Star: Chapter 20- All Falls Down

What — what do you want?” Star said as Obaledo’s grip tightened on Coal’s neck. Her fingernails were long, and black, and crooked.

They drew blood.

Obaledo’s voice was sharper now. “I can sense it. And I want it.”

“Want what?” Star said. But she knew. Coal looked at her as he struggled.

They both knew.

“Don’t play with me, girl,” she growled and she picked Coal up and slammed him back on the car. The glass cracked. “Give me the crown and the tears of the goddess. Or I will kill your friend.”

“I felt it,” Star said. “Your words.”

“The crown,” Obaledo repeated and her eyes turned a blood red, wings erupted from her back, wings as black and dangerous as night itself. Coal stopped struggling and stared at the wings as they unfurled.

“I felt them,” Star continued, struggling to keep her voice straight, struggling to stand. She was so tired, so drained. But she had to talk, she had to — she fell back and leaned on the car for support. “I could feel them,” she said.

“And so, what?” Obaledo said. “Give me the crown, girl!”

“I’m sorry,” Star said as she stood on her own, walking closer to Obaledo.

Obaledo paused. Then, “What?”

“I’m sorry for what you went through,” Star said, “I’m sorry for what you lost. It must have been… hard.”

Obaledo looked at Star for the longest moment.

“It was,” Obaledo said finally, her voice shaking. “They cast me out. Like I was nothing.”

Star nodded. “And that was wrong. But you need to heal.”

Obaledo looked at Coal and her grip loosened, just a little bit.

“Hurting other people doesn’t make your hurt go away,” Star said. “It just spreads it.”

Obaledo looked at Star now. “But I need it. The crown… I need it.”

“It won’t help,” Star said, understanding. “The crown only makes things already there more real. What that demon did to you, it’s…forever.”

Obaledo saw that Star was telling the truth. She could feel it. The same way Star felt her own words. And Obaledo let out a cry, a deep sob that began at her stomach and was let out in a deep guttural scream that shattered the air and broke the ground. It spread for miles and miles and everyone who heard it knew.

They all knew pain, and loss.

Obaledo spread her wings wide as she let go of Coal and looked at Star. “Thank you,” she said. “Thank you, Star.” She was about to fly when she stopped, looked at Star’s neck and said, “Memories are never really gone. They stay within us, even when we don’t know. But they’re there. Waiting.”

And she flew off into the night, leaving Coal to slowly stand, rubbing his neck as he wiped the blood away with his sleeve.

“What was she talking about,” Star said, “with memories and all that?”

Coal was quiet for a long moment.

“It doesn’t matter,” he said, and he walked to the driver’s seat. And Star followed into the car.

She sighed as she sat down.

“You okay?” Coal asked.

Star nodded. “I am.”

Coal nodded. “Good. Just rest. You’ve been through a lot so far.”

“Where are we going next?”

Coal pulled out of their spot as he reversed and went on the bridge. His tone was lighter as he spoke. “We’re going to Bar Beach.”

“Yay,” Star said.

Coal shot her an eyebrow. “I thought you’d be excited.”

“Yay,” Star said with decidedly more enthusiasm.

Coal rolled his eyes. “Children.”

Star brought the parchment out the sack and looked at the next item on the list. Then she looked at Coal. “Really?”

Coal nodded. “Really.”

Star leaned back into her seat and smiled. “Oh my God. This is going to be amazing.”

Coal shrugged, but he was smiling. “Maybe.”

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Anthony Azekwoh is a Nigerian-based author and artist. He has written five books so far, and is now working on the sequel to his fourth book Ṣàngó, Oya.