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Angel's Among Us
So here I am, in another extremely boring Geometry class. Mr. Sansa is rambling on about some proof or whatever, and Little Miss Perfect is recording notes in that absurd book in her neat little handwriting.
I have known Sami Rosser for three years, since the beginning of ninth grade. We had American Literature together our first year at Fairfield High School. We aren’t friends...definitely NOT friends. In fact, we’re complete opposites. It’s hard to compare my short stature and straight yellow-blond hair to her model figure and perfect chestnut rolling curls. I have plenty of friends, where she wouldn’t know how to even talk to a boy.
Today is Monday.
My brown hair keeps tickling my neck. I usually have it up in a ponytail, because it’s too curly, and frankly, I wish it was straighter. After scrambling to get the definition and an example of a proof in my purple spiral notebook, I glance out of the side windows of the classroom. The leaves are sailing from the trees to their muddy destination. Even though I can’t be outside much in this frigid cold, I love the weather. Toasty sweaters, hot chocolate, and reading a good book in cozy grey sweatpants. My daydreaming is at its best when Shane walks in the room.
5 foot 7, thick brown tousled hair, and a shy smile that showed just a bit of those pearly whites. That’s how you describe the perfection of Shane Oston. He may not have the brains, but the brawn: A+. I swear to God his muscles flex with every step, mesmerizing me.
“Hiii Shaane!” I say enthusiastically with a hint of flirt as he saunters past my front row desk.
“Um, hey.” He says bluntly before sliding into his seat two seats beside me.
What was THAT? I ask myself. As If he doesn’t want me…everyone does.
The clang of the bell startled me. I quickly stood as A Look Into Geometry slapped onto the floor. Cheeks beat red, I crouched to gather my book when I saw a figure standing in front of my light wooden desk: “Need a hand?” asked Shane Oston.
“Uh…er…um…yeth…I mean, yes!!” I responded too loud. Other students turned for a moment before gathering their items to hurry to their next class.
Picking up my completed lesson notes, he asked “So, you like math?”
“Sure. It’s ok”
“I don’t…I just can’t make sense of anything. I don’t know why they put me in this stupid class year after year.”
“Well, ya know, it is school.” WHAT? I asked myself. Here is Shane freaking Oston, saying more to me than he EVER has, and here I am making a fool of myself? I mean I know I’ve never had a boyfriend, and I will probably never get a chance if I keep acting like this!
He interrupted my self-argument: “It’s ok if you don’t want to”
“I asked if you wanted to maybe help me…you know…like a tutor?”
With a knotted stomach and pounding heart, I quickly said the first thing that came to my mind: “Sure, whenever is fine for me.”
“OK, how about Friday at study hall, I can get a library pass if you want to meet there.” His smooth voice, like angels singing from above, invited me to the library.
“Oh yes that’s ok.” I waved goodbye and practically stomped the whole way to lunch. I spent my time daydreaming about Shane’s body beside me at a library table, close enough for me to feel the heat his body radiated. I hardly noticed that jelly had splattered on my shirt from my peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
What. Just. Happened? Did Shane Oston really just ask Sami to tutor him?? What makes SAMI so special? She doesn’t talk to him like I do, she doesn’t sit by him like I do, where’s my chance?
I make a mental note to have Miss Perfection be anywhere but the library on Friday. I literally skip to Economics, my plan seeming more concrete as I plot.
“…..so….what’s going on?”
“You know EXACTLY what’s going on…with SHANE.”
“Nothing is going on with Sha..”
“DON’T lie, you’re not fooling anyone with your good girl crap. Just do everyone a favor and stay away from Shane.”
“I don’t think you’re in the position to tell me what to do.”
“YOU’RE not in the position to be such a little b****!”
I was stunned that Angel Palowski was in my face yelling at me for trying to help a boy, nothing else! A simple math lesson, big deal! Not sure what to do next, I decided to do what I always did in heated situations like this: walk away.
Finally the day I get to put my plan into action. Angel isn’t at school, which reminds me, I need to go for my visit tonight. Of course it doesn’t matter; I still get to stop Shane from getting his tutoring from Sami. I feel like I owe this to Angel, with the past few years she had.
“Shane! Hey!” I called jogging over to his beat up red locker where he was reading his English homework.
“Oh hi…how is Angel? She wasn’t in Homeroom.” Angel. Ha! Like he cares about her after he ripped her heart out.
“She’s ok..I guess…not like you would care..” I stopped myself, suddenly getting an even grander plan than the one I had originally thought of.
“For your information, Jessa, I DO care. What happened between me and Angel doesn’t mean I still don’t care, OK??”
“Of course..” a sly smile masked as innocence spread wide on my face. I put on my best sympathetic look “It’s just…well…things for me have been SO stressful, and poor Angel never gets a break, you know that...and she needs a friend other than just plain old me all the time. Maybe you would like to visit her tonight with me?”
