There was a part of Angel Juan that enjoyed the fact that his relationship with Witch Baby, with the concepts of a love that was platonic and romantic intertwining, flowing with each other like a rushing river, was so unusual. He lost the words to describe how he felt for Witch Baby. It was as if words, which existed with ease in his mother tongue of Spanish and his second language of English, walked away from him. Words Angel Juan wondered, as he glided through life on roller skates Witch Baby herself found at a thrift shop that she fixed to look brand new and personalized to his personality, if there were any words to describe how he felt.
Could words even define Witch Baby? The only word that flitted through his mind was mine. But that was an insult. She, with her thick, knotted mass of hair and sharp features and skinny body and her blue, purple, black, silver, and gold clothing and wide-brimmed hats that covered her slinky, lanky frame. Her presence, barely composed, filled wherever she existed with electricity. Angel Juan learned to appreciate her presence. It once electrocuted his heart. This constant, huge electric shock to his ever beating heart made it difficult to process information.
He knew as well as anyone that people weren't property. That wasn't possible. People weren't medicine to heal your sorrows. But he sometimes wished they were. He loved people, and most everything they had to offer: love and warmth and possibility. Angel Juan realized he could reach out to anyone with ease and make them feel comfortable. More often than not, his intense, unwavering brown-eyed gaze and penchant for probing questions like "Will you ever get over your scariest trauma? " and "How often do you cry?" and "What's the deepest, darkest secret hiding underneath your skin and within your soul and capturing your heart?"
He learned the hard way that depending on another person's existence as a crutch to lean upon wasn't a way to live. Angel Juan needed to learn to use himself as a way to bring himself higher. Using other people to numb what hurts your heart's soul would make the pain within hurt even more. The intensity of the world's pain would become unbearable if Angel Juan ever went on like that.
But what Angel Juan appreciated in others was that people can, and will love, care, respect, understand, sympathize. There were so many gorgeous, luminous synonyms that could describe the human condition. Angel Juan, having matured alone to feed his nomadic heart, finally had the courage to grow as a person with someone he felt intensely for. That was Witch Baby.
He noticed that Witch Baby's and Angel Juan's dates were frequent, exploding with intense passion, and full to the brim of frenetic, kinetic energy. But they never started that way. Every date was a new place, a new experience that would always turn out into something unexpected yet beautiful in all of its strange, wonderful glory.
"Sorry I'm late," Witch Baby mumbled during their current date at the public park. They were surrounded by families screeching and playing and making use of the sprawling space by playing football or frisbee. They were showing their love to each other through barbeque. She seemed tense, and her shoulders were closer to her ears.
She kept her focus away from Angel Juan. Her arms were stuffed into her pockets, and she wore a huge, baggy sweater that once belonged to Angel Juan's brother when he was a chubby adolescent. The sweater hung to her knees, and was so wide on her that she looked tiny and delicate and fragile, as if she was a frayed brocade-trimmed dress ready to tear at any moment. There was a part of Angel Juan wanted to grab her and pet her hair and kiss her lips and cuddle her to make her seem better. However, he knew she wouldn't appreciate that. She hated being smothered.
He noticed that her words slurred as she spoke too fast. She sounded to Angel Juan as if she was afraid if the words, on average, traveled too slow from her mouth. If the words, constructed out of tissue paper and rainbows, came out at Witch Baby's prefered pace of jittery fast and coffee-fueled, everything would turn out different.
"It's okay, querida," Angel Juan said from his seat, with a dismissive wave of his hand. She let a smile sit on her face, and her once icy face melted into a brighter one. She looked like the sun rising after breaking through heavy gray rainclouds.
This afternoon, a crisp but sunny April, was when Witch Baby turned nineteen. There was no time to waste locked indoors, when the expansive blue sky dotted . It was Witch Baby who suggested to Angel Juan that they go out to the park, just him and her, to celebrate her birthday. He claimed a concrete bench, wide and tall enough to fit the entire Bat family with room for Angel Juan's family, too. Angel Juan didn't mind the space, though. He found endless room comforting. It meant he had enough room to stretch out his long, newly muscular legs. It also meant Witch Baby could spread her lanky body, too.
