Chapter Two

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Layne was chasing a butterfly.  The fluttery insect was proving to be extremely difficult to catch, partaking in a complicated series of aerial maneuvers in order to avoid her.  It flicked from here and there, diving and dipping, looping, spiraling; it would land on the grass and then breeze away as she pounced, escaping mere moments before her cupped hands could ensnare it.  Layne imagined it was a fairy, tiny with golden hair, laughing along with her. 

She lost sight of the butterfly once, having been led directly into a very thick patch of bushes.  Her struggle gave the butterfly enough time to break free of the forest.  It lighted on the sand and spread out its wings for camouflage.  Unfortunately for the poor insect, its wings were dark brown and not the tan of the beach. 

Layne dropped into a crouch to imitate Hazzi.  Slowly, she folded up her fingers into her palm.  She moved forward at a crawl.  Only two feet behind the butterfly, she let out a pretend howl and flung herself forward.  Her feet skidded on the sand and she collapsed.  Her knee went down on a stony patch just under the surface and she yelped.  And away the butterfly flew, out to sea.  Layne watched it sorrowfully because she knew it would go out to far; the salty spray would eventually cause the butterfly to lose control of its beautiful wings.  The insect would be drowned.  The unhappy emotion only lasted for a second before the pain took over. 

She whimpered and looked at her knee.  The graze was bleeding, grit and miniscule pebbles sticking in her skin.

Hazzi emerged from the forest and looked at her, his head tipped to one side.  The scent of blood drew him forward.  Scratch, he said disbelievingly.  At her injured look he added, big scratch.  A couple of licks from a gentle tongue and she was good as new.

"Hazzi, are you gonna watch me?"

The tail wagged, a positive answer.

"Maybe we'll play together afterwards?"  He barked.  "Okay!"  She wrapped her arms around his neck.

In the sky, at random intervals, there were floating white boulders that looked like no more than clouds.  They moved, constantly drifting in the wind, but always stayed in the same formation.  They started at low altitudes and close together but the further up and the further out away from Layne's island they went there became longer distances between them.  On the stones was where Layne practiced her flight.

The slits cut in the back of every shirt were necessary for her wings.  At a fourteen foot wingspan when unfurled, they would not be contained by clothes.  They were mostly lifeless, drawn tightly against her back with only a minimal concentration that she always maintained in the back of her mind.  They only went limp when she was too excited to focus on them, but even then they were not relaxed.  Relaxing them required effort, pushing on muscle and tendon, extending the "fingers" of bone.  When relaxed, they dragged awkwardly behind her as if broken.  They had only relaxed once before, and Layne had not liked that.  It was hard enough keeping them clean without letting them get dirty on purpose. 

Layne walked forward until the water was just barely lapping at her toes.  She scanned the sky.  Clear.  The wind was minimal, a blessing and a curse.  Her wings moved, rolling outwards and straining so that every individual feather was exposed to what little air was blowing.  The feathers were mainly black with the tiniest streaks of silver-gray and milk-white running through them.  Her fluffy down was thin and gray, delicate as flakes of ash.

Taking off was the hard part.  Layne moved back a few feet and crouched down.  Her heart was racing, her mouth dry.  Pure excitement tingled through her blood.  Her eyes narrowed.  They locked on to the first boulder, four feet above the water and fifteen feet out. 

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