Communion

Never make the mistake of thinking you are the only alien on the planet. -Kristen D. Randle

"What the hell is that?" It was a common phrase thrown back and forth in the halls of the high school, but when it was a target directed at you, it was difficult to ignore. I managed, and floated past the deep purple lockers towards my own in the next hallway. When I passed their line of vision, their heads turned in one accord. Their stares followed me down the hall, and I peeled the feeling off my skin to shed myself of their words.

Being a senior, all of us were allotted our own lockers, which I was glad of. The juniors and freshmen had to cram four to a locker, which was difficult to manage. I didn't like sharing space with other people, especially strangers. My various locker partners had all remained strangers to me. Even now, I cannot recall their names.

The mirror hung crookedly from the door. I straightened it, and avoided looking at my face. Lately, it has been a blob to me, a white blob on top of formless stick body, with stick arms and stick legs, all askew. I do not like looking at myself in the mirror, because I'm afraid one day I would be able to read myself too well. When I was little my mother called me a blur. I ran away from her when she took photographs, so I was like this, stick legs out of a little dress, back towards the camera. I hoped that if I don't recognize myself in the mirror, that if I remained a blur, I could stay small forever. Tiny enough to still climb on my mother's bed for assurance, to fit on her lap.

I looked down at my body. The white sweater had sparkly beads across the chest that caught the buzzing fluorescent lights, and sometimes reflected rainbow. The white skirt was modest and knee length, interwoven with sparkly fabric. White, colour of inner purity and strength.

I wore it for him.

He was my Adonis, my Apollo, my Greek god of love. He occupied the locker beside mine, and he smiled at me every morning in greeting. His name was Rafael. Rafael Marcelo, like some kind of chocolate wrapped in gold foil, presented as a lovely bit of sweetness. I wore my wings for him today.

They were small. They were only the span of my shoulders. The tops were hunched, layered with feathers that I got in a bag from the dollar store. The wings stretched on to the tip, the feathers gradually getting more spaced out. The tips lightly brushed my hip as I walked.

They were my angel wings from grade three Halloween, I wore it every Halloween since, and sometimes during the rest of the year when I required something from them. It was like how other people wore images of the saints, charms on bracelets, and so on. The wings were special. As I grew taller, and thinner every year, I stretched the length of them so that they were always a weight down my back, extra limbs. They gave me courage for the things I dared not do, because when I wore them I felt like God was watching over me in particular.

I know I shouldn't wear them for things as superficial as this, to attract the attention of that special boy. But I wanted Rafael to notice me, to see the way my hair floated about my head in a golden cloud so fine that I didn't need a halo, to see the ways my legs were long under the white skirt. I was too thin I know, I could close my fingers over my wrist and almost touch my own wrist after circling around. Without the wings I thought I would meld into the wall, become a part of the space between the lockers. The wings made me occupy space. I took a long time at my locker, hoping to catch a glimpse of him.

I envision how I must look, bent down to reach my books, the wings stretching behind me. I hear a rip, and laughter, as some prankster disappears down the hall. A few feathers dribbled down to the floor. There was a hole in my perfect white wings, and I could see the gaping hole, the wires underneath. I sighed. Today was not the day. I put them back into my locker carefully, and shut the door. I was Chastity White again, a number in the midst of the crowd. Without my appendages, I shriveled.

I heard his voice. I straightened from my slouch. Without the wings I was nothing, but still I stared at him. Rafael. My angel boy. He wore a gray wool jacket, with large buttons. His hair curled slightly in the mornings, one curl over his forehead. He had lovely laughing warm dark eyes the exact shade of his hair. He walked like he knew where he was going, and on his arm was Polly O'Connor. I have seen them this way before, walking down the halls, her hand in his, but it always seems like she was the one holding him instead of the other way around.

