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Where I Live (Part 5)
When I woke up, I was in my apartment, on my bed. Tally was lying on my stomach and I put a hand underneath her to steady her as I sat up. Standing up slowly, I rubbed the back of my head and found no injuries which surprised me. I got up quietly and walked to the door. When I looked out into the living room, I saw the Bird, sitting backwards in my desk chair, doing something with my laptop, his back to me. Brilliant white wings stuck out of the back of shirt, hanging in what looked like a relaxed position.
I stood up silently and paused, wondering what he was doing.
His wings twitched up a little and he straightened up in the chair. “Does your head feel all right?”
I could have sworn I felt my jaw dislocate it dropped so far. “Y-You . . . You talked?”
He nodded once.
“Does that mean . . . you remember?”
He paused. “Yes and no. I’m not an invalid anymore, if that’s what you’re asking. I remember a lot of things.” He sighed and slumped forward again. “But nothing about myself . . . nothing about who or what I am or where I came from. . .”
I regained my composure and walked forward, putting a comforting hand on his shoulder. “I’m sorry. I wish I could help.”
He pointed to the computer screen. “I did manage to find out that I have amnesia.”
“Wait . . .” If he remembers other stuff . . . does he still remember when I brought him home? I felt my cheeks turning a deep red.
He looked up at me and smiled. “I can guess what that look is for. And yes, I still remember that. Don’t worry, I won’t say anything. . .” The smile faded. “I wanted to thank you for what you did for me. . . But I wanted to ask . . . when you found me you called me something . . . a bird of some sort.”
“A Bird of Prey. . . It’s not really a bird it’s . . . well, it’s a group of people that all have these.” I put a hand on one of his wings. He made a small, high-pitched noise that sounded like a yelp and his wings twitched. I pulled my hand back.
“Don’t do that.” He gave a quick little shiver.
“What? What’d I do?”
I tried to hold back a laugh and mostly failed. “Sorry. I don’t normally get this close to Birds of Prey.”
“Why is that?”
“Because . . . well . . . it would take a while to explain.”
He paused and looked up at me. “I’ve got nowhere to go.”
Feeling a little guilty for some reason, I took a deep breath and sat down on the couch. “I might not know everything about Birds of Prey or Wolves,” I paused when he gave me a blank look, “Think of the guy that was trying to kill me.” He nodded once. “Okay, so I might not know everything about those two groups, but I’ll explain the best I can, so bear with me.”
“Anything you know is a lot better than what I do.”
I nodded slowly and started talking. For almost two hours, I explained to him about Jungle Cats, Wolves, Birds of Prey, humans and Hunters, trying to explain as much to him as I knew. It was hard and a few times I had to stop and think for a while, then continue. He sat there the whole time, occasionally asking questions but otherwise staying quiet, taking everything in.
When I was finished, I flopped onto my back and rubbed my eyes. “That was harder than I thought it would be.”
He said nothing.
After a while, the silence grew awkward and I sat up to see him sitting with his legs pulled up against his chest, wings folded around him so they covered everything but the very top of his head.
“What’s wrong?” I stood up and walked in front of him.
He didn’t move, was hiding his face from me, his wings creating a barrier between us. “You put yourself at risk for me . . . even though you’re supposed to hate me. . . Why? Why did you do it?”
“I don’t . . . I’m not sure. . . I just . . .” I turned and walked to the window. “I never understood why I was supposed to hate Birds of Prey or Wolves on just general principle. I mean . . . if they did something to me personally that led to me hating them . . . I think I’d be okay if it happened like that. . . But hating someone just because they’re not a Jungle Cat, just because they’re different . . . it doesn’t make sense to me. . . I’ve only told my parents this once. . . They thought I was joking. . . My whole family and every Jungle Cat I know feel animosity towards Wolves and Birds of Prey, but I don’t. And I’m starting to wonder . . . if I really know how I feel.
