"Get away from me!" she screamed. "Don't touch me!" She slammed the car door in his face and ran into her garage, where she immediately closed the door, and didn't open it again until she was certain that the car had pulled out of the driveway. Then she walked out again, only to start running. She had half an hour until her curfew; she could use that time to compose herself…or just cry herself out, which was the more likely course.

It was lucky that it was June; she would have been very cold otherwise. The wind blew her skirt every which way as she ran across the street, onto the sidewalk, down all the streets until 55th, when she turned the corner and came to the park. She dropped her jacket, stepped out of her clogs, and collapsed onto the play set, holding onto the chain for all she was worth and letting her body sink into the plastic swing. She then commenced sobbing her heart out, not caring about anything else. "I hate you!" she yelled. "I hate you, I hate you, I hate you!"

"That's good. Let it all out," said a voice. She stopped moving, stopped crying, stopped breathing. "I'm glad you stopped crying. I hate it when girls cry; I never really know what to do. You know, my little sister cries a lot, but she's only five years old, so it's a little different, isn't it?" Strong hands grasped her arms and led her over to the bench. "Now, tell me what's wrong, and then I'll figure out how to fix it for you. Then you'll stop crying and I'll feel better." The tears started up again at that; isn't that always what happens? Someone tells us to stop crying, and immediately we start?

Somewhere in the back of her mind, she classified the speaker as male, but not the particular male that she was avoiding. Something also told her that she could trust this male, although the voice was unfamiliar. His arms were still around her; she was almost crushed against his side. She was still crying. "Hey," he said. "Hey, it's okay. You're safe now. Oh, no, you're crying even harder, that didn't help, did it? Oh, I'm sorry, I'm not much of a white knight or anything, well, look at me, I'm not white, exactly, but that doesn't make a difference, does it?" While he was talking, she let her head fall onto his shoulder. Absently he stroked her hair as he continued talking, talking just to fill the silence and to reassure her with the sound of another human voice. "I'm Latino. Puerto Rican, actually, so I guess that I'm an American, just like you. I don't have an accent. English is my first language. Spanish is second, of course. That's my mom's first language. She does have an accent, you know, but only a hint of one, actually I like it, it's kind of soothing. Although I guess that little boys always think their mother's voices are soothing, at least if that mother's any kind of mother at all. It's only later that we discover that mothers' voices can be just as annoying and sharp and sad as they are soothing, isn't it?" While he'd been saying anything that popped into his head, she'd been composing herself. She'd been curled up against him with her head on his shoulder, but now she lifted her head and moved away a little bit, although she stayed curled up; she had to somehow contain herself, reel in her thoughts and focus them not on her own anger and outrage and pain, but on this boy, man, person who was trying to comfort her.

"There now, that's better, isn't it? I've got a bandana in here somewhere…" he rummaged in the pockets of his black jeans. "You can use it to clean up or something. Even blow your nose into it, if you want. I don't really need it back, I've got lots at home." There was silence between them as she took the offered bandana.

"I got your shirt wet," was all that she could think of to say.

"That's okay, it'll dry."

"Oh. Okay."

She took a good look at the boy who had somehow come to comfort her. Black jeans, army green T-shirt. Black hair falling into his eyes and curling around his neck and ears, almost long enough to put into a ponytail, but not quite. Thick and wavy. Black almond eyes as well, black arching eyebrows, long black lashes. Tan skin. Olive-brown-tan-creamy-golden skin, much like her own skin, only she wasn't Latino. Latina. Whatever it was. She didn't even take Spanish at school, she took French, how should she know if she was supposed to be Latino or Latina?

But the mouth. The mouth that was somehow smiling at her and also held concern for her, although this boy didn't even know her, how could he be concerned about her? The mouth that had lines around it, and just the shadow of a beard, as if he hadn't shaven lately. Too many lines for just a sixteen year old boy, for that was how old she'd determined he was.

"Now, tell me what's wrong," he prompted. "And we'll sort this out."

She'd just opened her mouth to say something, she didn't know what, when she remembered her curfew. "Oh, no! No, no no no no no no!!!"

He raised a thin eyebrow. "What?"

"I have to be home! I'll get grounded, I'll…"

"Fine, you can tell me tomorrow."

"Tell you what?"

"Tell me what was wrong, of course."

"You want to know?"

"Listen, I just found a girl crying her heart out late at night in a children's park. You're going to have to tell me what made you cry, like it or not. Meet me here tomorrow night. Or afternoon. Whenever you want."

"Um…Okay. Is five okay for you? I don't want to put you out, or anything…"

He looked amused. "Five's fine."

She began to walk away, and then turned back. He was still sitting on the bench, one thin and yet somehow well-muscled arm stretched out across the back. It wasn't well muscled, exactly, she thought, just that the muscles are defined. He's got good muscle definition. He's strong, too, because he nearly dragged me over to the bench. "Who are you?"

"Who do you want me to be?" he challenged.

"Meaning you're not going to tell me your name?"

"Why don't you name me yourself?"

"Fine. Angel."


"Angel. Because that's what you were to me tonight."

"In what way was I an angel?"

"Well, I'd probably still be sitting over there on the swings crying. You comforted me. You helped me. And you let me know that someone still cared. If that makes sense."

He seemed to like that explanation.

"Until tomorrow, Angel."

"'Til tomorrow." He showed no intention of moving, as if he was just going to wait there for her until five o' clock.