"Alexa! Breakfast is ready!" My mom yells from the kitchen.
I groan and throw off the cold covers and blindly follow the smell of bacon cooking. I plop down at the small round kitchen table and rake my hands through the rat's nest I call my hair. I begin to yawn as my mom sets a plate in front of me. I flinch as the sunlight streams through the open window when I open my eyes to glance at my plate.
"Rough night?" She asks.
"Oh yeah! I went out to that bar last night and met this guy and he was awesome! I got his number and we were texting the rest of the night! I think I've met my soul-mate." I joke sarcastically, putting in too much enthusiasm for it to be even mildly believable.
"That's nice, honey," I let out a yawn, "your breath smells." She remarks nonchalantly.
"It's from the cigarettes my soul-mate let me try last night." She holds her hands up in surrender. My mom, Madeline Jordan, is one of the most beautiful woman I have ever seen. Her long brown hair has never been dyed yet, not a hair is grey, her eyes still have that sparkle and wonder that kids have, and she has more energy than I do which is very impressive for a woman in her mid-forties. That could also be due to the fact that I'm a day away from turning 15, home-schooled and have the most boring life that anyone could have; my mom’s my best friend for heaven's sake! Not that that's bad but I only know a total of three other people in a town that I've lived in my whole life. Plus my mom puts up with my constant sarcasm.
"I got an urgent call from one of my friends today so I'll be gone for a few days so could you pick up the pies from Dorothea today? She called me last night and insisted that I come pick them up today." She asks.
"Dorothea? You mean creepy fake gypsy lady? No. Nu uh. Not going to happen." I start to pick up my plate, now free of bacon and eggs and start walking towards the sink.
"I'll have you know that there is no name for what Dorothea is-"
"Because she can communicate with Heaven, bla, bla, bla." I mutter, trying mask it with the sound of running water and me washing my plate.
My mom shoots me a glare and sighs, "Please could you just pick up the pies? You don't even have to go in, just say you're in a rush." As she’s pleading with me, my mom is pouring herself coffee and putting her shoes on, "You can have one while I'm gone, how's that?"
"Fine. But only 'cause I get to eat one. Only reason."
"Thank you, Alexa." She gives me a quick kiss on the head, "can you manage for a few days? I will be back on Thursday night at the latest, call Dorothea if you need anything because Martin is out of town as well." Martin is one of our neighbors but I think that my mom and Martin are something a bit more than friends. She goes over to his house for hours on end and always comes back late at night looking really happy.
"I'll be fine, mom! Honestly! It's only for a few days, not like two weeks like last time, right? Plus, that was three years ago! I'm much more responsible now and won't go freaking out to Dorothea." She gives me a doubtful look before I shoo her out the door. Almost like an afterthought, she sings her head around the door and wishes me a happy birthday.
After I hear the car pull out of the driveway, I throw on a pair of grey sweatpants and a navy coloured t-shirt. I slip on my running shoes and grab my headphones. If I'm going to go to town, I'll make it my exercise for the day. I start running and the trees surrounding my house disappear and the gravel turns to road. More buildings appear more frequently before the road is lined by them instead of the pine trees. The sun has been up since about three o'clock this morning so all of Anchorage, Alaska is bustling with activity. The sidewalks are crowded with people selling and trading almost everything, the Monday Morning Market is in full swing. Past the newer buildings is what used to be the center of town. The first run-down building belongs to my mom's friend, Dorothea. I approach the rickety old house and ring the bell. This place gives me the creeps. The only other time I've been here alone was three years ago when my mom went away for two weeks and I didn't hear from her at all. Usually she would call to check up on me but she hadn't. Being the gullible 12 year old I was, I believed in Fortune Tellers and stuff back then so I went to see Dorothea. I was standing outside her door like I am now, shivering in the wind indicating the oncoming winter when she invited me in, sat me down and started to do her thing. After a half hour of having her eyes closed and her lips moving but no sound coming out she opened her mouth and spoke for the first time since I had walked into her home and she offered me tea.
"What would you like to know, child?" She asks me.
"Wh-what would I like to know? I told you half an hour ago but you gust grabbed my hand and closed your eyes! What was that about?" I bellow.
"I was orienting myself with your spirit and Heaven." She sounded confused, "you do want to know about your true heritage, don't you?"
"I don't care about my true heritage! I want to know where my mom is! She's been gone for almost two weeks and I haven't heard from her once! Not even one time! Do you think that's normal? Do you?"