“Sometimes, when I’m fighting with Ran, I wonder. . . Will it ever stop? Will we ever stop fighting? Will he ever give up? Or some day . . . will I have to kill him . . . before he kills me first. . . I think he’d do it. . . I don’t know if I can. . . I don’t want to. . . And then I met you. . . You were just lying there, looking so helpless, so hurt. . . And when I found out you couldn’t remember anything . . . I knew I couldn’t just leave you there, even if it meant facing the everyday worry of being found out. . . You had nowhere to go and no way to defend yourself. If a Hunter . . . or even just a Cat or Wolf found you . . . they probably would have finished you off. . . I didn’t want that to happen because of me.”
I heard soft footsteps and turned to see him almost to the door, wings tucked in, pulling on a jacket. “Where are you going?”
He stopped with his hand almost on the door knob. “I don’t want to do this to you. . . I don’t want you to get punished because of me.”
I shook my head slowly, giving him a harsh gaze. “And if you leave you’ll only make my efforts in vain. If anyone I know actually comes here, they’ll know you were here. I can’t completely cover up your scent so if you’re not here and they know you were here before they’ll probably track you down. I’d still get in deep trouble and you wouldn’t even be here.”
His hand dropped to his side and he looked to his left, avoiding my eyes.
“Now get back in here and take the jacket off.”
He took a few steps deeper into the living room. “Why?”
“Because if you don’t have a jacket than it will be a bigger chance of someone seeing your wings, which means you can’t run out of here when I’m not looking.” I walked around behind him and pulled the jacket off. “Now sit back, relax and tell me what you want for lunch.”
He sat down on the couch and moved his shoulders for a second, then unfurled his wings, bending them enough that he didn’t knock anything over. Then he sat there with his beautiful white wings out, leaning forward with his elbows on his knees. I can’t believe I just thought that. Beautiful wings . . . I have to learn to keep my thoughts under control.
“No requests?” I asked from the kitchen.
“Not really.” He said quietly. “I don’t even know what I like.”
“Well . . . can’t go wrong with pizza, I guess.”
He didn’t say anything else so I set the oven to preheat and walked back out into the living room. He had his right wing curled around in front of him so I couldn’t see his face, but his wing and arms were moving a little.
“What are you doing?” I asked curiously.
He lowered his wing just enough to look at me, then raised it again. “I don’t know what in the world happened to me . . . but it seriously messed up these feathers. There’s a lot that are just loose and hanging there and some that are all messed up. . . I’m trying to fix them.”
“Here, sit on the floor.” I gave him a little push so he moved off the couch, then sat behind him.
“What are you doing?” He tried to look over his shoulder.
“I’m helping.” I gave a low whistle. “Man, you did mess these up.”
“It wasn’t my fault. . . Well, at least, I don’t think it was.”
I ran my fingers down the back of his wing, close to his shoulders, straightening out the feathers. A few were just kind of sitting there and I wondered how they hadn’t fallen off already, but, as I so intriguingly found out, there was more than one layer and type of feathers and the loose ones got caught in the rest. After a minute or so, he shifted so he was sitting cross-legged and rested his elbows on his knees.
I paused when he gave a little gasp. “What?”
“Nothing.” He said quietly.
“Did I hurt you?”
He shook his head. “That one was still attached.” I started to move my hands away. “I-It’s all right. . . You can keep going . . . if you want.”
I got the feeling from the way he’d said it that he wanted me to keep going. I wondered vaguely how it felt as I pulled another loose feather off of him. I thought back to how it felt when Mom used to run her hands through my hair. I guessed it was kind of similar to what I was doing for Ethan and for me it had been a comforting feeling. I decided that, though it was kind of weird, I would do this for him. He needed all the comfort he could get. I couldn’t even begin to imagine what it would be like not to remember yourself.
When I reached the very end of his right wing – which was about six and a half feet in length – about ten minutes had passed. I moved on to the left wing without asking. When I got about halfway down that one, I saw that he was leaning back against the couch. His eyes were closed.
I didn’t stop preening – which, admittedly, was a weird thought – as I looked up at him. “Falling asleep on me?”
He nodded slowly. “Pretty much.”
