“I’m fine,” Frederica said.
“Really?” Magh said. “Because you look upset.”
“I said I’m fine!” Frederica snapped.
Magh recoiled, almost as if she’d been physically struck. Frederica opened her mouth to apologize, but something stopped her. Instead, they sat in silence for the rest of the lecture. They didn’t speak again until they were on their way to the next class. And even then, they stuck to small talk.
“What do you feel like doing for lunch?” Frederica said on their way out of the second class.
“I, um, actually have other plans,” Magh said. “The editors of the Review invited me to eat with them.”
“Oh,” Frederica said. “Okay.”
“I can cancel if you want.”
“No, no, you earned this. Go have fun.”
“Thanks,” Magh said. “See you later.”
She scurried across campus. Frederica stayed put a while, weighing her options. She could call Tommy. She could call Nila. Or she could just eat alone. Instead, she took off into the sky.
Floating half a kilometer above the city, everything seemed so simple. Like, if she stared at the flow of traffic long enough, the patterns of humanity would reveal themselves to her. But nothing was ever that easy.
She closed her eyes and drifted on her back awhile, feeling the sun on her face, breathing the thinner but cleaner air. She started to lose track of time, until a gust of wind blew over her and she heard the flutter of wings.
Frederica instinctively tried to sit up but instead threw herself into a spin. The city and the sky whipped around her dizzyingly fast. She felt hands on her shoulders, steadying her, and she looked up into a pair of pale blue eyes.
“Sorry,” the voice said. “Didn’t mean to startle you.”
She saw him, held aloft by a pair of brilliant red wings, and she saw herself, reflected in his mind. She saw what he saw when he looked at her, felt what he felt… and she kind of liked it. Then she fell.