Another opportunity for the humans to get into all sorts of mischief, as they often did on all the holidays. It was the first Halloween I had experienced on Earth and to be honest, I was not expecting it to be overly exciting. However, my young charge seemed to have a different viewpoint on the matter.
“Come on, mum! Pleeeeaaasseee take me Trick or Treating!” she pleaded with her mother. Her mother brushed her off, as she always did, although this time with indifference instead of anger. I was not sure which one hurt more.
“No, Maribelle. Not this year,” her mother said tiredly, pushing her to the side, her eyelids already heavy from the pills she took not long ago.
Maribelle pouted and looked set to throw a tantrum, her brown eyes glistening not with tears of anger but with tears of a bitter kind of loneliness.
I sent a whisper of air down the stairs to break the storm brewing in her and to conjure her upstairs. She settled for huffing and stamping her foot then racing up to me. I sat perched on her bed, nothing but a pale shaft of light, invisible to all but the little raven-haired girl I was charged with protecting.
Maribelle slammed the door hard and angrily kicked her teddy bear across the room.
“I do not think JoJo deserved that,” I said calmly, my voice coming to her like a tinkling of birdsong.
She looked at me and stuck out her tongue then promptly spread-eagled beside me.
“I don’t deserve to be stuck at home on Halloween,” she reiterated.
After a moment though she arose and picked up JoJo, patted him down and placed him gently on the bed.
“Why won’t mummy do fun things with me?” she asked me.
I looked at her, once again weighing up what to tell her that echoed the truth. Angels could not lie, even when we really wanted to.
“Your mother wants to do fun things with you but sometimes she has to do her own things, grown up things,” I answered.
“It’s grown up to sit on the couch, watch tv and sleep?” she asked, although it was rather unfair of her to say. Her mother did not always do that.
“No. It is grown up to fight the demons however you can,” I replied.
I saw them hovering around April, her mother. She suffered, partially because of her own childhood, partly because her role, unbeknownst to her, called for it to be so.
There cannot be light without darkness.
Maribelle heaved a heavy sigh.
“All the other kids are Trick or Treating, in their costumes, getting all the lollies and what am I? Stuck inside. Holly will be bragging about all of her candy at school,” she huffed.
I found it slightly amusing, her whole feud with Holly. They were both only 10 years old but for some reason they had decided to be enemies, one always trying to outdo the other. Holly was hard to read. She would not become like Maribelle, that was for sure, but she had potential.
It would all depend on which voice she listened to.
Suddenly, Maribelle shot upwards and ran to her drawers. After much rummaging through clothes she pulled out a long dark dress then looked at me.
“No,” I said firmly, my voice now changing to stiff wind.
“Yes. You, you will take me Trick or Treating,” she said matter-of-factly.
I fluttered my invisible wings nervously.
“That is not my job,” I said to her.
She shot me a look that said I had no choice in the matter, angel or no.
“Yes, it is. Your job is to protect me,” she said, beginning to get dressed.
“Yes, to protect you from the great evils the world will throw at you. To protect you so you may walk the path you were meant to walk,” I replied.
“Holly is a great evil,” she said.
“No, she is not.”
She turned, hand on hip.
“Have you ever been to school, Anziel?” She asked.
“No, of course not. I was created with all the knowledge I would need for my purpose,” I replied.
“Right, so you don’t understand. School is brutal. It’s hard. You must know the right people and you must be smart, but not too smart. You must be cool, but not so cool that people get too jealous. Then they will steal your food or say mean things about you. I’ve been there,” she said, fishing a big, pointy hat to go with her black dress out of her cupboards.
“That sounds…complicated?” I said uncertainty.
She nodded and began tying her hair into a braid.
“It is. And Holly, Holly is really good at all those things. And she doesn’t like me. So, she can make life really hard for me and I don’t want that. So, I need to do things just as good as her, even better, so people will like me. Then I’m safe.” She groaned in frustration at her hair. “Can you braid my hair?” she suddenly asked, those big brown eyes looking at me pleadingly.
“I-I have never braided hair before,” I stammered.
“It’s easy. You just take three pieces and criss-cross them, like this,” she said, showing me her rough example. Then without any further prompting she plopped herself on the floor in front of the bed and waited for me.
In all my countless centuries of existence, I had not ever been asked to braid hair.
“Can’t you do it?” she asked after I hesitated too long. I could almost hear the smug note in her voice and I found myself spurred to answer with a terse no and turn my attention to her hair.