"Sit down, child," somehow I stood up sometime during my rant and was clutching both sides of the table with white knuckles, "We will discuss your true heritage at this moment, meaning your mother and father."
"What true heritage? Who my father is? All I need to know about him is that he left me and my mom when I was two, end of story. I'm here because I want to know where my mom is." Now curious about my dad I sit down and try to control my ragged breathing and racing heart.
“Heaven tells me that it is not time to speak about your father but when you're ready, we shall discuss him. Now, about your mother, in two weeks to the day she left, she will return but beware, she is avoiding certain truths about where she is going when she leaves you."
My mom did come back two weeks to the day she left. Apparently her original plan was to go two days before the baby would be born and two days after but that got messed up because her friend had lost her baby soon after it was born and needed someone because the dad of the kid left and her family disowned her and the reason she couldn't call me was that she had no phone reception. My trust in my mom was very shaky after those weeks for months after. Eventually I decided that Dorothea was crazy and didn't know what she was saying.
"Hello, child." Dorothea's sudden appearance spurs me out of my memories and back into the present.
"Hi Dorothea. My mom tells me you have some pies for us that have to be picked up today?" "Oh yes, come in. I will fetch them for you." She moves aside to let me through but I shake my head.
"I'm in a bit of a hurry, if you could go get them." I trail off, hoping she'll get the hint.
"No, child, you are not. Come sit." Her tone leaves no room for argument so I sigh in defeat and walk inside the musty old house.
"My mom called you, didn't she? To tell you that I was going to come today instead of her?" I ask as I sit.
"Oh no, my dear, Madeline did not call me, Heaven told me there was a meeting so I assumed you would come in her place. A bad time for a meeting, seeing as it is your day of birth and you are so important." She muttered vaguely.
"Okay," I trail off, lengthening the 'ay', my tone giving away how crazy I think she is, "let's cut to the chase here. I don't believe all your stuff about communicating with Heaven. Are we clear?" I turn around in my seat to look at her sanding in the doorway to the kitchen.
Completely dismissing what I had just said she steps forward and asks to see my hand. I refuse and she raises her eyebrow in question. Slightly offended she asks, "Why ever not?"
"Because you're going to hold my hand for a half-hour and then tell me some bull about my dad that I already know and that my mom is lying to me about where she's going when she goes away the day before my birthday every year." I begin to wonder why I even came here in the first place. I start to stand up but with surprising strength, she grabs my shoulders and pushes me back into my chair.
She bustles around the small table and sits across from me. "You are having strange dreams, correct? The same one repeatedly?"
"I've never told anyone about those, how do you know?" I furrow my eyebrows in confusion and lean back into my chair.
"I will explain but you will not interrupt me. This story is a story of demons and angels, of Heaven and Hell, and of love," Her voice softens slightly as if remembering a better time in the world, "You know the story of how Lucifer fell from heaven?" she asks, I shake my head 'no', "My, my, you are behind in your history! Let me explain: Lucifer loved God more than anything. He then created humans, hairless apes, he called them. He then asked all of his angels to bow to them, to love them more than the angels loved God; Lucifer refused. For that, God had Michael cast his brother into Hell," she explained, "My dear you are very special for you are born from both an angel and a demon, grace and pride, love and lust. Well, your father was not lusting after your mother, an angel, they were in love but it was - is - in his nature to lust after women. Together, they conceived a child. An angel of Heaven and one of Lucifer's most trusted warriors," she scoffs, "One child was enough of an insult to Heaven and Hell but your parents did not stop there, no. In the womb there was a second child; twins. One was you, and the other, your sister."
My expression must have been blank because Dorothea leans forward and snaps her fingers in from of my nose. The woman asks if I was listening to a word she said and I insist that I was. "Stupid untrained warriors, no respect," She mutters, "I will spell it out for you. Your mother is an angel, your father is a duke of Hell and you have a sister."
"I have a sister!" I ask excitedly. No. Dorothea is crazy. I know that. This story is completely made up but why does it sound so real?
