“Please stop screaming,” the man said, stepping toward Gail slowly. Gail backed away from him until she hit the door, her hands scrambling to find the doorknob.
“Some guy is in my room when I’m trying to change? I’ll scream if I want to!” She gripped the knob so tight her knuckles turned white. “Who the hell are you and what are you doing here?”
He stepped into the center of the room and sighed, rubbing the back of his neck. “Ah, yeah, I see how this looks now. I’m sorry, I wasn’t thinking, this was a terrible idea.”
Gail’s shoulders tensed as she stared at him and her eyes widened. “You’re… that guy, aren’t you? You kept saying you knew me…” She grit her teeth and took a step forward. “What are you doing here? Do you want me to call the cops, because I’ll do it!”
“That really wouldn’t do anything,” he said with another sigh. “Please listen to me for a moment. I have no intention of harming you and I am truly sorry that I scared you. I just…”
“You what?” Gail took another step forward, her fists clenched, and the man backed away from her. Gail felt like she had the strength to toss him through the window, and she would too if it came to that.
“I’m an angel,” the man finally said. Gail grew still and stared at him, taking a moment to just breathe.
“What did you say?”
“I’m… an angel,” he repeated, then he sighed once more. “I probably should have told you from the start. I’m sorry, things have been crazy and I’ve not been thinking straight lately and I’m just so…” He let out a heavy breath and pressed his face into his hands. “This was a mistake.”
Gail watched him for a long time before slowly shaking her head. “Wait, wait… wait a second here. You really expect me to believe that you’re an angel?”
“I could prove it to you if you don’t believe me,” he said, sliding his hands away from his face.
“Oh yeah? And just how are you going to prove it?”
He shrugged his shoulders and took another step forward before standing perfectly still. Large gray wings suddenly unfurled from his back. Gail gasped and stumbled away, hitting the door again and hissing a little.
“Well, do you believe me now?” he asked.
“This is… this is ridiculous,” Gail said, unable to take her eyes off the wings. “Angels don’t-”
“Exist? Of course we do, one is standing in front of you right now.” He tipped his head to the side and frowned. “That really is a shame, you know? I guess it’s true, though. Children are more open to believing in things like that than adults are; and you even knew me back then.”
“Stop,” Gail growled. “I never met any angel when I was a kid.”
“You did,” he said, his wings fluttering slightly. “You must just not remember. It was a long time ago after all.”
“I think I would have remembered…” Gail gestured to him with a frown. “That.”
“Not necessarily,” he said, shrugging his shoulders again.
Gail grit her teeth and took a step toward him again, looking over him with a critical eye. “Alright, okay. I’ll buy that you are what you say you are for now. Answer me this, then: what are you doing here? What do you want with me?”
He took a deep breath and pressed his hand to his face, readjusting the glasses he wore up to the bridge of his nose. “That day several weeks ago when I ran into you? I thought you seemed familiar. I got curious and decided to follow you, and then I realized who you were. That’s when I approached you and told you about knowing you. I didn’t really think about the fact that you might not recognize me, though.”
“That doesn’t really answer my question,” she said. “Or are you here to just catch up with me? I would’ve thought that last time would have been enough for you.”
“Ah, no.” He rubbed his hand over his face. “I’m here because… well, I’ve been watching you for some time and I think… well, basically I’m here to continue what I had been doing when we were last together.”
“What is that supposed to mean?” Gail huffed, crossing her arms over her chest.
“I’m here to be your guardian angel,” he said, looking her in the eye and smiling kindly at her. “Something happened back then and I had to leave, but I’m back now. I think you need me after everything that’s happened to you recently.”
Gail narrowed her eyes at him. “What do you know about what’s happened to me?”
“Your brother,” he said softly. She bristled at the mention and took a step forward, her hands balled into fists. He held up his hands and leaned away from her. “Look, I’ve been watching you for some time, it’s kind of what us angels do. I know what happened and I want to help you get through it.”
“I’m fine,” Gail muttered. “I don’t need any guardian angel. There’s nothing wrong with me.”
“I never said there was anything wrong with you, just that-”
“I said I’m fine,” she growled. “There are plenty of other people worse off than me who probably need you a lot more. I don’t know why you’re bothering me.”
He stared at her for a long moment, then he stepped toward her, speaking quietly. “I can see more than humans can, you know. I can see into you. You’re hurting, whether you want to admit it or not. I think you do need me.”
“You know what I really need is to get some sleep,” Gail muttered. “Which is exactly what I was going to do before you appeared.”
A guilty look passed over his face and he hung his head. “Yes, I know. I apologize. That was incredibly rude of me and it won’t happen again.”
“Get out of my room then,” Gail said. “Leave me alone so I can sleep.”
“We really should talk about this, though,” he said, but Gail would have none of it. She wrenched her door open and pointed.
The angel sighed and stepped out of her room. “Fine. But just so you know, you’re not going to get rid of me like that.”
“I don’t care. I want to sleep. Leave me alone.” Once he was clear of the door, Gail slammed it shut and pressed her back to it, letting out a deep breath and nearly sliding down to the floor. “Ridiculous,” she whispered.
It took her several minutes before she finally got up the nerve to change and get into bed. She threw the covers over her head and curled up tight, trying to block out the rest of the world along with her thoughts so she could sleep.
It was so cold.