I tried to think of what I had done over the centuries that might be similar to hair. I remembered once, a long time ago, sitting weaving star nets for the Heavens. They were delicate things, gossamer threads woven of angel feathers and stars. Maribelle’s raven hair reminded me of the night skies of home.
I took a deep breath and materialised into my physical form so I could deftly weave her hair into a beautiful braid, festooned with a subtle glowing that came from being touched by my hands.
Maribelle quickly ran to the mirror and looked at herself.
“Wow,” she exclaimed softly, gently stroking her hair.
I felt a small glow of pride for the smile on her face.
She turned back to look at me and stopped, a misty look crossing her eyes.
“You’re beautiful,” she breathed.
My smile turned knowing and I waved a hand across my face, turning once more into a shaft of light. Mortals could not withstand immortal brilliance for very long.
Maribelle blinked and returned to completing her costume.
“Ta-da!” she said, twirling around with her small cauldron in one hand and a long staff in the other, with a white orb on top.
I remained silent, wondering what exactly she had planned for her costume as she was not allowed to leave the house to go Trick or Treating.
However, when she walked to the window and pushed it open I knew what her plan was.
“You cannot disobey your mother’s orders and go Trick or Treating,” I said calmly to her.
“My mum said that she wouldn’t take me Trick or Treating. She didn’t say that I couldn’t go at all,” she grinned.
I realised she was right.
“Still, it is dangerous out there. You need a guardian with you, an adult. It attracts less attention that way,” I cautioned.
She cocked her head and looked at me.
“I do have a guardian though. You,” she said, and jumped out the window.
I could not argue with that, nor could I interfere with her decisions. I could only interfere when she needed saving.
Heaving a deep sigh, I followed her out the window.
I was unused to dealing directly with mortals. A guardian angel’s duty was to protect their assigned human being from certain death until such a time that they were called back to Heaven. Our job was to be hidden in the shadows, invisible to all, even the one they were protecting. We were the ghosts, pulling the Divine’s strings. We never spoke or got to know our charges. We simply protected them.
With Maribelle, however, for the first time in eternity, something had gone wrong.
I saved her from getting hit by a car, but only just, which in itself was also strange. A guardian angel can sense the threads of fate when they start to converge upon their charge. They can sense when the pattern shifts and death becomes imminent. We react seconds before the incident occurs, we change one tiny variable so that our charge avoids their fate, narrowly it seems to them, but to us it may as well have been infinity.
Maribelle had escaped death by mere milliseconds.
I had never seen the threads converge or shift until the moment just before the impact. I had reacted on blind instinct, desperate to save her. I had materialised into corporal form in a burst of light and took the blow of the car, blinding all in the vicinity so they would not know of my existence. The one person I failed to blind though, was Maribelle. She had seen me in my physical form which echoed my ethereal one. I remember seeing her eyes widen as my face was seared into her mind and I knew I would not be able to erase that memory.
Thus, Maribelle learned of my existence and I was left to wonder why there was no Divine retribution to the upheaval of the order of things.
I was jolted from my reverie by Maribelle attempting to poke me.
“Are you going to float around as a piece of light or do you want to actually look like a person so I don’t look alone?” she asked.
I considered it for a long moment and commanded the world around me. Where my light had been I now stood in my physical form, although I had carefully hidden the angelic glow underneath the garments I wore, trying to dull my Divinity as much as I could.
“You look more normal than you did before,” Maribelle commented, “but you still look way too beautiful, especially in those clothes.”
I waved my hand and this time I appeared wearing ripped jeans and a shirt I had seen on the television with a picture of a skeleton holding a pumpkin.
“That’s a little bit better,” she said, then strode off to the closest house.
As always, I followed.
The humans were interesting. So many different varieties of them living in such a small place. I could judge most of them by either reading their auras or reading their reactions towards me. I found those who were basically good would feel a feeling of happiness well up in them as they looked at me. Those who were neither good nor bad would feel a mixture of worry and contentment.
And those who were bad would feel fear when they looked upon me.
The only bad human – person- we came across was an old man living in a dirty, white house. Maribelle didn’t particularly want to go there, but she could see the large selection of candy he had so she braved the creaking veranda steps.
“Trick or Treat,” she asked politely and held out her half full cauldron.
“Since you’re a witch, why don’t you give us a trick?” he said, staring at Maribelle and enjoying her confusion.
