Barten-Cur came up to the Middle School in a hurry. He tried to make it before the school busses started, but failed, and so he was delayed in traffic for a long time. By the time he arrived, the library was already closed up and Arosa had gone home. Lila was also nowhere to be found. He was about to turn and rush to the house, but the Middle School Principal caught him.
“Barten.” The Principal called. “I appreciate you coming over from the High School for this dance. Wilson has little ones to trick or treat, you know.” He said. “I’m a little concerned, though, that all of the decorations are up to code. We can’t have the Fire Marshall coming in and shutting down the whole event.”
“Yes sir.” Barten said. He would need to check on that, but later, he thought.
Mary, Principal Barlow’s secretary stuck her head out of the office door on hearing the voices in the hall. “Ah. Mister Cur.” She said. “I was hoping you would come early. I have several instructions to go over with you and I want to ask you some questions.”
Barten-Cur swallowed. “Yes mam.” He said, hoping it would not take too long. He looked to the side as Morgan and Mary went by.
“I hear Secretary Mary, the school witch is coming as the Wicked Witch of the West.” Morgan whispered.
“Perfect.” Mary said with a smile and shrug as they hurried off.
Later, when Barten-Cur came out of the office, he looked very confused. The school secretary was very good at doing that to people, even the bright ones. Barten-Cur walked down the hall that ran along the side of the auditorium, and headed for the gym. He had to be sure the decorations were not in violation of the fire codes. By the time he remembered the soldier and his need to tell Arosa, it was too late.
Lila left Jennifer and Ginger at the front walk and came in by the picket fence gate, waving as she walked up the porch steps. Of course, Jennifer and Ginger had to go home to get in their costumes; but they would be back. “One hour!” Jennifer had shouted from the distance, though Lila suspected it would take a bit longer than that.
Grandpa drove up as Lila reached the door, so she waited, and then decided to go to the car to meet him. She hugged him. “You are coming to the dance?” She had not had a chance to ask earlier what with chemistry tests and such.
“I wouldn’t miss it.” Wendel said, putting his arm around Lila’s shoulder for a real hug. “Your mother inside?”
“I guess.” Lila said. “She left school right away. What takes so long to get ready for a crumby date, anyway?” She asked.
“Ah, yes.” Grandpa Carter said in an all-knowing tone of voice. “But I think you had better let your mother explain that. I’m not much good on the ways of women and their dates.”
“Oh, Grandpa.” Lila said, happily, hugging him just a little more.
Wendel Carter smiled. He was genuinely happy.
Upstairs, Arosa fretted in front of the mirror. The white gown would suit well. It fit nicely and had a solid Greco-Roman look to it as would be expected for an angel; but she was not sure if she should really do the wings or just suggest them with the strap-ons. She straightened the golden circle around her hair, which was there to suggest the halo. She was not about to wear one with a stick attached. She picked up her brush and began brushing her bangs. Her hair was short now, at least by her standards, falling only to the middle of her back; though it was still much longer than the boy haircuts so popular among the women around her. “Definitely do the wings.” She decided, and she focused, waved her hands slightly, producing a soft, swirling white light, which rose over her shoulder and touched her back. The magic would do the work.
Vents appeared in two places in the back of her gown, well edged so as not to fray, but large enough to let out the wings. She felt the magic when it touched her back, and was uncomfortable for a moment as her back muscles became much stronger, multiplied and rearranged themselves. Then the wings began to grow. She could feel the tips extending, and felt the feathers like one felt one’s hair; yet there was life in the wings, and she could play with them, though she did hope she would not molt too much over the course of the evening. The wings, when contracted, soon rose as high as her head, and the tip feathers touched the ground so she had to let them out just a little to keep them from dragging. She considered their shape. They were spaced perfectly so she would have no trouble sitting in a chair. She would have to tell David no booths, though, wherever he was taking her.
