Disclaimer: Inspiration, as well as the title, came from the song Concrete Angel by Martina McBride.
The children stared at her as she walked to school in the bright green dress, the same dress that adorned her small, frail body for the past three days.
"She's so gross! Doesn't she ever change her clothes?"
Angela heard the comments but ignored them. By this point in her life she'd become immune to such cruel remarks from the peers that she cared nothing about. She simply clutched onto her brown paper lunch bag even tighter and prayed that the taunting would cease when she arrived at her elementary school.
The children passed by her in the schoolyard, running and smiling and giggling, as Angela had not in years. She felt a small pain in her heart as she observed a little boy and his mother, the mother stooped down low so as to kiss her son goodbye. The boy pulled away quickly and shot his mother a withering glance… How dare you kiss me in front of all my friends? Just be glad that no one saw!
Angela brought a tiny, bruised hand up to an azure eye and brushed away the single droplet that she found there. What she wouldn't give to get a kiss from her own mother… Oh, what she wouldn't do to be embraced by the woman who could barely look upon her without scowling with distaste for the girl.
Running ahead, Angela hurried down the sidewalk to avoid the mass of mothers and children walking together hand-in-hand on the sunny April morning. If she couldn't see it, maybe it wouldn't hurt as much.
Seeing the frail child rush up the stone stairway of the school, the teacher frowned as she observed yet another set of bruises on the girl's upper arm… The contusions seemed to be in the shape of fingers, as if someone had been grasping the child's arm and shaking her.
The girl looked up at her superior with large, blue eyes filled with an amount of pain that no words could describe.
"Yes, Ms. Banks?"
"Um… Do you have your homework, dear?"
Sighing, Angela reached a hand into the worn backpack slung across her shoulders and pulled out a wrinkled piece of paper graffitied with numbers and other mathematic scrawlings.
As the girl walked away her teacher belittled herself for her silence, for her inability to question the suspicious markings once again.
"Angie!" Todd squealed, opening up his arms in greeting and rushing across the playground to greet his friend.
Angela's face immediately lit up with one of her rare, bewitching grins. "Hi Todd," she replied quietly, wary of the other children's gossip and rumors.
"What happened to your arm?" Todd asked suddenly, bringing a hand up to trace the pattern of bruises on the girl's body.
"Nothing," Angela snapped, and Todd shrank back, suspicion dancing in his dark, chocolate brown eyes. He was wise for his age, he saw something in the girl that apparently no one else did. And with this maturity also came the understanding that something wasn't right with his friend, and that there was something truly wrong with her parents.
"I'm sorry." The tone was apologetic, and when Todd looked up he could see tears welling up in Angela's large blue eyes.
"Hey, don't worry about it," he said, smiling, and then engaged his neighbor in conversation about other, happier things. She needed it, he could tell. She needed the distraction, to get her mind off of whatever it was that was haunting her.
"Angela!" came the booming voice as the frightened child stepped through the dilapidated doorway. "Where the hell have you been?"
"I'm sorry," came the tearful reply. "I was playing at the park with Todd and-"
"With Todd? I thought I made it perfectly clear that you are not to see that boy again! You're much too young to be going off on dates with snobby little boys who can't even dress themselves properly!"
Angela thought of her friend's blue shirt and denim corduroys and wondered what it was her mother was talking about, but she dismissed it and pushed past the woman to her room.
"Come back here, young lady! I'm not finished with you, this conversation is not over!"
Well it is now, Angela thought to herself as she quickened her pace in fright and shoved the wooden door to her room closed, and pushed the tall, white dresser in front of it.
A small, quiet voice pierced through the yelling from downstairs and the screaming in her own head, and Angela walked across her room to the open window to find Todd's head peering out his own window frame from the apartment next door.
"Ang, what's going on?"
"Nothing. Go away now before my mom-"
But before she could even finish the sentence, the girl's mother was standing in the doorway, taking in the scene before her in disgust. Without saying even a word, the woman grabbed Angela roughly by the arm and smacked her face once, again, and continued to take out the day's frustrations on her little girl.
The neighbors heard the cries, the pleas for help, as they did every night, but they ignored them once again… After all, what could they do? They all knew of the woman's reputation, of the husband who was in jail for selling drugs and for attempted murder, and they were all scared that if they interfered, their own children – or worse, themselves – might become victims of this monster too.
The next morning, these same neighbors awoke to the bright flashing of crimson lights atop police cars, and the wailing of sirens as ambulances raced down the street, stopping in front of Angela's home.
Todd watched from the safety of his window as two policemen went inside the house and emerged two minutes later with his friend's attacker in handcuffs… But there was no Angela.
Finally he saw what he had been watching for… A small, petite body bag was carried out of the run down house on a stretcher and loaded onto the ambulance.
A mass of people stood in front of the statue. Neighbors, classmates, teachers from the elementary school, the policemen who had made the arrest, and even people who had never met Angela, who had only recently heard of her through the stories in the newspaper and on the news, crowded around the memorial statue of an angel.
Through it all, through the abuse and the torture, the taunting at school and the hell at home, Angela had held strong. She had stood tall against the rain and the storm, had held fast to the belief that she would someday be free from the abuse and the torment she had known all her life. And now, running across the clouds in Heaven with Todd, who was back in his home now that his job was complete, she smiled a real smile for the first time in her life. A smile like her statue wore in the graveyard… She was no longer forgotten, no longer ignored. She was a concrete angel who would forever be remembered and loved in the heart's of the people who had for so long looked the other way and ignored.