After so long cooped up inside, the wind in my hair seemed to spell freedom. It wasn’t like we hadn’t run away before; at last count, we’d managed it seven times. Our first trip had taken us to the countryside, where we terrorised several fields of cows before becoming bored and letting the Institution catch us again. I smiled unconsciously at Ishmael’s retreating, angelic form. We’d been friends since the first time my voice had echoed in his head. Instead of screaming, like some of the other residents, he had talked to me, encouraged me to escape with him. I could still remember the look of utter shock on his face when he first realised I was a 13-year-old girl. He, on the other hand, was well into adulthood in his late twenties. Our age gap made no difference to our friendship, and prevented any awkward circumstances.
I decided to let Ishmael win this race. I noted where he landed, and followed his line of descent. Climbing off my surfboard, I re-made it into a door once more, and sent it zooming back to the Institute with a click of my fingers.
Ishmael grinned. ‘Are you trying to take the mickey out of them?’
I blinked as innocently as I could. ‘Just a gesture of good will. Doesn’t it feel great to be free again?’
Ishmael made a humph sound. ‘Technically you’re always free, seeing as you can atomise whatever building is unlucky enough to have you in. Why do you even stick them?’
‘Just keeping them on their toes. So, New York?’
Ishmael narrowed his eyes. ‘How about a little further this time? Further as in... England?’
My eyes widened of their own accord. ‘England? What monster hath I created? Hey, wait a minute, this isn’t about your dad, is it? Need I remind you that he packaged you off to a loony bin the moment you sprouted feathers!
Ishmael ruffled his wings unabashedly. ‘Look—wouldn’t you want to see your parents? I mean, he can’t still hate me, can he?’
I gave him my best River look. ‘My parents are dead. And if he hated you when you only had a few measly feathers, what do you think he’ll say when an angel crashes into his living room claiming to be his son? Come on Ishmael, be realistic.’
Ishmael looked close to tears. ‘Please, River. Maybe I have brothers and sisters, maybe he’s changed, maybe he’s dead, anything could have happened. If I’m going to do this I need you by my side.’
I tilted my head. ‘So you acknowledge that I’m your greatest asset? That you can’t function without me?’
Ishmael rolled his eyes. ‘Yes.’
I flashed him a grin. Then you have my permission. Race you to the airport.’ I formed a nice plank to sit on out of a handy piece of dead wood, and distinctly heard him mutter, Since when do I need your permission? Before I rocketed away—and knocked straight into a branch.
It was well into the night when we arrived at the airport. The air was cold, and Ishmael’s bare feet made slapping noises against the damp tarmac. I was still seated on the plank, but dropped to the ground and atomised it as we entered the airport. Ishmael would draw enough attention as it was.
Ishmael grabbed my arm and dragged me over to a corner of the waiting room/lounge/welcome to America thing.
‘Are you crazy? We can’t just waltz in here! Well, you can, but don’t you think that these,’ he shook out his wings for emphasis ‘are going to draw a little bit too much attention?’
I pursed my lips. ‘I dunno, somehow I didn’t think about that eventuality. I must be losing my edge—’
Ishmael shook me by my shoulders. ‘River!’
I rolled my eyes, and handed him something I’d just- ah hem- borrowed from a near-by shop. Ishmael took it questioningly, and I led him behind a stairwell to explain it to him.
‘It’s a sleeping bag. Look, you take out the middle bit,’ I yanked out the luminous yellow sleeping bag. ‘And put this bit,’ I shook the empty bag under my bemused comrade’s nose, ‘over your wings!’ Ishmael’s face lit up in understanding, and he began threading his wings into the makeshift camouflage. I left him to it and went to get our tickets.
Now, you must understand that I’m not an essentially bad person. I may act tough, and have a personal vendetta against cows, but I’m not bad. So when I say that I stole the tickets, I mean I borrowed them from the richest person I came across. Besides, he had five children with him; surely he could leave a couple behind for the good of his fellow countrymen? When I spotted Ishmael, he was gaping wide-eyed at a plane taking off. I followed his gaze. What was it with guys and metal?
‘Look at those aerodynamics,’ he whispered. I rolled my eyes and waved the tickets under his nose. Ishmael frowned. ‘Where did you get those?’ he asked, suspiciously.
I just shrugged. ‘I’m very persuasive. Look, are we going to London, or aren’t we?’
Ishmael glanced at the plane once more, then stood, his ridiculous yellow sleeping bag case lagging behind him. I readied myself for the let’s go kick some English butt speech. ‘I’m hungry. Don’t they serve free peanuts on planes?’ he asked.