I'm currently finishing the sequel to Outsiders but for now here's a little story I wrote for my uncle for his birthday. It's sort of like a child story and I had little time to work on it so it's not perfect but I think it's nice.
There are different reasons for angels to descend on Earth. There are missions, banishment and such. And then there is the way it happened to Bob. Angels although light enough to stand on clouds still have to be aware of the parts of the sky which aren't covered by the fluffy white mist. Otherwise they fall down. In other words Bob tripped.
When he woke up on Earth he was laying on the cold pavement of a dark alleyway. Next to him there was a man standing. Bob's first thought was if he had seen him but that escaped his mind quickly. He looked up to see the whole figure of the person. The flip-flops and skinny red trousers were probably the most normal thing he had on him. He wasn't wearing any shirt just a Scottish flag cape on his back that reached a little above his knees and a plastic helmet on his head. He was pointing a wooden sword at Bob.
The angel sighed. He must've looked pretty pathetic. Not that he was scared of a grown man parading in a kids' costume. It was just that his wings were so pathetically... small. It wasn't really uncommon for angels to have small wings. In fact it was how things were. But humans had to make everything so big and they drew them with wings the size of angels themselves. Who'd want wings that huge? It was quite uncomfortable with the ones they had already.
'So?' Bob said seeing how the only reaction of the man was a huge grin on his face that was revealing a gap in his smile made from two chipped teeth. Seeing the woden sword in his hand it wasn't that much of a surprise he ended that way. The man's lips started forming the first words. 'Yes...' Bob said just a split second quicker. The expression on the man's face told him he guessed the question correctly. He was going to ask him if he was a real angel.
'Cool,' the person said smiling again.There was awkward silence again. 'Your wings are trembling...' the man said after a minute or so.
Bob realized the cold only then. It wasn't just cool it was freezing. He blushed a bit. 'I know that!' he said trying to turn his face away. 'Speak for yourself! You have flip-flops on!'
'I know, cool ain't they?' the man smiled sheepishly. 'Oh...' he said realizing he should probably help the angel up. He reached out his hand but it seemed that the angel was a bit too proud to receive help from a mortal.
He stood up on his own not without trouble though he tried to hide the fact that it was hurting. It didn't really work out that well. The reason was obvious when the man could finally see the front of the angel. Bob had white trousers and a white shirt both covered in mud and blood. There was a bone sticking out of his hand but he quickly fixed it, obviously annoyed. Judging by the relief on his face a few moments later and the fact that he was an angel it had probably healed. But although his body returned to normal the stains on his shirt remained and moreover he had wings so there was no doubt he'd be drawing attention to himself.
'I'm Paul' the man said finally remembering he should introduce himself when meeting someone.
Bob didn't answer. It wasn't that he didn't want to it was just that his name wasn't angelic enough. Bob. Robert. Something just didn't sound right. It wasn't like Michael or Rafael or any other of the higher angels. It was just Bob.
Since Paul didn't seem to mind he decided it was OK to keep his name a secret for a while.
The two of them were walking down the street and only Paul knew where they were heading. Bob had no idea why he was following him but it seemed the normal thing to do. Naturally, people were looking at them but Paul's costume made a good cover so he didn't have to worry about being seen with wings.
'So, why don't you have a halo?' Paul asked during the way.
'Oh, that is because it fell, but I've got a spare one in my pocket,' Bob answered annoyed, not knowing the human would believe him so easily. Or maybe Paul just believed that it was impossible for angels to lie and use sarcasm?
'So does it shine?' he followed up with excitement.
'No, it's invisible...' Bob said making the sarcasm in his voice even more distinguishable.
'That's a pity! So, can you talk to animals?' Paul continued the questioning.
'No...' Bob answered shortly.
The interrogation didn't seem to end and as the answer had always been a "no" Bob felt more and more like burying himself in the ground after each question. The more reasonable of them were: "can you make fire?", "can you see through walls?", "do you know telekinesis?", and "do you have a magic sword?". And each time Bob thought Paul wouldn't be able to think of anything more the human appeared to find something new and even more outrageous than the previous question. To Bob's surprise he didn't ask about the most normal things such as flying or talking in different languages both of which he wasn't able to do. He just hoped that Paul didn't take these things for granted.
At one point the answering "no" was turning into a habit and Bob's thoughts were focusing only on one thing: losing Paul.
'You wanna stay at my flat for now?' Paul asked as if reading his mind.
'I can't, really' Bob said but it didn't help much. Not only was he already following Paul the man had no intention of simply letting him go.
Paul dragged him to his flat but stopped talking for a while so the angel had a chance to look around. It looked like it was winter in the industrial town of whatever country he was in. Judging from the flag Paul had on his bag and the fact that nobody seemed to mind it it was Scotland but he shouldn't trust in something like that. There was even a bit snow on the street, though most of it melted and disappeared in the drains or stayed in the form of puddles wherever the sewage system was stuck. It was freezing and he was barefooted. Each step made a shiver go up his spine. He couldn't imagine how Paul - a human! - survived with just flip-flops and without a shirt on his chest. He must've thought this was Italy and he was a roman soldier. Somehow Bob wasn't too surprised at that thought.
'So what are you doing in Glasgow Mr Angel?' Paul asked probably to bored with the silence.
Bob swallowed thinking about what he should say. That he fell? Accidentally? No way he'd do that. He had to make up a good story. At least now he knew what town he was in.
'I... am on a mission,' he said with hesitation. Then he understood. It was enough, wasn't it? He didn't have to say anything more now. If he asks anymore he could say it's a secret. Good.
'Maybe we can help you?' Paul said optimistically.
'I don't think so...' Bob said without any hesitation. Wait a second... 'We?'
'Yeah, me and my flat mates: Alex and Nick,' Paul said quickly, already forgetting about Bob's "mission". He turned rapidly towards a block of flats and opened the door. 'Some say Alex is a demon but I doubt that's true,' he explained during their walk towards the third floor. 'I don't really believe it but I guess you can see for yourself if he really is one. I mean you're an angel and everything.'
Bob felt even more irritated as it seemed that Paul had a bit too high opinion of him. Once he fell he couldn't really do anything special. He was pretty much like any other person with a few exceptions such as quick regeneration and having those useless wings on his back.
Paul's flat apparently had one number too much as it was 3009 compared to the neighbors' 308 and 310. He didn't really seem to care to much about it; if he noticed it at all. Bob had no idea how three and now four people could live in such a small flat with a percussion set and a few guitars taking up over half of the space in the living room. There was also a cramped kitchen, a bathroom and a bedroom.
Having a spacious cloud for a home for the last few weeks Bob couldn't agree to living in such conditions. He realized this was his last chance to escape.
'I can't really stay here...' he said adding a decent amount of modesty into his voice. Not to sound too expecting. Pure formality and judging how Paul believed everything he said before this should work well enough.
'I can't really imagine where you would go looking like that...' a voice came from the kitchen and the next moment a tall man came out holding a cup of tea (?) in his hand.
'Hey Alex!' Paul greeted him cheerfully. 'This bloke's an angel!' he said like it was something normal. 'He's gonna stay here for a while until he's finished with his mission. And we're gonna help him!'
Bob looked at him surprised and annoyed. Why'd he have to decide everything on his own. There was no helping it now. He had to come up with a decent mission so that they would believe him. He met Paul's face for a split second. His slight grin was obvious. He had been planning to help him all along. He tried sorting everything that had happened to him in his mind before saying anything more. Around Paul he could say anything but Alex seemed to be a more cautious person. He had to watch his words.
So, he fell on Earth and was found by naive Paul and dragged to his apartment where he met Alex. He told them he had a mission. And he had. He needed to get back to Heaven before anybody noticed it. He had to get back to Heaven at all! There was one angel he heard about who was in Glasgow and could probably help him. Maybe he could actually use this situation to his convenience. If they were ready to help him then...
'Konnen sie fliegen?' a new voice came out of the kitchen and a moment later a man in odd clothing came out of the kitchen. He had a white shirt with colorful stars, tucked into cowboy trousers. Judging from the look on Paul and Alex's faces they too didn't understand a word he was saying. The man's face looked disappointed as he saw the questioning expression Bob gave him. 'So you can't speak German... But you're an angel!' he exclaimed like a boy who just learned that Santa Claus rides a car instead of a sleigh pulled by reindeers.
Bob sighed. 'Nicolas, I presume...' he said and the German nodded.
Now he wasn't surprised that they were living together. Each of them was eccentric in their own way: Paul was naive, cheerful and apparently liked to dress up, Nick wore weird clothing and was German and Alex was said to be a devil (there had to be some reason for it) and seemed to be more clever then the other two. But that probably wasn't the case judging how Paul put him into this situation just now.
'I want to clear this before any more questions are asked,' Bob started afraid that with three people the number of questions posed to him would triple. 'I can't really do anything special! I can't speak many languages, I can't make light balls, nor can I make flowers grow and I can't shrink, I can't grow extra limbs, my blood doesn't have healing abilities, the blood can't levitate when I tell it to and you can see that it too is red, I can't make cats change colors or grow extra whiskers, I can't walk through walls and I certainly don't split venom!' Bob barely caught a breath in between naming less then half of the powers Paul expected him to have.
'Flying?' Alex asked completely unimpressed. He probably had been expecting something like that to come out of Paul's lips.
Bob blushed all over his face at that question. The one that he hoped was never asked.
'D-do you think... that if I could fly I'd end up like this?' he asked remembering to keep his cool. He displayed his ruined clothing. 'I have to find this other angel whose gonna tell me what my mission is...' he said calmly trying to change the subject.
'So what can you do?' Nick asked.
Bob felt his face burn with red. If you want to help then at least help! Bob thought.
'Well... nothing, really...' he said quietly looking at the ground. He was just like any other angel except they had some special ability. Each of them had it except for him. The only thing he could do was... 'Ouch!' Bob screamed as Nick plucked one of his feathers out. 'That hurt!' he shouted at Nick with tears in his eyes.
'Did it?' Nick looked at Bob surprised. He then turned his gaze at the feather and saw a drop o blood at the end of it. 'Oh, sorry...' he whispered meekly.
'I'm gonna get you some new clothes,' Alex said heading towards the room. 'Go and take a shower or whatever. There're clean towels in the drawer and you can use whatever you want in the bathroom. Nick, fix him some lunch - not pizza! And Paul... you know...' the man disappeared in the room.
Bob looked at Paul who was searching the drawers looking for something. The look on his face told the angel that he wasn't going to find out what "you know" meant. He was about to go to the bathroom when he was stopped by the "roman soldier". The man touched his wing with something cold and metal and when Bob tried to turn around Paul hid the object and smiled sheepishly.
'Be back in a while!' he said leaving the flat in his flip-flops.
Bob sighed deciding not to even try to understand what Paul was trying to do. There was no way he would ever know what was going on in the head of all three of them.
He went into the bathroom and closed the door behind him. Showering. Something he'd never done before. He took his clothes of and checked his wings in the mirror. They were the only part of him differing him from humans. He could feel slight tingling where his feather was plucked out. Other than that the wings were intact. He had his whole fall to get into a position that would be harmless for his wings.
He went into the shower and turned the water on. He stayed under the shower despite the water still being cold. He sat down finally grasping the gravity of his situation. He was stuck here on Earth with a bunch of weird people who although ready to help him in any way he didn't want to use too much. He didn't have any useful talents, he didn't know how to get back to Heaven and he had to go back to Heaven. It was the only place he knew and if he did have to stay on Earth he knew that it would be hard for him to be a normal human, if not impossible. The only thing he had left was that little spark of hope that he could somehow return to Heaven. But he didn't even know who or where was the angel he heard about.
