NORA & KETTLE - CHAPTER ONE
Gulp! Here you go:
If I had wings, they would be black, thin and feathered. Not a flat color…iridescent. Shining with hues of purple, green and blue. Catching the light with the barest fingertips. And when I needed, in the darkness, I could fold into the shadows and hide.
This time, between the dark and the dawn is mine.
I roll from my bed and slip quietly across the floor, avoiding the creaks in a shadowy dance no one will ever see. My ears tune to the non-existent noises around me and I sigh, ghostlike, with relief. Because in this time he sleeps.
It was sharp and short cracks this time. This time.
I ease my drawer out, holding my breath as tiny splinters catch the sides, and reach underneath the lace and silk to the sturdy pants hidden beneath. Quickly, I slide them on, my bruises protesting as I bend to fasten them. I tuck the ends of my nightdress into the waist and pad to the window.
Across from our four-part brownstone, I see one light shining dimly through a dirty window. Someone leaving for or returning from a shift. A refrigerator light. Something simple and easy. I crinkle my nose, thinking, of all the hundreds of people that live in that apartment building, how is it that only one solitary light shines. I quirk my lips, a new split stretching apart stings. This is why it is my time.
Bending and flexing my legs a couple of times, I take a deep breath and push the window ajar. It protests a little, groaning as I push my torso out and use my back to push it up. Settling on the windowsill, I close it down, pulling a small comb from my pocket and wedging it under the window so I can get back in. My eyes dart to the corner of the building, to the rickety fire escape that would be easy to climb. A car light bends over the gaps in the iron and fans out like the punch in a comic book. Wham! I snigger to myself, the laugh seeming not my own. I’m not supposed to laugh. I’m a sad girl, with a sad life.
But it is my life, and tonight… I’m going to fly.
I turn to face the window and grasp at the drainpipe that runs the length of the building. Staring up at the sky for a moment, I search out my destination: The error in the building, which grates on him, but invites me. One beam they forgot to trim, sits out from the wall like a pirate ship plank. I dig my bare toes into the worn spaces between the bricks and climb.
I’m a shadow taped to the wall, scaling the pipe in solid but fast movements. Breathing hard and forgetting everything. The sky, the stars are hanging around for me, clinging to the fading darkness and I let them fill my senses. The night air closes in like the wings of crow, folding over, protecting and gifting me something I lack. I pass the window of our sleeping neighbours and shake my head. They won’t hear me.
I breathe in deeply. Car exhaust films the air but it lightens, sweetens as I climb. Overhead, the plank casts a cool shadow over the building, lengthening as the moon starts to dip away and the sun coaxes the sky into pinks and oranges. My time is only minutes. My mind is only on the hands pulling me up and the legs stabilizing me.
I dig my toes into the brackets that hold the pipe, it cuts in a little but my skin is toughening. I throw my head back, my hair wisping and sticking to my cheeks. Sweat makes my skin slippery, it takes more concentration, more strength to hold on, but that’s why I like it. This risk sends sparks through my heart. It keeps something beating that could be dead, should be dead. But I can’t let it.
The pipe trembles under my weight, the screws wriggle in the brackets and I dig in. Moving faster up, up, up, until I reach the beam and wrap my hands around the timber and link them together, the dry wood soaking up some of my sweat.
This part, the upside down part… I love.
I hug the beam and creep my feet up the wall until I can wrap my legs around it, swinging like a raccoon on a telephone wire. I hang my head down and stare out at the inverted city, the skyscrapers hanging from the earth like stalactites, dripping their lights into the clouds and piercing the sky. One shake and the people would spill from their locked-in positions and sprinkle like pepper into the atmosphere. Just float away. Light as air, I want to be a speck carried by the wind. My hair swings in coils and clumps on either side of my eyes and my head starts to beat like a drum full of water from too much blood. I work my way around until I’m lying stomach to beam.
I push back to sitting, my legs dangling, my chest filled to bursting with cleaner air, the flames of sunrise singeing the top of my head.
If I had wings…
They’d need to be strong enough…
I close my eyes as the round edge of the sun pokes above the horizon, and spread my arms wide.
I let the small breeze flutter under my limbs, cool my skin and free my hair.
If I had wings I could fly.