Chapter 10: Like the Wind
Arnold was just falling asleep when he heard the window slide open. He knew exactly what that meant; Aile always used the window when he was coming in after hours, usually after slipping out to see Elise. As soon as Arnold heard the sound he woke up and sat up in bed, looking toward the window. There was a lithe silhouette carefully lowering itself down onto the floor. It slowly closed the window, then quietly turned around.
“Aile?” Arnold asked, even though there could be no other person who would enter in such a manner.
“Yo, Arnold,” Aileron greeted casually with a slight wave of his hand.
“Where!…” Arnold nearly shouted, then covered his mouth, surprised at his own volume. After taking a breath he continued using his inside voice, “where have you been? I’ve been worried about you.”
“Yeah, sorry about that, bro,” Aileron said, rubbing the back of his head and averting his gaze in slight embarrassment, “didn’t mean to make you worry about me.”
“It’s all right,” Arnold replied, sighing with closed eyes.
“Thanks,” Aileron said, then stepped forward into the light. When he opened his eyes to look up, Arnold was surprised.
“Err, Aile…what’s that you’re wearing?”
“Huh?” Aileron said, then looked down at himself. He was still clad in the dark gray flight suit he had worn for the flight back. “Oh… it’s… umm…”
“It’s all right,” Arnold said, again closing his eyes and sighing in exasperation, “you don’t have to tell me if you don’t want to.”
“I would, Arnold, but… I can’t,” Aileron said, feeling guilty. For a moment Arnold looked hurt, but his affable demeanor returned shortly after.
“I understand,” Arnold said with a nod and a reassuring smile.
“Thanks,” Aileron said. “I’m gonna take a quick shower, then I’ll hit the sack. Tell you what, I’ll tell you what I can if you’re still awake, 'kay?”
“All right,” Arnold replied with a lopsided smile.
Aileron took a look at himself in the mirror before getting undressed. For the first time Arnold, his best friend at the school, someone who was like a brother to him, had seen him in ‘Pilot Mode.’ He sighed deeply, wishing he could just come clean with Arnold about everything. It wasn’t that he was under some binding contract or anything like that. However, Aileron had a nagging feeling that if he told Arnold about everything that he had done, everything that he had been in his life prior to Lighthouse, then Arnold wouldn’t like him anymore. It was probably silly, but Aileron worried about it. Arnold was a kind and gentle person. How would he react if he knew that Aileron had killed so many people? It was just too big a risk, and he wouldn’t take it.
After getting a quick shower in, Aileron got dressed into his pajamas, which were just a pair of track shorts and a white tank top. He returned into the room, careful to remain quiet so as not to disturb Arnold.
“Hey,” Arnold greeted, apparently still awake.
“Oh, can’t sleep?” Aileron asked.
“Not since you promised to tell me about what happened… even if it’s just a little.”
“Right,” Aileron said with a sigh. He hopped into bed and got under the covers, relaxing his head on the soft pillow. Even though it was comfortable, he felt empty since Elise was no longer at his side.
“So?” Arnold asked, eager to hear about what had transpired.
“Right,” Aileron said, taking a breath, “where to begin…”
“Well, all you said before you left was that Elise was kicked out by her father, right?”
“Yeah,” Aileron sighed, then took a deep breath, “Well, after that…” he began. Arnold listened patiently as he recounted the events, leaving out all details that would make him appear super-human or otherwise strange. It was a story that was full of holes, and Arnold was no simpleton and could see it clearly. However, he respected that Aile wanted to keep those aspects a secret, even though he was horribly tempted at every turn to ask for more information.
I just have to trust him for now, Arnold resolved as Aileron told the broken story.
“Luckily, Lina was there for us,” Aileron said with a small smile.
“Wait a sec… Lina? You don’t mean Alina Vihkrov?”
“The one and only… thank God. If there were two girls like that I wouldn’t know what to do with 'em,” Aileron said with a emphatic shrug.
“How did she help?”
“Well, she’s living in a town near Elise’s. I called her so she could meet up with Elise before I got there, give her a place to stay.”
“I… see,” Arnold said, confused. All that he knew was that Lina just up and disappeared along with another girl of Aile’s acquaintance, Katrina Malia, after the incident that really put Lighthouse on the map. The hostage taking that had happened last semester. Lina and Kat had somehow been involved, and he had seen them wielding weapons against the aggressors who had taken control of the campus. After that event, they had simply vanished. Aileron had been in the hospital at the time, but when Arnold had gone to visit him a couple of days after the event, he found that Aile had also disappeared. However, when the new semester began he was both delighted and relieved to see Aileron’s face among the students once again.
Arnold had his suspicions, but he kept quiet and played dumb. He was just happy to have his friend back.
Aileron continued his story, adding that he and Elise had been staying together at a ‘safe place’ for the last couple of days. It was now Sunday night, and they were both safe and sound back on campus.
“You mean you and Elise were together… alone?”
“Yeah,” Aileron said, then remembered that Arnold didn’t know about the other times. He certainly didn’t know about the intimate nature of the relationship he shared with Elise.
