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Midnight. A girl clad in a white tattered gown sits on the banks of a slowly trickling river. Her golden blonde hair, once shining like the sun, is as tarnished as an old penny. It drapes around her face, hiding her sobs. This young woman is the very image of broken beauty, her slender body now just skin and bones, once-fair skin translucent and pale. She steals a glance into the river, and a thin angular face stares back at her, dull red eyes with blue irises a centerpiece to the ghostlike profile. But nothing is more hauntingly beautiful than the wings. They droop at her sides, hiding her in a mass of ruffled feathers.
Andrew frowned at the paper in front of him. Drawing normally came so easily to him: he could literally let his olive-toned hands roam free on the sketchbook, pencil in hand, and he could while away the hours lost in a fog. Once he emerged from the fog, he would look down and be surprised by what lay in front of him. So effortless, so simple. But this girl was stumping him. It was the wings, mainly. He couldn’t figure out how to maneuver the mechanical piece of lead and plastic around the paper to match the vision in his head. Sighing, he decided to return to that part later. He concentrated on adding detail to the background, not really paying attention to his work.
It was a beautiful picture. Amy could stand there for hours looking at it. Instead, she restricted herself to buying a small postcard, capturing the image in all of its acrylic magnitude into a small 5x7 sheet of glossy sheened paper. It was time to leave her place of employment, a small Buffalo art gallery. Unwillingly, Amy thrust herself into the bitter January night’s bitter cold.
A cold, harsh wind filled with tiny ice crystals greeted her, tossing her curly brown hair. Walking down the snow-dusted sidewalk, she kept her head down against the biting wind. It wasn’t until the sound of water reached her ears that she looked up. Why she did, she wasn’t exactly sure. Something inside her forced her head up, cast her eyes to her left. It was a small little stream, unfrozen because of its movement.
Shock paralyzed her body. She read the back. Sure enough, it said what she thought it had said: Andrew Santiago was 17 when he began sketching Midnight Repentant. This was the San Francisco artist’s first piece of work, leaving the world in anticipation of more of his talent. After a quick glance onto the flipside of the postcard, and back up at the landscape, she was sure of the impossible fact. Minus the snow, the two rivers were the same! Her watch beeped, signaling midnight. She had stayed at the art gallery longer than she anticipated.
Suddenly, a faint glow emerged from the trees. It was coming closer and closer. Fearing that it belonged to the flashlight of someone she didn’t want to meet in the dead of night, Amy ran. She ran, not daring to stop, not daring to breathe until she reached the safety of her apartment.
On her walk to work the next day, Amy saw a crème-colored feather sticking up in the freshly fallen snow.
Andrew skated, leaving all of his frustrations behind, scattering them in the soft late June breeze. He was taking a break from the long and tedious crash-and-burn, erase, redraw, and repeat process. The destination in mind was to 7-Eleven to get a Mountain Dew Slurpee, but he instead found himself at the nearby art gallery, a place he had barely set foot in for three years.
The bell above the door rang as he stepped inside Nelson’s Art Gallery, his Rollerblades tucked into his backpack, flip flops replacing them. John, Rick’s only employee and a good friend of Andrew’s, greeted him as he carried a large painting to another room.
Wondering where Rick, the owner of the small art gallery, was, he surveyed the place he had practically lived in until he was about 14. For a small part of a strip mall, Rick had done a good job maximizing space over the years. Hundreds of canvases decorating the wall, with practically every medium possible: acrylic, watercolor, papier-mâché, collages. Thousands of sketches, postcards, and small copies of paintings lay rather neatly in file cabinets. One drawer was open, and he could see the tips of some sketches poking out of some files. Andrew approached the drawer, picked up the file, and skimmed the contents. There were mostly people, from very young to very old, practically every race, an almost equal balance of men and women. The places were different, too. A man bicycling down a path much like the San Francisco Boardwalk outside, the Golden Gate Bridge barely visible in the background. A curly haired teen walking in snow the likes of which South California never saw. Two little kids chasing after a butterfly, long bamboo nets in hand.
