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Our little group walked through the Portland airport, past shops selling smoked salmon, fleece, and Trail Blazers’ basketball souvenirs. Jake had done all this a thousand times before, so we followed him like ducklings to Baggage Claim. He tried to get us to walk instead of riding the moving sidewalk, but he lost that vote. Corona and I each took one of Gisèle’s arms and guided her on. Then we streamed along, the breeze in our hair. When we walked too, it felt almost like flying.
Baggage Claim was in the underbelly of the airport. The energy there was different, the crowd impatient and anxious, everyone searching for something or someone. They surrounded large carousels with suitcases carried around like nigiri at a sushi bar. The people checked out each morsel to see if it was what they wanted.
A hole in the wall gave birth to suitcases, the newborns riding the merry-go-round. They all had that well-traveled look. It made me happy to see them claimed and reunited with their owners.
As we waited for our suitcases, a pair of women approached Jake. He greeted them with smiles.
“How was your trip?” asked a tall redhead with strong bones and a voice like melted butter. Something about her sparked my curiosity. She was a striking beauty, despite the ragged scar that cut down one side of her face. Dressed in a peach crocheted sweater, skinny blue jeans, and white sneakers with no socks, she had a cosmopolitan style that screamed self-confidence.
Jake replied, “Good. I’m glad it’s almost over though.” He launched forward to nab one of the suitcases.
The woman let her gaze drift over the rest of us, evaluating. She caught my eye, and I looked away.
The second woman was older, with black hair caught up in a French twist. A narrow streak of white grew from front-and-center, just above her forehead. Her dark eyes were warm and welcoming as she held her hand out to me. “You must be Viviane,” she said. “I’m Rio. Welcome to the Pacific Northwest. We’re your ride to Wyrdwood.”
I shook her hand. “Thank you. It’s nice to be here.” I indicated my mother and Corona. “This is Gisèle and Corona.” I was feeling shy.
Corona bounced, “Do you work with Jake? Are you from Lost Lambs?”
The redhead took a step toward Jake, helping him move the bags onto a big cart.
Rio answered, “Yes, we are. You’re going to love it there. We’ve got the ocean, the forest, mountains, a river… everything you could want.”
It was as if a cork had popped from Corona’s mouth, and she started talking a mile a minute. Truth be told, I was grateful. I felt so overwhelmed by everything that I had no words. I don’t think I could have made rational small-talk if I’d tried.
A girl with piercings all over her face walked by, as did a man with blue hair and a couple dressed in rags, wearing socks inside sandals. One woman had her blond hair all in knots, dreadlocks. People played with hand-held devices and talked to thin air, an earbud in one ear. I saw a man in a turban, a group of Japanese people in suits, and an eagle.
An eagle. It flew down from a beam overhead and landed at the redhead’s feet.
Corona gasped. I gasped. No one else noticed.
The eagle pecked at a nearby man’s loose shoestring, pulling it undone.
The red-head laughed, deep and rich. “The looks on their faces!” she said.
Jake laughed, too. “Guys, this is Hilda, and that’s Hugs, her familiar. She's harmless.”
“Who?” Corona asked, “Hilda or Hugs?”
Hilda raised both eyebrows.
Jake said, “Both.”
“Don't you believe it,” Hilda said under her breath.
Corona asked, “No one but us can see Hugs?”
Jake nodded. “That’s right. Hugs is the kind of magickal creature that Normals can’t see.”
That brought my overwhelm to a whole new level. I latched onto my mother, the noise and sights of the airport forgotten. I was so engrossed in watching Hilda and her familiar that I walked into someone’s luggage and tripped. A strong hand captured my upper arm and kept me on my feet. When I looked up, a man with tusks looked down at me. Not a man. My insides began to vibrate at a low resonance. His eyes were kind, his smile gentle. He said, “Careful there.”
My every instinct was to get away from him, and I stumbled again.
Jake was at my side in a heartbeat. “Thank you,” he told the man, helping me himself. “She’s new to the Sight.”
The tusked man rumbled a sympathetic hum and released me.
I realized I was holding my breath.
Continued in JUMPING THE MOON…