The water got warmer and warmer until the heat was almost unbearable. But in contrast with the cold weather outside it felt really good. Although his feathers were completely soaked he stayed under the shower enjoying himself. Maybe this was his last chance to do so.
That thought crossed his mind and turned all his reasoning around. If he went to Heaven then what? He wouldn't be able to enjoy water like this or meet people like Paul, Nick and Alex. To them he was special, although in Heaven he was merely a leaf on a tree. Whatever he did he couldn't get any more attention then the rest, if not less then everyone.
He shook his head. This was bad. He couldn't accept thoughts like that into his head. He didn't belong in a world like this. He didn't know anything about it. Just the things he heard up in the sky. Besides, theory and practice didn't always go together. Everything he learnt could as well be lies and nothing would change. And he himself wasn't thought too many things in Heaven either.
The running water hid his quiet sobbing. He couldn't help the tears running to his eyes. He was tired and confused, but somehow refreshed. He stood up and grabbed a bar to keep his balance. His body felt heavier, probably due to being longer and longer on Earth.
When he went out a new change of clothes was already waiting for him. He put on a pair of fairly new jeans (judging from the stars on one side they were Nick's) and a tight black T-shirt with "fabulous" written on it (probably Alex's). There were holes cut in the back, perfect for his wings. There were also warm socks and a blazer - also adjusted. His old clothes were gone now and he was quite sure that the stains were too much even for bleaching.
He went out of the bathroom, his cheeks red from the heat in the bathroom. The temperature in the living room was a lot cooler but thanks to the warm blazer he didn't feel as cold as before. There was a nice smell in the air. His wet wings gave out a pleasant aroma but soaked with water they were heavy, not to mention they were making a fairly big puddle on the carpet as the liquid was dripping from the end of his feathers. He shook them unconsciously only to make everything else wet.
'Wow, even Alex doesn't take so long in the bathroom,' Nick said jokingly. The other man quickly repaid with a feeble, friendly punch in the arm. Bob smiled unconsciously. Heaven was a place of happiness but also discipline. Relationships looked a lot different there. If they were angels Alex would be probably out the door angry with Nick over a simple joke. 'Anyways, I made you some sausage and toasts and eggs' the man said giving a huge, overflowing with grease plate to Bob.
Alex smiled and patted Bob on the shoulder. 'He's from Bavaria,' he explained. 'You can use the kitchen to your own content if you want. Here's your tea,' he added giving him a cup with "Lady Killer" written on it. 'Don't ask...' Alex said seeing the questioning look on Bob's face.
The angel chuckled imagining what could've happened to the embarrassed man. 'Well you are pretty,' Bob said not realizing his straight forwardness would lead to Alex having a tomato red face.
Nick almost chocked with laughter. 'Girls are pretty - men are handsome,' he corrected still barely breathing. 'Least you got to see the rare sight of blushing Alex!'
The two sat with down with him at the kitchen table to keep him company. Bob gazed at the food hesitating before eating.
'Told you you should make something vegetarian,' Alex said.
'How should I know what he can eat!' Nick started making excuses.
Bob chuckled again and started eating quickly just to spite all the Heaven rules. They were b...
'So what's your name?' Nick once again cut his thoughts short. 'Gabriel? Kazael? Or whatever other -zael?'
Bob looked at him for half a minute before answering the question. He opened his lips a few times to speak but closed it again. 'It's Bob,' he uttered finally and after nobody moved he added: 'Robert Byron Hardy is my full name.'
He sighed. He had been expecting that kind of reaction. Bob - a great name for an angel! He returned to eating the meal which tasted a lot better than he expected. He didn't know human food was so tasty.
Nick giggled. 'Hardy is almost like Hearty! Fits you!' he smiled.
Bob looked up and gazed at him. He never looked at it that way. It was a lot more optimistic than how he usually looked at him being an angel.
'So what is your mission?' Alex asked returning to the subject before Nick came in.
'Oh, that... I need to find this person and meet him and afterwards I should get more details,' he explained slowly, trying his best to try and remember what that person looked like. He had photographic memory after all. Without it even his only talent would be a waste. 'I don't know his name but I know what he looks like. I can draw you him... her,' he corrected after finally remembering. 'Lem'me just finish this,' he took the last piece of toast and stuffed it in his mouth. He mumbled a "thank you" that didn't sound the least like what he was trying to say. He washed his hands and in that time Alex already prepared the necessary utensils: a paper and a pink crayon.
Drawing with two people standing on his back and looking through his shoulders was a lot harder than in Heaven. He managed to finish it, though his cheeks remained red for another minute or two.
Nick opened his mouth amazed at Bob's talent.
'Anyone you've been with, Alex?' Nick asked teasingly.
'It's Paul whom I see on the wall of almost every girl I date, OK... Naked Paul...' Alex came back at Nick and they both laughed. 'Paul's a model,' the man explained to Bob. 'He goes to art school and I've never seen him have enough money to pay the rent. Modeling is just one of the things he does. Anyways we'll ask around tomorrow. Today we can celebrate. Or are you the meek and obedient type?' Alex asked with a sneaky smile and he winked when Bob answered with the same smirk as his.
The one thing Bob couldn't deny right now was how he was enjoying himself. The adventure, the new and mostly the fun. He didn't even know what he wanted more: to enjoy himself or to go back to Heaven. But returning was inevitable. Tomorrow he would start searching for that angel who could give him direction and help him return. He missed Heaven and wanted to want to return there.
'We'll have to find an excuse for your wings,' Nick said the first rational thing since Bob had came through the front door.
'We can worry about that later, Nick,' Alex said already thinking about the next thing he was about to do. 'So what's your idea for tonight, Bob?' he asked searching the fridge. 'Oh! Champagne!' he added with joy and put it in the fish. 'Oh, and smoked salmon for dinner, I guess. Sorry Bob, there's nothing but leftovers after Paul decided to eat a burger for breakfast today.'
'No problem,' Bob uttered. Nick glanced at him await the answer for Alex's question. 'I don't know what I want to do. I guess you can tell me something about Earth...' he said with hesitation.
Nick glanced at Alex with a sneaky smirk dancing across his face. 'No problem. But only if you tell us about Heaven.'
Bob hesitated for a few moments. It was banned to speak of Heaven to humans. It was the first things they were thought when in heaven. But when he realized that they never told him anything really important he thought: "what the hell" and started to unfold the secrets of his home.
He told them everything he knew and he didn't really regret it despite a quarter of it being the effect of alcohol working its way through his body. Paul came back not long after he started and Bob had to repeat the part he didn't hear.
He started with the way they were living in the clouds which were their home. It was one of the reasons why there were no angels in the dessert. As much as he wanted to tell them about how he came to Heaven he couldn't because he didn't remember anything from before he became an angel not too long ago. He explained how every angel had a personal talent - a power - that they could use on Earth where most of their abilities disappeared. They weren't light anymore, they started having human needs, their regeneration time became a bit longer. Nobody knew what happened to the angels' longevity because none of them stayed long enough on Earth to see what happens.
'So have you had any friends there?' Paul asked. 'Or a girlfriend?'
'Friends? Yeah, most of them were sent on missions, though' Bob said with a smile on his face but his eyes were sad. 'I've never been in love.'
Only Paul didn't catch the nostalgic tone in Bob's voice, as well as Nick and Alex's gazes telling him to shut up when he started to ask more weird questions, which the angel couldn't answer at all. Finally, he was too tired and after a small glass of champagne, too drunk to recall anything more he could tell about Bob started to make up stories about Heaven which nobody questioned despite their weirdness.
Bob woke up at noon with his first hangover and after his first nightmare. He dreamt of wars between Heaven and hell and him fighting with Alex who had a demon tail. By Bob's side were cloud animals which could teleport. His hands were that of a skeleton and he had blood on the bare bones. The battle obviously took place on Earth because he saw the bodies of Paul and Nick. He woke up just before giving Alex the final blow. Just the memory of it made Bob sweat and gather more tears in his eyes. Never again will he let Paul ask all those stupid questions. As harmless as they seemed at the beginning these kind of dreams were their result.
He got up and found out that a new change of clothes was already waiting for him. The other two mattresses were already hidden in the closet and Nick's bed was made. The room seemed a lot more spacious now that it was clean. He hadn't had an occasion to look around the flat before.
The room was quite small but there was enough room for four beds if one was prepared not to walk around it anymore. There was a big wardrobe, probably used by all three roommates. There were also a few shelves with everything from books (in both english and german) to CDs. The walls were red and covered with all sorts of posters and photos. There was also a big window coming out on a small terrace arranged in a slightly french way with a small, round metal table and two similar chairs next to it. There was also a desk in the room, full of papers and drawing and painting utensils with "Pole" written on every one of them. A sliding door hid a closet with all the clothes, shoes, mattresses and all other kinds of stuff.
Bob put on the trousers from yesterday and a new, checkered shirt - this time it was buttoned up and the colors reminded him of Nick. He went out to see that not only the room was tidied but also the living room and the kitchen. Almost all the instruments were gone except for a piano that was standing in the corner of the room. He didn't notice it before as the percussion set drew almost all the attention. There was also a TV and a couch which if he remembered well was occupied by o collection of glass marbles just yesterday. Without all the instruments there was a lot more room and the living room looked almost empty.
'Mornin' Bob!' Nick said from the kitchen. 'You can help yourself with breakfast if you want. Just use whatever you like, I'd make you something but unfortunately I've got to get some things ready. I've got lessons today, so...'
'Lessons?' Bob asked observing Nick putting the last plates back in the cupboard.
'Yeah, I teach piano,' Nick explained. 'Paul's in school and Alex is at the uni, teaching. And if you're wondering what happened to the drum set it's upstairs...' he added seeing Bob's puzzled expression. 'There's an attic on the last floor and it's cheeper to rent this place and the attic than two rooms.'
'I'm gonna go ask around, see if I can find that girl,' Bob said quickly. He didn't want to stay longer than he had to and he didn't want to get in Nick's way when he was having lessons. He made himself a sandwich for breakfast.
'Alex and Paul already have photocopies of that drawing of yours and they will ask their acquaintances,' Nick added. 'I just hope Paul notices it in his bag - I was out you see and Alex already went to work when he woke up. Oh, and we figured out your wings problem - I mean not problem, but you know... There's an old backpack in the room. We cut holes in it for your wings so you can hide them. You can take some money and my phone - just in case.'
'Take your phone?' Bob asked. It felt weird. He understood some things but others seemed just outrageous to him.
'Yeah, the thing you can talk through with people that are far away,' Nick explained also surprised. Just yesterday Bob had no problem with understanding the concept of a cooker and everything else in the kitchen and now this.
'I know what a phone is, I just thought you need cables to use it,' Bob clarified.
'Oh, that... Don't worry your head about it. It's a mobile phone, you can use it anywhere now.'
Bob nodded with his mouth filled with bread, lettuce, tomatoes and god knows what else he put in the sandwich. He put on the blazer from yesterday and the backpack given to him by Nick. He squeezed the phone and twenty quid into his pockets thanking Nick throughout the process. He put on Nick's winter shoes and left the flat.
'Just be back before six, 'key?' Nick shouted behind him.
