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Finally, Lindsay thought, I’m eighteen.
Eighteen. A number teenagers under the tyranny of their parents – especially Asian-American ones like her – associated with freedom. The equivalent to a ticket out of high school and into that much-talked-about land of hedonistic heathens – aka college.
Today was her last day in this house. She looked around her bedroom, a mix of nostalgia and relief in her chocolate-brown eyes.
“Goodbye, posters and crappy drawings,” she said despite an inner voice telling her that it was incredibly juvenile to utter farewells to inanimate objects. But she would miss her posters of the Click Five and Jesse McCartney – how she missed music from the pre-Bieber era – and efforts in art class, for which she received A’s but not the pride of an artist completing a masterpiece. Her drawings of buildings and forests were nice, she supposed, but they did not possess that quality that compelled people to stop and stare, to think – only to admire, perhaps for a few seconds, if at all. Only when she was a child did she believe that fleeting admiration was enough to propel her to an art career of Picasso proportions. As she grew older, though, she came to know better.
When she saw her reflection in the mirror, she couldn’t help smiling. Not only was she grown-up but she looked grown-up too. She had breasts that filled her shirt and legs as long as an American woman’s, not short like her Chinese mother’s.
She didn’t understand the desire to never grow up, for she herself had always wanted to become an adult ever since she was ten and her parents had refused to let her attend a classmate’s birthday party. From that moment on, she anxiously awaited the day when she would finally be able to make her own decisions, to have the freedom to have fun and mess up and live. She loved her parents, but oh, were they the masters of intimidating people into doing what they wanted.
“New York, New York,” she sang to herself. Tomorrow she would be in the concrete jungle of the world as a student at NYU. It’d been her dream to go to the city ever since her friend Mary had shown her pictures of Times Square from her family vacation. How she’d envied Mary, who’d gotten to see those bright, beautiful lights! But in twenty-four hours, the green-eyed monster within her – which, in all honesty, had never truly left her – would at last be appeased.
Suddenly, she heard a knocking on the window, making her jump like flames were devouring the carpet.
What the…? She turned ninety degrees and gasped. At the window was the boy of her dreams. Literally. She rubbed her eyes, unsure about whether or not her vision was trustworthy. Because he couldn’t be real. First of all, his face was too perfect. Seriously, who possessed skin like brand-new porcelain, lips as red as maraschino cherries, eyes the color of sparkling aquamarine stones, and hair like gold? Those kinds of looks were the stuff of fairytales. Second, he had wings – black, like a dark angel’s. Atheists like her didn’t believe God existed, let alone flying dudes who spent all of their time helping people.
But a part of her was convinced she’d met the boy before and not only in dreamland. She remembered seeing him when she was six, back when she thought God and angels weren’t only comforting lies. He’d carried her away to a beautiful place – heaven, probably – and she’d had the time of her life. The logical, smart side of her knew it’d all been in her imagination; however, the naïve, foolish side hoped it’d been a memory and not just a hallucination.
As if in a trance, she walked to the window and opened it. Rubbing her eyes hadn’t gotten rid of her delusions, but maybe touching the angel and realizing that her fingers only encountered empty air would drag her back down to reality.
“You are not real,” she breathed. “You can’t be. Angels don’t exist.”
“If you say so,” the boy said with a shrug, his deep voice startling her into taking a few steps back.
“Oh my God,” she whispered. “I’m going crazy.”
He rolled his eyes. “You want me to prove my existence?” His hand went into the house, toward her. “Touch it.”
She did what he said – and touched warm, smooth skin.
“Who are you?” she asked, her eyes big.
“You know who I am,” he said, clutching her hand. Then he did what he’d done twelve years ago – he flew away with her along for the ride.
Even though she was scared of heights, all she experienced was an exhilarating joy when the boy took her to the sky, to the clouds, then beyond. She had no fear of falling; with the touch of an angel, she’d become untouchable, invincible.
Soon, they’d come back to the place she’d assumed was heaven all those years ago. The place with a beauty that even the best poet could not capture with words – as they were such trivial, dull, meaningless things – and where all of one’s wishes were granted by some unknown power.
She closed her eyes and wished for a chocolate milkshake. After a second passed, it materialized in her hand. She took a sip – it was the best she’d ever had.
“I love this place,” she said, smiling.
“Then why don’t you stay here forever with me?” he asked.
“I mean, why go back to Earth? There you’ll grow up.”
“But that’s what I’ve always wanted!” she exclaimed.
“Oh, so you want to get a job, to pay bills, to have your heart broken, and to grow old and fragile? You really want all of that?”
“No, but –”
“But what? All of those things – it will happen to you if you go back. But if you stay here, none of it will.”
She opened her mouth, ready to say that she still wished to go back; however, she hesitated. The cynic within her had always worried about adulthood not living up to her expectations. What if she ended up working in a tiny cubicle, entertaining thoughts of suicide or dying of boredom before turning thirty? What if she fell in love with a man – only to find out that he looked at her with cold indifference? What if she celebrated her ninetieth birthday and realized her life had just been a waste of time?
Then her thoughts turned to her family and friends. What about them though? Could she trade them for an eternity in paradise?
The answer was no.
Love triumphs all.
And she knew – she just knew – she wouldn’t be stuck in some office job. She was bigger, better than that. Lindsay Huang was meant for more, for great things.
“I can’t stay here,” she finally said, melancholy but determined. She swallowed the lump in her throat. “I need to grow up.”
Sadness – but not shock – filled the angel’s blue eyes. “Okay. Then close your eyes,” he said.
“Just do it.”
She dropped her eyelids. “Now what?”
His voice was too quiet for her to be sure, but she thought he was saying “Goodbye.”
“Could you speak a little louder? I can’t hear what you’re saying.”
When all she heard was silence, she spoke again.
“Hello? Can I open my eyes now?”
Without waiting for an answer, she opened her eyes and saw that she was back in her bedroom.
Was that all a dream? she wondered.
Tears stung her eyes when she saw the black feather on the floor. No, it’d all been real.
Yes, Lindsay got a job, paid bills, had her heart broken, and grew old and fragile. But she also fell in love with the right person and had many wonderful, meaningful, cubicle-free years before her mind became as feeble as her body.
As to the boy of her dreams, she never saw him again – in dreamland or reality.