Summer: 14 and a half years at the Monastery
Sunar started awake, but managed to feign continued sleep. It only took a moment for him to find what he’d heard: his sister’s breathing. “How did you get in here without waking me, and why have you let excitement take over your breathing that way?”
He turned over to find her sitting on the stool in front of his desk
“I sat here for a while. I was calm when I came in. Can’t stay calm. Too excited. Today is the day! Today we will show them, the Two Tails will…”
He rolled over and raised a hand to stop her, “Today we will do nothing if you continue to get louder and wake our parents.” A smile took any sting out of the remark. “I am looking forward to this as much as you, Little Tail, I promise. I will need my strength, though, and that means sleep. It is still two hours before I start my morning meditations.” He noticed the red color of her eyes, and the bags which sat between them and her excited smile, “You have not slept all night!”
Both of her hands gripped the stool now, she seemed to practically vibrate, “Can’t sleep, too excited. This will be so big! Big Tail shows them all!”
“Big tail shows them nothing if he doesn’t get some sleep, or if he is worried about his sleepy sister not being able to help him out of the pool if there is a problem.”
“I know, and I know I should meditate for calm, but…”
“No buts, sis. Sleep.” Disappointment, tiredness, eagerness, excitement, and stubbornness all tried to play across her face at once. He sighed. “You are not going to be able to sleep are you? Ok, very well, come here. I am not supposed to let you sleep in here anymore, you are a big girl, but this one time… I will help you sleep like I used to.”
She crawled into the bed, and he covered her with one wing, then sang soft, slow notes until she fell asleep. He carried her back to her bed, then went to finish his own sleep.
He woke next at his normal time, an hour before dawn, and made his way to the Gazebo to meet Master Ikthan for their weekly morning meditation. It took some effort to school his face, but he betrayed nothing. They sat in silence, and he worked on his wings. By the time the sun hit his skin, his wings felt radiant.
He kept his features neutral as he got up and took his leave. Getting through the rest of the day without giving anything away was not easy. Katas were easy enough, since he could slip into meditation and put some more effort into his wings, but his mind wandered otherwise. It took him three tries to get the movements right for a new throw that was being taught, and later, while teaching, he missed a younger student making a mistake which could have led to the boy hurting himself.
Even electronics class failed to hold his attention, and he found the entire subject of electricity fascinating. He managed to feign attention, however, even though with his mind firmly fixed on the window above the pool.
Free time finally arrived, and he began to make his way to that window. He was glad his sister had a free day, she had promised to find a place to hide until the time came, so that she wouldn’t accidentally give anything away.
At length, he arrived. The pool lay three stories below him. Jumping from this window wasn’t exactly forbidden; the pool was deep enough, after all, but it wasn’t encouraged either. He put his hands on the window ledge, froze, and began to chide himself. After so many years, so much patience, so much keeping to myself, and it all comes down to this moment. But what if I am wrong? What if I am not ready and this permanently damages my wings? Thoughts whirled in his head, then he saw movement beside the pool. Sierra, with her tail dragging behind her, walked to the side of the pool and looked up. Her face looked like a beacon, and his doubts fell aside.
He climbed onto the window ledge, and stopped to savor the moment. The other kids are splashing in the pool, enjoying themselves. What will they say when they see this? My triumph? No one even sees me up here. No one has moved to the deep end of the pool. At least I will have a (reasonably) soft landing if I’m wrong.
The sound of running footsteps floated to his ears, but he paid it no mind. A great grin stretched across his face, which he made no attempt to suppress. Now. His legs tensed like coiled springs, hands off the window frame, wings folded tight, he began to lean forward, and…
A slender hand landed firmly on his shoulder the moment he unleashed his legs. The hand deftly spun him around, and he found himself leaping at the wall on the opposite side of the corridor. He threw his head and arched his back, pulled his legs beneath him, and put out his arms. He’d managed to bring himself to a vertical position, but still moved too fast. Some strange reflex which resided deep in his genes sent his wings fanning out.
Those great wings caught air for one glorious moment, and then a great cry rang in his ears as every muscle in his wings and his back sent white-hot signals of pain lancing into his awareness. He hit the wall hard enough to knock the wind out of him, slid down, and came to rest sitting on the floor, his forehead against the wall.
His wings sagged behind him, and, as pain raced up and down his back, he realized the screaming voice had been his own. He could tell that nothing had broken, but when he tried to go inside to inspect the damage, the pain bounced him out. He didn’t dare try to move his wings.
Light steps crossed the corridor, and the slight hand returned to his shoulder as someone, no, not someone. That scent, that movement… Mother! His mother crouched beside him. He turned his eyes to her, not trusting even his neck muscles “You are here. You knew? How? Did Sierra?…”
Mother attempted to look stern for a moment, but quickly discarded that and let concern show on her face. She reached out to stroke the back of his head, and spoke in comforting tones, “I am your Mother, Sunar. Of course I knew. I have known. Ever since the day when you screamed defiance with your little wingtips in your little hands, since you sat and watched birds fly outside the window and your wings moved in sympathy, I have known. Your sister told me nothing.” Her face took on a stern look for just a moment, “Though I thought you would have more sense than to try this now, and without speaking to anyone about it first!” Gentleness returned to her face and voice, “I am sorry I didn’t get here sooner, but I really did not expect you to try for a while yet, and almost missed the signs.”
Stubbornness welled up inside him like a hot wave, “I will do more than try, mother, I WILL fly, I have spent so much effort on my wings, they WILL work.”
As other feet came running up the corridor, mother moved to hold him close without jostling him. “Of course you will. But you must do it right next time, and you must let us help.”