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Like the Sun
“Are you ready for this?” Icarus asks his best friend, gripping her hand tightly in his and curling his toes on the rim of the cliff.
“As ready as Persephone is to go stay in hell for half a year. Are you?”
“What do you think?”
Kyra turns her gaze up to the sun and then glances back at her best friend.
She takes a deep breath and holds onto his hand like his fingers are the only things keeping her afloat in the sea of her doubt.
“We go in three…two…ONE!”
They leap up off the edge of the cliffs, hand in hand, toward the sun.
“Hey, Icarus, look at this one! It has purple in it!”
“Nice. That will look good on the wings. If we can find more.”
“Where there is one, there is more. A bird has more than one feather on its body. Or did you not know that?” Kyra smirked at Icarus and placed the feather in the basket she carried.
Icarus smiled at her and rolled his eyes. “Who is the bird specialist around here?”
“That’s what I thought.” Kyra shaded her eyes with her hand and stared upwards at the sun. The giant glowing orb had halted its ascent at the very top of the sky, baking the earth and the people below it. Kyra’s fair skin tingled with the heat.
Her best friend dropped down and laid on his back in the soft, green grass, his long arms stretched out to either side of him. His curly brown hair looked golden from where she was still standing. From his spot on the grass, he looked up at her then patted the ground beside him. She rolled her eyes at him and plopped into the grass, her purple and blue dress fanning out to cover the tips of his outstretched fingers.
Icarus tugged on the hem of her gown until she laid down next to him, shoulder to shoulder.
“What is up with you today?” she asked him as she watched a large fluffy cloud skitter across the pale blue, almost white, sky.
“What do you mean?”
“Just…this.” She held up their hands, which had been joined without her notice.
Icarus rolled over onto his side and looked at her with eyes so green they resembled the cut emeralds in her mother’s diadem. “Ya know, we have been ‘betrothed’ since we were little kids, right?”
“How could I forget?” Kyra had to physically yank her gaze from Icarus’. Even though they had been best friends from practically the moment of their birth, he still had no idea that she had been imagining their combined future for the past nine years. “My mother has talked of nothing but our inevitable marriage since I became of age to marry. Six years ago.” She removed her suddenly sweaty hand from his, not wanting to make things awkward with her wet hands. Kyra’s mother had constantly been pushing for Icarus and Kyra to get married. Neither one of them had been ready for that kind of step. They had an easy friendship; his outgoing, people-friendly personality created a perfect balance for her shy-but-caring type. She had dark features that complemented his light ones; her dark brown hair and hazel eyes created a gorgeous contrast between his green eyes and cinnamon colored hair.
For an odd moment, as she gazed up at the clear sky, she saw Icarus’ hand hover over her cheek. She was certain that he would touch her but he moved away and flopped back into the grass beside her.
“We are going to get married someday.” He mumbled as he watched birds wheeling high above them.
“What was that?” Kyra had heard him perfectly. She wanted him to say it again.
“We need to get back. We have work to do.” He moved to his feet like liquid light and Kyra admired his grace, a grace that she had never, and would never possess. Icarus held his hand out to her and she took it, loving the way her soft palms rasped over his callused ones. They peered over the side of the cliffs where they had dived so many years ago before heading back down the path towards the city.
They jump straight up and Icarus stretches out the fingertips of his free hand, straining towards the rays of gilded sunlight that seem to be just outside of his reach.
Kyra grips his hand and feels the air rush past her, whipping her hair back from her face. The glittering blue water gleams up at her, inviting her in with its cool, calm waters; a shelter from the oppressive heat of the day.
Icarus laughs wildly for a moment.
The water envelopes the flying pair in an instant, swallowing them like some great beast welcomes its prey into its hungry maw.
“Open the door! It has been days! Open the door now or… I will never come back!” Kyra slammed her fist into the door, pleading with her best friend. He had been working on a so-called ‘new design’ that he didn’t want to show her just yet for the past week.
The monolithic wooden door creaked open and Icarus’ tired eyes peered back at her. “Oh, such worthless threats.” He grinned at her, his grin showing that he knew that she would never leave him, and motioned her into the cool room, bowing as she passed him. “Your Majesty, pardon my humble abode.”
Empty plates were stacked everywhere and crumpled balls of paper were tossed about haphazardly. Kyra headed straight for the tidy table at the center of the room, and scrutinized the paper spread out in front of her. Her breath caught in her throat. He had spent so much time, time away from her, sketching two different, simple pairs of wings.