“Andrew,” a voice calmly said. It was Rick. It had been a while since he had smelled that cologne, seen that crisp, polished suit, completed with the perfect, neat little toothbrush mustache. “What are you doing in my personal drawer?”
“I-I-I… The drawer was open… and…” Andrew stuttered, his cheeks burning red. The three years of ignoring each other created a stiff wall of awkwardness between the artists.
“I see,” Rick replied. “So, what brings you here today?”
“I need advice. I can’t exactly get the wings right.” Andrew pulled his sketchbook out of his backpack and flipped it open to his angel drawing.
“Ah. I know what your problem is,” Rick said as he grabbed a mechanical pencil off of his desk.
If Amy didn’t love art so much, her job would be unbearable. Her paycheck gave new meaning to minimum wage, she was required to show up at the gallery at a different time every morning, each time being in the wee hours of the morning, and the other employees weren’t exactly loving their jobs either. However, she was granted unlimited viewing of all those art pieces, and it was all worth it.
Amy was definitely not a born artist. Her attempts at any form of drawing, painting, or sculpting were meager at best, and most ended up in the garbage can, the ultimate box of shame. She accepted that she would never be as good as her idols surrounding her every day, but she still wished. She still wished to amount to more in life than a worker at a tiny art gallery.
“You see, if you just focus on each individual feather, perfection will be visible from each little angle. But you have to keep an eye on how it is all coming together, or it will be a disaster.” With Rick’s advice echoing in his head, Andrew finally had begun to etch the best angel wings he had ever seen into his sketchbook. Once he had completed his sketch, he planned to bring it to life on one of those ghostly white canvases. They were lining the wall of his loft, haunting him every time he walked by, whispering discouraging things to him in the dark of the night. You will never be any good. You can’t even paint us. How can you expect to be a famous artist, ever?
“Amy!” A voice scared the silent Amy, who was organizing the art books on a shelf in the gift shop. It was Gabriella, her boss. “Get your head out of the books and come talk to me!” Extremely demanding and arrogant, with her fancy spiky black hair cut and expensive makeup from Spain, Gabriella was the last person Amy wanted to talk to.
“What do you want?” Amy asked in a way that, when she thought about it later, probably wasn’t the best way to talk to her boss.
“There’s an employee transfer program that I want you to be a part of. We’ve had enough of your work around here. Gabriella’s high-and-mighty attitude was way too apparent in her tone.
“Are you… firing me?” Amy was shocked. She was a good worker. She listened to Taylor. She showed up to work on time.
“Not firing, relocating,” Gabriella retorted. “The California gallery will send you your information sometime next week. You’d better get your stuff from your desk. Trust me, this is a favor. You’ll do good there!”
“But what about my friends? I can’t just leave them behind!” Amy desperately thought of an excuse. However, she didn’t know many people in Buffalo. She had just moved to Buffalo a month ago to work in the gallery, after taking a few college courses, running out of money, and frantically searching for a job. Really anything would work. It was by sheer dumb luck that she had landed anything involved with art.
“Make new friends.” Gabriella’s expression was calling Amy’s bluff as she told Amy to “Enjoy the ride, chica”.
“Sure,” Amy grumbled as she walked to her desk and grabbed the few things she kept at work. She was just about to walk out the door when she heard Gabriella’s voice. However, she didn’t turn around.
“Have fun in California!” Gabriella called after her.
“Right.” Amy slammed the door behind her.
Andrew had stayed up all night. At the sight of daylight, his eyes stung, his stomach grumbled, and all he wanted was to collapse into bed. However, he had work to do. His painting was almost done, and he just needed to finish those wings that had given him so much trouble earlier. He continued to paint, eventually getting re-lost in his work.
Finally, he was done. It was perfect, 20 times better than the original sketch. He looked at it, full of pride. This was his creation. He had brought it into being. The world just had a great contribution made to it. This was his best work ever, he could feel it.
