The sun kissed her cheek as a cool breeze brushed the hair off her shoulders. Anna pulled her sweater close to her as she walked along the trail, oblivious to the birds chirping overhead or the squirrels darting from tree to tree eager to stash their goods. She had been cooped up indoors for far too long, and the exercise was doing her some good. At least, that was what she kept telling herself. Frankly, she just wanted to go back home to her comfortable chair, with a cozy blanket and a warm cup of tea.
The scent of roses filled the air, and Anna breathed in deeply. She loved roses, but summer was winding down, and she was surprised that they were still in bloom. Anna paused on the trail and looked around. The old railroad ties, with its wood beams and steel rails, were removed long ago, and miles of concrete stretched before her. The trees overhead formed a tunnel which created a canopy over the pathway to shelter the walkers, joggers, bikers, and the occasional horseback rider from the heat of the sun.
Anna was pretty much alone, with the exception of another woman advancing toward her. She wore a white chiffon dress with sneakers, a wide-brimmed hat, large gold hoop earrings, and a dozen gold bangle bracelets. She looked out of place for a typical hiker. The attire was too flashy for outdoor activity, but Anna reminded herself that sometimes men in business suits would also venture this trail during their lunch hour.
Anna gave the woman a brief nod and a curt smile, and she returned the sentiment. The woman watched Anna as she maneuvered to the other side of the path, and the scent of roses overpowered Anna’s senses, again. It was an odd experience which had rattled her, and she quickly averted her eyes. Anna was more than eager to get home where safety and comfort awaited her, but her plans for the afternoon would soon take a different turn.
“I hope I didn’t make you feel uncomfortable back there.”
The warm breath beside Anna’s ear caught her off guard. She jumped back and let out a small yelp. Her heart pounded in her chest as she spun around to find the strange woman in the big hat clasping her hands behind her back and rocking on her heels. She looked like a overly excited teenager ready to pounce on her next piece of gossip.
“Hi! My name is Olivia,” the woman raised her hand and waved at Anna.
Anna’s brow furled. She was irritated by Olivia’s invasion on her personal space and quickly getting annoyed by each word Olivia spoke. Instead of engaging in common courtesy and feeling the need to lash out, Anna asked, “What are you wearing? That dress can’t possibly keep you warm on a day like today!”
“Oh, sweetie! It’s Prada. The dress was practically made for wings,” Olivia’s smile grew wide as she turned to the side to reveal the open back of the flowing fabric. Soft feathery wings stretched out from behind, and Olivia gave them a flap or two before tucking them tight against her back. She lifted the hem of her dress to reveal the white nylon high-top sneakers. “And, the shoes… well, they’re Prada, too. The only pair of sneakers I could find with a zipper pouch to hold my angel dust. Sadly, this dress doesn’t come with pockets.”
“Angel dust? Wings?!” Anna’s jaw dropped. She rubbed at her eyes. She couldn’t believe what she was seeing and hearing. Olivia was clearly dressed for a runway jog, but the wings were a sight from another realm. Anna thought that she must be imagining things, “What are you?”
“I’m your guardian angel,” Olivia waved her hands and held them out palm up like she was holding a pair of cups. Her bracelets chimed a beautiful tune that was soothing and relaxing to Anna’s ears. Anna felt her nerves calm down, but she didn’t trust what she was seeing and felt that maybe she should just go home and get more sleep.
That’s it! I must be sleep deprived, Anna thought. Assuming this interaction was all a hallucination, Anna turned abruptly and walked away.
“Anna! Where are you going,” Olivia dropped her hands and stepped forward. “Sleep deprivation isn’t the problem. Wait up. You need me!”
Anna spun around feeling mortified, “You can hear my thoughts, too?!”
“Only when I need to,” Olivia stopped short.
“What do you mean when you say that I need you?” Anna was feeling violated and confused. Her thoughts were always her own. They were private and having someone be able to read them at whim was unsettling. Furthermore, Anna never needed anyone in the past. Why should she need someone now?
Olivia bit her lower lip and looked down at her feet. She kicked a small pebble with the toe of her shoe and said, “I don’t know.”
“I thought guardian angels were, like, messengers of God,” Anna could feel her anger flare up inside of her as her face flushed hot. “Aren’t you supposed to know all. After all, you can read my thoughts, and you know my name!”
“That’s not how it works,” Olivia’s voice softened. “I don’t usually know anything until it happens. I just know who I am assigned to and the rest will come to me.”
Up until this point, Anna had managed to live her life on her own. She never needed spiritual assistance, nor had she met or needed a guardian angel. Since her parents divorced, Anna had learned to fend for herself. She was a survivor, and certainly no guardian angel has ever assisted her in the past. After all, where were they when her world collapsed, and she had to adjust to a new normal being tossed from one home to the next?
As if on queue, Olivia said, “We have always been with you…”
Olivia continued her montage of the angels’ presence in Anna’s life, but Anna had enough and tuned her out. If the guardian angel was assigned her, then why send Olivia? Anna figured, if anything, her guardian angel would have been a tall, strong handsome man who would protect her by wielding his mighty sword to slash the evil threatening Anna’s existence. Of course, this was wishful thinking on Anna’s part. She never thought the Almighty would send a fashionista. Olivia looked like she just stepped out of the front cover of a Vogue magazine with her perfect nails and shiny pink lips. The more Olivia talked, the more determined Anna was to end this conversation.
“I don’t need you,” Anna interrupted. “I can take care of myself.”
“No! Please go away,” Anna turned her back on Olivia and began walking toward home. A breeze rustled the leaves overhead, and roses, once again, filled the air. Anna swung around to confront Olivia, “I said go a…”
The trail was empty. A chipmunk flitting into the brush and a monarch fluttered about looking for the last remaining nectar of the season. The cicadas released their final tune as crickets chirped their mating call. Anna shook her head and tried to convince herself that it was all just an illusion; a hallucination concocted by her brain cells’ desire for an afternoon nap.
