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Angel’s Rest: Of Fate and Angels
(Full Release Coming Soon)
Friday has arrived. I peep through my eyelashes as the morning sunlight filters into my room through the pale, yellow curtains that hang over the window. One more day at school and it’ll be the weekend. I roll over to look at my alarm clock. Darn.
It’s nine thirty, I’m very late. I hear the phone ring downstairs and Bobby picks up. I strain to listen.
“I know Mrs Whitehaven. But you have to understand-“
“Yes but she’s been to hell and back these last months, can’t you cut her a bit o’ slack?”
He pauses whilst Mrs Whitehaven speaks.
I jump out of bed and start to dress. I choose a fitted navy skirt and a black vest top. I sling my satchel over my body, hastily make my bed then fling the curtains open.
Mason is standing opposite my house, leaning on the neighbours wall. He looks up at me with a grin and I just gape at him. How long has he been waiting there for me?
I turn, run out of my room and jog down the stairs.
I see Bobby in the hallway, holding the phone to his ear. He mimes banging his head against the wall as he sees me.
“Yes, she’s just leaving now, Mrs Whitehaven. Okay, alright. G’day.” He hangs up. “That woman. She’s an evil old bat.”
I laugh. “Sorry Bobby.” I feel guilty. Oh, guilt’s back. That’s good, I might stop being such a bitch at school.
“Don’t be. You ain’t done nothin’ wrong, Reilly.”
I nod slowly. “See ya later, Bobby.”
“I can drive ya to school,” he says, reaching for his keys that are hanging from a hook on the wall.
I shake my head. “Mason’s walkin’ me.”
He raises his eyebrows then shrugs.
“See ya,” I say.
“Wait. Lunch.” He runs to the kitchen and returns with a brown paper bag.
“Thanks.” I smile and tuck it into my satchel.
“No meat,” he says as I’m walking out of the door.
I glance back and give him a half-smile as I shut the door.
Mason rushes up to me. “You okay?
“I’m good.” I say brightly. I actually do feel pretty good this morning.
I reach up and lace my fingers together behind his neck then lean back and look up at him. Oh no. I feel guilty because I don’t like him that way. No guilt, don’t do this to me. I need him.
He reaches up and back around his own neck to rest his hands on mine. He gazes down at me like I’m a puzzle to be solved. Solve me Mason because I don’t think I can.
He unclasps my hands gently but keeps one of them in his own, lacing his fingers with it. It’s so nice. I feel something, what is it? Happy. I’m happy. My favourite emotion, and the one that defines the old me, is back. Hello, happy. Please stay. You’re keeping guilt at bay. I could do a backflip if I were a gymnast but sadly I’m not.
I squeeze his fingers and we start walking. We aren’t in any particular hurry but I’m sure we should be considering Mrs Whitehaven’s angry phonecall. By the time we casually arrive at school we’re over an hour late. We head to our second class which is music, slipping through reception before we’re seen.
I listen to people clanging instruments together as we’re set assignments by the teacher, Mr Patience. He lives up to his name but I certainly don’t. I want them all to shut the hell up. He works quietly at his desk while mayhem ensues around him, smiling contentedly to himself. Each to their own I guess.
Eliza Beth thrusts a triangle at me and I force a smile.
“Not today, Liza,” I say. Damn triangles.
She frowns then runs off to join Mattie who’s playing on a keyboard. He hasn’t spoken to me since the incident in the courtyard. Maybe it’s better that way for now. I can make amends when I’m feeling right again.
We’re supposed to be coming up with a short radio jingle in groups. It’s the last thing I want to be doing.
“Miss Montiel. Do you have a group?” Mr Patience calls across the room.
I go to shake my head but Mason drops into the seat beside me, placing a xylophone down on the desk in front of us.
Mr Patience smiles and nods then returns to his work.
“Kill me now,” I mutter to Mason.
“What? You don’t wanna play the xylophone?” he asks sarcastically, making me smile.
