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She inhaled quickly, and again, dared to look at the name scrawled upon the crumpled piece of paper in her hand. Mitchell Croft. She closed her eyes. Really Vic, she thought, of all the names, you had to pick his? She silently cursed herself, then gazed him. She studied the handsome face she’d soon transfer to paper by her pencil and some unseen ability to re-create beauty.
Her eyes traced the prominent jaw line up the side of his face. He carelessly flipped the shaggy, blonde hair that framed a perfect face. His suntanned skin was flawless and smooth, the perfect plain broken only by a grin of dazzling, white teeth. Then she noticed his bluer than blue eyes. When his glance fell on her, she had to catch her breath. Confusion clouded the perfect blue. She quickly looked away.
Leave it to me to pick the most popular guy in school she thought. She was all too aware of her dark clothes and smearing black eyeliner. Her dyed black hair did nothing to help the situation. She was tall and scrawny, people called her a black toothpick, but not just because of looks, but the sharp ends described her, too. She knew he was afraid of her, intimidated to say the least, but that was what she aimed for. Nothing could touch her.
Her thoughts drifted back to the task at hand. Draw a portrait of whoever’s name you draw, then the class should be able to easily decipher who it is. To Victoria though, art was so much more than just a copy of what you see. It had to capture something deeper; it had to capture the very essence of what something was.
She slaved at the portrait for hours. Smudging it here, shading it there, until it was perfect: a drawing of Mitchell Croft staring directly into her soul, his hair just careless flipped out of his eyes, with a sly grin playing at his lips. Even just the picture made her catch her breath. He was the most beautiful human being she’d ever seen. For some reason this angered her, and she never wanted to look at him again. The next day in class, she shoved it into his math book while he wasn’t looking, and disappeared.
He found her at lunch, in front of the entire school, the most popular boy stood up and walked over to talk to her. “How did you draw this?” Mitchell asked, motioning toward her picture. She shrugged, not trusting herself to speak. Her heart was pounding, and she was too aware of his hand casually resting on the back of her chair and the fact he was leaning in to show her the drawing. “It’s really good,” he said, “You’ve got more talent than anybody I’ve ever met.”
The color rushed to her cheeks in a scarlet blush. He’d complimented her, but then she noticed his eyes searching around him, wondering if anybody was aware he was talking to a loser, she was certain. Anger rushed in as she stood up and walked away, leaving him standing alone at an empty table. Serves him right, she thought.
For the rest of the day, she cursed her life, knowing nothing could ever happen between them. Mitch came from a rich family and had everything going for him. She didn’t even have a part of that. Unless you counted a dump for a house that her alcoholic dad could barely afford.
Angry tears welled in her eyes, and she punched her pillow. It wasn’t fair, but none of this made sense to her. Victoria had never bothered to like a boy, or love anybody. All of the sudden, she found herself attracted to the God of the high school. All in all, it was a hopeless cause. She fell asleep crying.
Meanwhile, Mitchell laid in his king sized bed, in the bedroom straight out of a Pottery Barn magazine. The memory of his so-called “friends” at lunch troubled him. They’d been discussing the last party they’d gone to, who was dating who, and the latest crimes they’d gotten away with. He’d never bothered with these things, so he left to go talk to the girl in his art class. She’d left him standing alone. He admitted it surprised him, but even more surprising was the reaction he got from his friends. Mariah, the most beautiful girl he’d ever seen, head cheerleader, and his latest prospect for a girlfriend, slinked over to him, and said, just loud enough for everyone to hear, “You know Mitch, there’s a reason that girl doesn’t fit in, and we are not going to waste our time trying to figure it out. You’re so much better than that girl, Mitch. She doesn’t even deserve to be looked at by somebody like you.” She smiled and touched his chest. He looked at her confused.
“Have you ever talked to her?” He asked.
She faltered for a minute. “Well, no…”
Mitch interrupted her angrily. “Then how do you know that?”
She smiled a smug little smile. “I just do Mitch, and trust me; you don’t want to be hanging out with the likes of her.” She gestured at Victoria with a disgusted look. “Just look at her. She is nothing, Mitch, nothing.”