They said they were not a couple. These rumours were from other people, but the kind of sneer behind the comment that stated the two were probably doing it and not telling. I doubted that. For one – Rafael went to my church. He sat two pews back from me, always - Him, and Polly, and the rest of his family. Those two were one of the first to devote themselves to God at one of the youth camps. We all promised – no sex before marriage, to save ourselves for our future husbands and wives. Every one of us received plain gold wedding bands. Polly wore hers, right hand, ring finger, Rafael never did. When I heard Polly attempt to explain the ritual to Wick during social class, after he asked, he only laughed at her, and said that he didn't need a ring to tell him that he was going to 'quote quote save myself for God, not like I believed in the big man up in the sky in the first place.' I saw that Polly was quite hurt, but she hid it well. 'So where's Rafael's wedding band, eh?' Wick joked, and nudged Rafael in the ribs, 'Aren't you guys saving yourselves for each other?'

They both gave him a black look, and returned to the worksheets. I saw though, how Polly glanced at Rafael's face before they both retaliated against Wick. She was waiting for a sign that might have said it was true, somewhat true, how it impacted him. I understood, because for him - even I could overcome my aversion to touch

He never touched me.

Most of the people in the school who knew me didn't. I don't like being touched, it was something that I grew up with, and did not understand. Polly seemed to like being touched by Rafael, or even when Wick put his arm around her, and she pushed him away, she would laugh. Polly was the only girl I thought I kind of knew, because she was so close to Rafael, and he was the only person I really saw when I was at school. We also grew up in the same church. These small observations added up. They did not notice me because I was invisible anyway, if I stepped back, I easily melded back into the crowd. I said little, and stayed as far back from someone as possible in order to avoid any sort of contact from my skin to theirs. It wasn't the recipe for the world's friendliest person.

Even Wick, who was the most affectionate, and obnoxious boy, respected my boundaries. I always said hello, and bye to Wick because it was the first year I met Rafael, and every day felt like I was walking on air. If Rafael could extend the courtesy to say hello to me every morning, made me feel like something, I was able to be friendly to the most unbearable boy I know. David Wickham. He flirted with every girl, touched her whenever possible, and was the constant source of catcalls in the hallways. He was not ugly enough that the girls didn't like him at all, and sometimes he would be successful, sometimes not. It was all the same to Wick.

I knew him from junior high. He walked around with a scowl most of the time, and said relatively little to people. Polly went to that junior high too, that was why I felt somewhat comfortable with her. The process of moving from on school to do other changed all of us. We were all afraid of spending time with each other, since it was like each of us knew a secret that could be lethal to our lives if exposed. They knew about the times Ryan would touch me just to make me scream, and the rest of the school would walk by saying 'there goes the freak again.' I knew about how Polly used to be overweight in grade seven, and how Wick was suicidal for a time in eighth grade when the police found him in his garage. We were all uncertain of ourselves then, and after we grew older I think inside of each of us there was still that tiny twinge when we revisit those days where we cried into our pillows at night, and wondered why God gave us this face and this body.

Back then, I had no friends. Our special fine arts school allowed for classes to be filled with pottery making, and welding, and other activities. We were all selected for our special conditions, our inability to fit in with the public system. I liked the classes back then, holding the chisel in my hands a certain way, the wood chips flying back as it spun on the lathe. But I always thought of how it would be like if I actually had a friend. Only I never envisioned it would be these three, the three perfect, happy, people, who didn't seem like they had any problems.

Friends were for sharing cheesies with. Once Wick scrunched his nose, and told me how fattening cheesies were and how filled with oil they were, teasing – 'I thought girls cared about those things.' Cheesies made me feel like I had color, some kind of orange substance going down my throat, and orange powder on my pale fingers. They gave me energy, pulled me up during the day. They were the only things I could bear to swallow in the school. I think Polly was puzzled by this, and would often try to hand me a few dollars so I could buy some real food from the hideously over priced cafeteria. I shook my head, no, and explained to them what they were thinking was wrong. My parents did not mistreat me in anyway. They gave me an allowance like regular kids. They gave me food, and money to buy a sandwich. I just didn't want it. I could live on cheesies if I was allowed.