She slung a battered picnic basket over her forearm. The beige of the wooden exterior had rainbow fabric interwoven between the gaping holes that existed from overuse. After inhaling the clean, fresh, spring air, Witch Baby calmed down. She began acting more like herself. Witch Baby dangled the picnic basket in front of Angel Juan.
"You want it?" She asked, cackling like a hyena. He reached for it, but she snatched it away from him with a devilish grin.
"Why, oh why, can't I have that picnic basket?" When an exaggerated, joking pout spread across his face, Witch Baby threw herself into Angel Juan's arms to comfort him after carelessly throwing the picnic basket on the table. Witch Baby seemed to enjoy sitting on the bench, knees crossed and facing him.
"You're my favorite, didn't you know?" She stated matter of fact, as if she was simply
"I suppose I could say the same about you," Angel Juan responded with a joking eye roll.
"...Really, Angel Juan?" She said, as she quivered her lips. She gave Angel Juan Witch Baby's most puppydog-like stare she could manage. Angel Juan almost gave in.
"You won't win compliments from me that easily!" Angel Juan said, grabbing Witch Baby by the small of her back and pulling her into a hug. Silence fell over them as she listened to the rise and fall of his chest from his even breathing.
"The sound of your beating heart is the best music in the world," Witch Baby murmured into his chest. Angel Juan knew he needed her in the most relaxed state possible to tell her what was truly on his mind.
"I have a question to ask you," Angel Juan said. The hesitation in his voice made Witch Baby jump out of her, and into the grass. She sat up straight, her eyes opened wide. Her eyes were as wide, and bright as the moon shining on a clear evening.
"You're not in trouble, I promise," he chuckled, as he picked her up to sit her back in his lap.
"...I hope not." Witch Baby positioned herself on Angel Juan's lap to face him.
"What's on your mind? Cause you're clearly preoccupied."
"How would you feel if I asked for you to live in an apartment with me?" Witch Baby shook so hard that Angel Juan needed to hold her to make sure she didn't vibrate off of his lap. Tears dripped down her cheeks, but she made no sound. Her cheeks burned magenta, and she pressed her face into his chest.
"Please say something," Angel Juan pleaded. There was a small, jagged stain on his shirt from Witch Baby's tears. He grabbed her face by her jaw so she looked at him However, she had enough energy to place her small hands on his larger, squarer hands. The warmth of his hands on her cool cheeks calmed her down enough to whisper, "Yes."
He kissed her on the mouth. It felt like fireworks went off in his entire body, setting off an electrical current of light and color in his veins that brought warmth to his face. Witch Baby must've felt the same way, because the magenta in her face lessened.
"Let's finish this picnic before we go apartment hunting," Witch Baby managed to squeak. Her words were jumbled. She sounded like her heart jumped through her throat.
"Of course!" Angel Juan said, energy surging through him, "Of course…" He wrapped his right arm around Witch Baby, and she leaned into the crook of his arm. She sighed, and he couldn't tell if she was relieved or upset.
"Are you okay?" Once, twice, thrice, she inhaled and exhaled to compose herself. Her breaths became deeper.
"I'm fine! I'm fine," She enunciated as she straightened her back and left the comfortable crook of Angel Juan's arm. Her chest stopped rising and falling in a noticeable pattern; instead, her breathing became quiet and shallow.
"I...I just didn't expect you to ask. Nobody's ever asked me something like this before." Her eyes threatened to get misty again. She sniffled, pressing her face back into Angel Juan's chest. To him, it seemed as if she refused to look at the world by keeping her face in his chest. Angel Juan tried to soothe her by placing light kisses on the top of her head. He rubbed her back as he kissed her.
