Authors: Nadia Scrieva
“You have no idea, do you Kayla?” he asks in his deep, rumbling voice.
I lower my head in embarrassment. “I am sorry, Father. Please don’t retire me.”
“This business is not the kind where we can afford to make mistakes,” he says sternly. “You have deeply disappointed me, Kayla.”
“I know that I haven’t been as successful as I usually am. I promise I can turn things around,” I say desperately.
“You were one of my brightest stars,” he tells me with a sigh. “I was fonder of you than any of my other children. I believed you could save anyone; they called you an angel.”
I cannot lower my head any further, and I am too upset to cry. “Some people truly do not wish to be saved,” I tell him. “I have always tried my very best. Just point me in the direction of the girl I met at the party. I promise I can help her if it’s not too late.”
Father shakes his head. “Oh, Kayla. Child, how did you become so clueless? You used to know—you used to understand my wishes so well. Please come with me and take a seat.” He gestures to a bus stop bench not far away and we begin walking there together in silence.
I know that he is right. Something has changed in me. I come from a family of distant stars, and for centuries we have worked together to help unfortunate souls. The concept of being a star is confusing to many, so we call ourselves many other things, including angels. It does not matter what we call ourselves as long as we help; but we cannot stay in human form forever, and our spirits must often return to the heavens to rest. My “retirement” would mean that I would never again have the chance to assume a human body and walk amongst people. I would never have a chance to help them again. That would be the worst punishment conceivable, and for all my errors and flaws, I do not deserve that.
Once we are sitting, I try to explain myself. “I am becoming more human, Father. I have grown to understand what that means as I have spent time in this body. I am imperfect and weak, but I am a good person. I would like to stay here, and live among them—as one of them.”
“I was afraid you would say such a thing,” he murmurs. “You don’t belong here, Kayla. You know the rules—your spirit belongs far away from here, among the stardust.”
Nodding slowly, I gaze at my hands which are folded in my lap. “I know, Father. Please forgive me for questioning your wisdom. All that I can ask is that you allow me to help one final person before you send me away. The girl who has my handkerchief…”
“It’s not her, Kayla. She wasn’t the person in trouble. It was the person she hurt; the person whose heart she broke.”
“Oh,” I say in confusion.
“The person at risk was the young man you encouraged her to break up with,” he tells me. “If it helps, the girl you gave your handkerchief to—her name was Madison.”
My head snaps toward Father and I stare blankly at him as the pieces of the puzzle click into place. “No,” I whisper. “Oh, no...”
“That’s right, Kayla. I knew you would be upset and want to correct your mistake. You wanted one final chance to prove yourself and I gave it to you! I sent the boy directly at you.”
I rub my leg where the car had struck me. Father had literally sent the boy directly at me. He had been so close that I thought he was merely a roadblock in my path; I hadn’t realized that he
my path. I swallow my saliva, humiliated by my own foolishness. It was Kieran. He intended to kill himself. “He seemed fine,” I murmur in dismay. “I couldn’t tell…”
Father shakes his head in displeasure. “You should know better than anyone that you can’t always tell the way a person is feeling on the inside. You should be more sensitive.”
Long ago, I would have been able to tell. I would have known that Father was sending someone to me so that I could help him. Now, I thought a car accident was merely a car accident. Little signals began to come back to me. I remembered that Kieran said he had crashed into me because of blurry vision—he had been crying and upset
What do you think you’ll do now? I have some ideas. Nothing fancy; nothing worth mentioning.
Life is just a bunch of random events mixing together like a really bland and tasteless minestrone soup.
It should have been clear to me that he was the person I was sent to guide.
I feel a sudden chill and pull the jacket around my shoulders closer. It’s the coat that Kieran gave to me. I realize that he asked me to stay with him for Christmas and I refused—I abandoned him for my job, when all along, he was my job. “Please, Father. Give me another chance.” My voice is just a whisper, and a cloud of vapor is emitted with my breath. I am ready to beg in fifteen different ways, and in twelve different languages if it will convince him to let me try.
“I love you dearly, Kayla,” the old man responds. “Because of this, and only this, I will give you one final chance.”
“Thank you, Father,” I blurt out in relief.
“But at sunrise, if you haven't succeeded then you will disappear. You will be sent far away, banished to the heart of a distant star. You will never be summoned again.”
“If I don’t succeed, then I don’t care if you send me away. I won’t deserve to be here.”
After looking at me for a moment, Father fishes into his pocket to pull out a trinket. It seems to be some sort of ornate timepiece which he hands to me. “Here is a golden compass to help you find Kieran. You seem to have developed a connection with the boy. I doubt that Nathan or anyone else can do anything to help him now. It’s going to be a hard one. You have a very slim chance of success.”
“I won’t disappoint you, Father,” I promise as I close my fingers around the compass.
“It doesn’t matter what I feel anymore,” he says sadly. “You and I will never meet again.” With those words, the man disappears. An empty space is left on the bench where he sat a few seconds before.
