Disclaimer: The characters contained within do not belong to me.
It felt nice, being outside. The relaxing sounds of nature, birds chirping, leaves whispering, all washed over Beth Hartley as the crisp breeze gently stroked her exposed skin. Pulling her jacket tighter, she bounced down the porch steps, feeling oddly buoyant now that her homework was done. Or perhaps it was the cool September air that lifted her spirits. Either way, she didn't care. Today was the first time in almost two weeks that she'd managed to find enough time to escape to her little place in the forest.
Senior year was turning out to be a lot tougher than she imagined. The workload had intensified to the point that even she – with her perfect grades – was finding it difficult to keep up. And then there were her after school activities. Prom committee, yearbook, cheerleading, drama club; they all blurred into one eventually, though she reasoned that she would only start worrying when she started jumbling them up and cheered for Romeo at the next Bears game, or gave the Prom a yearbook theme.
Actually, that wasn't a bad idea! She quickly retrieved the little notebook she always carried (for times such as these). She didn't pause, she knew this path well and as best she could, she started jotting down all the images that had sprung forth in her mind. The prom could be black and white, elegant, with the best pictures from the yearbook blown up to epic proportions. Oh, and maybe each of the individual photos could be strung together, decorated like one long film reel; it could stretch right around the gym.
She also made a note to mention all this to Mrs Geoffrey tomorrow, wanting to confirm it was a good idea before announcing it to the rest of the group and embarrassing herself. She was Beth Hartley, she had to have the best ideas, or risk failure.
Quickly, she scolded herself. The whole reason for coming out here was to forget her problems, or rather, forget the pressure. It wasn't that she minded doing all of the things she did − putting in all that effort − not really. It wasn't like she was being forced into any of it. Sure, her parents would most likely flip if she so much as mentioned the possibly of not going to university, but they'd never specifically said that she should try to be such a perfect student. It was merely implied. And besides, she'd recently sent off her early application to Stanford, so they had nothing to worry about.
Tucking her notebook back into her pocket, Beth kicked at a pile of leaves. Scooping her foot underneath them before flicking her sneakered toes up, she watched as the multi-hued foliage lifted around her, drifting and swirling in random patterns as gravity took hold and they gently began their descent.
The burden of school, the constant pressure to perform, began to ease as she tilted her head up, focusing on the slim streaks of sunlight that filtered through the lush canopy. At times it felt like the forest had a dimmer switch, the light would oftentimes change abruptly from a yellowy green to dull grey, but it was just the clouds covering the sun as they rolled through relentlessly across the sky. Though today, although the sun was low enough to gently caress the tops of the trees, it stayed bright.
It was comforting, but just as she was getting lost within her senses, reaching out a cold hand to touch the rough bark of a nearby tree, a thought suddenly hit her. What if she hadn't done as well on that English test as she thought? Mr Matthews was a strict teacher. Beth knew that he liked her – it hard for any of the staff to not – but she also knew that wouldn't make a difference. Where the other teachers would let things slide, Mr Matthews would definitely mark her down.
Oh, God! Please say I didn't muck it up. Did I confuse 'there' and 'their' at any point? No, I couldn't, I wouldn't! Okay, just stop. Breathe. It's done now, you did fine.
Berating herself wasn't working and she was still thinking about it by the time she reached the stream, dipping her hand into the bitterly cold current. She reasoned that even if the absolute worst came to worst and her GPA had been affected she could try to use it her advantage. She could show potential universities that she wasn't completely perfect. She'd read about it somewhere – something about not looking like a robot.
She was just about to give up on her little outing and head home; it wouldn't be the first time her problems had followed her on this little journey, it probably wouldn't be the last. But just then a white light flashed in the water. As it reflected on the water, it pulsed and everywhere oozed bright, hot light, momentarily blinding her.
Her eyes snapped up, quickly fixing on the source of the strange illumination. There, on the other bank, not ten feet from where she was crouched, was what could only be described as an angel. She'd heard the stories, seen the adverts, but she didn't believe them. She thought the Church of Angels was a cult, and in times when she was feeling a tad more generous, she felt sorry for its members, wasting their lives on a fruitless devotion that wouldn't achieve anything. Even if she had believed them, nothing would've prepared her for what she was seeing now.
The angel was beautiful. Somewhere in the back of her mind it registered that beautiful was a strange way to describe a man, but she could think of nothing else, and even then it wasn't adequate. This man wasn't just beautiful he was…radiant. That felt far more right. The angel, this…this being, was radiant.
"Don't be afraid," its smooth melodic voice rang out to her like chiming bells.
It came towards her now, gliding softly over the babbling water, and Beth was lost in his eyes. She barely noticed his enormous height as he stopped right in front of her. She knew she should be afraid, but she wasn't. If anything, she felt more at peace here with this ethereal being than she ever had before. Its presence, though shocking, soothed her to her very core, wave after of calmness, pure bliss, washed through her as his hands came to rest gently on her head. She quivered at the initial touch, though not in fear. She was…overcome. This being, this magnificent, radiant being had chosen her. Suddenly nothing in the world seemed so important, so vital, than his presence in her life. Nothing mattered as they stood, joined, for what seemed like an eternity and seconds at the same time. School, college, GPA's, the yearbook, simply floated from her mind, as if each problem had been sealed in a bottle, then cast adrift at sea.
