Even Angels Aren’t Perfect
The snow is falling, soft and delicate. The white blanket descended upon the earth, covering everything with a hushed silence. The world was on mute.
It was strange, the world suddenly being put on hold. There were no busy merchants shouting in the streets, no cars driving by. The planet was cold and pristine.
I held my mom’s hand with my gloved one, huddling close to her for warmth. She had just finished taking me shopping, and we were heading home for some hot chocolate and to watch game shows together. We always knew the answers between the two of us.
Our feet were crunching in the snow as I chattered away, basking in the glow of my mother’s smile. The streetlights illuminated the snow and made it sparkle. It was truly a beautiful winter wonderland.
It was perfect, up until the man showed up. He was hidden in the shadows, halfway peeping out from behind. We didn’t notice him until it was too late.
“Hey, Lady! What are you doing out here so late at night?”
He crept forward with an ominous smile, something dangerous hiding in his eyes that I never recognized as a child, but could easily identify now. Greed and lust.
I jolted out of bed, startled by whatever the noise had been. I groggily stood up on my bed, peering over my wall. Geoffrey, the kid next to me, was bending over to pick up his binders full of word puzzles. He looked up at me sheepishly, and apologized. I told him not to worry about it.
I hated that dream. I despised it more than I could even express. It was never the whole night, but just enough to make me relive it over, and over again. It had been the happiest night of my life, but it would soon become the worst.
I shook my head to get rid of the remnants of the dream still clinging to me. Rubbing my eyes, and checking my phone, the neon numbers read 6:00 a.m. Wonderful.
I didn’t want to go back to sleep, not if I was going to have that dream again. But that only left me to sit here and think about how hungry I was.
It had been three days since Klaus had stopped my meals, and it was sheer torture. It was a prevailing presence in my mind all the time, permeating every idea and thought that I had. I was even having a harder time doing my “job.” Hunger makes my voice have an edge, which kind of ruins my innocent act.
I had managed to sneak some things from Abby, but I couldn’t do it all the time. Nobody forgot to get breakfast, and lunch, and dinner for three days in a row. Abby would get suspicious easily.
I hadn’t eaten a real meal the whole time, and I was starting to grow weak. I was pretty good at ignoring pain, but it was getting excruciating. Hopefully Klaus would let up soon.
He wouldn’t want me to be unable to function well, unless he wanted to kick me out. But considering the fact that his reluctance to do so was why I was having hunger problems in the first place, I doubted it.
Maybe I just needed to express enough remorse. Fake or not, Klaus would understand the submission. I just didn’t really want to, so I hoped he’d break the fast first.
I decided it’d be a waste to just sit there, so I got ready. The sun would rise soon, and I better get a head start. I got dressed, resisting the urge to lie back down.
The nightmares had been plaguing me incessantly, which could only mean it was close to the day the awful night had happened. It was the day my mom died, and the day that my world was shattered.
But when my sub conscious wasn’t being assaulted, I wasn’t falling asleep at all. The hunger kept me awake, making my stomach growl and grumble. It was like my stomach was trying to eat itself. The gnawing, painful feeling was always there.
Personally, I just wanted to swipe something from the kitchen area and pretend it didn’t happen, but I was pretty sure someone would find out. I was already in enough trouble as it was, and I didn’t want to drag anyone down with me due to someone accidentally thinking that one of the kids gave me food. I just wanted this to be over.
I looked outside the house, noticing the change in brightness. The sun was rising.
I put on my converse and tucked in the strands of my hair, getting ready to leave. I would get going now that the sun was out and be gone by the time the other kids woke up. I didn’t want another round of pitying eyes from the other kids.
I strolled out of my room, heading towards the exit. I glanced to the right towards Klaus’ office, seeing the light on as usual. He seemed to have an uncanny ability to never sleep. He must only get a few hours a night, and yet he never seemed tired. Oh well. Just another one of life’s mysteries, I supposed.
I texted him that I was going out for the day, as I didn’t want to go anywhere near him. I just needed to make sure he didn’t think someone was trying to break in or something when he heard the door close. He texted me back an affirmative answer, and I headed out.
The sun was starting to warm things up, the city starting to come to life. Night shifters were commuting home, day shifters commuting to work. Just another day in the city of angels.
I wandered the streets, meandering along. There weren’t enough people for any really good opportunities, and I was too tired to walk far enough to a more populated area. My lack of nutrition was starting to take a toll on my body.
I wondered in the back of my mind if perhaps I looked like a zombie, shambling along in the street, dark under eyes, and an atrocious noise sounding from my stomach every once in a while. I couldn’t have looked pretty.
As I rounded the corner, I slammed right into someone, knocking us both down to the ground. So much for paying attention.
“Oh!” I exclaimed, “I’m so sorry, are you okay?”
I turned, in a rush to help the person up, only to freeze.
“Aw, come on!” came the exasperated reply, “It’s 6:30 in the morning on a random street corner! Why does this keep happening to me?”