“Did I just get cheated into giving you a massage?”
He smiled lopsidedly but didn’t open his eyes. “You offered. . . Although you didn’t really ask, you just kinda told me to move.”
I couldn’t help but smile as I stood up. “I have to go put the pizza in the oven. You can reach the insides of your wings so now you’re on your own.”
“Aw, that’s no fun.”
I walked into the kitchen and put the frozen pizza on a cookie sheet, then stuck it in the oven, careful not to burn myself. Setting the timer for twenty-one minutes, I washed my hands before walking back out into the living room, went around his wings and flopped down on the couch.
“Do you remember your name even?” I asked tactlessly, not knowing how else to say it.
He shook his head, then winced as he pulled out a feather. “Nope.”
“Well, then . . .” I got up, walked over to the desk and sat down in front of my laptop. “We’ve got to figure something out. Unless you just want me to call you Bird Boy.”
He gave a small glare with no force behind it and tucked his wings in as he walked up behind me. “What are you going to do?”
“First . . .” I stood back up again, “I’m going to do something that requires you to turn around.” I made a little turning motion with my finger and he put his back to me. When I was sure he wasn’t looking, I pulled my pants about halfway down my thighs, and then pulled them back up, carefully threading my tail through a hole in the back of them. “There, you can turn around.” I sat back down, “That was starting to get really uncomfortable. And so is this.” I slipped my hat off and tossed it on the floor. “Now then . . . back to business.” I felt my tail just barely brush against his leg as it swung back and forth in a normal motion that had become as unconscious as breathing.
“So what . . . what are you doing?”
“Going to a baby names website. . . I have an idea. . . Here,” I typed in a name and found the meaning. “I’ve always liked this one . . . It means strong, firm and impetuous.”
“What’s impetuous mean?”
“Um . . .” I opened another window and Googled it. “It means impulsive, reckless . . . blah blah blah blah. Opinions?”
“Ethan . . . I don’t know. . . Sounds fine to me, I guess.”
He paused. “I’m not staring. How could you even tell if I was staring, you’re back is to me.”
“Yes, but when you talk you sound distracted. I guessed that you were staring.” I leaned back with my left arm on the back of the chair and looked up at him with a smile. “Was I right?”
His cheeks turned red and he looked away from me.
“I’ll take that as a yes. Now, if you hadn’t hit your head then the tail wouldn’t seem all that strange to you, just like how I didn’t freak out when I saw your wings. Although,” I reached down and picked a feather off the floor. “They are kinda pretty.”
To my amusement, that just made him blush more.
I tucked the feather into my hair so it rested on my ear, the soft part sticking forward. “So are you going to be able to start responding to Ethan?”
He shrugged, unfurled his wings again and lay down on his stomach on the couch, one wing bent over the back and one hanging limp on the floor. He buried his face in a pillow. “It might take some getting used to.”
“Well . . . I’m gonna go get the pizza. Don’t suffocate yourself while I’m gone.”
He waved a dismissive hand at me and then let it flop back down onto the couch. Chuckling lightly, I walked into the kitchen and searched for an oven mitt for a few minutes, waiting for the timer to go off. When it did, I reached in with the mitt and pulled the pizza out. Once I had set the pizza on top of the stove and turned the oven off, I got a couple plates out, set them on the counter and walked back out into the living room.
“Ethan?” I whispered quietly.
He kept his face down and his hands clenched around the pillow. “Your cat . . . is killing me.”
I looked at his back where Tally was lying contentedly, kneading his left wing. I put a hand over my mouth and tried my best not to laugh.
“Ow . . . Ow . . . Ow . . . Ow . . .” Ethan said quietly, voice still muffled by the pillow.
“Why don’t you sit up? She’ll roll right off.”
“But I don’t want to disturb her. . . And if she wasn’t using her claws – ow! – I would be fine.”
“Tally?” She looked at me. “No claws.”
She blinked at me, then sheathed her claws, rested her head back down and continued kneading. Ethan’s hands relaxed and he looked at me. “Did you just . . . Did you just talk to your cat?”