Bob stopped on the entrance to the building. With the drawing in his hand he came forward hesitating before asking anybody. He didn't think about that. Who would've imagine his biggest obstacle would be his shyness? He cursed himself in his mind and tried speaking to one of the humans who passed him. What came out of his throat was a silent mumble. It was a lot easier to speak with Paul and Alex and Nick. Not only he got used to them they were the type of people he opened up with. When he was with them he forgot about his problem with speaking to people he didn't know. For a split second he even thought it had gone. But no. Now he had to stop as many people as he could and ask them about the angel on his drawing.
He gathered up the whole courage he had in him, even the last backup bravery residing in the tips of his feathers. He breathed in and closed his eyes.
'Excuse me ma'am!' he said to the woman closest to him.
'I'm in a hurry!' she told him as if he was an annoying little boy bugging her for a toy.
Her hair brushed his cheeks as she rushed along. It felt like a slap. He forgot about this. Humans, no not only humans, everyone could be mean. With Alex, Nick and Paul being so nice to him he didn't even imagine getting that kind of a response. He closed his eyes again, this time to keep all the negativity inside of him in. Screw them. Screw all the humans. He was only doing this for himself. He should have been prepared for that. Being nice? Only if that would be what he got in response.
'Sir!' he stopped another passer by. This time he grabbed the coat on his arm to prevent him from ignoring him. 'Do you know this woman?' he asked politely. The man took a glance at the drawing and shook his head.
Bob continued to go further down the street stopping anybody he passed. Before he knew it he was far away from the flat and with no address. The clock on Nick's phone showed five past five but he wasn't going to back out and start searching for the way back. The faster he found that woman the better.
'That's Grace Adams, our history of art teacher' a student said finally. 'If you're looking for her you should go to the uni. Take the next right and it's two blocks away' he added seeing the question hanging on Bob's face.
'Thanks!' the angel said and rushed towards the uni Paul attended. If he was going to go back he could go with Paul if he was still there. Unless of course he would find a way to go back before it.
He rushed over to the university, reached the building barely breathing and went inside. Finding Grace wasn't hard. He just had to ask for her to know he'd find her in her office at this hour. She looked a lot more beautiful than what he remembered. And although his memory wasn't that good he could easily say it was the work of angelic powers rather than the fault of his brain. If there was a way to make wings disappear there was a way to change the look of angels as well.
She had thick, brown, curly hair and a long face. She looked more like a model than a school teacher. Even when sitting down she looked tall.
'Robert?' she asked when he came closer. Did she know what he wanted? Who he was? That made it a million times easier. Or worse if he thought of it the other way around. He wanted to get back unnoticed.
'Yes, I'm Bob Hardy!' he said eagerly.
'Good... I'm happy I didn't have to look for you too long,' she smiled. Everything about her was so nice. Her voice, her smile, everything but the eyes. She was looking at him like a demon who just got her hands on a delicious but annoying pray. There was but one thought crossing his mind as he sat down next to her. Did he just make a mistake?
Bob didn't know where he was or how he got there. Everything went blank in his mind after he introduced himself to Grace Adams. At this point he didn't really care about the truth, though. The one thing that he knew was that when he was looking for anyone who could help him get back home the thought that he would be punished for accidentally falling on Earth didn't even cross his mind.
He barely remembered the happenings before he passed out from the pain. He woke up in the dark room he was stuck in now, tied to a chair and unable to get out. He didn't recall the conversation he had with Grace. He remembered another angel being there also but he did nothing but guard the door. Bob couldn't see his face but he remembered him being really tall. Afterwards Grace plucked almost half of the feathers on his wings and after the first ten he already couldn't feel anything because of the pain. It was the worst torture for an angel there could be. It was like being stabbed in the chest with a rusty old knife just a hundred times worse.
Bob noticed the angel from before standing next to the door. He wanted to puke and cry, though he could swear his cheeks were wet. Was it blood or tears he didn't know. At this point he couldn't think straight or even tell left from right.
'Sorry for that...' the man said quietly in between whispering to himself.
The angel could hear him come behind him. He tried to move but he was tied to a chair.
'Everything is a lie,' he said quietly. He slipped a paper into Bob's fingers.
Bob felt the ropes becoming loose. He freed his hands and touched his wrists. They hurt. His wrists and his wings and his whole body. He tried standing up but couldn't keep his balance. He heard footsteps again and saw the door opening. For a split second he could see the tall persons white wings glimmering from the light outside the room, his bright blue eyes and sharp face.
'It's Crispin,' he whispered when Bob sent him a questioning look as he passed him.
The angel could barely walk, he had to lean on the walls just to make one step.
'Robert!' Crispin shouted quietly after him. 'Sorry,' he said and threw him a coat.
Bob barely caught the cloth and when he did he still had to suffer to put it on his back. It pressed on his wounded wings. Bob had to clench his teeth not to give out a cry of pain. His vision had gone black for a split second before he finally got used to the heavy coat on his back.
Finding the exit wasn't easy and he wandered through the corridor a long time before going outside. The inside of the building looked a bit like a hospital but with more locks. Possibly a psychiatric hospital. It was run down, the faint lights twinkled and buzzed on the ceiling. The walls had fungi in the corners and were very dirty. The corridors were like a maze but finally he found the large doors. Locked. It was only after a few tries that he noticed he should push and not pull.
It was already dark outside. Bob was hungry, thirsty and hurting. He searched his pockets but the only thing he had was that twenty quid he got in the morning. Nick's phone was gone. And he didn't even know the address to get back. He cursed both Grace and his own stupidity.
He came up with a plan quickly. Finding some 24/7 and buy food and something to drink and ask whoever is there if he knew one of the three. He just hoped that he wouldn't spend the whole night searching for someone who knew them. Whatever direction he took he didn't know where he was so he took the first bigger street right.
He went into the first Tesco Express he found. The lights blinded him as soon as he entered the shop but he got used to it after a few seconds. He looked at his wrists and saw red marks if not blood on them. The pain came back to him as soon as he remembered about his wings. He got used to it and started forgetting but the pain in his wrists reminded him of what happened to the rest of his body. He ignored it (or at least tried to) and went to the drinks section. He took a bottle of coke and some snacks as he traveled to find a sandwich for himself. Judging by how little people were in the shop and how most of them resided in the alcohol section it was really late.
The cashier glanced at him a few times but decided to not mess himself into somebody else's problems.
'That'll be four seventy five' he said trying not to look up but his eyes twitched nervously.
Bob took out the five pound note and gave it to him. He took a deep breath before asking the question.
'Say, do you know anybody by the name of Nick,' he tried remembering the surnames of the three roommates. 'Nick McCarthy, slight german accent, piano teacher; Paul Thomson, an art student and Alex Huntley, teacher,' Bob looked with hope at the cashier but the young boy only shook his red messy head.
'Sorry, mate' he said giving the change. 'But I guess if you're looking for art students then you should look at Milky Joe's, that club,' Bob looked at him and waited for him to continue. 'It's up the street and the fifth street left. There should be an antique bookstore at the corner. The club has a shining coconut logo, so it's easy to spot.'
'Thanks!' Bob rushed out already eating the sandwich.
The streets weren't as empty as he expected. The small alleys had a lot of small clubs and closed cafes and people were walking everywhere. Bob tried asking a few passers-by about Nick, Alex and Paul. As always he felt nervous and kept stammering. People either looked at him like at a crazy person or were too drunk to think anything. He got called names a couple of times and it wasn't the most enjoyable feeling. If he weren't on the main street he'd probably get beaten up. That was the impression he got from a couple of punks.
The club wasn't hard to find. The flashy coconut next to the glowing neon sign "Milky Joe's" attracted the most. He entered the club and looked around to find a suitable person to ask. There was a girl passing him with a drink. He tapped her on the shoulder and she jumped surprised.
'Sorry, to startle you,' Bob said. The girl looked at him reassured. She had short blond hair reaching a few inches above her shoulders. Her grey eyes flickered with impatience as she glanced at a boy sitting in a small group near them. Bob followed her eyes and saw the man flirting with another glare. He looked back at the girl and saw her dismay. 'I'm Robert Hardy. You see and this is my first time here, in Glasgow,' he said. Somehow he felt the need to present a story if he weren't asking a random person on the street or in a shop. 'I need to find my mates' home but I don't have the address or telephone number. I was wondering if you knew anyone by the name Nick McCarthy, Alex Huntley or Paul Thomson?' he asked.
'Paul Thomson?' the girl repeated. 'I guess I heard something about him. He's in year two, I think. You could ask Tony, he knows pretty much everyone on second year,' she pointed at the boy she was glaring at just a second ago.
Bob didn't know how he looked but it seemed that it was noticeable that something happened to him. He saw interest in the girls eyes. 'What happened to you?' she asked just as he thought she would. 'Are you all right?'
'Thanks, I'm OK,' Bob cut her short but immediately felt guilty about it. 'Sorry...' he whispered later when heading towards Tony. He glanced at the girl and saw a worried expression on her face. She turned around and decided to wait a moment longer to return to her mates. Not only was Tony touching the bum of the girl next to him a homeless angel was asking directions.
Bob waited until the lips of the pair was just an inch away and coughed. One thing he could do to help the poor girl. She seemed a lot nicer than the blond with too much make-up on her face and boobs the size of small watermelons. The two moved away, the girl glanced at him angry. Tony on the other hand didn't hold any grudge against him.
'Hi, I was said that you might know a guy named Paul Thomson,' Bob said.
Tony was too drunk to think rationally so getting Paul's address went really well and without any complications. It seemed that the second year had information on everyone in the school including the professors.
Bob rushed out of the club as soon as the address was written down on a napkin. Bob knew well enough he wouldn't be able to get to the flat on his own both because of the pain and lack of strength and orientation. In the end he got a cab and thankfully ended up in the right spot. The lights on third floor were still lit on but the rest of the street was dark.
He pushed the button next to "3009" and waited. He slid down with his back against the door to the building, ignoring the pain in his wings. His condition probably worsened a lot after not being treated immediately and having a coat crushing his feathers for so long but he was thankful that finding the way back to the flat was so easy. He felt grateful to the night shift cashier and the girl with short blond hair and Tony as well as Crispin the angel who although looked more like a demon helped him a lot.
'Who is this?' the speaker spit Nick's words almost immediately. There was hope in his voice. Bob was already too tired to stand up.
'It's me...' the angel said pathetically not able to speak loud enough to be heard. He heard the characteristic beep of the doors being open but he couldn't stand up. Sorry guys, he thought when he sat on the cold pavement waiting for them to come down.
He didn't have to wait long.
The door opened and Paul, Alex and Nick helped him up and dragged him upstairs. They pressed on his wounded wings by accident but the angel couldn't even scream or complain. He felt dizzy and fainted in the arms of the three (or possibly two and one demon) humans. Why was it that they were more help to him than his own kind?
He woke up five minutes later and found himself sitting on the couch in the living room with Alex waiting for him to regain consciousness. The two others were sitting in front of him.
'I lost your phone, sorry Nick...' Bob said immediately. He'd gotten used to the pain already and was able to think more normally. And he felt really guilty over having to use their help all the time.
'You've blood all over you and you worry about a stupid phone,' Alex whispered obviously angry. 'We've been looking everywhere for you Bob! You were nowhere to be found and when you finally decide to show up your wings look like carrion - I'm sorry but it's true. You obviously got beaten up. And don't tell me they were just hooligans!' he pointed at the wings being the most damaged.
