Sun’s coming up.
I tilt my head slightly, eyes still shut tight, listening to the way the wind changes when the sky’s liquid blue is stained with morning. The trees hum in a breeze I can hardly feel. A squirrel nearby wakes and chirps out a melody. Bird’s voice in my mind is the only sound that doesn’t give me a headache with the effort of focusing.
Did you hear?
“I heard.” I scoot my heels out away from me, releasing my hold on my knees and fanning my fingers along the burgundy shingles. “Now can I go?” My impatience can be felt in the air. Bird snickers.
“I’m not silly. It’s normal for you to fly during the day. I only get nighttime.”
I turn to give him a sheepish look. The raven flicks his head, as though shaking off some irritant.
You’ll wait. Not time.
I take a long breath and glance away. “We have maybe half an hour left before people will start to see me.”
I roll my eyes so he doesn’t see. Last time he flew off and left me alone for several days.
“What do you want me to do?”
“I did hear.”
“I don’t know,” I hiss. “I heard the trees. And that squirrel.”
Not the clouds?
I have to suppress a glare when I meet his beady eyes. “You can’t hear the clouds. Besides, you’re a bird. You can’t hear that well.”
He parts his bulbous beak and clicks once, twice.
Storm. Snow tonight.
My impatience grows. “Then I can’t fly tonight.”
You hear, then. Fast.
My heart beating irregularly, I shut my eyes again and listen for the clouds. The wind feels nice on my face and in my hair. I struggle with the tie and let my brunette waves down to breathe a bit. A car horn blares somewhere far off. A few birds take flight with the morning. My heart beat sounds like a drum in my ears.
“I can hear them,” I whisper. “The clouds. You’re right. It’s going to snow tonight.”
I hear him snicker again.
Silly girl. No clouds. No snow.
My face blanches, and I turn to level him with a stare. He tilts his head at me.
I set my jaw and turn away again. My back is aching with my impatience. I tune my every sense outwards. I can taste the dry Colorado spring air. I can smell every fresh blade of grass growing at the foot of my house we’re perched on. I can feel the breeze flutter through my fine arm hairs, making my skin crawl with gooseflesh. I can see the angry lights of an airplane high up above, in my sky. But damn it if I can’t hear anything over the low bass in my ears.
I shake my head and rake my fingers through my hair. I could have taken off ages ago, if I weren’t afraid of living without him for a few days.
“I can’t hear anything besides my heartbeat,” I snap over my shoulder at him. For a long moment, he’s silent. And then his beak clicks.
I flick my gaze around just in time to see his wings spread wide towards the sky. Within heartbeats he has vanished into the velvet dark.
My stomach comes to life with butterflies. He wanted me to hear my heart. Shaking my head, I flip around onto my knees as quietly as possible. The night is suddenly very quiet as I slowly straighten up and rotate so that I am balanced on the off-camber roof. My bare toes grip the rough shingles much better than my shoes did.
I scale the roof up towards the chimney. As I approach, I reach out for the bricks, nearly losing my balance at the last moment. I take a moment to regain myself, and then fight to suppress a smile as I hoist myself up onto the chimney. I stretch one foot out to the other side and straddle the brick for half a second before slowly rising to my feet.
I glance around once. My house is situated on a slight rise, so I stand taller than even the nearest trees. It’s always disorienting at first.
I reach up and pinch at the zippers that stretch down from the back of my shoulder. One at a time, I open them wide, and the cold morning air slips inside to assault the soft feathers beneath.
I can’t help the grin now. It’s been over a week since my wings could feel this early morning air. I have to focus to get the right muscles working. My entire back clenches, and a spasm moves up my spine. Like an extra pair of arms, I slowly work them out through the slits designed just for them in my windbreaker. It takes a bit of effort to free them without yanking out any feathers. Granted, it doesn’t hurt much more than losing a bit of hair, but lately I can feel every lost feather. It alters my path too much.
Finally, the tips of the wings come free. I rotate to survey the damage done by the jacket. A bit of bed head and unkempt feathers, but they will find their places in flight.
I settle my shoulders a bit, growing accustomed to the alien feeling of my rhomboids and trapezius muscles flexing. It used to hurt, but I’ve grown used to it. I could even say I enjoy the feeling now. The muscles of my back have been well worked since I met Bird.
Smiling, I stretch my wings to their full span of over fifteen feet. The chocolate and blonde feathers catch the light of the setting moon and almost glitter.
Impatiently, I let them stretch and flap a few times. Each time I bring them down, my feet nearly leave the chimney, and my heart leaps into my throat as I try to find my balance again. Control isn’t quite my strong suit yet. But Bird tells me I should always stretch, especially since I’m a human and my body didn’t evolve for wings.
They relax to the roof when they feel stretched, the tips fanning out like fingers. I can almost feel the shingles with the sensitive feather tips there. I take in a long, deep breath, focusing all my energy into my core and chest muscles. My wings draw up, carving through the air, forming a U above my head and up into the sky. This is my most comfortable position. Not nearly so many muscles working.
My wings come down, and I exhale at the same time.
My feet leave the roof.