"Oh Angel Juan! I'm not crying because I'm upset!" She said, looking up at him with a firmer gaze. "These are tears of joy. Of pure bliss. Of…" her voice broke, and she couldn't continue. Angel Juan patted her back. He had never seen her this weepy before. It was like a new side of Witch Baby arose from the haze and shadows, a side of Witch Baby he never knew existed. But there was something that settled in her dark eyes that didn't seem to convey joy or pure bliss. Her eyes conveyed the anxiety similar to waiting to hear back the results of a doctor's examination and confusion similar to being told contradiction information from two separate authority figures.
Angel Juan's heart skipped a beat. He desperately hoped he hadn't overstepped his boundaries with this question. In truth, he probably did; that probably and logically explained why she seemed so...off. But he didn't want that to be the answer. He wanted her to be happy because she genuinely loved him enough to want to settle down, and live together for as long as possible.
"I know how big of a deal it is for you to settle down. You're such a free spirit! I know you wouldn't want anyone, let alone me, holding you back from accomplishing such great things in life." A look, something like a cross between discomfort and joy, contorted Witch Baby's face as she talked. Her angular features became sharper, like knives; her lips pursed into thin lines across her pale face.
"...Are you sure you want to move in with me?" Angel Juan reiterated, his voice wavering as he kept his gaze with Witch Baby, who seemed more and more distraught as moments passed.
"Actually, no. I don't think I can do this. I can't make you put down roots when you're clearly more of the type to float around," Witch Baby sat up, and marched off. The solemn mood of the afternoon rose to outright somber. Somehow, Angel Juan saw the world as tinted with bleak, concrete gray instead of the warm deep bronzed pink.
"You said yes!" Angel Juan said as she walked away. "But you agreed to this. I heard you, seconds ago!" His voice rose, desperation making his voice crack. She was even farther away now, not even looking back at him. Her shoulders tensed as he stood up to say: "You can't leave. You just...can't leave like this, Niña Bruja."
But she did leave him, by disappearing into the horizon, engulfed by the orange, pink-tinted golden sunset. Every ache in his body intensified, as if to remind Angel Juan of the sadness of being abandoned by someone you loved with every heartbeat and every fiber of your being.
A full two days passed, and Angel Juan never left his room in his mama's house. He hid in his ocean blue bedroom, covering himself with tattered cotton and fleece blankets covered with patches Witch Baby sewed on. The patches were uneven, like her love and her lips. The zebra, rainbow and galaxy fabric that once was a vibrant reminder of existence smothered him with color. All he wanted to do when he saw something that reminded him of Witch Baby was cry big fat tears. Too much reminded him of Witch Baby. The salty ocean breeze that tickled his face when he walked down the boardwalk, watching people and art all while riding a bicycle. Eating olives whole and by the dozen made Angel Juan feel nauseous; olives seemed disgusting, and inedible, even though they were Witch Baby's favorite food (after avocados, hot dogs, and veggie stir fry). The mere thought of reciting nonsense poetry made up on the spot, like he did with Witch Baby, made his heart sink. Angel Juan made sure to bury all of his notebooks full of the poetry they made together so deeply in his closet that he'd never go back looking for it.
The only thing he could stand that reminded him of Witch Baby was the strong scent of patchouli. He lit candles of patchouli, and left them burning for hours. Sometimes, the candles burnt so long that his hair and clothes and blankets and even the carpets smelt strongly. Lighting these candles was the only way he could properly mourn.
"Angel Juan?" Mama asked as she knocked at his door so softly, that he wouldn't have guessed she was at the door had she not knocked.
"I have a letter for you."
The letter was in an envelope painted indigo, but it came out blotchy and uneven. The cream color of the envelope showed through; the empty space was scribbled over with indigo colored pencils. Typical Witch Baby. Angel Juan smiled for the first time since she left. It dotted with pale yellow spots that looked like smeared stars. A rich burgundy colored wax seal, likely hand made, closed the envelope. He carefully peeled away the wax seal, and opened the letter. The stationery was decorated with strawberries, kiwis, cherries and rose petals with wide, adorable eyes, and shooting stars whose tails were rainbow colored and neon bright in their gem toned glory.
There was three important sentences written in a painstakingly clear, precise calligraphy: I'm pregnant. You're the father. Call me. He grinned, his smile so big that it threatened to split his face into a billion shattered pieces; his heart soared to the sun and back into his body.
