Alivia stared at the stranger open-mouthed. Her mind whirling out of control from just the two words. She recalled dimly all the stories Muriel used to tell them. But those were stories.
“That's insane. Angels aren't-”
“-Real?” he finished for her. “Yet you just saw my wings.” she shook her head, feeling a wave of nausea pass through her. She backed up another step and stumbled as her legs gave way. The guy was there, closing the distance between them swiftly. He caught her and in one quick motion picked her up, cradling her against his chest. She tried to struggle but his arms were like iron, refusing to let her leave their grip.
“You pushed yourself too much. Even with a natural ability of perception, some things aren't meant to be seen,” he murmured. She stared up at him, wanting to deny everything he said. Had she been seeing angels all this time? No, only his image felt off. He wasn't giving off a distinctly wrong vibe like others she'd sensed.
“Put me down,” she said, feeling her heart race with fear and confusion.
“I won't hurt you,” he replied, as if reading her thoughts. She blinked at him and licked her lips nervously.
“You've been following me,” she stated as he began walking. She should've felt the jolt of his footsteps but she didn't.
“I've been following you since you were a baby. It's my job,” he explained. She blinked at him again, regarding him warily.
“What are you?” she asked again.
“I told you, an angel.”
“Angels don't stalk people,” she replied hotly.
“Because the girl,” he began with a clipped tone. “Who doesn't believe in angels,” he continued. “Must know everything about them,” he turned his cool eyes on her with the last sentence. She gritted her teeth, the guy had a point. But stubbornness wanted to fight, unwilling to consider the possibility. Because the implications scared her. If angels are real, then what else is?
“Are you like my guardian angel or something?” she asked. He gave a derisive snort in response.
“You humans do believe in the stupidest of things. Why should angels waste their time guarding you against your every mistake?” he asked.
“I thought angels were good guys,” she replied, thrown by his attitude. Weren't angels meant to be all kind and caring? This guy was acting more like a regular jerk.
“We are. But we can't coddle humankind. Learn from your own mistakes and all that,” he said. He didn't speak like an angel either. His voice held a hint of arrogance. Jordan would've left the room by this point. Jordan! He'd have received her message by now, maybe be worrying.
“I need to get home,” Alivia said, aware her phone was lost somewhere.
“He headed home, Muriel will protect him,” he said.
“What?” she said. There's no way... The thought spun as an old image conjured itself. She'd been five years old, she swore she'd seen faeries and raced to Muriel, excited to tell her of the discovery. She told her she'd just been seeing things, and as Alivia had looked into her kind face she thought she saw a strange glow to her hair. As if something was lighting it up.
Another memory, when she was twelve. She'd decided to try climbing on top of the swing set in the park. Muriel was sitting on the bench and telling her to stop. She ignored her and kept going. Of course she slipped, she collided with the floor, breaking her wrist in the process. But as she fell she heard something. Now that she thought back, it had sounded like wings fluttering. Muriel had been by her side within a split second as she first blinked tears from her eyes. Alivia never questioned it, why would she?
“Muriel was assigned to protect you and your brother, same as me. Only she was to do it up close. Watch for any signs,” he explained.
“Signs? Watching over us? I don't understand. Why go to the effort?” he paused in his walking to study her again.
“You're not fully human, either of you. That's as much as you need to know right now,” he said, dismissing her questions effortlessly. She glared at him.