He needed to show it to Rick. In the weeks after their reunion, they had become friends again, and almost all awkwardness was gone. Sure, Rick still spoke in that distinct, proper manner, but that was just how Rick was. John, however, welcomed him back into the gallery like the old friend he was. He got up, careful not to smudge the drying paint, and decided to take a shower. He would go to Nelson’s Art Gallery once the paint was dried, and the distinctive scent of turpentine wasn’t tainting his skin anymore.
San Francisco? Amy stared at the packet sent from the art gallery in California, the one she would be transferring to. It was a lot better than where she imagined she would be going. With the economy being what it was, she had decided to take part in the transfer program instead of finding a new job. Now, she wasn’t regretting her decision as much. San Francisco wasn’t that bad; she was expecting some small town nobody had ever heard of.
Maybe this wouldn’t be so bad. She found the plane ticket in the envelope and started to pack.
Extreme happiness. That’s what Andrew felt. It was swelling up in him like a balloon just threatening to burst, combining with energy and ecstatic-ness. He couldn’t believe it! Someone actually bought his work! It was being shipped at that very moment to some art gallery in Buffalo.
This would be the start of something big, he could feel it. A door to a whole new world was being opened, a world of fame, fortune, happiness. He could finally live his lifelong dream, starting at the young age of 17. How many people can say that?
Amy had all but forgotten about Midnight Repentant.
Inconspicuously taped to the wall near her closet, she had only noticed it as she tore through her tiny apartment, looking for anything she might have missed. She only had a few minutes until she had to leave for the airport, and she was desperate to be on time. She wasn’t missing her flight.
When she took the postcard off of the wall, an off-white feather cascaded to the ground. After a few seconds of puzzlement, Amy shrugged and stuck it into the abyss of her purse. She walked back outside to the taxi that already held most of her stuff, slung the duffle bag into the trunk, and got into the taxi.
As she left her life in Buffalo via airplane, she saw a girl by that river.
Andrew, now 21, still lived in his loft. Midnight Repentant was really the only painting of his that became anywhere close to popular. He sketched. He painted. He sculpted. He daydreamed. He lived the life of an artist, but any work of his kept on leading him to that first piece. Many canvases ghosted corners of the loft, their whispers echoing in his head. He had taken to spending his days at Nelson’s, looking at pictures, helping John out, and waiting for that spark of inspiration. Irony at it’s finest: having everything going for him when he’s just 17, not even out of high school, and being nothing more than a worthless lump when he’s expected to be in collage, or have a career.
Andrew Rollerbladed to the art gallery, as he did every day. It was getting colder. It should, it being late January. A fresh gust of wind blew into his face, carrying with it some feathers on the ground from a nearby flock of pigeons. Gray feathers littered the air and lay across the ground. However, one was not gray. Andrew’s eyes were drawn to it somehow, in some inexplicable way. There was one crème-colored feather smack in the middle of the gray feathers. He picked it up and tucked it into his coat pocket. Maybe he could use it in his art somehow.
Amy took a deep breath of the salty Pacific air as she stepped off the plane. The act of stepping off of a plane offered so many new opportunities. With a plane, she could go anywhere, do anything. She could see the Pyramids, see Paris from the top of the Eiffel Tower, walk along the Great Wall of China. She just needed the right ticket. A new start, once impossible, was becoming reality. Here, she could be anyone, without having to worry about her reputation.
The warm atmosphere was a welcome change from the frigid January up in Buffalo. Being South California, there wasn’t a whole lot of wintry weather. She stepped into the first taxi she saw once she got out of the airport and recited the address of the apartment she had managed to buy with the little money she had earned from selling her Buffalo apartment and what was saved out of her paychecks. This one was supposedly bigger, newer, and overall nicer. Once she got settled in, she could go to the art gallery.
John told him that there was a new girl coming. Did Andrew care? No. However, she might be able to help him with his art. She was, after all, working in an art gallery. Rick had set Andrew to work making the shop look somewhat predictable. “We need to make a good impression,” Rick had mumbled before walking off to find some paper for the printer.
After quickly looking around the apartment, setting her luggage on the kitchen table, and arranging her furniture—which the movers had brought in the day before—Amy set off for the art gallery. It was literally four blocks away, and it was a beautiful day, so Amy decided to walk.