Sitting across from me, grocery bags sprawled out beside him, was a confused and irritated Aaron.
“Do you stalk me or something, kid?” he asked, collecting the things that had fallen out of the bags.
“Aaron?” I asked, still dazed, “What? No! I don’t stalk you! What on earth is interesting enough about you to stalk?”
He scowled, pinching his nose in between his index fingers.
Even though Aaron was being his usual grumpy, pompous, hermit-like self, I couldn’t help but be happy to see him. Something about the familiarity of his annoyance made me feel better about my day.
“What?” I asked defensively, “Don’t be mad. I said I was sorry.”
“That was before you knew it was me,” he replied, “Isn’t that right?”
“How did you know?” I asked back, playfully.
He snorted, holding back a laugh.
He was still gathering things, and I took it upon myself to help him.
“It’s statistically ridiculous that we keep meeting at the same time and place in a city as big as Los Angeles,” he said, pondering the idea.
“Maybe it’s fate,” I said mysteriously.
“I don’t believe in fate,” he responded.
“Why not?” I asked.
“Because,” he said, reaching for a can by my foot, “In my experience, nothing happens without a reason. Someone did something stupid; something came up, things like that.”
“I don’t see how that applies here,” I replied innocently.
“I did something stupid,” he said, “by letting you stay at my house. Now I can’t seem to be rid of you.”
“Ouch,” I said, hurt, “Are you still mad about that?”
“Am I not supposed to be?” he asked incredulously, “Most people are still upset when others look through their things. A little life tip.”
“Oh,” I said, now unsure and awkward.
He sighed, putting the last thing in a bag.
“Why do you suddenly look so hurt, like I’m the one that did something wrong?” he asked impatiently, “This is why I nicknamed you oddball.”
His words were harsh, but the tone and meaning behind them wasn’t.
He got up, holding out his hand reluctantly. It took me longer than it should have to realize he was helping me up.
I took it gingerly, letting him pull me up off the ground. I would have done it myself, but I didn’t want to waste the effort and energy it took to sustain my pride.
“God,” he breathed, peering at my face, “You look awful.”
“Good to see you too,” I snapped, “You’re so good at socializing.”
He rolled his eyes, brushing off the remark.
“Sorry for the observation,” he replied, “It’s just a bit… noticeable, that’s all. You look like a zombie.”
“And you look like a mean hermit,” I responded testily, “Oh, wait! You are.”
My happiness to see him had decreased now that he was being snarky.
Aaron took my response gracefully, thinking it was just a little bit funny. He moved off of the subject, sensing that I wasn’t in the mood. I tried a different topic.
“What are you doing awake so early?” I asked.
“What are you?” he responded.
“I asked you first,” I said.
“I was born first,” he replied, trying his best to look deadpan, and failing.
He was always ready with an answer. It was ridiculous.
“Fine,” I sighed, “I woke up and couldn’t go back to sleep. I wanted some air. What about you?”
“I never really went to sleep,” he said, “I figured I should stop wasting the day. Or the night is more accurate, I guess.”
I fought back a smile. He was sort of like a little kid, rebellious and quirky. It made him less distant.
I made a non committal noise, failing to figure out what to say.
“Are you sure you’re okay?” he asked, concerned, surveying me.
Did I actually look like a zombie? I had suspicions, but I didn’t think I looked bad enough to warrant concern from someone who didn’t like to talk to anyone.
“Yeah,” I lied, “I’m fine. What makes you think I’m not?”
That was pathetic. I wouldn’t believe me if I was Aaron.
“You just look really pale,” he shrugged, “and you have dark circles under your eyes.”
“I said I was fine,” I insisted.
Of course, right when I was trying to sell my unbelievably poor lie, my stomach let out a guttural growl, making both Aaron and I jump at the same time. God, it was so loud.
“Was that your stomach?” he asked in disbelief, still processing.
“No…” I stalled.
Stupid stomach! It was a terrible time for you to freak out!
It did it again, just as loud. It hurt.
Aaron raised an eyebrow doubtfully, knowing I was lying but not sure why.
“I, uh,” I stammered, “I forgot to grab breakfast this morning, silly me!”
I could feel my face start to heat up.
Why was I so flustered? I couldn’t understand why I was so unnerved, because I’d been doing this with Abby for three days without too much of a problem.
Maybe it was because I never seemed to fool Aaron with whatever emotion I was feeling. The excuse I had just made was poorly said, but I bet that even if I was composed, he still would have known.
“You forgot to eat breakfast?” he said, emphasizing the word, “That’s not what I look like when I don’t eat one meal.”
Damn. He wasn’t supposed to notice. Still, I was going to keep up this façade as long as possible.
“Well,” I snapped angrily, “If you haven’t noticed, we don’t look alike. This is what I look like when I forgot breakfast, okay? Since when do you care what I look like?”
He stepped back, surprised and I think hurt that I had been so snappy. But the emotion was quickly masked behind his dark eyes, buried away.
