Title: Broken Wings
Note: It was such a lovely thought…
The first time I met her, it was...awkward. I didn't know she was an angel back then, those were the days of innocence in 8th grade. I was dared to go into her house, it was supposedly haunted and no-one had lived in it for years. Well, we were in 8th grade and had never seen anyone enter or leave, so we naturally assumed something wickedly sinful had happened and people were fearful of its looming walls.
So with five of my closest friends at my back (meaning hiding behind the bush ridden fence), I dared to enter the house. The door kind of gave way, falling open at first touch with a soft hiss. It was dark inside, but cool and aired out. The entire bottom level was empty, void of any life, even rats and it surprised me. Back then, rats and spiders and bats went with ANY thing creepy, even just remotely so. The walls were an egg white, and a clean contrast to the dark hardwood floors, perfect for sliding around in socked feet. As I finally came full circle to the foyer again, I placed my hand on the curled wooden banister, so polished I could see my reflection in the gleam. The first step creaked, a kind of groaning sound like trees sometimes make in a hard wind. All the other steps were quiet, all 29 of the curving teeth of the staircase took my weight and led me forward. Back then it felt like my doom, now I realize that heaviness of the heart to be destiny.
First room, empty. Second, the same. I got halfway down the long hallway and heard water. For a moment, I froze. Scared of some malicious spirit come to chase me from the hall with a growing wet spot in my pants. But I was brave, (not really, almost crying) and pushed the door open. Water droplets fattened on the curled lip of an old clawed-foot tub, the kind you can fit two people in and not have them touching, and fell. Dropping to their doom in a puddle of their spilled kith and kin. My heart jumped into my throat, and I swallowed it back down. Almost sluggish rays of light peered through the closed window over the tub, and candles made up for the lack of light, casting everything in a dirty yellow gaze.
Though fear gripped at me, I stepped up and peeked. She was in the tub, fully clothed and her eyes open. I know my eyes bugged, I could feel it, and she smiled. Bubbles escaped from around her teeth and formed a chain that touched the water's surface and exploded. I was speechless and when she popped up, waved and said "Hey," in a smooth voice, I thought of Casper the Friendly Ghost. Specifically the part where he appears and scares the beejesus out of the girl Wendy. I tried to unstick my tongue, suddenly plastered to the roof of my mouth, and reply. Then I met her mother, a skinny woman with long hair and a bruise around her eye and on her arms. "Ada, hav-" She froze in mid-sentence and stared at me, before turning back to the slender girl still standing in the middle of the tub. "Ada! Haven't I told you a MILLION times not to bring strangers into the house?!" The woman grabbed her, shook her almost harshly and the girl just stared back at her with glazed eyes. I thought she had died, or was having a spell...I now know she went to her place. Only a place she can see, where happiness and sadness and terror intermingle and become a beautiful arrangement of colours and a glorious song that she dances to.
Tears brimmed in my eyes, and I was fearful. I feared for the slender girl, and her skinny abused mother. But I fled, tripped down the hall and dropped down steps at a time. By the time I reached the outside world, I was breathing heavily and the tears stuck to the back of my throat. My friends took hold of me and we left. I didn't tell them about the girl in the tub, or her sad excuse for a mum, I just shrugged and went home.
I tried, truly I did, just to forget her. But she stayed stuck there, frozen in that overfilled tub of water, her dark hair frayed out about her and her dark eyes open to show her what she made herself deaf to. I thought about her mother, and the sickly yellow bruising on her arms, the dark purple and nasty green around her eye. I thought about the empty house, with large sweeping rooms, large windows and closed blinds. I didn't know it back then, but Adalia closed her house, her safe spot, to all the world. She only opened herself to herself, she knew she wouldn't hurt herself. Not like everyone else.