This conversation really bothered him, and he lay wondering about the tall girl in the black that always sat alone. Victoria, he thought. He liked the name. To tell the truth, he’d never noticed her before, but now that he did he couldn’t keep his mind off her. She was different than anybody he’d ever met, and when she’d left him alone in the lunch room he was shocked. Girls didn’t act like that around him. Her defiance and rebellion intrigued him. He was determined to get to know her, no matter what Mariah said. Victoria filled his dreams.
The next few weeks were filled with awkward encounters between the two social opposites. Victoria was trying to stay as far away from Mitch as possible, but he just kept showing up, everywhere. She didn’t understand it, and nobody else did either. She could tell by the way the head cheerleader, Mariah, scoffed and glared at her all the time. It didn’t bother her though. She actually found it funny.
Mitchell was at a loss for what to do. He’d never chased a girl before, or anybody for that matter. People always came to him. Victoria was driving him crazy, and completely refused to talk to him. He happened to see her slip into the library though, and figured it might be his only chance to get her alone. He followed her in.
She didn’t notice him for a while, but she wasn’t surprised when she did. She just stared at him. “What are you doing?” she asked, genuinely wondering. Mitch nervously laughed as he realized how ridiculous and creepy he must look. Nobody came into the library; in fact he’d never even been in there before.
“Uh… I just thought I’d get a book,” he lied, though it was completely obvious that was not his intention.
“Oh really?” she replied. “What do you like to read?”
Again, he paused, caught in his lie. “Well… my favorite is probably Dr. Seuss…” he grinned at her sheepishly, hoping for a laugh. She just looked at him with her head cocked to the side. They just stared at each other for a while.
“You followed me in here,” she said, simply, just stating the facts. It wasn’t accusing or questioning, just the truth. He nodded. Victoria’s eyebrows creased. “Why?”
“Because you’re different,” he said. She snorted.
“Yeah, so I’ve heard. Alright pretty boy, what makes me ‘different’? Huh? How come I don’t fit in with all you ‘popular’ kids?” She glared at him, frustrated that all he could see was her appearance. “You don’t even know me.”
“That’s not what I meant! I just…” He was flustered. He always knew what to say, but for some reason words didn’t flow right with Victoria. His conversation with Mariah flashed back, and a renewed defiance bloomed in him. This was his chance, and he wasn’t going to blow it. “Look, I know that you probably think I’m crazy, and I’m starting to wonder myself, but I don’t know… I just feel like you’re the kind of girl I should be hanging out with, I mean, my friends and the ‘popular’ crowd as you call it, they’re great, but they’re just… fake, and there’s something raw, vicious, and sincere about you. To be honest, it scares the heck out of me, but I can’t stop until I figure out what’s different, until I figure out why you’re so real.” His words surprised her, but it was honest. She considered him for a long time.
Finally breaking the silence she said, “Raw, huh? Vicious? You want to know why? Let me tell you a story.” She took a deep breath. “You see, I wasn’t always like this, I used to be normal, popular in fact, but in fifth grade my mom got cancer. Dad couldn’t deal with it, and eventually the alcohol took a hold of him. He became abusive and angry. By the start of sixth grade, my mom was dead and my dad might as well have been. I haven’t seen him sober in four years. I don’t know how the bills are paid or how I even have a house to live in. That’s when the black came. I was alone Mitch, there was no one left, and to tell the truth, there still isn’t anybody. That’s why I can’t stand all you popular, rich kids who complain about everything. Life isn’t fair, it’s the reality though, and while I’ve lived through it, the rest of you have sat on your preppy thrones and mocked me. The black clothes and eyeliner, it isn’t something I hide under, think of it more as a wall, one that I’ve built up to keep people away. They don’t look at the inside, just the outside.”
“Maybe I’m ready to see the inside then,” he whispered. “Come on Victoria. What have you got to lose?” He had her, because she had nothing to lose.
“Mitch, you realize it’s going to be me or them, right? They’ll never let me into your little circle.” He nodded. She bit her lip, not believing what was happening. “Is this for real?” He laughed.
The friendship started there. Victoria and Mitchell hid in their corner of the library talking until some cranky, old lady kicked them out. They whispered secrets and things nobody else had ever heard, furtive desires and dreams. Something clicked between them, and they knew it was real.
The next day, everybody laughed at the sight of Mitchell Croft and the gothic chick nobody knew the name of, but by the end of the month, nobody cared. People moved on, and Mitch and Victoria grew closer and closer.