Shane blinked, obvious confusion showing in those beautiful round hazel eyes of his. “You just lectured me on being a selfish jerk, and now I have to go visit Angel and be some kind of knight in shining armor?”
“Oh ok…well if you really don’t want to..”
“No, no. It has been a while since I’ve seen her…and I can get tutoring any time this weekend.”
“Oh!” Faking shock, I questioned him. “Tutoring?”
“Yeah, Sami was supposed to help me with my math, but you know her, I’m sure she wouldn’t mind rescheduling.”
“Oh she definitely won’t mind!” I said, delighted. “Priss.” I muttered
“Oh, I said I’m sure Angel has missed you.”
“Ok, well, see ya later then…I’ll meet you at the bus stop.”
Perfect! I completely forgot Shane only lived a few blocks down, so he could switch and ride my bus today. I gave a success punch to the air, knowing I had won.
“You’re going to visit WHO??”
“Whoa, don’t freak out on me, you know Angel and I are friends.”
“Oh, so you get to skip out on me just to go see the girl who broke your heart?”
“Jessa asked me to go visit with her!”
“Oh, Jessa? That’s SO much better Shane. I’m sure she batted her pretty little eyes at you too huh? Ok, go ahead and have your fun with your girls”
“You act like we’re freaking married! This was just about tutoring!”
I had had enough, it was time to speak my mind: “No, you know what? This isn’t JUST about the tutoring. I wanted a chance, a real chance to go to the library with you, hang out some, and maybe get to know you better. But instead, I’m always getting walked on, letting other people push me around and dictate my life and who’s in it. Well NOT ANYMORE!”
I had to catch my breath. Shane’s face twisted into a hurt expression, one that told me there was more to his motive than just an ex-girlfriend.
“…Shane, what’s wrong?”
I walked to Sami, took her hand, and led her to the auditorium where we could be alone. No one was there, it was 1:45, and everyone had a designated study hall now. I had to give her an explanation, and not just an excuse, the truth.
Shane started on his story, and I was listening intently, interested in what he was about to tell me.
“Remember sophomore year when Angel was out of school for a week, and said she was on vacation?”
“Yeah, she went with her daddy on a surprise trip to the Bahamas.”
“Well, that’s what she told everyone. What she didn’t explain was how that Sunday morning the vomiting and weakness started, and her leg she had broken a few months back was majorly swelled. Or how her dad took her for an appointment at her doctor, which led to her going to an oncologist. After a ton of tests, they found out she had Ewing’s sarcoma, a bone cancer. She was given 3 years to live.”
“Oh my God, Shane…I didn’t realize..”
“Let me finish, please.”
“You know we were dating back then, and when she called me with the news, I just couldn’t wrap my mind around it. I mean, 3 years? Why not 3 decades? I knew I couldn’t stand the thought of her passing away. I let my own feelings get the best of me, I was selfish, so I told her I couldn’t date her anymore. She begged and begged, and had more questions than I could answer: Why? What did I do? Why won’t you listen to me? I thought you LOVED me! Things got really tense between us after that. She didn’t call and I didn’t bother. Chemo started just a few days after our fight. When she started her treatment, her mood changed for the worse.”
“I know,” I interrupted solemnly, remembering when she pulled Megan Slaki’s dress down during a dance because she had been chatting with Angel’s current crush at the time. I had so many nasty feelings for her, and now I felt like the jerk.
“The bald head, the weight loss, we were sure someone from school would start asking questions, but they all thought she was just following some French fashion fad. She got teased a lot for looking the way she looked, and how she was probably messing around with boys from different states all those times she was out from school.”
The whole time Shane was telling me this…this horror story, it was hard for me not to feel bad for Angel. I did remember the bald head…before she got her red wig, which she got teased about. I always secretly thought she just wanted attention. I told Shane this, and he smiled gently and shook his head.
“Everyone must have thought that Angel Palowski, who goes on vacation to Florida each year, has three dogs, her own car, and a rich father had it pretty good.”
“Why didn’t you speak up? Tell anyone?”
“The teachers knew. The principal knew. They were asked personally by Angels’ parents per Angel to keep it on the down low. She wanted to still be seen as the pretty Angel everyone always bragged about.”
I heard Shane out, and I think I finally understood why Angel was so mean. Although there was still one thing I had on my mind.
“What about Jessa? You didn’t date her, and she’s been just as bad!”
“I know, and there’s no excuse for the anger and vengeful attitude, but she is Angel’s best friend…could you imagine losing your best friend entirely too early in life?”
I thought about Erica, my friend of five years. We did everything together. Even though she’s in tenth grade, I still couldn’t bear the thought of her being taken away. I looked at my phone: 2:30. It was time to go home. Unless…
“Shane.” I said. “Let’s go.” I led him to our bus, and I knew what I had to do. Hopefully he would go along with my plan.