In 9th grade, I finally became a somebody. I wasn't the guy all the girls swooned over, but I did get the occasional soft smiled and doe-eyed girl to say a few words to me. That's what the wonders of sports can do for you, because I had tried out, and been recruited, for football. The first few days were a little shaky, and I tried to stay away from a lot of people. But it was one day in homeroom that I saw her. Her hands were shoved into her overly large jacket's pockets, her toes pointed in, and her head down. The teacher spoke to her, called her from where-ever she was. A few of my teammates snickered, laughing because it was the third day of school and already she was in trouble.
Well our teacher, Miss Jacobs, of course sat her right next to me. Not much had changed in the time passed between that fateful day. Her hair was still dark, a deep chestnut colour, and her eyes were still a nearly endless dark. She turned towards me, cocking her angular face slightly to the side and staring at me full on. Looking into her eyes was like being sucked into eternity, where you could simply feel the breath being pulled from your lungs and hadn't the heart to pull it back in for fear of losing a single moment of second-less time with her. I stared back for as long as I dared, holding my breath without realizing I was doing so. Part of me hoped she'd remember me, a bigger part desperately pleaded with whatever God there is that she wouldn't. Instead, she smiled softly and waved, like a flash flood from the past I remembered her sickly mother, the closed up house, the dull look in her eyes. I smiled back and looked down fast. I wasn't prepared to drown in timeless forever just yet.
She sat with me at lunch that first day. Okay, not with me, but near me. She sat all alone at the table behind ours, picking listlessly at her food with her eyes downcast and her head hanging low. I felt bad, a twinge of pity. So I picked up my tray and moved back a table, my best friend moved with me. The chairs squealed as we scooted up to the table and she looked up, her eyes distant and yet sharp. "Yes?" My friend Corin cocked his head and looked at her, "Where'd you go to school? Don't think I've ever seen you before." She smiled, a sad and almost stitched on smile that made me want to cringe back. It was the look of the broken and forgotten china doll the little girl sits on the back shelf in her closet.
"I was home-schooled for a long time."
"Why?" She shrugged, "I don't know. Mum was afraid to leave me alone too long before I was in 6th grade, and after that I still didn't have a lot of self time." Corin nodded, "Why?" She shrugged again. "I'm Corin by the way, that's Isaak."
"Adalia." Even her name sounded angelic thinking on it now, back then it was just...different.
That was 9th grade, I'm a 13th year now, a freshman in college.
10th grade, that's when I think I discovered my fascination with the slender dark haired and eyed girl who seemed to follow in my footsteps. She did a lot to keep to the shadows, and despite her care many of the guys took note of her. They smiled when I came near and almost leered at her. She didn't notice, her eyes almost always cast downward and her voice whispering a song in a different language. That's the year I figured out she was different.
When I say different, I don't mean in sexual preference or mental capacity. Though slightly autistic, she was one of the smartest kids in our grade. There was a feel (I know it sounds stupid) that she was just different. Not at all like the other kids I'd met. Her hair was never tangled, falling just past her shoulders, though I never saw her brush it. She'd run her fingers through it nervously but that was it. Her eyes were the most different, a dark near ebony that always seemed downcast and distant. As though looking in, instead of out. Trying to figure out what was wrong with her, instead of wondering what was wrong with everyone else.
Everything about her just called out for help, and nobody was listening. When the older guys on the team would give me a ride home, we'd pass her walking down the street in her worn out Converse and overly large jacket, her long hair laying still and covering her face, her voice low and gentle as though coaxing an animal. Sometimes we'd offer her a ride, she never took it. One day we did follow her to her house, the large old house I remembered from 8th grade. A man came stomping down the front steps, Ada waited patiently at the front gate. Her mother stomped after him "YOU ARSEHOLE! HOW DARE YOU LEAVE!" The man just flicked her off and kicked the gate open, the old wood smacked into Ada's stomach, but she didn't flinch. "Bye Daddy." The man, her father, stopped and turned to look at her. He bit his bottom lip and placed a large hand on her head, "Take care Adalia. Your mum won't." Her mother had collapsed crying to her knees on the front porch, and the tall man just walked away. She walked slowly up the worn out porch's steps and disappeared into the gaping maw of the old house, as though she'd seen it a thousand times before. Maybe she had.