'No, but...' Bob felt something getting stuck in his throat and tears flowing down his cheeks. 'It wasn't my fault...' he started, closing his eyes. 'I fell, OK?! I fell from the sky! I was just trying to get back but they see me a fugitive now!' Bob felt his cheeks reddening. This was more embarrassing then his fall. He couldn't stop the tears and felt just like a little boy. For some reason he realized that he was probably just talking gibberish to the rest but it was a relief to tell the truth for once.
Paul was the first one to react to this sudden confession. He embraced Bob tightly watching not to touch his hurting wings. He let all the tears soak into his T-shirt until the angel was too tired to even sob quietly.
Neither Alex nor Nick interrupted the moment. Once Bob had calmed down both of them were asking the same question.
'What should we do about your wings?' Alex inquired when Paul let go of Bob.
The angel looked at him with eyes still red and wiped them quickly. 'Can you disinfect them for me, please?' he said. 'And clean them too...'
'Sure,' Alex said calmly but there was probably rage boiling inside of him.
Paul yawned but quickly covered his mouth. 'Sorry...' he muttered. 'If I can, then...' he looked at Bob with anticipation.
The angel nodded wondering why he'd even asked. He looked at the clock and noticed it was already four in the morning. There was no doubt that he was up on his feat for at least twenty hours.
'Well then, lets get you to the bathroom,' Alex said and made Bob to lean on his shoulder when standing up.
At first the angel wondered why the man had insisted on that but when he felt weak on his legs and almost fell down he allowed both Nick and Alex to help him get to the bathroom (as embarrassing as it was).
The bathroom was fairly big with a big mirror and now a small chair standing in front of it. Bob was seated and could finally see just how big of a mess he was. His hair was now streaked with red and his clothes were soaked with his blood. But it were his wings that presented themselves the worst. He was lacking over half of his feathers and the bottom ones were cut with scissors. There was blood pouring from them even now and there probably would still be once Alex had finished. Bob felt sick and jumped to the toilet to empty his stomach.
'Sorry...' he said returning to his seat. 'I must've fainted halfway through. I never thought it would be this bad,' he added quietly. Nick was already giving him a glass of water to remove the horrid taste from his mouth. 'I think I'll need a gag or something,' he whispered with tears welling just at the thought of all the chemicals grazing his wounds. His heart started beating faster and fear made breathing a lot harder. He already decided to go on a journey to find his happy place in his head when Alex and Nick would start the terrifying operation.
'Are you sure?' Alex asked and when Bob nodded with frightened eyes he disappeared in the door and came back with a bottle of vodka and a handkerchief.
After Bob had drank four mouthfuls in one go and gagged his mouth the cleaning started.
Even with how delicate Nick and Alex tried to be whenever the disinfectant touched his wounds he barely, if at all, managed to keep his cry inside his throat. It was already dawn when they finished cleaning his wounds. The bleeding however didn't stop and there was no way to bandage the wings (and Bob would kill them if they tried to used band aids) so they tied the ends so that less blood would get through.
And after the last drop of blood was gone of his wings and Bob looked like a stray cat they collapsed on the mattresses too tired to even change their clothes.
Bob woke up with the memory of everything that had happened since two days ago he had fell from the sky onto Earth. He put his palm on his forehead with a very theatrical gesture or he probably would do it if he wasn't made to sleep on his belly barely able to breath with his face squeezed into the pillow. His wounded wings disabled him sleeping under the blanket and he was freezing. He raised his head wondering how is he still staying sane and not drowning himself in depression. He reviewed everything that had happened trying to find out how was that even possible. The conclusion was: impossible. He started hating Earth at some point. Being dependent on everyone and still making them go through more and more trouble because of him. Just the thought of it made him sick.
He heard the piano being played in the living room. It was a unison; simple melody. The higher pitch was obviously played better leading the more clumsy lower pitch. The higher part clearly belonged to Nick. The playing was very delicate and accurate whilst the lower notes were played by his apprentice: loud - undoubtedly, the person tried their best just to hit the right keys.
Bob didn't even think when he went out of the door. He was too hungry and his wings - probably still bleeding - hurt like hell. The playing stopped the moment the doors opened. Both of the players looked at him: the student with surprise and Nick with a panic look on his face.
'Sorry...' Bob said realizing it wasn't the best idea to appear out of nowhere. He didn't even worry about being seen with wings though he blushed unconsciously realizing they weren't in the best condition at the moment.
'Ah, no... we were just finishing,' Nick said still in shock at Bob's recklessness.
His student was a little girl, no older than ten years, with blond pony tails on both sides and pink ribbons and colorful hair pins, probably arranged by her mother. She was looking at Bob with a doze of amazement, fear and admiration. Her cheeks were bright red (both because he was an angel and because she was seeing a half naked bloke standing in front of her) as were the angel's. Being stared at wasn't something he was good at.
'Are you an angel?' the girl asked bashfully. She barely looked up at him when saying that. 'A real one?' she added with the tone of a child who was deceived too many times about Santa and the Easter Bunny; old enough to already separate the truth from lies but still young and hoping for her beliefs to be real.
'Yeah, but my name is Bob,' the angel said.
The girl giggled and jumped over to him. Her cheeks were burning and her eyes were glittering from excitement. Her face saddened when she saw his wings.
'What happened?' she asked with a worrisome expression.
'I got lost and a demon let me live with him for a while,' Bob started lying more because of Nick's presence than the girl. 'But he attacked me and I got saved by this other angel who liked to wear costumes and dressed up as a salesperson and sneaked into the his house saying he was selling vacuum cleaners and wanted to make a presentation. He tricked the demon who held me tied up and defeated him. He rescued me and I later met Paul and Nick and I am temporarily staying with them. Until I get back to heaven.'
'Does it hurt?' Bob barely understood her hard scottish accent.
'Yeah...' he said quietly feeling the pain and blood pulsing inside the veins of his wings.
The girl blushed again and looked at the ground probably thinking she asked the wrong question. Finally she looked up and her brown eyes met with his blue ones. She closed them and run up behind him. She stood on her toes and kissed Bob's hurting wings.
'Mom says it will heal quicker that way,' she explained.
Bob glanced at Nick who was barely holding back and still only chuckling. He was too obvious and if it weren't for the fact that the girl was turned backwards to him he'd make her feel even more embarrassed. Bob smiled and patted her on the head. She was barely reaching his chest.
'Thanks,' he said. He looked at the clock (past three o'clock?! At this rate he could as well become a night creature). Her parent was already a few minutes late. The girl was nice but he couldn't afford to let her parents see him.
He glanced at her. She was still looking at Nick's boring carpet occasionally peeking at his wings thinking it would be too bad for her to ask (though her expression was quite obvious). 'You can have one if you want, for luck' he said pointing at his wings. Nick looked at him surprised a bit hurt by his generosity.
'Is it really OK?' she asked again anxiously. 'Then I'll give you my ribbon,' she added.
'Pick a nice and clean one, I haven't had the time to wash them today, yet,' Bob said and kneed in front of her. He felt a peck and closed his eyes to hold back. The next moment a pink ribbon was tied to his feathers. Before he stood up the girl slipped a pin in his hair too.
'You have bed hair,' she whispered loudly.
Bob stood up knowing that he probably didn't look much better than before but still smiled. He liked hair pins.
'That's enough,' Nick said realizing he was somewhat responsible for both of the innocent creatures in his living room.
'I don't want you to go back to Heaven, Bob,' the girl said quietly with a sulking face. The bell rang just as she was trying to say something more. Nick looked at him with a similar expression to the girls, though his face was also trying to say: "get the hell out or I'll be in serious trouble.
'This will be our little secret, so don't tell anybody,' Bob said quickly and left the room as the girl was trying to say her forgotten before introduction. "Lisa" was the only thing he heard because the mother (high heals - obviously a woman) was already drawing near and making a hell lot of ruckus when entering the flat.
'And you were so mad when I took your feather out!' Nick complained the moment he was sure the two were gone for sure.
'She was a little girl!' Bob said almost laughing at Nick's childishness and the fact that he'd probably do the same thing in his place. 'Besides you got one already so what's the big deal!'
'Well... I don't have it anymore...' Nick said looking around trying his best not to face Bob.
'What did you do with it?' Bob exclaimed. He had no idea what Nick could think of doing with the feather.
'About that... I thought about how mad you were and, so, I tried putting it back yesterday... It seemed to have worked yesterday!'
Bob sighed but he couldn't even be mad at him. There was absolutely no way the feather would stick back unless he used super glue and Bob would had knew if that was the case. He laughed and headed towards the kitchen to make himself some food.
'So what exactly happened yesterday and the day before?' Nick asked looking as he was preparing cereals from his stack of smarties.
Bob mixed in both cocoa puffs and smarties and every chocolate thing they had in the house. He obviously had no intention of answering any questions in the process of making his perfect breakfast. He poured milk on everything but in the middle of doing that he remembered there should also be chocolate milk in the fridge so he poured some of it too.
'That's a lot of chocolate...' Nick commented a bit jealous he hadn't came up with it before.
'Ta-dah!' Paul presented two pairs of fake wings to Bob immediately after he and Alex entered the flat. 'They're "wing-capes"!' he explained seeing the look on the angel's face. 'It's so your wings don't get cold. And it's a perfect disguise! Christmas season is coming up. Your wings look too real, though. You don't want fake Santas asking you too many questions. Turn around!'
Bob waited as Paul put on his new "wing-capes". The angel was sceptic at first but as the puffy fur inside them touched his feathers he felt a huge relief. They were a bit heavy but the material was nice and the cold air couldn't get through the thick leather outside. Not only that - the "wings" fit perfectly and amortized the wounds. He moved his wings and the "cape" moved accordingly without problems.
'Thanks...' he whispered bashfully.
Alex sighed both happy and anxious. He glared at Bob expectantly.
'I know,' the angel said still hesitating. He realized he should tell them the whole truth but it was embarrassing. And not only that, he had no intention of dragging the three into his messed up world. 'Well... I found that woman yesterday but there's been some complications and this happened. I was unconscious through a part of it and the person was behind me so I don't know who did it...' he said before Alex had a chance to ask a question. It was obvious the man was suspecting something. 'So I reached that woman and she...'
Bob looked up remembering the little paper he got from Crispin. He searched his pockets hectically before he found it.
'She gave me this,' Bob said showing the paper. "Z?" was written on it. 'I have to find it or I'll blow this mission and lose everything,' Bob looked at his feet again and nervously cracked his fingers. He would rather not say out loud what would loosing everything mean. No way back to Heaven, no immortality, no fast regeneration but most importantly: he'd lose his worthless art talent and petty wings.
Paul looked at the paper again.
'I think I saw this somewhere...' he said taking it. 'Wait a second,' Paul disappeared in the room.
There were noises of the whole room being turned upside down and Bob was beginning to wonder if lying again was the right thing to do. He had no doubt however that his new roommates would go and help him whatever the hell happened. And he couldn't afford to put them in danger now that he was officially a wanted fugitive.
'I could only find this,' Paul said showing a comic book. The title was: "Happy Noodle Boy".
'I don't really think...' Bob started but Paul cut him short.
'It's "Z?" publishing, look!' he pointed at the small logo on the bottom of the spine. 'They're alt comic publishers and I've heard they're running out of business because of some legal issues.'
'Their office is in London,' Bob said looking at the address in the book.
'Great, we can go there on friday!' Alex said with a smile.
Bob grinned too but only to hide his discontent.
'Say, how do you think I could make some money without getting into all that legal stuff you have here?' he asked. Maybe this was his way out. He could get the money, leave Alex, Nick and Paul and never involve them in his problems again. He liked their company but if anything happened to anybody because of him he would had never forgiven himself and he realized that. Especially if it were those three.