As she sauntered down the boardwalk, Amy rummaged through her purse, searching for her cell phone. Her hand caught on something soft. She pulled it out and surveyed the feather she found by the postcard. Normally she would be repulsed by the thought of something that could be so filthy, but she didn’t really care. Something inside her told her that it didn’t carry any nasty diseases. It was a perfect little feather: none of the little fibers were ruffled, and it curved just so. Although such a boring-sounding feather might seem… well… boring, this one was special. The color was more than crème; it caught rainbows in the sun, revealing a whole new array of colors. She was still marveling at it when she practically ran into a man walking past her.
“Oh my gosh, I’m so sorry!” She quickly apologized and turned to find the art gallery.
“Oh, no, it’s fine,” He quickly waved away her apology, and stared at her with this strange look.
“Uh, okay. Do I… know you from somewhere?” Amy was getting sort of freaked out, and didn’t want to have some psycho-stalker on her first day in this new city.
“I was about to ask you the same thing.”
The man couldn’t be much older than her, maybe by a year. His dark hair matched his eyes, and his olive-toned skin was like nothing Amy had seen before. He didn’t look familiar, and Amy told him so.
“I’m Amy,” she offered.
“Oh well, I could’ve sworn that I knew you from somewhere. I’m Andrew, by the way. Andrew Santiago.” Andrew stuck out his hand.
Amy gasped. He was the artist of that painting she had loved so much! “Oh my gosh! No way,” she exclaimed. “I’m a huge fan of your work. Midnight Repentant especially. Well, make that only Midnight Repentant. I haven’t come across anything else you’ve done. But you shouldn’t give up painting; you have so much talent!” she gushed. “You’re practically my hero!”
He had to admit it; he was surprised that actually cared about his work. However, this girl needed a serious reality check. Odds are, he wouldn’t be a big painter, ever. He had accepted that a while ago, and Amy needed to accept it now. “It’s funny that you say that. I’ve had a hard time creating anything since I finished that one painting. Whatever I do, I keep on coming back to that angel. I don’t think that I’m meant to be an artist.”
He would admit it, Amy was beautiful. She still looked so familiar, and he didn’t know why. Whenever he looked at her, he couldn’t shake the resemblance between her and… someone else. What with her curly blonde hair, her Popsicle-blue eyes, her hands, one of which were clutching a beautiful feather, almost like that feather he had found that morning. Wait. It was the same feather. He gasped. “Where did you get that?”
Andrew freaked out when he saw the feather. Amy supposed that it was because it matched the one in his painting. “I-I… actually bought a postcard of Midnight Repentant since I loved it so much. I taped it to my wall, and when I took it down, this fell down, and it was stuck to the back of it…” Amy’s voice trailed off as she nervously studied Andrew’s gaze. “Here, I have the postcard in my purse.” She reached into her purse and pulled out the postcard.
Andrew took it and looked at it. He stared at it for a long second, marveling at his months of hard work, compressed into this tiny piece of paper. As he flipped it over, he gasped. “Amy,” he said. “You might want to look at this…”
Amy took the postcard, flipped it over, and stared. “I didn’t put that on there. Nobody was in my apartment or has touched my purse but me, and I’ve never seen that before…”
On the back of the paper, there were two words, scrawled with an untidy script: Help Me.
Midnight, again. That girl was still by the river. Like she was brought to life in that very painting, her features, surrounding, and expression were unchanged. She raised her gaunt, pale face to gaze at the sky. “Amy, you have to help me. You and Andrew are the only ones who can. Trust no one else.”
Amy ran to Nelson’s Art Gallery for her second day of employment. After their discussion, Andrew had shown her into the store and she was put to work with him. Since he spent so much time at the gallery, he worked with her, helping her out with even the smallest, easiest tasks. They had found out that they were very close in age: Andrew was 21, while Amy was 20. In every conversation, Andrew seemed to work in how familiar she looked, and it was starting to get extremely annoying to Amy. She had never been to San Francisco, and Andrew had never left San Francisco. Amy wasn’t famous; there was no reason to be on TV or the Internet (except for Facebook, but they weren’t friends).
