Jeremy stays close to me as we walk into the grocery store, like a child who refuses to leave his mother's side. His face is tense in concentration, his eyes darting to and fro as to not miss a single sight. I can't imagine what is going through his mind right now. The sliding glass doors open automatically before us and I grab the first cart I see. I push it down the aisle and grunt as I realize I have once again chosen the one with a broken wheel.
"What's wrong?" Jeremy asks.
"Oh nothing. Just this stupid cart. I always manage to choose the broken ones," I say with a shrug.
Jeremy glances down at the cart, fixing his gaze on the broken, wiggly wheel. As I struggle to push it forward, I notice that an instant later my struggle has ceased. My head snaps down and I see all four wheels gliding along in a straight line. I shoot the angel a quizzical look and think, Using your magic powers in public - really?
Jeremy shrugs. "I guess I always manage to fix the broken ones."
I roll my eyes at his comment, trying not to take offense at the double meaning behind the phrase "fixing the broken ones." I haven't been shopping for anyone but myself in quite a while. I am so set in my ways that my hand moves reflexively to the Raisin Bran - a constant breakfast staple in my household.
"Do you mind cereal for breakfast?" I ask Jeremy over my shoulder.
Jeremy is standing still, staring at all the boxes of cereal with their elaborate labels and colorful designs. He moves his fingers across the boxes, each of them tilting back slightly at his touch. He seems so mesmerized.
"Ohmygawd, Stella?!" a feminine voice squeaks from the end of the aisle.
I glance upward and see Connie practically skipping down the aisle to get to me. Gavin is a few feet behind her, pushing a full cart load of groceries with a serene look on his face. I still wonder how the two of them get along so well.
Connie barrels into me, hugging me tightly. Her light pink shawl slips off her shoulders and I see Jeremy lean over to grab it just before it hits the ground. Connie's arms are still around me, her words just a blur as she babbles into my ear. I can't help but smile as I hug her back. One night out with the girl and already she treats me like her best friend. Of course, I'm not complaining. The feel of human attention and affection is something I crave on a daily basis.
Gavin tips his head to me and an impish grin spreads across his lips. I think he 'gets a kick' out of seeing how overwhelmed people can get with Connie's colorful personality. I know if I had to spend all my time with her, I would be counting down the minutes until she went to bed every night.
Connie grips my shoulders, pulling her body away from me.
"-and I cannot TELL you how happy I am that I ran into you today! Gavin and I were just talking about how we wanted to see you again! I think we should plan to do a dinner or something this weekend. Invite your boyfriend!"
Connie frowns and leans in closer to me. "You're still seeing him, right?"
My tongue feels like drying glue as I try to focus my attention on her words. She's just so hard to keep up with! I let out an uncomfortable laugh and take a step back from her.
"Ah, the man you're referring to is not my boyfriend, Connie. And his name is Evan."
"Ok, but you're still going on dates with him and such, correct?"
Jeremy steps into the middle of the conversation then, handing Connie's pink shawl back to her and offering up a winning smile. Connie inhales sharply, her eyes glazing down Jeremy's body as if she were an underfed child looking at a freshly cooked ham.
"And who is this?" Connie asks, a hint of flirtation in her voice. "Evan, is it?"
She reaches out her hand and grabs her shawl, wrapping it around her shoulders in a slow, meticulous manner. Jeremy shakes his head and offers up his hand in introduction.
Connie looks between the two of us, wishing that Jeremy was out of the way so she could gossip with me about him behind his back. I know that brain of hers must be filled with a million questions.
"Ah, nice to meet you, Jeremy. I'm Connie - Stella's good friend."
I bite back a grin. Good friend?
Connie gestures behind her to Gavin. "And this is my boyfriend, Gavin. So, how do you two know each other? This is the guy that replaced Evan, I'm assuming?"
Jeremy's grin fades with Connie's words and I shoot him a warning glance.
"No, no," I reassure Connie. "Jeremy is just, an acquaintance. Evan is very much still in the picture. We're seeing each tomorrow actually!"
"No, you will not be seeing him tomorrow," Jeremy interjects. "If I have anything to do with it, you won't be seeing him ever again."
His bright blue eyes have darkened, all traces of kindness leaving his face. Connie's mouth flops open and flounders at Jeremy's comment. Ugh. And this is why I hate grocery shopping. I scold myself for not giving Jeremy a brief lesson on how to mingle with nowadays humans. Because clearly he's out of practice.
I give Connie a warm and reassuring smile and loop my arm around Jeremy's. At my touch he stiffens, his eyes staring at my arm that is now gently touching against his. His lips part in - wonder? Confusion? I can't quite place the unnamed emotion that is now showing on his face.
"Connie, Jeremy is my new - er, roommate. For the time being. We're just friends, but he's just super protective of me. Aren't you, Jer?"
I look to Jeremy for confirmation and his gaze is still fixed on my arm. I sigh and move away from him, raising my eyebrows. A little help here please? Jeremy's face relaxes and he puts a smooth grin back on his face.
"I suppose I am your roommate now," he says thoughtfully. "Just for the time being of course."
Connie seems appeased with his comment but still shoots him a weary glance.
