Authors: Christa J. Kinde
Tags: #Retail, #Ages 11 & Up
“Well, now, that’s fine,” Harken pronounced with a wide smile. “I don’t know what’s in store any more than you do, but your decision brings me great joy.”
“Miss Priscilla, I, too …” Milo managed before his voice cracked. With his hand over his heart, he closed his eyes and smiled. The simple rapture of his expression made it difficult for Prissie to breathe, and tears prickled behind her eyelids. Meeting her gaze once more, he earnestly said, “I have been waiting.”
As Prissie fought to control her emotions, Harken stepped forward and asked, “What do you want to do, child?”
She sniffed and swallowed, then glanced Milo’s way. “You offered to introduce me to another angel. Let’s do that.”
“That’s easily arranged. I’d be pleased to do so.”
urque wrapped a hank of fair hair around his gnarled fist and yanked, forcing his kneeling captive’s head backward at a painful angle. “Let’s play a little game,” he said in ominously sweet tones. “We ask questions, and if you give us the right answers, you go free!”
A shudder ran through the pale-faced angel.
“Likes the sound of that,” Murque mocked, his gaze sliding towards his partner. “Ask him again.”
Dinge bared rotting teeth in the parody of a smile. “We know it’s close.”
Twisting cruelly so their prisoner hissed involuntarily, Murque licked his lips. “Close enough to taste.”
With a disgusted look at his partner for the interruption,
Dinge continued, “The way in is hidden, but you’ve been there. Where is it?”
The slender prisoner offered no response other than to close his eyes and endure the rough treatment.
Snarling in frustration, his captor flung him against the cave wall, and for a moment, green eyes flew wide, then rolled back as their helpless victim crumpled onto the stony ground. “Whoops,” Murque grunted, prodding the unconscious figure with his foot. “I wanted him awake for the next part. We found him such a nice, new home.”
“Just do it,” Dinge ordered.
Curling his lip disdainfully, Murque grabbed a fistful of raiment and dragged the limp angel to the edge of a gaping hole in the floor, then cast him into even deeper darkness.
Prissie felt drained, and her feet dragged all the way up the front walk and across the porch. Kicking off her sandals, she lined them up neatly under the bench, then deposited her library books on the shelf just inside the door before heading toward the kitchen. She knew she should probably change first, but right now, it was more important to nab a couple of gingersnaps from the cookie jar before her younger brothers devoured them.
Two steps past the kitchen threshold, she jerked to a stop and gaped at the boy sitting at the big table, shoveling pie into his mouth like there was no tomorrow.
“Slow down, young man,” Prissie’s grandmother chided.
“S’good,” he mumbled around his bite.
Grandma Nell placed a glass of milk next to his plate and moved back to the stove where dinner preparations were
underway. “Oh, my! You’re back, Prissie,” she greeted, nodding to their guest. “I have some exciting news! This is Koji.”
She could see that. The young angel was dressed in jeans and a T-shirt, and he wore a pair of high-top sneakers with the laces tucked in. His glossy black hair was tied back in a low ponytail, revealing ears that looked perfectly normal. Koji was bursting with excitement, and the smile he sent her was overflowing with happiness. “It is nice to meet you,” he declared before taking another bite of pie.
Prissie shook her head in confusion, but Grandma Nell was still talking. “I had a call from someone on the school board, and there was a last minute mix-up. They were arranging housing for a group of exchange students and something fell through, so they needed a spot to place young Koji here. Since there’s that extra bunk in with the little boys, I checked with your mother, and you know her — always room for one more!”
“I see… .”
Grandma nodded happily. “He’ll be in your grade at school, so you can help him find his way around, meet people, fit in.”
At the first opportunity, Prissie beckoned to Koji, and he followed her out back, where she sat down heavily on the porch swing. “I don’t understand,” she stated flatly.
The boy sat next to her and explained, “Even though I am very new, it has been decided that I should integrate. This will be so much better than watching from the outside!”
“So you’re going to be living here with me?”
She hardly knew what to think of the intrusion, but amazement didn’t even begin to cover it. “Don’t you think
you should have asked me first?” Prissie demanded, a touch of accusation sharpening her tone.
“I did,” he replied with a smile.
