"You ever wonder if there's life after this?" I asked Angel. We were sitting in the back of my Language Arts class, waiting for the bell to ring and we could go home. I remembered asking Virgil that question when I was about eleven. He didn't respond when I said that, probably thinking about something else.
Angel shrugged, wadding up a piece of paper and chucking it at a random person across the room. I doodled in a spare notebook. Chris was beside Angel, reading. I looked at him for his answer to the question.
"Well… I dunno," he said, "The bible says you either go to heaven, hell, or purgatory."
"But what do you think?" I pressed further. I lay my head on my fist for support. Angel chucked another paper ball across the room. I looked up at her, feeling exhausted from the long day of school.
"Honestly, Sav, I don't know. I like to think that its something other than just blackness… but hell, what do I know?" the boy sighed, closing his tattered book.
Like me, Chris didn't come from money. I noticed the plaid shirts he wore looked more familiar every other day. I also usually shared my lunch with him, because he never brought the money for lunch. Angel was the same way. She always offered him a cookie or a banana or whatever.
The boy was picked on all the time by the junior and senior kids. Chris would just be walking down the hall when he was shoved to the side against a locker, or kicked into the girl's bathroom. Things just didn't seem to stop for him.
"Depends what you learn, babe," Angel said. She started to call everyone that, even kids she didn't know. I rolled my eyes.
In my opinion, Angel had it the worst in our group. She would always have guys running up to her, saying absurd things such as, "Hey, next time you and your girlfriend get together, can I watch?" or, "My homie says you get more pussy than I do. I bet him 20 bucks it ain't true. But now that I look at you and all them emos, I'm starting to regret putting my money on your ass." The strangest thing about Angel was that she never heard these things. She would brush them off. They truly didn't bother her.
If only they knew who she really was. If they took the time to get to know her, they might actually take their insults and sneers back.
"Hey, girl, watch this," she said. I looked at her. She took a little rock out of her pocket, smiling at me. I raised an eyebrow, watching her wad the rock up in a piece of paper. She looked at one of the Jocks chatting by the window with some girls. Angel smiled, taking her arm back and chucking the paper wad at the tallest Jock. It hit him hard, and as soon as he looked over his shoulder for the culprit, Angel was talking to me like nothing had ever happened.
"Look's like he's hurt," Chris commented, averting eyes with the angry guy. Angel smiled, flipping her hair back.
"He'll get over it," she sneered. Then she looked at me seriously.
"Sav, what are you doing tonight?" She looked at me like she was planning something fun.
"I-" the bell cut me off mid-sentence. Chris grabbed his stuff. The three of us stood and walked out of the classroom, trying to stay together in the traffic jam of kids. Angel grabbed mine and Chris's hands, leading us through the people like a bulldozer.
I remembered when I was about 11 years old, and Virgil took me to a Wal Mart for the first time. There were so many people there, and I couldn't help but get distracted at the items on the high shelves. There was a shiny, red bike bungee-corded to the rack of bicycles. My eyes widened when I saw my reflection in the sparkly paint.
"Savannah, what are you doing tonight?" Angel said again when we made it outside. I stopped in the sand and looked away from her.
"Why?" I asked. She rolled her eyes.
"Maybe we could have a sleep over." She smiled, giddy. I thought about it.
"You'll have to meet my father, first…." I trailed off, apprehensive of Virgil's thought's of her.
"That's fine, lets go! Which way is your house?"
"Good. Come on," She grabbed my hand and started walking toward the road. The knot in my stomach twisted.
"Oh God, look," she said in disgust as we walked down the sidewalk. I followed her gaze.
Leaning on the fence was about ten guys, smoking that weird substance I remembered. Angel spit on the ground.
"What is it?" I asked, looking at the boys. They looked away.
"Don't you know what they are doing?" She asked, hurrying me along the sidewalk. I could tell she didn't want to be near those boys, and that they were potentially dangerous. I lead her down my street.
She looked at me for a long moment, as if she was taken back by my ignorance. I avoided her eyes.
"Savannah," she chuckled, looking at me like I was stupid. "They are smoking weed."
It took me a minute to figure out what "weed" was.
"What? Why?" I asked, half alarmed. She chuckled again.
