"Don't try, Karen. Do."
Those words played around young Karen's thoughts since the moment they were said to her. She was back home now. Her parents were released from prison, and she didn't have to live in that awful foster care anymore. However, being at home didn't seem all that much better. It was the same as it had always been; her parents were screaming at each other, and Kevin was down there only exacerbating the issue.
It was a broken home. That much she was sure of.
Since she had returned home, she hadn't seen that mystery boy. The one she often referred to as her guardian angel. It had been almost two whole weeks since he came to her window late at night to comfort her.
"Maybe he forgot about me." Karen grabbed her favorite doll that lay sprawled out on the bed beside her. She forced a weak smile as she began stroking her tiny fingers through the doll's yarn-like hair strands, making it neater. She stared at the doll for a long moment, remembering the absolute joy she felt the moment it was given to her. Coming from a poor family, it was rare for the McKormick's to exchange any Christmas gifts. Yet, her older brother Kenny had managed to save up a bit, and bought that doll for her when she was three years old.
She was so happy to finally have a doll of her own, just like all the other little girls that she attended daycare with. They came in everyday with their high-priced plastic dolls, and Karen never had anything. "I can't have my little sister be without something so important, now can I?" Kenny had said to her, as he watched her unwrap the doll that was delivered to her in newspaper packaging. It was the most important Christmas young Karen had ever experienced.
Thinking about how her precious gift was almost taken away from her by that bully at school, Karen became upset. She didn't know what she would have done if it had been ruined. What would Kenny think if she let that happen? Luckily, her guardian angel in the navy blue cape was always there to protect her.
So where was he now?
The yelling downstairs became more audible, and Karen realized that her poor mother went from screaming to sobbing. She hated when her mother cried. Even though she had a temper, her mother tried hard to provide for her family. It was her father that usually started everything and made things difficult.
She listened as she heard glass shattering against the wall, and her mother yelling even louder. There was no way to ignore it or stop it. That's how Karen always ended her nights the same way; hiding in her room and crying.
"Wh-where are you…?" She choked out in a weak whisper as she held her head in her hands, curling up in a ball on her bed. Her eyes began burning as tears forced their way through and fell down her dirty, bruised face.
The creaking of her bedroom window and the sudden gust of cold Colorado winter air caught her attention. She slowly opened one eye, and saw a familiar figure through her blurred vision. "You promised."
The voice that had spoken was all too familiar to her. Though raspy, and almost unnerving, she had grown to find comfort in it. She wiped away as many tears as she could. "I'm sorry." She smiled through the remaining tears that fell. He had come for her. She looked up to see him. Always the same. Squatting in his Batman like pose, his cape blowing back in the breeze, and his hood covering the majority of his face, keeping the young girl from seeing who he really was underneath.
"I need you to be strong Karen. Remember?" He said quietly, with his usual scowl never leaving his face.
"I'm trying. I just get sad when mommy and daddy fight" she replied. Her angel sighed and moved towards her a bit, sitting on the edge of her window.
"I know you do. I do too. But, everything will be okay in the end."
A small smile tugged at the corners of Karen's mouth. The tone in his voice was reassuring to her. She wondered if he had gone through this as well. "Angel, do your mommy and daddy fight, too?"
The usually stoic boy suddenly tensed up. His mouth fell open a bit in shock of her question. But before she could notice, he collected himself. "I don't have any parents." He answered her after a momentary pause, eyes darting around the room. Karen watched him as his eyes shifted from wall to wall. It was obvious that he was avoiding eye contact. His leg began to tremble underneath him.
Karen smiled at his actions. It was exactly the same thing Kenny would do when he was caught in a lie by his parents. She giggled a bit, then with a large grin she looked up and stated "You remind me of my big brother. Kenny."
Her angel stopped what he was doing. His eyes focused only on her. He could feel a cold sweat breaking through his skin. But, he also knew that Karen wouldn't be so clever. "Yeah?" He asked, a determined smile now spreading across his face, "what's he like?"
