“How–?” Lizzie began, doubting her words as well as, Monty presumed, her own vision. “That–You just–”
“I made a sketch of a fox come to life,” he confirmed, pocketing his sketchpad. He kept his voice level, hoping his ease would extend across the room and wrap around the younger teen. “Well, sort of–I gave it sentience, not life.”
The human watched him wearily. Their distance coupled with the tense atmosphere reminded the angel of their meeting in the park. She has that same look on her face–the one that says, “He makes one move I don’t like and I’m out of here.”
Monty pulled his hands from his pocket and raised them in a surrendering motion before gesturing to the sofa between them with a nod.
“I’m going to sit and get comfortable. If you want to hear more about what just happened, you’re welcome to join me.”
Her eyes were trained on him as he removed his pad from his pocket and placed it on the round coffee table. She watched motionless from the hallway as he pulled his hooded sweatshirt over his head and draped it over the arm of the sofa. It wasn’t until Monty had finally taken his seat, plucked the sketchpad from the table and held it out to her that Lizzie stepped into the sitting area. She did not sit, but instead took the pad and flipped it open, her expression softening as she skimmed through the pages.
“You… You made these?”
He nodded. “I drew them, and when I need one I imbue it with my essence. I can make them life-size, gigantic, pocket-sized…”
“Can you make people?” she asked, claiming the opposite end of the sofa for herself.
Well, it’s progress. “I can draw people, if that’s what you mean–but I can’t make actual sentient human beings. I can make the humans I draw to any scale I’d like, but they’re basically statues.”
Lizzie nodded, flipping back and forth between two sketches: the fox and the eagle. “These are really pretty.”
“Thanks,” he tittered and ran his fingers through his hair. His face felt warm. Must’ve waited too long before taking off my hoodie. “Mona draws, too–I mean, she’s human, so her art doesn’t jump off the page and do her bidding. But hers are even better than mine. She knows how to make her work pop with color. She uses the right amount of shading, the perfect color combinations–”
Monty grimaced at his own rambling, meeting her gaze apologetically. “Sorry, kid. Sometimes I go off topic and don’t know when to shut up.”
Lizzie shook her head. “Don’t say sorry. I like the way you talk about Mona–I don’t know much about you guys, but I can tell you care about her.”
“Well, yeah,” he agreed. “Even if we weren’t twins, she’s still my sister… My bossy, pain-in-the-ass sister. I love her.”
The human averted her russet eyes, focused on the fox sketch. “I don’t know what that’s like.”
Monty nodded, opening one of the center table’s drawers. “Yeah, I’m not going to lie, kid: you haven’t had a normal life. I may not know the specifics, but I can tell you’ve had it rough. I can say, though, that you know what it means to love your family; your brother wouldn’t have risked his life to get you out of there, and you wouldn’t have stuck around that park and waited for him, if you didn’t care about each other.”
He fished out a pen and closed the drawer, gesturing for the pad. She returned the book and wiped at her eyes, watching as he flipped over to a blank page. His pen hovered a few centimeters over the paper as he smirked at her.
Lizzie shrugged, her lips parted slightly. She inched closer, her eyes glued to Monty’s book as he began his intricate sketch.
For several seconds, all she saw was a series of lines and black splotches–until he drew its beak and said, “Drawer on the right.”
“Oh!” she opened the drawer in a rushed manner, her eyes wide with confusion. “Uh–?”
“Pick two colors.”
“What colors? What’re the right ones–?” she paused her questioning as she caught his amused gaze. “What?”
“There is no right color–I mean, technically there is since I’m drawing an actual species with specific colors–but my animals don’t have to be realistic. I want you to choose whatever two colors you want.”
Lizzie returned her attention to the drawer, her eyes taking in the countless colored pencils. Mona was meticulous enough to place organizing trays inside the drawer–she had two stacked on top of each other, each boasting seven slots and housing a different shade family. Monty reached over and pulled out the first tray, setting it on the coffee table and revealing to her all the options available: Tray One contained the different colors of the rainbow, while Tray Two had every shade of pink, white, brown, gray, and black that Mona had acquired.
Lizzie gave the second tray little consideration; she perused each slot of the first tray swiftly before setting aside a pale shade of purple. She then jumped right back to the second tray, where she picked through the pinks until she found a soft magenta color. She handed the two to Monty, her eyes on his face. Gauging his reaction.
Monty took the pencils and read their names aloud. “ ‘Orchid’ and ‘Lilac,’ huh?”
“That okay?” she muttered the question.
He smiled. “Yeah, it’s cool. This little guy’s going to look interesting, that’s for sure.”
She watched as he began with the lilac, using the lighter shade for most of the unique creature. It was along the bird’s primary feathers that he began the switch to orchid, the pinker shade dominating the secondaries. He pressed down harder while coloring the underwing coverts so that they stood out the most, shading its visible eye to match.