Friends were also for sharing secrets with. If I had any, I would tell Wick or Polly for sure. I wanted to share my life with Rafael, but I was too shy, and did not know how. I knew they were worried about me sometimes, although the first time Rafael saw me in the hallway wearing my wings he flashed me a thumbs up, and I was high for the rest of the week. They thought that I was hiding some deep, dark secret problem inside of me, like Ms. Annie Ryder in second grade, when I refused to let her hug me. She asked me if my parents or anybody I knew touched me in my private places. I gave her a look so mortified, and gasped out a certain no! before she labeled me off as a nutcase in her mind.

I didn't have an answer for it myself, only that ever since third grade I could remember shrinking way from my mother's touches. Maybe it was because my dad died when I was two years old, but I don't think it's that. I barely knew my dad. I was certain one of the memories of a loud man with a booming voice was him, and a rough hand on my cheek, although that could have been anybody. Since I didn't have any dark memories of my childhood, or encountered any terrible deaths in front of me (my father passed away quietly in his sleep, the doctors shook their heads and didn't know why since he was so young, and he was only a memory), or been in any accidents, I wasn't sure why I was so dysfunctional. I wasn't sure why it was after grade three that I began to act like this either. The only thing that jumped out during that year was how I carried a fairy wand that my mother thought matched the costume even after I told her that they were angel wings. She has always been afraid of letting me go to church since she wasn't a Christian, but was brought up as a Catholic. When I didn't come back to lead her closer towards God, or rant about the horrible sin filled life she lead, I think she was relieved. She always told me that I was a very cooperative girl while growing up, and was turning into a beautiful young lady. I rolled my eyes like any proper teenager, but ended up hugging her and saying 'thank you mom'. I thought my mother must be a lonely woman without God, but I didn't say so.

I thought Wick must be lonely without God too, and I couldn't see myself getting up the courage to tell him that. He used to rarely talk to me in classes after we changed schools, except to say hi or to annoy me with his nickname for me – Chazzy. He would ask me questions about homework, or call me once a while to talk about his car or his parents, and sometimes his other friends would ask me why I allowed him to treat me like this. I shrugged, and told them I don't know. But I knew all too well. It was in the way he said thank you after our conversations late at night, like he was afraid of calling me. I liked listening to him, except I could always remember the one time I made him mad, the scene burned into my head. He abhorred friendliness for some reason, like common courtesy was a state of mind particularly repugnant to him. When I said goodbye to him after school, and he was in a particularly foul mood, he grabbed my arm and slammed me into the locker when I tried to twist away. I was too surprised to scream. I still dream about it, except the reenactment of it was in shadows, and when he closed his hand about my wrist, he left a red mark on my skin like a brand.

'Don't talk to me in an attempt to boost your princess status,' He said in a mocking tone, but his grey eyes were hardened steel, narrowed into slits. 'Poor little fragile girl too afraid of people. Did you choose me because I was fucked up just like you?'

My mouth opened, closed; a choking sensation began to envelope me. I fought through it, tried to clear the clouds of fog away from my mind. They were the tendrils that reached out when somebody touched me, the fear that began, spreading out from my heart to the rest of my body.

' That's stupid, Wick, why would I do that?'

'Forget it,' He dropped my arm, and I could breathe again. I took in a ragged breath, cleared the blurry image of him moving away from me.

'Do I look like a princess at all?' I said softly, more to myself than anything.

He turned, paused, as if debating what he should say next, 'Look at yourself in the mirror sometimes.' There was none of the mocking tone left in his voice anymore. I stared, and then he really walked away. I rubbed my elbow where it banged against the locker. The encounter made no sense to me at all, but I kept it in mind, another side of the Wick I would never really get to know.