They spent every moment they could together. Both were determined to know everything about the other, and there was hardly a silent moment. Words were whispered, screamed, and sung. She was happier than she’d ever been, and found herself falling harder every day. Mitch felt the same.
Finally, he brought up the subject they’d both carefully avoided. “Vic, are you ever going to invite me to your house?” He asked carefully, teasing her and playing with her hair. She sighed.
“You won’t like it. It’s a dump, and probably about the size of your living room. I’m telling you, I’d be better off sleeping in your garage than my house.” She fell silent. Money bothered her. Mitchell had plenty and always offered to buy her things, but she always refused. She was afraid she’d never repay the debt.
“You know I don’t care, Vic. Really. I’d just like to see this haven of yours. You can learn a lot about a person from their bedroom.” His eyes met hers. They stared at each other for a long time, searching for answers to unspoken questions.
“Alright,” she said. “You can see it.”
“Wait, really?” he asked, clearly surprised.
“Well, you asked, didn’t you?”
“Yeah, but I didn’t think you’d actually agree.” She laughed. They made their way to his silver Ford Escape and drove down the trashy street she called home. Mitchell kept a straight face and showed no emotion.
“Well, here it is. You asked for it. Welcome to my palace.” She mocked a bow and beckoned him into the beat-up trailer house. They crept into her room, careful not to disturb her dad who was passed out on the couch yet again.
She perched on the edge of her bed, watching him. Nobody had ever seen her bedroom before, not even her own dad. She tried to imagine what was going through Mitch’s head. The room was dark and cramped. The bed was shoved in a corner with a rumpled, dark blue comforter, and a desk stood in another. There were unfinished drawings and projects scattered around, and the brown carpet was littered with crumpled pieces of paper and dirty clothes. A dresser lined one wall, with a stereo and an array of books and CDs on top. Red Jumpsuit Apparatus played dimly in the background.
He took this all in quickly, but he studied her feature wall carefully. It was a collage of ideas. Pictures, quotes, lyrics, drawings, newspaper clippings, and anything else that struck her fancy had been glued to the wall. Really, it was an unorganized mess, but to her it was beautiful.
“This is incredible,” Mitchell breathed. He turned to her. “How did you come up with this?” His eyes held an earnest honesty. He really cared what she said. Victoria took a deep breath and walked to the wall. Her hand gingerly fluttered over a picture in the top corner.
“My mom,” she stopped as her voice cracked. Looking closer, Mitchell realized she’d motioned to a funeral announcement. “I was so angry, Mitch, so angry… it wasn’t fair. I hated everything and everyone. I stopped caring about life. This is my outlet.” Her voice was barely above a strained whisper. “Everything I am is on this wall, every thought or feeling I’ve ever had.”
He looked at the wall again. “Which one is your favorite?” She paused to gather her thoughts and look over the wall.
“Black Angel,” she said, motioning towards the poem. Mitchell leaned closer to read it.
Picture perfect, glowing white,
angels whisper in the night,
but maybe an angel’s something more,
than just another perfect girl.
Look inside my soul and tell,
if this angel test I pass or fail,
cause angels always come in white,
but I am black as darkest night.
A single question racks my soul,
is there such a thing, as a black angel?
He was quiet for a long time. There wasn’t much to say. He simply watched Victoria as she tried desperately to control the mess of emotions swelling in side her. A mixture of sadness, fear, anger, betrayal, confusion, happiness, and everything else finally burst. A single tear slid down her cheek, and she wiped it away furiously. Mitch stepped forward and held out his arms for her to fall into. She hesitated for a second, and then gave into the loving embrace.
“Victoria…” he whispered, staring down at her. Her heart pounded, and she desperately tried to control her breathing. She couldn’t look at him. Her thoughts weren’t making sense. He leaned down closer, and his fingers delicately brushed her cheek. Victoria dared to glance up at him, eyes wide with an array of emotion. He locked his eyes on hers, and she took a deep breath. Then she stood on her tiptoes and kissed him.
In that instant, everything changed. Victoria had never loved anybody, except her mother. Something inside her changed, because now, it wasn’t all about her, it was about Mitch, too. The feeling scared her, but at the same time, felt completely right. He was part of her, and she was part of him. She never wanted to lose him.