'I guess with your talent you could always paint and sell some paintings to galleries,' Nick said thinking.
'What? Bob can paint?' Paul asked with disbelief. The look on his face said that he'd obviously missed the drawing and note Nick had left him in his bag the other day.
The rest sighed at his lack of knowledge and continued with the conversation. 'You can use Paul's materials if you want,' Alex said. 'He never uses the best things he gets and in most cases they rest in his drawer unused for months or years unless he's so broke he doesn't have money to buy cheaper paint.'
'It's just such a pity to use them when I have something else that I didn't pay forty quid for,' Paul explained.
'Thanks,' Bob said already planning his "escape".
He decided to get everyone's thoughts off of him for a while and turned the subject of the conversation to the roommates' lives. He put on a record on and minutes later realized it was Alex's voice he was hearing on the speakers. He found out that not only Nick was connected to music but each person in the living room could play more than one instrument. Alex could play the guitar, the bass guitar and piano, Paul - guitar and percussion and Nick was a proud player of the piano, guitar, double bass, arabic flute and among others the drums (though for some reason he started laughing when he said that). All of them had a career in a band before and though they had stopped Bob could swear that in their minds the word "over" was spelled "B-R-E-A-K". Before he knew it the conversation dwelled deeply into their musical world and the angel felt a jolt of jealousy when seeing them talk with such emotions about their passion. Each of them had different experiences (taking for example Nick who had to learn how to play on weird instruments and traveled to Arabia), regrets and most of all disappointments. It was better than him, Bob thought thinking about how he had a boring, content life in Heaven during which he achieved nothing apart from falling from the sky and messing the life of three blokes.
When a bass guitar appeared in his hands he was already half conscious after his half a glass of wine (Hardy's as he had learnt after reading the label) and agreed to learn to play it.
After joking and talking and relentlessly pulling the strings of the bass guitar, when everyone except Alex was sinking into their land of dreams Bob remembered what was it he was trying to achieve in the first place. He glanced at Alex who was waiting for him to take a shower and change. The spark in his eye suggested he was expecting something. He probably knew and if he knew then that meant Nick was probably also aware of him trying to escape. Paul not necessarily. Bob just hoped they realized he didn't want to create any problems for them and that was the reason for his getaway.
He washed his wings thoroughly hissing when a jolt of pain went through the back of his spine each time soap, disinfectant or even plain tap water went into the wounds. He went to bed and acted asleep until he made sure that Alex had dozed off to his small wonderland of guitars and bands and music or whatever he always dreamt of. He stood up and glanced at the sleeping humans. They might had wanted to trick him but that wasn't an easy task. He had more experience in not sleeping since he never had the need to until he had fallen on Earth. He realized his body needed that small rest but his mind was fine and for now it was all that he required. It was three in the morning and he wanted to use all the time he had until five when he wanted to leave. He hoped that nobody woke up until then. He changed into the white clothes he had on when he fell down (which Alex complained that the laundry company didn't want to accept but it turned out were unexpectedly easy to clean) and packed the rest of the clothes Alex had prepared for him since he had arrived into a used rucksack he hoped nobody used. Along with it went the disinfectant, spare pair of "wing-capes", the painting and drawing materials he got from Paul and the last space he had left was filled entirely with food. He then found a fairly large bag and packed the canvases still wrapped in transparent plastic.
He put his luggage by the door and found a notepad and a pen. He felt it was right for him to leave a message.
Dear Alex, Nick and Paul,
I'm sorry to leave like this but I feel like a leach when I'm staying with you and eating your food and everything. So I decided to be a leach one last time and this time a big one. I borrowed food and those materials Paul have given me and the clothes too. Oh, and I'm also borrowing 50 quid. I will give you back everything as soon as I get enough money. I'll be alright so don't worry.
With lots of thank you hugs,
Bob looked once again at the note and decided it was the worst piece of crap he had ever seen. But it was better then nothing and he couldn't bring himself to leave without any sort of goodbye. He already felt bad for everything that had happened. He attached the pink ribbon he had gotten the day before to his sack and put on some used up sandals he found in the closet feeling too bad to use Nick's good, heavy winter boots he got from him. Apparently he had the same shoe size as him so there was no problem.
He left as quickly as he heard a subtle creak from the room where everyone slept. As Alex's calls became louder and louder his pace became quicker and quicker until he was running. He left the building and saw the sky crying along with him. Snow was falling on his already wet from tears cheeks. Even ice would quickly melt on his burning red cheeks. He noticed his tears. His heart seemed to had curled up inside of him and his chest hurt badly. He could barely catch his breath and not have a spasm of sobbing. He wanted to sit down, hide his face in his knees and start weeping and crying his eyes out. But more importantly he wanted to go back up and tell Alex he had just gone to buy bagels for breakfast before he noticed the note on he left on the kitchen table.
Instead of doing that he marched on the empty streets and walked towards the tiny glimmer of sunlight looking out of the tall buildings. He corrected the rucksack hanging from his right arm. He'd already decided he was doing it and he knew it was the rational thing to do. Especially when he could hear Alex running down the stairs and waking up everyone in the building. Bob ran and hid in the first alley he found. He was sure that Alex hadn't given up on him just because he wasn't waiting before the building. He deliberately lost himself in the alleys until he had no idea which way the block was. He sighed with relief at that thought.
He thought about waiting for everybody to march out on the streets and then go but rejected that thought quickly. Even if he wanted there was no "hiding in plain sight" option for him. His wings - both the real and the fake ones - stood out so much it didn't matter even if he were on a festival seeing the Queen. And the less people saw him the better it was. He had no idea what trouble he could get in and he didn't really want to.
There was a bad side of the lack of people on the streets. Bob had wandered around enough to tire his unrested legs and make him just want to sit down. But he had to get on the first possible train to London before someone who knew him sighted him. Not knowing where the train station was and having no one to ask didn't really help his cause. Finally he spotted a girl wearing a fluorescent stripped bag and struggling with a suitcase unsuccessfully trying to wheel her onto the pavement.
'Let me help you,' he said smiling and taking the handle and pulling it with her. Whatever was in that suitcase wasn't light. 'Do you know where the train station is?' Bob asked after the suitcase was finally rolling on the pavement.
'Sure thing, I'll take you there!' the girl said. 'I'm going there myself. I'm working in London,' she added with a smile. Bob got the feeling that his smile ricocheted of the girl's face and came backstabbing him. It was a split second but the impression stayed in him.
Paul woke up hearing "Bob!" being shouted by Alex every ten seconds. By the time he had got up the shouting was already coming from outside. He looked at Nick just to see that he was the only one left in the room. Every bed was long empty.
'Shite...' he cursed in his scottish accent the moment he realized what had just happened. 'Is Bob such an idiot?' he continued when joining Nick in reading the note Bob had left. Before he knew it he was laughing at the small irony of Bob writing "I'll be all right". 'As if!' he exclaimed knowing well what happened the last time he went out alone. He glanced at Nick to see him looking completely unfazed at the note. Oh, yes, not only Paul was boiling with rage.
Alex came back up a few minutes later looking depressed and annoyed.
'He wasn't on the street,' he said. 'And I don't even know which way he went. That idiot!'
'Maybe he still has Nick's cellphone?' Paul said but his proposition barely reached the others' ears.
'Even if he does I doubt he'll answer,' Alex commented but Paul had no intention on giving up like that.
'Alex! Bob is an angel!' he shouted. 'He feels bad about every little thing he has done unless he knows nobody had a problem with it! If he has it, he'll answer.'
They waited a few signals each trying to push their way through to the phone until Paul put the conversation on speakers. There was a click and a voice answered with the usual "hello?". Paul looked at the mobile with amazement when he realized he knew the voice.
'Mrs. Grace Adams?' he asked. When there was no disagreement he continued, 'It's Paul Thomson, your student. I was wondering if maybe Robert is somewhere there if you have this phone. You see its my friend's and we borrowed it to Robert for the time being and he seemed to have lost it.'
Alex and Nick looked at each other and both of them whispered "Paul, you idiot!" the exact same moment.
'Do you have a...a beauty spot under your right eye, Mrs. Adams?' Alex asked seeing how Paul was about to ask if she were an angel. He remembered that one characteristic element from Bob's drawing.
'Yes, I do. What is this about?' she asked with a more worrisome voice.
'Well, you see,' Alex started explaining seeing Paul's incompetence, 'our friend Robert Hardy was looking for you the day before yesterday and I believe he has found you. Unfortunately he lost his cellphone and he disappeared without a trace today. We were hoping he had this phone with him after all. But since it's you then I believe you can know where he could be. We'll be at your office first thing in the morning. Goodbye, Mrs. Adams.'
Alex hung up and the rest looked at him surprised.
'Why'd you hung up?' Nick asked. 'She could've--'
'She wouldn't do a thing to help us!' Alex cut in. 'It's weird don't you think? You could imagine that Bob lost his phone when he was beaten up but then why does that woman have it? He's probably going to the train station and taking a train to London.'
'Then why don't we go there?'
'Because he doesn't know the way and he's probably searching for someone who does and there's no way we'd meet him on the way. And I want to see that woman and ask her what really happened as soon as I can. Bob's gonna be OK for two days, right? We'll join him as soon as it's possible.'
Alex dropped on the couch almost too tired to move. He had tried not to fall asleep but he had to anyways. Now he could barely move tired both because of the lack of sleep and the morning "jogging" down and up the stairs. He hoped Bob would manage to get to London without problems. He cursed him for going so early in the morning. Now he had an hour before he could head to meet Grace Adams and he knew that it was inevitable that he'd spent it on thinking and worrying.
'I'm Jacqueline,' the girl introduced herself after the first twenty yards they passed.
'Robert Hardy,' Bob said feeling hi cheeks redden again. 'I guess it should be me who introduced himself first, sorry...' he added realizing his tactlessness.
'Oh, don't worry about it,' Jacqueline said. 'Thanks for helping me anyways. I know I'm only going for a few weeks but I can never decide what to take so that's why my bag's always this heavy. I never know which books I want to read or what I want to wear. I guess you don't have that problem,' she said pointing at the rucksack on Bob's back.
'Well I'm not going for long. Or so I hope...'
'So are you a street performer?' she seemed as curious as Paul although she asked completely different questions. 'You should find yourself wings that look more real. You won't fool anyone with that!'
'I'm not a performer!' Bob said feeling offended. 'I'm an artist!' he said cautiously. The only other thing he was was an angel and he couldn't say that.
'Oh, that... Explains everything,' Jacqueline said smiling. 'You guys are nuts! I saw some guys from art school playing with water guns and they were totally at it! Like children! Not to mention it was minus three degrees!'
Bob decided not to say anything and let the girl talk. He knew from experience that it wouldn't do much good if he did anymore than ask questions. It was quite enjoyable to listen to Jacqueline's stories, though. Not only did the walk pass quicker he could more easily forget about his sadness from leaving and his hurting legs.
