Chapter 21—I Missed It
Lucas blinked. The grains of sand beneath his eye sparkled, lit by a golden light from above. His body hurt, like it had been torn apart and then put back together.
At least he was breathing.
He braced a hand on the ground and pushed himself up, curling into his knees as his gut cramped. “Uhng,” he grunted, his eyes squeezing shut.
An arm wrapped itself around his shoulders, warm. “We did it,” Vanessa’s voice murmured in his ear.
Opening one eye and then the other, Lucas craned his neck to see past his shoulder. The golden glow hovered high enough that he could see the great cavern rippling where the stalactites curved out of the ceiling like great stone teeth. Through the spiked shards of rock a pair of wings floated, each feather giving off rays of light.
An angel, Lucas felt some of the pain subside. He sat up from his knees. Vanessa smiled at him, a half-soul close behind her.
Nodding, Vanessa put her hand on an arm and brought the gray-skinned creature forward. “This is Deborah, my sister.”
Lucas gave her a scrunched smile, “Nice to meet you.”
The oversized head nodded slightly on its skinny neck. The eyes were not black, but more of a gray like her skin.
Lucas leaned toward Vanessa and whispered, “How do you know it’s her?”
Vanessa turned the half-soul’s arm over to expose the wrist, then held up her own. They both had a strawberry shaped spot, Vanessa’s sort of a pink color, and the half-soul’s a darker shade of gray than the rest of her. “Genetics. We both have a birthmark here.”
Pulling his bangs out of his face, Lucas looked up again at the wings. This time he saw the rest of the angel, his eyes adjusting to the light.
“Ami,” he breathed.
Ami’s hair fell in golden brown waves over her shoulders and down her back, cascading around where the wings spread behind her. She glowed along with the feathers, smiling down. Tate stood next to her, tall enough that his head almost bumped her wing.
Almost as tall as Zagan had been in demon form.
Lucas looked around in a panic, his heart beating painfully against his ribs. “Zagan?”
“Gone,” Max crouched next to him and put a hand under Lucas’s elbow. He looked worse than Lucas felt, but he looked human.
With the help of both Max and Vanessa, Lucas stood, his legs weak but steady. “Gone where?”
“Banished, I guess,” Max answered.
Jayden and Devon stepped into view, a little gray but otherwise the same.
“You missed it?!” Jayden’s eyes got big.
“Oh, man, Lucas, it was—“ Devon started.
“Awesome!” Jayden finished. “We were hanging in the air,” he held his hand up.
“With our arms pinned to our sides like this,” Devon sucked himself together like a penguin.
“Yeah, the Bad Day Brothers had us swinging and screaming like girls, with all of these other weird scary things coming at us.”
“Max was gone, and then Cassy—“ Devon shook his head.
“And we thought that Zagan was going to suck you into his giant mouth and eat you.” Jayden shoveled invisible food into his mouth.
“And then Tate stood up and grew giant sized,” Devon stretched onto his tip toes, his arms as high over his head as they would go.
“The chains made this sound kind of like electricity as they broke off of him.” Jayden added some sound effects.
“And fell to the ground like broken Christmas lights.”
“And we got dropped on the ground. Look,” Jayden lifted up his red basketball shorts, “I cut my knee on a stupid rock.”
“There was this amazing sound,” Devon’s hands came to his ears and exploded out, “that I think was Tate singing.”
“And all of the ugly things swirled into tiny shadow tornados and sort of ‘poofed.’”
“While the chains glowed and morphed into that angel.” Devon pointed up behind him, breathing hard from the excitement of telling the story.
Jayden leaned toward Lucas and whispered behind his hand. “We think the angel is Ami.”
“Good guess,” Lucas nodded, still trying to catch up to the part about Tate singing. He pulled his arm away from Max’s hand and pulled his bangs out of his eyes as he looked up at the angel. She fluttered her wings and slowly descended. As she lightly stepped a foot on the ground and folded her wings, she was shorter than Lucas, her eyes blue and bright within the glow. As he watched, she faded into the girl he’d had a crush on since he saw her in the rec room, curvy in her white sweater. She smiled at him, then at the group.
