But I didn’t.
Are you okay?
Vita spoke to me, putting a soft hand on my arm. I opened my eyes.
I looked around at this new place. It was exactly like my daydream.
The sun was pouring down. The grass was tickling my feet. The breeze was raising goosebumps on my arms. I spun around, just taking in the whole image. Took me a second to remember that this wasn’t fake.
Vita stood next to me, unfazed, still smiling like an enigma.
Pretty, isn’t it? He asked, looking around also. He caught a small flower in his cupped hand and blew it away.
How did you find me? I asked one of the questions on my mind.
I was looking for you. Hannah told me about you.
Is she here?
Yes, actually. Vita answered, starting to walk again. I walked nearby. I’ll take you to her.
It was silent for a long time. We were walking in a dream? No, this was real. If he was taking me to Hannah, was he taking me to Heaven? I almost rolled my eyes. That would never happen. This guy wouldn’t just walk me there, there had to be a catch. What would I have to do to get my ticket inside? All my sins, my mistakes. I am not saint like Hannah. I will be turned down.
If my parents are here too though, I hope I can see them. It’s been so long.
Vita’s footsteps distracted me. Who was he? Just some guy? A ghost, no doubt. But still... Vita sounded familiar to me. It’s not a typical name.
I eyed him curiously. His jeans were worn, a faded blue. His plain white T-shirt hung loosely on his shoulders. He wore normal clothes.
You’re an angel. I said, rather than questioned.
Found me out, did you? Vita laughed. We climbed up a steep grassy hill, and he helped me up. We paused on the top of it for a second.
Will everything be okay? I blurted to him. He took a while to answer.
It won’t be what you’re used to. But death is not the end of everything. It’s a new start. Most people see no hope, and give up. They don’t realize that they’re not alone. He sighed. You’re not a person who gives up, are you?
I’m not sure...
You’re a terrible liar. Confused by his reply, I looked up at him. He smiled and pointed. I followed his gesture to a bridge in the distance. I squinted to see it, but it was only a short distance away, down the hill. It connected two grassy green hills on either side. It was wooden and looked weak, but able to carry anyone across. It stood out from the scene around us. Beyond the bridge, miles and miles of grass seemed to stretch out, never ending.
Here we are.
Welcome to Heaven.
Heaven. No gates, no clouds, no astounding castle. Just a bridge. That’s all it took.
Anyone but me would be excited, happy, amazed. They would fall down to their knees, crying in pure happiness, thanking the Great Father for their safe delivery to the greatest haven ever known in all eternity. The one place in all existence where everyone speaks of, hopes to enter and dreams of seeing. But I was not someone else. I was no angel, no saint, no thankful person.
I was sad.
Was it even possible to be sad facing Heaven’s entrance? I wanted to believe, for Vita, for Hannah, for my life that I was happy, but my stomach was twisting inside and not in the good way.
What is it?
I was sad when Hannah left me to go to Heaven. I felt left behind, abandoned. But now that I am here, I feel more alone then ever. Something didn’t feel right.
I thought Heaven would be the only place I would be happy. I thought a ghost would be trapped on earth to walk alone, forever, until I found Hannah. But she, too, left me to come here. And finding you... being taken to Heaven... I thought it was what I wanted. But I don’t feel happy... I’m not thankful enough I guess. I’m so sorry... I started to cry.
Natalie, no. Vita hugged me. An angel was hugging me. If you aren’t happy here, where are you happy? I dug my face into his shoulder, thinking so hard. It felt like I’ve known him all my life. I just wanted to stand here and cry. And cry. And cry. And finally, as if it wasn’t myself talking, a word came out.
Home. I heard myself mumble, swallowing hard.
I think I know where that is. He whispered.
Vita tried to wipe my eyes, but I just stood there, like a baby. An angel was trying to help me and I was just being selfish and stupid.
I think he’s waiting for you.
I cleared my eyes, and I was back in Winthrop. The sun, the grass, the flowers were gone. Replaced by the Crestpoint Port. The musty blue sky, the fog, the dark clouds. The beach was behind me. I heard the crashing waves and the smell of the ocean. Vita was right. He was sitting on the beach.
How did you do this? I demanded, stepping out of his arms and looking around. This was it. My hometown. But a second ago, I was in Heaven.
You know what this means, right?
A soul unwilling to cross the threshold into Heaven must remain here on Earth. If it’s not your time, I guess it’s not your time. He explained profoundly, with a hint of disappointment that hung in the air.
So I stay here? I didn’t think I quite understood the consequences that came with my choice. But it did, somewhere inside of me, feel like the right one. I felt a sudden, energized force build up within me. This is right. Right here, right now. This is it. This is what I want.
Hurry, before I change my mind. I was smiling while he was talking to me. It was hard to hear him over the heart pounding in my chest. Wait, I’m here. If you ever need anything... I’m back, I’m back home. just let me know. Nice meeting you, Natalie.
Vita put his hands in his pockets and looked over at the beach behind me. I wanted to thank him so much.
Thank you so much, thank you! I didn’t know what to say. I guess I wasn’t going to Heaven, like every other good girl or boy. I was home, where I belonged. I didn’t belong there. This was so crazy. I still had no idea what was going on. But still, I was happy. And I thought life was weird? Death is twice as unusual.
If you’re going to be a guardian angel, you’re going to have to do something other than just stand here, you know. Go! Vita chuckled, nodding his head to Marc.
I started running. Almost at the pier, I looked over my shoulder at my own angel, but he was already gone. The sand wasn’t gritty or hot on my feet like I wanted it to be. The water wasn’t cold as it trickled through my toes. But I didn’t need it to be. I had what I wanted.
Marc was sitting at the shore, where the water almost touched him, reaching out for his feet, then slinking back down into the temperamental ocean. The wind tore through the sky was a ferocity that only came in Winthrop evenings.
My beautiful boy.
You’ll have no idea how much I’ve given up for you. I murmured, my voice only heard by me underneath the crashing of the water. It was more of a declaration to him than to me. It felt nice to say those words, even though they were forever lost to the sea.
My mind played my memories of Marc in a rush of flickering scenes, bouncing back in forth in my head, each one a kiss, a promise, an embrace. Our first date, my hand in his, the day he asked me to marry him. I looked down at my hand, where our commitment was still wrapped around my finger. You’ll never know how much you mean to me. But I’ll be here, waiting for you.
Beside him was a stick. I thought of an idea. Grabbing it, my hand fell through it. I frowned. Then, I remembered an angel’s words.
You’re not a person who gives up, are you?
I reached again. And again. Still nothing.
Marc looked deep in thought. He was shivering in the cold wind.
He was staring into the choppy waves. His eyes hurt from crying and his chest was heavy. His body felt completely numb.
But right besides him, something caught his tired eyes. The sand was moving next to him. But he wasn’t touching it. No one was around. He didn’t know what was happening. Words were forming in it now. His eyes widened as he read the letters in the sand and sounded out the words. He stared in amazement as he read “I love you” in the sand. He looked all around him, around the beach, but so no one. He bolted up.
I grabbed his hand and kissed his cheek.
“I love you too.” Marc whispered to me.
They say that death is the end. But to a guardian angel like me, like a friend of mine told me, it’s only just the beginning.
But I didn’t.