“Yes, and you can talk to birds and the Wolves can talk to dogs.”
“Then why are they called Wolves?”
“Because wolves are part of the dog family . . . and it sounds better than the Dogs.”
“Good point.” He put his head back down. “That feels kinda good now.”
“Two massages in one day.” I shook my head with a smile. “You’re just a charmer, aren’t you?”
He gave a short laugh that was almost a scoff. “Sure.”
I sighed and walked over, picking Tally up. “Come on, off to the bedroom with you.”
When I came back from my room, Ethan had already pulled his wings in and was on the floor, picking up the feathers that were lying there.
He glanced up at me. “This is probably a little gross, isn’t it? Leaving these lying around.”
“Hey, at least I know where they came from . . . and that they’re clean.” I bent down to help him and a couple minutes later we had finished. I threw them away in my bedroom trash can.
After we had finished eating, I realized how boring it was, just the two of us doing nothing. Then, I thought of something.
“Hey, Ethan, I have an idea.” I said, getting my hat and slipping it on. He quickly turned his back on me and I pulled my pants down, then hid my tail in the leg as I pulled them back up. “Here, put this on.”
I tossed a jacket at him and he caught it though it came over his head from behind. “Why?” He asked as he slipped one arm into the sleeve.
“We’re going out.”
“It’s a surprise.”
“I’m starting not to like surprises. Like when dog boy tried to eat me.”
“He wasn’t going to eat you. . . He was just . . . going to . . . kill you.” I added quickly. “Now come on, let’s go.”
I grabbed his wrist and pulled him out the door, locking it behind us. Then, I led him down the street. He kept asking where we were going but I refused to tell him and when we got to the library, he just stood there, staring up at where the old, unused towers were. I had always loved how the library had a castle-like look to it.
“Come on!” I said with a smile, dragging him forward. When we got inside, I took him back to the chairs I normally used and sat him down. “Wait here.”
He started to protest, but I turned my back and walked away. As I searched for the book I wanted to show him, I took a peek at him every few seconds. He looked nervous and a little edgy but stayed seated and stared at his lap almost the whole time.
When I finally found the book and went back, I sat down right next to him. “Most of the stuff in here is wrong, but it might help a little.” I set the book in his lap and opened it to the third page. “See? It’s what some people think they found out about Birds of Prey. . . There are others on Jungle Cats and Wolves and some on all three, but like I said, most of the stuff in here people only think they know.”
He nodded and started reading almost instantly. Thinking about things with information like the book made me think of Ty Lan and I slumped back against the chair with a sigh.
Ethan looked up slowly from the book. “Is something wrong?”
“The last time I looked at something like this – a website, actually – I found pictures of a . . . a Jungle Cat. . . Not just stupid little sketches, actual pictures. I thought the areas around his wrists looked photo shopped and I knew that no Cat would ever just stand there and let a human – or anyone other than a Cat he knew – take pictures of him.” I took a deep breath. “So I took it to my dad. He thought the area around his hand looked photo shopped too.” He looked a little confused. “All Jungle Cats have excellent eyesight.” He nodded and waited for me to continue. “Dad’s been making calls, talking to contacts. . . I was looking for him all of last night, before I found you. And we’ve been looking together since this morning. . . I can’t believe myself. He lives on the floor above me. I never noticed he was there . . . didn’t hear when the Hunter came for him. . . I don’t deserve to be called a Jungle Cat.”
“No,” He whispered quietly, “The Jungle Cats don’t deserve you.”
I jerked a little straighter and looked at him. He wouldn’t meet my gaze. “Ethan . . .” I looked down at my lap. “Kryn.”
He paused. “What?”
“My name is . . . Kryn.”
“Oh . . . I guess I didn’t ask.”
“And in all the excitement I forgot to tell you.”
He nodded slowly and looked back at the book. I sat quietly for a long time as he read and curled up in the chair, making sure the bottoms of my shoes didn’t touch the material. I was running on only a little sleep and decided to rest my eyes for a few minutes.