Chapter 20

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When they didn't come down for dinner, I went looking for them. When I couldn't find them both, I knew where they'd gone.

I was livid. Of all the idiotic, reckless, ridiculous stunts... I blamed Noah. He was always the one pushing boundaries and disregarding the consequences.

I took Pop his dinner. Reading in his library, he sat behind a pile of books as tall as me, with only a single lamp for company.

"Pop, they're gone." I slammed his plate down on the table and paced around. "I told Keira she should wait a few days, that she wasn't strong enough yet, and they took off! Stupid, stupid. What if she falls? What if she gets stranded somewhere? Noah's supposed to be the genius, why do I feel like I'm the only one doing any thinking lately?"

Pop watched me calmly. "Keira will be fine. And if she's not, we'll patch her up. What are you really upset about?"

"This! Irresponsibility, just selfishness..."

Pop stopped me. "Or is it the fact that they left without you?"

"It would have been nice to be asked," I said begrudgingly. "But that's not the point."

"I think it is," said Pop. "You've never been left out before because neither of you ever had a choice before. Three is a tricky number, my boy."

I sank into the chair opposite him. "So, now what?"

"Go to bed. I'll wait up for them and make sure they're safe."

"No," I said. "I'll do it."

"Leigh," Pop's voice was gentle. "Don't be a martyr."

"I'm not," I said, hot anger flooding me again. "She was my responsibility; I'm the one who has to keep catching her."

"Then maybe it's time to let go," said Pop.

The words hung between us. I didn't want to argue with Pop; I never had before. I was always the good kid who made everyone laugh and rarely got into trouble. When I did get pulled up, I listened. It wasn't Pop I was angry at. It wasn't even Noah or Keira. It was just the situation.

Finally I trusted myself enough to speak again. "I will. I have. But I'm still waiting up. I'll be in the kitchen."

Pop's eyes creased in concern and love as he smiled at me. "Okay, my boy. I'll see you tomorrow."

I dragged a chair out onto the grass outside the kitchen. Leaving all the lights off, I sat invisible in the shadows with my wings tented around me. I figured whenever the two of them made it home, they would land on the balcony and I wouldn't have to speak to them. I just had to know that she was safe.

A gentle coo announced Buster's arrival. He used his sharp claws to climb up into my lap and, as if he knew how I was feeling, rubbed his head affectionately against my belly.

"I know it seems insane to wait up," I told him. "It's also insane to talk to parrots, but here we are."

"Here we are," croaked Buster, wisely agreeing with me.

"Noah or no Noah... She still needs me, buddy. I feel it."

This time, Buster didn't answer. Instead, he turned his beady eyes to the horizon and kept watch with me, an avian look out.

Well into the wee hours of the morning, I heard yelling. I started forward, immediately alert. The voices came from the beach and through the drizzle I watched a dark shadow run across the sand and take off. Noah.

My thoughts were only of Keira. I half-flew, half-ran to the beach, the rain misting everything. Looking around I couldn't see anything, just sand dunes.

Then I spotted her. She sat calmly on a small dune, facing the water. She appeared unhurt but I dashed over and began firing questions. "Are you okay? What happened? Are you hurt? Where's Noah?"

Keira continued to stare out to sea, her face wet with rain. "I'm fine," she said.

"Fine?" She didn't look injured, but she was covered in sand, her shirt was inside out, her hair was a snarled mess and her eyes were puffy. "What happened?" I asked again, crouching in front of her so she would have to face me.

"Noah... we just..." she trailed off, vague and unwilling to finish.

"Keira. Tell me."

"Noah left. He said he couldn't be with me and he left." I looked at her, stunned. "I'm fine. It's all for the best I guess. I'm just sitting here for a little while. Until I feel like going inside."

I sat beside her. "Okay. I'll just sit here with you. You just let me know when you're ready to go in."

We sat there. Keira didn't cry, didn't make a sound and didn't speak again. The rain fell on our silent figures for hours. When Keira finally fell asleep, her head on my shoulder, I lifted her up and carried her to her bed. As I did, I couldn't help but think that Pop had been wrong. She still needed me to catch her.

After putting a towel under Keira's sodden head and covering her with blankets, I decided to head for my big brother's room to try and unlock the insanity behind his actions. I knocked loudly on the door but Noah still wasn't back and the room lay empty.

His room had always been functional. A computer sat neatly on the desk, the floor was clear, books were shelved tidily. The only sign that someone lived in the room was the Bible that lay open on the bed. I picked it up so I could sit down, and then noticed the highlighted verse on the open page.

"...Now to the unmarriedand the widows I say: It is good for them to stay unmarried, as I do."

I understood with total clarity what was happening in my loopy brother's head. As far as he was concerned this verse was a command, a warning to stay single. It was no wonder he had been extra weird over the last few weeks. In his mind, he was choosing between Keira and God.

I replaced the Bible carefully on the bedand headed for my own. I had onequestion answered but a bigger one remained: What the hell do I tell Keira? 

I don't often listen to commercial radio, but my staff love it, so lately I've been hearing more mainstream pop.  I've noticed the rise in the 'nice guy' ballad - "I'll keep dancin' on my own," "I know I can treat you better, better than he can."  I find it interesting, this concept that there are guys out there thinking that 'being nice' is enough, and it's the girl's dumb fault for choosing the wrong man.

But it's not a case of smart vs dumb - we can't always choose our attraction, and the person you have feelings for isn't always the best one for you.  Choosing someone based on 'nice' qualities is just as bad as picking someone because they're 'cool' or 'hot.'  In a perfect world, we'd all be matched with our soul mates from birth, but where's the fun in that?  The story happens in the mistakes.

So tell me - is it possible to develop feelings for someone you never looked at 'that' way before?  Has it happened to you?  How does someone go from friend to something more?  Tell me in the comments, please remember to vote, and if you're looking for more of my stuff to read, Tender, my Disney-esque story, is getting fresh updates at the moment, find it on my profile here:

Much love,


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