"The way you are so surprised is hilarious, Sav. They must have like, really sheltered you in that rich kids' school. Damn," Angel laughed aloud, doubling over. I awkwardly returned the gesture.
"Seriously, why are they smoking that?" I asked. We continued walking.
"How should I know? I don't get along with druggies…." her voice trailed off as we reached my house. I stopped.
"Wait a second," I halted. She raised an eyebrow.
"I gotta' make sure my dad approves of you, so hold on," I said, parting her hair down the middle of her head and straitening it out. I buttoned her shirt up to you could not see the striped one underneath it, and rolled up her sleeved once. The red haired girl smirked.
"Are you ready, or are you going to mess with my clothes more?" she said, looking at me with a grin. I blushed, pushing her back. I turned and opened the door to my house cautiously. Virgil wasn't home yet, and so I had to get started on dinner. I got an idea.
"Hey, do you want to have dinner with us?" "You mean have free food? Hell yes!"
We giggled. She put her backpack down and sat on the counter top as I looked through the cabinets. I pulled out some instant mashed potatoes, breaded chicken tenders, and a can of green beans. I set them on the counter.
"So, like, in English today, Mrs. Varner partnered me up with Elizabeth Cambell." She giggled, parting her hair sideways again.
"Yeah?" I said as I put the beans into a saucer and stuck them into the microwave oven.
"And, Christ, Savannah, have you met her? She is FINE." I shook my head.
"Just came to the school, remember? I don't have a life yet." I grinned, turning on the little radio. Come Together by the Beetles started playing from the "Abbey Road" CD that Virgil had left in the slot since I was in seventh grade. Surprisingly, Angel started singing along.
"I never knew you to be a Beetles fan." I said, smiling. She shrugged, not ceasing singing along to the top of her lungs. I stirred the potatoes. An idea struck me as the song switched to Let it be. I turned down the music.
"Angel, listen, don't tell my father that you are lesbian, okay?" I told her seriously. She looked at me expressionless.
I apologized, "I'm sorry, its just that Virgil doesn't really-"
"Trust me, Sav, I've heard it before. I'm used to it and I do not care what other people think of my sexuality. I am who I am. I understand if you want me to lie. The lying isn't a problem. I just don't want anything to come between our friendship, okay?"
"Yeah, I get it. Because, Virgil will forbid me to see you," I agreed. She half-smiled.
"Then we won't let that happen, will we?" She said, smiling broader. I nodded, hearing my father's truck pull up the driveway. I stopped what I was doing and ushered her off the counter. She parted her hair back and stood up straight, fixing herself.
He came through the garage door, slamming it. He must've had an exhausting day. I tried not to whimper in front of Angel.
"Savannah, I swear to God if you are making that damn spaghetti again I'll-" He stopped when he spotted Angel, looking puzzled. My father stiffened, looking at me expectantly.
"Dad, this is my new friend, Angel. I was wondering if she could have dinner with us so that you could get to know her, and then possibly I could sleep over her house tonight, since it is Friday and I haven't any homework." I scrambled out the words. I noticed Angel was looking into his eyes, intimidating him. He looked my friend up and down, searching for anything of suspicion.
"Angel, this is my father, Virgil."
She bowed her head in respect to him, quietly saying, "Hello." I shifted my weight.
"Hello, Angel. Do you live far from here?" he asked politely. I sighed in relief. She smiled.
"Not far. Just on the other side of the school. Your house is very nice."
Virgil smiled, too. He looked to me, friendlier than usual.
"So, Sav, what are you cooking us?" He seemed excited, taking out an extra chair for Angel. I told him slowly, wondering what he was getting at. As the meal finished cooking, I took out some plates. We all sat down after I had served them.
"Tell me about yourself, Angel," Virgil said as he chewed. Angel ate graciously, not the way I had seen her gorge herself in the lunch room.
"Well, what do you want to know?"
"How do you do in school?"
"Mostly A's and B's. Chemistry is not one of my favorites. The formulas get jumbled up sometimes. But, I manage to pull myself through. I'll need it if I want to go to Yale." She smiled once more, not slipping up once.
"Yale?" asked Virgil, raising an eyebrow. "Ain't that the fancy University in Massachusetts or something?"
