Hekate and Marcia were right about one thing. Moro and Muninn were furious when they returned. It wasn’t until morning when Hekate felt the anger boiling inside of her that wasn’t her own.
What have you two done?
Pulling the pillow over her face to block the sunlight streaming from her window, Hekate groaned. “It wasn’t on purpose. I already yelled at Marcia for it. Besides, did you even learn anything from those two?”
The anger within her did not subside.
They suggested we take you to them to be cleansed. There might be a way for them to remove the brand. But now that you’ve both been branded, I’m not sure.
Hekate threw the pillow on her face to the ground and stared at her ceiling fan. The movement hypnotized her, giving her the chance she needed to separate her emotions from Moro’s. She wasn’t happy about the situation either. “What’s done is done, Moro. It was an accident. Now we just have to find a way to use this to our advantage.”
Our advantage? How would this be useful?
Noticing the time, she pulled her legs out of bed, forcing the rest of her to get up. “I’m not sure. But we don’t think War knows Marcia was branded. His focus is entirely on me. Maybe she could take him off guard. Problem is, we don’t know how to find him.”
I have a feeling that won’t be a problem. Trouble seems to be attracted to you. He’ll find you soon enough.
Cocking her head to the side, she raised her eyebrow in agreement. “True.”
“Hekate! Are you awake? Get moving!” Her mother called from downstairs.
Hekate stuck her head out of her door. “Why aren’t you at your office?”
Her mother peeked around the banister. “How are you supposed to get to school if I don’t take you? You don’t have a car anymore, remember?”
Resisting the urge to groan or roll her eyes, she simply replied, “Marcia is picking me up. You can go to work. Don’t let me disrupt your schedule, Mom.”
She moved to stand in full view. “Are you sure? I can take you easily. I already called my boss to let her know I was going to be late.”
Hekate tried to give her mother a reassuring smile. “It’s okay. I got it covered. Thank you, though.”
Her mother thought about it for a moment as her lips pinched together. But as the time ticked away, she glanced at her watch in defeat. “All right. Be sure to ride home with her after your gymnastics meet.”
“Will do! Have a good day!” Hekate said as she turned back towards her room.
“Crap,” she mumbled.
“I completely forgot we had a gymnastics meet tonight.”
Will that be a problem?
Shaking her head, Hekate opened her dresser drawer to pull out the school uniform she hated. “No, not really. I just forgot about it. I would have rather gone demon hunting or something.”
“I thought it was,” she said as she changed.
How are you planning on getting to school?
Hekate reached for one of her old windbreakers in her closet and a pair of scissors. “The same way I got to the club.”
You’re being reckless.
“Everything I do is reckless.”
Taking the scissors, she cut two long slits in to the back. When she was finished, she pulled her shirt over her head, but left it there instead of putting it on all the way. She slipped into the windbreaker, adjusting to make sure the the slits were in place before zipping it up. Once she was satisfied, she pulled her hair into a tight ponytail. Before she forgot, she reached for her bookbag and hooked it through her arms so it sat against her chest.
Poking her head outside of her door, she listened to make sure her mother had left. When she was satisfied at the silence echoing in the house, she closed her door behind her. Unlatching the window, she climbed onto the roof, but stayed in a crouched position. She made sure to look back and close the window behind her.
Every time she summoned her wings, the feeling was different. When in battle, she barely noticed them. But when she was calm, the pain was very apparent. Closing her eyes, Hekate waited for the pain to begin. Biting her bottom lip, her muscles began to shift and the bones began to form and push their way through her skin.
It was the strangest sensation to feel her skin rip open from the inside out. The small wounds grew as her wings began to extend and grow their feathers. But as the wounds grew, the faster she healed. By the time they were fully extended, Hekate’s forehead was covered in sweat. She prayed the flight to school would dry her off. She also prayed she wouldn’t stink.
Without another thought, she flapped her wings hard, shooting her into the sky. In only a few seconds, she was above the clouds. She hovered there for a few minutes, slowly breathing as she took in the view.
