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Lash

By:L.G. Castillo

1

Thirty-five years ago

Lash peered at the arrivals board, confused, his hazel eyes scanning the list of flights going in and out of the Houston airport.

“1724. 1724,” he muttered. Flight numbers, cities, and arriving gates flipped over as changes were made to the gate arrivals. “Damn it. How do you read this thing?”

He brushed a hand over his dark hair with frustration. A seraph should be able to find something as simple as the arriving gate of his work assignment.

Lash sighed as he glanced at the information that the Archangel Gabrielle, his direct supervisor, gave him. Lucky him, he was assigned to the one person who delighted in his misery. He didn’t put it past her to intentionally give him the wrong flight information and make him scramble at the last minute to find his charge.

“Javier Duran, age eight. Flight 1724, arriving at 12:05pm,” he read. He flipped the card over and gazed at the photo of the little boy with light coffee skin, chubby cheeks, and big brown eyes.

“Where is your plane, little one?” He looked back up, and the numbers “1724” popped onto the screen.

“Finally.” He noted the gate number and made his way through the bustling crowds at the airport.

“What? I can’t hear you?” Lash heard a young woman yell into the pay phone. “No, his plane hasn’t landed yet. It should be here in a few—”

He turned to look at the woman who stopped midsentence, curious to see what happened. The woman squinted through her pink-tinted glasses straight at him.

Lash jumped back in surprise. It was as if she could see him. Most humans couldn’t when he took his angel form—except for small children or animals, but even that was rare. When an adult did manage to get a glimpse of him, they often dismissed it as a figment of their imagination.

“Anita, qué paso?” the voice on the other end of the line asked. “What happened?”

“Wait a minute.” Anita took off her glasses and wiped the lenses with her floral polyester blouse.

Lash stood motionless, waiting to see if she would say something about his presence. Anita placed her glasses back on. Brown eyes looked in his direction again. After a moment, she shook her head and continued her conversation.

“Never mind, I thought I saw something,” she said as she turned her attention back to the caller. “Give me the information again. I need to write it down.” She dug into her purse and drew out a scrap of paper. Candy and gum wrappers fluttered down onto the carpet along with a black pen. “Where’s my pen? I can’t find anything in this purse.”

“Say a prayer to St. Anthony,” said the voice on the phone.

“Good idea.” Anita closed her eyes. “St. Anthony, St. Anthony. Please come down. Something is lost and can’t be found. Help me find my pen so I can write down the information Gloria should have given me this morning before my eight-year-old son got on the plane all by himself. And while you’re at it, can you ask the Lord to forgive Gloria for her forgetfulness? She has to put up with my ex-husband, and only the Lord knows how helpless that man is—especially when it comes to washing his underwear.”

“That’s enough prayer,” Gloria snapped from the other end of the line.

Lash chuckled. There was no St. Anthony—at least not in the airport. He picked up the pen and placed it on the edge of the pay phone shelf.

Anita shivered. “Dios mío, I felt a chill. They keep it cold in here. They should—” Her eyes widened when she spotted the pen. “How did that get there?”

Anita turned, and Lash held his breath. She was nose-to-nose with him, so close that he could smell her minty breath and see a red lipstick stain on her front tooth. She took a deep breath, closed her eyes, and smiled. “Gracias, St. Anthony. I’m blessed.”

Lash blinked with amazement. It’d been a long time since he came across a human like her. He didn’t know the tiny dark-haired woman, yet an aura of peace surrounded her. It was as if she knew they were watching over her.

He glanced at the clock and left Anita talking to her friend. The boy’s plane was scheduled to land soon. As he rushed down the hall, he wondered if his assignment was Anita’s boy.

When he got to the gate, he looked out the large window at the empty space where the plane should have been. Instead, Jeremy, his best friend, stood on the tarmac. He was dressed impeccably, looking more like a model off the cover of a GQ magazine than the archangel of death. His golden hair, brushed back off his face, glimmered under the Texas sun. Lash found it rather odd that he would care about his appearance, considering that he rarely appeared in his human form. Most people knew him only by his angel name, Jeremiel, and when he did appear to them, it was because they were dying. Jeremy, like Lash, decided to modernize his name a few years ago. Too bad he didn’t do the same with his clothes. Compared to Jeremy, Lash looked like the perpetual teenage rebel, favoring ripped jeans and fitted t-shirts.

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