Even Angels Aren’t Perfect
As I stepped out onto the street, turning the corner, I heard a voice call to me. It was Aaron.
“Hey!” he shouted across the street, “Come back! Abby told me that you had to come with me!”
I looked at him quizzically, making my way back to the other side of the street. Why did Abby tell him to get me?
“Why?” I asked, “What do you need help with?”
“She said I’d get ripped off if you didn’t go with me,” he responded, “Something about me having to have someone the guy knew.”
“That’s ridiculous,” I answered, wondering why Abby thought he needed help.
But come to think of it, Casey, the man Abby had recommended, did have a tendency to rip off people without their knowledge. I guess Abby would have taken him herself, if only she wasn’t working.
“Tell me about it,” he said, exasperated, “I can’t really imagine you being able to help me do anything.”
What? Did he just insult me? What a jerk!
“Excuse me?” I asked, irritated, “Did you just saying that I couldn’t help you with anything?”
“Why yes, I did,” he responded.
I rolled my eyes, catching something in my peripheral vision. It was a red car, sleek and beautiful. A 1972 Chevrolet Camaro. And it was being ticketed.
Aaron looked at me quizzically, surprised by my lack of response. He turned to see what I was looking at, before exclaiming loudly!
“Hey!” he called, “That’s my car! What are you doing? There wasn’t a meter!”
That was what I would call justice. It served him right after he had been such a jerk. Still, this could be my chance to prove him wrong about me being able to help him. The officer was someone I’d known since I was little, and I was sure I would be able to convince him not to give Aaron the ticket if I wanted to. It depended on how nice I felt like being. I supposed I would help him because Abby wanted me to.
I walked over languidly, enjoying his torment for the time being. He was trying to argue with the officer, both of them stating that he was either too close or not close at all to the fire hydrant.
“Hey, Officer Carmen!” I exclaimed happily, “How’s it going? How’s your son, Jason?”
Officer Carmen looked up, a delighted smile coming upon his face.
“Lucy!” he said back, “It’s so good to see you! I wondered if I’d come across you here. You really should drink less coffee, young lady. As for Jason, he’s doing great! Thanks for asking. Martha says hi.”
Aaron was staring at us, totally dumbfounded. He wasn’t expecting me to jump into his argument. He would be even more surprised when I got away with this unticketed and unhassled.
“What’s going on here?” I asked, looking concerned.
“Oh, it’s nothing, Lucy,” he responded, “This guy just parked too close to a fire hydrant. I’m giving him a ticket, that’s all.”
“Aaron?” I asked, making my eyes grow wide, “Oh, no. I’m so sorry. Did he park too close? Aaron, I told you not to get too close to those!”
Officer Carmen looked confused for a moment, as did Aaron.
“Aaron?” he asked, “Do you know him Lucy?”
“Oh, yes,” I said, looking at Aaron, “He’s my new friend! Abby and I met him at the coffee shop actually. He may not seem like it, but he’s actually very nice. He’s helped us out a lot.”
Aaron was just standing there with his mouth practically agape, wondering how I came up with the conversation so easily. Officer Carmen looked hesitant for a moment, not expecting this turn of events.
“Look, Officer Carmen,” I said quietly, an innocent and childish girl that he knew, “I know what he did was wrong, and I know you should give him a ticket but… Could you just let this one slide?”
He tried to speak again, looking stern.
“I know it’s not the best thing to ask,” I interrupted, looking bashful, “But he’s been really nice to me. Look, he’s new to the city, as you can probably tell. He isn’t used to the specific regulations. I know it’s a lot to ask, but… For me could you just let this one go? Pretty please with a cherry on top?”
He looked hesitant for a moment, but I knew he was breaking down.
“Oh, all right,” he conceded, “I’ll let this one go. But you keep him in line from now on, okay Lucy?”
“Oh, yeah. I’ll be sure to make certain he knows of all the traffic rules! Thank you so much, Officer Carmen. Tell Jason I said hello.”
