“Hannah, what are you doing up here?”
I glanced up to see Cecil standing behind me and I let out a heavy sigh. I should have known he would follow me here. “What’s it to you?”
He frowned at me and slowly sat down beside me. “Didn’t we discuss how dangerous rooftops can be?”
“I’m nowhere near the edge, so why does it matter?” I refused to look him in the eye and continued just staring off into the distance. Everyone was leaving school and I could hear the commotion of people exiting, getting onto buses, or just talking with their friends as they walked home.
“You’re upset, aren’t you?”
Way to state the obvious. Rather than responding to him I just hugged my knees closer to my chest, shivering a little as a slight breeze went through the air. Something soft brushed against my shoulder and I glanced up to see Cecil had draped one of his wings around me.
The wing was strangely discolored, not quite the pure white I had remembered his wings being when we first met. It was more an off-white now.
“You know, you shouldn’t blame yourself,” he said. “You tried to help her. Your intentions were good and that’s what matters, right?”
“But I didn’t help, I just made things worse.”
“You don’t know that.”
I jerked my head toward him and punched him in the arm. He flinched and pulled away, looking surprised. “Beth being anywhere near my dad is worse!” I growled. “If you had seen the way he looked at her during the funeral you would know that!”
He stared me for a time, not seeming to know how to react or what to say. He finally stammered something out, his voice nearly a whisper. “You… you didn’t… didn’t know what was going to happen. It isn’t your fault.”
“Yes it is, Cecil, it is my fault! I went behind Beth’s back to try and get her help and now she’s in a deeper load of trouble than ever before. If I hadn’t said anything none of this would be happening.”
“But she did need help!” he countered. “You did the right thing by talking to someone to get her help. It’s just that… the people you talked to were the ones in the wrong, not you. You went to someone you thought you could trust to do this for you and he broke that trust.”
“My problem was putting trust in him in the first place. I knew it was a bad idea but I never thought that… no, I’m an idiot. I should have known this would happen. My dad’s a deacon after all. He doesn’t do it often enough for me to remember, but he technically holds church counseling duties. I should have known this would happen.”
Cecil screwed up his face and sighed, taking off his glasses and wiping them off with his shirt. I noticed for the first time that his eyes were a striking purple. “Well, what are you going to do about it then? Sitting here and blaming yourself isn’t going to fix anything.”
I frowned and turned my face away. “Haven’t I messed things up enough? I don’t want to get anymore involved. What if I screw up even more?”
“You have good intentions though, right?”
“The road to hell is paved with good intentions, isn’t that how the saying goes?”
He frowned at me before lifting up his glasses and putting them back on his face. “Hannah, I know you feel bad about what’s happening and think your actions caused this, but blaming yourself isn’t going to help anything. So you can either try to help fix it and risk making it worse, or you can sit by and watch as it plays out. Only you can make the decision. I’m merely here to provide guidance.”
“Yeah, well your guidance really sucks.”
“No, you’re just insisting on making everything more difficult and coming up with excuses.” He sighed and shook his head. “Don’t blame me for something that isn’t my fault.”
I huffed and stood up, having nothing more to say to him. The school grounds below had grown quiet by this point, signaling that most everyone had gone. “Beth probably never wants to see me again and I don’t blame her. She’s supposed to be meeting with my father today. Hell, she might even be about to meet with him right now for all I know.”
“Do you truly care about her?” Cecil asked. “Because if you do, and you know that your father is going to make things worse, you can surely do something to help her.”
I hesitated, taking a step toward the edge of the roof to look down. The school grounds appeared to be completely deserted. I started wondering if I could get down from here and out the door without anyone noticing. Staff personal were still inside for sure. Technically I wasn’t allowed up here, so if anyone found me I’d probably get in big trouble.
“Could you take me home?” I asked in a quiet voice. Cecil came up behind me and laid a hand on my shoulder. He inhaled deeply and the next thing I knew we were in my bedroom.
I collapsed onto my bed with a heavy sigh and pressed my face into my pillow. Cecil sat in my chair on the opposite side of the room and I could feel him staring at me. I didn’t want to talk to him or look at him, or anyone else for that matter. I felt like any little thing I said or did would just cause more problems, so clearly the only thing I could do was hide away from the rest of the world.
Mom walked past my room and peered in. “Oh, Hannah, I didn’t hear you come in.”
I didn’t respond. This made her upset her and she walked directly into my room and stood over me. I shifted slightly and saw her towering over me with her arms crossed over her chest, glaring down at me. Typical mom look.
“What?” I muttered. “Did I do something wrong again?”
She raised an eyebrow and lowered her arms, looking a little less intense. “Is something wrong, Hannah? You know you haven’t been acting like yourself recently.”
“I’m peachy,” I muttered. “Did you need something?”
She let out an exasperated sigh, probably deciding that my mood was just one of those “teenager things” and that it would pass. “Your father is over at the Shepherd’s right now for a counseling session.”
It was difficult not to react outwardly to what she had just said. I grit my teeth and closed my eyes, turning away from her. “Uh-huh.”
“He mentioned that he would probably do more sessions like this in the future and he suggested that we use this as an opportunity to patch things up with them.”
“That’s totally going to work,” I said muttered. I could tell that my mother’s patience was starting to run low.
“We’re inviting them over to dinner tomorrow. I want you to help clean the house and make sure you come straight home from school tomorrow. We want to make a good impression.”
“I think we’ve made enough of an impression on them already,” I replied. That may have crossed a line. She looked like she was ready to slap me.
“And I want you to behave as well, understand? Meaning no comments about anything, regardless of what comes up at the dinner table. If they bring anything up, you’re to keep your mouth shut, understood?”
I flinched and nodded my head and she finally left my room, closing the door a little too forcefully. I let out a groan and sagged into my bed again. “Great, things just keep getting worse and worse.”
“Or,” Cecil said from the other side of the room, “perhaps this is a great opportunity to do something good.”