There were some weights that were carried for so long one forgot they were there. Some terrors became so ingrained it slid deep into bone and nested with no intention of ever leaving. All of the weight, the terror, the deep certainty that her fate was sealed, left so suddenly Marcelina was nearly catatonic.

The news had first come in two days ago, but no one had believed it. How could she, of all people, believe it? For most of her life she’d waited for the president dictator to come and kill her. Or send people to collect her so he might kill her in the comfort of his own office. However he would do it, she knew he would kill her.

Except now the unthinkable had happened. The rebels had killed him. Jory had been summoned to the governor’s office early in the morning and Marcelina had paced around the house. She hadn’t even commented on Dosia sneaking out the back door. Off to meet Atefeh, or so she assumed.

Marcelina still thought her daughter too young to form an attachment. She was only thirteen. Jory laughed as she fretted. He’d told her last time that at least Dosia would not be getting pregnant. Which had worried Marcelina even more. Surely they were too young for sex?

Today she couldn’t even fret about her daughter. Eventually, after three hours of frantic pacing, she gave up and began to clean house. It was not dirty enough to distract her for long. Well, it could have been dirty enough, but she was a poor judge. There were no rats eating crumbs off the carpet or spiders as large as her head. So, it was clean enough. Jory and Dosia were better housekeepers than her and she was happy to leave them to the work.

By noon she gave up and went flying. Winter was approaching and the higher she went the colder she felt. The shock to her skin was a welcome sensation as she’d felt quite numb since the news had arrived. Marcelina lost track of time as she chased the wind. The few birds in the sky she left to their lives. There was no reason to bother them.

A glint of light caught her eye in the trees. She tried to orient herself, but was high enough it was harder than she expected. Sure it was the city park a few miles from home she began to drop lower and investigate. It could be someone in trouble. Some of the trees were high and kids had been trapped in the branches before.

Marcelina didn’t know why she veered off, but she heard the sound of a gun a second later. Over a decade out of combat, but some things one remembered. She was happy to learn that truth. Because there was another gunshot. She missed her time with the rebels right about then since she would have had a comm to call for help.

On her own, she dove lower and considered her options. She might be able to fly higher. Except, unsure of where the gun was she could be flying right into their sights. The same concern applied to getting away.

Although, the truth of it was, she wanted to go after the person. All of her pent up anxiety over the news she’d received was unleashed as fury. Marcelina said nothing, made no noise but the beat of her large wings as she altered her course and dove down towards the glint of metal in the treetops.

The next gunshot hit her, but Marcelina only clapped a hand over the hole in her arm and continued. With any luck, the gunshots would have been heard and someone would alert the authorities. So, she only had to get the gun away and turn over whomever the possibly dead president dictator had sent after her.

Branches whipped against her skin and forced her to pull her wings in tight. Fingers grabbed for any branch and she caught one before she fell through the canopy to the ground. Marcelina panted and shifted her fingers to grip the branch tighter as her head whipped back and forth to try to find her target.

“How easy you made this.”

“I knew you weren’t dead.”

“Yes, you’re a clever girl. Hanging by your fingers. Blood dripping. No one to call for help, Miss Mencher.”

“It’s Couch, you bastard.”

“Does it matter?”

“You faked your death to come kill me? Is being a supreme leader so dull?”

“I’m surprised, Miss Mencher. I expected an insult.”

“I’ve grown up. I save the insults for when it matters.”

“And I don’t matter?”


“Good bye, Miss Mencher. One final promise to keep.”

“Good bye.”

The gun, raised to her chest, wavered.

“No final insult? Really, Miss Mencher. So disappointed. How I’ve looked forward to his for so long.”

“I’ve no idea why. I was a child. Trying to protect her beloved brother. You’ve taken it too personally all these years.”

“You don’t hate me?”

“Of course I do. Don’t be an idiot. You murdered my brother. You tried to murder me. You sent the man I love off to be killed. I despise you. But all these years…I stopped thinking of killing you and only wanted to be left alone.”


“I’m full of it.”

“Do you want to close your eyes?”


“Not entirely weak.”

“Oh, for the love of anything. Will you shut up?”

A gunshot made her fingers loosen and she felt a fresh pain. A branch jabbed against her wing and she cried out before nearly losing her grip. She stayed hanging until she realized what she saw. The now truly dead president dictator fell from his perch in his tree.

Marcelina struggled to hold on, but cold seeped into her fingers until she fell a few seconds later. The ground was hard and she screamed as she felt her leg bend the wrong way. The same leg, she thought with a hysterical laugh. She’d broken the same leg again. And she was bleeding from a gunshot wound. And she worried about the way one wing felt. She’d never broken one before.

So, she stayed where she was and waited for, something. She didn’t know what. Eventually, it was shorter than she’d thought she found out later, someone found her.


Her head lifted up. Jory was here. Well, good. He held a gun. Well, of course he did.

“You killed him.”

It was not a question.

“Are you angry it wasn’t you?”

Was she? She’d sworn since they first met she would kill the president dictator. So, she didn’t answer right away. Instead, she laid in the grass under the trees and bled. It wasn’t until she heard others, and Jory shouted their location, that she had her answer.

“How could I be angry at you, Jory Couch? You always do what’s right. Even if you’re the scary one.”

“Who said that?”

“Can I pass out first? And then tell you later?”

“Of course, Marcelina Couch. You know you can do anything you want and it’s ok by me.”