The cavern went black. Next to him, Vanessa fumbled around. A few seconds later, they all stood in the eerie light of her cell phone.
“Thank you for saving us,” Tate came up behind Ami, once again the ugly awkward boy in the shabby baseball hat with the oversized adam’s apple. His voice, though, sounded magical.
“Yes, thank you,” Ami added, reaching out to brush Lucas’s bangs from where they had fallen back on his forehead. She leaned forward on her tiptoes and kissed Lucas on the cheek. It felt like cool water poured into his body from her lips, chilling away the rest of the pain. Lucas stood up tall. He hoped that it was too dark for Ami to see the blush that quickly chased the chill to burn all the way up from his neck.
Tate reached out for a handshake. Lucas gripped his hand and flinched as the tall boy squeezed it and pumped his arm. “You did it, Lucas. You freed me.”
Lucas smiled at him shyly, not sure what to say to that. He turned to look at the rest of the group. Vanessa held her half-soul sister with one hand, and her cell phone with the other. Jayden and Devon looked tired but happy, giving each other some secret handshake that ended in a bruised elbows. Max waited quietly, looking better after Ami gave him a kiss on the cheek, too. Brandon stood with his head hanging, his toe digging a small crater into the dirt.
“Where’s Tom?” Lucas asked.
“Sorry, Lucas. He turned. Cassy, too. They’ll both take more than a kiss to restore, like the other half-souls.” Ami frowned, genuinely saddened. “We were just a little too late for them.”
“But you can turn them back?”
Ami nodded, ‘Over time.”
“And the other half-souls?”
Vanessa held her cell phone higher and turned it toward the back of the cavern. Its feeble light touched on a crowd of gray faces with black eyes.
So many, Lucas pushed his hands in his pockets. His fingers automatically searched for the tiger’s eye, but his pockets were empty. Pa.
“Let’s get out of here,” Max trudged by in his black shirt. Vanessa followed with her cell phone light, the others, including the half-souls, falling into line behind them. Lucas walked next to Brandon through the tunnel. Once they were on the stairs, Lucas caught a glimpse of Brandon’s face in the light of the pull chain bulb.
“What’s wrong?” Lucas elbowed the other boy. “We just defeated a demon and saved Truth. We should celebrate.”
“Yeah, I guess,” Brandon kicked the cement stair in front of him with his shoe. “It’s just that…”
“What?” Lucas prodded.
Brandon pulled his beanie off his head and wrung it in his hands, his hair sticking out wildly. “I missed it, the whole thing. You said it was time and I got scared, so I closed my eyes.” Brandon sniffed. “Jayden and Devon made it sound so cool.”
Lucas put his hand on Brandon’s shoulder and waited for Brandon to look him in the eye. “I missed it, too.”
That seemed to make Brandon feel a little better. He squeezed by Lucas and bounced up the final few steps and into the house.
Upstairs the foyer was lit by the chandelier. Carl stood under it, Sandra waiting sheepishly behind him, and the group coming up the stairs crowded around them. Ami and Tate stood under the first flight of stairs by the basement door directing the half-souls into the rec room as the gray things trudged up the stairs.
“What do we do now?” Jayden asked, his question followed by a yawn.
“I’m hungry,” Devon rubbed his stomach.
“Yeah, food sounds good.” They both filed into the kitchen, followed by a handful of half-souls.
Brandon wiggled through the group until he stood next to Sandra, squeezing his beanie back on his head. They started talking, completely forgetting that anybody else existed.
“What are you going to do now?” Max said quietly. Lucas hadn’t noticed the shorter boy standing quietly by his elbow, he had been so busy watching Ami.
“I need to get to the hospital.”
Max nodded. “Good luck with your dad. I hope he’s alright.”
Remembering something Tate said to him last night, Lucas played with a smile. “I think he will be.”