He dialed Witch Baby's phone number in a split second.
"Witch Baby," Angel Juan breathed, savoring the salty yet sweet taste of the letters of her name on his lips that craved saying her name.
"Oh Angel Juan! I'm sorry. I couldn't be sorrier if I tried," Witch Baby sobbed.
"I...accept your apology," He didn't say it was okay because the situation wasn't okay; it wasn't fair she could disappear like that. It was an act of cowardly immaturity, like Witch Baby was prone to fits of. Angel Juan resented that it was a trait she never grew out of acting upon.
"I'm so happy you called, Angel Juan." The ecstasy in Witch Baby's voice sounded like a thunderstorm, electric and drizzly in it's tone.
"Why did you leave me? How could you do that?" Angel Juan hissed, his anger overwhelming him. His grip on the phone made his hands go white.
"I was scared. I didn't want you to stop loving me."
"You're ridiculous. I'll always love you. I'm angry that you could ever think that way." Silence befell them.
"I'm a month along, to the day." Angel Juan took a minute to be silent, to process what was told to him.
"What would you want to name our baby, Niña Bruja?" Hope surged in his voice. His heart raced. Witch Baby took a deep breath.
"I thought about this for a while. If we had a daughter, I'd like to name her Juniper or Peony. I really like floral names. They're so pretty and feminine and memorable. Maybe Marisol or Ofelia, if the floral names don't appeal to you. I'm flexible like that now. If we have a boy, I'd like to name him Viktor or Sloan or Jett. I know they're not your style, but maybe we can change that. I don't wanna be that mom who disappears when things get too much to handle anymore. Now that I'm pregnant, now that we've got a baby growing inside my belly, there's more at stake. I want to raise the best baby we can." Witch Baby babbled, her filter disappearing the longer she talked. Angel Juan was soothed by the sound of her voice. A part of him was reassured that she was back in his life, reassured that she could talk with him in such a candid manner like this like they did before the brief disappearance.
"Oh God," Witch Baby said, her voice shaking, "You're mad at me. Please don't be mad at me." She sounded like she was going to break.
"I'm not mad," Angel Juan said hastily, "I love you. I love you so much I can't stand it. I just love your voice. I love when you're comfortable enough to babble like that. It means you're in a better mood." Witch Baby must've smiled at this part. She loved hearing how much he loved her.
"Can you come to my mama's house?" Angel Juan asked. "I've been staying here for a while. I want to see how you're doing. Mama wants to see her first grandchild."
"I can come over now. Give me twenty minutes." The clock ticked and tocked slower than usual, as if to mock the fact that Angel Juan anticipated Witch Baby's appearance. The doorbell rang. He raced to the door. When Witch Baby was at the door, Angel Juan engulfed her in a hug so deep that he feared he'd never let go. She wrapped her arms around him, and melted into his arms, savoring the warmth of his arms around her back. Having his muscular body pressed against her body that would turn softer with every passing month was a feeling she had no idea she'd love so much. Angel Juan smothered Witch Baby's face with sloppy, loving kisses. She shoved him away with a grin and a giggle.
"What are you, a puppy?" Witch Baby asked as they untangled from the hug.
"I missed you so much, my entire body ached. I feel complete with you back," Angel Juan said, knowing how corny he sounded. Witch Baby grabbed Angel Juan's hands and guided them to her stomach. Her stomach wasn't very big at this point, though. He rubbed her stomach. She giggled.
"Your hands are so warm," Witch Baby said, as she put her bony hands atop his larger square ones.
"I can't wait until you get bigger," Angel Juan said mockingly, placing his arms around her waist.
"Don't mock me. I'm gonna be so huge that I won't be able to move, and then you'll regret ever saying that."
"Don't worry, I won't." He kissed her forehead. She waddled to the couch, and leaned on Angel Juan's body, falling asleep almost instantly. Angel Juan smiled.
This was how their lives were supposed to be; they'd move into their apartment later in the week.