Sara was back in South Dakota. Back home where demons and angels did not exist except in myth and legend. Where Lisa was still her best friend and all she had to worry about was whether or not Jimmy Malak would finally find the courage and ask her to the spring fling. Lisa was pretty sure hell had not frozen over yet. Sara still had hope. Lisa could never understand what she saw in Jimmy. Sure he wasn’t the captain of the football team, but under those dark rimmed glasses were the prettiest blue eyes Sara had ever seen. And even though he was tall enough and built well enough to play football, he had told her that those kinds of sports were just not his thing. He preferred hand to hand combat, the bow and arrow, swordplay. Somehow that was just so…hot!
Sara shook her head to clear those thoughts away. She never used the word hot to describe people. It just seemed so demeaning. Jimmy was much more than that. He was kind, gentle, always there when she needed help, and as she thought about it that was kind of strange. In school she was not one of the popular kids. Keeping more to herself, Sara read her books, worked in her parent’s small jewelry shop, where her mom made jewelry from the Black Hills gold that locals brought in. Her dad was in charge of the business end of things. They were by no means rich, but they were not poor either. After she helped in the store after school, Sara went home to take care of her little brother until Mom and Dad came home.
Then something happened that would turn Sara’s world so dark she never thought she would see daylight again.
Her mom was diagnosed with cancer.
It was a rare type of cancer they had never heard of before. One the doctor’s had not found a means to fight. For the next six months, Sara watched helplessly as her mother wasted away and her family started to fall apart. Her dad grew more despondent, spending more and more time at the hospital than at the store. Todd, her little brother, started getting into fights. His grades went from straight A’s to F’s. Even Lisa stopped coming around as much. Sara could not blame her. The atmosphere around her family had turned decidedly negative.
The one surprise in all this was Jimmy. At school, instead of avoiding her as all the other kids did, he would ask Sara how she was doing, if she needed any help, someone to talk to. Apparently he had gone through something similar before he moved to their little town, so understood all too well what she was feeling. Her anger, her fear and most of all the need for someone else to be strong and not judge her for her weakness as he held her while she wept.
Sara thanked him and told him as gently as she could that she was fine. He need not worry about her. What she wanted say was she did not want anyone’s pity. She could see it everywhere she looked. In the faces of the townspeople, the teachers, the kids, and she hated it.
Her world was falling apart and she wanted to scream at the injustice of it all. What had her mother done to deserve this? She was a kind gentle beautiful soul who would go out of her way to help a homeless person who had no food or warm clothing, even when money was tight. Why was she made to suffer when there were so many others in this world that deserved her fate?
Whenever Sara thought that last, it would shock her out of her anger. No one deserved what her mother was going through. The pain, the slowly wilting of her body and soul as the cancer ate away at them. Only Jimmy seemed to understand, and he never gave up on Sara. In the end, he started doing those things around the house that her father would usually take care of without asking. Things Jimmy knew Sara could not do. And she let him.
One day, Sara came home to find Jimmy out at the barn helping Todd fix his mountain bike. Their dad was at the hospital where he had taken to spending the nights, only coming home to shower and change into a fresh pair of clothes before heading back to watch the love of his life wilt away piece by piece. Todd had asked him numerous times to help him fix it, and their dad always promised he would, but it never happened.
As Sara watched Jimmy and Todd, she saw something she thought she would never see again. Todd smiling. It brought a smile to her lips and eased the pain that she was losing that wonderful caring boy that was her brother to the same monster that was slowly eating away at her mother.
When Jimmy turned and saw her watching them, his smile softening into something much more intimate. It was then Sara knew he was in love with her, but Sara was not ready for any kind of commitment. When his smile and eyes turned sad, she realized that he knew this. He had always known and yet he was still here. Somehow he would always be here, and instead of frightening her it soothed her.
Then that awful day came when her mother was no longer with them. Sara’s dad was crying uncontrollably at the hospital bedside. Todd stood behind him, one hand on his back, his tears streaming down his face. He looked so lost. Sara stood staring at her mother’s peaceful face, trying to keep a hold of the memory of her last smile. It was so full of warmth and love, and now she was gone. She could not be gone. Sara was not ready for her to be gone.
Suddenly Sara could not be in that room a moment longer. With Todd yelling after her to come back, Sara ran out of the room, out of the hospital, not knowing where she was going and not caring. Along the street, people called after her wanting to know what was wrong, some guessing and standing in silence as they watched the broken girl race past. Knowing there was nothing they could do or say to ease the pain.
