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The Good Stuff
Short Story

The Unexpected Angel

by Caroline Stevenson
Length: 2,028 words

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The Unexpected Angel

The silence in the room was palpable; it hung ominously over the slight red haired woman sitting alone in the darkness. Cleo stood behind her shimmered slightly, her wings curved protectively around the small form. The angel could sense the dark tendrils of fear, suffocating and oppressive. She has stood over Kate many times as she cried, her sobs heart rending in the silence of the night. This time is different; the despair she can feel radiating out has never been this strong before. She has been mentally and physically broken.

Gently, Cleo reached out and touched a hand to Kateís head. The downy feathers on her palm glowing with an Inner Light. Her amorphous form does not allow her to feel the touch but by concentrating she can make Kate feel her presence, thus imparting a feeling of companionship and comfort.

An old soul, the angel has been doing this for hundreds of years. Watching over her charges, seeing them grow from dewy eyed children to adulthood. None had touched her the way that Kate had. Never had she felt so helpless, chafing against the rules imposed on her.

She had watched Kate as a child, happy, full of wonder. A beautiful child her days had been full of fun and learning. Kind to others, eager to learn she was a joy to all that came in contact with her. She had listened eagerly to the fairy tales her mother read. They did little to prepare her for the life that would be hers. What did Cinderella know of broken noses and emergency rooms? 

She had seen Kate fall in love with Jeff, giddy with the feeling of being completely involved with someone else. He could give her the attention that she had unsuccessfully craved from her parents. Cleo had felt the gray aura that surrounded him and knew that he was not the man that Kate thought he was. Insecure and out of control he thought that by dominating Kate he could gain back control. Forbidden from doing anything that openly revealed her presence there was little Cleo could have done to warn to her. 

She had witnessed the life in Kate drain away; her joy and hope shrivel and blacken under the continuous abuse from Jeff. Jealous that her life seemed easier he took his frustration out on her, mentally at first, but then physically, pounding her to make himself feel better. Cleo could see that he wasnít a bad man but things in his past had emotionally crippled him to such an extent that he was unable to love in the true sense of the word. The assault on Kate by is deformed and dangerous version of the greatest emotion had crumpled Kateís soul. 

The angels sent out to watch over people were a special group. Chosen from the millions of humans who had lived before they were selected, not as a reward for a life lived well but for the way their lives had ended. They were suicides, those that had failed to make the most of what they had been given. Their souls had been sentenced to limbo, their lessons not learned. They were to spend eternity watching over others that would face the same decision. To redeem their soul they must try to prevent their chargeís self-destruction.

Cleo had found that this task was almost impossible, there was no one thing that caused people to give up. It was a long process, a series of events that slowly eroded their spirit. She had watched hundreds of people travel that road and the little that she was allowed to do was not enough to save them from themselves. Kate was different; she could not lose another one. Inside she knew that the small child that she had watched over was still there cowering against the shouting and the fists of her Prince Charming.

Allowed to make small changes and to pass on love and companionship she had sent support to Kate in every way she knew how, with little success. The secrecy that had been forced on the battered wife had separated her from her family and friends. Unable to hide the bruises from others she had withdrawn from activities that had given her pleasure. Kate stood alone against a situation that even the strongest person would have found unbearable. The barriers she had put up also prevented Cleo from getting through to her.

Cleo saw something of herself in Kate, her reasons for suicide were complicated and as with Kate, death had seemed preferable than things continuing the way they were. She had seen death as her decision, a way of reclaiming her pride where Kate had reached the point where death was a way of running away from issues that she couldnít deal with. 

The subject of Cleoís thoughts was still sitting at the table in the small unit she called home. Blood seeped from the wound on her forehead caused when she had been thrown into the wall. Her arms were bruised from using them to defend her face from the rain of blows that Jeff had inflicted on her when she refused to get up. As always the fight had ended and Kate had cleaned up the glass broken in the argument. True to form Jeff had stormed out only to return a few moments later carrying a cheap service station rose. Full of apologies, he had lost his temper only a few moments later when Kate had refused to talk to him. This change in behaviour had threatened his self-control again and he had left.

Since then Kate had sat at the table, staring at the rose in a small vase on the laminated table. Grown in a greenhouse and refrigerated the tiny bloom was already starting to wilt in the oppressive heat of the apartment. Kateís thoughts were also full of dying and despair. Her shoulders mirrored the drooping of the rose.

