For Alicia, whose wings are still developing.
‘Play me a song that speaks to your soul.’
‘You mean a song I like?’
‘No, more than that. I mean a song that’s lodged itself deep within you, that lifts you up and ignites your spirit.’
April was silent, ruminating.
‘Come on, there must be some. I’ve got loads.’
‘Ok then, you play one of yours.’
Paige pushed herself up on her elbows and reached for the phone lying next to her.
She and April were flat on their backs on Paige’s living room carpet, their heads next to each other and feet pointing in opposite directions. They had been like that for some time. It seemed a good position in which to discuss the big things in life.
There was no need to scroll through her playlists. Paige knew exactly which song to go for. Opening up Spotify, she typed the name of the song into the search bar and hit play, cranking up the volume as high as it would go.
It started slowly. A solitary piano followed by Birdy’s vocals, haunting and melancholy, like moonlight. Then the beat kicked in and the song exploded in a shower of silver sparks. That was what Paige thought of every time she heard that chorus.
‘I want to show you something.’
She hauled herself to her feet, unlatched the window and opened it as far as it would go. Curious, April sat up and regarded her older sister through wide, sky blue eyes. There was over a decade between them, but they were close as twins, and had been ever since April was tiny.
‘What is it?’
As April watched, Paige’s clothes began to transform. The white polyester summer dress with the blue flowers melted from her body, and in its place there materialised a red chiffon cocktail dress.
‘How did you-?’ April stammered, but the words died on her lips, because the transformation was not over. Something large was erupting from Paige’s shoulder blades. Or rather, some things. White and red, they reminded April initially of giant playing cards. Then they unfurled and she saw, to her amazement, that they were wings.
Her sister had wings. They grazed the ceiling and spanned half the room, gently opening and closing in time to her breathing.
‘Are they…are they real?’
April was on her feet now, her eyes raking over every inch of Paige’s wings. They were brightest white-so bright they glowed-and etched with swirling red patterns like crimson filigree.
‘Or course they’re real,’ Paige beamed, twirling on the spot so that April could see them in their entirety.
‘It’s the music. When you listen to a song that makes your soul soar-really listen to it-this happens. Now, let’s see yours.’
‘I don’t have any of those.’
‘Of course you do. Everyone does.’
‘Yes. They’re not all like this, obviously. Some people have boring old moth wings. Some people have delicate dragonfly wings. And some people are so uptight they never actually find out what type of wings they have. But some people have colourful butterfly wings, and they’re the people with the most beautiful souls.’
‘What kind of wings do you think I’ll have?’ April asked, shuffling her feet anxiously.
‘Put it this way, I don’t think you’ll have boring old moth wings.’
Paige smiled her best big sister smile, and April reciprocated somewhat waveringly.
‘Now pick a song.’
She took her time choosing, decisiveness having never been one of April’s strong points. Eventually she settled on something by Aurora. Paige wasn’t familiar with the song, but that didn’t matter. If the song was powerful enough, it would happen.
‘Close your eyes,’ Paige urged her as the music began to play. ‘Let it fill you up.’
April obeyed, although not without mumbling something about feeling silly. Paige ignored it. She was busy pushing open the other window.
It was in that moment when Paige’s back was turned that April’s transformation began. Her black jeans and baggy checked shirt vanished, and were replaced by a tea-length dress of navy satin. Then her wings began to sprout. Shooting up and outwards in a matter of seconds, they reminded Paige of watching sped up video footage of plants blooming, only they were more beautiful than any plant Paige had ever seen.
‘Oh April,’ she whispered, hands clasped in front of her mouth. ‘You’ve got butterfly wings.’
April opened her eyes and turned to look over her left shoulder. Fanned out behind her was a magnificent set of indigo wings. They were the colour of ink and midnight skies, of sapphires and ocean depths. Edged with white, they had an iridescent shimmer that reminded Paige of peacock feathers.
‘Do you like them?’
April nodded, a radiant grin spreading across her face.
‘See, I told you. Now let’s go.’
‘Well yes, what’s the point in having wings if you’re not going to fly?’
With that, Paige stepped up onto the narrow windowsill and beckoned for her sister to join her. April remained rooted to the spot, dubiously eyeing the open windows, beyond which lay a twenty-metre drop.
‘What if I fall?’ she asked, unable to keep the quaver out of her voice.
‘You won’t,’ Paige promised her, ‘I’ve got you.’
She thought back fondly to her first solo flight. She’d been twenty at the time, three years older than April was now, but the experience was forever seared into her memory. The dizzying lurch as she surrendered to the air that first time, and the euphoria when she didn’t fall. It felt like dissolving, like she was melting into the sky itself. There was no feeling like it, and she wanted April to experience it too.
‘Ok, I trust you.’
Inch by inch, April edged forwards. She took the hand her sister had proffered, and allowed herself to be helped up onto the windowsill. Her breathing became ragged as she looked down at the drop, her pulse drumming against Paige’s palm. But her wings were open and ready, fully unfurled in anticipation of flight.
Beyond the open windows the last embers of sunset were dying, the sky rapidly darkening to indigo. It was the same indigo as April’s new wings, and it was begging to be explored.
‘Ready?’ Paige asked.
Of course the answer was no. No one is ever really ready to take the plunge, but they do it anyway. Because what is the point of having wings if you’re not going to fly?
April nodded with a conviction she didn’t feel.
‘On three. One.’
Deep breath in.
Let it out.
In perfect synchronicity, the two sisters stepped over the edge. Their stomachs gave a sickening jolt as their feet kicked out, finding nothing but air. For a moment it looked like they were going to fall, but then two sets of wings began to beat, one for the very first time. As their bodies soared upwards so did their spirits, the music still blaring in their ears while the night folded in around them. Paige looked across at her little sister, who was no longer little, and whose newly fledged wings were bearing her more soundly than even she could have hoped.
Some people never found their wings. Some had boring old moth wings. But not April. April had the most beautiful butterfly wings, and Paige would never let her forget it.