I looked up from my hands to the worried face of my Russian companion. I was sitting cross-legged on his bed, holding a large black guitar, while he sat on the floor, watching me from below. Despite the recent events of my life, my parents insisted I would go on with my usual routine. I was no longer staying at Danny's house. It has been three days since he went into the coma, and his parents have hardly been there since. When my father heard about what happened, he sent orders for me to move into a hotel room so that I would not disturb Mr. and Mrs. Kelly. Despite their protests, I moved out within hours. I fully agreed with my father on this one, I really did not need to add to the stress of Danny's parents.
"I'm fine." I answered, suppressing a sigh. I ran my fingers soundlessly across the strings of the guitar, and looked at Angel for further instructions. He stared back at me with a blank look on his face, then hauled himself up to sit on the edge of the bed.
"You lie." He said simply. I bit my lip, suddenly finding myself unable to keep from crying. I squeezed my eyes shut, quickly turning away from him. Allowing myself to cry was not an option. Especially in front of someone I did not know that well. He looked down at his hands. "Jenni? You can tell me."
"I have to go!" I muttered, setting aside the guitar and jumping off the bed. I hurried to pick up my jacket from the floor and be out of there. Angel said nothing, he just watched me with those sad green eyes. I could feel that I was on the verge of crying, and I knew I had to get out of there.
Right as I stepped out of his room, I heard his quiet voice.
"Will you be back tomorrow?"
I nodded quickly without turning around, although I did not think he saw it. Within seconds I was out the door and running down to where I had parked my car. I slammed the door as I slid into the drivers seat. But my eyes were clouded over with tears. I could not see, and found myself sobbing. I was alone. Completely alone. My mother, my father, my best friend. They were all somewhere I could not reach them.
I fell down on the steering wheel, shaking uncontrollably as tears ran down my face. My eyes stung and I could taste the salt on my lips. If this was a movie, outside my car rain would be pouring down and soaking the world around me as my tears were soaking the interior of my car. But alas, movies lie. The sun was still setting outside with not a cloud in sight, the neighborhood dogs still ran about in search of discarded scraps of food, Danny was still unconscious in the hospital, and my mother was still in Mexico where doctors decided whether she would live or die.
Through the sounds of my own crying I heard someone tapping on the window. I looked up, seeing the blurry shape outside my car. The door opened without me touching it and Angel half dragged me out of the car. Without saying a word he helped me walk to the other side and put me in the passengers seat. I did not resist, I only hid my hideous red face in my hands, trying desperately to stop crying. I had no success in the ladder.
He got into the driver side and took hold of the keys I had apparently left in the ignition. The next thing I knew we were pulling up to a fast food drive-through. I wiped my eyes with a sleeve, and immediately regretted it because now my light blue jacket proudly displayed a large streak of smeared mascara and eyeliner. I could only imagine what my face looked like by now.
Perhaps the days I spent with Danny's friends had shaped me to think like them. And by 'Danny's friends' I mean the popular girls I was forced to hang around. The only thing I could think of for a moment was finding a mirror and fixing my face. I reached down to the floor and grabbed my purse. Inside it was a small compact that I was extremely thankful for. The state of my face was hopeless, and with the feeling of utter defeat I wiped away the remaining make-up with a tissue and set the compact down.
At that exact moment a hot bag that smelled of heaven was tossed into my lap, and the car started moving again. I turned to look at Angel, but he gave me a blank look and did not say anything. It occurred to me that I had never told Angel where I was staying, but yet we kept driving.
A stray sob forced its way out, and thus marked the end of my crying. I felt that I could not cry anymore even if I tried. And, it was kind of nice.
The car stopped shortly, and Angel got out, walking to the other side and opening my door. I hesitated to get out… he was still somewhat of a stranger to me, and I was not completely sure of where we were. Plus, it was really starting to get quite dark, with only the last rays of the setting sun still lingering behind.
"Come on." He said softly, holding out his hand. I took it, holding the fast-food bag with my other hand, and he helped me get out of the car.
"Where…" I started to say, but stopped when I saw my surroundings. We were downtown, at a small park named after the founder of some children's charity. We were only about a block away from the hotel where I was staying.
Angel led me into the park itself, and we stopped at the fountain where several picnic tables were set up. The moment was so cliché, I could not help but grin. This was the part where I was supposed to fall in love with Angel, correct?
There was no one around at this time of day, and the only sound we heard was the gentle murmuring of the fountain. That and the distant sounds of traffic.
We sat on top of one of the tables, and devoured the fast food. I would usually scoff at such food, something else that rubbed off on me from the popular crowd Danny made me hang around, but when I bit into that cheeseburger crawling with grease, I felt like a part of my life I had been missing was suddenly coming back to me.
"Are you feeling better?" Angel asked, a french fry hanging from his mouth.