He nodded, getting back in his car and driving off.
Aaron was still gawking in the corner, trying to figure out what to say. I sauntered over to him, bouncing on my heels.
“Now,” I said smugly, “What was that you said about me not being able to help you with anything?”
He recovered himself, attempting to give me a dirty look, and failing.
He didn’t answer, only crossing to his side of the car. When I stood there, still smug, he looked at me, irritated.
“Well are you coming?” he asked gruffly, trying to avoid direct eye contact.
I smiled. He was embarrassed! How adorable! Well, maybe he’d be less of a pain in the ass now.
I went to the passenger side, sliding into the seat smoothly. This was a nice car.
Aaron sighed from beside me, looking as if he wanted to say something.
“Hey,” he said, awkward, “Thanks for… back there. I guess I shouldn’t have said what I did.”
“That’s okay,” I replied playfully, “Now that you’re entrusted to me, I pretty much had to help you out. You’re my responsibility now.”
He looked at me strangely, and I could see it there again. The trace of a smile that never wanted to come through.
“You’re so weird,” he said, “But that was uncharacteristically nice of you, so I can’t judge. I didn’t mean it when I called you a thief earlier.”
Aaron became more interesting the more you knew him. He just went from irritating and irritated, and turned into something more awkward and soft. Not that I’d ever say that to him.
“Then maybe you shouldn’t say it,” I responded jokingly, “Might give people the wrong impression.”
He smirked, the first smile I’d ever seen from him. I think he was trying not to laugh.
“Maybe not,” he conceded, “Now buckle up, kid. I don’t want to get a ticket you can’t talk me out of.”
“You obviously don’t have very much faith in my abilities,” I said, “I’m actually quite good at negotiating.”
He made a noise of disbelief, buckling his seatbelt as well.
“Please,” he scoffed, “I can read you like a book. It just must be some weird defect with the people around here.”
“Hey!” I exclaimed, “That’s mean! Maybe you’re just a freak of nature! Did that ever occur to you?”
He smiled again, letting out a small laugh.
“Ha!” I crowed triumphantly, “I made you laugh! I knew you were capable of doing it somewhere deep, deep inside.”
He looked over, clearly wondering what I was talking about. Then he rolled his eyes.
“Weirdo,” he said, but the meaning wasn’t unpleasant.
“Jerk,” I answered, also not harsh.
We drove to the place where Abby had directed, the whole time forcing Aaron to converse. He was silent and broody if left alone, but I knew that he would answer when asked a question, especially if it was mildly irritating. But despite his behavior, he didn’t seem truly bothered by my harassment.
He was the first person in a long time who could keep up with my snarky remarks, and I was impressed. Not that I’d ever tell him that. His ego was big enough as it was.
Aaron’s Camaro was a beautiful car, and it certainly was fun to ride in. The wind from the convertible top whipped through my hair as we drove along, the feature making me feel almost as if I was flying. I might have looked like a dog with their head out the window, but I didn’t really care.
Traffic was slow as usual, but Aaron seemed to know his way around driving with several fascinating tricks, including but not limited to an uncanny ability to tell where short back roads led to and how to take shortcuts. For someone who hadn’t been living in this part of Los Angeles, he sure seemed like he knew the place. He was so adaptable he already knew how to get most places.
I was glad he knew where to go, because I sure didn’t. For some reason unbeknownst to me, I was completely hopeless when it came to direction. Once, when I was on a school field trip to the corn maze, I was lost in there for three hours. The only reason I got out was because one of my friends stood on the bridge in the middle and guided me out. I just had no sense of direction at all.
“Are you to stick your head out the window the whole way?” Aaron asked from beside me.
“Yes. It’s fun. Why do you care?”
“It’s just so big it’s going to run into something.”
“Hey! That was mean!”
I reached over and shoved him lightly, just enough to make sure he knew I was doing it but not enough to make him swerve.
