“So, everything’s okay now?” Haley asked
“Yeah, I guess so.” Gail stroked absently the cat in her lap and he purred loudly. Haley was gazing at her intently as Gail recounted what had happened.
“So where are they now?” Haley asked.
“They left. Cynder said I probably didn’t need a guardian angel anymore anyway, all things considered. I mean, I guess he’s right, but…”
Haley’s eyes grew wide and she leaned closer to Gail. “You’re never going to see them ever again?”
“Well, Cecil said he would come back and tell me regardless of what happens,” Gail said. “He didn’t know when he would come back to tell me, of course, just that he would be coming back if only for a short time.”
Haley sat back against the couch, taking in everything Gail had just told her and looking a little dazed. “I don’t know what to say, Gail. This is all really…”
“Insane?” Gail smirked a little. “Believe me, this time last year I never would’ve believed anything like this if someone were to tell me. It was an experience.”
“What are you going to do now?” Haley asked.
“I guess just carry on with my life,” Gail said with a shrug. “There’s not really much more I can do, right? Graduation is in a couple months, just gotta get to that and then I’ll figure out what to do from there.”
Haley nodded and reached out to stroke the cat on Gail’s lap. “I just, I don’t know, I feel like if that sort of thing were to happen to me I wouldn’t be able to go on like everything was normal after all that.”
“I’ve been doing it ever since Cecil arrived, really,” Gail mumbled. “And he’s disappeared so often that I’m used to it by now.”
Haley laid her head lightly on Gail’s shoulder and murmured, “I’m glad you’re safe. You could have gotten hurt, or worse. It’s lucky that everything turned out the way it did, huh?”
Gail let out a soft breath and nodded her head. “Yeah, I guess it is.”
Gail was numb to Cecil’s absence at first, telling herself it was okay since she was used to it. As the days grew into weeks, however, she found herself looking for him and whispering his name. When he didn’t appear she would clutch at the cat and hug him close.
She took to playing with her brother’s old necklace around her neck, feeling the cool metal of the key between her fingers and stroking the angel wings at its sides. Feeling them gave her both a sense of comfort and longing. She could no longer deny to herself that she missed Cecil, almost as much as she missed Axel.
The pangs Gail was feeling from Cecil’s absence began to fade as finals came around. She was far too busy finishing everything up to really even think about him. She spent late nights finishing up all her projects and trying to make sure they were as good as she could make them, along with helping Haley with her own finals. Many a night was spent crying together over dumb movies while they tried their best to stay awake.
The week of hell ended and finals were over. At that point Gail didn’t even care what her grades were as long as she passed. The moment she walked out of her last class of the semester she felt a change in the wind. The year was at an end and the rest of her life was in front of her.
“I can’t believe it’s finally over,” she said as she sat in the gazebo with Haley. “We’re going to graduate. This year has just been so insane.”
“You’re telling me,” Haley murmured as she looked Gail over before smiling. “Have you decided what you’re going to do over the summer yet?”
“Not really, no,” Gail said. “I guess I’ll start looking for a job somewhere. If we don’t stay here I’ll just go back to my mom’s house until I can find somewhere else to go.”
“Janae and I are still talking and trying to decide what we want to do,” Haley said. “You may be stuck with me a little longer if you don’t find someplace else to go anytime soon.”
“I’m not going to complain about that,” Gail said with a smile.
As they sat there, they noticed Ivan walking across campus with his hands in his pockets and looking generally sorry for himself. He glanced toward them a couple times but never approached, mostly due to the glares they both gave him.
“I’ll certainly be glad to never have to see his face again,” Gail muttered.
“I felt a little bad for him,” Haley said, “but the things he said to you were inexcusable, so I don’t feel too bad.”
“You know, if I had been interested in romance before all this, I certainly wouldn’t be now. He’s just further convinced me how much I don’t want to date.”
“You could just find a nice girl like I did,” Haley said with a grin. Gail snorted and rolled her eyes.
“I’ll just stick to no romance at all, thanks. You and Janae are cute together, though, I’ll give you that.”
“So, are your parents going to come to your graduation?” Haley asked.
“I think so. You know, it’ll be the first time we’ve all been together since the funeral. I hope that it’ll end up being a lot nicer.”
“I’m sure it will,” Haley said with a smile. “Both of your parents care about you, I can tell. Even if they can’t get along with each other, I’m sure they’ll make an effort for you since it’s such a big day. Just don’t act all grouchy about them being here, alright?”
Gail smirked faintly and nodded her head. “I won’t. I’m… I think I can handle being around them now. It’s been almost a year, after all. Things have changed a lot since then. I’ve grown. A lot has happened.”
“More than most people could say, that’s for sure,” Haley added.
The days leading up to the graduation ceremony were spent recovering from all of the sleep deprivation they had put themselves through during finals week. Gail was finally feeling rested again and she knew that she could face anything the next day might throw at her. Almost anything, anyway.
The day before the ceremony she went to the counselor’s office and knocked on the door. Isaac glanced up and smiled at her. “Ah, Gail, do come in and have a seat.”
Gail settled down onto the couch and smiled a little. “Hi. I just wanted to tell you that you’ve helped me a lot this year and I wanted to thank you. I’m not sure if I could’ve gotten through everything as well as I did without you, honestly.”
“It’s what I’m here for,” he said with a pleasant smile. “So were you here just to thank me, or was there something else you needed?”
“I’m… not sure, really,” Gail said. “I’m just trying to figure out what I should be doing with my life now that I’m graduating.”
“Did you have anything particular in mind?” he asked as he settled back in his chair.