She wasn’t sure how she felt about Rick. He seemed to be a nice guy, but there was something in his stiffness that was a little too proper, a little too formal. However, he did know a lot about art, he planned on paying her two times what she received in Buffalo, and he brought her to San Francisco in the first place. He was nice enough, she supposed.
John, however, was extremely likeable. He was one of those people who never have any problems making friends. He always around, always wanted to laugh and joke around. If Amy had to choose between working for John and Rick, John would be the obvious choice.
As she stepped inside the door, a voice greeted her. Andrew and John were nowhere to be seen. Rick was reading a book, and there were many more stacked before him on his desk. “Hey, Rick,” Amy replied as her eyes scanned the books in front of him. Most of them appeared to be collections of famous works of art, but a few had a completely different topic. “So, Rick,” she asked. “What do you know about angels?”
Amy knew his secret. Rick was sure of it. He didn’t, however, know how much information she had. Just in case, she wanted her out. As soon as possible. He didn’t need another catastrophe on his hands, with only him to take the blame.
“Andrew, could I talk to you for a moment?” Rick had sent Amy to the back room a few minutes ago, and now Andrew suspected that he just wanted to get rid of her to talk to him for a few minutes.
“Yeah, what’s up?” Andrew walked over to his desk.
“How do you feel about this Amy girl?” Rick asked.
Oh, so now this is about my love life? Andrew thought. “Yeah, she’s pretty cool. I like her. Why?”
Rick then said just about the last thing that Andrew wanted to hear: “I’m considering firing her. She’s much too nosy, and I think she’s out to steal your artwork.”
“Amy is many things. She’s beautiful. She’s funny. She knows everything there is to know about art. She’s talented. All good things. She’s not a bad person, and nothing you can say will change my mind.
Rick was out of tape, so he sent Amy to the back room to get some more. As she rummaged through the shelves, she thought about what Rick had told her earlier. He seemed to know a lot about angels, and it was a little unnerving how much these types of things were cropping up lately. That girl needed her help, she was sure of it. It was too bad that she already had a job in San Francisco. She knew that she was needed in Buffalo.
She returned to the lobby, rolls of tape in hand. At the sight of her, Rick stood up. Andrew was just walking out the door to grab the mail.
“Amy, Amy, Amy,” he drawled.
“What?” she replied. What could he want now?
“We both know why you’re here. I hope you’ve found what you’re looking for.”
“Looking for?” Amy was genuinely confused.
“Yes. And now that you’ve found it, I feel that it’s time to leave. I’ve spoken with Andrew, and he feels the same way,” Rick’s voice was full of sincerity. Amy didn’t believe a word.
“Fine,” she spat out. “But I want to be paid for the entire week.” She could now see why that part of her didn’t trust Rick.
Rick pulled out his checkbook, scrawled on a check, and handed it to Amy. “Goodbye.”
As Andrew returned from the post office, he saw Amy storming out of Nelson’s, her face full of fury. He stopped her as she walked past. “Hey, hey, what’s wrong?”
“Oh, like you don’t know,” she said hotly. Then she turned on her heel, took a sharp breath, and walked out of his life.
Amy sat and fumed in her two-day-old apartment, a plane ticket straight to Buffalo in her hand. She really didn’t want to leave California, but something in New York was tugging at her. It was the angel. She stared at the postcard for hours while waiting for the movers to come collect her furniture. Luckily, all the plane and moving expenses were covered by the employee transfer program. Otherwise, she would be broke.
Why would Andrew lie to me? These questions, and more, haunted her. What’s the deal with the angel? Why am I so drawn to Buffalo? What’s wrong with my life? Her life was messed up, that’s for sure. The angel told her not to trust anyone. Did that include Andrew?
She heard a knock on the door. Probably the movers. But when she opened the door, Andrew was looking back at her.
Before he could say a word, Amy slammed the door in his face. But his foot caught it before it was shut, and he kicked it back open. “Why did you leave? Oh, it doesn’t even matter. Whatever happened, I’m sorry.”