Cleo was at a loss; she had done everything in her power to let Kate know that she was not alone, that she had an invisible means of support. Yet again Cleo had failed, her presence not enough. Slowly, silver tears tracked their way down her cold white cheeks. Then she had one last idea, reaching out and touching the petals of the fading rose she put all her thoughts into changing its future. Drawing her life force the rose began to straighten up and slowly to open.

Kate was staring at the rose as though it was the only thing holding her in this world, a last lifeline in a sea of despair. At first she didnít notice any changes then as time passed she could see the petals slowly start to open. Hours slipped by as the rose continued to bloom. Inexplicably connected, she felt her thoughts turn to what would happen next. She knew that mentally and physically she would not survive another beating. The rose gave her the hope that perhaps she could leave. The gentle fragrance brought back the memories of her parentsí house and the yard in which she had grown up. In the heat of summer she could smell her motherís Iceberg roses from her tyre swing. Maybe she could go home. She could feel a sense of approval that seemed to surround her and give her comfort. 

The next morning the rose was illuminated in a ray of sunlight shining through the kitchen window. Kate was no longer sitting in the chair. She had showered, tended to her wounds and was packing. An early morning call to her parents had exceeded her expectations. Her father had cried when he heard what had been happening and he had arranged for a plane ticket to be waiting at the airport. Cleo watched discreetly from the doorway. A success at last! 

The amazing change in Kate made Cleo rethink a lot of things. Three millennia had passed since she had been human and the world had changed beyond recognition. She had thought there was nothing left to learn, yet a small insignificant woman had taught her the most important lesson of all: It did not take courage to die, it took courage to face the unknown and live. 

When Cleo had chosen her path she was facing complete defeat at the hands of her enemies. Years before her downfall her sister had betrayed her and as ruler she had made an example of her by having her dragged through the streets as a slave. It was this fate that she had run away from. The thing that had scared her the most was the loss of control. She could not imagine living with out the power that had always been hers.

Her death had resulted in the pain of many others, including her greatest love, her eldest son. Her four children had been destroyed by her act. Her first born son had been strangled because on her death the power that her enemies sought passed to him. As long as he remained alive her country could not truly be conquered. Her beloved twins Helios and Selene and her baby Philadephos had been brought up by her loverís wife and punished every day for their birth.

The irony about her suicide was that she had not seen it as the end of everything. Her religion had taught her that the manner she had chosen would result in eternal life. She had believed that it would release her from hell on earth and reward her with immortality. If only she had been able to see what her future would be! Her name lived on and she had been labeled a whore who had single handedly brought down two of the greatest men that the world had ever seen. Her great deeds went unknown in history destroyed by the victors. For her pride she had been sentenced to an eternity as a guardian angel. 

Terrified of facing the afterlife alone, she had ordered her servants to kill themselves after her death. It was testimony to their loyalty that they had carried through her directive even when there was no one there to ensure that they did. The guilt of their deaths, so unnecessary and pointless and the weight of their souls pressed down on her. So many deaths, such a waste! 

Using what she had learnt from Kate she realised that she had betrayed the people who had relied on her. She should have stayed and endured what her people had been subjected to. Kate had persevered no matter what horror she had been put through. When she had finally given up she had been saved by something as small as the opening of a rose. Hope had lived in her and had given her the strength to go on. Family was what had mattered to her. This is something Cleo should have realised. What had started as a passion for her country had become a quest for personal power. When that quest had seemed lost she had escaped.

The seduction of power was a lesson she should have learnt. It had surrounded her from infancy. Her father had killed her eldest sister when she had tried to seduce him and she herself had used her lovers to assassinate her younger brothers.

She had lost sight of what had really mattered. She became like those that she detested, as ignorant and excessive as the man she had taken as a lover. After all she had been the last Pharaoh of the Egyptian Empire. Her people had worshipped her as a god and she had abandoned both them and her family. Their strength would have been all she had needed to carry her through any ordeal she had been subjected to.

She realised then that Kate was closing the door behind her and for the first time she was not drawn behind her. She could feel herself fading. This had happened before but never when her charge was still alive and for some reason it felt different, more final. A small smile fleeted across her face. Perhaps, this was the last time. Perhaps Ö

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 Celestial Garden
Celestial Garden
Birkenstock, Joyce
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