Name: Laura J. Marshall
Genre: Young Adult
Title: All the Angels Stood
Struggling up from her bed to see the time, she felt comforted that it would soon be over. She had a few minutes to lie there before the mad rush to school, so she rolled on her side and pulled the heavy blankets over her head with just enough cool air circulating through a tunneled hole near her mouth.
Closing her eyes, she thought back to the day her mother left.
It was windy, almost winter. Stacey ran all the way home, clutching the small pink and white bag in her cold hand, trying not to squish the contents.
Her mother was sitting in her bedroom, a small electric candle burdened by the encroaching cloying darkness.
“Momma? I’m home.” Stacey noticed the untouched cup of coffee and toast she had brought her mother that morning before school.
Her mother’s eyes slowly focused on Stacey’s face. They squinted slightly as she asked suspiciously, “What do you want? You only talk to me when you need something.”
“I brought you…a cupcake, for your birthday.”
Stacey held out the small bag so her mother could see.
“It’s chocolate, your favorite.”
“My birthday,” her mother repeated, as if awakening from a stupor. She took the bag slowly and opened it to peer in. She gave a small smile and patted Stacey’s hand.
The alarmed screamed pulling her back to the present. She wanted to scream back and stomp her feet, her temper rising. So much for that birthday surprise. Her mother had disappeared that night, almost 8 years ago and she in turn, would disappear on her birthday. A permanent disappearance. It would only be 7 days now.
Stacey put her feet on the cold floor. Glancing in the mirror over her bureau, her eyes took in the outside exterior of her hollow self. Long hair fell over dark eyes. Didn’t anyone notice the old Stacey was slowly being replaced with this hopeless person she didn’t recognize or like at all. She made her way downstairs. The house was silent. Her father had left for work already. Mr. Coffee said good morning as she chose a banana off the counter and stuck it in her backpack.
Studiously trying to keep her mind empty, she headed into the bathroom off the kitchen to brush her hair. A small ant caught her eye in the sink basin. She watched it slip and struggle up the wet porcelain. With pause, Stacey put her finger out and squished the tiny black body. She stared at her finger, the six little legs flat and now lifeless. Better sooner rather than later, she did it a favor. She wiped her hand across her jeans and rushed out the door to make the bus.
Claire was waiting for her in the same seat they usually sat in together. She was a year younger, a sophomore, and always full of energy, so much so that her petite frame seemed unable to contain it all. Her bright blonde hair bounced with life and her tiny white teeth flashed at Stacey.
“Hey, coffeecake! How are ya’?”
Claire greeted Stacey each day with whatever breakfast food she had eaten that morning. Stacey used to find it amusing, now it made her think of Claire having breakfast at home with three rowdy older brothers and a mother who doted her. She slumped down low in her seat and picked at the dark blue nail polish on her pinky.
She wondered now at her choice of colors, a deep sparkly blue. She had been determined to feel better, about herself and about life lately but settled on the dark color.
Stacey remained silent.
“Sorry I couldn’t come over Saturday,” Claire’s eyes slid over Stacey’s wrinkled clothes and slightly mussed hair. “Everything okay?”
“Everything’s fine. You know how it is…Mondays.” Stacey forced a small smile and exhaled a very real sigh. She missed her mom and a normal life, whatever that was. Why did she have to run away and leave them all alone?
Her father tried but he was a guy. He didn’t get teenage girls or their need to talk. He wanted to fix everything and if he couldn’t fix it then Stacey knew he didn’t really want to hear about it. He had buried his pain beneath his work and now he had Ellen in his life.
The bus pulled in front of the old two story brick building. Stacey grabbed her backpack and walked with Claire as she chatted with Simon, a boy that caught up to Claire every day just outside school. He had sandy brown hair and freckles across the bridge of his nose. They made a cute couple, thought Stacey as she waved and she walked up the hall to her first class, Science with Mr. Kimble. She walked with her head down to her desk, glancing at the clock on the wall, counting the hours and the minutes until this would all be over.
She didn’t see Bobby in the hall that day. Her eyes darted between classes up and down the hallways. The old places they used to meet were occupied by other couples passing notes and holding hands. She put her mask on, the smile, the wave to people she had known for years. Busy, busy, busy. No one really cared about anyone but themselves. She knew the score. The first week of the breakup had been the worst of it. Everyone wanted to talk, talk, talk about it and offer solace. Now it was old news. Bobby had a new girlfriend and she stood, stricken still in that moment, the moment of his text. Not even enough guts to tell her to her face after over a year of professed love.
She rode home the same way she went to school, slumped down, head back, nail polish almost all chipped away.
“I wonder if it will help make the coroner’s job easier.”
She glanced back and returned to the kitchen, keeping an ear on her father’s low voice as he talked on the phone to Ellen. She filled her sports bottle half way up with wine from the refrigerator quietly replacing the cork.
As she filled the garden tub in her bathroom, she sipped slowly trying not to pucker. She looked at the walls of the tub and thought about the ant from that morning, struggling to get higher and slipping. Wasn’t it better to just cease? To stop? Darkness. Was there just darkness next? Her father believed in heaven and hell. She believed, well…she didn’t know what she believed. Lately, it was the old adage ringing in her head, “Life sucks then you die.”
Stacey lay back with the wine in hand, the water running loudly. She didn’t like to be in the tub without the water running. She liked the noise concealing her thoughts and making her feel safe, like no one would enter or intrude.
The wine made her head numb-er. Was numb-er a word? She smiled a small smile. No. But that was okay. She was numb-er and as she sipped, even numb-er.
She pulled the plug, turned the water off, and hopped out. Quickly she rinsed the bottle out several times, the last with a bit of Listerine, climbed into her pajamas, hit the alarm button and floated off to sleep.