Chapter 30

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This is a double chapter - Leigh/Noah - it should have been two chapters but then they would be tiny, so I'm doubling up :)

After the release of my picture, we'd waited on edge for whatever came next. It was almost a letdown that it was nothing.

I'd shown the photo to Pop, without letting him see the article and the first thing he said was, "Who is that? Justin Bieber?"

"What? No, you daft coot, look again."

He squinted and turned his head to the side. "Ellen DeGeneres?"

"Pop! Seriously!"

"I am being serious. Who is it then?"

"Me!" I said, highlighting the rest of the article for him. Pop burst into a storm of laughter.

"Oh dear! Oh my! That's a good one. Sorry, my boy, you and Ellen do have the same hairstyle at the moment."

I wasn't sure whether to feel relieved that my picture was so ambiguous or offended at the likenesses I was drawing. "Just read it, please."

Pop read the full article and dismissed it with a floppy wave. "I wouldn't be worried. This happened a fair way from here; at least you and Keira had enough sense to put some distance between yourselves and home before getting seen. This picture is very vague and if you both stay off the grid for a while, the media will have nothing new to print and the story will die down."

"Keira was pretty concerned. She thinks this is her fault."

"It's nobody's fault," said Pop. "The people chasing you are to blame, no one else. We've always known who you and Noah are puts you at a constant risk. This whole thing just highlights that fact."

"So what do we do next?" I asked.

"Keep laying low," Pop ordered. "And keep looking after Keira."

That one I could do with both wings tied behind my back.

One ordinary evening a few days later, Keira and I sat in the lounge room playing old school video games. Keira sat on the floor, leaning back on my legs with her wings draped around my knees and Buster wandered along the back of the couch, squawking loudly in an attempt to cheer us on in an intense battle of Mario Kart. The competition for first place was raging fiercely; Keira was an excellent kart driver and surprisingly adept at dropping banana peels at just the right moment. As she beat me for the fourth time in a row, I threw the controller on the rug. "This game is rigged! I'm not playing anymore."

She cackled and stood up in front of me, stretching her wings high in victory. "I am the champion! And you are a sore loser!"

"You know what else I am," I said, eying her dangerously.

"No, what?"

"An expert in tickle-jitzu."

She frowned, analysing my word. "In what? Wait, no!"

I grabbed her, flung her on the couch and tickled her until she cried and begged for mercy. I wasn't letting her off the hook that easy. "Say I'm the Mario Kart master! Say it!"

"Uncle! You win, you're the Mario Kart master!" she half gasped, half giggled. I released her from my hold, but she didn't move. We lay close, side by side on the couch, sweaty and breathing heavily. "You're also my best friend," Keira said, with a small smile playing across her lips.

"Yeah, I know," I said, bitter-sweetness flooding through me. My role: her friend. I both loved and loathed it. I went to sit up, but she stopped me.

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