“So then at the end of dinner she bought this huge slice of chocolate cake for us to share and it was just so good! And she was really romantic about getting it and sharing it with me too.”
Gail nodded her head absently, fingering her necklace and letting out a bit of a sigh. Haley squinted at her from across the table and reached over to poke her shoulder.
“Are you listening to me at all?”
Gail inhaled and shook her head. “Yes I am, sorry. Chocolate cake.”
Haley propped her elbows up on the table and rested her chin in her hands. “Alright, there’s clearly something bothering you. What is it? Is your dad still bothering you?”
Gail gripped her necklace tightly for a moment then let her hand slide away, sighing deeply. “Well, yes…”
“Is there something else?” Haley tilted her head to the side and raised an eyebrow. “You seem really distracted.”
“I dunno, just… one of those days, I guess. I didn’t sleep well last night. I had kind of an awful dream.” She shrugged her shoulders. “It’s fine. I’ll be okay.”
“You sure about that?” Haley asked, her voice laced with concern.
“Yes, I am. I’ll be okay.” Gail gave her a reassuring smile. “I think I just need a good night’s sleep, that’s all.”
“Well, I have an idea that might make you feel better.” Haley leaned forward, a wide smile spreading over her face. “I don’t really have much going on this evening. What if I made us dinner? An actual home cooked meal instead of takeout.”
Gail tilted her head, looking thoughtful for a minute, then she smiled a little. “That sounds pretty good actually. It’s been awhile since we’ve done any legitimate cooking, hasn’t it?”
Haley grinned and nodded her head. “Alright, I’ll figure something out when I get back.” She leaned back in her seat and rolled her shoulders. “You gonna go out and do some photography today?”
“Yeah, I should be home around six or so. I’ll text you when I’m on the way back.”
“You got it. I’ll get dinner started and have it finished around that time, then.”
Gail peered down at the cafeteria food on her tray and rolled her eyes a little. “Well whatever you make I’m sure it’ll be much better than this.”
“Hey, is it alright if I sit here?” Ivan appeared at their table with a tray of food. Haley smiled at him and gestured to the chair beside her.
“Go ahead, this seat’s not taken.”
Ivan settled down and smiled across the table at Gail. “Hey, you guys wanna hang out sometime? Maybe this weekend?”
“I’ve got work,” Haley said with a shake of her head.
“I’m working on a project for class,” Gail said. “But I could probably just do it at the coffee shop if you wanna hang out there. I mean, if you don’t mind me being distracted.”
“No, that’d be great,” Ivan said with a smile. “I’ve got some stuff to work on too so it’d be a good way to spend the afternoon.”
“Alright then, we’ll do that.” Gail went back to eating her food and after a moment she glanced toward Haley and jerked her head toward the door slightly. Haley blinked and glanced at Ivan, then smiled a little.
“Hey, sorry, we have to get going. More classes and stuff, you know?”
“Hm? Oh, right of course.” Ivan cleared his throat and nodded his head. “I’ll text you later, Gail.”
“Right, see you.” Gail and Haley both got up together to dump their trays, not speaking until they had left the cafeteria. Haley peered at Gail with a slight worried expression.
“Hey, what’s up? Is something wrong?”
“You know what you said to me awhile back? About Ivan.”
Haley blinked at her, slowing her pace a little. “What, you mean about him liking you?”
“Yeah.” Gail frowned and shoved her hands into her pockets, muttering, “I think you might be right. He has been giving me these looks lately. Smiling at me a lot. Asking me things in a way he never really had before.”
“Are you sure he hadn’t been doing that before and you’re only just now noticing since I pointed it out to you?”
Gail frowned and shrugged her shoulders. “I don’t remember him being like that before summer, no. Why, do you?”
“Well…” Haley ran a hand through her hair thoughtfully. “Maybe a little bit, but now that you mention it you’re right, it’s a lot more noticeable now.”
“Oh my god, you don’t think he’s gonna try to ask me out or anything when we’re alone, do you?”
A wide smile spread over Haley’s face. “Oh, if he does you need to text me the whole thing, got it?”
“Haley, I don’t want this to happen at all. It’d feel so weird.” Gail sighed and turned her face away.
“What, because you don’t want to go out with him?”
“Um, yeah. How would you feel if one of your best friends asked you out and you had to say no? It’d be awkward for everyone involved.”
Haley sighed and nodded her head. “Okay, okay, I get it. Sorry, I guess I got a little excited.” She reached over and gave Gail a pat on the shoulder. “Well, if he does ask you, just be honest and make sure to let him down easy. You still want to be friends with him, right?”
“Yeah, I do.” Gail glanced over at Haley, still frowning a little. “But if he’s acting all weird and awkward like that it’s going to be difficult, you know?”
“Just tell him you don’t feel the same way. I’m sure he’ll understand.”
“Maybe so.” Gail shrugged and glanced at her watch. “We really should get going. I’ve got another class to get to.”
“Yeah, same here. I’ll see you back at home.” Haley turned and headed off to her next class and Gail went to hers.
During the entirety of the class, Gail’s thoughts were muddled with stress and worry over more things than she could cohesively number. She couldn’t wait to get out and by the time she finally did her thoughts seemed to be racing even more. It took her some time before she got to her car. She sat in the driver’s seat and turned on the radio to listen to music, just taking a moment to breathe.
It wasn’t until she was finally out with her camera that she felt like she had some peace of mind. She put thoughts of everything out of her head: Ivan, her dad, everything but the one thing that made her feel alive. Capturing a single moment within the lens of her camera and keeping that moment forever.