When Sara finally stopped, she found herself outside of town in the middle of a field where there was an enormous oak tree. The Oak was hundreds of years old with the initials of lovers and sweethearts of past and present carved into its vast trunk. Her parent’s initials were among them, but Sara was not interested in love. She was too angry at the world, at God, to care about anything but the pain in her chest that was taking her breath away. Looking up at the barren branches of earily spring, she did the only thing she could think of. She screamed. She screamed out all the anger, the anguish, the unfairness of it all, and when she was out of breath she pulled in more air and screamed again.
“Why?!” Sara screamed at the heavens. “What did she ever do to deserve this? Why did you take her from us? Why?”
The last was said through the tears she could no longer stop.
“Sara?” an aching familiar voice called softly, unsure of his welcome.
Sara closed her eyes and tilted her face to the sky, not wanting him to see her this way. She was the strong one. She could not show weakness or that last thread that held what was left of her world together would crumble, and everything would be lost.
Tentatively his fingertips touched her shoulder and she was suddenly in his arms, her face buried in his chest as she clung to him, sobbing uncontrollably.
“I’m here,” Jimmy soothed, one arm tightly around her while the other hand gently stroked her hair, his lips on the top of her head. “I will always be here.”
Then something incredibly soft enveloped her and….
Sara’s eyes snapped opened. “Gideon,” she breathed.
The arms around her tightened in response to her sudden movement.
“Careful, lassie,” a voice gently admonished. “I would’na want to drop you.”
Sara looked up to see the big red-headed angel smiling at her as he held her, one arm under her knees, the other around her torso. Not Jimmy. Or was it Gideon? Where was she?
Frowning, she looked around her. They were high in the hazy red air flying towards what looked like a rock wall. Around them were other angels, all looking warily at their surroundings as if they were expecting an attack. Definitely not the field where the oak tree was. It was a moment of her mind playing catch-up before she remembered she was in the Hell realm being saved by angels while being hunted by demons. At the moment, Sara was not sure which scenario was worse. Her memory of the past, or the reality she was now in.
“Where are we?” Sara asked, careful only to move her head. The last thing she wanted was to be dropped. Last time was not a pleasant experience.
“We are going to some sort of secret gate Damien said is not widely known to the others in this realm. Apparently it’s unguarded,” he answered the disbelief thick in his voice. Like the others, he did not trust Damien. Sara supposed that was only natural since they were on opposite sides of a war that had been waging since the beginning of time.
Looking around again, she realized there were a few missing, including Damien.
“Where are the others?” she asked afraid of the answer.
“Michel, Loghan and Damien went after Gideon,” he answered.
Sara gaped at him. “They can’t! Do you know where he is? If they go in there they won’t come back out!”
They had reached the wall and found a narrow cliff to land on.
“He said the doorway would be around here, but I don’t see or feel it,” Aitan said searching the rock with his hand.
“I knew we should’na have trusted him,” the angel carrying Sara grumbled as he set her on her feet.
“Despite how you feel about Damien, he would not do anything to harm Sara,” Talon assured his voice tense with pain.
“I told you it was too soon to fly,” Adalrik admonished. Sara turned to see Talon leaning against the wall, pale and sweating. Adalrik moved behind Talon, taking his injured wing in his hands. After a moment Talon sighed in relief.
“You have a magic touch, my friend,” Talon sighed moving his wing with more ease.
Adalrik snorted. “Magic touch or not, you need to stay off that wing for another day,” he snapped.
“And since when has he ever listen to you?” another smirked.
Sara did not even look at the new speaker. Her sole interest was the fact that Damien was walking into a trap and they were taking her out of here without Gideon.
“We can’t leave yet,” she announced storming up to Talon who frowned at her. “We can’t leave Gideon behind.”
“Michel and Loghan are capable enough to extract him. Right now you are our priority. We need to leave this realm before something else goes wrong.”
“Too late,” Aitan rumbled pulling his sword from his back, his eyes on something behind Sara.
“Shit,” someone hissed.
The fact an angel swore, which Sara always thought was a no no, fled her consciousness when she turned to see what was coming at them. The sky was black with winged demons. Shit did not even cover it.
“Well I will have’ta admit, lassie, life around you has never been dreary,” the red-head grinned unhooking his mace from his belt, his eyes never leaving the horde filling the sky.
“The good news is the castle is unmanned at the moment,” Talon said pulling his own sword.
“And the bad news?” the other asked.
Sara finally glanced at him. Like the others he was tall, but his build was leaner, more like a swimmer or cyclist. It by no means meant he was weak. His hair was light brown and kept short and artfully styled. His brown eyes looked like there were flecks of gold in them, but at this distance it was hard to tell. Although those eyes were wary, he smiled at Sara and gave her a small nod in greeting.
“My name is Andrew, but you can call me Drew. The big guy next to you,” he motioned to the red-head with his chin, “is Quinn.”