"Connecticut, actually," She corrected him, taking another bite of chicken and then swallowing. "I hope to major is systematic anthology. It's a field in computer physics. My entire family went to Yale since my ancestors came to America sometime before the Civil War."
By now Virgil was thoroughly impressed. He didn't take his eyes off of Angel. I wondered if systematic anthology even existed.
"Her ancestors fought with the confederates, but after the war was over they settled in New England because the economy was better." I added. Virgil nodded. He was an expert on the Civil War.
"So, how do you intend to pay for Yale?" my father asked, perplexed. She smiled.
"I come from money, and since my family has a history of graduates, Yale offered me a scholarship. I only have to pay for 30 percent of tuition." She said simply. Virgil blinked. I tried to contain my excitement as I picked up my plate.
"Does anyone want seconds?" I offered, taking a second helping of potatoes and chicken. Angel declined, and Virgil took no notice of me.
"So you're wealthy, eh?" he questioned. I noticed his ears were twitching. Angel nodded, handing me her empty plate.
"My father owns a computer software company. Ever heard of Connections 4.0?"
"Well, my father says three million of that software is downloaded every day around the world. We aren't rich, but we are higher than middle class."
"Wow. Why the hell are you going to that nigger school?" he asked, confused. Angel looked at me for the first time since the conversation started.
"They kicked me out of my old school because there were accusations that it house more white children than minorities. One of my cousins had gone to a private school in the area and gave us bad ratings. So my parents let me go to the next school down in the district, Kentucky Mountain High."
"And they don't have a problem with that?" he looked like he'd rather me in a private school than the current one I'm in.
"Well, I'm home schooled after public school and on the weekends. The public school is just so I can learn social skills." she smiled awkwardly. Virgil nodded, handing me his plate I began washing them in the sink.
"So, Mr. Thompson," Angel said in a strange, unrecognizable tone. "Would you mind if Savannah stay over my house tonight?" she cocked her head, looking at him sweetly. I chuckled.
"Of course she can. I hope to meet your parents soon, Angel. Do you need a ride there?" he said. Angel's eyes flickered when he mentioned her parents.
She went on, "No, sir. Savannah and I are perfectly fine walking. I am training for the marathon, so we can practice together."
I raised an eyebrow. The marathon?
Angel stood up, grabbing her backpack. She thanked him for the dinner and turned to me.
"Are you ready, Sav?" She asked.
"I've got to get an overnight bag." I told her as I wiped down the counters and put the last dish away. She nodded.
We walked up the stairs into my room. I grabbed a spare bag and put some clothes into it. I zipped up the bag, eager to get away from Virgil.
"Let's go." I whispered. We ran down the stairs. Virgil was waiting. He opened the door for us, letting Angel go out first. He grabbed my arm roughly.
"You better behave. If you embarrass me in front of those rich people, I swear to God, you will wish you were never born." He said darkly. I nodded, escaping from his grasp and racing towards my friend.
"Jesus, all that stuff you said wasn't true, was it?" I asked her loudly as soon as I heard my front door close. She laughed.
"Hell no. I don't even remember what I said."
"Something about being rich and going to Yale to be a microdementual theorists or something."
"Wow," she said, cracking up.
"So you ain't rich?" I asked. She shook her head.
"Naw, my dad left us when I was little and my mom has been hooked on boyfriends left and right. She's a good mom, though." she said. I felt a twinge of pain in my heart. Quickly, I changed the subject.
"So your house is by the school?"
"Nope. Do you think I'd actually tell your father where I lived? He's creepy." she noticed cumulonimbus clouds were forming in the sky above us, giving off the distinct scent of rain.
"Yeah…" I mumbled. I then looked at her seriously. "Do you at least live close? It's going to rain."
"'Course I do. Its in town, by that Chinese restaurant."
"Oh, okay." I replied.
We walked on, careful to stay near the streetlights as the sky darkened. When it started to rain, I pulled out a jacket and held it over our heads. The two of us bolted for her apartment complex.
"Ah, shit. My hair is all frizzy." Angel said when we walked inside her apartment.
The apartment was small, with the bedrooms in the back and the living room near the door. The small kitchen was open towards the living room, and was tiled instead of carpeted.
"Nice place." I said, surprised. She chuckled.
