Chapter 10, Part 1
“Will this be painful?” Caleb asked the uniformed Army nurse, eyeing the needle hovering above his arm.
“Excruciatingly,” the nurse dead-panned.
“You’ll be fine, Caleb.” Cassie rubbed the bandage over her arm, taking a seat in the swiveling chair by the exam table. Dr. Braxton had asked them if they would mind giving some blood for tests. They’d agreed and promptly set up a buddy system. Sam and Abby would stick together, and Cassie took the almost hyperventilating Caleb.
“You’re Josh’s brother, right?” the nurse asked. Caleb opened one eye and nodded. “He told us about you. Said you were pretty tough.”
“Well, I don’t think he ever saw me around needles,” Caleb said. He took a deep breath and straightened his arm out. “Remember me fondly,” he told Cassie. She only rolled her eyes. The nurse chuckled and stuck the needle into Caleb’s arm. He let out an unmanly whimper and turned an alarming shade of white.
“Almost done,” the nurse hastily filled a few vials labeled with Caleb’s name and an ID number. He wrapped a bandage around Caleb’s arm and instructed him to lay down and propped his feet up.
“You OK?” Cassie tried not to laugh.
“I don’t appreciate your judgment,” Caleb waved a hand in her direction. “Not all of us have nerves of steel.”
“Says the strong man.”
“You know I’ve noticed that the stronger they are…” the nurse left off. Cassie smirked again and Caleb pursed his lips to hide a laugh.
“Everybody’s picking on me. I’m a sensitive fourteen year old. You’ll give me an identity crisis, you know,” he said.
Cassie patted his shoulder. “Sure, buddy.” She gave him a hand to help him sit up.
Caleb leaned over on his knees and looked to where the nurse peeled off his sterile gloves. “What’s next? You need to take a limb or something?”
The nurse laughed. “You’re done for now. You need some crackers before you leave?”
Caleb took a deep breath and shook his head. “I think I’m fine.” He saluted the soldier who returned it with a wink.
“I won’t tell anyone,” he told Caleb.
They left the room and met up with Sam. Abby was perched on his back, a sucker clutched in her hand.
“How’d it go?” Cassie asked.
“I cried,” Abby admitted.
“Only a little,” Sam kindly clarified.
“It’s OK. I almost passed out.” Caleb sheepishly grinned. “I didn’t get candy. I feel gypped.”
“We had a really nice lady,” Abby told him. “Can I eat this?” she asked Cassie.
Cassie checked her watch. It was close enough to lunch. “Sure.”
Abby beamed and popped it in her mouth. The others wandered off in search of lunch. They had been given free reign of the kitchen, something they hadn’t had in a long time. Cassie wasn’t hungry yet, so she went exploring. At least, she intended to. Once she set foot outside, the hot summer sun and pure blue sky called to her and her wings trembled under her shirt. Not stopping to think, she darted back upstairs, stopping only in her room to throw on a new tanktop. She took the stairs to the third floor and from there the half-hidden stair well in the northwest corner that led to the roof.
She hadn’t been up here yet and was surprised to see some battered lawn chairs surrounding a portable fire pit. Other than that, most of the roof was smooth concrete. An oversized antenna wobbled in the breeze on the northeast corner. She turned her gaze from the roof to the expanse of land that surrounded Camp Lawton. It was a landscape of browns, reds, and greens. From the roof, she could see for miles over the low hills, gullies, and clusters of mesquite bushes.
The sun caressed her brown skin and she closed her eyes against its glare as her wings unfolded themselves. She’d hardly used them before. Did she dare? She flapped several times, barely lifting her feet off the ground and sending a wind around the roof that stirred the dust and precariously wobbled a chair. She beat stronger, lifting a little further. The wind ceased as she touched back down and walked toward the edge of the roof.
She gained her footing on the shallow ledge around the edge and looked down. Mistake. Her stomach flopped nervously and her palms seemed sweatier than they had a moment ago. She’d never been too fond of heights. Which is stupid, since I have wings. A gust of wind sent her wobbling, but her wings instinctively steadied her. The movement brought back the memories of every other time she’d tried to fly. They hadn’t gone so well. But I should try again, right? That’s what Dad always said. Try until you get it right.
“Just step off,” Cassie softly told herself, but her feet refused to move. Maybe I can just try landing on the ground. Hopefully with my legs intact. Again, her body stayed right where it was. Hopeless! I’m completely useless. Maybe Braxton can get rid of them.
She shakily sat down on the ledge, but left her wings open. The sunlight was turning them a deeper shade of gold and the wind ruffled the feathers in a calming motion. This is as close as I’ll ever get to flying. I can’t take the step. But at least I can get used to heights. She stayed on the ledge, willing herself to look down at the ground below. Everything was clear and sharply focused. Two guards paced around the fence. One controlled a dog’s leash; a German shepherd. Her Mom had always wanted one. She looked closer at the dog and to her extreme surprise, it got larger.
“What the…?” She tore her focus away and when she dared to look back, the dog was its normal size. Cassie summoned up the courage to experiment. Her “zoom eyes” as she spontaneously dubbed them, only worked on objects within 1000 ft. 304.8 meters. She’d always been good at unit conversions, but this was effortless. Movement well outside the compound caught her attention. It was only a gopher rummaging around the base of a mesquite bush. How on earth can I see that? That’s 5975 feet away. 9615 kilometers. She stopped before her mind could tell her every conversion.
“This’ll be fun to explain,” she murmured. Only to her family though. She wasn’t so sure she wanted anyone else in camp knowing. Not yet.
Happy New Year to everyone!! I’m sure you will be glad to hear that a New Year’s resolution of mine is to keep a better schedule at posting. 😛