When the school came into view, my heart soared as I spotted Beth just inside the gate, waiting for me. I practically ran into her, giving her the biggest of hugs. She had always been the hugging one, and her surprise at my blatant show of affection was clear in her sea-blue eyes. I felt like crying in relief, but managed to hold it in as we walked into the building, another mundane day of school stretched before me like a safety net. One made of very coarse rope with thick knots liable to almost-maim, but a safety net nonetheless.
No matter how much I might deny it under normal circumstances; I do feel secure in school. The endless crowding of people; the undisturbed routine which never changes; the constant reminder that you’re only one small puzzle-piece in the big picture. It helped to ground me a little and I managed to look at my situation from a less biased point of view, seeing all the angles; obviously all while I ignored the teachers and their useless ramblings.
Maybe it wouldn’t be so bad, dying, if it served some higher purpose. I’m not saying that I’m all that happy about the prospect of permanently ‘hitting the sack’ so young, but there are many, many worse ways (and times) to die. I mean, I don’t exactly have some big, sparkling dream I’ve been building up to all my life like Beth (she wants to become a lawyer) and my life right now could be described as… inactive at best. As long as the person I took with me was a real asshole, it doesn’t sound so bad… I sighed, thinking I must have really bitch-slapped someone hard in a past life to deserve this crappy karma. I was sixteen, not even out of high school yet; I shouldn’t be contemplating my possible death within the next few weeks. I should be terrified of tests, teachers and coursework; not stunning Angels out to either damn me or save me. It was ridiculous. So much so that I found myself smiling into the silence of my English lesson, unable to stop. I covered my not-so-reassuring (for my sanity) grin with the back of my hand and fought not to giggle. Had I finally broke? I made a small chocking noise when I stifled another giggle, feeling light-headed all of a sudden.
The subtle ruffling of feathers from behind me made me jerk, but I didn’t need to look to tell Mr Angel was looming just within reach. He had been patiently waiting outside on the old Oak tree last I saw. How he had gotten inside without me noticing, I had no idea. A light breeze lifted a lock of crimson hair into my face and I realised the window was open. Ah.
“Are you well?” he asked when I took a deep breath to control myself. Obviously I couldn’t answer without the teacher hearing me above the constant tapping of chalk on slate and pen on paper, so I nodded, looking down at my blank note book. It wasn’t a lie; physically, I was fine. Mentally… let’s just say I’ve had it worse.
I could almost sense the waves of power coming from the being behind me, and when he didn’t disappear after another moment, I decided to strike up a conversation in the old fashioned way middle school kids used to before the invention of mobiles and death teachers. ‘What’s your name, you didn’t tell me…’ I scribbled, my pencil working for the first time all day. I debated adding a smiley face, but decided against it.
I pushed my book to the side and from the shifting of his shadow, gathered the Angel was reading it. I was using my English book to write notes to an Angel... Maybe I was just a little insane after all.
“Caleb.” The word was said so softly I almost didn’t catch it, and when I did, a slow smiled spread across my face. Progress. I hid my smile and rested my elbow on the table, thinking of something else to say-or write.
I didn’t have long to think because the teacher spotted my badly-hidden smile and snapped, “Is there something entertaining about Shakespeare, Sonea?” I looked up to see Mrs Bridgin glaring at me with steely green eyes. Her dark, greying hair was pulled into an immaculate bun at the crown of her head, making her already sharp features even more so. Overall, she gave me the impression of a grumpy old cat.
I blinked, cursing mentally. “No,” I said honestly, my smirk growing despite my best efforts. What can I say? Theatre never was my thing.
She seemed to realise her mistake and said shrilly, “Very funny, out in the corridor, now!” I didn’t bother arguing, just got up and left. I was used to it.
