The sound of air rushing past her ears and the sensation of the wind in her dark blond hair almost made Kristal believe that she herself was flying. But the comfort of strong arms around her body kept those beliefs at bay. The sights she saw as she raced high across the sky invaded her eyes and flared her imagination.
"This is beautiful," she shouted above the whistling air. She spoke to the one that carried them on their flight. The only person that could fly without the help of any man-made devices. The man that she alone could love for who he was inside.
"Truly, this is the view many people would love to see, but only few could actually take in," his voice was a low baritone as he spoke in a strangely formal tone. Kristal turned her head to look into his eyes. Eyes as blue as the sky, Angel was handsome in a mysterious way. His skin was naturally dark, not tanned by the sun and his raven black hair grew past his shoulders, neatly tied lose to the base of his skull. But what brought attention to him was not his looks nor his voice, though they alone could swoon any young woman. It was the fact that he had wings.
White, soft and perfectly formed, Angel's wings stood out over everything else he had. They looked delicate and fragile but they were large and could easily support him and another body through the air without losing much of his agility and speed in flight.
His real name was Angelus, and he was shunned and teased around the collage grounds. Names like 'birdbrain' and 'air head' were small compared to the savage beatings he received. Often in those beatings he would have one of his wings broken, sometimes both, and he would be given days or weeks of sick leave to recover from them.
The other burden he has to carry is the media coverage that was constantly following him. Although it was natural for the 'media hounds' to jump on to a new story and religiously tear it apart to see what lay at the heart. And Angel had wanted none of it. But everywhere he went there was at least one camera or reporter that dogged his footsteps, waiting for the chance to see him in action.
No one had seen him actually use his wings, since they would be broken again shortly after they healed, no one before Kristal that is.
Kristal had seen the torment Angel had gone through and so decided to do something about it. She had been friends with Angel from very early in the year. Although they weren't very close, they could rely on each other for advice on a subject or, more often then not, shared their lunch break together. She cared a lot for him and, although she usually wont allow her emotions to lead her into making decisions, she was sick of seeing him suffer. So she planned an escape for him, a day when his wings were healed and healthy enough to use.
Kristal spent weeks arranging everything, calling the school and Angel's mother and pleading for at least one day away with him. Eventually, almost reluctantly, they agreed and on one sunny Monday morning Angel found Kristal standing outside his front gate.
"What are you doing here?" he had asked, his eyes inquiring. Though his face was still slightly bruised he was still handsome and Kristal's knees seem to quiver every time she caught a sight of him. Although she wasn't alone in this condition, as nearly every woman would go all dreamy-eyed every time he crossed their path.
"I've come to rescue you from school today," she replied. She looked beyond him then and waved. Angel turned and saw his mother's silhouette standing at the front door.
"Are you in this too, mother?" He asked. The shadow nodded her head slowly but said nothing.
Angels mother was very rarely seen outside and no one could describe her face in detail as it was always at least partially concealed. People would go to her house and ask to come in, but she would refuse politely behind the wire mesh of the locked screen door, making various excuses to keep them out. No one minded her sometimes rude attitude to their attempt to socialise because nearly all attention was to her son.
"She believed it was good for you," Kristal said as she firmly took his arm and led him out the gate, "Now get in."
"You drive this?" He asked incredulously as he took in the sight of the cherry red sports convertible parked before him.
"Nah, I use it for a shovel," She said with heavy sarcasm, "It's my brother's car, he lent it to me for the day after I explained it all to him."
"Explained what?" Angel asked, curious at what this girl had on her mind.
"Never mind," She said evasively, tugging at his much stronger arms.
"What are we going to do about school?" He gently pried her fingers from around his upper arm and turned her to face him "I've got a test today."
"Well what about those thugs that'll beat you again today? Do you want your wings broken again?" she did not mean for it to sound harsh, nor did she mean to push her face accusingly close to his, but the thought of Angel's fine wings broken angered her greatly. "Anyway, I've arranged everything, you can take your test tomorrow."
Angel looked as if to protest further but a soft voice cut him off.
"Just go with her Angel, she went to all this trouble to arrange this. At least listen and see what she wants."
Angel's mother had stepped into the light of the morning sun and stood at the gate. Kristal was the only one to actually see Angel's mother clearly. She was much like her son in appearance, except for the wings, and her hair was a very dark brown. Her voice was even softer then Angel's and had the same formal tone laced within it. She looked vulnerable in her simple flower-pattern dress and sandals, but Kristal knew Angel's mother was strong in character. That's why she liked her.