“Okay, but—“Amy was cut off by Andrew.
“Come on, we’re going to Buffalo,” Andrew said.
“But… you don’t have a plane ticket!” Amy was so happy; she didn’t even care about how confused she was.
“Yeah, I actually do,” Andrew turned around and flashed a plane ticket, a mischievous grin on his face.
Help was coming, Aribella could feel it. Andrew and Amy were on their way. The question was, how long would it be until they arrived? They could be anywhere; on a plane, in a car, the possibilities were endless. At least she knew that they were coming. She had all eternity to wait.
Amy grabbed her things, left a note on the door for the movers, and they were off. The plane ride was long and tedious. She wasn’t sure how much longer she could take. Andrew, however, wasn’t having any patience problems. He, with his sketchbook open on his lap, was in his own little world. His dazed, faraway expression made Amy sure that the plane could crash and he wouldn’t know. After a while, she snuck a peek at what he was drawing. It was a small sketch in the corner of a bigger one. The bigger one was another repeat of that piece of art that she had admired for so long. It was unchanged: the face still gaunt and hopeless-looking, the girl still skin and bones, the wings still beautifully damaged, perfectly crumpled.
In the corner was an entirely different sketch. It was a face, framed by curly hair. The eyes seemed to sparkle, even in the dreary charcoal color scheme. The face was perfectly shaded, those shadows making it look entirely believable, a screenshot from an old black-and-white movie. Amy had a very strong suspicion that it was her.
Amy yawned. She didn’t get much sleep the night before. Knowing that when she woke up they would be much closer to Buffalo, Amy settled her head on Andrew’s left shoulder and went to sleep.
A sharp jolt awoke Amy. She quickly snapped her head up, wondering what was happening. But it was just the plane landing, not anything to worry about. She grabbed her carry-on bag from the overhead storage bin and stepped into the aisle way, Andrew on her heels.
When they stepped off of the airport, they were greeted by a cold gust of wind. Andrew looked like he was about to die from shock. He should, Amy thought. This is his first time in the North. They stepped into the nearest taxi and went off to buy a coat for Andrew.
Luckily, nobody had bought Amy’s old apartment, so the deed was still in her name, and they could stay there. However, there was no furniture in there. They would have to wait until about nine o’clock for the movers to bring the bed and couches, and all the rest of Amy’s possessions. It was 7:30. To pass the time, they went to a nearby café for dinner.
Throughout the entire meal, Andrew stated at Amy, until he snapped his fingers and exclaimed, “I got it!”
“Got what?” Amy warily asked.
“Why you look so familiar! Rick had a sketch in his file of a girl that looked exactly like you! It all makes sense now!”
“How does it make sense? I worked at Nelson’s for two days. How would Rick manage to sketch me? He was reading practically the entire time.” It might all make sense to Andrew, but to Amy, it was completely confusing.
“Yeah, you’re right! I found the picture days before you came…” Andrew resumed being deep in thought for a moment. “I don’t know how I got the idea for Midnight Repentant, how you got the feather, or what Rick’s problem is. Honestly, it’s sort of scaring me.”
“Shouldn’t you know where you got the idea for your own artwork?” Amy asked.
“Not exactly. You, not having a single sense of creativity, wouldn’t understand,” he replied.
“Oh, shut up!” Amy playfully smacked him on the arm. “But honestly, where did you get the idea?”
“I just started to draw. I got lost in my own little world. My subconscious practically controlled my hand. Even I was surprised when I looked down at what I’d brought into being,” Andrew said.
“Andrew? Do you actually think that this angel’s real? Are we just wasting our time here?” Amy doubted herself.
“I know this sounds crazy, but I really do. I know that we’re meant to be at that river, tonight.”
He has a point, Amy thought. I feel the exact same way.
“We’ll be there at midnight,” Andrew stated.
It was pitch black. Andrew, bundled up in his new parka, quietly followed after Amy through the snow. Once this was all over and done with, the two of hem were going back to California, or some place warmer. No question about it. He didn’t understand how anyone could live in this icebox. It would be unbearable.