Anna’s return to her apartment from the trails took a little longer than she had desired. It required a short walk along the country road with cars whizzing past. She agreed that it wasn’t the safest route, but it was the most accessible one to get to her destination. The country road merged onto Main Street where storefronts lined the downtown. Her apartment was nestled above one of those stores, but there was only one entrance to her abode. And, it had to be accessed through the alley behind the buildings. It wasn’t desirable, but her small town was the safest place she knew and entering her home gave her a greater sense of security than any other place on earth.
Little did Anna know, a sinister danger lurked around the corner. He had been watching her and got to know her routine well. Today, she gave him the perfect opportunity to strike when she ventured out onto the secluded trail. During his brief stay in town, he had discovered several prime locations along that trail, and they would aid in his abduction. However, as he was about to make his move, a woman with an oversized hat appeared on the trail. He didn’t know where she had come from or how long she had been there, but he wasn’t going to stick around long enough to find out. Subduing two women was much harder than one, and right now there was only one woman he wanted. He slithered his way back to the alley and waited behind the storefronts for Anna’s return home. He was tired of waiting and was hoping she would be alone; just as she had been every day since he began watching her.
Anna rounded the corner of a deli building. The gravel crunched beneath her feet as she entered the alley, and dumpsters lined the wall to her left. A rancid stench of greasy left-overs and discarded foods of the restaurants that once served them as a delicate cuisine assaulted her senses. Anna turned up her nose and veered closer toward the buildings to avoid the smell. Her apartment was on the top floor of a second story bakery that created sweet cakes, yummy cookies, and mouth-watering scones. Unlike her current situation, Anna looked forward to the bakery’s aroma each morning.
She reached the bottom of the black spiral staircase that led to her apartment. As Anna took to the steps, a heavy arm reached around her shoulders and pulled her off of the rickety structure. Anna’s heart skipped a beat as she was being attacked at the safest place she knew… her home!
Resolved had set in, and Anna wasn’t going to let some guy who reeked of body order and rotting food overpower her. She squirmed around in his arms and bit down hard on his hand to loosen his grip on her. When his arms loosened, she pushed away from him and aimed for his crotch with her foot, but nailed his shin instead. He stumbled backwards, and she screamed out for help as she ran up the stairs to her apartment. Anna fumbled with the keys in her pocket as she climbed, desperate to get inside and place a door between her and her attacker. She reached the top of the stairs and paused to slide the key inside the lock. The staircase continued to creak and rock from side to side as the man took the steps two at a time. Turning the doorknob, Anna pushed hard against the door and it swung wide open. She tumbled forward, and then backtracked to shut the door.
Before Anna heard the click of the lever falling into place, the man slammed his body into the door causing Anna to fall backwards. She swung around to face her attacker. He was tall and beastly, unshaven with grimy shoulder length hair. A sudden case of hopelessness and fear to settle in on Anna as he smirked down at her. The man closed the door behind him, and she could hear the click of the deadbolt lock sliding into place. If she was scared before, she was now terrified. Anna was trapped in her own apartment with a man whose only goal was to do her harm and possibly take her life. There was no way she could get out of this situation on her own.
“HELP ME!” She screamed.
The man looked around the dark room. It was a one-room studio apartment, and it was empty. Anna’s pleas appeared to be futile, and he felt confident that they were alone. The man moved forward and bent down at the knees to grab Anna by the shoulders.
“No one is here to save you,” he growled as he reached for his belt; a menacing chuckle escaped from his lips. “We’re all alone; just you and me, honey.”
Suddenly, a flash of light appeared so bright that it knocked Anna backwards. She held her arm up to her face and squinted. Gold sparkled everywhere as the light dimmed and a thunder shook the floor beside Anna as her attacker fell silent. His nose bent upward at a strange angle by the pressure of his face on the wooden floor. The man’s mouth was agape which released a sour odor. Anna cringed and scurried away from the man on the floor. She looked back at the lighted figure. A human form began to take shape. Then, wings plumed from the body, and a familiar figure stood before Anna.
“See, I told you that you needed me,” Olivia said matter-of-factly. She placed one hand on her hip, causing her bracelets to ring out a triumphant tune.
Anna was in awe. The vision she had earlier was real and standing in her living room. She looked down at the man at her feet and asked, “What did you do?”
“I knocked him out with some angel dust,” Olivia blew a spec of glitter from her nails. “He should be good for a few hours. When he comes to, he’ll find himself trippin’ on the truth and will confess to everything,”
“That was impressive,” Anna said.
“I thought so, too,” Olivia agreed. “You’re my first gig. I never used the angel dust before. It sure can wallop a good punch. I hope I didn’t give him too much.”
Both women looked at each other in silence, and it occurred to each that this was new territory for both. The awkwardness of the situation bubbled forward and they giggled at their own silliness. When their fits of laughter died down, Olivia patted the golden powder off her dress. The bracelets chimed again with a soothing song, and Olivia smiled at the newfound hope that wrapped around Anna’s being like a cozy blanket.
From then on, Anna never doubted Olivia, who would pop in from time to time in the most annoying of ways. Anna accepted Olivia’s idiosyncrasies with comfort and a sense of security. The angel would guide Anna when she was faced with difficult decisions, and she would chastise Anna for her fashion choices. In turn, Anna teased Olivia’s outrageous desire to be up-to-date with the latest trends. To Anna, Olivia was her guardian and protector. She was someone Anna could call out to in the middle of the night or whenever she was in need; no matter how big or small the problem might be. And to Olivia, Anna was her human to guide and protect until the day Anna was called to her heavenly home.