She couldn’t move her body, sinking deeper and deeper into the dark depths of the water. It might not have been so bad, she thought, except for the burning in her lungs crying out for air.
She wouldn’t be able to hold her breath for much longer. If she couldn’t get out, couldn’t swim back up, the waters would take her. No matter how hard she tried she couldn’t make her limbs work. She just kept sinking.
Her ribs felt like they were being crushed and finally she could stand it no longer. Water rushed into her, filling up her lungs. She couldn’t breathe and she couldn’t move. She wanted to cry but she couldn’t even do that.
‘Help me,’ she wanted to say. ‘Someone please help me.’ No one could hear her. No one would come for her.
The water would take her and keep her forever.
Gail woke with a start, her eyes snapping open as she gasped for breath. It took her a few minutes to process and figure out where she was and what was going on. It was morning and she was in her bed. When she realized this she let out a sigh and sank back against her pillows.
She laid there until her alarm went off and with a groan she forced herself to get up out of bed. The first thing on her mind was to get a cup of coffee. She slunk out of her room and headed toward the kitchen, turning on the coffee maker and settling down to wait.
When it was finally ready she poured a cup for herself and started sipping it. She let out a heavy sigh and leaned back against the counter. Now perhaps she could face the day head on.
“I see you’re finally awake.”
Gail nearly spilled hot coffee on herself when she heard the voice. She set her cup on the counter and glared directly at the man who was standing by the door. “You’re still here?”
“Well, yeah. I’m your guardian, remember? I can’t exactly leave you.”
“I think you can,” Gail hissed. “Get out now before Haley sees you. Do you know how hard it’ll be to explain this to her?”
“Well, actually-” Before he could get anything else out, Haley came out of her room with a bright smile and a rather dreamy look on her face.
“Morning, Gail! How’d you sleep?”
Gail stared at her for a moment, then glanced back at the angel standing in their kitchen, squinting a little. “Uh… fine. What about you?”
“Oh I slept great! Do you want to hear about how my date with Janae went?”
“She can’t see or hear me,” the angel finally said with a sigh. “I’m only making myself visible to you so it’s probably best you not react to me when she’s around.”
Gail clenched her fists and had to stop herself before she glared at him. She took a deep breath and turned her attention back to Haley. “Uh… why don’t you tell me about it later today? I’m not really awake right now and I have to get to class soon.”
“You got it,” Haley said with a grin, moving to the coffee pot to pour herself a cup. While she had her back turned to Gail, Gail shot the angel the dirtiest look she could muster.
When Gail got back to her room, the angel followed her. She turned to him, jabbing her thumb toward the door, and he closed it obligingly. “You,” she said when they were alone. “What is your deal?”
“I have a name you know,” he huffed. “It’s Cecil.”
“What kind of a name is that for an angel?” she muttered mostly to herself. Cecil looked rather hurt by the comment but Gail didn’t pay any attention. “What do you want from me exactly? No, what are you doing here? What is your purpose here?”
“I told you already, I’m here as your guardian.” He ran a hand through his hair as Gail paced around the room. “Helping you through your emotional and spiritual problems, basically.”
“Spiritual problems?” She snorted derisively. “You mean my lack of religion?”
“Huh? Well that’s not really what I meant, no…”
“Are you going to be following me around everywhere I go?” Gail hissed.
“Technically,” he said with a slight nod. “Though I can make it so you don’t see me when I do. I probably won’t show up to you if you’re around other people so you won’t feel strange about it.”
“Too late for that,” she growled.
Cecil sighed again and shook his head. “I do apologize. This is probably going to take some time to adjust to, I realize. It’s kind of why we don’t normally… show ourselves to the people we watch over.”
Gail turned to him with a hard look in her eyes. “Then why did you show yourself to me?”
“Well I kind of did already, by accident, and then I did again before I decided to be your guardian.” He rubbed the back of his neck and shrugged his shoulders. “Didn’t think it could hurt.”
“You thought wrong,” she said. “Get out of my room. I need to change and get ready for class.”
“Look, we need to talk about this more in length.” He hesitated and stepped toward the door. “Not now, I get it, but soon. Can you promise me that?”
Gail let out a heavy breath. “Fine. We’ll talk. I’ll be calm, I’ll pretend like this is normal. Later.”
Cecil bowed his head. “That’s all I ask. Thank you. I’ll leave you be then.” He pressed his hand to the doorknob, but rather than leaving through the door, he simply vanished. Gail stared at the spot where he had just been, blinking several times, then she let out a bit of a shaky sigh.
“This can’t actually be happening,” she muttered to herself as she got ready to go to class.
When Gail left the room and headed toward the door, Haley glanced at her. “Hey, were you talking to someone on the phone or something? I thought I heard voices.”
A cold chill went up Gail’s spine. She turned toward Haley with a slight smile. “No, I wasn’t talking to anyone. You must have just been hearing things. Anyway, I have to go. I’ll see you later, okay?”
“Alright. You wanna do lunch together?”
“Sure. You can tell me all about your date then.”
Gail waved and headed out the door and down to the parking lot. She let out a deep breath as she settled into her car, closing her eyes for a moment and just breathing.
“I can do this. Everything’s going to be fine.”
She gripped the key necklace around her neck for just a moment, feeling the cool metal against her skin. With a sigh, she started the car and pulled out of the parking lot, headed toward the college. So long as she didn’t think about it she’d be able to make it through the day.