Except afterwards things got better. He spoke to me more. I drew him pictures with ease now, where before he was a void in my mind. I made the pictures with crayon, glitter for decoration. I gave him the picture of my dreams, sparkling mountains, deep oceans, and me – flying above the landscape. I was always flying in dreams. I liked creating pictures for my friends. Polly was easy to draw for, shooting stars and flowers and pretty things. Rafael received cars, airplanes, sketches of members of his favorite band. Wick had been difficult before he pressed his fingers to my arm, and I felt that jolt, that connection.

I hated being touched – because touch can draw you too close, make you sink into the other when you don't want to. It was to be avoided. Too intimate. And after that, with his mark stinging my wrist, he appeared in my dreams. He flew alongside me, and instead of his lips being a solid line, they were curved slightly, in an almost smile. I wished I dreamed of Rafael, but it didn't happen.

So life went on, and Polly watched Rafael with soft, yet slightly hopeful eyes. I didn't mind, because Polly deserved him more than I did. She was the one who heard his laugh, and held his hands, received his hugs, and clapped for him when he played the drums. Rafael didn't notice any girl, and if he did eventually, he kept it to himself.

It was all in equilibrium, everybody in their proper place. Wick making sarcastic jibes, writing obscene words on everyone's pages, and making a general nuisance of himself. Rafael scribbling notes back and forth with Polly, who leaned forward, feet dangling off her chair, cheek curved into her left hand, right hand replying furiously.

Everything was alright until Noah came back. In the beginning, everybody thought of him as some punk rocker skater rebel dude, with his shaved head, leather jacket, and mountain bike. Except Noah had the nicest smile, and a soft heart. Even Rafael's smile was fiercer than his. He played trumpet in jazz band, had the skinniest legs I have ever seen, and the palest skin in winter. He was actually a quiet dreamy biker jazz-playing poet, who I felt close to ever since I handed him a picture of a winter neighborhood, the sky exactly the shade of Wick's eyes. He dashed off a poem in one English class, and slid it into my glove at the bus stop as he waved goodbye. I opened it on the bus, and felt like I was transported away. His words were filled with light, and color, in a way that did not suit my soggy gloves making the ink run, or how even the person beside me in the bus seat made me shrink towards the window.

Noah and Polly came back from the holidays holding hands, and the two other boys almost tripped over their own feet. Rafael was angry he didn't know about it until now. Wick had lost his voice, his balance, and was unnaturally quiet. The only two people who were happy were Noah and Polly, and probably myself. I was sad that Wick seemed lost in his own world, but I sent him assurance in our flight dreams, although he could not hear me, and sometimes grabbed his hand, only to have my own go through his fingers. Dream-Wick did not mind though, and only looked at me in a manner that made me feel fluttery inside, like I had grown wings in my stomach. But the change in status meant that Polly would not be looking at Rafael like that anymore.

The quiet seeped into my bones, made my limbs tired, and my clothes hanged off my body. It made me lose my name, because without them to call me Chazzy, to acknowledge that I exist, did I really?

She wore her wings for him twice that month, but he didn't notice or flash her a thumbs up anymore. When the rest of them were angry at each other, they never talked to her, so she was left trying to gather herself from the walls, stumbling on her white heels that were turning gray from the slush and mud outside. The pictures slowly faded from her hands, before she had to resort to magazine cutouts taped to black paper, sometimes with the eyes of the models snipped out with the darkness behind them because they didn't seem right.

She spent most of her time in the empty bathroom on the second floor. She opened the windows, cranked open the glass, even though the metal protested because it was too old and too frozen. It was to let the smell of the place waft out. She thought people probably used this place for smoking, even though she didn't see anyone. Nobody ever came here because it was in a back hallway by the library, and there were only two stalls, one of which was usually out of order. The janitors didn't forget about this place, but the other students did. She would sit on the grimy floor next to the sinks, because she didn't trust the toilets, and she would wring her hands. She didn't wear white anymore, since the dirt would make her pants dirty. She read a lot, and wore black, and felt like she was really hidden in between the walls this time. None of the others came to look for her. She was alone, unnamed.

