Chapter One When I was a young girl, a glass covered picture fell off the wall during the night andshattered behind the couch. Everyone in the house sprang out of bed! We looked around, butthere were no signs of break-in. The couch hid the picture. After a few days, Dad noticed thepicture of Seagulls had disappeared and pulled the couch out from the wall. We all got a biglaugh out of it. The same thing seems to be happening again now, when I am almost eighteen, but thistime I am the only one springing out of bed. Something has startled me awake, but no one elsein the house is reacting—there are no doors opening or footsteps in the hall. I don‟t know why Iam awake—I‟m not even sure it was a noise. Maybe it was one of those rumbling noises youhear from the airport. It is 5:52 a.m. when I look out the bedroom door. There is nothing downthe hall and the living room is dark, so I go back to bed and listen with the covers over my head.Maybe it was my little sister, Beth, sneaking home. Finally, I get up to look around—the picture is still hanging on the wall; there is nothingout of place. Whatever it was gave me a rush, and I am now totally awake. With my robe andslippers on, I plan to check outside. This is not a good idea, but if a perve is out there, I canscream as loud as any teenage girl. The neighbors are close by—we live in a small trailer parkdown by the river. Trailer walls are not thick. There is nothing on any side of the trailer. Foot prints in the gravel tell me nothing. Bethis not around. Nothing looks wrong with the trailer—there is nothing on the roof. Okay then, noproblem.
A huge oak tree grows by our single-wide trailer with a tire swing hanging down from alimb. The tire is a good place to swing and contemplate life. It has been there for me over theyears. This morning the tire is covered with dew, barely moving in the fog. I might as wellswing now to calm down and consider the morning‟s mystery. The air is fresh, and the morningis getting started. Oregon is a beautiful place. But I don‟t make it to the swing. There is a tap on my shoulder. I spin around. Where did that come from? A piece ofbark drops past my face and a leaf seesaws down. Did a piece of bark just hit my shoulder? Agiant network of branches sprawls over my head—there is nothing noticeable. Something is upthere, and it froze right when I looked. Now it blends in with the branches. A splash comes from the river. A fully dressed woman is swimming to the far bank. Shecrawls over river stones and settles on a large, flat rock. She begins to twist river water from herhair. Even from the distance she looks very beautiful with high cheekbones and long black hair.A ray of sunlight penetrates the fog and shines directly on her. She wears the kind of trench coata detective would wear on TV, and when she stands up, she lets it drop to the ground. A large setof white wings spread out behind her. It sounds crazy, but this does not surprise me as much as you think. She pulls off a shoe and pours out brown water. Her movements are dull, as if she isstunned. She is not aware of me watching her. There is a loud crack! The noise is inside my head! A large acorn bounces out in front ofme. It must have dropped from way up in the tree. It nailed me right on the top of the head! The acorn bounces as a dark figure drops to the ground over by the swing. Its legs bendfrom impact and the ground vibrates a dull rumble. I‟m disoriented—what am I seeing? The
figure is covered with fur or feathers so dark you can‟t tell. Dark wings spread out from behind.The thing is tall, like a man, and has broad shoulders. The face is obscured by mist, hiding thefeatures. What do I do!? The dark form strides towards me, folding its wings. His left hand risesbefore him. In his palm there is a black stone. It looks like a river stone polished smooth withthe shape and size of a small potato. Terror grows in my chest. The thing is a walking nightmare. What is he going to do withthe rock? I can‟t just stand here, but I can‟t move! It‟s time to scream! The stone now has a small red dot in the middle. It wasn‟t there before—it hypnotizesme. It looks like a red light on a DVD player glowing from behind dark glass. The red light towhere the stone is like red glass with black around the edges. Terror is fading. Fear is dulling.My eyes are locked on the stone. My vision is all red. I do not want to move or need to move. Ido not need to scream… The red light blinks out. The stone turns black and the dark man‟s „eyes‟ appear, glowingorange in his misty face—he looks seriously pissed. He snarls in surprise when suddenly hiswing is twisted back. Two hands grab the top of his wing and yank it back. They pull down hardat a bad angle. A woman‟s voice screams. The dark guy bends his knees in pain. The lady fromthe river is attacking from behind! She just kicked the guy in the butt! Wow! The dark guy flashes around, cocks his arm, and strikes the lady in the face with adevastating punch. It knocks her back 20 feet before she hits the ground and slides another 10feet. The man pursues, forgetting me. His wings spread to glide towards the lady. She rollsaway just before he stamps both feet where she was—the ground rumbles. She springs uptowards a tree nearby, grabs the narrow trunk with both hands and swings around the back of the
tree horizontally. Her body is a blur. The man has no time to react. She whips around and blastsboth feet into his head. He goes down hard. She drops sideways to the ground. They both rise up from the ground at the same time—they float up. They pause and faceeach other. I pick up a rock about the size of a baseball. I don‟t know what the hell is going on, butthe target is going be the guy with the black wings. This is bad idea, but there is no time to think. Adrenaline and softball practice pay off. The rock arches over and cracks the guy in theskull—that was a nice sound. Payback for you, acorn guy! He looks over at me—his face ishazy and undefined. His eyes glare angry orange pink. While distracted, his head jolts to theside. The lady got in a shot. The two grab each other‟s throats, locking together. Their wings spread and startflapping, lifting them from the ground. They grip each other‟s throats with intensity. Theirwings flap harder and harder. They rise faster and faster, and then shoot up through the treebranches into the sky. A swirl spot is left in the clouds. I am left standing here with a dumb look on my face. The excitement ended so quickly.My brain is still vibrating from the acorn. Fear is simmering, but whatever the black stone wasdoing has some lasting effect, leaving me with calmness. It worked out good in a weird way—Ishould be freaking out. Instead, I look like a cave woman with my mouth hanging open. Quiet settles in. Will anyone come outside after the commotion? The encounter waswild—did my family or neighbors hear it? I check myself out while I wait and find a bump onthe top of my head.
