"It's all right," Padgett said distractedly. "You may take your brother into your confidence."
"Then yes. Koji's an angel too."
"Figures." Beau gestured to Padgett and Milo. "But as far as I can tell, the only ones here are you, me, and them."
The worst of the mailman's wounds had been cared for, and the Caretaker had maneuvered Milo onto the floor so he could put away his wings for him. With deft motions, Padgett traced his fingers along the Messenger's shoulders and back, coaxing the billowing blue light into the unique pattern that contained an angel's furled wings. Finishing one side, he glanced up. "Take the basin, Prissie. And be careful. It's heavy."
She obeyed, taking the bowl that seemed to be filled with liquid light; it steamed lightly and smelled spicy. Arching his brows, Beau asked, "How many angels do you see, Sis?"
"Five. But there's probably more."
"And how long have you been seeing angels?"
Prissie hugged the basin to her chest and managed a weak smile for Lavi. "For a while. It's a long story."
"Tell me later?"
She nodded, and Beau returned to Milo's side. His wings were almost completely furled now, so the blue light was fading, but a second basin of water sat beside Padgett, a match for her own. Their warm glow was more than enough to see by.
Walking slowly so she wouldn't slosh the precious liquid, Prissie returned to Koji's side. He beckoned for her to join him on the floor. "You will support Ephron. I will wash him."
The young Observer took charge. Pushing aside some of the clutter on the floor, he laid out her blanket. "Sit here, against the wall. You will support him the same way Taweel held Tamaes when he was injured. Remember?"
She nodded and took her place. With a little scooting and shuffling, Ephron lay limply in the circle of her arms, his head resting on her shoulder. For so long, he'd been nothing more than a name that put shadows in the eyes of her friends. Now, he was a solid someone whose suffering was all the more real in its aftermath.
When Koji straightened Ephron's legs, the injured Observer whined softly.
"I am sorry," Koji whispered.
Prissie was sorry too, but she couldn't say the words. Tears that she'd been holding back for what felt like forever blurred her vision. She wished for wings so she could wrap them around this angel and ease his pain. Wasn't she partially to blame for Ephron's prolonged captivity? If she'd prayed sooner, would he have been spared weeks or even months of torture?
Uneven tufts of flaxen hair brushed Prissie's cheek as Ephron shook his head. "Do not apologize. I am grateful." Fragile-looking hands found the arms locked around his chest, and he hung onto her. "More than I can express."
Koji took the folded cloth resting in the warm water, and pressed it to Ephron's cheek. "Should I remove the bandages?"
"Carefully," Padgett replied from across the room. "I'll be with you shortly."
As the strips of raiment binding Ephron's eyes fell away, Koji noticed Prissie's confusion and softly explained, "Ephron is blind."
Prissie closed her eyes, not wanting to see what lay beneath the bandages. Sick at heart. Sick to her stomach. She hid her face in the disarray of Ephron's hair and tried to focus on the scent of spices that perfumed the water. It occurred to her that if the basin was warm enough to steam in a room now exposed to the elements, she should have been freezing. After some thought, she realized that while she was aware that it was cold, she wasn't uncomfortable. This was probably how it was for angels, and she was grateful that Padgett had extended their unique senses to her. Otherwise, her teeth would have been chattering by now.
A soft whirr of wings brought her out of her thoughts, and she looked up, expecting to see Lavi. But Omri stood on her shoulder; his small hands patted affectionately at her cheeks, brushing away the traces of her own tears. "If you're here, Taweel must be close."
"On the roof," Koji confirmed. Glancing up, he announced, "Jedrick is here."
Heavy footfalls sounded overhead, and Prissie looked up in time to see Jedrick toss aside some loose boards and shingles in order to widen one of the gaps. The Flight captain dropped into the room, bringing a wash of green light as his wings draped loosely behind him. Crouching beside Ephron, he said, "Here you are."
Lifting his face, the Observer answered, "I am here."
Jedrick's hand dropped to Ephron's shoulder. "Your name is still under my hand."
"I know it."
"I wish I could have protected you from all you suffered," the cherubim confessed. "Forgive me?"
"There is nothing to forgive, Captain. I am grateful to be under your wing once more."
"Amen and amen."
The matter was dealt with so simply. A straightforward apology. Immediate forgiveness. Prissie wasn't sure she could have done the same if, for instance, Margery were to say the whole Elise thing was a big mistake. Could people go back? Ephron certainly couldn't. He was blind. Unless the Caretakers were able to fix that for him. Weren't they capable of miracles?
"May I take your place?"
Prissie blinked up at Jedrick, then loosened her hold on Ephron. "Please do. Your wings will work better than mine."
The tall warrior blinked back. "Prissie Pomeroy, humans do not have wings."
Ephron actually smiled. "Have you no imagination, Captain? Many have wished for wings, but few for such n.o.ble reasons."
Jedrick lifted away the Observer as if he weighed no more than a feather, practically coc.o.o.ning him in the folds of his wings. Prissie stood and brushed off her skirt as Padgett joined them. Koji wrung out his cloth and draped it on the edge of their basin, then stood beside her. His fingers brushed the back of her hand, and she caught at it, grateful to still have someone to hold onto.
"Sis?" Beau sat against the wall on the other side of the room, his eyes wide and his hair wild. Milo reclined against him in much the same way she'd been holding Ephron, and it looked as if her brother was holding on for dear life. "You're not talking to yourself," he said, the lift of his brows making the statement a question.
"No. Two more angels just came in," she reported.
Just then, a shaky hand lifted, covering Beau's. "There's nothing to fear," the Messenger murmured. "Or did I cover that part already? I'm a little foggy on the details."
"Milo!" Beau's arms tightened, and tears splashed down his cheeks. When he found his voice, he said, "If Zeke ever finds out you can fly, he'll never give you a moment's rest."
Their mailman's low chuckle was reassuringly familiar. "Some things are best kept secret."
"Yeah. I can do that much." Beau's face creased with concern. "Wish I could do more."
Milo's gaze drifted from Prissie to Koji, then back to Beau. "Given the circumstances, I think it's safe to assume there will be more."
About the Author.
CHRISTA KINDE Head in the clouds. Feet on the ground. Heart in the story. Christa Kinde is a cheerful homebody whose imagination takes her to new places with every passing day. Making her home between misty mornings and br.i.m.m.i.n.g bookshelves in Southern California, she keeps her lively family close and her trusty laptop closer. Christa has been writing for more than a decade, producing numerous workbooks and study guides for Max Lucado, John MacArthur, and Women of Faith.
The story continues at ChristaKinde.com, with bonus material and more.
Also by Christa Kinde.
The Threshold Series.
The Blue Door (Book One).
The Hidden Deep (Book Two).
The Broken Window (Book Three).
The Broken Window.