“Did anything happen?” Arnold asked, a strange glint in his eye and tone in his speech.
“Wh… what do you mean?” Aileron said, feigning ignorance.
“You know what I mean, Aile,” Arnold said. Aileron hadn’t expected him to ask such a question, and certainly wasn’t sure how to reply.
“Well… that’s…” Aileron stammered.
“Ah ha, something did happen,” Arnold replied.
“That’s…” Aileron said, raising his voice slightly, then stopping. In a much quieter voice he continued, “that’s not something I’m comfortable talking about.”
“Okay, I’ll let it slide… this time,” Arnold replied, lying back on his bed with both hands behind his head. “Lucine’s gonna be jealous.”
“Lucine?” Aileron said. It was the first time in a while that her name had come to mind.
“Yeah,” Arnold said. “I’ve been babysitting her all weekend, you know. She’s been asking pesky question about you and Elise.”
“Sorry about that, Arnold,” Aileron sincerely apologized. “She’s after me and you get sucked in somehow.”
“Hah, it’s not like it’s anything new,” Arnold said with a laugh. “Girls are always asking me about you… I’ve don’t even have hope anymore when a new girl approaches me, because they always wanna ask questions about you. Where is he from? What kind of things does he like? Why’s he with that girl? Does he change her diapers…”
“Ack!” Aileron started, nearly choking on surprise. “Who’d ask something like that!?”
“Hmm, happened across something did I?” Arnold asked mischievously.
“Give me a break, Arnold,” Aileron said in a half pleading voice.
“No way, not after you made me worry about you all weekend, you jerk,” Arnold said, but the playful tone in his voice belied any real disappointment.
“Sorry about that… again,” Aileron said, then sighed.
“You know,” Arnold said, thinking back, “you told me before you left that you’d tell me everything someday.”
“I did, didn’t I?” Aileron said.
“Will you?” Arnold asked, “I mean, you promised.”
“Yeah, I did…” Aileron said. “I’ll keep that promise, bud. Just… not today.”
“I understand,” Arnold said with another reassuring smile.
Somehow, with all the events of the weekend, it seemed like a long time since Aileron had been in school. Even so, the Monday wasn’t welcomed. As usual he was up earlier than most of the other students, and for once wasn’t late to morning classes. Thankfully, the day just flew by. Even his third period Math class with Lucine went well. Another pop quiz kept Lucine at bay, and he was able to just enjoy the quiet. Lunch finally rolled around, and Aileron enjoyed the company of Elise and his other friends. It was turning out to be a run of the mill day. Until…
“Let’s go, you don’t wanna be late for your music class,” Aileron said to Elise as he stood up from his seat.
“Actually, I’m not going today. I’ve got something else to do,” Elise replied.
“Oh,” Aileron said, a bit surprised. It wasn’t like Elise to miss a class without a good reason.
“You go ahead, Aile, I’ll see you later, okay?” Elise said. Aileron was suspicious; Elise was acting strange. However, he really had no reason to distrust her. In fact, there wasn’t anyone he trusted more than Elise.
“Oh… kay,” Aileron replied.
As Aileron changed into his running attire alongside Arnold, he couldn’t help but wonder where Elise had gone off to. Arnold noticed his apprehension.
“You okay?” he asked.
“Yeah, just worried about Elise,” Aileron replied, staring distantly at his already closed locker.
“I’m sure she’s okay,” Arnold assured him, “you know how weird girls can be, right?”
“Yeah, I guess,” Aileron replied with a sigh.
Together they headed out to the track. It was a cold and dreary day as usual, and as such they were mostly alone. Lucine was already at the track, eagerly waiting for the two boys.
“Hey Lucine,” Arnold greeted.
“Hi Arnold,” Lucine replied, then turned and added, “hello Aile.”
“How’s it goin’, Lucine?” Aileron asked somewhat awkwardly.
“Good,” Lucine replied with an ice melting smile. Aileron mostly ignored the gesture and immediately started their regular stretching routine. As Aileron was getting ready to stretch his legs, he heard someone else approaching. At the same moment, he noticed a surprised look cross Lucine’s face.
“Aile!” he heard a familiar voice call. He turned to see Elise approaching, purposefully trotting over to them. The first thing Aileron noticed is that Elise wasn’t dressed as normal. No, she was wearing the girls’ winter PE uniform. It was the first time Aileron had ever seen her wear it.
“E… Elise?” he asked, almost not believing his well trained eyes. “What’re you doing here?” he asked in disbelief. Having reached the group, Elise stopped.
“I wanted to come run with you, is that okay?” she asked, smiling excitedly.
“Y… yeah, it’s okay,” Aileron said, rubbing the back of his head, “in fact, it’s great!”
“Ah, Aile,” Lucine chimed in, “who is this?”
“Oh, sorry you two haven’t even met have you?” Aileron said, remembering that Lucine was present, “Elise, this is Lucine. She’s been running with us and is pretty fast. Lucine, this is Elise, my girlfriend,” Aileron said. When he said the words ‘my girlfriend’, he noticeably puffed up as if very proud. It made Lucine seethe with jealousy.