She tried to say words to express her feelings, but she had nothing to say. He understood though. “I’ll see you in the morning, Victoria,” he said, once again hugging her. “I’d better get home, and it looks like you need some sleep.” He winked at her and flashed that wicked grin. She just nodded in a daze and watched as he slipped out the doorway.
She sat down on the bed grinning. The smile refused to leave her face. That boy just made her so happy. She moved to the desk to try to write something she never had before, a love poem. It didn’t work though, she couldn’t concentrate. After several failed attempts, she made the decision to do what she’d been meaning to do for the past three years, but had never had the courage to. She was going to visit her mother’s grave.
A fair amount of emotions played at her as she drove her dad’s beat up Honda to the cemetery. So many thoughts were running through her head. Things finally seemed to be falling into place and making sense. It was almost like Mitch was her guardian angel, sent to protect her and help her understand. She smiled at the thought. Then screamed as the impact of a truck moving 65 MPH crushed her.
“Is this Mitchell Croft?” a deep, manly voice said.
“Yeah, who’s this? And why do you have Victoria’s phone?” he asked, confused, and a little nervous. It was the middle of the night.
“I’m Jared Kirk, a police officer for Green Creek County. Son, I’m sorry to tell you, but Victoria’s been in a terrible car accident, but don’t worry, I’ll make sure she gets to the hospital alright. She keeps asking for you. I told her I’d have you meet us at the hospital. Will you do that for her?” Mitch opened his mouth, but words didn’t come. He was stunned.
He finally choked out, “Of course! But… how bad is she?”
The other line was silent for a moment. Finally, the man sighed. “Look, I’m no medical professional or anything, but I’d suggest you get there as fast as you can, because I’m not sure you have much time left with her…”
The phone dropped from his hand. His heart and head pounded, and he couldn’t focus. Tears welled up in his eyes, but he pushed them back. It was his turn to be the strong one. Victoria needed him. The police officer was still saying things into the dropped phone, but Mitch ignored him and hung up. He grabbed the keys and sprinted out the front door.
Meanwhile, Victoria slipped in and out of consciousness. She wasn’t really sure what was happening. She was aware of the dull throbbing of sirens, and it hurt her head. She was lying down on a stiff, uncomfortable bed. Some man sat next to her, telling her everything would be all right, over and over. “Mitchell…” she croaked. Her voice wasn’t working properly. The man nodded, and again assured her Mitchell would be there soon and everything would be all right.
She breathed a sigh of relief, and succumbed to the blackness once more.
Something inside Mitchell snapped at the sight of Victoria lying broken on the hospital bed. Tears streamed down his cheeks, and he grabbed her hand. He squeezed it tight, and kissed her fingertips. Her eyelids fluttered. “Mitch?” she whispered.
“Yeah?” he whispered back.
“Can you do something for me?”
“Yeah,” he said again.
“Tell my dad I hate him, put some flowers on my mama’s grave, and kiss me goodbye,” she commanded, forcing herself to open her eyes.
“Come on Victoria! Don’t talk like that!” he tried to sound stern, but his voice cracked in the pleading. “You’re going to be alright. I’m going to stay right here and you’re going to be okay.” He sounded more like he was trying to convince himself than her.
“Who’re you kidding, Mitch? This is the end of the road for me, we both know it. You can’t deny the wishes of a dying girl, can you?” she whispered, and squeezed his hand gently.
“But…” he searched for something to say. “I can’t just lose you Victoria! I love you… and I just realized it. Nobody can just take you away from me!” He was desperate. Tears slid down Victoria’s cheeks now. They were as white as the sterile hospital sheets, as white as a dying girl’s cheeks, as white as an angel’s cheeks.
“I love you, too, Mitch,” her voice cracked with sobs. He brushed her hair out of her face, stroking her pale, yet strangely beautiful cheeks.
“Vic, you’re an angel. My angel,” he whispered into her ear. Her eyes opened again. She stared deep into his blue eyes.
“You mean that?” she asked. He nodded.
“Of course,” she smiled, and her eyelids fluttered one more time.
“Goodnight, Mitch,” she whispered. Her hand went limp in his, and the monitor buzzed in alarm. A straight line replaced what had been Vitoria’s pulse. Mitch dropped his head to his hands and sobbed.