She had her earphones on most of the time now, to drown out the quiet, to push it like it had substance, since it had the ability to fill her world. She listened to music made about glaciers and age, and tried to rediscover innocence in the high childlike voices. She had fallen in the time she grew closer to the four of them, sampled some of their CDs with screaming guitars, or lovely melodic girl folk singers. She used to listen to only this, the jagged heights of the music from Iceland, like dangling herself off a precipice, arms outstretched, waiting for the cold to take her. Since then it had been relocated to the back of her shelf. Back then she was the girl with no name, who cried whenever anybody caught her in tag, when the boys hugged her on the playground and she struggled to get away. When they stopped laughing at her, and started leaving her alone. They started to call her a freak. The feathers were soft under her hands, almost real. She pressed them to her face.

She turned laughingly to Wick's dream self. 'Look at this, isn't this beautiful?!'


The dance was mandatory for all members of the band. They played in the dinner before, for the charity auction. She was there because of her pieces for art club that were on display. She was in charge of the paintings, and she took the job very seriously. She watched Rafael and Rafael watched Polly – with soft eyes like Polly's used to be before they were turned onto Noah. And as the couple kissed in the darkness, for the first time, Rafael stalked up to her - standing by the wall by herself - and asked her to dance.

I was startled back into my body, when he murmured 'Chastity' and called me back from the quiet, still place, where I stood alone. That one word, and the music broke through, heavy and loud, and made my legs itch to dance. He didn't say Chaz. He called me by my real name. I wore a turtleneck, beige, for this event, that covered me from my neck to my arms, so I would not be afraid to dance.

Even in the warmth of the gym, with the many bodies, I didn't sweat much. I liked being warm, because my hands were always cold. But when I looked at Rafael, my skin suddenly felt hot, skin burning, stretching. He was so distracted he picked up my hand, ran his thumb lightly over my knuckles.

The world was a sparkling, dangerous thing, with the potential for explosion. 'I am letting Rafael hold my hand,' I realized, and there was no catch in my breath. Perhaps it was the lack of light in the room, the strobe lights flickering on and off. There was a dizzying clearness. We froze then, when Rafael realized what he was doing, and dropped my hand, stepped back. He said sorry. I knew he wasn't sorry at all. 'Dance with me?'

'Sure,' I nodded, and he placed his hands carefully at the small of my black. I locked my own around his neck. We were back to a layer of fabric separating me from him. I was not certain if I liked that anymore. I was dancing in the arms of the boy I had always dreamed of. I could almost feel my wings, phantom at my back, giving me courage. Maybe he could feel them, brushing against his hands. His hands were a solid warmth behind me.

When we broke away, he looked into my eyes. I was the same height as he was, considering I had a narrow frame, and we were eye to eye. We were not close enough to kiss, not even close enough to touch. At this range I was careful. Too careful, I didn't want to be careful, but it was like the pattern of some familiar ritual that could not be broken.

'Chastity,' He said it again. His lips moved to form words. I found that the movement fascinated me. 'Will you be my girlfriend?' His eyes were dark liquid. I found the breathless feeling returning. I didn't want it, but I knew it was warning me away from something. My body always reacted when I was afraid, when the universe sucked me in, and I was blended with another person. It frightened me. The room collapsed upon itself, and I had to blink to clear my eyes.

Even when I struggled to form a yes, my mouth said a no. I turned away blindly, struggled for a smile that slid off my face. His eyes reflected back the light. 'I'm sorry. I think…' You're in love with Polly, but you can't tell her anymore. You're not the one for me. You have never been. You were my perfect boy who I wanted to dream about but can't. You are not the one for me.

He touched my shoulder lightly. 'Thanks for being here.'

