I Am No Prey by Amal Clare May 25, 2021

25-Freedom

"Where to?" I yelled over the wind. 

Even if Everard thought I was in the closet, the Commander wasn't going to take Daniel's absence as nothing. 

"Florence." 

I followed Daniel and he flew closer to the city before landing and putting Easton down. He gripped the kid's hand in a vise-like hold when Easton started looking everywhere, his lips forming an o as he tried to take everything in. 

"You can play tourist later." 

We walked down the street, trying to act normal. Daniel presumed the roll so well that for a moment I thought I was following the wrong person. 

He wrapped his other arm around my shoulders. "Act normal. Think this is a date." 

I heard the smirk in his voice without looking at him, because I was looking at the sky, waiting for Everard to pop out of nowhere. 

He tickled my waist and my gaze shot to his. "Don't do that!" I half laughed, half shrieked. 

He stopped. "Listen, as soon as Everard realizes you're gone, he's probably going to be looking at every security footage in the city. And he's good, he will eventually, sooner than later know we're in disguise, the only thing we can do is hide before he knows where we're going." 

He waved for a cab and quickly got in. Easton slid in after him and then I did. The seats had no backs, which made sense, but it was still surreal to be sitting in a car with no backs. After Daniel rapidly spoke to the driver in Italian, we were off. 

The cab driver drove like this was a video game and he was two. After half an hour of the sharp turns, speeding, and dizzy u-turns, we arrived at what I assumed was a train station. We piled, or more like fell out of the cab. Easton looked like he was going to lose whatever he had for the past week, I wasn't far off. Daniel looked completely fine. 

"Cerise, I need you to use your shadows to cover those cameras," he said, discreetly gesturing to a few cameras. Despite being groggy and nauseous, I did as he asked, and he ushered us to an alley beside the station. 

"Switching disguises," he said by way of explanation. 

He gave me the bag first and I went into the alley. As far as alleys went, this wasn't too disgusting, but I switched the brown wig for a blonde one pretty quickly and changed into a pencil skirt and voile blouse even quicker. I switched the sunglasses for simple, rectangle shaped glasses, and my flats for heels.

I came out and gave the bag to Daniel. When he came back, he was dressed in a slim cut, expensive looking suit and had a fake, neatly trimmed beard on. The sunglasses were gone. When Easton was done, he came out wearing overalls with a crisp white shirt at least two sizes too big underneath. He looked so uncomfortable I felt bad for him. 

"Come on." 

Daniel gave me a ring and slid it on my finger. "We're playing a family now, try not to get it to your head." He grinned. 

I rolled my eyes and noticed that he had a silver band on his finger. He wrapped his hand around my waist and we walked in like that. I placed a hand on Easton's shoulder, mainly to look the part and because he was looking everywhere so fast I was scared he was going to get lost.

After showing someone our tickets, we went to the terminal and sat on the leather seats. Again, there was no back. Daniel pulled Easton onto his lap. 

"I'm ten, not seven!" Easton whined and slid off. 

Daniel laughed and reached for my hand, twining our fingers. The look on his face told me that he wasn't acting this part. 

When someone spoke over the speakers that our train was here, we stood up and stood in line to get in. I assumed that this train station was for the rich because everyone I had seen was dressed in expensive looking clothes and the station was nothing like a normal bart. When we went in the train, the inside was fancy as well, plush leather seats, tables with glossy surfaces, and lights emitting a soft glow. 

With a hand on the small of my back, Daniel walked further down the hall to the second car of the train and led us to the second row of seats. 

"Are there cameras in the train?" I asked him. 

He shook his head. "No, and we're going straight to Florence, no stops, try to relax." 

The train started moving and Easton let out a "woah." A wave of anger rose in me at all he missed. As the minutes ticked by and the train sped up, the anger infinitesimally lessened. 

Eventually, he grew restless of gazing out the window and turned to me expectantly. 

"I'm bored, how much time till we reach?" 

Daniel answered for me since I had no clue. "Two hours." 

"Two hours!" he whined. "Why didn't you tell me? I would've brought books then, or my homework." 

"Homework?" 

He nodded. Daniel shook his head. "Let me introduce you to the wonderful world of video games." 

Easton eyes him warily and rolled his eyes. "I know what that is, you know, it's the twenty fourth century for a reason." 

Daniel pulled out his phone and handed it to him. "Great then, you can play as long as you don't break the thing. It's very important." 

Easton scrunched up his nose. "I'm going to find the PDF of my favorite book instead." 

Daniel shook his head again. "What has Michael done to you?" he asked in a mock grave tone, but he was grinning. 

Easton gave him a look. "Oh, that's all me." 

"Shame," he muttered. 

Easton gave him another one of his looks. I leaned against the window, watching the scenery outside. When Daniel wrapped his arms around me and I smelled his familiar scent I tried to not flinch, from guilt or something else, I didn't know. 

Eventually, I lulled to sleep, wondering what was going to happen now that I was gone from the base but stuck in the country unless I cut my wings and lost my powers. 

********

The sound of screeching woke me up. Groggily, I lifted my head and blinked my eyes. I had a crick in my neck from sleeping on Daniel's shoulder and my back hurt. I righted my glasses and patted down my wig. 

"We're finally here!" Easton cheered, and gave Daniel back his phone. 

Daniel glanced down. "You totally drained the battery to almost zero percent, that better have been a good book." 

"It was," Easton answered. "Except I'm not finished with it yet."