Karen paused for a second, and averted her eyes from him as if she were thinking. Bringing her gaze back to him, she said "Kenny is the best. He always takes care of me when you aren't around. I love him very much."
His face became hot at her words. He could feel a light blush creep across his cheeks. Good thing his large hood kept the upper half of his face concealed. "He loves you too, Karen. I know he does. Trust me."
"He gave me this." She stated, reaching next to her and grabbing her doll. She presented it to him, showing him how important it was. "When I miss him, I hold her close. It makes me feel a little better."
Karen was rather courageous, practically handing her most prized possession to a stranger. The hooded angel smiled at this. "That's good." He encouraged. At this point he had returned to his perched stance on the edge of her window. Karen knew he was getting ready to leave. He would leave the same way; jumping from her window and disappearing into the black before she even got a chance to catch which direction he went.
She stared for a long moment at the green question mark that bounced lightly on the top of his hood, being held there by only a cheap spring. Without looking away, she whispered "Kenny is the most important person in the world." The last few words seemed to trail off into nothing. "Guardian Angel," she began, turning her eyes to meet his, "thank you for everything, but I will be okay from here."
He was very surprised by her words, but he didn't dare show it. "Is that so?" She smiled at him, letting him go as easily as she could. "Yes. I am learning to be stronger. Just like I promised you. I am going to work hard and take care of myself."
"Good. Do that." He responded with a triumphant boom in his voice. "I'll miss you, Karen." With tears burning at the corners of her eyes, she flashed him one last grin; "I'll miss you too, Guardian Angel!" With that, the caped boy jumped down from the window and disappeared into the dead town below. He never turned back to face her. Not even once.
After staring out her window for what seemed like forever, Karen fell back onto her bed and stared down at her small, bruised hands. The soft creaking of her bedroom door caught her attention. "I'm hoooome." Kenny cooed, peeking his head through the crack.
"Kenny!" She cried, gesturing her hands over quickly to him. "Did you have fun with Stan, Kyle and Eric?"
Kenny sat on the edge of her bed and gave her a nod. He reached his arms out and let his baby sister rush into them, giving him one of her great hugs. She pulled back quickly, excited to tell him about what had just happened. "He came back, Kenny! My Guardian Angel came back!"
The blonde boy smiled "Really?" He asked, pushing some hair out of the little girl's face. "It's funny how I never see him." He teased.
"Well, now you never will." Karen began, smacking her brother's hand away playfully. "I told him that I didn't need him anymore." Kenny pretended to act surprised, and gave her an over-exaggerated gasp. "You did?" Karen nodded. She was proud of herself that much was obvious to Kenny. He watched as she yawned, then snuggled into the pillows that were stacked on her bed.
Kenny adjusted himself to lay down beside her. He began playing with her hair, watching as her thin strands of brown fell between the loose grips of his fingers. That always seemed to relax her when he did that. "So no more Angel?" He asked sweetly, watching as she fought to stay awake. "He'll always be my Angel," she began in a tired whisper, "he's still here. In my heart." With that, she drifted off into sleep.
Kenny listened intently to the soft breathing coming from his sister. She was so sweet and pure, and her Angel made sure that she were alive and safe every night to enjoy this well-deserved sleep. He smiled thinking about everything that had taken place. His sister had finally decided to work to become strong. It was all he ever wanted to from her.
He thought about all the ways he had changed as well. He had gone from a selfish little boy, to someone that realized the importance of keeping the ones you love safe. In fact, even if he couldn't always keep them safe, he could give them the hope that somewhere there is a guardian angel that is watching over them.
The first time he put on the navy cape, his entire being changed. He had become someone who wanted to protect. Someone willing to sacrifice everything for what he had known. Even if what he was protecting had more flaws than he could count. Becoming this hooded guardian had done things for him that he could have never done on his own.
Feeling the suffocating spandex of his suit underneath his trade-mark orange coat, he realized how important this other identity had become to him. His sister had known him as her Guardian Angel. He smiled at Karen and gently kissed the top of her head.
"He's my angel, too."