Soon, much too soon, the angel withdrew his hands, folding them neatly under his robes. He smiled down at her, a dazzling smile that almost brought her to her knees, before turning smoothly. With a swoop of his wings, the angel took flight and in a matter of seconds. He disappeared from her sight, his radiant white light blurring into the pastel blue sky. Beth knees gave way and she slumped onto the soft mud of the bank. Her thoughts when the angel had been touching her were slow to form, barely there at all actually, but as if a switch had been flipped, they burst into the forefront of her mind now.
Did that really just happen? Did she actually see angel? These were stupid questions, of course she had. There was no way she could've imagined him, he was perfect. And there was certainly no way her mind had simply conjured up the extreme tranquillity she felt at his touch. She'd been trying for too long, longer than she could even remember, to find peace like that.
She felt breathless, woozy even, and if she hadn't already fallen to the ground she knew she would've fainted. But it had been a mind-blowing experience, life-altering even, so that was to be expected.
What do I do now? She thought mutely as she stared listlessly at up at the sky, trying uselessly to peer round the leaves that swayed in the breeze. He wasn't coming back now. Somewhere inside, she knew this. Her angel was long gone, but he would appear again, of that she was certain.
The next day at school seemed so…pointless. What was she doing here, what was the use in all of it now that she had found something so magical? Academia, sports, clubs, they all seemed so frivolous now that her mind had been opened up to all the wonder this world held.
She idly wondered – during Spanish class, or was it history? – whether she felt like this as a newborn baby; if she could've remembered that far back, and if it were possible for babies to have feelings this strong. It certainly felt like she was seeing the world – truly seeing it – for the first time. Like a newborn entering into existence. It took all of her remaining willpower to at least look like she was paying attention to her teachers.
The day dragged on languidly and she felt far more drowsy as a result, though inside she was tensely excited for another visit from her angel. People noticed the change in her, it was hard not to, and Beth simply attributed it to feeling unwell, a good excuse as any to get out of Prom committee that afternoon; the previous days theme ideas all but forgotten, destined to spend their life as nothing more than quick, frantic jots in her old notebook.
She raced home and for once in her life, left her homework untouched. Leaving her bag in the car, she scrambled towards the familiar worn path; her own feet had been the ones to carve this path, the grass retreating further to the safety of nearby tree roots the more she walked here. She reached the stream in no time. Beth wasn't sure what she'd been expecting, realistically she knew that the angel would be here, but disappointment settled in her stomach with the weight of a cannonball when his radiant light was nowhere to be found. She waited a long time, until the sun had dipped below the trees – not that she noticed – and he still didn't show. It didn't dissuade her though; she had unyielding confidence in her angel. He would come, maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but he would.
The next day was much like the first. Beth daydreamed through her classes, envisioning her joyous reunion with her angel. Never for one second did she doubt what she saw, she knew with everything inside her that he was real. Again, she raced home, still claiming to be ill – she didn't feel bad when everyone was sympathetic, in truth, she was a little under the weather, but nothing her angel couldn't fix. Again, she made her way up the path, and again, she was disappointed when he wasn't there. She waited patiently though, and after a short time a bright light penetrated the gloom surrounding her.
Wordlessly, she jumped up, and her angel stood before her once more, in the exact same spot she had seen him the first time. For a second time, he glided forwards, arms outstretched as he reached for her head. She stood motionless as they connected. This was so much better than the first time. She enjoyed it more, all her initial apprehension, though small, at their first meeting had vanished, and she relished in his calming presence. This visit ended much like the first, and Beth stumbled home, once again ignoring her homework in favour of her dreams.
When she saw him next, just over twenty-four hours later, she was stunned, more so than usual. It wasn't an angel that stood before her, there had been no ethereal light to signal his presence, no indication that he was there at all until she'd seen his reflection in the bubbling stream. He was a man. She didn't need to ask if it was him; though his face was not as brilliant in this form, the similarities were obvious.
Now that he wasn't bathed in light, Beth found it easier to study his appearance. His hair was a light brown, so sandy that it could've looked dark blonde in certain lights. The contours of his face were defined, strong; his jaw looked as if it'd been carved from marble. His blue eyes, locked with her own, held an intensity that would've scared her had she not known what he was. He looked older in this form, though still only around twenty-five.
"Don't be afraid," he called serenely.
It was the second time she'd heard him speak, the second time he'd uttered those exact same words, and Beth found herself quickly becoming lost in its musical charm. She wanted to hear more, though she couldn't move her own mouth to form words.
"I won't hurt you," he assured, never breaking eye contact.
"I-I know," she stuttered, her voice wavering, even though she utterly confident in her words. She kicked herself for looking like a fool in front of him. This wonderful being had taken the time to visit her, had chosen her, and all she could do was stand there muttering like the village idiot. She scrambled for something to say. "W-why are h-here?"
