Over the phone, the voice was strained, so unlike how she was used to hearing it. The sound filled her with dread, sending chills down her back and numbing the tips of her fingers.
Run. They’re coming.
A click. In her agitated state, the dial tone nearly made her flinch.
“Was that mum and dad? What did they say?”
Leaning over the staircase with one foot on the other was a boy, caught haphazardly between lanky limbs and baby cheeks. She forced a smile and turned towards him.
“Nothing, just that they’ll be later than they thought, and we should manage dinner ourselves. Pizza?”
A lopsided grin. “You bet. I’ll be down in a sec.”
As the boy rambled about upstairs, she reached for her bag, the one she packed months ago that one rainy afternoon she saw smoke in the clouds and blood seeping from the old crack in the mahogany cabinet, dark thick blood, splat splat, on the granite countertops. Catching her reflection in the window as she walked past, the girl stopped for a closer look. Transposed over the quiet neighbourhood outside was a small face, perhaps a little paler than she was used to seeing, but otherwise unchanged. A habitual tugging at her braided hair; her hands were shaking, but as she reached up to readjust her glasses, a light winked ominously at her from through the trees.
“J? You done?” There might have been a slight urgency she couldn’t keep out from her voice. “J? Come on, let’s go!”
“Yeoff.” A boyish head emerged from under a dark blue t-shirt. “Man, you must be really hungry, you don’t even like pizza that much.” She ruffled his hair playfully. “Why not? Eat more, grow taller.” He rolled his eyes and laughed.
“Okay, want to see something cool? Let’s go.”
Out on the grass, she placed her hand on his shoulder and focused her thoughts towards him. A soft humming sound quietly materialized in the air around them, bathing both in an ethereal golden glow. A wisp of wind lifted their feet from the ground and propelled them skyward.
“Woah! Will I get to do this too?” The boy was gaping at their driveway as it shrunk below his feet.
“Mhmm. Now stop squirming or I’ll drop you. Eyes forward, don’t look down.”
The air around them quivered as she chanted incantation after incantation under her breath, like how she was taught that first flight, not that long ago. Weightlessness keeping them afloat. Cardinal winds propelling them forward. Invisibility, to protect from prying eyes.
“Doing alright, J?”
“I could get used to this.” The boy’s skin was positively tingling with excitement as he gazed towards the horizon. She allowed herself a small smile as she casted one more spell and directed filaments of warmth through her fingertips towards him. After all, he wasn’t at all dressed for flight.
They had forgotten to lock the door, but she knew it wouldn’t matter. No key will keep them out, not with the barriers fallen. They won’t be going back.
“Hey, you missed the pizza place.” He was pointing at a landmark retreating to their left.
“Let’s go somewhere else today.” Her voice was drowned out over the honking of migratory geese and a childish yell of delight as they crossed paths with the feathery flock in the evening sky.
The sun was already setting before he noticed a slow but steady drop in their altitude. “Are we there yet?”
As the world below them expanded at their feet, a rather unmarked apartment building shifted into the foreground. They came to a rest at a distance, hovering in midair, as she carefully scrutinized it.
Counting the windows from that height, she didn’t immediately answer.
“Mm, you’ll see.”
Apparently satisfied, she made for a balcony and gently landed them both, shushing his questioning look with a wave of her hand. A lace curtain covered the screen door, beyond which a familiar light shone. She opened this now – the lock never locks – and ushered the boy into a familiar room.
“Wh-how did you get here?!” A familiar but utterly bewildered woman peered out at them from the kitchen.
“Ask no questions and we’ll tell no lies. You remember J?”
“Of course I remember him. But no offence, I don’t remember letting either of you in.”
She smiled as she sent a cloud of lazy energy towards the kitchen, making a pot boil over.
“Ack!” The head retreated, preoccupied, and she turned her focus to the boy to her side.
“Listen to me. They won’t be able to trace you down for a few more years. Until then it’ll be safer for you here.”
“But what about-“
“Shh, just listen.” She took his hands in hers. “I’ll come back for you when the time comes. Trust me.”
His eyes sought hers. How much of the truth he read in them, she didn’t know, but he nodded all the same.
Blinking a wave of tears, she pushed him towards the figure busy in the kitchen with a fresh incantation that settled like snow over the room. In the peace that followed, she slipped unnoticed, through the screen door and back onto the balcony. As she disappeared with a small pop, a chattering of happy voices could be heard from within.
“Set the table, J, dinner’s ready!”
“Finally! I’m starving!”
word count: 903