“I’m just more of a trombone kinda gal,” I say.
He laughs then taps out a melodic tune on the instrument. He writes down the notes on a sheet of music paper and I watch him do it. He takes my empty music sheet and fills it in for me.
“Thanks,” I say.
I listen as Mason works on the tune. I start to feel a little shaky. I shuffle my chair closer to him like his presence will right me. Our shoulders rub together as he plays on the xylophone.
Everything’s starting to weigh down on me again. Happy is well and truly gone. Pain is back. I hate pain, go away. Pain, pain go away, come back another day. Or never. Could that work as our radio jingle?
“You wanna go,” Mason states and it’s true.
I nod, chewing my lip as it begins to shake.
“You did well today,” he says.
I think he’s talking about my mood this morning not my abysmal attempt at staying in school. I’ve barely made it through one lesson. I feel tears coming. After three months you’d think I’d have gotten control of myself by now. I drop my hands into my lap and look down at them. I don’t wanna let the tears fall. I’ve got to keep it together.
Mason takes my hand out of sight under the desk. His hand is large and mine fits inside it perfectly like it was made for me.
“You can go as soon as the bell rings. Just five minutes left,” he says.
I nod and squeeze his hand. He becomes a lifeline in that moment as if holding his hand is the only thing stopping me from running and screaming out of the room like a toddler.
“Four minutes,” he says, close to my ear.
Then the pain begins to recede and suddenly I’m starting to keep it together again.
“Three minutes,” he says.
He runs circles on the back of my hand with his thumb and my body relaxes. I look up into his large, brown eyes and something else stirs inside me. Something long since forgotten has broken free of the locked box buried inside me.
I want to kiss him.
I’m in the middle of a class full of people and I want to kiss a guy I don’t even really know. What’s that emotion? Lust mixed with a hint of crazy.
“Two minutes,” he mouths, his eyes not even looking at the clock.
I gaze at him and everything around me fades slightly, like I’m standing somewhere alone and safe.
I’m so close to him. I tilt my chin up. His expression is calm.
“One min-” before he can finish I kiss him. I don’t know what’s possessed me. But that’s what I am, possessed.
He pulls away in shock and then everything comes flooding back like a tidal wave. Oh no.
I’m on my feet in an instant and I start running. The school bell sounds just as I reach the door. I have my bag but my notebook is left behind. I don’t care. I need to escape. What the hell did I just do?
Goodbye school, I say in my mind as I exit the reception. Miss Hardy calls after me but I’m gone.
The sun beats down on me as I travel the roads alone. Alone is good. I must remember that.
I run around the lake and I’m free. I feel so embarrassed. It’s a new emotion though which part of me is happy about. Hello, embarrassment. Perhaps that’s why I did it! To shock myself into feeling some new emotion. I wish.
Well done, Reilly Montiel. You’ve scared off the only person that was making you feel better. And you scared off happy for Christ’s sake.
Half way around the lake, I drop down to the ground. I’m far away from the world once more. I don’t think I can face going back to school today. No, I won’t go. I’m safe here and in my home where Bobby wonders if I’ll ever be okay again. That’s the norm now.
I recall Mason’s face when I kissed him. He looked shocked. Maybe horrified? No it wasn’t that bad. Maybe he was just surprised? He held my hand after all. Twice in fact. And there was that hug in the restroom. That was pretty intimate.
I mean, sure, he probably didn’t expect me to kiss him in the middle of a crowded classroom but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t like me in that way. Does it? He said he doesn’t. I said I didn’t though. Maybe his feelings have changed? I hope they have though I shouldn’t.
I lie back on the dusty ground and focus on the free feeling I get this far away from everything. I consider the new emotions that have awakened in me. They’re dissolving now and numbness is taking their place. Hello old friend. It’s interesting all the same. I actually wanted to kiss somebody. This feels like a small victory to me, despite how shamefully I acted.