The wings were ordinary, sparrow-like. Words were written around them in Icarus’ messy scrawl, some hardly legible. “THIS is what you have spent all of your time on?!” Kyra gestured to the paper in front of her, outraged at the obscene amount of time spent on ridiculous drawings.
“No, Kyra. I have been building, too.” He took her by the wrist and led her to a dark corner.
Stretched on a low work table were the sets of wings shown on the paper. Glossy black and purple feathers were held to sturdy wooden frames by globs of creamy wax, one frame larger than the other. Kyra immediately reached out to touch the feathers, feeling the silky strands beneath her palms. “You did it.” She breathed, hardly daring herself to hope.
Kyra’s head breaks the surface of the water first. She coughs out lung-fulls of bitter, salty sea water. Her gaze swivels back and forth as she looks for Icarus. When she can’t find him, she begins to scream, a long, almost inhuman note that seems to soar to the top of the cliffs and carries back to her on the breeze, finding no other ear to rest in.
She floats there, never willing to leave her best friend, dreading the swim back to the beach that now looks desolate instead of serene. Something touches her ankle, a brief touch, light as a feather or a soft kiss. Her instincts tell her to paddle with all the force she possesses towards the shore and she attempts just that.
Before she can get more than a few feet, a mysterious hand latches fully onto her ankle. Icarus.
Her hands search for him and yank him up by the front of his shirt.
He coughs out tepid water and gives her a glittering smile before paddling for the rocky beach.
“I am very skeptical about this. I just thought I should tell you that.” Kyra stood with her hands on her hips, her long, bare toes gripped the hard gravel of the cliffs.
“Ya gotta have faith, Sunny.” He winked and flapped his arms at her, the wood and feathered structure strapped to his back fanning her hair from her face. Icarus had affectionately given her the name when they were younger. Her name meant ‘like the sun,’ though her mood was dark.
“If we die, I am going to make Cerberus eat you slowly for the rest of eternity.”
Kyra watched the waves below them crash to the shore. Her pulse beat against her skull in a rhythm that matched the waves. Her fear threatened to swallow her; not fear for herself, fear for Icarus. Her dreams the night before had been terrible and she did not want them to come true before her eyes.
“Come on, Sunny. It is going to work. It HAS to work.” His gaze traveled across the unthreatening blue landscape. Nothing could shake him from his decision.
Kyra took one step back from the edge and fluttered her own pair of wings, feeling like a mythological creature. She watched Icarus testing the direction of the wind, the speed of the breeze, the temperature. Icarus looked back at her.
“You aren’t going to back out on me are you? Make me do this by myself?”
Truthfully, she had thought of tearing her wings from her back and sprinting down to the city, safe from the crazy ravings of the boy she was in love with. Her heart could never take that though, and she found herself pulled towards the boy on the cliffs testing his homemade wings.
She fluttered her own wine-colored wings. “You know I could never leave you alone.” Her fingers reached for his and she nodded her head once, her feet finding purchase on the stony edge.
“We are going to reach for the sun in three…two…ONE!”
He had gotten it right; Kyra’s wings caught a current of air and instead of spiraling into the depths below, they rose higher and higher.
Icarus’ face could have melted ice, he looked so ecstatic. Her face betrayed her own delight at feeling the most awesome sense of weightlessness. She fluttered her arms just slightly and she sailed upwards, coming ever closer to the golden disk of the sun. Icarus spun above her, a great raven in the heavens.
Kyra gazed down at the water and was amazed at the clarity of it. She watched fish swim below her before turning her face towards the sun. Her eyes followed Icarus as he glided through the clouds, soaring ever nearer the sun.
She was content for a long while. Then Kyra noticed something. As Icarus drew nearer the sun, and she flew below him, always the one to keep her feet close to the ground, she noticed drops of molten wax dripping past her. Feathers spun past her on the breeze.
“ICARUS!” She screamed at the top of her lungs, flapping her artificial wings as hard as she possibly could to get to him. As she watched and desperately tried to reach him, his wings disintegrated, the sun melting the wax and singeing the wood frame. Feathers rained down on her in slow motion, like rain freezing before it hits the ground.
Nothing held Icarus in the air now. She watched helplessly as his body hung in the air like a string-less marionette, an imaginary puppeteer pulling invisible strings. A force that she couldn’t see grabbed his body and pulled him down, fast, past her, towards the waiting maw of the dark ocean. Kyra pulled her arms into her sides, collapsing her wings to make her own plummet faster.