"What, were you expecting a meth lab?" She said, laughing. I looked at her.
"I'll show you my room. Come on!" she exclaimed, grabbing my hand.
Her room was nothing special. Its white walls were covered with posters of various heavy metal bands, but with other artists such as Michael Jackson, or Jack White. I even noticed a few of the rapper, Eminem.
She had a queen sized bed, covered by a black comforter with a spider web design on it. Her closet doors were black with white skulls on them, and a single dresser stood at the side wall. It had a large mirror on it, with pictures of Angel, each with a different hair color. At the back beside the bed, there were sliding glass doors that led to the terrace outside above the street. The ceiling fan was red.
I looked at Angel, studying her face. What went through this girl's mind that made her image so dark?
"Okay, we are going to have so much fun. We are gonna play some kick ass video games, tell scary stories, stay up all night chillin' to music…." She went on and on at what we were going to do. I sat on her bed, distracted by the Goth-like room. I noticed brown stains underneath her wood desk. I looked closer, wondering if it was nail polish stains.
But she didn't wear brown nail polish. It was always black nail polish. Possibly the stains were from paint splatters.
I noticed some of the posters in her room weren't posters at all. They were drawings, beautiful graphite sketches. Their content was disturbing, though. One was of a silky white cat, with its back turned. Its tail was up, but something was horribly wrong with the picture. The cat's tail was impaled my hundreds of spikes, with dark black blood dripping from the wounds.
Another was of a child in a park. He was sitting on a bench, a bird in his arms. He smiled a toothy smile with lightened eyes. But, in the background, among to trees, stood a hooded figure with a skeleton face. In it's skeletal hand stood tall scythe. The figure was unmistakably the Grim Reaper.
There was a picture of a winged angel chained hanging from a horrid looking dead tree. Another sketch of a chair growing out of the floor, with spikes on the part where you would sit. One picture was of a three headed dog that was devouring children. Another was of a giant spider with-
"Savannah? Hello? You there?"
I snapped out of the distractions and looked at her.
"Anyway, so-" She started, but the sound of a young women's voice in the hallway. I guessed it was her mother's.
"Angel, dear? Danny and I are going out tonight. Uncle Eric will watch you and Savannah, Okay?"
I noticed Angel broke into a sweat.
"Okay, mom!" she called back. She looked at me and gestured out the door. We entered the living room.
Her mother was a girl with an age of probably 29 or 30. She wore a cheap blue dress with a cubic zirconium ring around her finger. Her hair was long and brunette, with a mole on her left cheek. I looked down, feeling extreme loneliness.
Her boyfriend was standing next to her. He was a tall man, much younger that Angel's mama. He had dark hair and crooked teeth. He was dressed more casually that his girlfriend, too. He smiled at me.
"Savannah, it's so nice to meet you," Angel's mother said, embracing me. She smelled of intoxicating three dollar perfume. "I'm Ms. Curry, but you can call me Ms. Michelle. This is my date, Daniel."
"Hello," I mumbled shyly. Michelle clasped her hands together.
"Alright, well, we will be back in a few hours. In the mean time Angel's uncle, Eric, will watch you. He will be here in a few minutes. Savannah, it's a pleasure to meet you. And, Angel, don't annoy her too much," She laughed quietly. "I'm just kidding. You girls have fun. I'll see you in the morning is you are asleep by the time we get back."
Michelle and Danielle opened the door to her apartment and headed out, opening an umbrella. Angel stood there, waiting to hear the clang of her mother's high heeled shoes step off the metal stairs going down the apartment complex and out into the street. We heard the car start up and drive away.
The girl sucked in air, looking at me fearfully. I blinked, not knowing what the problem was. She grabbed my hand and dragged me back into her bedroom.
"Grab your bag, and hurry." She said, yanking a knapsack from her closet.
"Why? What's the matter?" I asked in alarm. I heard a car arrive in front of the building. I noticed Angel was shaking.
"Hurry, Savannah!" she pleaded. I strung my backpack over my shoulders.
"Alright, I've got it." I said, walking towards her.
"Come on, and hurry." she thrust open the sliding glass door and into the terrace. I followed.
