a night or two in the rough but that was all. They were in such a condition that he could blend easily into the crowd. A quick scan of the girl revealed the same thing. Neither seemed bothered about their clothing or that they didn’t have a home. As she watched the little girl said something and the man laughed. So carefree, she thought, not a worry in the world.
That wasn’t true though because the little girl was whispering fiercely to the young man while his laughter covered the words. She did though catch sight of the gesture in her direction and frowned. Were they interested in her? Her eyes narrowed as she watched them closer and caught the subtle shift in their direction. They were approaching her. She shifted and glanced for a way out but there was nowhere to go without a rousing more suspicion.
She waited a moment longer before she caved. She stood up and bolted out of there knowing they couldn’t follow without suspicion falling up them. “Come on, you’ve had your break,” she heard the little girl say.
“Alright,” the man said with the tone of one of the long suffering. She risked a glance back and it was to see the two of them running after her. From the sympathetic looks cast at the man it was clear that the girl had dragged him into running. Or at least that was the impression they had given. Turning took scan the area before her she spotted the start of a wood and headed straight for it. As she ran she contemplated the easily oiled team that the man and the girl seemed to be. There was little doubt in her mind they’d been out in the wild longer than their clothes suggested.
She broke into the cover of the trees and kept going not daring to slow down. Behind her she could hear twigs snapping as they stayed close on her heels. She darted through a clearing and into the trees on the other side. It was quieter now and another glance back showed only the girl following her. The man then had circled around to cut her off. That thought gave her the energy she needed to put on another spurt of speed and break away from the girl.
The moment her foot entered the next break in the trees her wings snapped out through the slits in her jacket. Two powerful beats and she was rising easily above the trees just as the girl reached the clearing. She froze in a hover as the girl stared up at her a frown marring her features. No surprise, no shock, just a calculating look. Before she could question it strong arms wrapped around her holding her tight and stilling her wing beat. Then she was falling unable to hold herself in the air. Seconds before they crashed she felt the rush of wind that came from a powerful upbeat and they landed softly on their feet.
The moment they were on the ground the arms released her and she surged away, turning mid motion to look at her assailant. She found herself face to face with the young man who’d disappeared from the chase. Only now two huge wings opened from his back making the whole image she’d perceived him as change. His expression was harsh with an undercurrent of irritation, no doubt at the chase. The little girl approached to stand at his side after he drew the wings in.
She eyes him curiously, “you’re like me,” she accused.
He laughed his eyes softening at her words. “Guilty as charged,” he replied, the tip of a wing appearing in her view again. “Older than you too. Which makes you, like me,” he added a slight grin on his face. “More experienced as well.” The grin slip slightly, “so I know how to go undetected when I want to. I also know how to blend in, something you appear to struggle with.”
She snarled at his words the wings at her back snapping out dangerously fast. He just watched her and waited completely unafraid of her. Finally her anger settled and she drew her wings back in, “what do you want?” she asked him.
He looked at her in surprise, as if such a thing should be obvious. “To help you,” he answered simple. “No one should have to fly alone.”
“So your lonely,” she said scathingly. He shook his head with a laugh and gestured at the little girl. When she looked she could see wings extending from the girl’s back. “Why do you want to help me?”
“Because you’re one of us,” he answered easily as if it really were that simple for him. “We get blamed, experimented on, tossed aside by the humans. We have to look out for each other, protect each other.”
The passion in his words convinced her that he meant them but it signalled something else as well. Something had happened to him, something horrible, and it had left its scars. She was about to ask but then she stopped, he wouldn’t tell her yet she doubted he’d even told the little girl. Pushing it from her mind for now she nodded and stepped closer, “okay.”