Kids in that year picked on her. She got a boyfriend who liked to beat her, push her down and snap out hurtful words. Ada just looked up at him with blank eyes, gone away. She always went away when he got like that, when anyone hurt her. There, she could stay safe. The other kids would shove her through the hallways, push her into lockers and corners, act like they were going to bite her. She always cringed, shied away and kept a wary look out from behind bangs that cast shadows about her face. She started waiting for me after practice that year, sitting silently on the bleachers, but I could feel her gaze tracking me.
During breaks, I would go and sit by her. She would be silent, so quiet that some days I thought she'd forgotten to breathe. She told me about her place one day, after practice. There were new bruises on her arms and neck, and fresh tears hanging in her eyes, turning the dull stone into sparkling obsidian. I sat down beside her, and she snuggled against me. It scared me, she never touched, always looked. But I wrapped my arms around her and held her while she asked me why the world couldn't be like her place. Where it was just her, and she could think. Where it was quiet, save the rush of water and the whisper of wind and the calling of birds. Where pain, and anger, and love, and hate...all those emotions fell in drops from the wispy silver clouds, landed in puddles of colour where beautiful flowers bloomed. Where no-one ever hurt her, or judged her.
I didn't have an answer.
How I wish I did, but I didn't. I felt like crying, and at the same time, screaming. Of getting those kids back for hurting my Adalia. I never got why they couldn't see what I saw. I saw the beautiful; they saw the ugly. She changed my views on the world itself, without even trying. Cast a spell and took away the rose-tinted glasses, allowed me to see clearly how people were treated and treated others in kind. The world was a very sad and terrifying place to be alone.
She was alone.
In 11th year, I discovered I loved her. The way she would zone out and look at a certain spot without blinking, then the cute way she'd come back to herself with her eyes widening and blinking slowly and her face upturned. I was taller than her, and always found myself looking down on her. I loved the way she was just her, with her slow creeping smile and her downcast eyes, how she hid behind her hair and kept her problems secret. How she could stand so close, almost engulfed in my shadow, and still manage to not touch me. I loved it when she talked of her place, and her friends in that place. I adored hearing of the silvery-blue skinned elves with white hair and golden eyes, and the giant lions with wide angel wings, and the trees that danced in the wind even when there was no breeze. I was enthralled with hearing her, I listened to the stories she wove, and fell even deeper into the spell she had unknowingly cast about my heart.
She never asked for anything, be it help or protection. She never did. And I rarely offered. I spent many hours relaxing in her room, doing homework as she painted, letting her swept away emotions flood out in thick strokes of coloured pigment. Everything she ever painted and gave to me, I kept. Hung up and looked at every day. The hearts that floated lopsided with stitches and Band-Aids holding them together. The carnivorous flowers and the fairy taunting them with her toes. The willow whose leaves spelled out words, with flowers at its base and elves in its branches. Those paintings were my way of having her with me even when she wasn't.
I tried to draw her out more, I took her places and we hung out. We saw movies and I held her when she cried. I went to her house; she never came to mine. One day she came to school with a Band-Aid on her shirt, right over her heart. Kids laughed at her, but she was deaf to them. She had long ago just turned their sound off and just watched them move and talk without any verbal sound. Things are easier that way. She told me she was tired of having her heart broke. It made me smile. I didn't know back then. Soon we were giggling, then laughing. With everyone looking at us. Ada laughed so softly, it was just a whisper of a sound, as though she had gone a long time without laughing and had forgotten how to do so. She never showed me the scars, I saw those later.