Prissie thought back and groaned softly. “
is the change in status you were talking about?”
“Yes!” Koji confirmed, practically beaming. “It is all thanks to you!”
She stood abruptly enough to give the swing a hefty shove, but Koji rode out the crooked rocking with poise. His dark eyes followed her retreat for several moments before he allowed his feet to do the same. As Prissie walked briskly down the path toward the apple barn, where harvesttime visitors could buy fruit, he trailed after.
Just beyond the a line of parking spots, a pair of crabapple trees with deep red leaves flanked a green gate. Prissie lifted the latch and started along the path beyond, which led to one of the loveliest places on their farm.
Originally, this spot was just a duck pond, but its beautification had been a father-daughter collaboration back when Ida was a girl. According to Jayce, his little sister had started it all by asking her daddy to build her a castle in the middle of their pond so that it could be the moat. Somehow, Grandpa Pete had convinced her to downscale her grand scheme to something more doable.
Together, they’d planned and planted — weeping willows, flowering shrubs, water lilies. Each year, they added something special, and its crowning glory was a footbridge that stretched over the pond at its narrowest point. The gracefully arching half-moon bridge was a popular spot for taking pictures, both for their family and for orchard visitors. A few local couples had even had their wedding photos taken there.
Aunt Ida had dubbed it their folly —Pomeroy’s Folly—after the architectural extravagances that English aristocrats added to their country estates in centuries past. The name didn’t mean it was foolish for Grandpa to have built such a thing; it simply meant that the bridge served no purpose but to be pretty.
Prissie didn’t stop walking until she reached the bridge’s highest point. Resting her elbows on the railing, she stared down at the hopeful ducks who paddled closer, looking for handouts. She showed them her empty hands, then stole a glance at her faithful shadow. Koji remained on the pond’s grassy bank, looking commonplace in his new clothes. She’d been slowly adjusting to the idea that he was an otherworldly being, but now that everyone in her family could see him too, she wasn’t sure how to act.
“Grandpa likes ducks,” she said, needing something to say.
Koji accepted this as an invitation to join her on the bridge and climbed toward her with shuffling steps. His movements were oddly clumsy, and Prissie realized that this was probably the first time he’d ever worn shoes. Although he was dressed like an ordinary boy, he
moving in here?” she asked again.
“Yes,” Koji patiently replied. “For a whole year, or at least through the upcoming school year, since I am an exchange student.”
a student!” Prissie protested. “You’re not even human.”
The angel’s brows knit together. “I
go to school before I was assigned here; even angels have to learn. I am simply transferring into your school. Shimron said I am the first Observer granted this privilege.”
“So for the next year, you’re giving up shiny clothes, pointy ears, invisibility, halos, flying, and whatever
angels do so you can take geometry and gym class?”
Koji tipped his head to one side. “I never
“That’s hardly the point!” she snapped. Almost immediately, she regretted her words, for the boy wilted. With a longsuffering sigh, she said, “I’m trying to understand. You
plan to become a part of my family and go to school like a normal kid?”
“Yes,” he replied cautiously, dark eyes pleading.
Was it possible for him to keep his secret? His ears had first tipped her off, but now she thought that Koji’s eyes would give him away. They were extraordinary. “And you’re excited about this?”
Prissie stared out over the water. “Can you see through walls or anything?”
“Super hearing with those ears of yours?”
He frowned slightly. “No.”
“So I can still have my privacy?”
“And you won’t come into my room without permission?”
“Agreed.” Koji smiled. “Now, we can talk without anyone thinking it is strange. They will see both of us, and they will know we are friends.”
Prissie relented. “Yes, I suppose they will. But what happened to your ears?”
“They are hidden. Do they look right?” Koji asked gravely, turning so she could inspect his altered features. “I thought Abner did a good job.”
“They look normal to me.” Reaching out, she touched the spot where the elfin point had been; it felt just as curved as it looked.
“Milo helped me with my clothing,” he added.
“You look fine,” she assured him.
“I cannot wait to learn more about being human!” Koji enthused. “There are
many questions I want to ask!”
“Be careful with that,” Prissie cautioned.
“If you ask weird questions, people will think you’re strange.”
