ANGELS: Shock & Awe

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Chapter 23

Or so I thought. From behind me someone said, “Good luck at what?”

It was Donna. She stood up as I turned to her; she’d been sitting at the little table where I usually ate. “Nobody had seen you all day. I took a chance, brought you some dinner.” She gestured at the table. “I was about to give up on you.”

She had no idea; if I had spent a full hour in Washington, I’d have been gone another three days. As it was I’d spent maybe fifteen minutes there and been away for over twenty-four hours. “Well, thanks for hanging in there.”

She walked right up to me, took my face in her hands and kissed me. Did I say she was all planes and angles? Well, she had very soft lips. “The food’s cold now anyway,” she said when she pulled away. She looked into my eyes, her hands still on my face. “I’ve been hanging in here all week,” she whispered.

This time I kissed her. Did I mention she had really soft lips? She smelled great, too. I told her so. “Baby powder,” she said. We kissed again. She pulled away and walked over to the wall switch and doused the lights. It was still afternoon outside, but the drapes dimmed the room nicely. She took my hand and led me over to the sofa.

I tossed the seat cushions aside and flipped open the hide-a-bed, then turned to her and said, “Wait; first, I really need a shower. I probably smell like a goat. Will you wait for me?”

“I’ll do better than that,” she said, and led me to the bathroom.

At the doorway, I said, “Hold on a second.” I had an unbidden thought about her friend Leslie wondering about Billy Pilgrim and Montana Wildhack and public sex for the entertainment of the Tralfamadorians. Then I remembered a lesson in Angel-tech about “controlled thought”; it was how I managed the gravity belt. I tilted my head, cupped my hand under my ear and thought “out.” I felt a tickle in my auditory canal and then the silver teardrop fell into my hand.

“What’s that?”

“Big Brother,” I said; then I stepped back out and put the silver bug down on a lamp table. By the time I got back, Donna was already out of her sweater.

So much for going slow.

Believe it or not, I’d never showered with a girlfriend before. I never knew what I was missing; wandering hands and soap and steam and massage settings on the showerhead, what’s not to like? Mils had been no prude, but she considered her showers part of her “me time,” which I once unwisely quipped seemed to be twenty-four/seven as far as I could tell. And she was the only girl I’ve ever actually lived with; otherwise, it’s just never come up, so to speak. Had a few hot tub adventures with a college sweetheart, but that was something altogether different than this. This was wonderful.

And it was just a prologue. As we were toweling each other off, I told her she’d better take it easy, or it’d all be over awfully fast. She laughed—she had a great laugh, very warm and musical—and said not to worry, she knew resuscitation techniques I’d never dreamed of. Then she draped her towel over my head and dashed for the bed.

I honestly couldn’t remember the last time I’d had sex. Well, that’s not true; I could remember it, I just couldn’t remember how long ago that was. The better part of a year, I think. A girl I met at a wedding; how’s that for a cliché? I think her name was Elaine. Might have been Eileen. We were very drunk. But that had been a singular encounter; I wasn’t wired for one-night stands or casual sex. I got involved, I wooed, I courted. I fell in love.

Even as we were thrashing in the sheets, I knew this was dangerous territory. I had known this woman less than a week. On top of that, I was The Chosen, and I might be dragging her into a life even stranger than the one she’d been living for the past nine months. With every ounce of will I had I put on the brakes.

“You’ve got to be kidding me.”

She wasn’t angry, but she was one wrong word away from some seriously hurt feelings. The one time I try—a bit late in the game, true, but try nonetheless—to look before I leap, and I risk disaster. I sat up; took a deep breath. “Donna...” She lay on her back, taut as a bowstring, hands at her sides, each clutching a fistful of sheets. She pulled her knees up and looked at me in that deep, direct way of hers. I said, “I can’t remember ever wanting anything as much as I want you right now.”

She relaxed a little, swayed her knees back and forth, and tilted her head. “So?”

“You may find this hard to believe, but I’ve only ever ‘been with’ a handful of women. I know; shut up. With one drunken exception, I fell in love with every one of them.”

“Huh.” She studied me for a moment. “You’re not drunk now.”

I let out a big sigh. “Just on you, lady,” I said, immediately wondering if that came out right. “You’re pretty intoxicating.” Did that make it any better?

“Hey, back at ya, pal.” She reached out for my hand. “So you’re afraid you’ll fall in love with me, is that it?”

“Well, I think it might be a little more complicated than that, but yeah. That’s basically it.”

“Silly boy. You don’t have to worry about that.” She kissed my fingertips.

“I don’t?”

“Course not. You fell in love with me days ago.” She began sucking on my finger; I was finding it impossible to concentrate. What did she say?

I gently pulled my hand away. “I need you to understand something. Over the next couple of days—the next few months, here—I’ll be talking to people all over the world, trying to make them understand a terrible truth. I’m just the messenger, but a lot of them will want to shoot me anyway if they get the chance.” This, of course, would turn out to be all too true. “I just want to be sure you know what you’re getting yourself into.”

She sat up, wrapped her arms around her knees. “You’re The Chosen. I know that. The Angels can speak to you. You speak for them. They have almost unlimited power, and they’ve taken over the world and been none too gentle about it. We live here in their own private little zoo.” That was an analogy I’d avoided, but there was no denying it. “What am I getting into that I don’t get?”

I kissed her. “Pretty sure of yourself, aren’t you?”

“Pretty damn.”

“And when exactly did I supposedly fall in love with you?”

“After the rally, or whatever that was out in the parking lot. A few seconds after I kissed your cheek, while you were watching me walk away.”

Wow. “Huh.”

She laughed as she fell back onto the bed. “I fell in love with you a few minutes earlier. Just before you climbed down off the van, you said, ‘I’ll be here if you need me.’ Well, I need you, pal.” She took my hand again. “Now please make love to me.”

Afterwards, I was lying next to her watching her sleep as she lay on her side, turned away from me. She hugged a pillow and had kicked off any covers. She had light olive skin with only the tiniest trace of tan lines. As I admired the curve of her hip I wondered how I’d ever seen her as sharp edged. I noticed a little dark spot at the nape of her neck, right in the middle, just below the hairline. I reached out and just barely touched it. She shivered and said, “Hey, that tickles.”

“Sorry.” I ran my finger around it.

She reached back and slapped my hand. “Cut that out!”

I leaned in to inspect it more closely, mostly an excuse to nuzzle. It was no bigger than a dime, almost perfectly heart-shaped. “Is it a tattoo?”

She laughed and rolled over against me. “Of course not. It’s a birthmark. My Nana used to say it was where an angel kissed me.”

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