“I don’t,” he replied coolly, “Sorry I asked. I’m going home now.”
He turned on his heels, heading down the street.
Wonderful. Now I was feeling a guilty knot inside my stomach, on top of my hunger. I was on edge and shouldn’t have said what I did.
Despite Aaron’s irritating way of saying things, he was only asking about my well-being. He wasn’t really showing it, but I had a feeling he was concerned. What was I supposed to be doing?
I hesitated for a moment, thinking I should just leave him alone and deal with it later. But my guilt got the better of me, and I peered around the corner. Aaron was still walking down the street, which meant I had time to catch up to him.
Ugh, I didn’t want to apologize. I wasn’t generally good at setting aside my pride. But Aaron was just starting to get more interesting, and he was having an actual conversation with me. Besides, what else did I have to do, if not to hang around him and mildly irritate him? It was fun, and I certainly was in need of some fun.
I took off after him, hoping my shaky legs would carry me that far. Why was I so tired all of a sudden? I guessed that a lack of sleep and a lack of nutrition were not a good combination.
“Aaron!” I called breathily, already wanting to stop, “Wait a minute!”
He stopped and turned, just long enough for me to catch up to him. Unfortunately, my unstable legs and the uneven pavement decided they didn’t like me anymore.
Right before I got to Aaron, I tripped on a raised section of the ground. I closed my eyes, bracing for the impact of concrete. It didn’t come.
“God, Lucy!” came Aaron’s voice, “Be more careful and watch what you’re doing!”
I looked up to see his face only a foot away from mine. He had his arms wrapped around my torso. He had caught me. Aaron the hermit, the one who didn’t like anyone, had caught me. And he had remembered my name. I realized that it was the first time he’d ever said it.
He pulled my back up awkwardly, holding on to my arm to make sure I was stable. He only let go once I stood firmly on the ground.
“Ah,” I murmured, “I’m sorry. I didn’t see the raised part. Thanks for, you know, catching me.”
I was all flustered now, embarrassed that he had to save me from face-planting.
“Yeah, sure,” he answered, looking unsure what to do.
What exactly was the proper etiquette after you save someone from falling?
“Is there any particular reason you felt the need to run around so recklessly?” he asked, his regular irritation seeping back into his voice, “You were shouting like a crazy person.”
Oh! In my surprise, I had forgotten the reason I ran after Aaron in the first place. How was I supposed to do this?
“I just wanted to say…” I trailed off for a moment, “I guess I just wanted to say I’m sorry for snapping at you. I’m tired and hungry, and I’m just not in that great a mood. So, yeah, that’s pretty much it. I’m sorry.”
He paused, an interesting look on his face. And then he started laughing. Not the kind of small laugh he did before, but a full blown rambunctious chuckle.
“Hey!” I called, “What’s so funny?”
He tried to bring it under control, breathing deeply. He still managed a few suppressed smiles though.
“Oh, nothing,” he said nonchalantly.
“You’re a liar,” I responded.
“I just,” he said, “I can’t believe that you ran out here, not paying attention, and almost slammed your face into the pavement, all just to give me that apology. It’s kind of funny.”
He was laughing at me! I didn’t think it was funny that I felt bad enough to chase after him.
“No it’s not!” I answered, upset, “Maybe you’re just a jerk! I give you an apology and you laugh about it? You don’t deserve it anymore.”
I was petulant now, sulking over the situation. I should just go back and do things that actually matter.
“Aw, don’t be so sullen,” he said more sincerely, “I didn’t mean anything. It just seemed like an awful lot of effort just to say sorry, that’s all. I’m sorry.”
“You should be,” I replied, but I wasn’t really serious.
He sighed, his lips twitching up in a smile.
“Well then,” he said, “I guess to make it up to you, since you forgot yours, I could buy you some breakfast. I know a place that makes the best eggs in the city of Los Angeles, and they have coffee.”
How uncharacteristically nice of him. But if someone looked as bad as I supposedly did, it wouldn’t be uncommon to offer food. Still, it was a nice gesture, and I was starving. Why not accept a hermit’s offer and eat a real meal? Plus the coffee would be a bonus.
“If you insist,” I comment lightly, giving him a grin of my own.
He laughs again, shaking his head at me.
“Whatever you say, oddball,” he said lightly.
I guessed that was my new nickname. Oh well.
We walked to where his Camaro was, as beautiful as ever. I gazed at it adoringly.
“Are you going to stick your head out the window the whole drive again?” Aaron asked, amusement obvious in his voice.
“Why, yes,” I responded, “I am. And you can’t stop me.”
He only smiled again.
“I’m not sure I’ll ever get used to you, Lucy,” he mused aloud.
“Get used to me?” I asked, “Pssh! You’re the weird one!”
We bantered back and forth a while, enjoying the wind in our hair and the sun’s warm rays on our faces.
This wasn’t so bad after all.