Ed encountered James for the first time but a split second after he’d done an extremely silly thing. He’d left his post for a better look off towards the horizon. Only, they’d just been made. They’d barely a week to experience Paradise before the hammer had fallen, the poor dears. Really, it was enough to break your heart.
I do so hope they’ll be all right he’d said, causing James to scrunch his face up like he’d just got a good whiff off the durian tree. But honestly, if She’d been wanting them to keep well clear of anything in the Garden, that would have been the one to pick. Not that Ed would question Her, but still. It did seem rather unfair.
I mean, you can’t really fault them. Her Indoors — he jutted his chin out, up, and Ed had practically quivered to think about one of his comrades — Greg, most likely, the absolute rotter; stooped down to whisper his infraction into her ear — though it wasn’t as if She wouldn’t know already. If he was going to be — smitten? smote? smited? — then it would have happened the moment he’d handed over the sword. Greg was only trying to curry favour — was the one what decided they should have choices in the first place.
James pursed his lips. He squinted into the distance, occasionally rising up onto his toes as they stood side by side on the rocky precipice. Ed thought he might have felt sorry for them too. The dark tip of one wing danced into Ed’s sightline. Black, different than the usual white. Like those birds? Oh, what were they called? The black ones — ah yes, blackbirds. That made quite good sense. James's wing brushing lightly against his neck jolted Ed from his reverie, suddenly all too aware that they were stood right at the edge.
Trust him lose his footing and fall, clumsy and graceless, straight on down. At the moment Ed was in no particular rush to test out the buoyancy of his wings, especially since he'd discovered his tunic was a little snugger than it had been before the durian. Delicious stuff, once you’d made it past the smell. And the pears. Lovely, lovely pears. He particularly liked it when they were absolutely dripping with juice, but as this was Paradise, whatever pear he plucked was bound to be exactly as it was meant to be. That was without even mentioning the grapes! Cool and tart when plucked straight off the vine, but Ed had also discovered that if they’d been left out for a few hours, in the sunshine, they developed squishy insides. They made him, and the monkeys, who also liked the rotten fruit, giggle for no apparent reason.
James folded up his wings in disgust. He crossed his skinny arms in front of his chest. What’s the point of hanging up the equivalent of a bunch of big flashing lights — Ed wondered what those could be: stars, perhaps? Stars were lights, and he’d seen them twinkle in a reassuring manner. Maybe James was confused about the twinkling — on the tree. Here his voice morphed into almost a hiss, causing Ed to take a step back — was there a snake lying in wait for them? — and then laying down what is a frankly ridiculous rule that says — sure, humans — James swung his head from side to side — sure, let’s see how you handle this one. Here’s a situation which neither you, nor anyone else — because there isn’t anyone else, in fact, there has never been anyone else — has had to deal with before.
Ed looked off into the distance. The sky was being overtaken by inky black, the way it did at nightfall up here. They’d be able to outpace the gathering rainclouds though after that it’d be anyone’s guess. He did hope they’d be all right. Between his fingers, he worried a large fig leaf, rolling and unrolling it until it curled up on itself into a tight little cylinder.
James flung his hands up in the air. He turned his gaze on Ed. His eyes were amber, flecked with gold, that was something he hadn’t seen before in an angel. Ed would know him if he’d been an angel. Whatever he was, his eyes narrowed as he looked over at Ed - look what’s your name?
Ed Ed said. I mean, technically it's Edward. He knew his own name. She’d given it to him, after all, which meant it suited him perfectly. But everybody calls me Ed.
Well Ed, James said, I’m James. He spluttered with anger. Do you think it’s fair, Ed, to treat them as if they know what consequences are when they’re really only children? Children should be allowed to make mistakes.
Rules are there for a reason Ed said primly, although he silently thought James was probably in the right.
James made an aggrieved noise through his mouth and stomped off in a huff, leaving Ed to continue looking out over the horizon, worrying his hands in front of him, for anything that could reasonably be considered a flame.