Apparently Jacqueline was a seventeen year old high schooler who traveled on holiday to London to work for her uncle behind the desk to raise money for her future university. She planned to study genetics at one of the more prestigious universities in the UK but hadn't too much confidence in herself. He knew half of her life when they went on the train and expected to learn the other (more interesting) half when riding. She didn't omit even the more embarrassing fragments such as vomiting in a restaurant when a boy she liked, Adrian, asked her out. They got together later but he turned out to be bisexual and she decided it felt a bit weird to talk with her boyfriend about other boys especially since they had a similar taste so they remained friends. After Jacqueline had asked him to draw a portrait of her he started drawing her while listening about her second (pathetic excuse of a) boyfriend. Name: Tom; age: sixteen; a member of the school football team, pathetic grades. She went out with him for a week until she found out he was cheating on another girl with her. Afterwards she and Mary-Ann, Tom's girlfriend took revenge on him and he ended up being kicked out of the team. She chuckled when telling how he started vomiting in the middle of a VIM - Very Important Match.
The angel wasn't surprised when he heard about the countless love stories she experienced. She was pretty. Her short ginger hair was naturally that color, she had green eyes and her red cheeks were covered with freckles not too darker then the natural color of her skin. Although very straight forward she didn't seem prejudice and didn't say anything without a good reason for it.
Although she probably hadn't realized it her stories came back to Adrian very often. Bob smiled noticing how she even made his flaws look good. She slept at his flat whenever she'd come to London because he moved there after middle school.
Before they even realized they were already in England and reaching London fast.
'Bob's a fugitive?' Alex asked not believing his own ears.
After they finally managed to persuade Grace Adams to telling them what happened to Bob this was the first thing they heard. Nick laughed but stopped when he saw the serious gaze of the professor.
'That's absurd!' he said. 'Bob would never hurt a fly what did he do to have to run away?'
'He left Heaven without consent,' Grace continued obviously serious about what she was saying. 'He managed to escape us after we had him.'
'So you did this to him?' Alex asked remaining his cool.
'Not exactly me but if you want to blame anybody I guess I am the right person. I can't deny I am responsible for your friends wounds.'
Nick could feel his hands tremble and become fists. The woman said it with such indifference he couldn't believe it was possible. He stared deep into her blue eyes but couldn't find any hint of compassion at all.
'He said it himself it was an accident!' Paul said remembering Bob's sudden burst that they took later for a wounded man's mumbling.
'I know,' Grace said. 'He kept shouting that he tripped and that was why he was on Earth and that he wanted to get back but rules are rules. Angels can't leave Heaven without consent. Especially in these times. We already have problems with one fugitive and now we have two. If we let him lose perhaps he'll find more humans and tell them all about Heaven like he told you? I can't let our mission be jeopardized because of some lunatic who can't walk!'
'Then why not sent him back?' Alex asked knowing that asking about the so called mission would be a huge waste of time. Not only was he angry because of the woman he couldn't stand Bob lying to them about everything from beginning to end. But he was mostly angry at himself for noticing something was wrong but not doing anything about it.
'That's impossible...' the woman said calmly. 'Unless certain procedures are taken before sending an angel to Earth we can't return him.'
'So it's not impossible, you just don't know how,' Nick said hearing Grace's voice waver just a little.
'Yes, that's true. Will that be all?' the three nodded knowing well enough that even if they asked anything more they wouldn't get any answers. And none of them didn't want to accidently mention something she might've used against them and Bob. 'I trust that this conversation and anything related won't leave this room, gentlemen. Unless, of course, you want the handicap parking spots.'
They didn't say goodbye when leaving the office and neither did Grace.
'Damn you, Bob...' Nick whispered. 'Who would've thought he'd get in so much trouble...'
Bob left the train station and headed for the cabs. London was big and he had no idea where he should head to find the Z? publishing company. He went into the first black car and gave the driver the address he had already remembered. The drive, although many times shorter than the train ride, seemed to go on for eternity. Before he had Jacqueline telling him all sorts of stories and before they both realized they had eaten lunch and gotten to London. Although he knew the girl for a couple of hours he had the feeling like they'd been friends from the cradle. He knew exactly how many times she'd broken her leg or fallen from stairs. He felt as if he'd been there for her to give her a shoulder to cry on every time she'd had her heart broken. Now it was just the quiet music from the speaker and the sounds of the engine.
He paid for the ride and left just before the building. It wasn't too impressive; a simple industrial block of flats with a metal gateway. It looked like it hadn't been painted since it was build. There was air conditioning in a few rooms though the building wasn't isolated. He pushed the button for flat seven: Z? publishing. He waited for a few moments before buzzing again and then again until there was an answer.
'Hello?' a voice said prolonging the "o". This wasn't your typical secretary.
'My name is Robert Hardy and I'm looking for the Z? publishing office,' Bob said cautiously.
'Are you here to submit your works?' the voice asked.
'No, I want to speak to the main chief, I guess.'
'Are you a collector, cop or a doctor?'
'Are you by any chance mentally ill?' the voice continued.
'No, I just want to see office boss!' Bob said losing his patience.
'Would you please wait a few minutes?' the voice asked and before the person upstairs hung up Bob could hear a lot of whispering and movement in the background.
He waited patiently before the building. He heard a lot of noises coming from inside: furniture being moved, instructions and somebody from the first floor shouting "who the hell is making all that ruckus!" followed by the "those from seven are at it again..." said in a very annoyed voice. Finally just when he thought about leaving he heard a beep and pushed on the door for it to open. There was a desk in the lobby and a young man sitting behind it. He had a suit on but his tie was crooked and short dark hair looked as if he'd just woke up. Looking at his blue eyes Bob thought that that was even possible.
The boy scrutinized him quickly. 'I thought you said you were not mentally ill,' he noted looking at Bob's wings. The angel recognized the voice from the intercom.
'I am not crazy,' Bob said quickly. 'I want to see your boss.'
'Do you have an appointment?' the boy asked looking down at him.
'No,' Bob was feeling more and more awkward.
The boy looked at him dismayed. He sighed obviously rehearsing all that before and once again glanced at Bob.
'Let me see what I can do...' he said obviously without any heart in it. He pointed a chair for Bob to sit on, took his cell phone out and dialed. 'There is a man to see you, sir. He doesn't have an appointment. Should I let him in? I see, as you wish, sir.' he looked at Bob and sighed again; all perfectly rehearsed. 'I'm afraid there's nothing I can do,' he said obviously predicting this line of events. 'If you wish I can arrange for an appointment but that won't be until March. Mr. Kilworth has a very tight schedule until then.'
'I have to see him now!' Bob protested but the boy just shook his head. The angel thought fast. There was no way he would give up just because of that. He came to far to just turn back. And he had the feeling that even if he made an appointment it wouldn't be of much help. 'Does the name Grace Adams mean anything to you?' he asked but the boy's annoyed face was enough of an answer. 'What about Crispin?' Bob tried again. This time he noticed a flicker of interest in the secretary's eye. 'Tall, blue eyes, looks a bit crazy,' he continued seeing as the boy was now staring at him.
In a split second Bob had a gun pointed at him. Something he didn't expect from somebody who looks too young to drink alcohol. He felt his heart beat faster and the hair on his skin stand. He squeezed himself in the chair in a pathetic attempt to move further away. A jolt of pain went through his back when he accidently crushed his delicate feathers, fortunately amortized by the "wing-capes".
'What do you want?' the boy asked abandoning his secretary alias.
'I'm just looking for help!' Bob noticed he was already holding his hands in the air. 'I'm trying to find a way to get back to Heaven because I accidently fell.
The boy lowered his gun and coughed (though it seemed more like trying to hide his laughter). He took out the phone and dialed again eyeing Bob as he did that. There was no doubt he returned to being the rehearsed secretary. He even held his hand over the microphone as if trying to prevent Bob from hearing him.
'It seems that Mr. Hardy is one of them,' he said. Bob could hear him loud and clear despite the lowered head and the hand he was holding. 'He seeks your aid, sir. Yes, I understand.'
The boy stood up and glared at Bob for a few moments.
'You may see Mr. Kilworth now,' he said. 'I'll be taking your things. Security reasons,' he added heading towards the staircase with Bob's bags. The angel noticed the outline of a gun under his shirt.
They went to the third floor and knocked on the door with the number 777 on it. The boy entered immediately afterwards. 'Mr. Robert Hardy,' he introduced the guest and sat on the chair near the door, leaving Bob's belongings close enough to reach them faster then the angel. He put one leg over the other and crossed his arms waiting.
Bob looked around the room. There was a sliding door to the next room, probably the living room, and two other doors but all of them looked sealed away. The room was arranged in a hurry to look like an office but it was obvious it wasn't normally a workplace. There was a desk and two chairs: an office one and a normal that looked like it was taken from a dining room. There was a lot of papers and office equipment on the table asa well as a picture and a name tag that said "Steven Kilworth". There was also a coat hanger right by the main door.
Behind the desk was a man sitting. He had red hair, glasses, hiding deep green eyes, and a whimsical smile dancing across his smile. His suit compared to that of his secretary was bright green and he had a red shirt under it and not a shirt. 'I'm Jon Kilworth,' he said the name as if he were still getting used to speaking it. 'You can call me Jon,' he added again, the name barely passing through his lips. 'Please take a seat.'
Bob sat down feeling a bit strange. 'I thought your name was Steven,' he noticed glancing at the plate again.
For a split second Jon's face looked disappointed but the smile returned immediately afterwards. 'I believe it's Jon,' he said in a way that ensured Bob that it's not. He knocked the plate with his name delicately and looked back at Bob. 'It's Jon,' he noted again.
Bob gave up quite quickly on this matter seeing as his name was probably neither of the two. If it weren't for him persuading the angel to call him by his first name Bob would probably just continue to call him Mr. Kilworth.
'What can I do you for?' Jon said in a very movie-like way.
'It's this,' Bob said taking his fake wings off. He had already decided that if Jon was as weird as his young subordinate he would just show the wounds to him and not bother with explanations. 'They're after me,' he added after the smile had disappeared from Jon's face.
'Two days ago,' Bob answered. It was a relief that Jon decided to have a more rational conversation. The angel was afraid that he might turn out to be a bit too weird.
'Wow! I'd say it was this morning or night, but it must've been pretty bad if this is two days ago.'
Bob waited patiently as Jon examined his wings thoroughly. He himself tried his best to avoid looking at them if it was possible. The pain was still in the bearable levels though he discovered that those levels have extended since he got hurt. The old him from before the fall would faint if his hurt wings were so much as touched.
'Still bleeding,' Jon noticed his fingers being red. 'So what exactly is it that you want?'
'I want to go back to Heaven and have a normal life!' Bob said surprised that that answer wasn't an obvious one.
Jon laughed. 'I was afraid you'd say revenge or something like that, thank God,' he said with authentic relief in his voice. He returned to his seat and looked at Bob who was anxiously awaiting the answer. 'They want to kill you,' Jon noted.
'I know,' Bob said realizing just how terrifying it sounded. He never had the courage to say those words out loud. 'But if I return they won't have any gain in killing me anymore.'
'Do you want to know just exactly why they want to kill you?' Jon asked. Bob gulped before shaking his head. He'd rather not asked that question himself. 'You see us three,' he started pointing at himself, the boy and one of the doors where it seemed another person was hiding, 'we were banned. In Heaven they punished us for some outrageously silly thing, cursed us and sent down where they stole our wings. Because, you see, the wings are the smallest problems of all. They can always rip your feathers off, cut them on Earth. But the problem is with the curse. Because that's the only way they can make us stay quiet and monitor us. But on Earth most angels lose their powers so it's impossible to do that. So simply banning you won't do because you will still pose a threat to them. And they can't send you back to Heaven because they don't know how. And neither do I. Unfortunately. Sorry. And that, Robert, is why the only thing left for them to do is to kill you.'
Bob squeezed his fingers on his knees. He had no other place to look. He could feel tears filling his eyes but looked down and held them back. Jon sighed gaining Bob's attention back.