“I know of several places I could look for a long-term job,” Gail said. “I’m possibly going to look into something in New York City, assuming I can get something that pays well enough.”
“New York, you say?” Isaac grinned a little. “You know, I have a friend who works at a little pub in Brooklyn. If you ever find yourself in the area you should stop by there and tell her I sent you.”
Gail tilted her head and raised an eyebrow, then smiled and nodded. “Well, if I manage to get there, I’ll look into it. Thanks for everything, Isaac. You’ve been great, and… being able to talk to you about Cecil and Cynder have really helped, too.”
“Has he come back, yet?” Isaac asked gently.
Gail shook her head slowly. “No. I’m still hoping to see him before I move out of here, but at this point I don’t really know if he will.”
“If he said he’s going to come and see you again, I’m sure he will.” Isaac stood and walked over to her and Gail stood as well. He held his hand out to her and shook hers. “I wish you the best of luck in whatever direction your life leads you, Gail.”
“Thank you,” Gail said, squeezing his hand a little. “I’ll miss being able to talk with you, honestly.”
“Well, perhaps we can find some way to keep in contact in case you ever need my services again,” he said with a little wink. “Now, you go enjoy your graduation. The future is waiting for you.”
Gail smiled and turned leave his office, giving him a little wave before letting the door close behind her.
When graduation day finally came, Gail felt a sense of great relief washing over her, especially once she stepped up and took her diploma. She scanned the crowd and saw both of her parents, along with Delilah at her father’s side. The person she was hoping to see, however, was nowhere in sight. Disappointment gripped her for a moment but she pushed it away. She wasn’t going to let his absence ruin this for her.
Once all the pictures were taken, Gail and her family went out to eat together. She was a little wary of the fact both her mother and Delilah were there with her father but it went surprisingly well and no arguments ended up breaking out. All they wanted to talk about was Gail and what she was going to do next in her life.
“You know, we do have some connections in New York if you have your heart set on going there,” her father told her with a sneaky grin on his face. “I could make a few calls for you if you want.”
“That, yeah, I think I’d like that,” Gail said with a smile.
“We’re proud of you no matter where you end up,” her mother said. “I would like it if you could be closer to home but of course I won’t stop you from going wherever you want either.”
“Thanks, Mom. I’ll come visit whenever I can no matter where I go.”
At the end of the day, once her parents had left, Gail settled down in her bed ready to take it easy. The cat jumped up next to her and nuzzled against her face. She smiled and stroked his fur, hugging him close. He began to purr loudly and curled up next to her. “No matter where I go I’m taking you with me,” she murmured.
“Hope you don’t have anymore problems with landlords, then. You should keep that letter your counselor gave to you just to make sure.”
Gail sat up straight, her eyes widening. Across the room she saw a figure leaning against the wall in the corner. They stared at each other for a moment, then Gail whispered, “Cecil?”
Cecil pushed himself off the wall and walked toward her, a smile on his face. “Hey, Gail. I told you I’d be back, though maybe it was later than you would have liked. I apologize for that.”
Gail slowly slid her legs over the side of the bed, standing and making her way over to him. She gazed up at him for a moment before throwing her arms around him. He gasped a little before returning the embrace, smiling down at her.
“I missed you, you idiot,” she whispered.
“I missed you, too,” he said with a sigh. “Perhaps I have some explaining to do.”
“What kind of explaining?” she asked, glancing up at him.
He moved over to the bed sat on its edge with her, rubbing a hand over his face. “A lot happened. You may have heard me talking about my garrison commander, Gabriel, and how I wasn’t able to contact him? Well, long story short, he had been absent for some time but he’s back now and once I was able to talk to him about everything that happened he said he had a new assignment for me.”
“Oh.” Gail turned her face away slowly, peering at the cat as he stepped across the bed to snuggle into Cecil’s lap and make himself right at home. “So you’re just here to give me some closure and let me know that you’re actually leaving for good then, huh? That you won’t be my guardian anymore.”
“Well.” He started rubbing the cat’s ears and the cat purred loudly. “That would have been the case, but Cynder stepped in and said he would take the assignment for me.”
Gail turned back to him with a hopeful look in her eye. “Wait, really?”
Cecil nodded his head. “Gabriel… well, let’s just say what he went through has made him more lenient about how long a guardian can stay with their charge.” He smiled a little and peered at her. “He said I can stay with you as long as I want. As long as you want me to stay with you, really. He thinks it would be good for both of us, actually.”
Gail breathed in deeply and whispered, “So you’re here to stay?”
“I am,” Cecil said. “I will be your guardian now forever more, until you no longer need me.” He held his hand out to her and smiled. “If you want me to, that is.”
She stared at him for a moment before wrapping her arms around him again and squeezing tightly. “Yes, I do. I want you to stay.”
“I thought as much.” Cecil hugged her close and smiled a little, and a moment later Gail felt something soft and warm curling around her back. She glanced up to see his wings around her and she smiled a little.
“I thought they had turned gray,” she murmured. “They’re as white as freshly fallen snow.”
“Are they?” He tilted his head a little to look at his wings and let out a soft laugh. His eyes started glistening with tears. “So they are. I guess I was wrong, I wasn’t falling after all.”
Gail curled her arms around him and closed her eyes, murmuring, “Thank you for coming back. I didn’t know what I was going to do with my future, and to be honest I still don’t, but I feel like no matter what happens I can face it with you here.”
“I feel much the same way,” Cecil said.
They sat there together in each others’ arms for a while longer, not saying a word. Gail could breathe easily. It didn’t feel like she was drowning anymore. She could see the sun shining around her.
Everything was going to be okay.