A pair of calloused hands seized my translucent wings, and I cried out. A bitter stench invaded my nostrils as he traced the pattern on my right wing. I winced at the sight of the webbing in his black wings, beating against the air currents.
“If only I had the mind to rip these useless things from you.” He leaned in, cupping my chin. “Put you out of your misery. Then she wouldn’t spare you a second glance.”
I shook my head, pulling away as his wings faltered, making him drop down in the air. Mine fluttered, keeping me afloat in the air as I straightened them out. Once he righted himself, he met me in the air again, striking me with a current of his own. The blast of air pummeled me, sending me to the ground. I held my arms out, landing on them first to cushion the blow to my wings. I screamed as the fall sent me sprawling in the dirt, slicing my wings through.
“How unfortunate. Here, let me help you fix those.” He swooped down, landing on top of me.
“Vesper, don’t, please!” I tried to hold him away, clawing at his wings.
He hauled me up, turned me around, and shoved me to the ground, planting his knees on my back. “I’m just doing you a favor. Wings like yours deserve to be crushed like insects.”
I flailed, kicking out at Vesper as he struggled to get a grip of my wings.
“They’ll get stronger, Vesper. I need time.”
His fingers laced themselves in the tears, clamping down on them. “Too late.” With one quick motion, he shredded the body of my wings, leaving nothing but the pencil-thin skeleton.
Screams tore from my throat as he took off, using my body as a launching pad. Tears streamed down my face as I rolled to my side, taking one part of the skeleton between my fingers. I sobbed as I caught sight of the waxy tatters Vesper had left behind.
I whimpered as the air picked up around me, and I rolled back on my stomach, clenching my fists. “Just hurry up and finish, Vesper.”
A hand touched my shoulder, tracing fingers over the exposed bones. I flinched, and a pair of feathered wings drew themselves around me.
“Let me do all the work, Alectra.” Arms folded around me, lifting me up off the ground. “Try to relax your body.”
“How could you even bear to look at me, Mira. I must look like a disgrace to you.” I tried to turn my head, but she pressed it down into her shoulder.
“The only disgrace is that flying rat who did this to you.”
“He wanted to make sure you’d never want me.” I reached up to trace wings no longer there. “And now you won’t. How could you love a wingless creature like me?”
Mira placed a kiss to my forehead. “I’ve always loved you, my Glasswing.”
“Why me? Wouldn’t you rather have someone who could keep up with you?”
Mira carried me over the valley, following the river path. “You’d be surprised the secrets wings like these could keep. You never had anything to hide.”
I shivered as the air prickled at my bones, wrapping my arms around myself. Mira’s wings created a shield as she lowered us to the ground.
“Vesper wouldn’t dare try to reach us up here. You’re safe now.”
I cringed at his name, turning to Mira’s home atop the highest mountain in the valley. Stone peeked out from the covered of snow, and I trembled as the wind bit into my skin. Mira led me inside, sitting me down in the den by the fire.
“We’ll have to do something about these.” She motioned to the bones draping down from my shoulder blades.
I reached up, twisted them in my hands as I hissed. Mira caught my hand and yanked it away, staring at me.
“I never meant for you to harm yourself, hold on.”
I opened my mouth to protest, but Mira had already gotten up, disappearing down a hallway at the other end of the den. She returned with an oak box, setting it down in front of me.
“Close your eyes and take my hand.” She rested her left hand on my thigh as I sat cross-legged in front of the fire.
I laced my fingers with her and squeezed my eyes shut. Feathers caressed my cheeks and my arms as they moved. Soon my thin skeleton weighed down. I reached up to adjust it, but Mira stopped me.
“Not yet, just a moment longer.”
I winced as the extra weight bore down on the thin bones. Then, it settled, and I slumped backward. Mira guided my fingers to trace the feathers closest to my shoulders.
“Do you know how much I’ve always loved your wings?”
She leaned in close. “I hope that’s not all you’ve loved.”
Heat rose in my cheeks. “Of course not I-”
Her lips touched mine, letting the sentence hang in the air. Mira tilted my head back so my eyes would meet hers, and she smiled. She gestured for me to turn, and I gasped at the sight of white feathers gracing the bones that’d hung empty from my shoulders.
“Mira, how did you-?”
“All in the name, my little Glasswing.” She paused, tracing the feathers that’d once been hers. “I supposed I can’t call you that anymore.”
I stood and turned back to her, stumbling with the foreign weight. Mira held me steady, and I wrapped my arms around, willing my body to adjust and encompass her with my new wings.
“Darling will work just as well.”
With that, my lips met hers once more as we lifted from the ground, wrapped in each other’s feathered wings.