"Later kiddo," he said, and reached for the bag, filled with more costumes no doubt.

My thoughts were affirmed when he gave me the bag. 

"No cameras, bathroom's in the back. I would join you, but can't leave Easton alone," he whispered, his lips brushing the shell of my ear. 

I nodded jerkily and went to the back, hearing Easton mutter that he heard Daniel. 

The bathroom was, as expected, state of the art. If we had time, I probably would've opened the cabinets or paid closer detail, maybe even raid the small soap bars wrapped in artistic paper. Instead I changed my outfit, discarding the blonde wig, glasses, skirt and blouse for a black dress that barely reached my knees, a black wig, and I switched the simple black heels for stiletto ones. There were also contacts, and after a hassle of figuring out how to put them on, my eyes were no longer brown but a bright green. Figuring out what Daniel was up to, I worked on my makeup, covering my freckles, adding bright red lipstick, and smoky eyeliner. When I saw myself in the mirror, I didn't recognize myself. If Arabian Nights was the theme, I matched it perfectly with the mysterious eyes, dress, and wavy, black hair that was rumpled enough for me to look like I just got out of bed. Someone else's bed. The midnight black 'scales' on my face added to the look. I definitely didn't look like Cerise Sylvia Antoine. 

When I left the bathroom, the first thing Daniel's eyes landed on were my legs. His eyes made their slow inventory upward and I was beyond grateful that Easton was distracted with a spider he found. Daniel walked over and I thrust the bag at him. 

"Clock's ticking, we better hurry up." 

His eyes darkened, but he took the bag and went inside the bathroom. In far less time than I had taken, he came out dressed in black jeans, a shirt that defined his toned arms and body, and a leather jacket. He wore a blond wig and electric blue contacts. 

"Just how many costumes are we going to switch into?" 

"These are the last ones." 

He gave Easton the bag, and a few minutes later, he came out in jeans, a shirt with geometric features and a baseball hat. 

He gave the bag filled with our previous costumes to Daniel who chucked it under the seats. That was the third time he threw a bag somewhere. He planned the entire thing really well, considering that for every stop we made, there was a bag waiting. If anyone was monitoring the security cameras, looking for something to track us by, like a bag with the costumes, they would fail. 

No one gave us a second glance as we exited the train and then the station. Those who gave me- or rather, my legs- a second glance quickly looked away when Daniel glared at them. Outside, the sun was setting, turning the sky into a mix of bright yellows, oranges, reds, and pinks. With the rest of the scenery, everything was breathtaking and I would've stood there admiring it all if Daniel didn't call a taxi and usher Easton and me in. 

This taxi driver didn't have a death wish or want to murder his passengers because he drove at a normal, un-nauseating pace. Everywhere we passed, there were people wearing domino masks. Some were plain and simple, others with plumes of feathers and fire designs. It had to be in celebration of something. I wanted to ask Daniel, but the car stopped. We were parked in front of a motel. It looked old, the paint a faded color and one of the neon lights in the sign was blinking rapidly before it turned off completely. 

I got off the cab, and looked around. Wherever we were in Florence, it was a deserted area. The shops were closed, there were no cars, and no people. 

"Everyone's celebrating," Daniel explained when I gave him an inquisitors glance. 

Easton looked like he was about to drop as we made our way inside the motel. At one point, he started draping himself over the chairs and walls, waiting for Daniel to check in. Eventually, the receptionist handed over a plastic card and we took the elevator to the third floor. Daniel went to the room with number nine and slid the card in the slot. Easton stumbled in, barely making it to one of the bedrooms before he collapsed. Daniel winced and rubbed his neck. 

"I'll be right back." 

"So, how long are we staying here?" I asked him before he could leave. 

"We're leaving tomorrow morning for Venice." 

He gave me a quick smile before leaving. I went to the bedroom Easton crashed in, finding him flopped on the bed like a starfish, the tips of his wings touching the floor and his shoes still on. I pulled off his shoes and grabbed a blanket from the closet, draping it over him. Soles aching from the heels, I teetered to the master bedroom and sat on the bed, waiting for Daniel to come back and praying that he would bring spare, comfortable clothes for me to sleep in. 

Eventually, I heard the front door open and close. Daniel walked in the room, his hands behind his back and a grin on his face. Immediately, my curiosity was piqued. I stood up and walked over, trying to look behind his back. 

"Masks," he said, and showed me. 

There were two masks in his hand, both black, one more feminine looking than the other. He handed me that one. The frame was covered in silk and netting, black gems studded around it and feathers artfully placed. When I turned it, the light reflected off the gems, flashing, but not too bright or flashy. The netting gave it an almost daring, seductive look. 

"It's beautiful," I breathed. 

Daniel grinned and helped me put it on. When he was done, I reached over and helped him. I stepped back after we got it on and took in a breath. The mask was similar in design to mine, just without the gems and silk. But it was definitely more sultry, more daring, and framed his eyes perfectly. The look he gave me was nothing short of heated, and just as daring as the mask. 

He offered his hand and I took it, firmly deciding to keep any thoughts of Everard off my mind. It shouldn't have been hard, but it was. My stomach churned and bile rose in my throat again. Daniel grinned- the gesture feral and brazen-completely unaware of my internal conflicts. I smiled softly in return, trying to enjoy his company and the night. 

"Let's celebrate," he said as he opened the door and stepped out onto the hallway. "You're free now." 

"Free," I murmured, although was I, really?