Jessa is finally back with my strawberry Italian Ice. It’s embarrassing that she has to open the white container for me, because I’ve lost control of my fine motor skills. Today is a pretty good day though, the chemo hasn’t taken too much out of me, which by now I am usually puking my guts out. She sits down on the edge of my bed.
“So, I was going to bring someone today.” She looks down, pleating the pink comforter my dad brought from home.
“Oh yeah?” I ask, curious. She hardly brings any visitors other than Sara, her little sister. “Who?”
She was about to answer when Samantha Rosser and Shane Oston show up in the doorway.
“Can we come in?” Sami asks, looking awkwardly at my shiny bald head, the blue IV pole, and the wall mounted television.
I think for a minute...then look at Shane. He nods empathetically. “Ok.” I purse my lips, waiting for what was coming next.
I am so shocked I am silent, which my mother will tell you is a once in a lifetime occasion. I slowly get up, and simply walk from the room. Sami never knew about Angel’s cancer, but judging by the look on Shane’s face, she did now. I decided to go get some water for myself, and hopefully by the time I got back, they would be gone.
As I’m slowly retreating to Angel’s hospital bed, I’m wondering if this is really her; calm, a look of desperation on her face, which is pale complete with dark bags under her eyes. She’s hardly strong enough to prop herself up on the bed, which makes my heart drop.
“Hey.” I say, trying to make her feel as normal as possible.
“Hey.” She says looking down, like the blanket she was under was the most interesting thing in the world.
“So…you know we haven’t gotten along very good..”
I took a deep breath “Well….I wanted you to know….that…that I don’t judge you.”
“I said I don’t judge you…as cruel as I always thought you were, I had no clue what you were going through. I’m…I’m really sorry…for all the bad thoughts I’ve had of you, and for going after Shane with your history together.” I paused, nothing left to say. My mind went blank. I was expecting a nasty remark, telling me to leave and never come to see her again.
Jessa has told me millions of times how pretty I am and how I have the best family in the world. She’s seen me at my worst, my best, and sometimes when she came to visit, I would be too weak to even have a legit conversation. Even then she would stay for an hour and find something to do like read 17 Magazine to me, making sure I was up to date on all the latest celebrity gossip. But nothing, nothing, would compare to how I felt when Sami told me she didn’t judge me.
No, I wasn’t in love with her. Even though I never hated her, we never have gotten along, that much is true. Not saying we couldn’t have been friends, but we’re just too damn different; she’s shy but perfect, I’m confident and outgoing.
Looking at her now, I wanted to be the better person this time, show her I could be nice too.
“Thanks.” I said. Nothing more. No love-fest, where I would jump up and be magically healed from her overbearing kindness. A thank you was sufficient.
“You’re welcome!” She said, a cheerleader to my gesture.
I rolled my eyes, but couldn’t help but smile a little.
Angel Palowski just thanked me. For me, this is a giant accomplishment. I am so excited I can barely control my feelings.
“You’re welcome!” I tell her. She rolls her eyes…but…is that a glint of a smile I see on her lips?? Wow.
it’s hard to believe it’s been 6 months since Angel passed away. Her organs started to fail, and her heart just kind of gave out. At least that’s what my mom told me. The funeral was small, her family, distant relatives, and some doctors who treated her, me, Sara, and my mom. It was raining, and it was appropriate; an ugly dreary day for the worst day of my life.
Everyone is always telling me the grieving process is different for everyone, and I will eventually feel better. Although I really feel like someone snatched my heart, and it’s never coming back.
That day when I came back to the hospital room, Sami was gone, but Shane was still there. Angel told me what went on between her and Sami. My mouth formed an ‘O’ she explained how Sami admitted her misconception of Angel…and she apologized. After that, I decided to be a little bit nicer to Sami; I ignored her. I figured that was at least better than being nasty to her, right?
Looking back, I have what ifs planted in my mind: What if Angel and I were nicer to everyone? Would she still be alive? What if I went to visit her more? What if I didn’t go after Shane? Would I not feel guilty everytime I laughed at the good times we had? For these doubts, I kind of hate myself.
It’s Tuesday morning.
I have to go to school, even though it’s always a drag. I hate going, the other kids looking at me, whispering: “That’s her, Angel’s BFF. That’s her, the girl who wanted Shane even when her BEST FRIEND was sick with cancer.”
I hesitantly slide into my seat in Geometry, wishing I was outside in the spring coolness, jogging and thinking, I’m always doing that…it’s healthy and distracts me from everything else.
Sami strides in with Shane beside her. They’re good friends, probably dating. I feel myself caring less and less about the pettiness. My best friend’s gone, and I have better things to focus on; family, friends, school, and my own life.
Before Sami sits down at her seat in the second row, she waves at me.
I look at her for a moment, wave back, and I can’t help but smile a little.