I’d never felt that way before. I remember fancying Mattie back when I was normal. But we’d been friends. It wasn’t the same. Mattie was a school hottie and he was into me. I wanted to kiss him because I felt privileged that he wanted to kiss me. It wasn’t like that with Mason. I felt powerfully drawn to him back in the classroom, it was almost instinctual to be with him that way. The problem is, Mason doesn’t seem to want me like that at all.
I shower back at home. The house is empty and the room at the end of the hall scares me as I exit my room. My parents room. Normally, I don’t dare to even look at the wooden door. It leers at me. Part of me wants to go inside but I don’t.
I go downstairs and find myself in the kitchen. I sit at the wide oak table and cry for a while. I grew up here. Mom always insisted we eat as a family but now I’ll never eat with them again. I lay with my cheek against the cool surface and run a finger through the cracks in the wood. There’s scratches in it where I dug my fork in as a grumpy kid. It made Daddy so mad. He’d built this table himself.
“I’m sorry,” I apologise to the table.
I know I should eat so I get up and open the fridge. It looks so different since Bobby moved in. There’s no fresh food. Just processed, packaged stuff and a rack of beer.
I want salad.
I return to my room and dress. I choose denim cut-offs, a black t-shirt and sandals. I pull my satchel over my shoulder and rummage in my bedside table for my purse. I find it and drop it into my bag.
I walk to the small high street where there’s a few local shops, including Daddy’s. Mom was an estate agent on the other side of town so I don’t have to be haunted by her workplace where I’d been brought as a kid.
I enter the small supermarket and head straight to the fresh produce. I choose the best looking veg and some fruit to stock the fridge with. I pay and leave the shop, carrying the shopping bag in one hand. I spot Daddy’s hardware store across the road, Montiel Hardware, and decide to say hello to Bobby. I enter and a bell rings as I open the door, bringing back a hundred memories. I freeze in the doorway, pushing the thoughts away.
My heartbeat slows and I approach the desk. Bobby is busy stacking the shelves so I clear my throat and he turns to look at me.
“Reilly, aren’t you supposed to be at school?” he says but there’s no edge to his words.
I retrieve a banana from my shopping bag and lay it on the counter.
“Thought you could use some fruit in your diet of beer and meat,” I say with a smile.
He grins and takes the banana. “Thanks. What are you gonna do with yourself today then?”
“Run?” He raises an eyebrow as he peels the banana.
“Already did,” I say. I look around the shop and decide I want to stay. “Can I help out here today?”
Bobby frowns in surprise. “Sure. If that’s what you want.”
“I do. I’ll put these out back.” I rush past the counter and through the back door to the small kitchen Daddy had installed there. He was so handy.
I shove the food inside it then return to the front of the shop.
“You can help me stack shelves if you want?” Bobby suggests.
I nod eagerly and grab a box of bagged up products for sale.
“You know what you’re doin’?” Bobby asks as I carry the box towards the back of the shop.
“Yeah,” I say. “I used to help out here sometimes.”
I hang the bags of nails, screws, washers, bolts, and various other bits and bobs in their rightful places on the walls, putting them on small rails.
“I’ve got a guy comin’ in later to interview for a job here,” Bobby says.
“Oh? Did Mr Tully finally leave then?”
“Yeah, he’s movin’ to Indiana tomorrow.”
I liked Mr Tully. He used to buy me sweets from the grocery store when I spent time here as a kid.
I enjoy the work, it takes my mind away from everything else. Part of me wishes I could take the job and work here full time but I know Bobby would never let me quit school.
Bobby tells me to take a lunch break while he mans the shop. I reluctantly go into the kitchen. I use the veg I bought to make a salad, trying to imitate Mason’s one as best I can. I make one for Bobby but put a sandwich on the side of his because I know he’ll complain otherwise. I place his plate in the fridge and take my food out the back of the shop where there’s a small courtyard with a bench. I sit and eat, enjoying the crisp freshness of the salad.
After a while Bobby comes outside.
“The guy’s here to interview, are you alright to take over the shop for a bit?”
