"Oh, dear Gods!" A delicate palm was clasped over his mouth, but it failed to hide the horror in his eyes. "Dear, Aphrodite---Oh my Gods!"
"Now it's perfectly fine," I murmured. My voice was hardly more audible as a whisper, but that was the best I could do with a bleeding chest. "Now I want you to calmly walk over to the phone, and dial 911, understand?"
The reply was a strangled cry. "Oh Gods!"
I sighed, staring down at my favorite maroon sweater that I chose especially for this day, frothing like a red bubble bath at each passing moment. My savoir, and ironically, my assaulter, was standing in front of me, frantic and squealing like a baby pig.
"I'm so sorry, this is so embarrassing!" He blurted. No matter how much shock he was in at the moment, his grace remained untouched. His mouth hung open in agony like a blossomed rose. His watering blue eyes were that of a baby sucking in the world. A halo of golden hair stayed in perfect curls, no matter how he swung his head and moaned. "I mean, gosh, this is really so embarrassing!"
"It's alright," I tried offering a smile, despite the twisting pain in my chest. "You're so much better than that trainee vampire at Halloween…it took him forever to find my carotid artery."
My body shuddered and hurt at the memory. I was in fact, telling the honest truth. I would take a baby-faced angel shooting me in the chest, painfully but only once, any day compared to some pale creature abrupt from the shadows, punching inaccurate holes in your throat, swearing aloud at every miss. Both had at the very least, apologized.
"I'm new at this, you know," he continued. "I usually get these things right at target practice, but I never really tried on a moving--"
"Look, G…Gabriel," I squinted and craned by head up at his chest. The lovely pink ribbon across his chest was a blur under my condition and his constant fidgeting, but I successfully made out the inscribed cursive. "I forgave him, and I forgive you too…everyone m-makes mistakes on their first try…all that matters is that you do something…"
"Like what?" The innocent bewilderment in his voice made me teary-eyed. It reminded me of a child's, before their tenth birthday, an event when they died into preteens and soon enough, teenagers.
"Like calling the ambulance," I suggested again. "He called over an ambulance…"
"Oh, alright! I'll get right on that!" There was a great fluttering as though a thousand doves took flight, but I knew it was only Gabriel's wings batting against the walls as he entered the next room. His footsteps were as light as clouds, but hammered in my head like thunder as I lay in the empty school office. I had doubts about anyone finding me there—everyone was either exchanging white teddy bears and chocolates, or snuggling under the hidden shadows in the fields. I felt like the only person in the world that was just going through another ordinary day.
"A-are you d-doing alright with that, G-Gabriel?" To my dismay, I was starting to stammer. My condition was worsening with my ability to speak. I was afraid by the time Gabriel returned, I'd be an empty sack of bones, bathed in a puddle of reeking pink water. That'd only make him feel worse.
"I'm on it," Gabriel answered. I assumed he was in one of the cubicles, too far away to see me in a lake of blood, and too deep in his mission to detect my stammers. It made me optimistic. What he won't know won't make him drop the phone in a fit of guilt. Or hurt him. I would feel terrible if his toes were hammered by a falling phone.
"G-great, you're doing great!" I lifted an arm over the counter to make a thumbs-up, but the strength waned, and I let it fall. As it collapsed with a painful whud, I suddenly remembered his empty ribbon.
"You'll be filling that sash with merits in no time! Starting with saving a broken heart."
That was far too literal for my comfort, but I felt better after encouraging him. After all, he was a teenager, just like me. All we wanted was to feel like we were doing okay.
"Hello? Is this St. Joseph Hospital?" Gabriel spoke delicately into the phone. He seemed a bit more comfortable at the mention of a saint. "I want to report a broken heart."
I noticed Gabriel had set the line on speaker for me. It warmed my heart of how nice boys could really be, and they didn't even need to give a rose to show it. My hands had never felt the comfort of a thorny stem.
An intern buzzed from the other end. "Can you elaborate more?"
"Well, it's bleeding, a lot, and it's my fault too. I mean, Gods, you should look at all the blood…poor thing…"
Reality was becoming a blur of valentine reds, whites, and pinks. The haze was spinning in and out of control, making cartwheels, leapfrogs, and crab-walks. Cavorting like twinkling seraphims and silly love-struck teenagers. It was pretty, to say the least, and made me feel somewhat elated. A grin crossed my face as I stared at the fade, which eventually became a chuckle. Taking advantage of common sense slipping away, I started to paint pictures into the air. Mahogany birds darted across the rosy waters and dodged flipping fish.
"Oh, it's all so pretty…"
Wind-chimes glistened watery notes in the still air. Gabriel's voice was floating from the cubicle walls, but it already seemed so far away.
"This isn't a joke, I swear it! Why are you laughing?"
A swoon escaped from the other end. The intern was female, I should've known. Her voice was heavy of bubble-gum, hairspray, and rattling bangles off her skinny wrists.
"Hello?" Gabriel's voice grew more desperate. It broke my reverie. "Please, give some help, would you? I never meant to do this…"
Silly Gabriel, A smile glowed like a kind cut on my lips. His voice was a choir of heaven lights. What girl wouldn't fall head over heels for that?