“This peace is worth the risk,” she murmured.
But not worth your life.
Hekate didn’t have an answer for Moro. To be honest, she wasn’t even sure if it were worth it or not. But if she really did only have a month left because of the brand on her chest, she wanted to make everything worth it. Take every chance, feel every emotion…anything to forget the anger that boiled in flames beneath the surface.
Caleb flashed across her mind at the thought of taking every chance. The thought of him reminded Hekate of why it wasn’t worth her life. Not because he was her boyfriend, but because of the potential future. A potential life after all of this. She would finish high school, go to college, get married one day, and maybe even had her own kids. Or she could just travel the world on her own. Whatever her future held, she prayed it included keeping the wings.
Hekate’s lips pulled to the side as she grinned. “Couldn’t be too much to ask.”
But was the maybe based on her surviving this ordeal or the wings themselves. Moro probably wasn’t sure either what she meant. And she probably didn’t want to clarify. Only time would tell what fate had planned for them.
It wasn’t long before Hekate spotted the school. Thankfully there was a small wooded area not far from the parking lot. Without hesitation, she dropped, aiming straight for the cover of the trees. She landed, hard. It felt as though her knees were going to buckled under the pressure of her landing. Grunting, she stood up and began to stretch, attempting to shake the ache that was beginning.
The wings that had brought her here began to disappear as she felt the muscles move back into place and extra bones disappearing. When they had vanished completely, Hekate dropped her bag to take the wind breaker off and pull her shirt down and straighten her skirt out. As she glanced around to make sure no one was nearby, she shoved the jacket into her bag before making her way towards the sidewalk.
The voice caused her to clench her teeth. Her tongue sucked on them before she turned to see Marcus walking towards her. “What’s up?”
He pointed towards the woods. “Why were you coming out of the woods?”
She shrugged, attempting to look as casual as possible. “Thought I saw a dog. Turns out it was just a fox.”
His eyes narrowed but his lips lifted into a grin. “Must have been one hell of a chase. Your cheeks are completely flushed.”
Hekate’s hands lifted to feel the warmth on her cheeks from the wind burn. Feeling nervous, she pulled her hair out of the pony tail. “I guess so.”
When she turned to continue walking towards the school, she could feel Marcus close behind. Only when they approached the steps into the school did he walk past her. “See you later!”
She swallowed hard.
“Shut up,” she whispered.
Marcia was already in class with Caleb and Branden. The moment Caleb’s eyes met hers, he practically jumped from his chair to rush towards her. Without a second’s thought, he pulled Hekate into his arms. It was the comfort she had been hoping for since last night.
“Marcia told me what happened. Are you okay?” he whispered into Hekate’s hair.
She let my head rest on his chest as she nodded. “I’m fine. It wasn’t too bad. The car was more damaged than me.”
He pulled back but kept his arms around my waist. “Next time, please call me. I don’t want to find out second hand that my girlfriend was in a car accident.”
“Oh I’m your girlfriend, am I?” Hekate teased.
He narrowed his eyes before leaning in to kiss my forehead. “Ha-ha. Just promise me.”
“I promise,” she said.
Over Caleb’s shoulder, Marcia was practically leaping out of her seat with excitement. Branden looked speechless. He quickly grabbed Marcia’s arm to whisper in her ear. She giggled in response. Hekate only rolled her eyes in response.
Caleb quickly released her when the teacher walked into the room. He glared, but made no effort to scold them. Hekate moved to sit between Marcia and Caleb. Behind her, Branden was still whispering questions to Marcia who only continued to giggle.
It wasn’t until lunch time when Hekate and Marcia had a minute to breathe and begin to plan.
“How’s the brand?” Hekate asked.
Marcia opened up her tupperware to reveal chicken and rice. “It kind of burns. Like, all the time. Is that normal?”
Hekate felt a pang of guilt at her question. “Yes.”