He set down the pencil, reaching for a new color in Tray One when Lizzie pulled a dark shade from the black slot and offered it instead. “This one.”
“For the beak?” he confirmed. “That actually makes more sense. Good thinking.”
Monty put the finishing touches on their shared creation and handed her the book. “There! What should we call him?” As an afterthought, he added, “Or her, whichever you feel fits.”
“Him,” she affirmed, her fingers brushing against the wings. The orchid-pink smudged a little beneath her touch, but not so much that she noticed. “Hugh.”
“Hugh?” He wasn’t sure what he had expected–perhaps Tiny or Pinky or Cutie, some simple name that a human might give a pet. Her choice personified the bird in a manner that resonated with him, and he couldn’t help but smile. “Yeah, I like it. Hugh.”
He reached over and, with the pad still in her hands, penned the creature’s name at the top of the page, and signed his initials in the bottom-right corner. He then held the writing instrument out to Lizzie. “Sign it.”
“S-Sign?” she took the pen and eyed him expectantly.
“Yeah. When you create something artistic, you sign your name or initials on it.”
He pointed to his own initials, noting how her forehead scrunched in confusion. “M-May? Mah-ee?”
Monty bit his bottom lip. Don’t laugh, asshole, he cursed himself. “Do you, uh, know what initials are?”
She shook her head, sobering his amusement.
“Okay, well you know your first and last name right?” She nodded. “And do you have a middle name?”
She pondered for a moment before shaking her head. “Alright, same here. That means that your initials are the first letter of your first name and the first letter of your last name. I’m Montague Alagona the second, so my initials are ‘M.A. II.’ “
He pointed out each letter as he spoke. Her eyes narrowed at the last couple. “Why are the i’s two?”
“Well, you know about Roman numerals, right?” When she gave him a look of disbelief, he shook his head. “Nevermind, we can teach you about those some other time. Just trust me that those two i’s together mean ‘two’ or ‘second,’ okay?”
“Okay.” She tightened her left hand around the pen and made her mark on the bottom-left corner of the page. His expression relaxed with understanding.
“ ‘E.P.’–Elizabeth Peters.”
“That’s my name,” she stated.
“Well it’s nice to officially meet you, Lizzie,” he mused, taking hold of one end of the sketchpad. “Ready to meet Hugh?”
She nodded, and both lowered their gazes to the bird. His energy flowed through his fingers and into the page, willing their creation to stretch his wings and soar out of the book. Magenta wings flapped as the pale purple creature lowered himself onto the coffee table, bright eyes darting between the angel and the human.
Lizzie let out a shocked laugh, her maroon eyes wide. “Holy shit! Hugh… Hugh is…”
She reached out to pet him, prompting Monty to caution, “Uh, I’d be careful, kid. My drawings aren’t meant for fun–”
Lizzie’s fingers caressed the back of Hugh’s neck, and the bird chirped cheerily. “Oh. Uh… Never mind.”
“He’s so cute!” she gushed, still petting him. “Hi, Hugh! I’m Lizzie, and this is Monty.”
Hugh chirped again, hopping around.
This is so weird, Monty thought, watching as the human played with the little bird. My drawings never really have personalities. They come to life, do what I need, and disappear–and they steer clear of anyone except me. I’ve never seen one do this.
“Why were you talking to your book before?” she recalled, tearing her eyes from Hugh to study the angel with a questioning gaze. “Is that how you talk to them?”
Impressed by her deduction, Monty nodded and brought Hugh’s page to his lips. “Do a lap around the room.”
Upon request, the little bird shot up and circled around the room. Just as he was returning to his original location, Lizzie leaned in closer to Monty and the sketchpad, whispering, “Back to me.”
She held out her hand, welcoming Hugh with a wide, pleasant grin. He landed accordingly, chirping sweetly in greeting. She giggled and held him close to her chest. “Welcome back, Hugh.”
Monty watched them, amazed by their instant connection. This isn’t normal, he reasoned. She isn’t normal, and not just for a human. No one, not even Frankie, can get my drawings to do what they say, no matter how small the request.
He took advantage of her distraction to study her more closely. All spirits could see the souls of living beings, and Monty already knew that the ethereal orb floating within this lost human’s torso would be simple, bland, and small.
There’s absolutely nothing special about her…
It wasn’t until then that he realized how close she sat. He could smell the fruity-scented shampoo one of the colonists had gifted Mona, blending with the homemade lavender soap they were given by Cienna, one of their angels.
Her springy curls had almost completely dried, and he could make out an odd auburn streak among the onyx coils. Her hair was chin-length and uneven, as if it had been cut haphazardly by someone who knew nothing of the craft.
He spotted a birthmark just a couple centimeters from her left eye, bringing his attention back to her russet irises. They were as wide as her smile, and the red and orange streaks stood out against the wooden backdrop in a manner that reminded him of a log fire.
His face grew warm again, and the angel cleared his throat and looked away. Maybe ‘nothing’ is too strong a word.