Through the hated snow blinding him, he could vaguely make out surroundings familiar to him. The pine tree… that big boulder… the river itself.
“This is it,” he murmured.
Amy turned around and said, “So, now what?”
Amy checked her watch. 11:58. They still had two more minutes before they were either proved totally and completely wrong, or they were exposed to something neither of them had ever seen before. She sat in the cold snow, grateful that she had snow pants on.
Tiny specks of snow flew into her face. Amy closed her eyes.
They’re here. Aribella could see them. But why couldn’t they hear her? She was right in front of them, trying to talk to them! These two were the ones. They were together, she was there, it was the right time, midnight, why was she silent to them?
They should be able to hear her.
Unless, unless HE was back.
That very idea was too scary to think about. If HE was back, then all hope might be lost. HE was the one who cursed her to this in the first place. If HE was here, then she had to warn Amy and Andrew. HE could hurt them in ways they had never imagined, become their deepest, darkest fear.
She had to warn them. But how?
“Amy?” Andrew’s voice pulled her out of her stupor. “Shouldn’t something be happening? It’s midnight.”
“I know,” Amy replied. “I don’t understand. Maybe I was wrong. I wouldn’t be surprised. Hasn’t exactly been much use…”
“Stop that,” Andrew commanded.
“It’s not your fault. If nothing’s going to happen, then it’s just as much my fault as it is yours.”
“Maybe we’re going crazy. Maybe we’re just so desperate to believe something that we’ll believe anything. I just don’t know!” She could hear in her voice that she was on the verge of tears.
Suddenly Andrew saw a shadow. It was coming from the bushes and getting closer… closer… closer to Amy. “Amy!” he called. “Look behind you!”
She turned around. “I don’t see anything.” Suddenly her eyes widened. “Wait, no! Look! In the bushes!”
There was a subtle shake of leaves, and nothing more. However, this sudden movement was all that they needed to see.
Someone was there.
They saw HIM. Or at least HIS shadow. HE was lurking in the bushes, waiting for the right moment. Aribella needed to warn them. She scurried over to Andrew and made a ‘psst!’ noise in his ear. He looked up.
Finally, things were starting to go her way.
Andrew was about to decide that he was schizophrenic or something when he heard a noise in his ear. Psst! That definitely wasn’t the wind. He looked toward the source of the sound, only to find… nothing. Maybe he was hearing things.
Andrew! He is here. He is in those bushes. You and Amy weren’t imagining things. Now listen to me very carefully… Something told Andrew that this was very real, not just a figment of his imagination.
Very real indeed.
Andrew had that far-off look again, leaving Amy alone. Well, alone with the thing in the bushes. Where was the angel? She could practically feel her presence. Couldn’t she just help her, and then leave?
Something told her that it wouldn’t be that easy.
HE was watching. HE was ready for the big fight. HE stepped out of the bushes.
Ready or not, HE was coming.
Amy saw it as if it was in slow motion. The blizzard increased, covering her line of vision with a white lace veil. A dark, shadowy figure stepped out from the bush. Amy found herself staring down the barrel of a gun.
She squeezed her eyes, waiting for it to be over.
The crack of the gun.
The bullet cutting through the air.
The agonized screech of pain.
The scream, was it her? No. For her to scream, there should be pain. There was no pain. Just… numbness.
Amy’s eyes flicked open. She was alive. A glance through the veil confirmed that Andrew and the girl were okay. Ahead of her lay a deep crimson patch of snow. It was the man who tried to shoot her. She cautiously approached him and tried to identify the dead man. It was… John! That likeable guy from Nelson’s, Andrew’s best friend, he was lying dead in the snow.
Andrew saw his best friend in the lake of blood. His best friend, who tried to kill Amy. His best friend, the one who had put Aribella through so much torture. His best friend, who was killed by some unknown figure.
HE was gone. Aribella had nothing to fear anymore. Amy and Andrew were safe, and as long as they were alive, she would be their guardian angel. But why was HE gone? Andrew didn’t do anything, neither did Amy.
