Just a quick note:
Before giving you guys my second short story for this blog, I must hereby declare my intentions for posting. This week I will have two stories posted, including Bagels with Arabica, as well as this piece, yet starting next week I will post one per week on Sundays. I haven't really gathered these in any particular order, so some may be posted later when they were actually written much, much earlier.
So without further ado, I give you a free-write I had done early this year.
"The Gibbons Angel"
a short story
Gary Baker, February 2012
Angel inhaled deep gulps of air tasting just slightly like dust and mildew. In through the nose and out through the mouth. In, out. In, out. Angel continued this at beats of three in one direction, three in the other, all eventually circulating to the first set again until the stress began to subside.
Long, curled swaths of black strand-like fake eyelashes tipped against Angel's eyebrows, slapping the golden glitter with all the grace of wings on a butterfly. Crystalline flakes of yellow and white seemed to appear like magic before the silvery mirror strewn with tape and photos from past shows, and he found himself entranced in the shimmering light. Following the drifting glitter, Angel found his gaze resting upon the kaleidoscopic colors of dried paint, nail-polish, and make-up that lay scattered over the entire once-white counter.
A feathered headdress peeked over from the door on Angels right, and a beautiful, slender girl with hair dark as the galactic cosmos, reached her head into the small dressing room. "Hey hun," her soft voice sounded faintly similar to a gentle afternoon breeze, reminding Angel of the various times spent watching cloudy skies from tall green-grassed hills. "You're on in five, babe!"
Angel smiled, this was his chance; he would be a star this time for sure. "Thanks, Carissa."
Carissa nodded, smiling of her own reasons, and darted away to leave Angel alone in the vanity mirror again. Such simplicity lost itself in the plane of reflective metal beneath a thin sheet of glass, so simple in fact that Angel couldn't help but admire himself through such a lens. His hair, deep locks of burgundy that coiled down over his back; his eyebrows, dusted with the gold glitter that would surely attract attention to his deep green eyes; and his beautiful figure, with the hour-glass shape and the seductive curves that some women could only dream of.
Angel leaned forward to adjust the bra strap so that it wouldn't peek out of the resplendent navy silk dress with silver rings accenting the collar and shoulder straps. Perfect, he thought, just the way things should be. He began to let his eyes shift to the coloration of paint on his fingernails; beige, ugly beige. Certainly something else would have to do, red even, like the shade known as hooker-red that made his lips stand out like the luscious forms on any fine dancer.
Slowly coming to the inspired excitement of stage-fright, Angel reached for the jar of deep crimson nail-polish and began painting it over his skin-toned fingernails, while blowing slightly so it wouldn't dry rippled. This needed to be perfect, the judges should have no reason to find him out of line.
In a way, there were lives on the line, balanced so precariously that any amount of leeway in either direction could easily tilt the whole idea into the abyss. Remember, remember, the fifth of December -- the day that the soldiers tried. He chanted within his thoughts, longing for some reason to not go out, if any could be found. Remember, remember, the fifth of December -- the day that the soldiers died.
That was the verse, the symbolic chant of every war-age soldier who made it out of Baghdad when so many had not. The basic moral was just that trying was not enough; one had to succeed.
Angel nodded to his magnificent reflection and stood up to gaze at his slim bottom, perfectly held within the tight end of the silk dress so that it evoked a sense of awe and respect at the same time. He knew then, that with a figure like his own set in such a high stature he could not possibly do anything but send waves of resigned awe into the crowds that awaited.
"Lets do this."
Angel quickly reached back to tie his hair in a small tail at the nape of his neck, hiding the thin chain-link that held his diamond necklace in place. Let the crowd think what they wanted, this was his choice -- and the silly PTA could shove it, for all he cared.
A quick, sharp rap at the door broke his concentration. "Miss Gibbons?" It was Carissa's voice again; when would she ever learn not to break the moment of triumph just before he found his way to the stage. Like I would ever be late anyways! He sneered. Just another reason to do the job to perfection, was all. "Ma'am you're on, now."
Turning to the door, Angel stepped into the pearly-cerulean two-inch heels that lay at his feet and turned one last longing look into the mirror. "You are perfect, Miss Gibbons. Once we cross that door, you are a woman in every aspect." With a final smile at the woman in the mirror, Angel spun to the door and snapped it open with a new found purpose.
