Chapter 6 - Jess

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Before returning to the Ayrie, Jess needed to make a call. She had to slip into the human world for a minute to do it, and as she trudged along the wide, center-city sidewalk with her boots, jeans and jackets splattered with sewer sludge, passerby had wrinkled their noses when they got too close to her. She stank too much to go into a pharmacy and buy a throwaway phone without calling attention to herself, so she snatched one out of the hand of a man who was walking past on the opposite side. He stood, shock still for a second, long enough for her to shove the phone in her pocket and fold herself into the crowd.

"Thief!" the man yelled. Jess kept her cool, walking along like nothing had happened. In her pocket, a muffled voice was asking something, probably where his friend had gone. She spotted an alleyway and ducked inside, taking the phone out of her pocket and ending the existing call. Quickly, before the phone could auto lock and ask for a password, Jess dialed her mom's cell. Though she hadn't called the number in over a year, she knew it by heart.

On the third ring, her mom picked up. "Hello?"

Jess almost wept at the sound of her voice. She held the phone to her ear a few breaths longer, hoping her mom would say something else.

"Who is this? I don't appreciate pranksters."

Against her better judgment, Jess kept the phone to her ear.

"Hello?" A breath. "Jess, is that you?"

Jess hung up. Why did she do horrible things like give her mom false hope? She was worse than a monster.

'You're not a monster,' her angel whispered.

Jess put the phone back in her pocket. Her eyes stung, but she wouldn't wipe them with her dirty hands.

Before taking flight again, she stepped out of the alley and looked around for a store or a cop. There was a bank across the street. Good enough.

Quickly tapping redial on the call that she'd interrupted when she stole the phone, she waited for the man to pick up.

"Davie?"

"I found this phone," she said, giving him directions to the bank. Then she deleted the call history and walked it over to the bank and handed it to the first security guard she saw.

The guard, a stocky, brown man with the hint of a five-o-clock shadow on his jaw, took the phone. "Are you okay, miss?" he asked, his nose wrinkling as the odor of her sewer diving hit him.

"Fine," Jess said. "Just make sure the phone gets back to its owner, alright?"

Jess went back to the alley and shifted Sideways. As her wings spread, the warmth of her angel filled her, numbing the edges of her mistakes.

***

Jess got back to the Ayrie in the early afternoon. Nestled near the top of one of the island's volcanic formed mountains, the Ayrie was a house of mostly glass, three stories tall, the topmost an octagon that glittered sunlight in all directions. Two of the windows were open. Inside, Rio leaned over a canvas. Warm breeze blew in from the sea, blowing in the smell of salt and taking the edge of the sewer stink. Gabe and Isaiah were out, and Rio was up in the lighthouse, painting.

She hosed down the boots, soaped them, and then left them outside to air before padding barefoot into the house. It took twenty minutes in the shower to get the smell of sewage off of her. When she'd finished and changed into clean clothes, she padded barefoot from her room and sat on the edge of the living room sofa as her clothes spun in the washer.

She was knitting a square of gnarled yarn into something between a potholder and a scarf when Gabe materialized outside at the bottom of the stairs with a girl in his arms. Was this who that Isaiah had sent Gabe to find? It had to be. Gabe didn't make mistakes. It was simultaneously comforting and annoying.

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