“What was that for?”
“It was for being mean.”
“Well, that’s a ridiculous reason. I can just see the accident report. Driver ran into a building soon after the passenger shoved him because she felt she was being treated unfairly.”
“I think if anyone’s the weirdo here, it’s you.”
Despite my statement, I couldn’t help but smile at his summary of the accident.
I wondered why Aaron was being so nice to me, especially after being so angry at the coffee shop. He didn’t seem to be the type to forgive easily. But while he wasn’t being warm, he wasn’t shunning me either. Oh well. I decided that I shouldn’t question the behavior, only be happy that it wasn’t causing too much conflict.
We reached the place Abby had been talking about, pulling into the garage smoothly. I loved this car.
Aaron and I unbuckled our seatbelts and got out, heading towards the man working on a Mustang. He was underneath it, absorbed in his work. I’d known him too since I was young, and so I had no reservations about messing with him. I picked up speed until I was next to the car, leaning down carefully. I didn’t want him to see my feet.
I got to the ground, and took a deep breath.
“Hi, Casey!” I shouted.
He jolted upwards, smacking his head on the rim of the car.
I burst out laughing, not expecting him to be quite so startled. He didn’t seem to think it was as funny as I did.
“Oh,” he groaned, “It’s you, Lucy. How many times have I told you not to do that? I’m going to have brain damage soon because of you.”
“Please,” I said, “Like Abby hasn’t beaten you up so many times. If you were going to have brain damage, it’d be there already.”
Aaron caught up with me, surveying the situation as if he thought we were both crazy.
“Do you know everyone in this city?” he asked incredulously.
“Yes, Aaron,” I responded sarcastically, “I know everyone in a city of almost 4 million people. That makes so much sense.”
He rolled his eyes and scoffed, but made no reply.
“Oh!” Casey exclaimed, “You’re the guy that’s here for the ’72 Camaro light, right? I was waiting for you. But I wasn’t expecting you, Lucy. Do you know this guy?”
“Actually, Casey, I’m here because of Abby,” I said patiently, “We both know that sometimes you aren’t the most cordial and honest when helping people out. Abby just wants to make sure our friend here doesn’t end up on the wrong end of a deal. She’d be awfully upset.”
He went a bit pale, thinking of all the times that Abby had yelled at him for being cheap and gypping people. Abby had chosen well to send someone with Aaron. It wasn’t that he couldn’t have taken care of himself, I supposed, but it was much easier when I was able to threaten Casey into being a good mechanic.
“Oh, all right, Lucy,” he conceded nervously, “I won’t do anything against Abby’s ideals. Just be sure to mention that to her, okay?”
“No problem, Casey,” I said good-naturedly, “I’ll let her know, so long as everything goes okay.”
I wasn’t generally one for secret threats, but I felt responsible to act like Abby would in the situation. She’s sweet, but she’s also fiercely protective of her ideals, and more so, her friends. And Abby could be friends with anyone, with no effort, almost right away.
Casey set to work on the Camaro, leaving Aaron and I to sit in the waiting area.
“Has your friend really beaten up that guy?” he asked, seeming mildly confused.
“Oh yeah,” I responded, “Plenty of times. But it’s mostly just painful ear pinches. Amazingly painful ear pinches. She’s a master at it.”
He pondered that for a moment, and then reached for one of the magazines. He flipped through it, looking for something to do. His leg bounced up and down as he waited, an interesting little quirk. I had to start a conversation.
“Hey,” I said, “Why were you willing to let me come with you? You didn’t seem too happy with me before.”
He looked up, formulating his answers.
“Do you want the truth?”
“I was too weak to say no to that girl, Abby you call her. She’s a bit… aggressive.”
I laughed, finding his answer to be hysterically funny. Aaron seemed offended I was laughing at him though, so I tried to compose myself. I failed.
“Why are you laughing?” he asked, seemingly upset, “She’s scary!”