12th year was when things changed. I still had my steady girlfriend from 11th year, but still hung out with Ada. She smiled less as Christmas came around. I made the list. 12 days, 12 presents to show her I cared. It was a charm bracelet, and every day leading up from the 13th of December to the 25th was a new charm for the empty silver bracelet. The first, a silver and gold bathtub charm for when we first met. A silvery-blue cloud charm for her sad days, a gold and red sun for her happy days. A black and silver cross charm for her crusades in everyday life. A dark blue flower charm for her tears, a deep red flower charm for her love. A Band-Aid charm to keep her broken heart together. A silver angel wing charm for the lions protecting her safe little world, a black bat wing charm for the fairies there. A silvery-green leaf for her willows, and a silvery-blue leaf for her elves. The final charm was a heart, our initials intertwined engraved on the back. I carried the heart with me everywhere, clutched it when I spoke to her.
So deluded in my happiness.
She missed the last day of school before Christmas break, and missed her sixth charm. She wore the bracelet everywhere, all five charms clinging to her slender wrist. I went to her house, and waited for her parents to leave. They were screaming at each other in the front yard, before they both got in her dad's car and left. I shook my head, I felt for Ada. The gate swung open and the icy ground crunched under my trainers. The house's front door's hinges hissed softly as I opened the door. The heaviness of destiny clutched at my heart, that always grasped at my chest when I was near her, and caused it to sink slowly into my stomach. The house was empty, silent in a frightening way.
The stairs were silent, and all the normal doors closed. I by-passed all the doors until I reached her bathroom door, and pushed it open. There was no steady drip of water from porcelain lips. The tub was empty, deep and cold in its lack of water and life. The window closed, and the half-melted candles lacking flames. I turned and left, heading for her room. Her door creaked open, and rays of darkness pulled me into the lightless room. The thick curtains were still pulled tightly shut over the large glass eyes, her windows to the world. Shadows clung to her canopied bed, her curved bookshelves and her dipped tables. Fear didn't clutch at me, instead I smiled. Just a little. A note stuck to her corkboard with painted flowers curling around the edges called to me, little doodles keeping the lonely words company.
Broken wings cannot fly, and broken hearts cannot mend. Lacking feathers and the will, people are allowed to fade. To fade, wither away, just die.
I remember smiling a little more, Ada's little morbid quotes and thoughts for the day always made me smile. She was always right in her thinking. I clutched at her charm for the day, then touched the other charms in my pocket. I took them everywhere with me, a reminder that I had to stay strong for her. Nodding, I left her room. Trudged down the long hall and down the curving teeth of stairs and through the house's door. Wind tugged at my coat, and banged the gate in its latch. It was cold, and getting colder. I could practically smell the snow, could see it accumulating in the low clouds that swirled and wisped, got caught in the naked branches of the trees.
The walk to our place was long, and my toes and fingers grew numb. I began to sniffle and drew my jacket tighter about me. Sunlight had begun to wan, the sun's daily suicide taking place already at 4:35. Only 4:35. The rays of pink and red bled away and into the sky, tainting the clouds and seeping towards the ground, passing it and pooling somewhere beyond the horizon. Ada once told me that the sun killed itself for its lack of love in its long, long life. That once, the sun and moon had shared the sky and had loved, until God grew tired of constant light and banished the moon to the night. The sun had wept and wept, and every day it lingered in the darkening sky, holding on to the light of its life as it lay bleeding in its bed of cloud blankets, pleading and begging God for one more glimpse of its love, the moon. How everyday, it was just a little too late, and finally sunk into a pool of its blood a few moments before the moon rose. And how the moon cried and cried, its tears catching in the fabric of space and hanging there, becoming stars that twinkled and watched over the sun. That every night as the moon rose, the stars told it of the sun's death, how the sun had stayed a little longer to try and glimpse. Of how they always died for one another, and always missed one another.
The old railroad bridge stretched into the sky, the arches of rusted beams that no longer trembled with the vibrations of train wheels beckoned to me. I stabbed my frozen fingers into my pockets, and tried to draw more than a few short stabs of frigid air into my lungs. The sun had dropped, its descent so slow that it seemed to be melting away rather than slowly falling. The bridge overlooked the stone quarry that lay at a slant, the concrete pit deepening at it ran down to hold water and stones at the deep end. Big rocks had been stacked up at the shallow end, almost steps, covered with moss. The bridge over-looked the centre of the quarry, where it dipped at a greater slant.