After he left I walked off the dance floor, and into the parking lot, the night air, behind the school. The snow was pushed into drifts beside the parked cars that reflected back the shine from the lights. I felt the suffocating stillness then, the crush that smothered me ten fold that should have erupted at his touch, but had instead waited until now. I would have collapsed on the ground if it wasn't for the car hood in front of my hands. My fingers dug and found ice crystals, scratched metal.

I was crying. I was not his angel girl to fly with in dreams. I was a skinny stick girl with pale arms, legs, blonde hair not quite a halo but a mess. I saw him watching Polly and Noah, upper lip drawn in. I saw him look away the same time I did, when Noah bent down to kiss her, their faces hidden by the cowboy hat that Noah wore, and the close vicinity they were together. Polly had reached up to tip the brim of the hat up, just slightly, so it formed a roof over their head, like the spot on the dance floor was made just for them. I had a mouth that lied when I wanted to say the words spilling out of my heart. I needed my wings to make me beautiful, to give me courage to tell the truth.

I was a tall freak who wouldn't let anybody touch her because she was afraid she would be tainted by the need to feel skin against her own. I was scared of losing myself in white spaces, I was shriveled, I was nothing, I was a loser ghost girl -

There were boots outside of my vision.
They were Wick's.

I didn't want him to see me like this. I was a rabbit with albino eyes. I was sniffling, and blowing my nose on my sleeve, and I imagined the tears frozen in perfect drops on my face. My face was hot, probably turning red from embarrassment. An albino girl with cheeks to match her eyes.

'Angel Girl?' He asked me.

I slid my gaze up from his boots up to his face. He was not making fun of me. At least I couldn't tell if he was.

'What did you say?'

'Angel Girl.' He blinked, his jaw twitching suddenly. I threw my head back, and laughed. My voice sounded tiny, like bells, in the cold night air. I shivered then, as I collapsed back from my laugh, wanting to fall over again.

'What's wrong?' He stood the proper distance away from me. I never let anybody touch me because I didn't want to stay with one person forever. I never let anybody touch me because that would mean being close, and people always leave me after they're close to me. Or do they? I haven't been close to anybody ever. It's safe.

'I don't know.' I told him. Honest.

There was that one time. There was that one time when I didn't have a name, and I wore black, and I walked around with the silence screaming at me. Before the dance, and Rafael awakened me with a touch. In that bathroom I once encountered a girl. A shadow girl like me. Her name was Myra, she hung out with Wick. I have never talked to her in my life before this. She had a lip ring, dyed her hair inky black, and wore black too. She was crying in a stall, huddled upon herself, the door swinging and banging against itself. My feet shuffled against the tiles, then I saw the bag on the floor. Sniffles. Silence. I wanted to retrace my steps, but she had already heard me. 'Who's there?' There was something in the words that made me move forward. I saw her mascara running down her face, the way she flinched when she caught sight of me. 'Chazzy?' I winced at the name. She was so small in the hoodie she wore, almost dwarfed. She was a tiny girl, with small feet. I saw her shoes, orange Vans. I saw the glint of something hidden in her palm. 'What are you doing?' I was gripped by fear, choking in it. I was afraid for that small spark of silver. 'Nothing,' She snapped, but I (or was it me?) dove forward, came up with a razor, and felt something sharp dig into my hand. I looked down, surprised, to see a bead of red cupped in my hand. Myra was surprised too. I understood. I pulled up my own sleeve. Lines that used to be jagged red, but had faded to brown. Show and tell. I used to wonder if I were really blue inside, that would explain something about me. Blue blood, but I was as red inside as anybody else. I stopped after I met Rafael. I wanted to be gorgeous for him, not scarred. I realized I wanted it for myself too. I wanted to live, after that, except the scars didn't fade. I would carry them forever. 'You too?' She gulped, 'I thought I was the only one.' 'You're not the only freak in the world.' I smiled at her, hesitantly. I didn't want to offend her, but she didn't seem offended. She nodded, and allowed me to pull her up. I handed her a pack of cheesies, and got out of there. We did not speak after that, yet there was something big hanging over us. Something changed. I wished somebody had told me that when I was trying to find an explanation in my veins.