The school’s corridors are about as inviting as your average prison cell, with cold, all-one-colour floors, white walls, small windows and a cold draft which stubbornly refuses to be driven away by the early summer haze outside. I shivered, shutting the door firmly behind me after Caleb took his merry time following. His wings brushed the sides of the doorframe despite them being closed, and a single white feather fell breezily to the floor as the draft from the closing door lifted it away.
“Can normal people see that?” I asked, eyeing the dazzling white feather the size of my little finger as it rested innocently on the hard grey floor.
“Yes,” he said simply, and I made a small noise when I realised I hadn’t asked him the one thing I should have been eager to do since our conversation last night.
“Why can I see… ‘Angels’?” I asked, leaning against the wall as the muffled sounds of lecturing teachers drifted down the corridor from at least five other classrooms. He probably wouldn’t answer, but my heart sped up a little anyway. To know why I was born like this would be… amazing.
“I’m not sure…” The light above me kept flickering, and I glared at the floor. “but you’re not the only one.” I waited for him to elaborate, but he didn’t say any more. Great answer, I though a little bitterly. I’d kind of already gathered I wouldn’t be the only one, so that wasn’t anything new.
“I’m guessing you can’t tell me about where I’m going after this... joyride.” ‘Joyride’ seemed an appropriate metaphor for my life right now.
A simple, “No.”
“How about Christianity? Are you really ‘Angels’ or just aliens with wings? How about God?”
A shake of that perfect head. “I can’t tell you anything,” he said, a smidgen of guilt in his tone which stopped my retort short. I made a frustrated noise and crossed my arms, trying not to look like a pouting child.
He wasn’t supposed to feel sorry for me; that made getting angry at him even harder than it should be. Somehow I managed to be royally pissed anyway.
“Why are you here? Surely you can tell me that. Is it to kill me yourself or make sure it happens when ‘fate’ means for it to?” I snapped, the sharpness of my tone fiercer than I had intended. He actually flinched, but was saved from answering when the door opened and Mrs Bridgin walked out of the classroom.
She took one look at my face as I stood before the invisible Angel and must have liked what she saw, because her well-known, superior smirk fell into place like a mask. I took a deep breath, reigning in my temper and pulling down my own mask.
Her lecture was short, but sour, and I found myself without break-time for the next week. Too bad there was a one-to-three chance that I wouldn’t be there to see the rest of the week out. At least her rant gave me the time to think and realise I had been a bit of a bitch. If Caleb couldn’t tell me what I wanted to know, then he couldn’t. There was nothing he nor I could do about it.
And it was becoming increasingly obvious that he wasn’t the cold-hearted machine I had expected him to be; the bloody Angel felt guilty.
Suffice to say the walk home later that day was filled with a silence so awkward I decided to listen to my iPod before I went crazy. Beth had choir practise after school, so it was just me and the Angel with some unneeded quality time. I hadn’t apologised yet, and considering my ‘decisive moment’ could happen at any time, leaving things till a later date probably wasn’t the best of ideas.
I sighed, stopped walking and pulled my earphones out all at the same time, before spinning on my heel to face my shadowing Angel. He blinked in surprise and stopped walking, arching one dark, perfect eyebrow and eyeing me with those unnerving golden eyes. I swallowed, and then shoved the phrase out of my mouth before I thought better of it. “I’m sorry.” I wasn’t exactly an apologising kind of girl, in fact at that moment I could think of only a handful of people I had ever needed to apologise to.
“For what?” he asked, sounding honestly confused.
“Snapping at you. You didn’t deserve it and I was being a bitch.” My lip twitched at the effort needed to admit so. “Sorry,” I added again for good measure. Maybe my honesty was due to him being an Angel, maybe it was because I knew I could die at any moment; all I knew was that this was really out of character for me.
A second of silence, then he blinked. “Apology accepted.” A small smile I couldn’t quite decipher accompanied his words, making his face even more breath-catching.
I struggled not to stare, nodded, turned around and then continued to walk again. Replacing the earphones into my ears, I listened to the loud, fast-paced music which seemed to mimic my heartbeat.