"I never meant to do this, she wasn't for me."
My heart pulsed through a wet clod of blood. It fell from me in an exaggerated, black blob. From the crevices of my depleting thoughts, I dragged open a sun-lit scene, the moments before the arrow dismantled my breast. It was beneath the shady roofs of my English class, with the beckoning call of an opened sketchbook lying on my lap. But I bit my aspirations behind as my eyes swam across the campus.
Plastic red and white hearts gathered in the sky, anchored by colored strings that looped into shared hands of lovers. The fragrance of opened chocolate boxes was so creamy and rich, that you could taste its weight on your tongue. Somewhere a boy snuck behind a girl with flames of red hair, carefully prying his fingers into her gift bag and stealthily withdrew a chubby bear. Before she could spin around and squeal, ready to rain playful slaps onto his chest, he jolted out a wedge of dark fudge, toppled with a swirl of pink frosting. In the peak of the sweet stuff was a yellow sweetheart, serenading in block letter words, "BE MINE."
The weight of my pencil suddenly declined, and my hands felt empty. I diverted my eyes from the festivities and surveyed whoever might be sharing the shade with me. The classroom was in broad eyesight, explaining the absence of giggling lovers in tight embraces. The only one there was a boy, a sophomore, just like me. He was a pleasant two inches above my head, sporting an open flannel jacket and dusty black converses, which looked like they've replaced proper running shoes multiple times before. His face was fair and youthful, which I supposed he won from his heritage, and was lit with a content demeanor that stuck my eyes to him.
He was clutching onto a sketchbook in his right palm, and when I looked at what was in my lap, I found the exact double. Curiosity started to sprout somewhere inside of me, but his grew faster.
"Hey." His smile was directed onto me. The shade couldn't save me from the sun. "What do you have in there?"
When I pried to a page, I noticed four types of explosions, chronologically arranged. First, some foreign hope. Second, a plunge into my soul, something that sensual and blossoming, as if someone had managed to mélange the softness of dove feathers and deep sheets that your mother fetched from the dryer. Third, a sudden abrupt pain, as if a field of roses burst into flames and burnt the morning skies above. Fourth, something rather visual than felt, an inkblot of blood across one of my drawings.
My memories brung me back here, sprawled on the floor, aspirations flooding the floor, pretty movies playing in my head. I saw morning glories twist from the scarlet puddles. I was certainly not going to die. The thin black vines, white flowers, and hop-toads I imagined to distract my pain may've seemed real, but I certainly wasn't insane, and I was confident that I could still think.
I wondered what would've happened if Gabriel wasn't the archer, or if he wasn't so entirely nervous. It bewildered me to think about what would've happened if the explosives ceased at the second, and if the same happened to the boy. I suddenly realized why he was there, he was a peer. Somewhere in the fountain of crimson, the memories had flowed out. Bright boy, a face that the sun always kissed, eyes that his soul always stirred, hair that the wind always made whimsy, backpack full of stories, his head and voice the same. It may've been the haze, but I remembered myself mad about him. Then I recalled the rose in his hand.
It wasn't meant to be mine, it was for another girl, one who wasn't odd enough to shy in fantasies and paint gardens from blood. But if Gabriel hadn't missed, the tables would've turned. That would've been for me. The boy would've exploded twice on the inside, and that token would've been mine. I trailed a finger across the wet carpet and imagined myself stroking the rose's petals. I saw the blossom vividly in front of me, unfolding like a gift in a bow.
But I didn't want it, I wanted what was inside. My fingers craved to stir the warmth inside the box, something far beyond heart-shaped boxes, candied fruits, plush animals, and floating balloons. I wanted what was inside of those. Something deeper beneath the skin of money…
I hiccupped, but bit my lip. I didn't want to spend my last few minutes crying.
"I'm sorry, but you're not any help."
Gabriel. Fretting, miserable, and contrite Gabriel, arguing with the swoons and sighs on the other end. My heart saddened that he had to run this sorry game of luck. I tilted my head and dreamt about how he understood the tactics just as much as the rest of us.
"I'm hanging up now, sorry." I heard the phone make a dull click. He turned, his wings stroking the walls. A sigh escaped his lips, a bitter breath for an angel.
He looked at me, his tear-fraught eyes trembling like lakes in an earthquake. I felt my heart split for the first time that afternoon. The flowers I hallucinated started to wilt.
"I…" He bubbled, much like a baby, again. "I couldn't get help. I'm worse than the vampire."
"No, no, you're not," I grinned. The solace my body distracted me with from the agony was gone, but I still wanted him to have hope. "You did well, you did exactly what you were supposed to. You gave a girl exactly what she wanted on this day."
"I disembodied you!" He cried. Diamonds fell from his eyes and tore through my thoughts. "My gosh, you're bleeding! How could I've possibly done my job?"
"Because," my mouth croaked. It was something that happened when you were going to die and live again. "You gave me what I wanted today.
"I wanted someone to care."