“I don’t have a trick,” she said.
“Then you don’t get any candy,” he sneered.
I could first feel Mirabelle’s disappointment, then her anger. I could tell she wished she had a trick just to prove a point to him.
“My lady,” I said, making the man look at me and I saw the fear flash across his face, “perhaps you shall do the wind trick for him?”
Maribelle looked confused for a moment and then her eyes widened in understanding and she nodded.
“Yes, I shall do my wind trick for you,” she said, then assumed her pose and scrunched her eyes shut. I imperceptibly wiggled my fingers and instantly caused her braid and her dress to wave in a breeze while the trees and shrubs around us remained still.
The man looked stunned to say the least, and after looking at me again, grumbled his praises and shoved a bunch of candy into her cauldron.
“Thank you!” she said brightly, then bounced off to the next house.
Twilight was nearing and Maribelle’s cauldron was now quite full. She had finally conceded to finishing for the night and we began the walk back home. Maribelle was chatting to me about how she intended to give some of her candy to the children at school who didn’t have any, firstly because not having candy was a terrible thing and second so that she could outshine Holly.
Her chattering was interrupted when we heard harsh laughter coming from near some bushes. I sensed a shift in the fabric of Maribelle’s fate but nothing like the shift when her death was near
“I’m going to check it out,” she said determinedly and began marching towards the sound. I followed, unable to command her but also curious as to what had caused the shift.
We finally reached a tall, shrubby hedge below which two boys were. They had long sticks and were poking at something underneath it that flashed silver in the dying light.
“Hey! What are you doing!” shouted Maribelle at them.
A part of me wanted to pull her back and protect her, sensing that these were the more unsavoury humans, but I couldn’t.
The two boys looked up from the object and sneered at Maribelle.
“Go away, little girl! It’s none of your business!” the taller one shouted.
We both suddenly heard a piteous meow coming from under the hedge and as we moved even closer, we both saw that the silver was from a cage and within it was a black cat. It was trapped and it was obvious that the boys had been poking it and teasing it with their sharp sticks. Maribelle noticed the cat at about the same time I did and I could see a fierce look in her eye, a look that I knew I shared.
“Leave the kitty alone!” she shouted and stood there with both her hands on her hips.
“No. It’s a stray cat. Doesn’t belong to anyone. It’s just a waste of space. Might as well have some fun with it,” the shorter one said, his eyes glinting with cruelty.
“It doesn’t matter! It’s a living animal. You can’t hurt it!” she shouted.
The boys took threatening steps towards her and before I could stop myself I took a step forward as well. I do not know what the look was upon my face, but both the boys turned white.
Maribelle reacted almost as fast me.
Using her long staff, she shot two quick jabs at each of the boys in the stomach. They both doubled up at the sudden pain and then she poked them both in the head as they bent down.
“OW!” they both exclaimed.
“You don’t like that huh? Well, that’s how the kitty feels. Now leave it alone and go away!” she shouted, then swung her staff at them again.
Now thoroughly cowed by the ten-year-old witch girl with a staff and my thunderous look, they scurried off into the distance.
Maribelle immediately turned her attention to the cat which was still silently cowering in the cage.
With much soothing and coaxing she managed to get it out of the cage and held it close to her chest. It was a scrawny thing, with some cuts on its ebony fur and it kept meowing on and off, an awful sound to hear. Its emerald eyes were round with fright.
“It’s okay kitty. I’m going to take you home and look after you. You can be my familiar. All witches need one you know,” she crooned at it.
Maribelle looked up at me and pushed the cat into my arms.
“What are you doing?” I asked, surprised at the cat thrust into my arms. The instant the cat touched me it started purring loudly and I could feel its small heartbeat against my arm. I looked in wonder for a moment at the little creature I held. I was unused to interacting with the human world. Our purpose as guardians was to watch and observe, never actively taking part. Yet here I was, with a tiny cat nestled in my arms and a young girl who saw me and knew I existed and accepted me as her friend.
I could not help it. I laughed, just once, a purely happy sound, like dawn breaking upon the silver sea.
Instantly the cat’s purring increased and Maribelle couldn’t help but laugh as well, a young, wild laugh, full of life.
As the sun sank beneath the horizon, I felt a breath of wind swirl around me, upon which gentle laughter floated down from the Heavens.
I do not know how this came to be, but it all must be for a reason.