I wiped the tears that were forming in my eyes, taking in a few deep breaths.
“Tell me about it,” I said, “It was the voice she used when we were arguing, right? You wouldn’t think such menace could come from such a cheery person.”
He smiled, something I was becoming accustomed to. It made me happy that I could make it happen. I just had to be real and sincere.
“You wouldn’t,” he agreed.
“Try growing up with her,” I said, “She’s a family friend. I never got in trouble when Abby was watching me. I love her to death, but she’s pretty scary.”
“I’ll bet,” he responded, “Maybe that’s why you’re so strange, growing up with her.”
Something in the air was lighter between us, the tension not nearly as thick. We were having a conversation like friends, a complete turnaround from this morning.
I wondered why it was that we seemed to be able to talk without any real awkwardness. I guess to me he was interesting, and to him I was someone who he’d learned to just deal with. It wasn’t perfect, but it was all right with me.
Casey came back in, done with the job. That had been fast. It was almost sad, because that meant Aaron would drive me back to The Friendly Bean and then he’d be gone. But still, I wasn’t so sure I should think he’d be gone forever. Fate seemed to have a desire to make us meet, and so it was likely I’d end up seeing him again, whether he liked it or not.
Aaron paid for the service, a fair and square deal made due to my watchful eyes and obvious presence.
“Bye, Casey,” I called as we started to leave, “I’ll see Abby later today and assure her that you were just wonderful."
He certainly looked relieved.
I slid back into the car, relishing the smooth seats once more. I sighed in content.
“Are you okay?” Aaron asked, looking at me as if I was psychotic.
“What?” I asked defensively, “Yeah. What do you mean?”
“Well,” he said, “Most people don’t look like they’re in heaven when they get in a car.”
“Oh, shut up,” I retorted, “Sorry for thinking your car was cool. Never mind. It sucks.”
He laughed again, the smallest of chuckles.
“Sorry for offending you,” he replied, “I hope you don’t really think it sucks. I care about it a bit too much for it to suck.”
I didn’t answer, looking out the window, but I smiled just a little bit.
He drove us out, navigating the streets.
“I’m starving,” he said, “I’m going to stop by and get a hamburger before I drop you off back at the coffee shop.”
“Gee,” I said sarcastically, “That’s fine with me. Thank you so much for asking.”
“My car, my rules,” he answered.
I wasn’t serious, but it was fun to mess with him. I had by far enough time to make it back to talk to Abby and still make it to the warehouse before 10.
He pulled into the drive through of my favorite fast food place, ordering his burger. He also got my favorite thing on the menu. I guess that was something we had in common.
When we pulled up to the drop off, he handed me the bag.
“Hold this,” he said, “You’re currently sitting where it usually does, so it’s your job now to keep it from falling over.”
“I’m honored to have been assigned such a vital task,” I replied jokingly.
“Do you even know what it means to be normal?” he asked, raising his eyebrows, “I think I’m going to start calling you oddball.”
“That would be mean,” I said.
“All the more reason, then,” he said, smirking.
“Well maybe I’ll call you hermit,” I retorted, “Since you don’t seem to know what it means to be social.”
He scoffed, his default response when he wasn’t sure what to say.
We reached The Friendly Bean in no time, this time parked as far away from the fire hydrant as possible.
“Well,” I said, “This is my stop. See you.”
“Yeah,” he replied, “Thanks for helping me out today. Bye.”
I slid out of the car, heading for the doors.
“Oh, come on!” I heard Aaron exclaim, “I didn’t ask for this!”
I turned around, curious to the source of his frustration.
“What’s wrong?” I asked, noting that he was looking in his bad from the restaurant.
“They gave me two hamburgers,” he moaned, “I didn’t want two of them! What am I supposed to do with this?”
He looked up at me for a moment, and then looked away.
“What?” I asked.
“I’d give one to you,” he said, “but I don’t suppose a girl like you would want something with this many toppings on it.”
