Chapter 15

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"Noah? Is everything okay?"

The question was too vague, so I chose not to answer as I sat at the table with Keira, dinner steaming in front of us.

Although it was hard to imagine a time before she had existed in my world, Keira had only been with us for a few weeks. My head pain had been gone since the first night I'd spoken to her - a miracle. The pain raging inside my soul was far worse. I was torn between what every fibre of my soul cried out for and what I knew to be right. There was no escape for me. Not in flight, not in sleep, not even in the few precious moments stolen with Keira each morning.

Only the painting had helped ease the passing of the days. Those glorious mornings together, Keira would sit and I would paint. I had painted her dozens of times, but it was never enough. How could I capture everything I saw in her with just pigment and oil and water? Her every nuance, shade and angle, I knew them all. When painting failed to hold my attention and the urge to hold her became unbearable, I switched to sculpture, carving her image into stone, clay, wood.

Keira stopped me after a few days. She examined the small statues and head busts of herself carefully. "Noah, don't take this the wrong way, but they're... kind of creepy."

"What do you mean?"

"Well, I love your paintings, and your sculptures are incredible, but... I feel kind of weird being the subject of all this art." She blushed, a tiny act that melted my reasoned response.

"All right then. I'll stop." We stared at each other, the empty time between us full of tension.

I had one final distraction to throw in the face of my helpless infatuation. "How about I play for you?"

She smiled, pure warmth flooding her face. "I'd love that."

It had been years since I'd played anything. As soon as I'd mastered an instrument, I moved on until I had run out of new things to try. But I felt somehow safer seated at the piano; a physical barrier separating us made it easier. With my hands on the keys, I could close my eyes and let the music speak for me. Keira felt more relaxed because she thought I had stopped capturing her, but every note I played was a creation based on her.

From that day on, I played everything in my studio for her, praying with every new instrument that I wouldn't run out of music before she healed. What happened then, even my mind couldn't estimate. I couldn't live without her, but the Word clearly told me I wasn't meant to live with her. There were only two options: throw my faith away or... it was unthinkable. A life without Keira wasn't an option.

I pushed food around my plate, the same thoughts rebounding over and over again inside my mind like a broken server. Unable to bring my eyes up to meet Keira's, I sat and tried to draw a sense of calm from her presence.

Whether painting or playing, what I loved most about our time together was the absence of words between us. For as long as I could remember, I'd had my mother, Pop, Leigh, all bothering me about talking more, filling voids with endless, empty words. No one ever understood silence could be a gift, until Keira. With her, I could luxuriate in the calm ocean of wordlessness and float like a feather on the surface. Or so I thought.

"Noah, did you hear me?" Keira began slowly, interrupting the comfortable silence of our meal with her follow up question. "There's a movie playing in town tonight I wouldn't mind watching. Would you take me?"

For one moment, the night that might have been swam before my imagination. Keira and I, alone in a theatre, paying no attention to the screen, the anonymous darkness giving us freedom. My every nerve was alert, electrified, crackling towards her.

As if she read my thoughts, Keira rose from her chair and knelt before me. Her feathers spilled around her on the floor, a white carpet. "Please, Noah. I want to spend time with you."

"We spend the mornings together."

"That's not the same."

"I need to fly."

"Just this one night, stay with me. Please?" Her fingers reached for my hands. I knew if she touched me, all would be lost. Logical argument would be swept away by nonsensical sensation.

I stood. "This is what we decided. To wait. A theatre would be a poor choice of location to ensure our decision stands."

She sank back onto her heels, looking up at me with wounded eyes. "Don't you... don't you feel anything? I'm nothing but a burning flame for you, and all you do is push me away. I know you're brilliant, Noah, but I don't think you understand me at all."

Keira swept out. I released my clenched fists into shaking digits. "I understand. I understand," I told the empty room.

Shortly after, I went for a flight. It didn't help.

A burning flame for you. As usual, someone else had found the words that I needed. A supernatural energy existed between Keira and me, just one more facet of our relationship I couldn't explain, in a world where previously, I comprehended everything down to an atomic level. Before my life was like a tunnel: long, well-lit, directional, expected. Since Keira's arrival, I was lightning or a forest fire or a downed power line. I was utterly out of control.

I couldn't concentrate, I had to return, to find her. Alighting on our balcony, I only meant to view her through the window, draw some comfort and then retire.

But Keira's glass door was open. As if she'd known I would come, the door stood ajar, waiting for me. Before I could retreat, a warm current of air flowed from within the room, carrying her scent out to me. Citrus and sugar. As if she was the proton and I the electron, I was inexorably drawn inside to her.

In her bed, Keira lay like a perfect oil painting. Blonde hair flowed over the pillow and sheets, her long smooth limbs rested in graceful alignment and her face was at peace. Her wings draped from her back to the floor, the white feathers fluttering gently in the night breeze. She was beautiful asleep, but it would only take a single word or touch to awaken her.

I moved beside her pillow, crouching down so that we were face to face. As I reached a finger out to run down her cheek, the last screaming shred of sentient thought broke through. What happens after she wakes? I hadn't thought about it. I could guess though, and the images had me break out in a feverish shake.

I had a higher call over me, one that required isolation. How could I live when the two factions of my being were at war?

My hand still hung in the air. I brought it across to over my shoulder, and flinching in pain, pulled a single black feather loose. I placed it delicately in her half-curled hand, a token of everything I felt but couldn't say.

I burn for you too, I told her silently, then slipped out into the night before my blazing heart could convince me to stay.

Oh Noah.  Tell me, beautiful reader, which do you find more appealing - the tortured dark soul, or the sunny guy with the wide smile?  Please click a vote if you are still reading and enjoying :)  Back in a few days for some Christmas chapters - until then, xxoo Kate

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