Then the one thing that she had been trying the hardest to forget came back into focus and she was no longer able to ignore it. The shadow of a tall man loomed over her and she swore she saw wings in the shadow as well. When Gail turned, she saw Cecil standing there with his hands shoved in his pockets, though his wings were not visible despite the shadow.
“We need to talk,” he said. Gail scowled at him and turned her back to him once more.
“I’m busy, this isn’t a good time. When I said later I didn’t mean later today.”
“Abbey, listen to me-”
“Don’t call me that,” Gail hissed, whipping around and glaring at him. “My name is Gail, got that?”
“It’s Abigail,” Cecil said, taking a slight step back. “I always called you Abbey when we were together before…”
“I told you I don’t remember any of that,” Gail said, glaring hard at him. “Besides, I’m not a little girl anymore. Don’t treat me like one.”
“I wasn’t-” Cecil cut himself off with a deep sigh and nodded his head. “Alright, yes, I’m sorry. Gail, we need to talk about things and they can’t wait. Please just hear me out?”
She turned her back to him once more, sighing heavily, then she lifted her camera up to her face. “Alright, I’m listening. Talk.”
Cecil stared at her silently for a moment as she went back to photographing. After a long pause he let out a deep breath and began speaking in a slow, rather cautious voice. “Do you believe me, then? That I am what I say I am?”
Gail’s shoulder’s tensed but she didn’t turn around to look at him. “I’d be pretty stupid if I didn’t believe that, wouldn’t I? You’ve got wings, no one else can see you but me. So either you are what you say you are or I’m entirely crazy and you’re some sort of hallucination.”
“You’re not crazy,” Cecil said. “I am entirely real, I assure you.”
“Alright so you’re an angel, and you’re just going to keep following me around?”
“I’m here to watch over you,” he told her. “To give you guidance and support whenever you need it. To help you get back on the path you need to go on.”
Gail glanced over her shoulder at him, frowning just a little. “What is that supposed to mean? Are you saying I’ve ‘lost my way’ or something?”
“No, not quite. Well… perhaps.” Cecil frowned and rubbed the back of his neck. “It’s complicated.”
“If you’re here to lecture me about my lack of religion-”
“No, it’s not like that at all!” He held his hands up and shook his head. “Please. Whatever sort of faith you have really is not of my concern or my business. That’s for someone else to handle.” He cleared his throat and straightened his posture. “No, I’m just here to help you with where you’re at in your life right now. Your… er, well, you’re not exactly having the best time of it, are you?”
Gail glared at him. “And like I said before, plenty of other people have it a lot worse than me. What makes me so special that you should decide to help me with my perceived problems?”
“Because you’re…” His voice trailed off as he looked at her, then he pressed his lips into a thin line. “You do matter, Gail. Sweeping your feelings under the rug and pretending they aren’t there is only going to hurt you more. You need to be honest with yourself and with those around you. That’s the only way you’re going to be able to move on with your life.”
“Is that all, then?” Gail said quietly. “You’re just going to dispense that tired old advice and hope it helps me in some way?”
“Er… no, that’s not…” Cecil sighed heavily and hung his head. “This isn’t exactly easy, you know.”
“I told you I’m doing just fine. I’m just trying to finish up school. Once this year is over with I’ll be on my way. I’m going to make a life for myself.”
“But your plans changed, didn’t they? Weren’t you going to live with your brother once you finished school?”
Gail’s whole body tensed and she stared at him with wide eyes. Cecil stiffened and backed up a step, holding his hands up apologetically.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean-”
“Don’t talk about him. You didn’t know him. You couldn’t have known anything about that.”
“I’m sorry, I wasn’t trying to upset you, I just-”
“Stop. Please, just stop talking to me. I have to finish up.” Gail turned away from him once more and began walking, decidedly ignoring him even as he called out to her. His voice finally fell silent and when Gail glanced over her shoulder again there was no sign of him anywhere.
When Gail got home, Haley had dinner ready for them. She greeted Gail with a bright smile and held up the case for a movie. “Look at that, home cooking and a movie! Aren’t I just the most amazing roommate ever?”
Despite her mood, Gail managed to smile and even laugh a little. “Yeah, you know you really are. I could use some time to wind down. Thanks Haley.”
“You seemed to need it.” Haley led Gail over to the couch, setting her down on it and handing her a plate of food before going and turning the movie on. “Just a relaxing evening. We can turn our brains off and not have to think about anything at all until tomorrow. Sound good?”
“It sounds absolutely perfect.” Gail let out a sigh and settled back against the couch, taking a bite of the food that Haley had made. It was warm and tasted so real, unlike the microwavable dinners they often had. The food alone put Gail’s mind at ease and she was able to relax fully as the movie started.
The two of them cleaned up the kitchen together once the movie had finished and there was enough food left over to have the next day. Haley leaned against Gail as they washed up the dishes, sighing slightly.
“You know if anything is bothering you you can tell me, right? I’ll be here to listen.”
Gail glanced at her and raised an eyebrow. “Yeah, I know that. What brought this on?”
“You just seem… well.” Haley shrugged and smiled at her. “Just tell me if you ever want to talk. I won’t push it, though.”
Gail sighed and nodded her head. “Thanks, Haley.”
Gail decided to turn in early that night, wanting to get more sleep than she had the night before. She set the alarm on her phone and put it down on the nightstand beside her bed. With a soft sigh she turned out the light and laid her head against her pillows, pulling the covers tight around herself.
Just as she was starting to drift off to sleep, she heard a quiet voice murmur from across the room, “Goodnight, Abbey. Sleep well.”