Freak of Nature
The screen door slammed behind Kate as she stomped into the summer night, her frustrated growl trailing like a plume of noxious diesel exhaust. “Don’t you understand I just want to be left alone?” she muttered as she made her way to the treehouse, the gravity of the big oak pulling her in the right direction.
She put her hands on the ladder, then shrugged and pulled the back of her tank top down. Nobody could see out here, and it felt good to fly. Her wings, the source of her adolescent embarrassment, unfurled and she rose through the darkness and foliage into the tree house. She alit and sat cross-legged, looking teary-eyed over the endless rooftops; the new moon allowed a few stars to force themselves through suburbia’s glow.
After a minute, the screen door opened and closed again. Kate heard footsteps approach, pause, approach.
“Kate?” her dad’s voice carried up from below. “You okay?”
No, I’m not okay, I’m a freak of nature! she thought to herself. Aloud she said “Yeah.”
“Sweetie… listen. I know it’s rough on you. But… I’m here. If you ever want to talk about anything, and I mean anything. I promise, I’ll do my best to just listen. Okay?”
Kate heaved a dramatic sigh. “Yeah. Okay.” It must have been enough, because Dad turned and went back inside.
“That would be a conversation from Hell, daddy-oh,” she muttered. “You can’t possibly have a freeking clue what I have to deal with.”
“Maybe not, but he wants to understand,” a voice came from behind her.
Kate gasped and spun around, poised for flight. “Who’s that?” she rasped. “Mom?” That would be so unfair, Mom flying up here to continue the argument, but Kate wouldn’t put it past her. Then again, Mom hadn’t ever come up here that she knew of.
“Not Faye. She’s still inside. Trying to decide what to say.”
“Aunt Morgan? When did you get here?”
“Just now, dear.” Aunt Morgan rarely visited, but Kate felt closer to her than her own immediate family these days anyway. “I understand you’re going through a tough time of life.”
Kate sighed and sat. “Oh God, Auntie, you have no idea…” then she stopped. Like Kate, her mom and aunt were both what they called Enchanted Ones, and what Kate called freaks of nature — with wings and the ability to fly — and they had to be going on thirteen once themselves, didn’t they?
“I do know,” said Aunt Morgan. “That’s why I came. Your mom and dad don’t know I’m here yet, and that’s fine because I came to see you.”
“I want to show you something. Will you come with me?”
“Sure. Where’s your car?”
“We don’t need a car for this. Just…” Aunt Morgan’s wings whirred for a moment.
“Oh, don’t worry. It’s a new moon night, and nobody will ever see us. Even if they do… well, people are good at not seeing things. Come.” Aunt Morgan took her hand and lifted out of the treehouse. Kate followed without thinking much about it; as much as she hated her otherness, it felt good to fly and she’d resisted it for so long.
After a few minutes, the ground below them opened up and Kate realized they were over the Balsam Grove golf course. Daddy liked to come here on weekends to, as he said with a laugh, “hit a few balls in the water.” Aunt Morgan flashed a light in her free hand, and Kate nearly fell when a response flickered from a copse off to their left. They veered that way and alit on the ground at the edge of the trees.
A woman approached, first shining the light upon herself and then the ground between them. Aunt Morgan did the same with her own light, and the woman looked surprised then bowed. “Lady Morgan,” she said, “it’s an honor. What brings you here to grace us with your presence?”
“This is my niece, Kate Parr,” said Aunt Morgan. “She’s one of us, and it’s long since time she was brought into the fold.”
“I bid you welcome, Kate Parr,” said the other.
“What is this place?”
“This is a grove of the Enchanted Ones,” said her aunt. “We gather on new moon nights to talk, play, and not hide our otherness.”
As the sounds of chatter and high-pitched laughter came from above, Kate turned to her aunt. “Why did Mom never tell me about this?”
“Your mother…” Aunt Morgan sighed. “She’s always looking for just the right moment, letting the good-enough moments slip by. That’s why you nearly gave your dad a heart attack when you flew out of the treehouse on your eighth birthday.” She giggled, a most un-Morgan sound. “I wish I’d been there to see it!”
“Kate?” She turned to the new voice — a light shone in her face, then turned on itself, and there was Heather Smith from school! “Ohmygod, Kate, I never knew — you seemed so normal at school!”
Heather didn’t have a chance to respond — in moments, Kate was surrounded by girls, many of whom she knew from school. They clustered around her, chattering. “Is Lady Morgan really your aunt? That makes you royalty!” “Your wings are so beautiful!” “How did you hide so well?” “I thought you were normal!” “You must hang out with us when school starts back!”
That word, normal, rung in Kate’s ears, nearly drowning out the chatter of her new friends. She looked around — “Hey, aren’t there any boys here?”
A wave of giggles and laughs washed over her. “All the Enchanted Ones are girls!” one of them said. “Boys never are. With girls it’s fifty-fifty. We all got lucky!”
Kate startled, then smiled. “Lucky. Yeah.” Suddenly, normal didn’t seem all that attractive anymore.
Aunt Morgan always gave the best presents.