“I was a colicky baby.” Jay stroked Isellta’s hair. “Yeah, I made my mom a wreck. Kept her up all hours. I’d fall asleep. She’d lay me down and sneak off to her own bed. As soon as her head hit her pillow, I’d wake up, screaming and fussing.” He chuckled softly. “Of course, I just have her word for it. I can’t remember doing any such thing to my poor mother. I like to pretend that I was the world’s most perfect baby.”
He pressed the side of his face against Isellta’s forehead. “I bet you were a very good baby. I bet you never gave anyone any problems. You would probably disagree, but I’d never believe it. You’re so good. So kind. So gentle.”
“I’m sorry, kid. I’m sorry I even considered killing you. That was dumb. No, it was desperate. I want you to be happy, Isellta. I want you to be safe. I want you to live a long and fulfilling life with your Robin.”
“Maelin thinks that she and I ought to adopt you. I’m not sure if you know what that means. So, I’ll tell you. Mae and I would claim you as our child and we’d be your parents. Obviously, not your real parents. I mean, you know, some things can never be changed. You are who you are. Adoption won’t suddenly make you human or eliminate all of those bad memories inside your head. But you would be with us. We’d take care of you. We would love you. Our home would be yours. Is that something you’d want?”
Jay imagined Isellta’s reaction.
He’d hug me. I’m sure he would.
“I miss you, kid. I’m sorry. I’m sorry for so many things. I wish I knew how to make it right again. I wish I knew how to pull you back. I wish. I wish.”
He pulled Isellta in closer. “I’m here, kid. I’m here. Listen to my heart beat. Listen to my voice. And know this: I love you. No matter what horrible things anyone else may have said about you, I will always love you. Okay? I’m here with you. I’m here for you. I will not leave you. I’m here, kid. I’m here.”
Jay scoffed. “I’m just all over the place, aren’t I? Jumping from subject to subject, from thought to thought. No straight lines here, huh? Just wild rambling curves. Does that bother you? Are you thinking ‘Maaaan! Why can’t he just stick with one topic?’ Is it giving you a headache?” He kissed Isellta’s forehead. “Am I bothering you, kid? Hm?”
He slid his hand down the middle of Isellta’s back.
Isellta’s feathers didn’t feel clean and smooth like they normally did. They felt greasy and filthy as if someone had scrunched oily dirt into them.
He rolled the fey onto his chest and examined his wings.
Shock stole his breath away.
Thick gray scaling covered each feather. A clear oil seeped around the feathers’ edges.
This can’t be anything good.
Jay got out of bed and ran to the door. He had only one thought in mind: I need to find Preyuna.