"I have chosen you," he replied simply, and she couldn't help but match his bright smile, though she knew it paled in comparison. "Your spirit called to me."
She nodded fervently, remembering through the hazy filter that had descended on her mind since his first visit how she had felt when she'd come here. She was worried, she was under enormous pressure, and she'd been fretting about her English test. He must have sensed her unease and decided to help her. Was that only three days ago? It felt like a lifetime. She felt an overwhelming sense of gratitude sweep over her.
"Thank you," she swallowed, making sure to articulate her next words properly. "How can I ever repay you?"
He smiled wider; the movement deepening his dimples, making him appear almost boyish. "There's no need. You're a chosen one now, a believer. Take what I have given you and use it how you wish. Now that I have healed you, you don't need me to visit any−"
"−NO!" She hadn't meant to interrupt him, much less shout. She was mortified. What right did she have to silence a sentient being? A mere pathetic human? Disgusted with herself, she quickly started to apologise, tell him that she hadn't meant it; she was only frightened that she wouldn't see him again. But he stopped her with a wave of his hand.
Chuckling slightly, he said, "Do not worry, young one. I will still make my visits, just know that you have options. The choice is entirely yours."
She knew she had a choice, but she wondered why she would choose anything other than his comforting presence. It was the single most important thing in her life now.
Over the next few days, her angel continued to appear at their meeting place, and Beth found herself seeking him more and more. Sometimes he would appear as a human, and others he would blind the forest with his eternal light, bathing her in a warm white glow as he touched her head. She spoke with him more freely now, confident in her words as she praised him. She soaked up his own words like a sponge, hanging on every syllable that passed his perfect bow-shaped lips. She learned his name; Paschar, and it swiftly became her favourite word. She couldn't help but utter it at every opportunity.
It was becoming harder and harder to hide this part of her – the alive, carefree Beth – from the rest of the world, and she spoke with him about it. It felt like a miracle had been bestowed upon her when he suggested that she joined the Church of Angels. She still had concerns though. Was it really the right path? Could she really throw everything she'd worked for away, even though it didn't really matter anymore? Paschar, ever the wise being, left the decision to her, though he did mention that they could be together much more if she were to join.
That night, comforted by Parchar's promises, she decided to tell her parents. They were important people in her life – or had been before she'd known of the angels – and guilt tugged at her about keeping them in the dark. The conversation, if one could even call it that with all the raised voices, didn't go well. They gave her a choice, though it much more like an ultimatum; they wouldn't stop her, but if she left for the church, she may as well leave for ever. The last part was left unsaid, but from the glint in her mother's eye, she assumed as much. Knowing her parents, Beth guessed that it was an empty threat, they wanted to guilt her into not doing it. A week ago, hell, a few days ago, she would've agreed. But life was different now, she was different, and which road to take was unclear.
Paschar had convinced her to carry on with her extra-curricular activities until she had made a decision, and even though she trusted his judgement, she couldn't help but regret it when she forced herself through the yearbook meeting. When the meeting ended she walked as briskly as she could without alerting anyone, darting from the room so fast that no one had time to hold her back with their inane conversation. Crossing the parking lot, she spotted something odd in the distance. One of the junior girls – Nat? Nita? Nina? – stood propped up against a car. The hood was open and a girl dressed in worn jeans was hunched over the engine. Beth wasn't aware that the local garage had any female employees.
The mechanic stood up, giving Beth a clear view of her, and it all made sense. Of course Willow, or Queen Weird as she was known, would know how to fix cars. She wasn't normal. From her so-called psychic abilities, to the way she dressed, and now, apparently, fixing cars, the girl had earned her nickname. Sometimes – before angels, of course − Beth had found herself becoming jealous of the younger girl, and not just because she was pretty. Willow had a carefree spirit. It was obvious in the way she dressed, how she acted, how she carried herself. She had an air of confidence about her that was hard not to envy. Why couldn't she be like that? Why wasn't she comfortable in her own skin like Willow was? He psychic abilities alone should've−
Wait! Psychic abilities. Why haven't I thought about this before?
It dawned on Beth like a bolt of lightening had broken from the sky and jolted her. It was the perfect solution. Why worry about all of her choices when someone could simply show her the way? She compared it to her angel showing her the way, making her see the light, but she quickly shook it off. They were not the same thing. Paschar was an angel, a magnificent, beautiful angel, and Willow − although beautiful in her own right − simply couldn't compare. Willow couldn't even be half as amazing as her angel. But half, or less than half, was good enough in this case. It had to be.
Squaring her shoulders, Beth strode toward Willow, confident that in just a short time her uncertainly future would become clear, her path mapped out in front of her…
Authors Note: So this is officially the first Angel Burn story on FFN (I'm stupidly excited about that!). I hope you all enjoyed, please leave a review with your thoughts. For anyone who has come over from my Twilight profile (or anyone who has read any Twilight stories by Jeakat; that's also me) *waves* hi!
I've pondered continuing this one-shot, charting all the drama that follows on from this (the reading and both Beth and Parchar's reactions), so if you're interested, let me know!