Angel

22 Aug

By Theresa Ho
10th Grade

She crashed into the table, head spinning and eyes glazed, before she shoved herself away. The world tilted again, a plethora of dizzying bright light, black shadows in the corners, and the stained brown wall. Her mind was a whirl of confusion and fear. The medicine was not supposed to create this kind of reaction, she knew, but the disorientation she felt while adjusting was one she prayed would leave soon. She didn’t want to feel like this. Especially not now. The woman watched the hallway to her left warily as she leaned against the wall to support herself.

Quick thumping crossed the floor and echoed in the woman’s ears. Feeling as if she were a caged animal, she held her breath.

The house’s living room was sparsely decorated with furniture covered in thick coats of dust. Yellowed newspaper covered the windows, sunlight streaming through where the paper was torn or peeling. To her right, a fireplace cluttered with twigs, ashes, and the castaway pigeon plumage. It was closer than the hallway was, only an arm length away. Seeing this place was nauseating. It wasn’t an option for the woman to run. She had agreed to stay and finish the job. And yet, her wiry legs shook with the urge to barrel out of the house.

From the darkness of the hallway, a head poked out. And under it, another.

The sight of curly red hair and dulled green eyes gazing back at her caused the woman’s back to stiffen. She kept still. The almost luminescent glow of the children’s pale skin made her stomach lurch unpleasantly. A mistimed inhalation of air, and she was bowled over from the force of it, back hunched and chest heaving while sick spattered on the ground.

The aftertaste of the blueberry tart used to bribe her was sorely missed. It was good, though chilled from the afternoon air, damp with syrup that soaked through the flaky pastry, and made with bitter berries. Still, she cursed David for having her come here, cursed him for using the dessert to tease her when he knew she would accept anyway. Money was too scarce not to take the job. Already, she owed him too much. He had found her five years ago on the streets, muttering under her breath about people no one else could see and suffering from a head wound she had gained in a fight for an item found in her ratty jacket.

Now, she was wobbling in a living room, afraid and unwilling to face the cherub-faced demons slowly approaching her and trying to take back what she stole. Sour-smelling bile stuck to tangled hair. Still, she gulped the air in while clutching her recently emptied stomach and kept her eyes trained down.

“Anna, Anna, Anna,” chanted lilting voices.

The woman’s legs gave way, lurching as if the floor had been pulled out from under her. She barely managed stumbling three steps away from the hallway and smacked her head against the wall.

Children’s laughter rang in her ears.

“What are you doing, Anna?” a tinny voice asked.

The one they called Anna said nothing, only gritting her teeth to wait for the pain to dull.

“I wanna see!” demanded the other.

Don’t look, she told herself, but she couldn’t look away. Her attention remained fixed on the red-headed twins, her body frozen with fear.

The girl with pigtails and a pale blue dress stood next to her sibling. He was dressed in brown overalls, a white buttoned shirt, and little black cap. The girl held out her petite hand, saying nothing.

Tired eyes widened in shock when her throat was roughly squeezed, shaking her body. The woman’s scream was quickly cut off. Panic set in, and she lifted a hand to grab on to the one on her neck, twisting and kicking vainly in an attempt to get away. Her lips flapped wildly about in an attempt to take in air. Vision blurred in and out of focus, but stayed locked on the wide grins and empty eyes observing the scene.

“An-na,” called the boy, “why did you leave us?” And though his features remained impassive, his voice was filled with melancholy.

Black dots littered the woman’s sight. Her eyelids fluttered spasmodically. In stilted clips, she watched as the girl’s expression twisted into snarls of resentment while her brother’s eyes filled with tears. Their faces sagged and pale skin wrinkled, drooping layer by layer. Metal from the boy’s overall-clasps glittered and clinked once before beginning to rust. Tinged red, it fell to the floor. The girl’s dress swayed gently as it faded and appeared moth-bitten. Sunken cheeks blackened before turning into dust. A piercing scream split the air.

The force holding the woman’s neck was released, and she fell to the floor, gasping. When she looked up, the children were gone, and she was alone. She cradled her head in her hands, sobbing hysterically.

Horn-rimmed glasses glinted and clicked when rough, calloused fingers moved to pull them off. The man tilted his head away from the newspaper, casting a glance at the pale woman sleeping fitfully in her bed. At his age, he had grown less concerned about the trivial day-to-day things of life, preferring to delve into the world of the unknown instead.

Ten years back, the front page of the papers covered a story concerning the home the man had asked his employee to visit. Back then, Anna was the caretaker of a pair of twins, and she had been caught trying to steal a crystal angel, a precious family heirloom. In a panic, she had moved to silence the children before their cries reached the ears of their parents sleeping soundly in their bedroom. She was never found by the authorities after that, having disappeared once she realized what she had done.

The client, an aunt of the children who had been killed, had cautiously approached him, asking him to check out the house. Her sister had killed herself quietly one Saturday afternoon after the mourners and sympathetic neighbors had gone. The father had disappeared long before, having met a little waitress in a bar, running from his past.

Taking a sip of his black coffee, the man looked at a small figurine sitting on the windowsill of the room, admiring the thin, fragile feathers of the angel he had found clenched tightly in Anna’s hand.

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