“For your information,” I said, mildly irritated, “That happens to be my favorite burger in this town. Now who doesn’t know what they’re talking about?”
I marched over to him and held out my hand. He looked startled, but then just shrugged and handed it to me.
“Thank you,” I said, cheerfully this time.
He watched me munch happily on it, and then shrugged again.
“All right,” he said uncertainly, “Not what I expected, but all right. That’s good, I guess.”
“It is,” I replied.
“Okay,” he said, smiling again, “Goodbye.”
He drove off.
I walked through the doors of Abby’s shop, sitting down on my barstool and waiting. She appeared several minutes later.
“Lucy!” she exclaimed, “I’m happy to see you again! You shouldn’t just run off like that, it causes me stress. You’re going to give me a heart attack.”
“Abby,” I said, “You’re too stubborn to die so easily.”
“You’re right,” she said, “So, did you listen to me and go with you’re so called friend?”
“Yeah,” I replied, “I did actually. And Casey was a perfectly behaved individual. You don’t have to do any ear pinching.”
“I don’t know if that’s true,” she said, “you never gave me the story about yesterday. I might have to do it just for that.”
She reached for me, and I moved out of reach.
“I can still tell you,” I replied nervously, “But not if I’m in pain.”
I gave an awkward laugh, hoping she wasn’t upset.
“Then spill it, sister,” she said, “It’s my way or the highway.”
I settled in, telling her all of the events leading up to yesterday. I was tempted to leave out the bad part, but I knew Abby would be able to tell I was holding something back. Unfortunately, that led to some ear pinching. The whole story did. Once I was finished, she scolded me.
“Abby!” she admonished, “That’s terrible! You should know better!”
“I know! I know!” I said weakly, “Abby, stop pulling on my ear! That hurts!”
“Why should I?” she asked, upset, “Not only did you irresponsibly spend the night at someone’s house you didn’t even know, but you looked through their stuff too! You could have always called me. I’m hurt.”
“Abby,” I said soothingly, “I’m sorry. I thought it was a good idea at the time, okay? I’ll call you next time. But the point was that Aaron wasn’t a serial killer or something. I’m fine. Ow! Stop it!”
She gave me one last painful tug, and then she let go.
“Fine, Lucy,” she said, “But be more careful, all right? I don’t want anything to happen to you.”
“I love you too, Abby,” I replied.
“So,” she said, more bubbly this time, “He doesn’t seem to like you very much, for obvious reasons. But bad people don’t let strange teenagers sleep in their homes. You’re usually right about how people are. Do you think he’s a good person?”
“I don’t know,” I said, pretending to be non-committed.
“Yes you do,” she said warningly, “Don’t make me force you to tell me.”
For the sake of my ears staying attached to my head, I spoke again.
“I think…” I said slowly, “I think he’s guarded and cold, but I think he’s a good person. He’s just really antisocial. Oh, and he’s scared of you.”
She laughed at that one.
“So he should be,” she said smugly, “And so should you!”
She ruffled my hair, mussing it.
We talked for an hour about various subjects, only continuing to boost my mood. This morning was all but forgotten.
I headed out around 9:00, bidding farewell to Abby. She gave me another bone crushing hug, and then got ready to close.
As I walked along the cobblestone path leading to the area of the warehouse, I couldn’t help but smile. The day had been fun, even if I was insulted for a lot of it and had my ears squished.
Maybe things were going to get better. With something akin to a new friend and a still loving old friend, I could see fun in the future. If nothing else, I got to bicker with Aaron and hug Abby. To me, that was good enough.
Before I entered the warehouse and the moon began to rise, I had a thought.
Maybe my life was like moon cycles, ranging from a new moon to a full one. I felt good, as if I was becoming more. I was sick of being a crescent moon. It seemed to me that my happiness was just going to grow, to become brighter like the little planet in the sky.
It was time for a new phase.