As it's Lent, this seems like a good story to post. Please note that while this story does contain some autobiographical elements, it is fiction. The angel part? All made up. Not real.
A Window Into Heaven [MM/f, child]
They are called “windows into heaven.” Depictions containing the energies of Christ, the Holy Mother of God, the saints, an event. As Julia stood in front of the rows of icons in that little shop, she could feel their power. St. George atop his white horse, lance stabbing at a dragon. St. John Maximovitch holding the Cathedral of San Francisco he helped build. The Theotokos of Vladimir, her head tilted toward the Christ Child, her smooth, maternal face up against his, her melancholy but caring eyes looking out. At Julia. She kissed her middle three fingers and pressed them against the Holy Mother. Crossed herself. Resumed her search. There. Between St. Michael the Archangel and the Annunciation…
His hair was longer than she remembered it being. But the eyes were the same. He was holding the hand of a small girl. With eyes remarkably like hers. In the other hand, he held a scroll: “He shall give His angels charge over you to keep you in all your ways.”
The babysitter’s house was only a few blocks from school. Convenient for Julia to pick up the baby on the way home. Books on her back and baby in hand, she made her way the next several blocks to the house. Threw her backpack full of homework aside, put the baby in her walker and flopped onto the couch to watch cable reruns of Good Times and Little House on the Prairie. At 4:30 she shaked and baked the pork chops, heated the can of green beans, and mixed up the box of Stove Top stuffing. Her parents liked her to have dinner made by the time they got home. The parents who often forgot that Julia was only 11.
Dinner was done and dishes were safely in the dishwasher as Julia headed back to the living room to watch TV. Her stepfather stopped her at the doorway.
“Where’s your mother?” he growled. Julia’s eyes glazed with fear. He was mad. Dangerous.
“I…I don’t know,” she said with her most submissive voice.
“I wanna know where your mother is.” His eyes were wild. She gulped.
“I don’t know. I’m not sure…” She wanted to look around for her but she dared not look away from him. He asked again. And again. Frustrated, she raised her voice slightly. She didn’t know any other way to tell him that she really didn’t know.
“Don’t you talk back to me!” He grabbed her arm, yanked her toward his left side, and began delivering heavy, sharp blows to her bottom. Blows that did more than hurt her backside. That took something from her. That left a blackness in her soul.
“What’s going on?” Her mother asked as she walked in on Julia still in her stepfather’s grip.
“Where were you? I’ve been looking all over for you. The baby has a fever…”
“I was just in the attic – what’s the matter?” She stared at the two of them.
“Don’t interfere with my discipline.” His eyes were sharp. Narrow.
“I wasn’t. I was just asking what happened…” She glanced at Julia with a mixture of fear and irritation. Finally freed, Julia wandered toward the living room as her parents argued about whether or not to call the doctor.
Report cards came out the following week. Julia left hers on the kitchen table with anticipation tinged with guilt. She waited for her parents to scrutinize it. To ask her why she got an “A” in social studies (she liked social studies), but an “F” in math (she hadn’t done any of the homework). Two days later she found the report card in the garbage as she took the bag out to the can in the garage. They hadn’t said anything. Not about the “A.” Not about the “F.”
A strange, confusing feeling swam around in Julia’s stomach as she laid in bed that night. On the one hand, she was terrified of her stepfather and his spankings. Her whole body tensed as she heard him downstairs in the kitchen. What if she hadn’t wiped the counter right? He’d be mad…
Yet, she had really wanted her parents to be upset that she got an “F” in math. To scold her for not doing her homework. To tell her how she was capable of doing much better. To even spank her and tell her that she could not watch TV until her grades were better.
To be like real parents. To let her be a real kid.
“Dear God,” she began, her hands folded over her chest. “I wish so much I could have parents who didn’t make me scared. Who care about what I’m doing in school and all…I mean, I know these are my parents and you can’t just give me new ones or anything – not that I want them to go away. I love them. It’s just that…” She sighed. This prayer was turning into a rambling mess. “Well…maybe you could at least send me an angel to be with me or something. To sorta help me, you know?” Julia wasn’t even sure if she knew as she drifted to sleep.
Her homework had not left her backpack since arriving home with the baby the next afternoon. And it was the furthest thing from her mind as she slipped into her nightgown, brushed her teeth and headed down the hall to her bedroom. Upon crossing the threshold, she looked up to see a man sitting in a chair next to her bed.
“Do not be afraid, Julia,” he said with a soft smile as Julia opened her mouth to scream. “I am your guardian angel. The Lord has heard your prayer.” Her mouth snapped shut. Her eyes gaped. Then a smile slowly broke out across her chubby cheeks.
“I am.” He chuckled yet maintained a distinct seriousness.
“How come you don’t have wings or anything?” Julia skimmed over his average looking khaki pants and white shirt.
“Well, you remember from Sunday School the story of the angels visiting Abraham?” Julia nodded. “Yes, I know you do,” he said. “I know how well you pay attention at Church.” She beamed. “So then you remember that the angels in that story looked just like men. When we take on human form, we look human. No wings.”
“So, what’s your name?” Julia asked as she sat down on the bed across from him.
“It would be unpronounceable to you, so you may call me Malachi.”
“Okay.” Julia glowed before him. A real angel. Her angel. He gazed back at her with that soft, gentle smile.
“The Lord knows you’ve been very lonely, Julia. And that sometimes you’re very afraid.” He lifted her from the bed and set her down on his lap. “He sent me to comfort you. To let you know that you are not really alone. Even when you’re scared.” For several minutes Malachi held Julia against his chest.
“How long will you stay?” She looked up at him.