And I knew I was crying for her. For girls who tried to look tough, but are blown to bits inside. For all the girls who dressed in black on days when life was as bleak as the sky outside, or even worse, on days of endless blue upon blue sunny skies, but you feel wrong – like your limbs don't fit together right. For girls who were second choices at dances, those girls who were asked only after the boy watched his heart shatter under the shadow of a cowboy hat. I felt like I was swallowing tears made of glass, envisioning the cuts bleeding blue and red. But especially for girls who wore wings for courage, and needed some at this moment, but was wingless and grounded, and it hurt beyond anything I have ever experienced.

Except he had called me Angel Girl, like he was able to see them. If only someone had told me that I was not the only freak to ever be born. I would have spared myself a lot of problems.

He shuffled forward. He had floppy brown hair that was darker in winter, but blond in summer. In the angelic voices of the Iceland band, I could forget about love. I was able to climb mountains without falling, without bleeding, without breaking my feet on stones. I was not in grade three anymore. I saw myself reflected in his eyes, upside down – a girl woman child thin graceful beautiful gorgeous ethereal reflected back reflected back like an echo from me to him and in return. Maybe he'll teach me how to be more like that girl who he saw as a strong, and maybe I'll teach him how to paint murals of the dreams we shared.

'Can I ask you a question?'

I nodded.

'I heard what Rafael asked you.'

I smiled. 'That's not a question.'

He shuffled his feet. '-I didn't stick around for the answer, but what did you say?'

I paused. If I were Polly, I would tease him about being jealous. If I were brave like Polly, who was able to show the boys that she was a girl. 'I said no.'

He stared at me surprised, and I knew then that he always thought I liked Rafael. It bothered me that I was so easy to read. It was Wick though, and I would have minded if it was anybody else.

'Is that why you're crying?'

'Partially, yes.'

'Did I do something?'

'No – yes.' I interrupted myself.

'What did I do?' He looked hurt, and embarrassed.

It's always been you, Wick.

'I thought you liked Polly.' Like Rafael. Like the rest of them. Like when Noah took the first step, and they realized what they were missing.

'No,' He laughed, and then I knew what he was going to say. It was what I wanted to say too.

'It's always been you.' We finished together. We looked at each other with amazed eyes.

'I'm sorry I've been quiet lately.' You haven't called me in months.

I've missed you.

'I've missed you.' He said. Right on the footsteps of the passing thought, like an echo.

'I missed you too.' My throat was dry as I tried to speak past the lump that had grown there.

And he smiled, like unwrapping presents, the crinkle of the wrapping paper. How Wick's smiles were rare, not like Rafael, who gave them to anybody who asked. His were more special that way. Reserved. I felt a sense of peace spread through me that was similar to that kind of grand feeling that I had previously only experienced in church, when the song Amazing Grace was playing and the communion plates were passed around. When we repeated the ritual that people had done throughout the past thousand or so years, and there was that kind of closeness with God.

His hands were the same ones I held in my dream. The same shape folding over mine, and the familiar touch was like a jolt. You were there with me. Picking me up when I fell. Running alongside me.

Except he did not touch me - but I felt the subtle pull of him. I might still have Rafael's touch on my skin, but I had Wick inside of me, in my head.

'We can take it slow.' He told me.

'I know.' I'd like to tell you about me. My secrets. I'd like to draw you more pictures. I wonder when it had stopped being Rafael and started being you.

I tipped my head back to look up at him. His eyes did soften when he was happy. They were the lightest shade of gray of a winter's day. A storybook picture that I gave to Noah.

'Chazzy…I mean – Angel.' He said. Our breath was like smoke, mingling in the air.

'Don't worry about it. I like both of those names.' And for the first time, I did.

End.