Introducing author Dominika Pindor who shares an excerpt of YA fantasy novel ‘Wings and Shadows’.
“When I turned onto Welling Ave, the crowds began to disperse, and by the time I reached Scott Street, I was alone. At the intersection, I pressed the greasy button on the traffic light pole and leaned against it as I waited for the red circle to turn green.
“I don’t mean to bother you, dear, but could you assist me with these? It’ll only take a moment.”
The voice came from an old woman, who had seemingly appeared out of thin air. She was short, perhaps five feet at most, and stood wearily hunched over her walker. The overflowing bags of groceries she had been referring to were draped over the rails, making the thin pieces of metal strain underneath their weight. I recognized her as Mrs. Riley, my mother’s old college professor. We had met a few times when I was younger, but I doubted she remembered.
“Sure. How can I help?” I couldn’t bring myself to say no. Aside from the large mole on her cheek, she looked just like my grandmother.
“Carry these,” she said, pointing to the three fullest bags, each of which was filled with at least half a dozen cans. I picked them up and she grinned. “Thank you, dear.” The dear came out sounding like deah. Then she coughed, covering her mouth with one papery hand.
“Are you alright ma’am?”
Mrs. Riley chuckled. “Me? Oh no, can’t say I am.”
I raised my eyebrows, expecting her to elaborate. She didn’t. We continued walking, heading towards the assortment of worn-down, brown apartment complexes where I lived. The street was empty, except for a few vehicles parked along the sidewalk—six cars, all different shades of black, and several white trucks.
“Where are we heading?” I finally asked, curious to find out how much longer I would have to carry the bags, which were growing heavier by the minute.
“Over there, dear.” She paused to lift a wrinkled finger and pointed it towards one of the shorter buildings in a nearby alley. “Distance won’t bother you?”
There was a broken wine bottle on the sidewalk, and I had to pause to step over it. “I’m fine, ma’am. No worries.”
“You know,” the woman said, unwilling to lapse into silence, “ you look just like my Lillian.”
“My granddaughter. She has red hair as well; it’s the most beautiful color, if you ask me.”
“I appreciate the compliment ma’am. I was never too fond of it myself,” I said. That was true. My hair color was one of the only things kids in middle school would laugh about. I recalled the moment—sometime in seventh grade—when I had asked out a boy I liked. His rejection still echoed through my head every time someone brought up my hair color.
We rounded the corner and walked into the alley. It wasn’t a pleasant place. A swarm of flies hovered above one of the dumpsters, which was backed up against the wall a few feet to our left. That explained the nauseous stench.
“Hope you don’t mind the smell,” Mrs. Riley apologized.
I couldn’t reply; the odor was making me dizzy. To my surprise, it seemed to have no effect on her at all. I suppose that’s what happened when you spent your entire life in such a place. The wheels of her walker rattled on the uneven ground, and a single tomato fell out of a grocery bag. I bent down to pick it up, although my own bags were threatening to spill.
“Ma’am, how much longer do we have to walk? These bags are getting awfully heavy.”
She paused for a moment before answering. “We’re almost there,” she told me. I glanced up from the ground and realized we were nearing the short brown building she had pointed out a few minutes before. Of course. I had known our destination all along. The question had been unnecessary. I smiled to myself, hoping to ease the strange feeling that was flaring inside my gut.
There were three doors on this side of the building. The one in the center was the main entrance that likely led to the upper apartments. The others were doors to the ground floor apartments—14 and 15. We stopped at 15. The woman left her walker, climbed up the single step, and began fumbling for the keys. Her hands were visibly trembling.
Arthritis, I thought, remembering one of the lessons Huma’s mother—a doctor—had taught me. The poor woman had arthritis.
“You can put the groceries down, dear. I will take them inside once- oh!” Her keys fell to the asphalt, startling a rat that had begun sneaking in our direction. I picked them up and handed them to her. “Thank you dear. Thank you so much.” She coughed again. “Leave the bags on the ground. I’ll take them inside once I open the door.”
“Got it,” I said and did as she asked. The keys jiggled in the lock, and the door finally swung open.
“Thank you,” the woman said again, a warm smile spreading across her face. “Would you like me to call a taxi cab for you? An Uber, perhaps?”
“No ma’am, I’ll be fine,” I replied, glancing at the bags. Would she be able to carry them in by herself? She would have to unless she was going to call someone to do it for her. I decided not to pry; her business wasn’t mine. I turned around to go…
And then I stopped dead in my tracks.
A large black SUV stood in the center of the road. It was positioned sideways, creating a barrier between the alley and the main road.
More importantly, cutting off my way out.”