"You will not be so ecstatic when you realize what had happened while you two were in the womb. While you received most of your mother's goodness and a small amount of your father's selfishness, your sister received the opposite. You are, for the moment, on the side of Heaven and she, on the side of Hell. You must understand, since you are both selfless and selfish, you have a choice. You may join Heaven or Hell, your sister as well. Your father feels as if you belong to him because you are his daughter so he will try to recruit you, like he did your sister. On your second birthday, your father stole your sister and brought her to Hell. She returned for you but your mother had noticed that your sister was missing so she took you and hid. Your mother, heartbroken and having to care for a small child on her own, came to me for assistance. I hid you both here for thirteen years but now, this night, I will no longer be able to hide you any longer." Dorothea suddenly starts speaking very hurriedly, "You mustn't join him in Hell. He will send someone to collect you, either by sheer force or someone that you will grow to care about. You do not believe me completely at the moment but tonight, your 15th birthday, you will."
She stands up and bustles over to her kitchen. She returns with a bag of pies, "Wait, what?"
"Happy birthday, dear." She hands me the pies and quickly ushers me out. She looks both ways down the street before closing her door in my face. 'She's crazy!' I think to myself as I begin to walk home. I mull things over until I realize that I'm sitting on my bed in my room, pies in hand. I guess I was so caught up in my thoughts that I walked home without realizing it. I put all the pies away except one, that one I put in the oven and eagerly await the ding of the oven indicating that the pie is ready.
I can’t sleep. Why? First off I’m panicking slightly about how Dorothea somehow put the thoughts that I keep buried at the back of my mind and the emotions that I didn’t even know I was feeling into words. I know I'll be all alone and exhausted tomorrow – my birthday – and it's all because my back is so itchy – also the fact that I can’t stop thinking about anything and everything but it is mostly my back. I groan inwardly. The spot is right on my shoulder blades that I can't itch no matter how I bend my arm; it's infuriating.
Two minutes to midnight, the itching turns from itching to actual physical pain, like something was tearing my skin from the inside. I jump up and run to the bathroom just as I hear a huge rip and white hot pain. I scream and claw at my back. And then, it's over. The pain is gone. I look at my hands, expecting to see them covered in blood but there's not a drop of blood on them. I could have sworn I heard a rip, and the pain was so intense that I swear something tore out of my back from inside. Apparently I fell to my knees while itching and clawing so I lean against the sink in front of me but promptly fall backwards because of this new weight on my back. I close my eyes and shake my head but my mind keeps jumping to the conclusion that I now have wings because of Dorothea's crazy story. I slowly look over my shoulder and see red on my back. It's blood, right? But there's none on my hands. I pick up a hand mirror, stand up and turn my back to the mirror on the wall. I look at the plastic-rimmed one in my hand and there they are, blood-red wings resting on my back, not resting, attached. It looks like they're directly attached to my shoulder blades but the tops of the wings reach past my head and the bottoms are almost past my knees. Even with the wings closed, their width stretches past my elbows. With my free hand I reach behind me and feel the softness of feathers. I close my eyes and say to myself,
"No. No. No. This isn't real. The wings are fake. The wings are going to disappear. Wings, you're not real so you're going to disappear: right now."
I lurch forwards slightly, there's no weight on my back now. I crack open one eye and now, in place of real wings, is a tattoo of them on my back stretching from my shoulder-blades all the way to where my pelvis starts.
Red, no not just red, crimson. There would be no way I would know that other than my mom and Dorothea made me memorize almost every shade of every color and randomly quizzes me on them and their meanings according to her. For example: Most shades of blue would work for the government, green is military, purple is medical, stuff like that that doesn't make any sense at all. Back to my point: I have crimson wings tattooed into my back! The tattoo is huge and covers my whole back – not crazy at all. This can't be possible. I want to see the real wings again, wait no. What real wings? Wings? Angels? Just to test out a theory maybe? Yeah, for my sanity’s sake, "Okay wings, reappear." I murmur to myself.
The weight on my back returns. I reach my hand around to my lower back again and feel feathers once again. I wrap my hand around one of them and pull. The feather pulls free from the wing and leaves in its wake a stinging sensation like when you pull out a hair.
So this isn't a dream because that hurt and that would have brought me back to the real world like in the movies when they pinch their arm and wake up from a dream. Okay Alexa, step two: moving them. They're an extension of your body so just move them. Don't try too hard. Easier said than done. An hour or so later of trying to move the wings – no – my wings, I still can’t get the wings to move. I tell the wings to disappear and head back to bed – not like I could actually fall asleep after realizing that I have freaking wings! I wonder if I can figure out how to move them, if I could actually fly.