Marcia merely shrugged with a mouthful of rice. “Whatever. It’s more annoying than anything else. It doesn’t necessarily hurt.”
Before either of them could comment further on the subject, Erik sat down beside Marcia. “How’s y’all’s day going?”
Hekate shrugged. “Could be worse.”
He grinned. “From what I heard you’re having a pretty good day. Especially compared to yesterday. Glad your okay, by the way.”
“Thanks. What are you talking about?” Hekate asked, perplexed.
Marcia leaned onto Erik’s shoulder while giving Hekate a devious smile. “Oh you know. That long hug from your boyfriend. You set the school ablaze with rumors.”
Hekate felt the rush of blood to her face, causing her to groan and drop her head into her folded arms on the table. “Oh my God. People are actually talking about that?”
Erik snickered as he took a sip of Coke. “Of course. I mean, Caleb is hot stuff on campus, and it’s you. You, who never seemed interested in a relationship. People can’t look away.”
The memory of Caleb holding her in the classroom increased her heart rate. “I was in a car accident. Only makes sense that he would comfort me.”
Marcia nodded and flicked a piece of rice at her friend to force her to lift her face in annoyance. “I think it’s cute. The only thing you have to worry about is his little fan club. I’m sure they will be ruthless.”
“I’m sure I can handle them,” she said, the memory of her previous battles floating across her mind.
“I have no doubt,” Marcia said through a sly grin.
The comment was meant to sound confident, but the memories that flashed across only brought doubt. So far, her tally was up to three or four people who she has killed. The memory left a sour taste in her mouth, not wanting to eat any more of her lunch.
You aren’t responsible for their deaths.
Moro always tried to make up some kind of excuse for Hekate. But despite her words, Hekate couldn’t let it go. Deep down she knew she was changing. It wasn’t just the brand that was changing her, it was her own actions that were beginning to take their toll. It was just a matter of time before she was lost for good.
Hekate was lost in thought for the remainder of the day, constantly running scenarios in her head of how every battle could have gone differently. How should could have potentially saved those people instead of killing them. It wasn’t until the beginning of the gymnastics meet when one of Caleb’s fans pulled her from her own head. Jennifer moved to sit next to Hekate as they waited for their turn on the floor.
“Is it true?” she asked.
Hekate kept her eyes on Marcia who was in the middle of her floor routine. She had just landed a layout perfectly. “Is what true?”
“That you’re dating Caleb,” she said, her tone laced with poison.
“Yes,” Hekate confirmed, her eyes unwavering.
For a moment, she thought the subject would drop. Jennifer offered no response to Hekate confirming that she was, in fact, dating Caleb. But once Marcia saluted the judges after her routine was complete, she felt Jennifer stand with her before moving to trip Hekate. Stumbling a few feet forward, she turned to glare at her.
“It won’t last,” she said angrily as she moved to sit in the back of the group of gymnasts waiting their turn.
Hekate gathered her composure before making her way to the floor without taking her eyes off of Jennifer. She wanted Jennifer to feel nervous. That despite her potential fate, she wouldn’t let her win that easily. When their eyes met, Jennifer flinched before glancing back down at her phone.
Marcia dropped her hand onto Hekate’s shoulder as they passed one another and whispered, “Good luck.”
She had practiced this routine over one hundred times. It wasn’t very complicated but whenever she had to perform it at a meet, her adrenaline would force her to break into a sweat. With a salute to the judges, she walked to the center of the floor to wait for the music to begin.
With her arms held out in front of her, crossing at the elbows, she took a deep breath. Her heart rate began to slow as she felt everything disappear leaving nothing but her in the room. Hekate was focused, even able to ignore the constant burn on her chest.
As the music began, Hekate let everything go. Her mind was no longer focused on the drama with Jennifer, or the demons after her. She had even forgotten about War. As she ran into her round-off, backhand spring, it almost felt like she was flying again. Every movement deliberate, moving in tune with the music.
