Chapter 11

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Those first few nights after Noah and I became involved, I stopped sleeping. There were a few contributing factors. First, I'd always been a night owl. It was the only time I could get in the air, it was when I worked, it was when I felt most alive.

The other reason was Noah. He had me in a state of permanent hyperactivity; I felt as though I was on something, caffeine or diet pills. My fingers shook, my heart thrummed and I was twitchy.

My normal remedy for too much energy was to take to the sky, but I was grounded. The boys still flew every night, soaring off in different directions and not returning for hours. I would sit on the balcony, staring into the sky, unable to sleep and desperate for any stolen second I could grab with Noah between the time he landed and the time he slept.

While I waited for his return on one of those early days, I tried to analyse what I was feeling but it was beyond anything I'd ever experienced. Of course, my relationship history was limited; it consisted of a single summer fling.

It was a few years after my disastrous fall from the roof of our house. I still sought every chance I could to get outside. I loved climbing trees, stretching my wings and imagining that I could actually take off. I'd made several more attempts at flight when I knew my mother couldn't see, but every time would find me bruised and winded and dirty.

I started going for walks instead. I would stalk for hours through the woods, caught up in my own imagination. Something had happened to me that summer: I'd discovered romance. It began with an ancient Mills and Boon novel I'd found in the attic of our old crappy house, then it was a sudden, deeper appreciation of Disney movies and after a while, it was long and complicated fantasies about me and various non-threatening teenage TV stars.

Throughout my newfound romantic obsessions, one simple fact remained: I was a freak-show. I was a winged weirdo, and no cute boy with floppy blonde hair would ever hold me tight and love me madly. I would be a mutant forever.

I didn't want to talk to my mother about it (eww) and I didn't have friends. So instead, I walked. I walked until my feet bled and my legs ached, until the fantasies faded and I couldn't think straight.

One day, I found myself walking back past the lake, a place I was forbidden from visiting during the summer months because of the scores of visitors who flocked to play on its shiny surface. But I was tired and not thinking clearly and suddenly there I was.

I hugged a fat tree growing on the edge of the water and gazed out. The lake stretched away from me in a glassy sheet. In the distance I could see motor boats scooting around and a floating pontoon where small figures jumped and shrieked. Alone I stood and envied the simple act of socialisation so many people took for granted.

As I watched, two jet skis shot up to the beach, frighteningly loud. I panicked. I was far from home and no one knew where I was. I couldn't run without drawing attention to myself, so I did the only thing I could think of and climbed the tree.

Fortunately, it was a solid tree with chunky branches, but I only made it up just above eye level before the four young men about my age piled off the jet skis, whooping and hollering up the rocky beach. I found myself grateful for the long and ugly jacket my mother insisted I wear on my walks. Its dark green, stained material helped camouflage me as I flattened myself to the trunk and pretended to be bark.

A muscular blonde yelled in delight and threw a rock at nothing. "Yeah, dudes! This place is perfect!"

"Party time! Party time!" yelled a shorter boy.

A third guy with chocolate skin looked smug. "I told you guys. Next Friday, we bring the ladies out here, build a fire and get it on!"

"Hell yeah!" said the blonde and slapped his friend five. "I mean, me and Larissa have done it like, so many times, but for you inexperienced children, well, it's your chance to become men."

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