“I’ve always been with you, Julia, even if you couldn’t see me. And I always will be with you. I’ve been given charge over you. To keep you in all your ways.” He picked her up off his lap and placed her back on the bed. “But, there are times when you really need me to be in the flesh and during those times I will take on human form so that you can see me and touch me.” He held her hands as he sat across from her. “Times like now when you really need someone to hold you. As well as to help you.”
“How are you going to help me?” Julia stared at Malachi.
“Well, what did you mean when you prayed last night for someone to help you?” He looked right inside of her. The intensity forced Julia to look at the floor.
“I think you meant someone to help raise you. That it’s hard trying to make sure you’re doing your homework all by yourself. Or being kind to the other kids at school. Or going to bed when you should.”
Julia blushed as she continued to analyze the carpet shag. Malachi cradled her hands.
“Though you’ve done such a good job so far. You’re obedient to your parents. You go to church every Sunday and listen quietly during Sunday School and the service. You even memorize all the Bible verses they give you and believe them with all your heart. You’re really a very good girl.”
Everything was still – the room, the house, the air outside – as Julia looked up at Malachi. With his warm smile. And gentle eyes.
“But, much of the reason you are good is because you are afraid. Of your stepfather. Afraid that people won’t like you. That God won’t like you. I’m here to help you not be afraid anymore. To help you be the person God created you to be – the smart, vivacious, playful, passionate person you hide away because you don’t know where the boundaries are. I’m going to help you by giving you boundaries.”
Boundaries. She had heard this word before. At Church probably. About how good parents set boundaries for their children. Rules…
“Yes, Julia. That does mean rules. With rules, you know where the boundaries are so you don’t have to be afraid you will cross them accidentally. You will know exactly where you are.”
Not like with her stepfather where she never knew where she was. When or what would make him mad.
“I will start with something you already have a good idea about: your schoolwork.” His smile faded into a stern, but not unkind look. “Your mind is a precious gift. And school is a wonderful way to grow that gift. But when you watch television after you get home from school instead of doing your homework, you are throwing away that gift.”
Malachi still held fast to Julia’s hands as she pulled her bottom lip into her mouth with her upper teeth and fixated once again upon the carpet shag.
“And so, another way I am going to help you is by disciplining you.”
It took a moment for Julia to really hear him say that. As it traveled along to the recognition circuit in her brain, she raised her gaze back to Malachi. With his firm stare.
“You mean, like…spank me?”
“Yes.” He paused as she searched his face. “It will be different than any spanking you’ve had before. For one thing, it will be on your bare skin. But the most important difference is this: it will not be done to take my anger out on you, but rather as a sign of my devotion to you. To help you.” The soft smile mixed with the firm stare.
Julia nodded. Stood. Malachi let go of her right hand and gently pulled her by her left arm to his right side. Then over his lap. Swept her nightgown up to her neck and her panties down to her knees. Set his left hand on the middle of her back. Slapped her unprotected bottom. Again. And again…
It stung terribly. Much more than her stepfather’s. But, it hurt less. Gave something to her. Brought a light to the blackness her stepfather had left.
“Ah, the icon of the Guardian Angel. It is a lovely one, isn’t it?” Father Demitri, in a long, black cassock with a beard that looked like St. Nicholas, studied the price on the back of the icon and punched it into the cash register.
“Yes it is,” said Julia with a smile as she pulled out some cash.
“You know, the little girl in the icon – her face looks a lot like yours.” He held it in white tissue paper in his hand. Julia blushed. Smiled again. Father Demitri grinned and finished wrapping the icon. “Don’t forget to have your priest bless it during Divine Liturgy on Sunday,” he called to Julia as she walked to the door.
“I won’t, Father.” Another smile and she walked outside to catch the bus coming up the street.
The key to her apartment had a habit of getting stuck in the lock. Julia jiggled it. Coaxed it. Pushed it.
“Damn this lock!” It came out of the keyhole then snapped back in, pinching her finger. “Son of a bitch!” Julia brought her finger to her mouth, winced, and then tried the key again. A click. A turn. She sighed and muttered as she opened the door. “Damn it I hate this lock…”
“Julia – what kind of language is this?” He was there. Sitting at her desk. Chair swiveled toward her. That soft smile with the stern eyes.
“Malachi…you’re here…” She gripped her bag holding the icon as she stood before him. Turned to look at the door, then turned and faced him again. “Oh, um…well, I was angry. The key…and the lock…it gets stuck…and…”
“You’ve developed a nasty habit of swearing lately. I thought I had helped you with that years ago.”
“Well, you had…” She fingered her keys as she looked him in the eyes. “I guess I fell back into it.”
“Apparently.” He nodded. The soft smile overtook his stern eyes for a moment. “You’re so passionate, expressive, confident – not at all like you were that first time I became visible to you. And I’m so glad.” Then he sighed. “But, part of my job has always been to guide that passion. To give it boundaries.”
Yes – those boundaries. Julia pursed her lips together and nodded. She knew where this was going.
It was during high school that Malachi started using the rod. A thin, swishy stick. Her freshman year. Julia had skipped school with her friends to go to a movie. Now as he stood up from the chair in front of her desk, he grasped the rod and motioned her toward the back of the chair. She set her bag and keys on the table, bent over the black cushioned back and grabbed the edges of the seat. He swept her skirt up to her neck and her panties down to her knees. Sliced her unprotected bottom with the rod. Again. And again…
It still stung terribly. But still gave something to her. Still left a light in her soul.
“The icon is a very nice one,” he said later as he stroked Julia’s hair while she lay on her tummy under the blankets in bed. “The icon writer did a lovely job letting you see into Heaven.” Julia almost giggled as she turned to him.
“Is your hair really that long in Heaven?”
Copyright 2002 by Natty.