The Black Thorn
By lady moonlight and Lady Glass
Iola's first day of classes went by fairly quickly which didn't much surprise Iola as the most boring classes were short. Physics and calculus were only a half-hour each, as was classic literature although Iola loved classic lit. What were usually electives at Iola's high school were the main focus of this school, each "elective" getting an hour each and the students had three electives and a foreign language. Iola chose French for her foreign language and her electives were choir, art, and, of course, ballet. Her teachers were nice, except Mr. Varn, the calculus teacher, who, Iola knew, was going to make her angry more than a few times. Madame Sorel, Iola's new ballet teacher, was welcoming and praised Iola many times during the class but Iola couldn't shake the feeling she was only being so nice because Iola was new.
Her classes were finally over at four in the afternoon and Iola rushed to her room as soon as she got out of French. Odette tried to catch up with her but was distracted by a tall blond girl who glared at Iola's retreating back, leaving Iola on her own. Iola pulled her door open and dropped her books on the bed, sighing with relief. She locked the door behind her and wiped a tear out of her eye. The school wasn't bad, but it wasn't home. She wanted to be home where her mom forced her to sit down and tell her about her day. But there was no mom to sit her down and ask about her day. Instead, there was only Iola and her empty bedroom.
Iola sighed again and opened the glass doors, stepping out on the balcony. She looked around the backyard. It was early November and the sky was already dark even though it was only ten past four in the afternoon. She could see the dim glow of the lights of other students' rooms around hers but none of the curtains were drawn and Iola couldn't see any other of the other students out on their balconies. She leaned her head out and looked over the edge. She was only on the second floor and it was obvious she could easily sneak out because of the small hill that rose just above the first-floor balcony.
Iola lifted herself over the side of the balcony and let herself hang for a moment as her feet searched for the hump of the hill. When she found the ground, she let go of the railing of the balcony. She wasn't sure what she was doing out here but she was bored and she had to get out of her room. She walked up to the fence that kept the Van Joyce students from leaving campus. It was about ten feet high and made of iron bars with spikes at the top. Outside the fence was a large hedge that was exactly the same height as the fence. Iola looked up and saw a crow float down onto one of the spikes of the fence. It watched Iola intently, its eyes looking her over as though sizing up a possible opponent.
Suddenly, the crow let out a sort of sigh and fell off the post at Iola's feet. Iola let out a small scream of surprise then stopped herself before she got in trouble. Iola wasn't even sure if it was against the rules to leave the building after classes but she didn't see why – the school wasn't a prison after all. She bent down and looked at the crow curiously. Iola had always loved birds, crows in particular. She thought they were beautiful but this crow had something different. It seemed so…so human. Iola almost laughed, comparing a crow and a human.
The crow watched Iola sadly and let out a small croak. It needed help, that was no argument. Then Iola saw the black thorn in the crow's wing. She let out a small hum of sympathy. "Poor thing," she muttered to no one in particular but the crow let out a small caw that seemed to imply it agreed with Iola. She scooped the crow up and carried it back to her balcony. She frowned. How was she supposed to get the crow on the balcony? She looked at the crow. It wasn't that big, she could probably hide it in her jacket and get to her room from the main doors without being found out. She put the crow in her jacket against her breast and crossed her arms as she walked toward the large, intimidating front doors to the school.
She nodded at the secretary whose desk was just to the right of the front doors. The secretary smiled back and Iola quickly continued on. When she got to the stairwell she broke out into a jog up the stairs and quickly ran to her room. She pulled on the door and for a moment thought she'd forgotten she'd locked her door. "Damn," she swore softly. The key to her room was sitting on her bed. She looked around. She'd just have to leave the crow there and go back outside and climb onto the balcony. She took off her jacket and left it outside her door in a small bundle, hoping it would stay ignored.
Iola ran down the hall, down the stairs, and speed-walked outside to her balcony. She jumped, catching the side of the balcony and pulled herself up over the side. When she opened the door she was relieved to see the small bundle holding the crow was still there. She let the crow lay on her bed and looked at the thorn. Did she remove the thorn or not? Iola couldn't think straight so she let the bird lay there. She looked at the time. It was only 4:45. She decided to ask someone at dinner so she pulled out her books and started to do her homework.
The crow was curious and walked around her bed, pecking at the cover a bit, then got bored and fell asleep, nestled in a small ball, its head under the wing that didn't have the thorn in it. By the time five-forty rolled around, Iola had already finished all her homework and was more than ready to go to dinner. Her growling stomach had awoken the crow, whom Iola had decided to name Piaf, which meant "slow trot" in French and suited the crow so well because of the way it would slowly make its way across the bed and pose for a moment, as though letting Iola admire him, then would walk back to Iola's pillow where he would make himself comfortable all over again.
Piaf let out an annoyed caw as Iola stood, her stomach growling again, and said good-bye. "Au revoir, Piaf, I'll be back in an hour!" Iola called, blowing the crow a kiss before she closed the door. Iola hadn't sat next to anyone during breakfast or lunch that day but she found Odette and sat next to her during dinner.