Carissa stood outside with her headdress still on, but no longer hiding the Blue-Tooth microphone that she used to keep track of the event. As her eyes fell over Angel, in her gleaming blue dress with its silver accents and the diamond necklace, Carissa's breath caught. Her eyes rose slightly at the sides to allow her smile to take an even greater portion of her near-teary expression. "You look beautiful, Miss Gibbons."
"Well lets hope the crowds do as well, otherwise this event is toast -- and not by lifting glasses of champagne, either."
Carissa's smile faded as if the joke had gone over her head and Angel sighed. When was he -- she -- when was she ever going to get a secretary that was old enough to drink? Certainly enough the last one had; but the last one drank to excess, too. "Just wish me luck, hun," she finally toned to the still-confused girl with her raucous feathered hat.
Before her secretary could respond, Angel strode with the best pride that she could afford without reverting back to her military years. The black curtains gave way at her sides, and she stepped meaningfully out onto the dim-lit stage toward a tall oak podium just meters ahead. Amongst the vast black expanse that was the audience, sharp white flashes pin-pricked like stars exploding in the night sky. Each one made Angel want to wince in pain, each one causing her age-old migraine to gain the leading edge in the battle for her skull.
Two flashes cracked the darkness to her right, another to her left, and with the podium finally resting beneath her delicate fingers another bloomed directly in the space her eyes had thought was safe. Anger bloomed in her cheeks, negating the purpose of the top-brand blush she had bought earlier that very day, and she inhaled deeply to strive for control again.
This was a public affair not a war-zone, after all.
One last inhale through the nose, one, two, three, and the following exhale through the mouth in the form of a new opening to her speech. "Ladies and gentlemen before I begin I must attest to the fact that we are a family here," another flash and she found herself gritting her teeth in frustration, a picturesque image of perfect white walls against the deep red cushions of her lips; and the anger took hold. "And families do not make each others lives miserable by flashing cameras like reporters! I understand that this is an unheard of event in the history of our school, but there will be no -- I repeat, no -- cameras flashing during the performance!"
A serene hush took the crowd, and the flashes finally ceased fire. One more and she swore she would have let loose a maelstrom of verbal death as tough as the bullets from a fully-loaded AK-47. Sighing more audibly than planned, Angel Gibbons let her head shake to and fro slowly before going on. "We are here to celebrate the students who have done fascinating jobs in their studies, not to act like paparazzi on the red carpet. Now, call me strict or call me scrupulous-" Angel smiled with a glance toward the first row in the audience where the years 'Students of Valor' sat poised like the young adults that they would one day become when they finally reached high school, "now there's a homework question for you all to look up later-" her smile faded, and the firmness of her position took hold once more. "Should there be any cameras flashing during the performance, I will gladly stop everything and have the one who did so personally come up here and apologize -- not only to these benevolent men and women who have donated their time to do this for us, but to the entirety of their peers!"
Carissa appeared just off-stage to Angel's right, and began to wave her hands lightly as if to cut her off. A slight prick of doubt hit her deep in the gut, and the butterflies that had kissed her eyebrows just moments ago now tore at her stomach like a churning hurricane.
She had to get this over with as quickly as possible, if only to find out Carissa's meaning. "Now, if you will all sit quietly and act like the respectful adults that I would hope you aspire to be, I hereby welcome: the world renown Traveling Shakespeare Company!" Angel finally let her face light up with as much awe as she could, and turned to her right -- where a man dressed in a soft brown tunic and leather jerkin stood holding a fake scroll and quill.
And the silence broke out like the waves of a shattered lake. Few students cheered, and even fewer acted like the adults that she had intoned. Placid calm broke into oblivion, and Angel found herself gritting her teeth harder even than on the front lines. Leftover testosterone shot through her veins and her left hand nearly strangled the inanimate swivel-cord to the microphone. Forcing another smile, Angel turned to the plethora of middle-school-ers and let an irritated glare take them all in. "Be glad that you are here watching this, because you could be in class doing busywork."
Suddenly applause erupted as loudly as a war zone, with students cheering for the play to begin.
As she passed the man with the scroll, Angel sent him a quick smile. "Make this show as... educational as possible, would you?" His own beaming expression in response nearly made her shiver with just how little he was thinking of an educational experience.
"I think he likes you, Miss Gibbons." Carissa chimed in cheerily, letting the tall feathers of her rainbow headdress bounce with the nineteen-year-old's excitement.
Angel shot the girl a malicious glare, before letting herself fall against the wall backstage laughing hysterically at the thought. "If only you knew, Carissa, if only you knew."