Koji considered this carefully, then nodded. “I want to fit in like Harken and the others, so will you let me know if I do something odd? I have watched carefully, but there are many things I find difficult to understand.”
“I can do that,” Prissie agreed. “Are you nervous?”
nervous, but mostly excited.”
They turned back toward the house, walking slowly as they talked in hushed tones. “Grandma said you’ll be staying in the boys’ room, but you said before that angels don’t sleep,” Prissie pointed out. “What will you do all night?”
“Approximate,” he replied smugly. “I can lie down and close my eyes.”
“Won’t that be boring, though?”
“I can visit with Harken or one of the others at night.”
“We will share dreams.”
Prissie gave him a blank look. “How do you do
Koji shrugged. “I just do. I will ask Shimron; perhaps he can explain it more clearly.”
“You keep mentioning Shimron. Who is he exactly?”
have a lot of questions, too!” the angel laughed, earning an eye roll. “Shimron is an Observer like me. He is my mentor just like Harken is Milo’s mentor.”
“Do you guys always come in pairs?”
“That is right!” Koji nodded approvingly. “You are being observant, too.”
“Two by two,” Prissie mused aloud. “Are there lots of other kinds of angels?”
“Lots,” Koji agreed, then listed, “Messengers, Guardians, Protectors. Of course, there are proper names for the orders. Malakim, haderim, cherubim — each has their function, and rank is based on aptitude and experience. We work together.”
“That’s pretty interesting,” she admitted.
As they reached the steps to the back porch, Koji touched her arm. “I do have something very important to ask you.”
“Will you teach me how to tie my shoes?” he whispered urgently.
At dinner that night, Jayce Pomeroy unintentionally dropped a bombshell when he announced, “I’m bringing on another part-timer at the bakery; he’ll start next week.”
“Has business picked up that much?” asked Grandpa Pete.
Jayce fiddled with his butter knife. “It’s not so much that I
the help. The boy wants to give the bakery business a try, and I’m in a position to give him a chance.”
“How old is he?” Momma asked.
“Fifteen,” he replied. “We’ll take the rest of the summer to get acquainted, and he’ll switch to after school and weekends once September hits.”
“Who’s the guy?” Neil asked around a mouthful of mashed potatoes.
“He’s a local boy, though he lives across town; his name’s Ransom.”
Prissie’s head snapped up. “Ransom Pavlos?”
“That’s right,” Jayce smiled.
!” his daughter exclaimed.
His brows lifted in surprise. “Why not?”
“Because …” she spluttered, searching for words. “Because he’s
Glances were exchanged around the table before Jayce calmly replied, “Could you be more specific?”
Ransom,” Prissie explained. “He’s been in my homeroom class for two years in a row, and he’s got long, moppy hair and sideburns, and he wears those baggy pants.”
“You can hardly expect me to turn the boy away because you don’t approve of his hairstyle,” her father replied. “It took courage for him to approach me like he did.”
“He’s the head of a gang!”
“A gang!” Grandma Nell exclaimed. “In our town?”
“Well, he and his friends look like trouble,” Prissie amended sourly. “I wouldn’t trust any of them.”
“You sure hiring that boy is worth the risk?” Grandpa Pete asked, and Prissie shot him a smile, grateful for his support.
“Aw, Prissie, Ransom ain’t so bad,” Neil drawled.
“Isn’t,” Momma quietly corrected.
running with the wrong crowds,” Neil defended. “His ‘gang’ is on the football team. Nice enough guys. Never woulda taken Ransom for the cupcake type, though.”
“Cupcake type?” Jayce echoed with a chuckle. “Should I be offended?”
Neil just grinned and took a long swig of milk, giving Prissie the chance to interject, “But he’s terrible! He’s always mouthing off!”
“To the teachers?” Momma asked worriedly.
!” Prissie wailed.
Neil snorted into his glass, and Jayce laughed outright. Grandpa had to hide a smile behind his napkin, and Grandma chuckled quietly. Prissie looked to Momma for support, but Naomi only smiled and gently shook her head.
Jayce held up his hands to restore order. “I appreciate your concerns. However, I’ll make my
judgments of the boy’s character once we’ve spent more time together. That’s that.”