After hearing a soft noise, she turned around and gasped.
Rick, holding a gun in his hand, stared at the corpse lying in the snow.
“Rick…” Amy muttered.
“Rick?” Andrew gasped.
“Yes, me. Surprised?” he calmly said.
“Of course I’m surprised!” Amy exclaimed. “John was so nice, and you… well… you…”
“Acted like a jerk? Fired you? Yes, well I had to avoid suspicion. You see, I knew that you and Andrew would some day meet. I needed to bring you together,” he calmly explained.
“That explains the sketch!” Andrew exclaimed. “And the feather drawing, and the transfer program, and everything!”
“Yes,” he confirmed. “Now I’m sure that you two would like to return to San Francisco. Amy, I spoke with the movers, your furniture is still in California. Sadly, Nelson’s will be closing. I have… business elsewhere to attend to. I bid you goodbye.” And without another word, he disappeared into the snow.
Just as they were walking into the airport, Amy received a phone call. After looking up and seeing that Andrew was off checking in their luggage, she picked up her phone and looked at the caller ID. Gabriella? She pressed ‘Talk’. “Hello?”
“Hey Amy, this is Gabriella. I just got the most fantastico job offer! I can go back to Spain and be a co-owner of this huge new art gallery! The best thing is that it’s right in the town that my family lives in! So, I had to find a replacement, and you were the first person I thought of. Will you come take over for me? Come on, help an amiga out here!” Gabriella gushed.
“Uhh… I don’t know…” Amy did not want to stay in cold, snowy Buffalo after everything she had been through. Too many bad memories.
“Come on. Please? Imagine how many people will lose their jobs! And honestly, you’re the only one somewhat capable of this. If you don’t take the position, you’re out of a job,” she reminded Amy.
It was true; this was her only chance of having a job. There aren’t many places that will take someone who hasn’t graduated college and has almost no job experience. Plus, Nelson’s was now closed thanks to Rick, and Andrew didn’t have anywhere to display his work. Maybe he could go to Buffalo with her.
“Fine, I’ll do it,” Amy said, hoping that she wouldn’t regret her decision.
“Muy gracias! Thank you so much, Amy!” Gabriella shrieked into the phone, so loudly that Amy had to hold it at a safe distance away from her ear.
“Yeah, whatever,” she replied.
“I’ll be at the gallery in an hour.”
“Adios!” Gabriella hung up.
Now all that was left to do is to tell Andrew.
“You’re leaving?! What?!”
Betrayal. Anger. Disappointment. Sadness. Thousands of emotions coursed through Andrew’s veins. How could Amy leave him? They could finally do everything their recent adventure kept from them: romantic candlelit dinners, watching movies together, everything.
“I’m sorry, Andrew. But I need a job. And this is such a great job opportunity. I'm so sorry. ” Amy said, feeling as terrible as Andrew looked. She took her bag and walked out.
Andrew spent the entire plane ride drawing. When he got back to his loft and looked at it with fresh eyes, he saw that his work wasn’t that bad. Maybe this heartbreak was good for him. Plenty of other fish in the sea.
Actually, these were some of the best sketches he had done since Midnight Repentant. He grabbed a canvas from the corner and got to work.
On Amy’s 25th birthday, she got an invitation in the mail. It was for a showcase for the most recent work of a young artist named… Andrew Santiago. She immediately began to pack her things. Life in Buffalo was getting cumbersome.
Thank you, Aribella, she whispered to the empty apartment.
After receiving hundred of congratulations, being on the receiving end of too many toasts, and being just plain overwhelmed by people, Andrew stepped outside for a breath of fresh air. The Golden gate bridge looked beautiful, all lit up, but not as beautiful as… He sighed. It even hurt to think the name.
Suddenly, a yellow taxi pulled up. The door opened, and she stepped out. Amy.
As if he was waiting for her, the first person Amy saw was Andrew. Her heart flooded with emotion, and she ran up to embrace him.
They kissed. It was their first together, and it was wonderful.
“Stay with me forever, Andrew,” Amy said softly.
“Forever…” was the whispered reply.