A/N: The events in this story actually happened, tho due to my foggy memory, some names are not quite accurate.
The Soap Angel....
St. Michael's Hospital, Annex. 2-6am shift, Dec 24th, 2000.
Sitting at the front desk, reading The Chrysalids by John Wyndham, I was off in my own world- as there's no place else to go at 1:30am downtown.
We were early, and there was nothing else for me to do, except wait with mom for the other guy to show up for our shift,and wait for the shift before us to end. With a half-hour to go before we could 'clock in', I just sat, dazed by my fatigue and was half-hoping that if I concentrated hard enough, I could wish myself back into my warm bed- I had my duvet then.
The guys were packing up and new coffee was being brewed in the kitchen. With about fifteen minutes to go, Jake, the hot 19-year old from U of T came jogging in through the door-
bringing the cold winter air with him. I snuggled deeper into my coat and pulled my scarf tighter, convincing myself that I could doze off now because Jake was here and I could stay put.
I don't know how, but Jake was quite awake and happy-shown by the great big hug I was the reciepient of as soon as he saw me. All I could do in response was shiver because of the added coldness, although I managed a sleepy smile. Jake set down his coffee, picked up my cards, and delt us a game of Crazy Eight...the only game he knew how to play. After three rounds, I taught him War, King In the Corner, and then his memory jogged and he remembered how to play Spit. Please bear in mind that this was a few years ago, I was still in Jr. High, so don't laugh.
Getting up, I headed for the kitchen, stepping over sleepy vagrants on the floor in the dark hallway, and managing not to trip or kick anybody- no small feat- my only light source was the red EXIT sign at the far end of the gym. Having placed the full-coffee caraffe on the side table, I resumed my position at the desk, and my reading. I could hear the wind shaking the door upstairs, flurries were abundant as they stuck to the smokers who'd turned in after a few minutes in the bitter cold. Some even lit their cigarettes inside before braving the strong winds.
Jake and I filled in time talking about where we'd travelled- he'd been to Alberta to visit his family, and was heading up to Barrie for Christmas with his parents that weekend. He'd come for the shift that night after a friend of his, Anthony couldn't make it, and had been watching What's Eating Gilbert Grape before he'd headed to bed. Having had to finish off the movie in the same place as Jake, we both discovered that he'd seen just about every movie I'd seen, and we liked a lot of the same stuff. Did I mention that Jake was cute? And single? Damn, where'd I put his number?
Around 430am, the door upstairs blew open cause of the wind. I wasn't strong enough to close it and Jake had to help me. About twenty minutes later, we heard a knocking at the door. The wind was howling so fiercely that it'd taken us a few minutes to be sure it was knocking we were hearing. Jake had gone to check on the ppl who were sleeping...some were starting to wake, others he needed to wake cause they wanted to wash their clothes. While he was gone, one of the homeless guys- Gary- went to open the door, claiming he could hear a knock. He didn't come back in, cause he took his smokes with him and borrowed the lighter. With the sound of footsteps on the stairs fading and click of the shut door, a guy in a black hat and jacket with beige khakis and work boots came in. He was carrying a Toronto Maple Leafs bag with all his stuff, and asked if there were any beds left. There weren't, but he accepted my offer of coffee- black with two sugars. I disappeared into the kitchen, nearly killing myslef on the sleeping bodies, and brought back three peanut butter and jelly sandwhiches- his favorite from my query.
Setting the sandwhiches on the table, I resumed my postion and continued reading my book. My thoughts were pulled from Waknuk as he thanked me, inquirring after my name.
I initially debated on telling him my real name, but figgured there was nothing to lose, and he had the type of personality that made you want to go hug him even if you didn't know him.
"Aislyn", I said. He was silent for a minute, and then repeated it as a question- testing the pronounciation- which, to my complete surprise was correct- first try. "Wow- you're good with names...I'm surprised-most people can't pronounce mine and I get called 'Ashley'...the other most common one is 'Aslan' from Lion, Witch, & the Wardrobe ...but hey, it happens", I said, putting down my book.
He just smiled and was silent for a minute, then continued eating.
After a few minutes of writing in my book- I'd brought paper and pens to write stories and stuff when I got bored- he spoke again, asking how long I'd been volunteering at this place. "I'm new", I told him, and he just nodded and sank back in his seat, closing his eyes in thought. I figgured he was sleeping, so I read The Chrysalids.
A thought struck me while I was in the middle of chapter one - What was his name?
Looking up, I waited until he made eye contact, then cleared my throat.
"I don't think I asked you for your name...I'd meant to when you asked for mine, but I guess I'm getting tired a little early tonight, sorry. I didn't mean to be rude."
There was a sparkle in his brown eyes as he smiled.
"I didn't think you were being rude....My name's Jack.", he replied, getting up from his chair and extending his hand for me to shake- which I did.
"Wow, you're hands are warm.", he said, retreating to his chair.
Motioning to him to slide his chair up to the desk to sit across from me, I replied,
"Yeah, they might feel warm, but for me, they're actually cold, from the draft."
Jack nodded, and looked at the cover of my well-worn copy of The Chrysalids.
"Have you ever read it?", I asked, gesturing to the book, "It's my all-time favorite"
He leaned back thoughtfully in his chair, and then,
"Yeah- I think I remember that one, prolly read it in school.
that's the one with the weird community and Mutants- right?", Jack asked.
"Yep! This is it!", I responded enthusiastically.
"So...how old are you?", he asked, then added as an after-thought, "You don't have to answer that if you don't want"
Smiling, I chuckled, "It's okay. I'm 16 years old"
"Ah...really? I thought you were 19.", Jack said.
"I could pass for 19? Cool! Though, somehow I doubt the bouncers at clubs would agree.
and I wouldn't wanna go clubbing anyways...too noisy.", I said. I was a little excited...hey I just found out I could pass for 19- what 16-year old wouldn't be happy?
"Same question.", I said, with a playful/inquisitive look on my face.
"I'm 20...just had my birthday last week....on the 17th", Jack replied "Cool!", I mused.
We both fell silent after that and sensing that he wanted to talk a bit more, I asked, "So, Jack, what do you do?"
His face lit up at that question, and I could tell he loved what he did. "I make soap carvings."
"Really?", I asked, interested, "Do you sell them"
"Sure...thats how I make my living. I can do one of you, if you like"
"That would be great! Thanks...Do you need soap? We have some here"
Jack nodded and off I went in search of mom, who knew where this stuff was kept.
She gave me a look when I asked her about the soap, and started saying that the showers weren't avalible for another five hours. I cut her off...and told her it was for Jack, 'cause he was making a carving for me.
"Oh", was all she said as she searched for the soap, and asked if the coffee decanters needed refilling. Having told her that they were both still pretty full, I made my way back to Jack through the darkened hallway, this time, able to keep my balance and not have any near-death collisions with bodies on the floor.
Squinting in the dim half-light comming from the door, I picked my way thru bodies adrift in dreams in the hallway and blinded myself as I emerged.
"Here you go", I said, handing the soap over.
Jack took the bar, got out his knife, and started carving. After about twenty minutes and having me sit different ways, I asked,
"Do you want my hair up or down?", ready to take it out of its half up/half down stage.
"You can leave it the way you have it", he said.
A few more minutes, and he was just carving the detail. Brushing the shavings off of his lap, he handed me an angel holding a harp, and I was speechless.