“Lassie,” Quinn said when Sara looked at him.
“And the one behind you next to Aitan is Darrick,” Drew continued.
Sara only had time to glance, catch a hint of dark blue eyes, sandy blonde hair and for him to say, “Ma’am” before an ear piercing screech interrupted them. She knew that screech, and after all that had happened to her in the last few hours it pissed her off.
“Lizza,” she hissed turning to glare at the tiny figure she could now see in front of the horde.
“That would be the bad news,” Talon sighed. He turned to her. “Sara, we need you to find the doorway.”
What? “I can’t find a doorway. You’re the ones with all the supernatural powers, not me,” Sara said her voice high with anxiety.
“That is not entirely true,” he hedged.
“What do you mean ‘not entirely true’?” she asked her eyes narrowing. This tiptoeing around the truth was starting to annoy her. She added it to the rather long list of things that were annoying her today.
“You may not remember, but you made this doorway. So you do know where it is and how to open it. You just have to concentrate on the energy it is emitting to find it,” Talon instructed. He glanced behind her, his expression darkening. “Sooner rather than later would be appreciated.”
Not really wanting to but unable to help herself, Sara looked back at the darkening sky. Yes, sooner rather than later would be good.
“Where do I start?” she asked turning to the rock wall and scanning it.
“Damien said it was well hidden. Do the same thing you did to locate Gideon. Close your eyes and concentrate on what it is you want to find,” Talon suggested. “We’ll watch your back,” he added when he saw her once again look out at the black cloud of demons that were growing closer.
Turning back to the wall, Sara took a deep breath, closed her eyes and rekeased the breath slowly, relaxing her mind and body as it left her. Putting her hand on the rock wall before her, she reached out with her senses – it is the only way she could explain it – looking for something…different. She could feel the angels around her, their aura’s soothing, calming even with the menace coming at them. Out further was the anger, the evil of the horde. One in particular that seemed hell bent on destroying her. Why Sara could only guess at, but she would deal with that bitch’s betraying ass later.
Pushing all that out, Sara searched for something different. It was as if a beacon was set only for her frequency. Calling her to its origin. Opening her eyes, she looked to the right of her and saw a faint outline of light. Moving so she stood in front of it, she gently placed her hand on a predetermined spot. How she knew this was a mystery she would have liked to explore, but considering what was coming at them she had no time to wonder at it.
With a rumble the door vanished.
“Holy shit, she found it,” someone gasped in surprise.
This time Sara did see who swore and turned to find Darrick’s dark blue eyes looking at her with a sense of awe. There was something else too. As if he was trying to figure out a puzzle and she was one of the pieces. It made her uncomfortable.
“Out! Now!” Talon ordered pushing Sara inside.
They stood by the opening as everyone hurried into a long narrow corridor that was on the other side. When the last angle was through, Sara stood in the doorway looking out. The horde was almost upon them; Lizza’s snarling face the closest. An idea came to Sara and she answered Lizza’s snarl with a wickedly smug smile of her own.
“Close the door, Sara,” Talon ordered as calmly as he could. The corridor they were in that turned sharply to the left a few feet in did not allow a lot of room for fighting. It barely allowed for the large warriors with their wings hidden.
“Just a few more moments,” Sara murmured her taunting smile never leaving her lips.
“Sara!” Talon ordered.
With another ear piercing screech, Lizza spurred ahead of the others, the look on her face telling Sara she was going to use her speed to plow her into the wall behind her.
“Sara!” Talon yelled.
Just as Lizza was about to hit her, Sara raised her hand and the rock wall suddenly appeared. On the other side was a muffled thud. The sudden silence was deafening as small rocks and dust rained down on them from the ceiling.
“That will leave a mark,” Adalrik chuckled dryly.
Sara grinned up at Talon as the others chuckled behind them. He was frowning at her, but she could see the amusement in his eyes.
“Cutting it a bit close weren’t we,” he said raising an eyebrow.
“It’s all in the timing,” Sara shrugging.
Closing his eyes, Talon pinched the bridge of his nose. “You were never this reckless before,” he sighed in exasperation.
“Times change. People change. We all must adapt to what life throws at us,” Sara responded sagely. “Besides, Lizza deserved what she got for lying to me.”
“That she did,” Quinn agreed ginning at her.
Sara grinned back.
“I for one have had enough excitement for one day,” Drew frowned. “Why don’t we leave here before more shows up.”
Everyone murmured their agreement. As they started up the long corridor Sara looked back at the rock wall. There would be no one following them through that opening. That she was sure of. She just hoped that the ones they left behind would be able to find a way out and soon. Something was started today that could not be stopped. Something that would change life as they knew it.
Copyright 2018 Heidi Barnes