“Nice to make your acquaintance, Lucine,” Elise offered.
“The pleasure is all mine,” Lucine said with a manufactured smile, her tone not quite convincing. Elise ignored her artificial reply and turned back to Aileron.
“Aile, will you help me stretch? I don’t run very often, you know,” Elise said, her smile never fading.
“Of course,” Aileron replied excitedly. As they went through a stretching routine, Aileron failed to notice the sharp glare Lucine was offering them. In fact, it was mostly aimed at the recent addition to their running group, Elise. Arnold, however, did notice. Smirking a bit, Arnold shook his head. He felt sorry for Lucine, but he had warned her that she wouldn’t be able to win against Elise.
Lucine examined Elise Laraway up close for the first time. As she had noted previously, she was really cute, but her body lacked the conditioning of her own. Lucine was also more well endowed than this little girl. Any way she looked at it, there was no way Elise could compete with her physically. Also, Lucine noticed the outline of Elise’s undergarments through the thin material of her track pants. If there was any doubt that Elise wore diapers before, this confirmed it. Every time Elise stretched, and the material was pulled taut, there was no mistaking that she wasn’t wearing normal underwear. As if on cue, Lucine overheard Elise say something.
“I’m wearing a pull up… it’ll be okay for a while, and I should be able to run in it fairly easily…”
Aileron blushed a bit, but Elise seemed utterly unperturbed. It was like she wasn’t shy at all about what she was wearing. Arnold seemed surprised too, as it was a recent change in Elise’s attitude. Before, she would never voluntarily bring up her problem. Now, she seemed okay with it.
"Ah, I see, " Aileron replied a bit sheepishly. After a few more minutes, they were ready to go. They lined up at the starting line, and when the signal was given by Arnold, they were off. Elise, being utterly frail, immediately fell behind. However, Aileron stayed right at her side. Upon noticing this, Lucine’s heart dropped into her left shoe.
“Go ahead you two,” Aileron said to Arnold and Lucine while smiling broadly. Arnold nodded and picked up his pace. At first, Lucine wanted to stay behind, but feeling awkward she went ahead and caught up to Arnold.
“You… don’t have to… stay with me…” Elise offered to Aileron.
“Running is most fun when you have someone to do it with,” Aileron said with a smile.
“Thanks… Aile,” Elise replied between breaths. Aileron smiled at her. They hadn’t even gotten half way through the first lap and already Elise was getting tired. However, it didn’t matter because he was just happy that she was here, sharing in one of his favorite pastimes.
It wasn’t long before Lucine and Arnold lapped them. As they passed, and Lucine noticed that Aileron was coaching Elise, pushing her to run just a little more, she scoffed and turned her head away. Arnold seemed to be amused by this, but as usual kept his mouth shut.
“I… I can’t…” Elise said, slowing to a stumbling walk and taking in deep, labored breaths. Aileron slowed down with her, putting a hand to her shoulder to steady her.
“Not a bad start,” Aileron said with a smile.
“Barely… one and… a half…. laps,” Elise said.
“Gotta start somewhere,” Aileron shrugged.
“You… go on ahead… Aile, I’ll be… okay,” Elise said.
“Nah, I have a better idea,” Aileron said with a wry grin.
Hah, Lucine thought triumphantly to herself when Elise stopped running, she can’t even come close to competing with me in this… what’re they doing?
Interrupting her thoughts, Lucine was surprised to see Elise hop up on Aileron’s back. He supported her legs, with his hands, and began to carry her piggyback.
“Hold on tight!” Aileron said, then started jogging with Elise on his back. Elise laughed, gripping Aileron tightly as he jogged.
Arnold chuckled at the sight as Lucine took on a look of open hostility.
“They sure are a cute couple,” Arnold said, shaking his head. Lucine didn’t say anything. She just stopped running, turned on her heel, and walked off the track with big, angry strides. Arnold, surprised at her sudden departure, stopped and watched her confusedly as she walked toward the girls’ locker room. After a few moments, he shrugged.
“Hell hath no fury,” he muttered to himself, then began running again.
“Okay… okay…” Aileron finally said after running with Elise on his back for more than a quarter mile. He slowed to a walk and carefully let Elise down onto her feet, panting heavily.
“Aile, are you okay?” Elise asked, still giggling.
“I’ll… be fine…” he said, wiping sweat from his brow. “Now that’s… training,” he said, taking a deep breath. Elise reached up and patting him on top of his head. Arnold caught up to them and stopped.
“Hey, Arnold,” Aileron said, forcefully regaining his regular rate of breathing, “where’s Lucine?”
“She… ah… left,” Arnold said, smiling a bit painfully.
“Oh,” Aileron replied. He felt a little bad inside. Being an observant person, there was no way Aileron would miss Lucine’s behavior. He could feign ignorance all he wanted, but he still noticed her jealous glares and upset body language as she walked off. He lightly sighed, wishing he could be more for that poor girl. However, he had Elise to take care of, and she took priority.