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If you look, if you could look, you would see them. Everyone has one—that faint light that floats around them, that flash of white and gold, everyone except me.
And my name is Heaven.
With a name like Heaven, you would think I had a guardian angel, especially since I can see other peoples', but I don't. I think my guardian angel must have made some mistake, because if I have one, he or she is never around to take care of me, at least, not that I know.
My name is Heaven Angela, yeah, that's right, Heaven's Angel. And my mom named me that, because I have a special talent.
I can see angels.
All kinds, not just Guardians, but the others aren't on earth much, that is, until about a month ago, when all sorts—Nephilim, Cherubim, Seraph, all started appearing in the streets of Boston.
Boston is a sad place to look at angels. The more you believe in them, the harder their light glows, and only if you really believe, does the outline of the angel appear. But in a city like Boston, where so many swarm at once, even then it's such a scarcity to see a bright light. But the angels look different now. I've never seen an angel look tired before, but these do. When I walk the streets, I see them in corners and alleyways, sitting alone, or in groups of two or three, looking exhausted. I never approach them. Once when I was two or three years old, I chased one, (she didn't seem to notice) but when I caught up to her, I ran right through her. I've never tried again since. But the more the city carries on with ease, the more worried I get. I've never seen so many angels in one place.
If I ever told anyone I could see them, I'd be dragged off to some mental institute or lab or something, so I keep it to myself.
There have been storms here lately, severe ones, long into the night, every day, for weeks. Something's going on, something even I can't see.
We drive. My mom and I, out of the city. We're staying at my grandmothers house in Smith Field for the summer, in the country, away from the noise and the lights. Besides, my grandmother doesn't like being alone with all these blackouts and such. When we pull in at 8:00 PM, there are already black and gray clouds swirling in the stars, and the moon is already invisible. Winds bash against rattling gutters and white streaks of light dance across the sky. I can't see any angels here, just stretching land, and endless grasses.
We rush to the door where my grandmother offers a quick greeting and ushers us inside. The lights have already gone out, and Grandma holds a flash light. Mom hugs her, and so do I, but my mind is elsewhere.
I go up to bed, in the attic, where my mother slept when she was sixteen. The rattling windows and creaking floors keep me awake for hours, but when I finally fall asleep, my dream goes like this
I stand in a dark room where there isn't light or hope. Everything drains out of me until every beauty is gone. This is more than misery, it is nothing. Nothings means anything. Everything here is gone, the sun could have rained down on me, and I wouldn't have felt it. I curl into a ball, clutch my chest. It feels as though it's falling apart and I can't squeeze it back together. Here I don't know my name, I have no place in time and space, and I'm just a ghost. I begin to bleed, right out of my heart, until my hands are covered in blood. I can't cry out or yell.
I'm stuck in an empty black vortex of misery and pain, and as I stare into the darkness, I see something disturbing.
Clear, out of the shadows, bathing in the glory of all human suffering.
A red smile.
I jump up, gripping sweaty sheets.
It's still dark when I run out the door, into the storm. It whips my hair around my face, but I twirl in it. I can feel everything here, the rain and the wind and the thunder. There is something so raw, so feral, about dancing in a storm. Soon, I'm addicted to the sound of the thunder, the flashes of light, and the taste of the rain. I'm soaking wet and freezing, but I take no notice. I know it's dangerous. Lighting is crashing to the earth, tree branches fly through the wind, I should seek shelter, but I don't.
Then there's light.
A flash of light so bright I fall to my knees. For a moment, I can't feel my eyes, as though they've burned out, then the light subsides, the storm subsides, and I'm sitting in a darkened field, alone. I brush off, shaken, and get to my feet, trembling. There's a faint light behind the weeping willow that had been hit by what I assume to be lightning. I walk to it slowly. The once steady glow flickers. The remaining light dies.
I've seen angels, I see them every day, but this one is not the faint outlines or weak glow that I'm used to.
I can see the wrinkles in his white and gold tunic, and the stray hairs that have been ruffled from his fall. And I can see his wings too, only the dove-like feathers don't glow like they usually do. And he has a cut on his shoulder, but he doesn't bleed. Instead liquid gold, ichor, the blood of immortals, spills from the wound. He's young, maybe eighteen, but I've never seen an angel older than twenty.
And he's beautiful, too.