"Go up the fire escape onto the roof of the building." She yelled above the rain. I didn't have a chance to question it, for the girl was pushing me onto the stares. I climbed them, trying not to slip on the wet metal. She was right behind me.
I stood on the drenched roof, soaked to the bone. The sky above was roaring with thunder.
"Under here!" Angel screamed above the booms. She pointed at a small metal structure near the edge of the building. It was about four feet tall and open on one side through a hatch. The girl flew open the hatch and pulled me inside, shutting it. I heard her pull some sort of chord and a tiny light bulb came on from the ceiling.
The floor was sunken below the roof of the building. There was a mattress on one side with a fluffy blanket across it. A little refrigerator stood at the corner with a little lamp next to it, plugged into the wall. I looked at Angel.
"What happened?" I demanded, ringing out my dripping hair.
"Put some dry clothes on. I don't want you getting sick." she said, throwing me my bag. I ignored it.
"Angel, what was that? Why the hell did you freak out like that and drag me through the pouring rain into a cellar?"
The girl sighed deeply, taking off her shirt and bra, replacing them with dry one. She did the same to her jeans. I shivered in the cold, opening my pack and doing the same. She turned on a portable heater by the mattress.
"I have to tell you something, but you cannot tell anyone, got it?" she said, looking into my eyes seriously. I nodded.
"What is it?" I repeated.
"I don't like my uncle."
"So? Just because you don't like the guy doesn't mean you have to tear a tantrum and-"
"Savannah, you don't understand."
I was taken back by her tone. I shut up immediately and waited for her to continue.
"My uncle does things to me." she said almost to quietly to hear. She shivered and wrapped herself in the blanket. I felt cold, too, but said nothing. I sat cross legged on the metal floor.
"What do you mean, Angel?" I said, looking into her eyes. She looked away, ashamed.
"He… he does things to me. Horrible things. Every time I see him, he somehow gets me alone. And that's when he does them. He touches me. He puts things inside me. Like marbles, or…" she started to cry. I was frozen where I was, not knowing what to do.
"He makes me do things to him. If I don't he will hurt me. He will hit me or burn me." She was sobbing. I got up and sat next to her on the mattress, wrapping my arms around her. She leaned close to me and sobbed harder, shaking me. My heart was beating fast. I felt so angry.
"Oh my God, Angel, I am so sorry!" I exclaimed. She started mumbling the horrible things he did to her. I hushed her and wiped her tears away.
So that explained everything. The drawings, the gothic personality, the posters, everything was because of what that man did to her. I clenched my fists, feeling adrenaline rush into my brain.
"He's done it since I was a baby, Savannah. I can't stop him because my mom wont believe me if I tell her. She adores him, because he is her little brother. She wouldn't believe me."
I looked down in shame. I noticed her bracelets had moved down to her elbow because her arms were around my shoulders. I noticed on her pale white skin were a multitude of scars. My eyes widened.
Those brown stains on her carpet weren't of paint or nail polish. They were blood stains. Angel self harmed.
I moved her away from me and looked her in the eyes. "Angel, it is all right. We are safe from your uncle. He cannot get us in here and if he could, I would not let him."
She sniffed, drying her tears.
"You're right, Sav. I'm sorry. I just keep all these feelings in and I don't let them out." She sat back and took out her phone.
"What are you doing?" I asked.
"Texting my friend to come here."
"What? Who?" I felt anxiety creeping in.
"You'll see. He's gonna bring us some food and maybe spend the night here with us." her thumbs were flying over the keyboard of her phone with every word she said. I blinked at the thought of spending the night with a boy.
It would probably be the same thing as spending the night with a lesbian. I thought, making me laugh. Angel took no notice.
"Okay, he's here. Open the hatch." she told me. I did as she said.
A familiar looking boy crawled in. He had on a sweatshirt with a hood over his head, sheltering him from the red.
"'Sup Longwei, did you bring the food?" Angel said. The boy nodded and took his sweatshirt off, taking a box of take-out from under his shirt.
Then the boy noticed me sitting next to him, and dropped the box. Thankfully none spilled. Then I remembered who he was; the boy from the Chinese restaurant I had gone to a few weeks before. I nearly stopped breathing. Angel looked at the two of us and snickered, wiping her eyes again. I could tell this was going to be a long night.