Angel could not argue with his mother as he looked once at her then at Kristal. He sighed then and gave in. Soon he and Kristal were on the road.
"Do you know why they pick on me?" Angel asked after some time of silent driving had passed, "Is it because of my wings?"
Kristal looked as if in thought. "In a way, yes. But do you ever notice that it's mostly the boys that do all the teasing and beating?" Angel did not answer, so Kristal continued, "Its because the girls, all of them I've noticed, are in love with you, in a way, and the boys are jealous. They believe you don't deserve the attention of their women and try to drive you away."
"Oh," Angel looked out the windscreen, "Are you?"
"Jealous? Yeah, a bit, I'd love to have wings like yours."
"Not jealous." He turned to look at her, "Are you in love with me as well?"
Kristal was silent. She had never really thought about it before and now that the question had been asked she would have to answer. After a long moment of introspection she nodded once and floored the accelerator.
"I think its time for us to return, sunset is fast approaching and I cannot see much in the dark.."
Kristal brought her thoughts back to the present and looked to the west. The warmth of the sun on her face and the sooty red that slowly coloured the sky confused her for a moment, "Ah... Yeah, we'd better go back."
Kristal felt her weight shift as Angel cut a wide, smooth arch across the sky and headed back the way they came.
Kristal's thoughts travelled back to a few hours earlier. She had picked a secluded lookout along the cliff face that bordered the beach and had left the car there, being sure that it would be safe.
"How did you get your wings?" Kristal asked as they walked to the safety fence of the lookout, "Were you born with them or what?"
"They appeared shortly after my tenth birthday," Angel said as he reached the fence, placing his hands on the rust spotted steel, "And for over six years we, mum and I, had to hide from populated places in case I was seen. She was afraid what others thought of me, of us, because of them."
"And were you?", She looked at his face, concern shadowed her eyes, "Seen? Ever?"
"Many times, and each time we had to leave. Then we would try find a new place to start over."
"It must have been sad, to know a place, then having to leave it behind." She looked out at the view, a slight breeze disturbing her hair, brushing it away from her face and down her back.
"For those six years? No. We were fortunate enough to not make many friends so we didn't have to leave things behind, or say any farewells." He crossed his arms on top of the fence then rested his head on them.
"What about school then, didn't your mom get a private tutor or something?" She looked at his face trying to read him as much as she could.
"No, mother continued my primary education at home, she taught me everything I had to know to survive. But soon I grew older and my knowledge was surpassing hers, also she saw how miserable I was getting. And so she took a chance with my enrolment to high school. The first few weeks were tough but soon the school accepted me. A few actually talked to me and some of the teacher's continued to take classes like nothing was wrong, which was kind of them."
"Did you ever think about your father?", Kristal asked suddenly, then blushed after she said it.
"No", he said simply, "We never knew my father. I was a result of a one night stand, which meant he never hung around long enough to tell mum his name. Mum was always wild in her youth. But no I don't know or think of my father."
"I'm sorry," she turned her head to hide her face, "I shouldn't have asked."
"You had a right to ask and to know."
"What happened after High school?" Kristal asked after a moments silence. She still felt embarrassed of asking about his father. But she did want to know.
"I didn't make any friends nor did I try, there were no question about my HSC and I received my certificate like everybody else with no objection. After that I thought I was accepted, but I was wrong when I entered college."
"I know that all too well." Kristal's blush was replaced by an expression of anger, but it soon passed and she too rested her head on her crossed arms.
Time passed and neither spoke. The sun seemed to crawl across the sky near the western horizon.
"Great view." Kristal said distantly.
"Yeah. But I've seen better," Angel smiled and straightened, "A lot better."
"Oh, where?" Kristal's voice remained distant, but soon her mind dawned on what Angel had said. She straightened and looked questioningly at Angel.
"Do you trust me?" he was looking at the horizon, his face cast with a dirty blush by the sunset then turned to look at her, "Ill take you there."
Kristal nodded slowly not fully picturing what lay ahead as his eyes twinkled with a calm inner fire and she was lost in the blue depth of them. Then her mind seemed to slow and focus all at once as she saw Angel stretch out his wings.
He took her hands then and drew her close.
"Hold on," he said as his arms slid around her waist.
Kristal could see the red convertible parked near the safety fence and directed Angel to it. It was an awkward landing but they touched down safe and sound. The sun was only half set when they returned and night would soon catch them and force them home.