Arosa sighed. “Why not?” She asked herself. She let the wings all of the way out and allowed one gentle flap, putting her hands above her head just in case she ran into the ceiling. She lifted gently off the ground, about a foot, and then settled slowly back to her feet. Lila came to the door just in time to see.
“Mom!” Lila nearly shouted.
“What do you think?” Arosa asked.
“Oh, Mom.” Lila came close for a hug. “I always knew you were an angel.”
“But.” Arosa had a sudden thought. She broke the embrace and turned around. “How do I look?”
Lila took a moment to look closely at the wings. She saw them flex, like a wave beginning in her mother’s back and continuing to gently flow all of the way to the tips. “Fine.” She said, not knowing what she was supposed to be looking at.
“My back isn’t too big?” Arosa asked.
Lila looked more closely. “No.” She said. “Bigger than it was, I think, but not too big. Still nice.”
Arosa turned again with relief on her face. “I was afraid the muscles needed to carry my wings might turn my back into some monstrous size.”
Lila shook her head. “They are angel wings, right? Wouldn’t they have some magic in them to prevent that?”
Arosa smiled. “I know we haven’t practiced magic much.” She said. “We have to work on that, but you should at least remember the lessons you have had. Even with magic, things…”
“Still work by natural means.” Lila finished the sentence. “OK. Now you can help me with my fairy wings. Oh, wait. Let me get in costume first.”
“No Lila.” Arosa spoke in her firm voice.
“What? But Mom!”
“First of all, fairies are only about six or nine inches tall, and you are not allowed to go to the dance nine inches tall.”
Lila interrupted. “And second of all, we are not supposed to practice magic in public. That’s your rule. But you are.” Lila was glad to point that out.
“And second of all, you left the front door unlocked this morning. No real fairy wings!” Arosa shook her finger.
“Not fair!” Lila complained and went off to her room, closing the door with some volume. Arosa sighed and went downstairs, letting her wings float her down.
“Dad?” She saw him rummaging through his briefcase.
“I have to go back to the office.” He said.
“You better dress first.” She suggested.
“Richard the Lionhearted goes to school.” He winked.
“Dad.” She knew he did not have such a costume.
“All right. I’m really dressing as the Scarecrow from the Wizard of Oz, you know, if I only had a brain.”
Arosa laughed softly and kissed him as the front doorbell rang and Wendel hustled upstairs. Arosa answered the door, and David was dressed as Richard the Lionhearted. She turned and shot a hard look up the stairs. It was a good costume, too, almost good enough to give Arosa a feeling of home. “You look very nice.”
“You look.” David had to pause for the right words. “Very lovely.” That was where he finally settled, though it was not what he was thinking. Arosa saw much more in his eyes. She smiled and looked down as she stepped out and took his arm. They walked to the car, and as an afterthought, Arosa sent a bit of special magic, secretly, to let her sit comfortably in the front passenger seat, and still wear her seatbelt, despite the wings. She had not thought of sitting in the car.
“You do look lovely.” David repeated himself as they got in and buckled up. He really was a nice man, Arosa thought.
In the house, Wendel Carter got his things and headed for the door, shouting back at Lila. “I have to go back to the office. I’ll see you at the school. Your mother left supper on the stove for you. Are you there, Lila?”
Lila opened her door. “I’m here. Grandpa.” She shouted. “I’ll lock the door when I go.” She finished dressing and heard Grandpa’s car start and leave. Lila let her magic out, but the wings would not attach and she could not grow any from scratch. She felt useless. Her magic was more yellow, like sunlight, and not the pure white of her mother’s magic. She wondered briefly if that might have something to do with her difficulties, but she remembered when her mother explained that it should make no difference. Barten-Cur’s magic tended to come with a light purple light, and he was a very powerful magician.
“Someday.” Lila said to herself, and she went downstairs and turned her nose up at the dinner her mother left. She checked her resources and decided on the McDonalds, which was just a block from the school.