Hmm…I thought, peering out of the window. I predict another pointless, boring day. Like yesterday. And the day before. And the day before that, and the day before that…
I sighed and leaned my forehead against the cool glass. It appears that you, Minuet Winters, have an extremely monotonous life.
At this (oft-repeated) thought, I lifted my head and stared around my room. I sat in the seat of a wide, tall window that allowed in the golden evening light. Dust motes floated and shimmered in the sunlight as I examined my surroundings.
Not much had changed since I came to Bellview Psychiatric Hospital at the age of twelve. The walls were the same white, paneled halfway down with a dark, mahogany-looking wood. The ceiling was high and sloped upwards towards the door, disappearing into muted shadows. The floor was the same sleek, warm wood as the wall paneling. Even the furniture was unchanged: a simple, quilt-covered bed, a bedside table, and a wooden wardrobe for my clothes.
No need to go overboard in a mental hospital.
I shifted on the windowseat cushion and sighed again. A cloud of golden dust motes swirled away from my breath. Dust, I thought. This place is full of nothing but dust and sorrow and old memories. How long had it been? Five years…five years of nothing. Nothing but psychoanalysts and private tutors, other sad, quiet mental patients and the occasional sane, friendly person—who, of course, left as soon as I began to be comfortable with them. Nothing but grey and gold and dust and long, empty hallways.
And the angels, of course.
It’s really the angels’ fault that I was at Bellview. I saw the first one when I was seven. I was in our apartment kitchen, struggling to pour myself a glass of water with my childish, inept hands. I remember sticking out my tongue in concentration. Mother and Father were in the living room, watching the telly.
I stood on tiptoe to reach the counter better. My balance wavered, I wobbled slightly, and the empty glass slipped from my hand, falling towards the tile floor…
A hand snapped out and caught it before it had fallen more than a foot. I looked up. A very tall man stood before me, holding the glass and radiating a reassuring light. His wings were large, violet, and very soft-looking. I smiled and, reaching out a hand, brushed one’s feathers lightly. It felt like silk and the doves my aunt kept, when I picked them up and they nestled in my hands, warm and smooth and alive.
He crouched down to my level and I dropped my hand back to my side. His eyes were very serious. “You are Minuet,” he said, and his voice sounded like rain tap-tapping on my window and people whispering in the church pews.
I nodded. “Yes.” My fingers strayed to his wing again. “Are you an angel?”
His eyes were very sad and the color of Sunday Mass communion wine. “I was.”
“Was?” I repeated childishly, frowning.
“I made a mistake.” His Christ-blood eyes pleaded. “I want to take it back. You can help me. Make them listen.” His beautiful voice was hushed and urgent. I felt like something was horribly wrong with him for some reason. Was he sick? …He was too sad. I’d never seen someone so sad.
“Tell them I take it back. Tell them I’m sorry.”
“Tell who?” I asked, brow furrowed in confusion.
“The Council of Angels. They will listen to you. You are Minuet.” He kept repeating that. Why would they listen to me? Why was I so special?
“Mister Angel…I don’t think…do angels listen to people...?” I trailed off. His eyes were drilling into me, burgundy splotches of drying blood. I shrugged. Fine. Maybe angels do listen to little girls. Mother and Father always said, ‘anything can happen’.
“Mister Council Angels?” I called out experimentally. “Angels? Are you there?”
There was a silence. The angel stared at me and I knew he wasn’t breathing. Abstractly, in that distracted way children have, I wondered if angels even have to breathe.
Then a warm chorus of voices burst into bloom in my head. It sounded like summer rain and wind in trees and my mother’s heartbeat when she held me.
We are here.
I let out a breath of relief and awe combined. “Mister Angel says he’s sorry.” The angel’s eyes were locked onto mine. He nodded.
“Tell them they were right. I made a mistake,” he said, looking wretched.
“He says you were right,” I relayed. “He made a mistake.”
The voices were silent.
“He really means it,” I added, frowning. “I can tell.”
The silvery chorus rang out in my head again. He made a grave error, child.
“Everyone makes mistakes,” I replied, somewhat petulantly. “If they’re sorry, you forgive them.” I thought a moment. “Sometimes you forgive them even if they’re not sorry.”
There was a long silence and then I felt, rather than heard, a unanimous sigh. A wise child. You are right, despite all initial misgivings. We will allow him to return.
I smiled dazzlingly at the angel, who had been watching me intently the whole time. “You can go back now, Mister Angel.”
His eyes, large and beautiful, filled with relief—and thine cup shall always be full—and he breathed out a sigh of relief. “Thank you, Minuet Winters.” He lifted a hand and brushed my forehead with two fingers. It felt like standing in sunlight. “I am in your debt forever and always. This shall not be forgotten.”
I nodded uncertainly. My head was beginning to hurt from all this strange, formal language. “You’re welcome…?”
He smiled and it was like the sun’s reflection on the moon, bright and mesmerizing, but not painful to gaze at. “No matter where you go, child, I will watch you. Never fear the night. It only means that morning will break that much brighter.”
Then he was gone, and the glass was in my hands. I set it on the counter, no longer thirsty, and walked into the living room. My mother looked up and smiled at me. “Hello, love. Were you talking just then in the kitchen?”
“I was talking to an angel, Mummy. He needed my help.”
She smiled again, tolerantly, and patted my arm. “That’s lovely, Minuet. An angel. Lovely.” She turned to my father. “Edward, doesn’t Minuet have such a beautiful imagination? Angels. Fancy that.”
“Mm-hmm,” my father agreed absently, intent on his newest song idea. He scribbled down a few musical notes. “Angels…you don’t say…”
I shut my mouth tightly and left the room, furious. Grown-ups. It was real! I saw him, I heard their shining voices in my ears. I wasn’t making it up, and I definitely wasn’t imagining it. Adults are just so stubborn. They hate to admit that they’re wrong about anything.
No…not much has changed, I thought, and stared at the sparkling dust in the shafts of evening light. I’m still either crazy or able to converse with angels. No big deal. I’m just a seventeen-year-old girl stuck in a psychiatric hospital. The thing is…
I’m not insane or hallucinatory. I know I’m not. I should have run screaming from the kitchen when I first saw the angel, should have pretended it never happened. But I didn’t. I helped him, and now I have to follow up on my actions. It didn’t even occur to my seven-year-old mind that it might not be real. I just accepted it. I just believed.
And look where it got me.