Part 14

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PART FOURTEEN:

A Body & A Mission

RED BIRD LOOKED at Charmian and her eyes widened.  Her face immediately went crimson.  It suddenly appeared she couldn't stand Charmian looking at her anymore, and she averted her stare back to her hands, which started fiddling in her lap, in search of something to do.

"I..."  Her voice was even fainter than before, and almost cracked when it came out.  "We...didn't want anybody to know."

Charmian sat up and propped her head on one hand.  "You mean, it's not just you?  Him too?"

Red Bird only looked more embarrassed, so Charmian felt guilty having asked it.  "It's okay," she said quickly.  "I could kind of tell...when we first left Tal Natha's cave, I kind of overheard you two talking, and you seemed really worried about each other...I just thought, well, you know."

Red Bird's glance moved over to the others in the group.  "Do--do they know?"

"Them?  No, I don't think so.  Guys are clueless, trust me.  And don't worry, if you want it to be private I promise I won't tell anyone.  But...am I right?"

Red Bird's hands kept fidgeting like two small trapped creatures trying to escape.  She stared at them.  "Yes...not just me...both of us.  I love him, and...and he loves me."

"For how long?"

"For some months now...almost a year.  Not very long after I met him.  He's been so kind to me, even with...even with what I am.  Who I am.  He keeps telling me I have power, if only I'd learn how to use it.  I thought that was the only interest he had in me, bringing out that power to help the Island.  Maybe he thought so too.  But somewhere, things changed..."

"Why don't you want anyone to know?" Charmian asked.

Red Bird looked at the ground.  "Because of who we are.  Who he is, and me.  Most of the people here would not look too kindly on the two of us...no matter what I may be on the inside..."

Her continued comments about "what" she was kept needling into Charmian's brain.  What could she be talking about?  She seemed to think that her possession of this "power" made her somehow...different from others, fundamentally different even though she was the same on the outside.  Could that be what she was talking about?  She felt she would be prying too much to simply ask...

"You know," she said instead, "just because you've got the ability to do something nobody else can do--just because you might be able to save this place--it doesn't mean you're some kind of freak or something."

Red Bird finally looked up at her.  "'Freak'?"

"Yeah."  Charmian tried to rephrase.  "Different.  Strange.  Weird."  The girl looked as if she understood.  "Just because you've got this power nobody else has, it doesn't mean you're strange or scary or anything.  Heck, we've all got something that nobody else has, and it doesn't make us horrible monsters just for having it.  I think it'd be really cool to have some great power like yours."

Again Red Bird averted her gaze.  Now Charmian was surprised to see that she looked...sad, somehow.

"Not if having it meant that you're what I am," she said softly, and again Charmian was thinking, What?  There she goes with what again.  What is she talking about?...

A loud whimpering sound from the other side of the room.  They looked up at the group hovering around X.  Old Mother Manitou stood back when the demon moved, taking a pained breath and letting it out with a slight rattle.  He whimpered again and she pressed some more moss against his wound.

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