I smiled, and looked down at my hands. "Yes… I'm sorry I made such a scene…"
"Jenni, you don't have to say 'sorri'. Whatever it is bothering you, you shouldn't have to go through it alone." I looked at him, but his expression revealed nothing. At that moment I realized that he wasn't trying to be my best friend, he wasn't trying to find out what it was that was making me so upset, he wasn't trying to take advantage of my crushed spirit. He was just being a really, really nice guy. After a small pause he continued, "And, I hope you don't take this the wrong wai, but I think you look very pretty."
"Thank you." I said quietly, meaning it for more than just the compliment, and he smiled slightly. From then on we sat in comfortable silence, eating fries and listening to the faded sounds of the city being drowned out by the sound of running water. Everything was going to be alright.
We threw away the remains of our meal and walked back to the car to find it blocked in so closely that there was no possible way I could get it out.
"That's alright, I can walk home." Angel told me upon further inspection of the situation. I had already told him that the hotel, which I was staying at, was nearby. "Or hitch a ride."
"No!" I protested, "You can't do that!"
He looked at me quizzically and a barely noticeable smile crossed his lips.
"It's already late, and way dark." I explained, grabbing his arm when he tried to take a step forward. "Who knows what kind of people are out at this time."
"I'll be fine." He said reassuringly. I shook my head.
"No. Come on, you can stay with me until tomorrow, and then I'll drive you home."
A look of surprise flew across his face, and even though it was dark, I saw him blushing slightly. He immediately got uncomfortable.
"I couldn't do that." He murmured, looking away from me. The very scene of it made me smile. Angel really was different from any guy I had ever met. I actually felt comfortable offering to share a room with him. The only other guy I have ever slept in the same room with was Danny. But that was a different situation.
"Come on." I said firmly, grabbing his arm and started to walk in the direction of the hotel. Angel obeyed silently, but when I looked back at him I saw a shy smile on his face, and his eyes turned downward.
When we got to the hotel I requested some extra blankets from the front desk, and we took the elevator up to the room.
"Make yourself at home." I said in that 'pleasant hostess' manner, and grabbed my bag of clothes. "If you need anything just say the word. I need to take a shower."
I did not wait for his response, and locked myself in the bathroom. There I examined the state of my face. And upon looking in the mirror recoiled with disgust. My eyes were red and puffy, with dark circles under them like I haven't slept for days. My skin was pale and the only word that could describe it was 'blotchy'. I remembered what Angel had said in the park. He had told me that he thought I looked very pretty. I shook my head, it must have been the darkness.
The shower felt really nice after the emotionally painful day. Afterwards I drew little imaged on the fogged up mirror. My spirits were really reaching a high for the day.
I dressed in long, black pajama pants featuring white bunnies and tiny pink hearts, and a black tank-top that proudly proclaimed 'MissUnderstood' in big green letters on the chest. Perhaps I was not the best at matching clothes, but I sure did try.
I peeked out of the bathroom. Angel was sitting on the floor in front of the bed, with a remote in his hand, watching a 'The Simpsons' rerun.
"Do you want to take a shower?" I asked, walking out of the bathroom.
"No, that's alright. I don't have anything to change into." He said, glancing at me sideways, obviously feeling weird about the fact that he was sitting there in a hotel room with me in my pajamas. That was exactly what he told me a heartbeat later.
"Sorry." I laughed.
I was going to make him sleep on the bed while I slept on the smaller fold-out mattress that the maid brought in, but he put up such a fuss about it, I felt bad about making him. He convinced me that he would feel a lot more comfortable on the fold-out, and we both went to sleep.
Even though I spent the last few hours with Angel, I still dreamt about Daniel. It was a dream turned nightmare, as I saw him go into the coma and my futile affords to wake him 'went to the dogs' as to speak. I woke up in the middle of the night, my eyes burning from tears. I wiped them away and sat up slightly. That was when I noticed Angel sleeping on the fold-out nearby. It calmed me down to have someone else in the room, even if I hadn't known Angel that long. As I stared at his face in the faded light that came from the streetlamp outside, I found features that I hadn't really seen before. His face was much skinnier than I had noticed before, lips much thinner, and eyelashes much darker. His slightly large nose cast a shadow across his face, as did the few strands of dark hair that fell all around.
I sighed. He was such a good friend. For only knowing each-other for a few days, it felt like I had been friends with him forever.
And then I realized why.
He was exactly what Danny had been like before high school. Before the cheerleaders and popular sluts. Before the sell-out bands and all that eyeliner. Before the pressure from basketball and band. Even before Keith. I was drawn to Angel because he reminded me of my childhood friend. And that made me sad. Sad because I realized that from this point on, I would know that I liked Angel because of someone else. Sad because I realized that if Danny died, I could not stand to look at Angel again. Sad because at that moment I might have developed somewhat of a crush for Angel, who I so dearly hoped would remain only a friend in my eyes.
Perhaps I wasn't destined to be friends with a guy that I wasn't also in 'love' with.