I walked onto the planks of wood surrounded by steel. The old railroad ties now rusted and the heads of the large nails rising up a bit. I sat in the centre of the fortress of rusted and warped steel, my feet dangling off the edge and my legs pressed between ties. I swung my legs slowly back and forth and looked out at the edges of society, of town where Ada had been shunned and where I had lost some of my friends because of her. Corin and I still hung out, and he still liked to hear about her, but he was more interested in hearing about my girlfriend, Monique. I still don't know what made me look down into the stone pit, it could have been the flutter of white wings tinged red as the swans left their place or just my fate. But when the long wings of the swans had carried them upward and into the fading sky, I saw her. Long white feathers and small downy, grey feathers fell about her, sticking to what I believed to be paint at the time.
"Hey Ada." The wind swept my voice away, so I screamed at her. She didn't move. Her right arm was folded under her body, and her right leg lay straight on hard concrete. Her left arm was held above her head, her forearm turned slightly and her hand laid palm up, her fingers curled slightly as though holding something. Her left leg lay bent over her right, her ankles crossed. The dark hair draped over her shoulders and covered her face, spread out about her on the concrete. The tacky fluid that I believed to be paint lay in long sweeps from her torso, just under where her arms connected to her chest. Drops had been smeared in streaks. I called to her again. She didn't answer me, and harsh reality grabbed at my heart. I stumbled to my feet and ran for the shallow end of the quarry, fighting the tears clawing their way up my throat.
"Ada!" The wind snatched my words from my chapped lips and threw them away, it was playing with me. I nearly fell down the rocks and skidded down the slant. The hard air stabbed at my lungs, like little shards of glass were embedded in the damp, vulnerable walls of my chest. It hurt to breath and I couldn't call her name anymore, I could only muster up a painful sound. My heart was trying to block what my mind was screaming, and still it was dying even as it tried to ignore what was becoming so very true. I slipped on moss and scraped my knee just a few feet from her. I lacked the energy to get to my feet and simply crawled to her. My lungs refused breath, and jerked and spasmed in my chest, touching glass and retreating harshly. "A-ada."
My fingers quivered and touched the dark silk of her hair, I stroked her hair and scalp. Sickness rose in me, clawing and biting at my stomach and dragging into my throat. The tears rushed from my eyes, and stained her hair as I rested my head against hers. Her sweet scent of waning summer and waxing autumn mingled with the scent of copper and salt. BLOOD! My mind screamed at me, telling me what I already knew. I began to shush her, whimpering and crying as I gently turned her over and pulled her head onto my lap. The streaks of blood, where swan wings had morphed the wet pools into bent and broken red wings, and the strewn drops that formed lost feathers lay about us. I stroked hair away from her skin, touched eyelids so thin they looked purple and wished to look into eternity once more. Though I knew, should I open her eyes I would only see the fate of Death, just gloom and shadows. My fingers ran over her porcelain skin, feeling the broken bones hidden behind the strong mask.
I touched her lips and caressed her neck. Her shirt had fallen open slightly to reveal the crossed Band-Aids over her heart. I stroked them slowly, before pulling them from her skin. I could see the spider web cracks in her bones through her thin, pale skin. Even her mask was cracking in the harsh grip of death. The Band-Aids came away, and lay bare her secret love. My name written in her distinct script that she had learned to write in, with curving letters of such beauty that it made my dying heart scream and bleed. It made tears rush to my eyes even harder than before. I touched the chilled scars of my name and the small hearts that lay in and on the letters. I clutched at her, sobbing and doubling over on myself to protect her from the flurries that began to fall.