I have spent an hour following the compass, and it has taken me back across the campus of the university. My feet are growing sore from the rough ground, but I have to keep moving. I occasionally stop to grow upset with myself for being so clueless and making such an oversight, but I quickly gather my wits and press on.
Finally, I come upon a car which is parked crookedly on the side of the road. As I approach, I confirm that it’s Kieran’s vehicle; the same one that bulldozed me over like a battering ram not too long ago. I shudder at the memory, but I quicken my pace and head for the car. He is not inside.
“Kieran!” I shout, looking around with worry. I glance down at the compass and see that the needle is trembling as it points east. I move in that direction until I come to a sign that says
Thurston Avenue Bridge
. I hate bridges. I really, really do. Walking toward the giant structure, I see a figure standing in the center. He seems to be holding some kind of large scissor-like tool.
“Kieran?” I call out again as I approach, placing the compass in my purse. “What are you doing?”
He pauses when he hears my voice, and awkwardly tries to hide the utensil behind his back. “Kayla. How did you find me?”
“I just got lucky,” I answer. “What is that you’re holding?”
“Nothing,” he says with embarrassment. “I just… maybe you should go.”
“I came looking for you,” I tell him. “We need to talk.”
“You’re just a figment of my imagination,” he accuses me suddenly. “You’re not real.”
I stammer in surprise at this. “W—What?”
“Let me see your leg,” he demands.
Stepping back nervously I try to conceal myself from view. “It’s fine. I’m fine,” I assure him.
“Then let me see it!” he says louder.
Reluctantly, I reach down to lift my dress away from my leg, revealing perfect flesh that looks like it had never even been bruised. There is not even a paper cut on my calf.
“I knew it,” he said sharply. “It doesn’t make sense that you could just walk away from something like that. There should have been blood in my car—I thought there was, but it disappeared. Then I checked the front of my car and there was no blood there either; no sign of impact. I must have imagined it all. I know that I’m losing my mind, so just leave me alone.”
“You aren’t losing your mind,” I tell him gently. “You’re just a normal person. I’m not—I was sent here to help you.”
“Sure you were,” he says sarcastically. He lifts the large metal tool he is holding to display it to me. “They recently put this chain link fence up to prevent people from committing suicide by jumping off the bridge. But you know what they failed to consider? Wire cutters.”
I watch as he gets to work with cutting away at the wires on the side of the bridge. I can see from his aggressive motions that he has given this careful forethought and he is very determined to follow through with his decision. “You didn’t tell me you were this upset earlier,” I say softly. “Kieran—why wouldn’t you be honest with me about the way you were feeling? I was sent to help you but I couldn’t because you were pretending there was nothing wrong.”
He turns to me skeptically. “The truth? I didn’t want to scare you away. Once we got to talking I just felt the need to make a good impression. I didn’t want you to know that I was really depressed. Talking about it seems to freak people out.”
“Kieran, there’s nothing you can say that would possibly freak me out. I’ve heard it all. This is my job.”
“Really? What is your job exactly?” he asks, cutting the wires fiercely and turning to me with an appraising look.
“I save people’s lives,” I tell him. “At least I’m supposed to. It doesn’t always work.”
“So what are you, some sort of angel?” he asks. “Are you my fairy godmother?”
“No, but similar,” I say with a smile. Walking toward him, I remove the jacket he gave me from my shoulders and I reach out to place it around his. I notice for the first time that he is dressed up as though he came from a special event. He must have been at that party earlier in the evening. “Your mind isn’t playing tricks on you. I am here, and I am real. So please take a moment to talk to me.”
He stares at me for a moment. “If you’re not an angel, what are you?”
“Why does everything need a label?” I asked. It was not permitted for me to share any details of my origin.
“Because I’m looking for a miracle. It would be nice if you could just say that you were sent by some divine being and that you knew for sure that everything was going to be okay.”
“I do know,” I told him, “and I was sent by something divine.”
His brown eyes seem suspicious. “You know, Kayla, I’m a university student. Or, I was. The professors make it very clear that we’re not to accept anything as true unless it comes from a trustworthy source. I need to see your credentials before we have this discussion. And I need to see your references and works cited when you say that everything is going to be okay, or else I’m jumping off this bridge in a few minutes.”
“You don’t have to be so difficult,” I say with great patience, trying to conceal my exasperation and anxiety. “I can show you all of that and more. Just put down the wire cutters and step away from the bridge.”
“Did God send you?” he asked bitterly, as he ignores me and continues to hack at the wires. “Does he think a beautiful woman will be more convincing than an ugly one?”
I narrow my eyes at this. “Kieran, I’m sure that my beauty is not intended to be convincing. Distracting, maybe, but not convincing. So will you allow me to try to distract you long enough for you to reconsider?”
He pauses in his wire-slashing to smile at this, and he stares into the abyss below. A piece of the chain link fence falls into the gorge and he watches it until it is no longer visible. We both listen for a sound, but it is too far away to hear it crashing against the rocks. “A distraction, huh? Fine. You have five minutes. But first you have to tell me what you are.”