"Well, Stella, Gavin and I really have to get going. What do you say Gavin and I join you and your roommate for dinner tomorrow? I hear your house is spectacular. I'd still love to see it…"
At this point, all I want to do is get my groceries and get the hell out of here. Another dinner with Connie will be brutal, but once I've had a few drinks she really is quite fun to be around.
"Sure, that's fine Connie. You and Gavin can come by my place tomorrow evening at say - 5:30?"
Connie nods, the excitement returning to her face and her cheeks filling with their fervent pink color once again. I look to Gavin who is still coldly eyeing Jeremy.
"Ohh, good, good good! We will be there!"
Connie gives me a quick hug and pat on the back before returning back to Gavin's side and pushing past us down the aisle.
"Oh and Stella," Connie says, "bring Evan too! I want to meet this man that is stealing away your heart!"
I nod my head and smile, giving her a polite wave good-bye. Jeremy stands next to me and watches the two of them disappear around the corner, his lips pursed in distaste. I grab my Raisin Bran off the shelf and throw it angrily into my cart. As if I needed yet another obstacle to my day. First the angel and now Connie. What next?
Jeremy finishes his plate of food and leans back in satisfaction. My sub conscious seems to be warming up to the angel because in seeing his pleasure with my meal, she giggles gleefully behind her hand. Little bits of barbeque sauce stain the corner of Jeremy's mouth and he reaches for a napkin to wipe his face a final time.
"Thank you for the sustenance," Jeremy says. "I had forgotten how much I enjoyed eating. And I don't know if it's a change in food or just a change in me, but the food now seems much more delightful and satisfying than it did when I was alive."
I grab our plates from the table and start washing them off at the sink. The smell of cooking still fills my kitchen and for once in a very long time, I am content after having eaten at my own kitchen table.
"Well I'd like to think our food flavorings and food creativity has increased quite a bit since the last time you were on earth. I'm glad you enjoyed it though."
"Oh, I did. Very much. Thank you, Stella."
And when he says my name, a tremulous shiver shoots up my spine and all the way into my brain. I seem to be frozen at the sink and my mind reels back in time, showing me clip after clips of memories over the past dozen decades. And yet one seems to stick out above all the rest, keeping itself surfaced while all the others sink to the depths of my brain.
…I can feel myself transforming into my Evil side. It hurts me and I whimper in pain as my wings stab through my skin. My demon is furious that I'm the chosen body, the chosen soul she must now be paired with for centuries to come. I can feel her disgust and hatred of me. She sees me as weak. And she's right. I am weak.
My trembling feet move forward, the pieces of gravel cutting through the soft flesh of my feet. I stand on my tip-toes and peer through the window. There is a single candle lit at the end of the room, its color illuminating the wooden table directly below it. My demon squawks at me that I'm taking too long. I need to make a kill, and fast. My minions are hungry.
I press my face against the window and look upon the grown man I am supposed to murder. He is a handsome gentleman, no older than thirty. His face is masculine, dark hair etched all over his cheeks and chin. I look to the space next to him in search of a woman, but I see it is empty.
My focus shifts when I notice a slight movement from the other side of the room. My eyes sweep the area and land on a tiny bassinette where a tiny fist is swaying to and fro, unbeknownst to the nearby danger. I slowly descend into the house, invisible and silent.
My demon pulls me to look at the man once more. He really is quite handsome. His muscular arms and torso are bare, showing off his delectable body. I tilt my head to look at his face and see there are dried tears at the edges of his sunken eyes. My demon cuts through my thoughts, urging me to rape the man. She finds him attractive too. And then afterward she wants to eat him.
I take a step back from the man, my body shaking from the internal battle I am now fighting. I'm scared to give my Evil side control. She is ruthless. But I fear I am too weak to hold on to who I am.
Making a bold movement, I leave the man's side and slowly start making my way toward the crib. The wooden floor creaks beneath my weight, warning me to stay away. When I am by the crib's edge, I bend down and smile with content, inhaling the familiar scent of cloth diapers and innocence. It is a baby boy, I realize, his eyes big and full of wonder as he stares back at me. I want to pick him up and hold him, to coo him back to sleep. But I fear I have forgotten how.
My demon gags at this repulsive sight and stalks the corridors of my mind in a seething rage. "Kill Kill Kill!" she chants in my mind and pulls me back to the bed, where my minion's dinner awaits…..
"-and I just have to ask, do you always cook such splendid meals like this?" Jeremy asks, pulling me out of my inner thoughts.
I shake my head and blink, shuddering away the vividness of my memory. Where on earth did that come from?
"I…uhm. I'm sorry Jeremy, I'm really tired. I don't mean to be rude but I think I need to head to bed," I say rubbing my temples.
Jeremy gives me a troubled look and then nods. "I understand Stella. It must be a hard struggle, what with your demon at all."
I roll my eyes. He would not survive a day in my shoes, I think sullenly. And who is he to be so high and mighty anyway? All he does on any given day is float among the clouds and play in the heavenly flowers. Must be nice.
"Er, help yourself to whatever if you get hungry in the night. I'll see you tomorrow morning."
"Ok, goodnight Stella."