I nod and bring my empty plate into the kitchen. “I made you lunch. It’s in the fridge.”
“Wow, I might have to let you come work here more often,” Bobby says.
“Don’t tempt me,” I say with a smile.
I put my plate in the sink, grab an apple from the fridge then return to the shop. The guy standing there can only be a few years older than me. He has dark blonde hair and the same in stubble around his jaw. He‘s tall and muscular and, although he doesn’t look like him, somehow reminds me of Mason. I think it’s the way he immediately commands presence when he enters the room. His skin is tanned and his eyes are grey and light.
Bobby shakes his hand and I jump into the seat behind the till.
The guy’s eyes slide over me. He moves like a predator. I feel a little unsettled. I take a deep bite out of my apple and start going through the accounts to keep my eyes off of him. I glance up and his eyebrows are furrowed as he glares at me.
Jesus, what crawled up his ass and died? I chomp down on the apple and swivel my chair so I’m looking away from him.
Bobby leads him to a table he‘s set up in one corner of the shop for the interview. I hear the guy talking to Bobby and his tone is light, casual and friendly. Maybe he just has resting bitch face syndrome...
I chance a glance at him and his eyes are burning into mine. I let go of the apple in surprise then have to drop to the floor to pick it up like an idiot.
Please don’t hire this guy, Bobby. I need this place as one of my sanctuaries.
I set the apple core down and get off of the stool. I wet my lips and walk boldly up to their table.
“Coffee?” I offer in my sweetest voice.
“Yes, thanks,” Bobby says. “Earley this is Aurelia, my niece.
“Reilly,” I correct, meeting the icy gaze of Earley.
I wonder if Bobby can see the hatred in this man’s eyes as clear as I do. He doesn’t seem to, that’s for sure.
I stalk off into the kitchen and start up the coffee machine. I linger in the doorway, listening to their conversation.
“-just flew in from Dallas. Now I’m lookin’ for a job. I’ve worked with all kinds of tools on my pa’s farm so thought this would suit me,” Earley says.
Dallas…maybe he does know Mason.
“And are you plannin’ on stayin’ in Angel’s Rest for long?” Bobby asks.
“I was thinkin’ of settlin’ here for a year or so,” Earley replies.
Darn-it. I don’t want this guy working in my Daddy’s shop. I grit my teeth and fill up two cups of coffee. I love the smell but hate the drink. I bring it out to them. I know Bobby likes his black. I look at Earley and raise an eyebrow. “Milk? Sugar?”
“Milk but don’t call me sugar,” Earley says charmingly.
I know what you’re up to, sweet cheeks. You don’t fool me.
Bobby laughs and I pull a fake smile and take his cup back to the kitchen. I put a drop of milk in and return to the table. Earley reaches out to take it but I place the cup in front of him. Ha.
I walk back to the front desk.
I serve a couple of customers whilst the interview continues, occasionally throwing a glance over to them. Eventually, Earley gets up and shakes Bobby’s hand. Bobby stands and they walk towards the door.
“Well, Mr Black, I say you’ll fit in real nicely here. When can you start?” Bobby asks.
I grip the edge of the counter, digging my nails in. No. No. No!
Earley smiles. “Tomorrow too soon?” He throws a look at me like he’s angry that I’m listening.
I stare back evenly, not giving him the satisfaction of looking away this time.
“Tomorrow’s great. Start at nine and I’ll show you the ropes,” Bobby says.
“See you,” Earley says, touching his hat to Bobby. He exits the shop and struts off down the road.
“You kiddin’ me Bobby?” I snap. “Did you see the way that guy was lookin’ at me?”
“What are you talkin’ about? He was all kinds of nice.”
“He glared at me,” I say, placing my hands on my hips and mimicking the way he looked at me.
Bobby laughs. “Nonsense.”
“Well, what if I wanna work here?” I jump down off the stool and lean over the counter.
“You can’t quit school,” Bobby states.