Her peace wouldn’t last. There was one move left in her routine. A full twist. As she ran, the intensity of the brand’s burn began to increase. When her feet slammed to the ground and pushed up, the brand felt as though it was scalding. Hekate’s entire body broke into a sweat, but she refused to let it fall. Her body twisted through the air despite the pain.
She felt nothing at first; only the adrenaline. When her feet landed and the music ended, Hekate’s arms raised into the air to acknowledge the judges and confirm the end of her routine as normal. But when her right arm went into the air, she felt it. A sharp pain that caused her arm to feel like it was on fire. As if the brand had spread.
Carefully, she lowered her arm before turning to walk towards the bathroom instead of her team. Hekate glanced over at Marcia, noticing she was holding her shoulder as well. Tilting her head towards the bathroom, Hekate signaled Marcia to follow.
Marcia quickly stood up and walked to catch up with Hekate, never once releasing her shoulder. They both pushed into the bathroom, checking every stall to make sure they were the only ones in there. Once they were sure they were alone, Marcia cursed.
“Damn it! What the hell was that?”
Hekate slowly peeled the dark maroon leotard from her right shoulder, revealing a bloodied hole. The wound looked like a bullet wound, but Hekate couldn’t recall the sound of a gun going on. She was also fairly certain people would have been in a panic had they heard a gun go off.
Marcia’s eyes widened in shock as she took in the wound. Feeling her own shoulder, she quickly pulled her sleeve down, but there was no wound. Only a large bruise in the same place as Hekate’s bloodied hole in her shoulder.
“Jesus! What’s going on?” Marcia said, as she studied Hekate’s arm.
I don’t think it is a bullet wound.
“Then what is it?” Hekate asked as she reached for some paper towels to clean the blood.
Moro manifested in the reflection of the mirror so she wouldn’t need to repeat herself. “There could be a demon here. The wound itself is far to clean for it to have been a gun. There is a residue around it that smells demonic. Someone is here. Though I don’t know if its goal was to kill you or mess with you.”
Marcia pointed towards her own arm. “If I wasn’t the one who was hurt, why am I feeling it?”
Moro nodded towards Hekate. “We told you. In order for you to help Hekate, your souls had to be connected. Whatever pain she feels, you will feel. Especially if caused by a demon or the Horseman. It works both ways.”
Hekate rolled her eyes. “That’s just great.”
Marcia took some of the towels to clean the wound herself. “Get over it.”
“Tell your shoulder to get over it,” Hekate chuckled, watching the wound beginning to close.
“That’s handy,” Marcia mumbled as she watched the open wound close.
Moro healed the wound fairly quickly, but Hekate could still feel it. The hole in her shoulder was gone, but a bruised feeling was left in it’s place. She didn’t feel this before with the wounds Moro had healed after the car accident. She was stiff, but not bruised.
“Is that why I can still feel it?” Hekate asked.
Moro nodded. “It will fade over time, but that’s not the pressing issue. You still have another routine to perform and you’re being targeted.”
Marcia stretched her own arm, feeling the bruise as Hekate did. “I’ll watch out for her while she performs.”
Muninn appeared in the reflection, perched on Moro’s back. “And who will protect you?”
“I will,” Hekate said.
Muninn wasn’t convinced. “You’ve been exposed to the brand far longer than Marcia. What happens if you lose control around all of these people?”
Hekate’s eyes twitched at the memory of attacking Marcia. “It won’t happen again. If I feel myself starting to lose control, I’ll just leave.”
Moro and Muninn exchanged a glance before disappearing from the mirror.
Don’t do anything reckless.
“We won’t,” Marcia said with confidence.
Hekate wondered if Muninn offered Marcia the same advice Moro had just given her. She wanted to offer the same response to Moro, but she couldn’t.
She reached to throw the bloody paper towels away and pulled her leotard back on before heading towards the door. Marcia followed.
“No promises,” she whispered.
Tainted Wings – Chapter Fifteen