"Hey, Iola," Odette said, her voice genuinely friendly. The same blond girl that hadn't looked very impressed with Iola earlier glared at Iola as she sat next to Odette. Odette turned to the blond girl. "Iola, this is my best friend Sadie. Sadie, this is the new girl I told you about earlier, Iola." Sadie smiled briefly but the smile was gone so quickly it was very obviously a sarcastic smile. Iola sighed. Obviously she wasn't making a good first impression with this "Sadie" girl and considering all the other girls around her and Odette, she was one person she didn't want to get on the bad side of. She gave Sadie the friendliest smile she'd given anyone since her parents' death. She wasn't sure why she was in such a good mood, maybe it was finding Piaf, she wasn't sure, but suddenly the idea of being friends with Odette wasn't so foreign.
"Hey, Odette, do you know anything about birds?" Iola asked, jumping right into the conversation she'd been waiting for almost an hour and a half. "Because I found this crow and he's got a thorn in his wing. After I take it out, do I just let him go or let him rest or what?"
"Aw, a crow?" Odette asked, a smile spreading across her face. "I love birds! Can I see him?"
"Um, actually, he's back at home," Iola lied. She wasn't sure why she didn't want Odette to see Piaf but she wasn't keen to introduce the little crow to Odette. "But my grandma doesn't know anything about birds so we were hoping to find someone who would know what to do with it." "I'd say let it rest until it tries to fly away and when it tries to leave, let it go," Odette said. "That's what I would do, anyway." She shrugged. "But I'm no expert. I would ask Mrs. Ardelle, she's a science teacher, she should know."
Iola thought of her schedule in her head. She didn't have Mrs. Ardelle until ten in the morning. Could she let little Piaf suffer until ten? No, she decided. She'd just take the thorn out and then ask Mrs. Ardelle in the morning what to do with the bird.
Iola chatted politely with Odette for another few minutes until she'd finished her dinner and then excused herself, saying she had some homework to finish up. Iola heard Sadie talking to Odette as she left.
"That's the new girl?" Sadie asked sneeringly. "She's so…blah…"
Iola let Sadie's voice melt into the conversations of every other student in the dining hall as she walked away, her head held defiantly high.
Piaf was asleep on Iola's bed when she got back to her room. She wasn't surprised. What else was he going to do? Just sit there? Piaf lifted his head as Iola closed the door behind her and blinked at her as though asking her where she'd been.
"Bonjour, Piaf," she said. "I'm going to fix your wing up as well as I can till morning." Piaf nodded his head as though he understood her and held his injured wing out to her, letting out a soft caw. Iola took the wing gently into her hand. The black thorn was wedged deep into his wing. She gave it a short tug but the thorn didn't budge. Rather, it stayed stubbornly still. Iola frowned. "I'll get some tweezers," she muttered to herself and rummaged through her trunk until she found her make-up bag. After rummaging through the bag for a few seconds, she pulled out the tweezers.
Piaf let out what sounded like a small whimper as Iola sat back down on the bed next to the crow, tweezers in hand. She tried to make the bird hold his wing straight but he pecked her hand, looking almost offended. He let out a crow that sounded almost like, "Stop." Iola frowned at the bird and took the wing back in her hand.
"It's not going to hurt that bad, you big baby," she said with a short laugh. She gave the wing a gentle tug and held the black thorn with the tweezers, pinching it lightly at first, then closing the tweezers harder around the thick thorn. She gave it a hard tug and it came out a little but before she could do anything more, Piaf let out an indignant shriek and half flew, half jumped away from her onto the floor. "Piaf!" Iola scolded him then stopped short when she saw the finger hidden in the wings. She opened her mouth to scream but no sound would come out. Her legs felt like jello, refusing to budge.
Piaf's bones cracked and groaned as he lay on the floor, twitching in pain. Iola's throat hurt with the agony of being unable to scream, her body aching with the feeling of paralyzation as she watched the crow's wings lengthen, feathers becoming fingers, hair sprouting out of the top of its head, the beak disappear to be replaced by a nose and a mouth. Within moments, it was not a crow that lay writhing on the floor, but a man only a year or two older than Iola. He was beautiful, his hair as black and glossy as the crow's feathers had been, his eyes a deep brown. His face could have been carved from stone, slim yet strong with an angelic quality to it.
He was also naked.
This time Iola had no trouble screaming but before her scream could grow, the man was on his feet and his hand covered her mouth. "Don't scream," he whispered into her ear, his soft lips brushing her ear. His voice was husky with a thick French accent, a real one, she realized, not the fake kind the French teachers speak with. "My name is Gale, not Piaf. Please do not call me that ever again."
Lady Glass's Note: Sorry for the wait on this chapter. It's been done for quite a while now and I forgot that I hadn't already uploaded it, so I apologize for the delay. Again, much thanks goes to lady moonlight who will be coming to visit me very soon and hopefully we'll get a lot done on the story. As always, please review and tell me what you do and do not like - what I should fix, etc.
Thank you for your reviews, Skychaser and Itsxmy-soliloquy! Hopefully they weren't the last reviews!