I have flown far from home.
Perched on the roof of the bell tower, I drank in the smell of salt and fish. White buildings gleamed in the golden sunlight. Blue-green mountains surrounded us, an army protecting us from the rest of the world. I could be safe. Maybe I could settle down.
I could nest among the humans again, no one hunting me. No cages. No traps or nets. No man with the ruby ring and scars scratched across his face.
A teenage boy in the streets below watched me. I preened my feathers and spread my wings for him, showing off my soft white underbelly and red tail. He called up to me, his human voice imitating a soft screech—the call a male hawk to his mate. The sound shuddered through me.
“Come and talk to me, el halcón.” He held his arm out for me to land on. I liked how the wind pushed his black hair out of his face and how his brown eyes sparkled with laughter.
I studied the streets for danger. People milled the stone-cobbled roads, blocking cars. Nothing here but locals, I decided as I opened my wings and swept down toward the boy.
He cooed softly to me in his own language. I liked the sound of his voice. I took a bit of his hair in my beak. He tasted of the sea and the wind.
“Gotcha,” a harsh voice said behind me. A net wrapped around me, and the boy’s face filled with horror as someone snatched me away.
I screeched and wriggled, trying to spread my wings, clawing and pecking at the hand with the ruby ring.
“You can’t get away this time, witch.”
The boy grabbed me. “Fly away, el halcón.”
I wouldn’t run any longer. My claws ripped at the man’s face. He pushed me away, protecting his face. Punching, he hit my wing. My bones snapped, and with a screech of pain, I stumbled.
“You brought this on yourself.” The man advanced on me. Blood poured from the wounds on his face, but he smeared them away with the back of his hand as if it were merely sweat.
Fly. But my body wouldn’t listen.
But I had legs. I could run.
Closing my eyes, I called my other self, the teenage girl I had once been. I had buried her inside me long ago when I had fled. My feathers tingled; my wings stretched into limbs—the bones knitting, changing, the broken one healing.
And then I stood in my doe-skin dress, cobbled stones smooth and cool against my bare feet. Before me, the man’s face twisted with hatred, but then, eyes blank, he fell to the ground. Dead? I hoped so, but if not, I would fight back again.
The boy stood behind him, a rock in his hand. “My name is Javier.”