I've never seen an angel that isn't, but I've also never been able to be so close to one, and see such details. He turns and groans, but the sound is more like music than anything, and I'm suddenly aware he's in pain. I want to help, but I'm afraid to reach out and touch him. Then he says something, barely audible, but I can hear it.
“Heaven,” he whispers. My first thought is he's saying my name, but then I realize he must be talking about the other kind of heaven. He trembles. It looks wrong, so wrong, for an angel to tremble. Then he whispers again, but this time he murmurs. “Heaven, Heaven Angela.” He reaches out, and I realize he wants me to touch his hand. So I do, very carefully. It burns. I jump back in surprise, but the cut on his shoulder heals, and his glow steadily returns, but my finger begins to welt. He sits up gradually, and focuses dark, dazed eyes on me. Then he looks at my burnt finger and the wound heals as if it was never there. “Sorry, Heaven,” he says quietly. “I didn't mean to burn you. I've never touched a mortal before.”
I'm too shocked to speak. So I sit, and watch. After a moment of confused silence, he says, “You know who I am, right?”
I shake my head slowly. “I'm Antonius,” he says. “Your Guardian.”
“How come I haven't seen you before?” I ask. He shrugs.
“I dunno,” he says. “It just didn't work that way. You're special.”
“Have you been around . . . all along?”
“Why did you fall?” He rubs his shoulder.
“No matter,” he says. “Why were you out here, shouldn't you be inside?” What kind of question is that at a time like this? I wonder. Orange and red is staining the sky now. Antonius blinks at the sunlight. My mother's voice suddenly calls from the doorway. I yell back that I'm coming in, and just as I turn around, Antonius is gone, and I'm bone dry.
I tell my mom I got up at dawn because I couldn't sleep, and that I took a walk around the yard for a while, then I sit at the willow tree, poking around for traces of ichor, or anything that can tell me Antonius was here, but I find nothing.
The storms continue every night, and every night I watch the willow tree, but no sudden flashes of light occur, except the lightning, which makes my heart bounce constantly. I can't see Antonius face clearly in my mind anymore, and I begin to wonder if it was there at all.
I can't take it any longer. I run outside again, again in the rain. But I don't twirl. I run to the willow tree. But as usual, there's nothing there. Frustrated, I walk down the muddy dirt road, wishing I'd see a glow somewhere. I can't help but peak at the woods around me. The winds tear away branches, and cause white noise in my ears. Too late, I see the branch spiraling towards my head. I cry out.
The branch doesn't come.
And silence. He comes back.
He comes back Saturday afternoon. He sits with me under the willow tree and explains how he died. He lived in Ancient Rome. He died a martyr, at only eighteen years old. He was crucified.
He explains the reason I haven't seen him is because he is not my first guardian. My first Guardian was my father, and only during the past two years has Antonius been my Guardian. He says he isn't qualified. He was meant to be Seraphim, a warrior angel, but when my father was called elsewhere, he had to watch over me.
When he leaves, I expect him back.
The storms don't stop.
Antonius doesn't come back for a week, but I'm patient. This time, when he comes back, he is bruised all over. I put my hand on his shoulder and he heals. He doesn't burn me. I don't know why.
When I ask him where he gets all those bruises, his expression turns guarded and he doesn't reply.
He comes every week now, each week with different bruises and new wounds. I heal them all with a single touch, but I don't know how or why. One day he comes back, stumbling as he walks towards me. He holds me, shaking, not speaking, but I can feel his chest rise and fall.
And it's the saddest sound I've ever heard, like some sort of beautiful song that makes you want to cry.
One day, he comes back so hurt he has to lie down for several hours while he heals. One of his wings was at an odd angle, and he had too many cuts and scratches to count. That's the day he tells me.
He tells me about the war going on in Heaven. He says no one really knows what it's about, that it's too big for any of them to understand. I don't probe him for more.
The storms become more ferocious. Antonius returns with worsening wounds. I can't heal all of them anymore, I don't have the strength. He doesn't ask me to. He refuses to speak about the war, and I don't force him. I ask him if he's still guarding me when I can't see him. He says he can. The one thing I do probe is about my father. I ask if he's okay, if he's doing well, if he's a good man.
After all, he died the day I was born.
Antonius talks about him like he's a hero, and finally tells me my father took his place in the war, that he, Antonius, was going to be soldier, but my father agreed to go instead, if Antonius would look after me. Antonius had agreed.
And now I'm here.
Caught up in a war no one else can see.
In love with an angel no one else can see.
And waiting for the storms to pass.