'You have two options now,' he said unaffected by the angel's display of feeling: held back but still quite obvious. 'I've got the name of a person who can maybe know something about going back. But you can give up on asking any of us fallen or those petty officials. If there was a way it would be known only to the higher ups and they wouldn't be risking giving it to some unknown Bob - sorry, mate. You know what consequences of that information coming out would be? A riot. Everyone would try to have a little vacation on Earth and come back before anybody would notice. This guy I know he's more like you, if you know what I mean. More successful, though,' Jon glanced at Bob who obviously still couldn't figure out his little facile riddle. He took a deep breath before continuing with the second option. He looked at Bob's eyes and could easily read in them that he understood the second option without a problem. He didn't look to pleased to hear it. 'And you can stay here. At least consider it if nothing else works. I could arrange all the documents for you, all the necessary exams, I could make you a history if you want. You could live normally. Unfortunately we'd have to cut your wings and you'd be human but-'
'Would I lose it?' Bob interrupted. 'Would I lose my talent?' he specified seeing the questioning expression on Jon's face.
'I guess so...' the Fallen hesitated before saying that.
'Then no, thank you,' the angel said confidently. 'It may be the most useless talent any angel has ever had but it's mine!' Bob remembered how Alex, Nick and Jacqueline like his drawings.
'There might be a way to do it without having to cut your wings but you'd have to look more,' Jon continued without drilling the subject forward. 'You'd have to ask him,' he added writing an address on a sticky. 'He's the same guy I told you about before. But I can't guarantee you anything. You may find him a little odd, though,' he added at the end.
'More then you?' Bob laughed. 'I doubt that.'
'No, really, I mean it,' Jon said and the angel stopped laughing immediately. 'Anyways, is there anything else you need?' he asked returning to his rehearsed manner of speech.
Bob hesitated for a moment. 'Actually there is something if you don't mind of course,' he said quietly, moving his hands nervously.
Bob looked in the mirror and tried desperately to somehow hit the cut feather with a cotton pad soaked with disinfectant. It was hard. A few times he hit to hard and a few times his hand stopped before the pad reached the wound.
'Will you stop moving?!' Chris shouted at him. He sighed when Bob obediently returned to his previous position.
The moment the young adolescent changed into more causal clothes he transformed from a secretary to a normal boy. He was the kind of person who could sleep wherever and whenever he wanted and once rested he was a bit too energetic. He looked exactly like his older twin sister Chris, the third resident of flat 7. They had exactly the same oval face and blue eyes. Even when they were standing together they looked almost identical, both the same hight, just the girl's hair was slightly longer. Even the birthmark on their forehead was identical. They quarreled over each gesture or tendency they had identical. And though they reacted the same way and had the same name each of them knew exactly when was he and when his twin called.
'Chris, you're in my way!' the girl pushed her brother away. Somehow anything they did together ended up in a fight and cleaning Bob's wings took twice as long with them doing it then if there was only one person. Bob was thankful that they were already finishing. He tried to help but each time they thought him a nuisance.
He waited a few minutes until the twins finished and prepared for his visit to the last person who could help him. There was a very nice sensation left in the bathroom and around Bob - his wings were still wet from water. He took his rucksack and the bag with canvases - now painted and said his goodbyes and thanks to everybody. He had already left the first painting he had done as a thank you gift for letting him stay at their apartment for some time. Three days was just enough to finish his works when being hurried by Jon. He had kept telling him that the shorter he would be staying at their flat the better it was for him. Bob could easily figure out why.
Staying at the Z? publishing office was easier to accept than leaching off of Alex, Nick and Paul. They were more involved in his situation than either of the humans but he couldn't shake off the feeling that he enjoyed his stay in Glasgow a lot more than the one at Z? publishing.
'Goodbye then,' Bob said feeling the note with that man's address in his pocket to make sure it was there.
Each of the three had their own way of saying goodbye to Bob. Chris mumbled something in a very grumpy way and his his sister hugged the angel tightly and gave him a kiss on the cheek. It was just a small peck but Bob's face became red in split seconds. Jon touched his shoulder sticking a yellow note on it. The angel took it of and saw a telephone number on it.
'See you later,' he said with his whimsical smile on his face. He pushed him out of the door both to move the shocked angel and to shorten the useless goodbyes.
Bob wanted to protest but the door shut before his face. He had doubts as to him returning to this place. Or more like he wanted to have those doubts. He headed down the stairs and found the tube to head to the center. He had to find a gallery that would accept his works.
The tube was crowded but for some reason he expected it. It was just natural this way. He noticed the glares from every side but decided to ignore them. His "wing-capes" looked fake enough for him to be considered a freak and not a freak of nature. He noticed one black girl looking at him unalike the others. She had curled hair and curled hair and a round face but she was quite skinny. Bob was certain that she was also working out but there was no certainty since she was wearing a coat. She seemed to be reading the newest issue of The Sun but her eyes moved up from time to time and observed him. Bob looked up at the table above the door to see that there were still four more stops until Leicester Square where he wanted to exit. Her gaze followed him when a few minutes later he was leaving the train. On the platform he looked around once more and saw her openly looking at him, The Sun lying behind her, closed.
Bob hurried up the stairs and rushed through the crowds of London streets. It was cold and obviously he was the only one wearing sandals. People passed him in a hurry not even noticing his wings. Bob looked around to see if there is a gallery but also he couldn't help to glance at the christmas decorations everywhere. There were lights hanging from the cords and every shop had at least one Santa Claus behind the huge window. He caught a glance of a little girl pulling on her mother's coat and pointing at him.
'Look mummy!' she was saying. 'There's an angel over there!'
Bob waved at her and went on. Finally he found a gallery. He went in and looked around. There was a main room where there were the works of one main artist and an arrow pointing to another room where probably all the rest was. Arthur O'Neil was obviously a man obsessed with seagulls and sea life because most of his works focused around the animals that washed up on shore. Even the title of the exhibition was "Washed Up" and the poster featured one of his seagulls holding a fish in its beak. Bob looked around for the person in charge and saw a woman sitting on a seat near the biggest poster. She was reading a magazine about fashion, which obviously played a big role in her life seeing how she had a lot of trinkets on her and a fancy dress and sweater as well.
'Excuse me,' he said and the woman looked up at him. She looked middle aged, her face scarred with wrinkles. Her glasses and manner of dressing made her look older than she probably was. She put the magazine down to reveal an article about healthy diets. 'I'm trying to sell some of my works, I don't know if you would be willing to accept them.'
The woman looked at him patiently and coughed when Bob didn't say anything. 'Well, show them to me,' she said sounding a bit like a teacher.
'Yes,' Bob took out his works and handed them one by one to the lady talking nervously as he did that. 'My name is Robert Hardy and I'm just trying to raise some money for myself and a few friends who helped me recently. It's not great but to be honest I'm quite desperate.'
The woman stopped him raising her hand and Bob gratefully became quiet. He didn't like talking like that but however much deep breaths he took he just couldn't calm down and act normally.
'I'm afraid I can't accept these,' the woman said. 'It's just not the way this gallery works. You see, we exhibit the works of one artist at a time and when his works don't sell entirely the paintings that are left are moved to the second room in case a buyer appears. And we pay the artist once his work is sold and not before so in any case it would be easier to sell your works on the streets of Camden or the banks of the river than here.'
'Thank you very much,' Bob said and packed the paintings back.
The woman scrutinized him once more when he was leaving but didn't ask about his wings which was a huge relief. Once back on the street he once more heard words calling him crazy and weird and sometimes he heard the words hero or amazing. In most cases he couldn't tell what anybody was saying because they spoke foreign languages - the safest way to gossip about somebody.
Suddenly he felt something poke his back and before he could turn around a voice told him not to do that. He felt shivers go down his spine and fear along with it. His thoughts wandered from angels who wanted to get rid of him to normal thieves who wanted to mug him. He hoped it was the second option but if it were hooligans then they could as well pick a target that didn't stand out as much as he did.
'Turn left,' the voice said near a small alley. It was muffled so Bob could assume that he had something covering his lips. He had a familiar accent but Bob couldn't make out where he was from. Finally when they were in a remote place in a safe distance from the crowds the person turned Bob around.
The angel looked surprised at his kidnapper but before he could say anything he was hit on the cheek with full force. He smashed into the wall hitting his head. He felt blood in his mouth where his teeth cut his lips. He looked back at his attacker with even more shock then before.
'You freaking bastard!' Nick shouted at him but he released all his anger at him with the punch and his voice broke down near the end. 'You think you can just leave like that and cast us aside with all the worry?! Couldn't you just wait those three days?! You even lied that you had a mission and everything!'
'I'm sorry...' Bob said quietly and stood up. He quickly understood that they had to speak to Grace. 'I couldn't use you guys like that...' he explained but didn't mention the other thing that was worrying him. He remembered the tears he shed when he left their flat. He enjoyed being with them too much. And he just had to go back to Heaven. 'Where are the others?' Bob asked noticing that they weren't with Nick.
'Alex is on Piccadilly and Paul is searching for that place where you wanted to go,' Nick said still acting like he was angry though looking at his face Bob saw only relief.
The angel felt happy that the three were so worried about him but immediately rebuked himself. He knew he couldn't get attached to anything on Earth or he wouldn't be able to make himself go home. And he realized he already liked Alex, Nick and Paul too much. His heart started beating faster as he became aware that he didn't want to go back to Heaven as much as he wanted when he fell. It wasn't his first priority anymore. His first priority was to pay back the debt of gratitude he owed to the three. He realized he liked playing the bass, he liked drinking wine even though he was half conscious after one glass, he liked telling stories and listening to them as well, he liked to listen to the music they put on. He was scared, terrified even, of that truth.
His body acted before he could think. He pushed the bag with his paintings into Nick's arms and ran out of the alley. He searched for the first empty cab and gave the driver the address. He noticed Nick searching for him on the street when they were passing the alley where he just got him. He smiled to himself remembering how he was attacked. Looking back on it (though it was less than five minutes ago) he realized that that sort of behavior was very Nick-like.
Nick shouted a few times after Bob but he knew it wouldn't do much. He'd already lost sight of the angel and had no idea which way he went. He cursed still looking around for any trace of the angel. He walked around trying to calm down. It didn't work. Just when he had finally found him he had to escape again. He took out his phone and dialed. They needed a backup plan. Alex picked up almost immediately.
'Anything new?' Nick heard his voice after one or two signals.
'Well, yeah,' the German started still trying his best to keep his cool. 'It seems that our little angel hates us!' he said loudly, accidentally gaining the attention of a few passers-by. 'I managed to catch him and there we are talking, I'm all concerned and everything and bang! He runs off, God knows where,' Nick knew he probably made little sense. 'Though I did hit him once but he deserved it! He deserved that one hit!' Nick continued but guilt was already pilling up when he remembered what he did.
'Calm down, Nick,' Alex used that one bit of hesitation to enter. 'I just got a text from Paul. He has been to that publishing company and we know where he might be heading. Take the circle line and exit on Monument. See you there!' Alex hung up knowing that prolonging the conversation would bring more harm than good.
