The Angel

Her eyes met his and her heart stopped. She never thought it would ever happen to her. But happen, it did, and she wobbled on her feet with the whiff of his scent. By the time her pulse began to beat again, it was too late—she knew she was his forever.

The AngelThat autumn evening was like any other. She left work thinking if she caught her bus, she’d make it home in time to watch an episode of her favorite show on TV. It was dark, but the street standards lit the sidewalk to her usual spot. What she hadn’t counted on was the bus arriving early. She raced in hopes the driver would yield to her sudden appearance in the side mirror. It didn’t work. The vehicle blew smoke and left her behind. It wouldn’t be for another fifteen minutes before another came along.

Alone, she thought of heading back to work and waiting there. Something, though, kept her from returning. It could have been that instance where the rustling of the leaves caught her ear or how the air smelled as if it was just about to rain or the way the wind gently patted her skin to tell her everything was going to be all right. Whatever it was, she stayed, enjoying the moment.

Minutes passed and she noticed a shadow from the corner of her eye. Fear gripped as the thought of violence seeped into her head. It lasted a short time. Somehow, she knew she was safe. The shadow emerged into the light.

She had never seen anyone like him. His eyes blue. His hair black. And, although he towered in stature, she could make out the faint, warm smile dancing on his lips. Time slowed to the beat of her heart, which was non-existent. There must have been a reason she had missed her bus, she wondered. Was it by design? Fate?

When the clocks started again, he asked, “What’s your name?”

A stranger asked her name, and if it were any other circumstance, she’d tell him it was none of his business. Instead, she gulped, then answered, “Kate.”

“Hello, Kate.” He said. “My name is Henry.”

Henry. Henry, she thought. If all the angels in heaven went by the name Henry, the world would be a better place. What did Henry do? Was Henry an actor? A writer? A painter? Had Henry a wife?

“Beautiful evening.” He lifted the collar to his jacket, and slipped his hands into his pockets. “I’ve seen you taking this route every day. Do you live far?”

Another crazy question. Henry, what are you doing to me? I can’t answer that. I don’t know you. But I want to know you. I do! She said, “I live a few blocks from here.”

Henry smiled.

The lights to Kate’s bus flooded the street and when she turned to say good-bye, he had disappeared. Later that night, she tossed on her pillow for hours with thoughts of him running through her head.

Several days went by that she hadn’t seen Henry anywhere, neither at the bus stop or on her way from work. One afternoon during her lunch hour, Kate strolled through the park adjacent to the spot where they first met. The gray sky reflected her melancholy mood. How a man she met only briefly could become such an obsession caused her to stop under a tree where the ducks fed in a small pond. Studying the ripples in the water, memories of Henry’s slight smile filled her soul, warming her.

When she spun around to head back, Kate noticed the tree again. This time, the brass plaque planted at its foot came into view. She’d never seen it before. Crouching to get a better look, she wiped the dirt from its surface to reveal the engraving:

“Donated in memory of Henry McAlistair, a generous supporter for the global preservation of wildlife. b. December 19, 1909 – d. September 26, 1939”

It can’t be, she thought. That’s almost a hundred years ago. It can’t be him. It just can’t.

Below the letters on the plaque, debris covered a photo. Kate violently rubbed the dirt from the face of it as she tried to catch her breath.

It can’t be him, she muttered. It can’t be him.

When his eyes appeared in the photo, she dropped to her knees with her jaw hanging.

It was him.

Years along, the seasons changed. As autumns turned to cold, bitter storms, and the wind yielded to the sun in the spring, twenty summers had left Kate alone, still thinking of the man with the compassionate eyes named Henry.

On September 26, a brisk fall morning, Kate left her apartment, headed for her bus and stepped into the street. She didn’t feel the impact. All she remembered was someone screaming, “Someone call 911!”

As the light in her eyes faded, she felt a hand touch her shoulder. When she set her gaze on the one whose warmth took away the pain, she now understood why she hadn’t seen him again until that morning.

It was him. Henry. You’ve come back, she said to herself. You’ve come back for me.

Kate died that day, but witnesses stated they’d seen a stranger comforting her those moments preceding her passing, holding her hand all the while she was smiling. When asked to identify the man, the same answer came—it happened so quickly that he had disappeared in the crowd.

[I’d written this stream of consciousness, first draft Freedom Friday post in an attempt to capture my feelings about autumn.]

RANGER MARTIN AND THE ALIEN INVASION, on sale October 21.

What do you like about autumn?

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15 Comments

  1. A romantic ghost story – very cool! Really enjoyed reading!

    For me, autumn all about that awesome “leafy” odor in the woods, candy/caramel apples, and sticking pumpkins and our little mini scarecrows by the front door. 🙂

    Reply
  2. Awesome story, Jack! ⭐
    Autumn is beautiful; it is just a pity that it is followed by winter – my least favourite season.

    Reply
    • zathra

       /  September 26, 2014

      I can usually handle a hot, humid summer, but Winter, after Christmas just makes me long for Spring & Summer again. I like the colours of Autumn.

      Reply
  3. Sometimes the first draft is the only draft necessary. A captivating evocation of autumn.

    Reply
  4. Great story. Love the messenger from heaven theme. Autumn is a time to reflect and enjoy the peace of solitude that comes from few seasonal visitors. The beach is deserted and totally consumed by the voices of nature. The sounds of surf, gulls, herons, and pelicans in an overhead formation is all you get. Ahhhh

    Reply
  5. Love. Love. Love it!

    Reply
  6. You should put this story and others like it in your next book. It was beautiful.

    Reply
  7. That was a very touching story. A love story and a ghost story – my favourite mix. Autumn is a time to consolidate. A time to take stock. We sit back, relax and prepare for winter. It’s my favourite time of year.

    Reply
  8. I wanted to read more, what a beautiful and touching story. Thank you for sharing.

    Reply
  9. I have seen the angel of death and it was in the light and white. It had the face of a baby. But I turned and came back. I was not ready and so it disappeared. Maybe it was not ready and wanted me to become more ripe.

    Reply
  10. zathra

     /  September 26, 2014

    Interesting short story ! It sounds almost like something that Geoffrey Lewis would have in his ” Celestial Navigations ” ( short 3 – 10 minute audioplays ) albums.

    Reply
  11. Oh, Jack. This is lovely. At first, I thought it was Death who had come for her early on, but no. Very sweet story.

    What do I like about autumn? It was never a season I cared for until I lived through it as a season here in Maryland. I have learned to love the open windows at night, the gradual change of the leaves in September, and the need to – gasp – hunt out socks once in a while. I enjoy the way people smile more, too.

    Reply
  12. Thanks again for the wonderful mention, Leigh!

    Reply
  1. Mellowing into Fall: Essay and Photos | Leigh's Wordsmithery

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