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Angel in the Night
I stared down at my tired hands, worn from years of taking care of Charlie and Rita. Now they were grown, Charlie working for the firm in New York, and Rita with her new (and third) baby in Ohio. My bones cried in protest as I shifted to a standing position, setting the old photo album down gently.
“See you tomorrow, Angie!” yelled Sherry in her silky voice - soft, yet thick with her southern drawl. “ Are you sure there isn’t anything else you need?” she soothed as she glided in to my obscured view. As sweet as the girl was, it seemed I always had to remind her I wasn’t completely helpless. I didn’t look that frail, did I? I sighed,
“I’ve got everything I’ll need, thanks. Think I’ll just be heading off to bed now, these old bones creek louder everyday.”
Sherry smiled, her eyes meaning it. We got along nicely in this old house. I was glad to have her, it got lonely sometimes and despite Charlie’s persuasive pleads, I refused to set foot in a nursing home. Sherry also made great company.
“Alright, Angie, just remember to take your pills,” she clucked like a mother hen. “Have a good night!” she added cheerfully.
“Bye,” I answered contently in my barely audible voice, which was cracked with age. She shut the back door lightly and I could hear the lock click into place.
As I made the strenuous hike up the stairs, age - reflecting cane in hand, I happened to glance up at a faded picture on the dandelion - yellow wall. Its frame was elegant, the detailed patterns in the rusty metal elaborate, a maze for the eyes. I saw a smiling man with a retreating salt and pepper hair line and sparkling green eyes. The woman standing beside him was “small in build, big in personality” as friends and family have told me. She is a wavy - haired brunette,
with emerald eyes that match her husband’s. Robert and I were standing in front of the Maple forest, just by our house. I felt a gaping pit yawn in my stomach. Suddenly my legs felt weaker, my back felt achier, and my shoulders felt heavier. It had been four years since he was diagnosed, almost three since the cancer beat him. Not willing to let deep thinking on this touchy subject suck me into its vortex of renewed pain, I lightly touch my fingers to my lips and then my hand to the photo. Then I proceeded the trek to the second floor, only somehow it was even slower and harder for my wizened body. And for a brief moment, I thought I could smell the light, comforting aroma of mint leaves and cinnamon, as if Robert had just been there.
I don’t remember falling asleep, only the joyous dream that followed. We were holding hands, watching the children run ahead, excited for their first day of school. The light breeze caressed my young skin and the sun shone kindly. Rita knit her eyebrows and turned to me worriedly, “What if I get lost, Mommy?” she asked me in her kindergartner’s voice.
“Don’t worry, I’ll show you where everything is first,” encouraged Charlie, happy to be the one that knew the ropes already. Rita just clenched her face tighter, not convinced. I turned to Robert, smiling at their childishness, but he was not smiling back.
Instead, he said something odd. “Wake up,” he looked frustrated. With more urgency he repeated the puzzling line, “Wake up!”
The insistent words continued until I really was awake. Only something was off. The scent of mint leaves and cinnamon caught my senses, clearer than before. I looked up, into his loving, green eyes.
My heart skipped a beat. “Robert!” I exclaimed shrilly. He smiled slightly, the agitation
still hard on his face. Am I still dreaming? No, if this were a dream my senses would be very
fuzzy, or at least fuzzier than usual. Am I crazy? Probably. I laughed, because, really, I didn’t
care. If I got to see his face again, even if for a moment, it was worth being considered an old loon.
I grinned at him ecstatically, sure I was losing it. Instead, he clenched his jaw and looked down worriedly at me. “We have to get you out of here!” I was about to ask him why, when the answer came to me myself. Suddenly, I was aware of the suffocating smoke, easily unnoticed due to my already blurry vision, and the extreme temperature. Flames licked the walls hungrily, the foundation of the house lurched unsteadily, its most - likely damaged supports probably failing. In that instant it occurred to me why my dead husband had suddenly appeared.
I coughed, but managed to choke out through the thick smoke, “I’m about to join you, aren’t I? You came to take me with you, didn’t you?” Somehow, I was still calm despite the cynical idea. I was pretty old anyway, and I would get to be with Robert again, so would it really be that bad if I died? He surprised me though, shaking his head.
“No, you’re not meant to die tonight; that’s why I’m here, but you have to hurry.” his voice was very clear and smooth as a creek. The smoke and heat seemed not to faze him at all. Barely understanding, thanks to my oxygen deprived brain, I hesitated for a moment before grabbing my cane and obediently getting up to follow him. He helped me to my feet and held me up as I hobbled slowly, coughing and choking on the poisoned air. We slowly made our way to the door. Upon opening, a bright wall of flame stood apparent behind the only exit.
Roberts fists clenched and he frowned deeply. Turning to look at the window, he proceeded towards it hesitantly. I could barely breath now. My raw skin felt as if it were melting
in the intense heat. If it weren’t for him holding on to me tight, I would have tripped to the mercy
of the fire long ago. He stopped at the window and wrenched it open with more ease than normal
for a sixty - eight - year - old diseased man. Of course, I wasn’t so completely insane that I would dwell on that curiosity during such an immediate and serious situation. I had to deal with the problem at hand.
Robert swung both his legs over the windowsill and lifted me to a sitting position next to him. He gripped my hand fiercely, and suddenly I was free falling. The last thing I remembered was his gentle whisper in my ear, “I love you.” Then, the world went black.
I woke up to the sting of bright lights reflecting off of walls so white it hurt my eyes. The sound of a steady beep matched my slow beating heart. A numb pain lightly masked the stinging throb of my skin. Hmm... I mused, I never thought heaven would be quite like this. I blinked my adjusting eyes. So bright and... plain. I shook my head, confused. Wait, if I’m dead, I shouldn’t have a heartbeat.... I snapped my head up so quickly that the blood rushed from my head and I almost passed out again. The surroundings of the small but orderly hospital room slowly came into focus. I’m alive? The memories rushed back and I wondered how that is even possible. Then I remembered my visitor. Maybe it was just a dream, although I secretly hoped not. No. It was all too real, too tangible. So was he really there? This last thought barely entered my mind before I lost consciousness again, but not before I caught the light, familiar scent of mint leaves and cinnamon, gently lulling me to sleep.