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The Gift Of The Archangel This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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   The old Victorian house sat placidly on the bluff, its many gables and exquisite latticework painted in soft hues that seemed out of place amidst the grandeur of the gardens surrounding it. A small sign with "Haven" sat among pale flowers whose waxen petals still had drops of morning dew on them. Mrs. Atkins looked the house over with her haggard eyes, its astounding beauty making her even more tired of her life.

She walked up the front path, her cane slapping noisily on the cobblestones. A man came out of the front door. He had a heavenly beauty which seemed to transgress that which we call human. His name was Gabriel, and he was the caretaker of Haven, a house where the old came to die.

Gabriel led Mrs. Atkins into the house and carried her worn bags to her room. She sat in the small sitting room, tiredly recognizing the beautiful view outside the large windows. Gabriel returned and said her room was ready. She followed him up the grand staircase and down a hall decorated with pleasantly worn rugs and colorful pictures. Her room was at the end of the hall, a large bedroom with stately mahogany furniture and large windows open to the lawns below. The wallpaper was slate blue with a myriad of white doves upon it, and above the door there was a plaque. She scrutinized it, but couldn't make out its inscription.

Mrs. Atkins unpacked her bags, slowly folding her worn, familiar raiments and placed them in the dresser, where they lay like relics of a past era. Lastly, she took out a simple wooden picture frame and placed it on the nightstand next to her bed, so it would be the first and last thing she saw each day. As she sat in the rocker, she remembered when the picture was taken: the graduation party of her oldest child. They were all in the picture: Jimmy, her late husband; Bobby, her eldest, now married with three children, Sally, a teacher in California; and little Joey, the last to leave their old house who had become a computer scientist. They had all left her, gone to pursue their own lives; she was all that was left, an empty husk of a person.

As she sat in the rocker, she felt a warm breath of air against her cheek. The long lace curtains swayed, but there was no wind. Mrs. Atkins was puzzled, and noticed an unusual thing: one of the doves from the wallpaper was missing, almost as if it had flown off. She thought about it but dismissed it as insignificant. She began to rock, feeling hollow inside.

Later Gabriel brought her food and she ate without tasting it. As she retired that night, Mrs. Atkins heard music playing somewhere in the house, music she had played when she was young and life was just beginning. She recalled the night of her first dance, the dress she wore, the boy she went with, and as she thought, a breeze tickled her face and the curtains danced as if alive. Mrs. Atkins noticed more bare spots on the wall where doves were missing from the pattern and she thought it was odd. She paid no more attention to the wallpaper until she woke up after dreaming about a family vacation and saw elusive spaces in the wallpaper that weren't there before.

At breakfast she mentioned to Gabriel that her wallpaper was peculiar. He gave her a smile and said, "Memories are wonderful things, aren't they, Mrs. Atkins?" She thought the man eccentric, mixing up doves that flew off wallpaper with memories of a past life.

When she went back to her room, Mrs. Atkins found a worn leather Bible on her nightstand, and she thought back to all the times she had entered a birth or death in her own Bible. Again, she felt a wind, and the wallpaper was missing more doves.

As the days grew into weeks, Mrs. Atkins noticed that the many doves had dwindling down to fewer and fewer every day. She also began to feel her depression lift with each day. Her feelings of remorse and abandonment were flying away like the doves on her walls, and she felt within herself a growing feeling of infallible contentment.

When there was only one dove left, she remembered the love and happiness she had felt throughout her life. All the sadness left within her joined the last dove as it flew out the window, and she lay down on the bed for the last time. Finally, she could read the plaque above the door: Leave nothing behind as you cross the River Styx. 1


This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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