Nick breathed in deeply, taking Alex's advice to calm down. He closed his eyes and inhaled and exhaled slowly. He then cursed quietly one more time and ran towards the underground. Calming down didn't work. Once on the tube he nervously awaited the stop. People glanced at him as he tucked his shirt in his trousers and changed his position every five seconds. He couldn't help it. Any way he looked at what happened Bob just had to hate them. First he lied, which he could vaguely understand. Then he gets beaten up, lies again. Understandable again. Somehow. Runs off to London to find somebody who can help him. Alone. These were the borders of Nick's perception. It was total nonsense to him that Bob would reject their help once in London. There were only two reasons why a person would do that. One, he hated them, or at least Nick. Two, Bob was in trouble and was made to agree on some bizarre conditions that forbade him from meeting them.
The second option, though less likely, was somehow a lot more optimistic to Nick so the rest of the journey he spent making a story about what happened to the angel while he was kidnapped in Glasgow, and now in London. Bob received a conditional offer. If he helped them defeat the evil mastermind - a spy in the Z? publishing office - he would be granted a safe passage to heaven. The condition was that he would have to cut all his contacts on earth and then proceed on his quest. But Bob decided he needed to at least say goodbye and escaped. He came back to the flat and spent a little time with them but couldn't tell the truth. So he ran off and left a note. Now he was doing his best to gather information about the evil mastermind, whose name was Todd, and searches for a way to get inside the building unnoticed.
The voice in the speakers announced Monument the same moment Nick decided his story was nonsense. There was no way that clumsy Bob would be able to act secret agent 007 and save the earth from an evil disease running free killing millions o innocent people. He noticed the stop was his and ran out quickly seconds before the door closed. He checked to see if he forgot anything. His bag, check; Bob's bag, check, good.
He exit the station and searched for Alex. He noticed him and Paul also looking for him and ran towards them.
'Bob's in bigger trouble than we thought,' Alex said before Nick had a chance to talk. 'The angels want to kill him and he can either hide or go back to heaven. Right now he's probably with this bloke who is his last hope of finding a way.'
They were already heading south where supposedly "this bloke" was living. Meanwhile, Nick finally told his story from beginning to end without adding any of the suspicions he had about Bob's behavior so it was more possible to look at the situation objectively. Unfortunately they couldn't eliminate the possibility that Bob actually hated them but Paul had another view on the situation.
'Maybe he doesn't want to put us in danger,' he said with a hint of anger in his voice. 'For which I would also want to hit him but I guess Nick has done that for us already.
They finally got to the building where the person Bob was meeting lived. Nick noticed the doors closing and a person with wings - obviously Bob - disappearing behind them.
'So now what?' he asked seeing how they got a moment too late.
'We wait,' Alex said. 'He won't stay there forever, right?'
Nick sighed and rested against the wall of the building where Bob just disappeared. He knew that the next thirty minutes, or probably longer, until the angel leaves will be a nightmare. He couldn't concentrate on anything and even a short period of time would seem like a lifetime for him. His thoughts rushed from one thing to another never staying in one subject for long and he could see that Paul and Alex were probably having the same problem. Finally, he remembered Bob's bag.
He looked inside the plastic bag and saw seven canvases covered in paint. He quickly did the math. Bob finished the paintings he did to pay them back (though he didn't have to). He searched through them.
'Guys,' he said gathering the rest's attention. 'I think Paul's theory was quite right,' he added showing the first painting.
It presented Paul in his childish roman-scottish soldier costume. But the way Bob had painted him, from waist upwards, the plastic helmet made metal with malicious details and engravings and the flag he had for a cape looking like a real, silk cape with a metal clip instead of a knot and eyes looking into the distance - he really looked like a roman soldier. But his face laughing and skinny posture he still looked like the same Paul Bob had met that day when he fell onto earth.
The next painting was the four of them sitting on the couch with half empty glasses of wine, sharing the comfy furniture with a bass and electric guitars having a percussion set spying on them from behind. It was exactly the same as when they had their first conversation about heaven and Bob. Even the clothes they wore were the same.
The third painting showed a man barely visible in the shadows, with wings glowing from the faint light coming through the slightly open door. His face showed no emotions but stared straight at the person looking at the painting making a chill go down their spine. The next one presented a girl looking longingly into the distance, light flickering in the background. She wasn't crying but looked like she was about to in any moment. After that there was a girl with a white feather tucked behind her ear like an indian, dressed in pink and white. Nick recognized his piano understudy, Lisa whose scottish accent was even stronger than Paul's.
The next one was again the four of them laughing together and having a good time together. Bob's wings were a total disaster but he was still smiling. It had a very nostalgic feeling to it.
'It's a story,' Paul said seeing as the last painting had Bob sketching something in a notebook and a girl in front of him was telling him something gesticulating hectically, looking like a girl in love talking about her first love. He turned it around and saw the number two written in the corner on the back of the canvas. He looked at the other which had numbers from three to eight, the highest digit belonging to the first painting they saw. 'It's backwards,' he noticed.Number one is missing.'
They couldn't finish because they heard one of the upstairs doors being open and slammed. Bob - if it was him - was leaving. Nick quickly packed the paintings and stood next to Alex and Paul in front of the door. Bob opened the door, surprise showed on his face as quickly as he realized who was standing in front of him.
The cab stopped before the destined building and Bob left the cab after he had payed for the ride with the last of his money and pushed the doorbell to the person's apartment. Next to the number three was his name: "Tom Wilks" - sounded quite normal.
He looked right and saw the Thames at the end of the street behind a small wall. Tom had a very well placed flat.
'Who is this?' the voice asked almost silently. Bob couldn't distinguish any features from the whisper.
He took a deep breath wishing not to go through the same he'd gone through the day before with Jon.
'My name is Bob,' he started, 'Jon from the Z? Publishing said that you could help me.'
'Jon?' the voice asked a bit louder but still whispering. Tom obviously knew Jon by a different name.
'Mr. Kilworth, he lives with the Chris twins,' Bob explained.
'Oh yes, and how can I help you?' the voice sounded suspicious of the angel.
'They're after me and I'm trying to get back there,' Bob said not revealing anything in case Tom wasn't the person he was searching for or the person he was speaking to wasn't Tom.
'I see,' the voice said obviously understood what he meant. It probably wasn't that hard after he mentioned Jon. 'You're not followed, are you?'
Bob looked around but there was nobody there. He said that and the door opened. He climbed the stairs and waited for Tom to open the door. It took him some time to unlock all the locks - seventeen (all different) as Bob found out after he had entered the flat.
Tom's home had a whole different vibe to it than that of Nick and Jon. First of all it was arranged for one person and not three. It was one huge living room and a bathroom The room was big and spacious. There was little furniture: a sofa and an old chest apart from the small kitchen complex in one corner. The windows were huge but covered with blinds and thus there was little sun in the room. There was also a hanger right by the door. But the most important thing in the room was a grand piano in the middle of the room with music sheets lying next to it. The walls were red brick and the room seemed colder than the outside. The other unusual thing about Tom's flat were scribbling on the walls near the windows and doors.
'You're lucky it's the Christmas season...' Tom said closing all the locks back. 'So what didn't work out?'
'"Didn't work out?"' Bob asked unsure of what the man meant.
Tom stood up. He was Bob's height and age (or he looked like it). He had dark, slightly curly hair arranged to the back with hair paste and blue and grey eyes. He was wearing black trousers, legs rolled up, a grey long-sleeved shirt and a black T-shirt on it.
'If everything is OK then why do you want to go back?' Tom asked already moving away from the door and checking each window.
'I think you got it a bit wrong there,' Bob said realizing what the man said. 'I didn't ask to be here, it was an accident that I got here. I want to go back to Heaven before they can do anymore harm to me.'
Tom looked at him with surprise. 'Any more?' he asked closing the blinds at one window.
'Yes, they plucked a part of my feathers out.'
'Did they use holy water?' Bob noticed Tom was gesticulating wildly when speaking. He understood why he was called odd. He shook his head. 'See, it's not that bad. Well, I guess if they did use holy water then you wouldn't be here really. They use it to cut the wings out. It's like acid to us,' Tom explained crouching. Bob shivered at the thought. He really didn't know too much about angels. 'I can do two things for you,' Tom continued. 'I can tell you this: an angel can't fly without a halo. And I can give you a charm that will keep your wings hidden until you find it.'
'If you can, please,' Bob said and watched as Tom danced across the room to his big chest. He searched through it and took out a small metal plate attached to a short wire. He then traveled back to the kitchen and on the counter started scribbling on the coin with a silver pen. 'So what's your story?' Bob asked feeling awkward because of the sudden silence.
Tom seemed to had ignored his question but the angel noticed that he had glanced at him after he had posed it. He finished the charm and looked at it once more. 'Pierce it through your wings later,' he instructed. 'It's how I hide my wings. It makes them both invisible and they can pass through solid and nobody can feel them except for you. You see I escaped Heaven deliberately. That's all there is to it,' he looked through the window and his eyes narrowed and he hurried to the door. 'You should go now,' he said opening the door. 'I can't help you anymore than this. I wish the best for you,' he said almost touching his shoulder but pulling back at the last moment and returning to unlocking the fifth lock. 'We never met if anybody asks,' he opened the door and pushed Bob out. 'I wish we do someday, though...'
The doors slammed and Bob could hear the locks being locked again. For some reason he understood exactly what Tom meant by those last words. He headed down the stairs and opened the door. He wasn't really surprised when he saw Nick, Alex and Paul waiting for him there. The three of them looked really angry but they patiently awaited the report.
'I can't fly unless I find my halo,' Bob explained quietly He looked down embarrassed by the whole situation. The people he lied to countless times, whom he sort of betrayed still waited for him to help him. 'But I have no idea where to even look so I guess I'm staying,' he said depressed. But underneath his sadness he felt a huge relief which he knew exactly where was coming from. But the overwhelming sorrow continued to grow as he realized he would never see the angels he knew in heaven and the amazing sky he could see only from the highest clouds. But somehow he felt more free trapped on the small earth than when he had all of the heavens to live in.
'But you said your halo is in your pocket!' Paul remembered their first conversation. He couldn't notice the angel's inner battle between wanting to stay with the three and his despair because he couldn't go back to heaven.
Bob couldn't even get angry. 'I was lying!' he explained resigned. 'I didn't even think that angels had haloes! My pockets are empty!' he searched his pockets as evidence. 'There's nothing-!' he stopped when his fingers felt a metal ring. He took it out and looked at it. It was a silver ring as thin as a single thread but it grew on his palm until it was the size of his head.
Bob couldn't help but laugh. All this time he was looking and the answer was hiding in his pocket. He glanced at the disappointed faces of his mates but couldn't stop laughing. The answer was just too easy. He ran down the street heading towards the river. Tom had quite the spot for living there. Alex, Nick and Paul followed him not knowing what exactly was he planning to do now. Bob ran and stopped on the wall that ran alongside Thames. Then he let go.
He threw the halo into the water as hard as he could and watched it sink in the dirty water. 'Screw you, Heaven!' he shouted and the waves carried his voice. He laughed again. He felt as if released from a heavy weight that burdened his heart till now. He turned around to Alex, Nick and Paul who were already by his side watching shocked the place where a moment ago Bob's halo was sinking. The angel grinned for the first time feeling truly free. Chased, penniless and hurting but free. 'What do we do now?' he asked as if they were deciding which film to go on a friday night.
Alex was the first one to regain consciousness from shock. He smirked and raised his eyebrows the way he usually did. Maybe even a bit devilishly. But rumors were often just rumors and even if there's no smoke without fire to Bob neither of the three were anywhere near demons. 'With a bit of practice you could be our bassist, Bob,' Alex said. Nick and Paul nodded in agreement.
Bob giggled at the thought. 'I'd like that,' he said. 'I'd like that very much.'