“I know, I know. How about two days a week and some shifts after school?”
Bobby folds his arms and assesses me. I give him my biggest eyes, adopting the lost kitten look he works so well himself.
“Just after school shifts,” he offers.
“Na ah. One day a week. Come on, Bobby. I can’t be in that school all week. You can talk to Mrs Whitehaven. Tell her it’s extra-curricular,” I plead.
“Please, Bobby. I’m dyin’ in there. Did you know I had to listen to a whole lesson of Mrs Pickhurst tellin’ me all about how there’s life after death. In front of all my friends, Bobby. Like she was talkin’ directly to me and all.”
Bobby softens. “That Mrs Pickhurt is still teachin’? She taught me religion for heaven’s sake.”
“Well, you’re not that old,” I say, trying to sweeten him. “The women in town still have quite a soft spot for you.”
Bobby grins. “That I can’t deny. Alright, alright. You win, you can do two after school shifts and one day a week. I won’t work you any harder than that or they’ll be accusin’ me of reinstatin’ slavery.”
I rush around the counter and hug Bobby. “Thank you, thank you, thank you!”
He hugs me back tightly. I realise it’s the first genuine hug I’ve given him since everything happened. I’m not the only one it happened to. I shouldn’t forget that. When I release him I’m startled by the person walking in the door.
“Mason? What are you doin’ here?” I ask.
The memory of me kissing him comes rushing back and I feel my cheeks heat up. I touch one in wonder, horrified but a little happy to feel the reaction.
“I wanted to talk to you,” he says to me, nodding his head to Bobby in greeting.
Bobby smiles and walks behind the counter. “You can go if you want now, Reilly.”
I nod. “See ya later.”
I walk outside with Mason and follow him in silence down the road.
“You kissed me,” he states as casually as if he were commenting on the weather.
I don’t cringe because I expected him to bring it up.
I nod. “I’m sorry.” That’s the right thing to say I think.
We turn down a narrow street with rows of acacias on either side. He stops me half way down it.
I wonder if I should tell him I don’t like him that way? Or do I like him that way? I’m so confused.
“Look, we can’t be a couple, okay?” he says.
Damn he got there first.
His eyes burn into mine. He looks stoic and brooding and there’s those little flecks of gold catching my eye again.
I nod dumbly. “It was a spur of the moment thing. It won’t happen again. I don’t know what I was thinkin’. You’re takin’ Maylene to the rodeo for god’s sake.”
I fold my arms and gaze down the street.
“I am,” he agrees.
I feel a little irritated. Then angry. I am suddenly so angry. What has gotten into me? I want nothing more than to scream and shout at him but he hasn’t done anything wrong. I wish he had so I could yell at him without guilt.
“I hooked up with Maylene last night,” he says.
The words hit me like a punch to the gut. Now I’m furious. And darn-it if I have reason to be. “What! How could you?!” I shove him in the chest.
“You and I aren’t together, Reilly.”
I shove him again. “Then why are you actin’ like this around me?! Why are you doin’ this to me, Mason!?” Apparently I do have feelings.
“Because you need me to,” he says. His eyebrows furrow and a little v forms between his eyes.
I shove him with every word I say next. “What. Does. That. Even. Mean?!”
I’m too angry to wait for a reply. I storm off down the street. Since the first time I met him, I don’t want him anywhere near me. Why did I okay his stupid relationship with Maylene? I curse my own idiocy. Why didn’t I see it before? The way I feel is so obvious now.
As my anger fades, darkness rushes back in. Oh no. Pain is coming. I run flat out back to my home. I charge upstairs and slam my bedroom door shut behind me. I turn and punch it as hard as I can then a scream rips from my lungs.
I collapse onto the bed. I’m alone again. Alone is always best. Why do I keep forgetting that? I let my guard down, now look what’s happened? It’s my own fault. I’ll never do it again.
I scream into my pillow and the last of the anger leaves my body. I sob until I fall asleep but only more pain awaits me in my dreams.