Ever This Day

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Chapter One – Angel, or

What Happened after My Thirteenth Birthday

Yesterday, I turned thirteen. Today, I saw an angel.

Now, I’m rushing back to the house, my feet squishing wetly in my black tennis shoes. I fling open the door, using the toes of one foot to push my shoe off the other. I peel my socks off, then dart through the empty kitchen, past my dad sitting in front of the TV in the living room, up the stairs. I hear footsteps below and then Mom’s voice: “Maddy! You need to wipe up this water in the kitchen.”

            I don’t turn around. Still panting, I haul a box out of the storage closet, pawing through it until I find the angel Christmas ornaments. I line them up beneath the dim hall light, studying them against the thin green carpet.

            They’re all so . . . skinny. I trail my fingers over the blue-glass dress of one, the ceramic wings of another. Blonde hair, white cheeks. Only the baby angels are round and pink and fat. I pick up the only angel with brown hair and study it. Glitter dots her wings and sticks to my hands. The glitter is the most angel-like thing about her.

            All lined up, they only look as much like angels as Barbie dolls look like people. I wrap the brown-haired angel in tissue paper. I’m still wearing my heavy winter coat, so I tuck her into an inside pocket.

            The stairway door shrieks, and I go tense. Mom’s feet pound up the stairs. “Maddy? Did you hear me? There’s water on the floor in—” She pauses. “What are you doing with the Christmas ornaments?”

            “I’m bringing one to school,” I mumble. “To draw it.”

            “You need to wipe up the kitchen floor. You know you’re supposed to take your shoes off in the entryway.”

            Because I’m kneeling behind the box, she can’t see that I’m not wearing my shoes or my socks. The bottoms of my jeans, still cold and dripping, left the wet trails in the kitchen. She must not have seen my shoes in the entryway because she would have yelled about them if she had. They’re brand new and already a mess. I’ll sneak back into the entryway and put them outside for the night, underneath the bench in the garage. Maybe they’ll dry by morning.

            “What were you doing outside so late?”

            I shiver, remembering the chill of the water, the flash of light from the sky. “Nothing,” I say.

Here’s how it happened.

            I was knee-deep in the stream that ran through the woods behind our house. The water rushed by me, frigid and fast and high with the first spring melt. I was thinking about that scene in The Hours, where Virginia Woolf—well, actually, Nicole Kidman with a weird nose—loads her pockets down with rocks and then starts walking into the pond. I didn’t have rocks in my pockets, but my shoes stuck in the mud so hard that pulling each foot up to take the next step threw me off balance. I knew what Virginia Woolf had been doing, and I knew that’s what I was doing, too. I was thinking of Brian’s face contorted with contempt; I was thinking of sitting at the lunch table alone; I was thinking of the empty look in Dad’s eyes; I was thinking of never facing any of these things again. And I was following the stream, one laborious step after another.

I wasn’t crying. I never cried anymore.

            Not like Kiana, whose face got red and bunched up and full of tears when Mom and Dad fought, or when Mom yanked a Barbie comb away from her before she could put it in her mouth. She cried when she slipped on the ice and when she woke up in the middle of the night. I wondered what it would be like to just show your emotions like that. I wondered if I had ever been that way.

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⏰ Last updated: Mar 29, 2011 ⏰

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