The sun was dying, bathing us in the light of its final moments. I looked up, at the downy flurries of snow that fell from the sky, tinged pink and red in the suicidal rays. The flits of frozen rain stuck in the congealing wings of blood, powdering them a soft white with under tints of red. I stroked her face again, feeling the fractured bones that stayed held in place, which spider-webbed beneath her skin. The dying rays of the sun's last moments bathed her, playing off the sprawled out strands of dark hair stained with rubies of blood and flickering across the angled contours of her face. It ghosted over her wings and stroked along her thin body. I realized, in that one final moment what she was. Why she was so different from every one I'd ever met. She wasn't human, but rather an angel. I stroked her left hand, and added her final charms. I kissed the heart, hers, and mine and placed it on the link touching her wrist. I sat beside my angel for a long time, staring eternity in the face, before a blanket draped around my shuddering frame and a thin blanket covered hers.
A strangled scream clawed its way from my throat, and Corin grabbed at me. He held me back as they took my angel away, as Ada was lifted up and placed on a gurney. He held me as I cried, sobbed into his shoulder as the wheels squealed, screaming at me that she was leaving and never coming back. The somber light from the moon, full and round and as perfect as a pearl lay in the sky, touched us. I jerked away from my best friend and gazed up at it, the unsmiling face who knew what it was like to spend eternity alone, and shed unfriendly tears in the hollow shadows of night. I cried with the moon, my tears falling as its became more and more visible. We wept together, for love lost and the fear of facing a timeless forever all alone.
For the longest time, I cried myself to sleep. I wept with the sun and cried with the moon. I feared eternity and prayed for death. Every day, after school's final bell had tolled, I visited her. The plain black headstone that held only her name and dates. I would sit by her stone, and just relax. Some times I would cry, others I would just forget. Every date that meant something, I sent her flowers. Laid them at the glassy black stone that had taken her place. Eternity continues to grow, to stretch out and on. Seconds fall into pools of minutes, hours. Days fade into weeks, months...years. And her lonely words echoed in my mind, of how broken hearts never mend. While lacking will allows you to fade, wither, and die. I was lacking in all aspects of life, yet I got through high school and began college. The aspects she taught me, unknowingly, stay with me. I see how people are treated, and try to keep them safe. And while I failed with my beloved Adalia, I succeeded with others. Though broken wings cannot be fixed, nor broken hearts mended...a lacking will and empty soul can be filled.
He pushes away from his computer desk, from the blaring screen of the laptop. All around him, darkness has fallen and the trickles of silver moonlight glance through his windows. He can never seem to find curtains thick enough to keep the light out, it always finds him. Isaak runs his hands over his face, destroying the tears his eyes have been bleeding since he started his paper. It is, of course, due Monday, and he spent the entire week giving himself reasons to delay typing it. Now, come Saturday, he has locked himself in his room, and typed and typed and typed.
His phone beeps at him, alerting him to new voice messages. Some from Corin, freaking out and wondering where he is, others probably from Cerise...his new girlfriend. She's not an angel, but he doesn't let that get in his way. And when she points out the pictures of him and Ada together, playing on the beach and hiding in the woods...pictures that Corin took, he shrugs and changes the subject. His heart still refuses to talk about her, still bleeds for her, sometimes still screams for her in the dead of night. He hides the tattoo of her name over his heart with crossed Band-Aids. And every time Cerise laughs about it, he always tells her; he's tired of having his heart broken. She thinks it's cute; she misses the shallow barbs of pain on his tongue when he says it. He doesn't know if his mask is as good as Ada's yet, but it's getting better.
Eternity still stares him in the face whenever he looks at her picture. Those dark, endless eyes that draw him in. That make him forget to breathe, and seem to say eternity is just forever, where time holds no meaning and there is no such thing as pain. He finds his eyes then filled with tears that refuse to fall, and he thinks of the love of the moon and the sun, so vibrant yet soft. The suicide of the sun, he loves to watch it...and then the moon at the funeral, as it cries and cries for its lost love. He relates.
Forever can stretch on and on, from moments into seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, years. Each bit of time fades into the other, until all that's left is the distance call of eternity where time just stops and you forget to breathe. And all you do is fall deeper and deeper into the cool grasp of forever.