He whimpered, pulling away from my embrace. He was still clutching his broken wing as he clobbered his way a few steps out of my reach. I started to close the gap between us, and he collapsed. One moment, his eyes were locked on mine, full of pain; the next thing I knew, he just dropped and his eyelids fell shut like shutters on the window of an abandoned house. My mind was a blur but I knew exactly where I was going- there were no other places I might go.
I found myself kneeling by his side with tears making designs on my face. He reached up, finding me in the dark.
“Don’t worry, it’ll be alright. I’m the only villain you had to die. You’re free now,” he promised me. I wept, simply because there was nothing else to do.
“But if you’re gone, I’ll be chained to your ghost forever. I’m only free when I’m with you,” I told him. Now is not the time for confessions, I told myself.
“I love you too, my panda,” he whispered. And the love of my life departed seconds after. I have loathed the passing of time ever since. All I needed was more time and all I had was more tears, and it wasn’t fear. I heard once that losing one round doesn’t make you lose the game unless you let it form a pattern. But clutching a dead angel’s hand for dear life felt like getting out of the game altogether.
What was worse, though, was the condolences I got. Or the complete and total lack thereof. I was the girl next door who’d fallen in love with a force of darkness, and no one was sorry for my loss; they were grateful. In their minds, I’d escaped from him and gone back into freedom and joy, not the other way around. Until the day I returned to his home.
I wasn’t alone after all.
“Hello, Amanda,” the woman on his couch greeted me. Her long blonde hair had silver streaks running through it and her face was distinguished by a scar on the left side.
“My name is Eden,” she continued. “And my people- Jerico’s people- want to help you.”
She looked at me expectantly, enough said. I knew about her people, and about her for that matter. Jerico had told me about Eden, his surrogate mother. She was a leader, he’d said, and everyone who knew her trusted her with their life. I came and sat next to her without a word.
“You’re grieving just like we are, and you want the real villains to see justice just like we do. You’ve lost your family, or at least that’s what you think, right?” I nodded. “We are your family, you’re one of us now.”
“For what?” I asked cautiously.
“Anything you need, you can come to us,” she replied. She stroked my hair maternally and let me break down. This was deliverance for me.
“Thank you,” I whimpered.
“Or did you mean the cost?” she continued quietly. “The thing is, Amanda, that we aren’t a shelter- we only take care of our own. So, we can’t just treat you like we treated Jerico if you’re going to be who you were before. If you’re one of us, my dear, you’ll have to be one of us.”
The whole world was a veil of blackness, heavy as a stage curtain.
“Simple as that?”
“Simple as that, if you see it as a simple thing. I just don’t think family is ever too simple.”
“You’ll be my family and I’ll be yours,” I spoke more to myself than her. Eden took my left hand in both of hers and kissed the ring that tied me to nothing now.
I heard footsteps on the stairs, but I didn’t look up for fear that I wouldn’t see Jerico there.
“Emory, my child, come here and meet Amanda. I’ve explained the situation to her.” Emory was tall for a child and had dark eyes, mostly thanks to eyeliner. His mother called him sunshine, but he was more like moonlight to me. And he had the face of an angel, broad wings behind it. Just like Jerico.
“Are you coming home, Amanda, or are you staying here?” was all he said to me when he first looked at me.
“It’s not so simple as that. The only family and the only friends I’ve ever known are here, except-” I couldn’t continue.
“Are they really your people if Eden and I are the only ones here now?” Emory asked cooly. Eden rebuked him with a look that lasted less time than the simultaneous lightning flash against the glass. She already knew she was to become my surrogate mother.
“Are you sure a girl like me would be welcome at your fortress?” Emory nodded as if it was obvious that the angels would open their world to an outsider.
Eden gave me a reassuring nod as well, saying that if one had loved me I was loved by them all. “Family is family,” she declared.
“Family is family,” I echoed, lost and wandering through the haze of memories I had associated with that word and all its weight.
“The question is, are you ready to be one of us?”
“How can I be sure of anything?” I cried out.
“Because we’ll take care of you until you’re sure.”
Emory’s voice broke the silence.
“We look out for our own like it’s natural law. All you need to know is whether or not that’s for you.”
“I’m ready to go home,” I told them. My new family lead me home. I knew it was home because the first thing I saw was a portrait of Jerico- one I had taken. There were candles around him, a thousand little lights in the dark.
Thank you for reading another short story about family. It’s always been one my favorite topics to write about because it seems so natural. If you enjoyed this one, you’ll also want to check out some of these:
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