He didn’t scream as he fell. He hit the water like a boulder crashing down a mountainside, his limbs splaying out in a way that made panic well inside her chest, make her breath feel sucked from her body, her lungs constrict in on themselves. She braced herself for impact with the opaque water, straining to keep the place where Icarus had crashed in sight.
The water caught her in its embrace and she fought to free herself from the wings that dragged her down instead of lifted her. Still with her head under the waves, she glimpsed her wings drifting away from her into sea.
All Kyra could see when she broke the surface was a feathered landscape. A trail led straight to Icarus’ limp body, his skin singed and bleeding, his legs at odd angles. Her arm wrapped around his chest and she started to paddle directly for a gnarled tree growing into the sand. His weight made every breath painful, but she wouldn’t let him go, ever.
Her arms cramped and her eyes burned with salt as she continued on. The shore grew incrementally closer until sand slipped under her toes and she was able to grasp her footing. Kyra began to run now, knowing that in his injured state, water had probably forced itself between Icarus’ parched lips and into his chest. Carefully she laid him on the beach and opened his cracked lips, breathing into his mouth until her own lungs ached. She hammered at his chest with her hands until water streamed down his cheeks and into the sand. His eyes reeled in their sockets, seeking something.
Kyra knelt by his head, swallowing all of her fears so as to keep her thoughts clean.
“Sunny,” Icarus murmured.
“I’m right here, right here.”
His clenched fist found her hands and dropped a crushed black feather onto her palm.
“You idiot,” she gasped out as tears leaked out of the corners of her eyes.
“You still love me right?” Icarus’ charred skin split around a slight smile, his eyes gleaming up at her.
Robbed of the ability to speak, Kyra could only nod her head, crying still.
“Good. I can’t live without sunshine.” He took a deep shuddering breath and coughed up more brackish water. “Help me up?”
“No, no! Lie still! I’m not going anywhere. Ever.” Kyra smoothed a lock of his wet hair from his forehead.
“Stay here.” He whispered, his strength nearly gone.
Kyra nodded her head vigorously and swiped at her cheeks. She couldn’t tell if her palms were wet from sea water or her own tears. Her gaze roved to the cliffs and the rocky path that wound up through vast walls of granite, leading to the sanctuary of the city. There was no possible way that she could drag Icarus all the way there without hurting him further. Of the ideas that miraculously popped into her head, only two she would even consider: waiting for help to come to them or heading up the path to get help by herself. The latter of the two she nixed in the space of a heartbeat. She settled into the sand, her fingers in his, to wait.
“Kyra…” Icarus murmured.
“Will you marry me? I don’t want to wait for our parents to decide things. We are getting married, not them.” His face was now twisted with a mix of pain and determination.
She laughed then. He looked so serious and she knew that he was serious about the whole thing. He did want to marry her. “You already know that answer.” Gently Kyra leaned over and pressed her lips to his burnt cheek.
Her heart couldn’t bear to hope at that moment, though, as her eyes wandered to his beaten form.
A commotion sounded just down the beach. From her vantage point, she could see a crew of four fishermen, pulling in their boat and attempting to haul their day’s catch to shore. Kyra jumped to her feet and raced towards them.
“Oh, please help us! Help!” she shouted at the men.
The men turned towards her and she knew that all they could see was a crazy, wet girl with feathers in her hair running around on the beach.
“My fiancé. He…he had an accident. Please, I need help getting him back to the city. He’s hurt very badly and I can’t get him up there myself.” She found that she had started to cry.
The men never said anything other than a few muffled “yes, we will help you”s. Kyra led them back to Icarus who had drifted into unconsciousness from pain and shock. Kyra’s didn’t know what to do other than reach for Icarus’ hand and hold his long fingers tightly in her grasp, her an anchor in the storm of her fear.
Icarus woke soon after the men had taken him to the infirmary, though he didn’t seem to see anything around him. The doctors attended to great burn marks that covered his skin and the mess of his broken leg. They asked questions that Kyra was not comfortable answering. She wished to keep that day’s occurrences secret. All through the long nigh that Icarus silently wept in pain, she savored his words, locking them up inside her ears, hearing his voice repeating them back to her.
Sometime, in the middle of the night, Icarus fully woke up. Kyra hadn’t been able to sleep; she had been praying to any and all gods that would listen, praying with her lips and her soul for Icarus to live through the night.
Tiny streaks of light filtered through the doorway, lighting up Icarus’ face.
“Hey, sunshine.” Icarus whispered.