"I was meaning to ask, but don't your parents worry about you being with me?"
"I can see what you mean," she smiled, "But dad hasn't got as much of a hold on me as mum does and mum lets me do whatever I want. Actually, they don't even know I'm with you."
He nodded, not fully understanding. They were facing each other and they were holding each others hands. Neither seemed to want to let go.
"Well, we'd better go," he said after a while, "The nights are getting colder."
"I had a great time," She held his hands tighter, "and I hope we can do it again."
Angel smiled and Kristal felt a warm rush at that sight, "So do I."
The temperature had dropped since they left and a breeze pushed through the branches and silently rustled Angels feathers. Kristal shivered and hugged herself, releasing Angel's hands. She had dressed for a day out in the sun and did not expect to be back so late. She rubbed her arms for warmth.
"Cold?" Angel placed his hands on her shoulders and drew her close. His arms wrapped themselves around her torso, trapping her own arms underneath. His chest was warm and Kristal soon found her own arms sliding around Angel, lightly stroking the base of his wings as her head rested on his shoulder.
His embrace was warm but not enough to stop her from shivering. She closed her eyes and thought of nothing but their closeness. They may never be this close again.
Her shivering slowed as she felt her body warmth raise slightly. Then another breeze raced along her feet and face. She opened her eyes and found herself wrapped not only in Angel's arms but in his wings as well. He shielded them both from the dropping temperature by awkwardly wrapping his pinions around them and Kristal felt overly privileged to be wrapped in such warmth, softness and perfection. She turned to face Angel, her emotions showing clearly in her eyes.
"I truly had a good time Kristal," there was warmth in his voice as he said her name and Kristal felt it reach her fingers and toes, "And I thank you." He leaned forward and gently placed his lips on hers.
Warmth flooded Kristal's body like a burst dam caught in slow motion and her mind once again slowed and focussed. She kissed him back with equal gentleness filled with a desperation to stay like this forever.
"I love you," Kristal whispered shortly after their lips parted, then buried her head in his chest, "God, how I love you."
"And I love you, Kristal," Angel said as he kissed her hair, "And I will only love you. You are the only one who has seen through my... gift, and befriended the man I am. For that I cannot repay you totally. All I can offer is my heart and the very being of my soul."
They stood for a long time wrapped in the warmth of Angels wings, neither knew how long nor did they care but soon the cold of night began to seep through the soft feathers. Silently they walked to the car side by side with Angels right wing around Kristal and his arm around her waist. There was a silent agreement that Angel drive them home and soon they were on the road.
"You know," Kristal said over the hum of the engine, "I'm lucky to be with you right now."
"How so?" Angel kept his eye on the road.
"Like I said earlier, all the girls at school would love to be in my position. I'm lucky because they all were too shy to actually do something about it."
"Unlike you," he smiled and laid his hand on hers but kept his eyes on the road.
Kristal squeezed Angels hand then leant over to lay her head on his shoulder, "I'm lucky to even get this chance to be away to be with you. I thought that neither the school nor your mum would agree, but I guess they too saw what I saw."
"And what did you see?" Angel said nuzzling her hair and taking in her fragrance.
"I saw a young man badly misunderstood and needing an escape from society's prejudice and pain," she squeezed his hand harder, but Angel said nothing so she continued, "I saw a young man that is as normal as any other, but blessed with a great gift. A gift that has given him a chance to show the world how special one can be. A gift that has given him someone that will never leave his side, someone that will love him through his life, no matter what."
"That is a lot to see for one as young and as beautiful as you." Angel wrapped his arm around her shoulders and gently squeezed. Kristal let out a sigh and drew closer to him. Then she closed her eyes satisfied to have had this night with him.
But then what? Would tomorrow continue as if nothing had happened? Would Angel be once again shunned and beaten? Would their love only show itself on this one special occasion and never again be seen by them or by the world?
Kristal opened her eyes, and if Angel had looked into her face at that moment he would have seen a silver twinkle in them. It was an idea that grew into a plan, and a plan that would soon grow into a commitment. Kristal's mind began to plan the first steps for the rest of both their lives. She formed ideas and solutions, then thought hard about what must be done for them to succeed. She was thinking so deeply she hardly noticed the light kiss on her temple from the man that she will live the rest of her life with. Tomorrow will start a new life for them both. Tomorrow everything is going to change.
For the better.