After a few minutes, the front door to the trailer opens. My father comes outside andheads for his truck, coffee in hand as usual. He sees me and walks over to give me a kiss on thecheek. “Have a good day Dad,” I say in the calmest voice I can manage. He nods and goes tounlock the cab. *** Normal people would be shocked at the sight of angels. Not me—I have been able to seeangels my whole life. But that is not the right way to describe it. Let‟s say, I know when I amseeing angels when others don‟t. Angels are around us all the time acting like regular people.They appear as a homeless guy pushing a cart, a nice lady on the bus, or people standing incheck out lanes. They blend in with us, but they are angels, and I can tell. I can sense them in a general way, but their eyes tell me for sure—they glow in differentcolors. I can see their wings when they have them out. The black wings today were new. It‟sgood that I can see the wings—the glowing eyes alone would be frightening. Angels always seem very beautiful or striking in appearance. They remind me of moviestars. I have the idea that others don‟t find them as beautiful as I do. Maybe that‟s because itwould attract attention. And angels can be male or female; don‟t let anyone try to tell youanything different. So far, I am the only person I know that can do this. The beautiful lady in the fight outside this morning is a great example of an angel. Theother thing, who knows what he is, is something new and frightening. I could see angels from when I was a kid—probably from when I was a baby. Early on, Ithought everyone could see glowing eyes and wings. When I would say something, peoplewould talk about my great imagination and how little girls love angels. Eventually, I figured out
that no one else could see what I saw, and it was better to keep my mouth shut so I could fit inand be normal. As for the big fight by the river—I better keep my mouth shut again. The dark guy isvery frightening, but there is no way to talk to someone without looking nuts. I should ask forhelp, but from whom? Should I find a priest? Priests in Oregon would be hard to convince. My name is Camille Ann Harper, but you can call me Cami. My gift, the ability to see angels, makes me feel special. Duh, right? But what I mean isI see angels watching me all the time, like there is something important about me. For the lastfive years or so, I feel like something big is on the way—like being elected President orbecoming a hero. I need to be ready for something. Being elected President won‟t work because of my fear of public speaking. I am verygood at painting. Community college is probably next. I really have no clue what will happen tome, but this insane morning reminds me that something big is on the way. Meeting someone and having a family would be nice, but that sounds way too normal formy future. Making a living as an artist, helping people, taking care of my family—these are thethings I want. Life in general has been getting complicated lately. My parents are not good together anymore. Dad works overtime in his delivery job—I don‟t spend much time with him. He doesn‟tseem comfortable living with 3 females. Beth, my younger sister is becoming a party girl. Theworst thing is with Mom. Lately, she lives on beer and cigarettes. Play a violin for me, right? But what just happened in front of me this morning, theconfrontation with a dark creature with a glowing black stone—now my special gift for seeingangels scares the hell out of me.
*** Dad is driving away. White hair around his temples is a handsome feature. Rushingaround delivering boxes all day keeps him looking young and in good shape. He is short andstocky with firm muscles. A lot of delivery guys are toned, despite their age. He blames thewhite hair on Beth, which is probably true. I‟m glad he didn‟t notice she wasn‟t in bed when heleft. Lamplighter Trailer Park is a small community of mostly elderly people. It is the onlyplace my parents could afford—regular home prices are still out of the range for Dad‟s salary.Lamplighter is normally quiet and boring. It is on the outskirts of Winston, Oregon across theGreen Bridge by the river. The bridge has high steel arches, and of course it‟s painted green. My sister Beth and I are close in age—people often think we are twins. She is 13 monthsyounger. We don‟t look totally alike. Sometimes you see grown up identical twins that lookdifferent, like the environment affected them differently. That is how we look. She is shorter andher hair is curlier. I look more like Mom in the face, and Beth looks more like our Dad. I thinkBeth is more attractive with her petite, doll-like quality, oval brown eyes and a slightly upturnednose. She has nice cheek bones and perfectly arched eyebrows. She blossomed almost overnightat age thirteen. Most guys in school want to ask her out. Mom always makes the comment, “You‟re both equally beautiful.” I guess we are. Mysister and I do look very similar. Beth‟s outgoing personality gives her the edge. The smell of bacon wafts through the air. Is Mom cooking breakfast? She must not haveheard anything either. We normally have cereal. I see a flash of black and brown go around thecorner—Beth has made it back from her night out. She slips inside, and I follow her all the way
into our little bedroom. Somehow Mom is out of the kitchen when we pass through. Beth canbe lucky. “Hey, you missed a good party last night,” she says, slightly out of breath. Even withsmeared eyeliner and sleep-deprived features, she still looks pretty. “Think Mom or Dad noticedI was gone?” “I‟m sure I missed a raging party; and no, I don‟t think they noticed.” We are closeenough in age that we have the same friends. I knew the group had gone to the abandoned housea ways from here. It is always the same event. Her boyfriend Nick Thomas smuggles someliquor from his parent‟s liquor cabinet, or Allison somehow convinces her brother to buy somebeer. There is smoking and making out. I once went to a party at Nick‟s house when his parentswere out of town. My nerves were a wreck. I was too afraid of getting caught. Once is enough. Most of the boys at our school do not interest me right now. Maybe it isthe maturity difference or something. I can‟t handle cigarette smoke, and I feel uncomfortablearound people making out. No one wants to hear me whine about that stuff—might as well stayaway. “Is Mom cooking? Did I see eggs and bacon on the stove?” Beth sniffs the air. “Smells like it.” “I wonder why?” she asks. “Who knows, maybe she feels guilty about something?” I look down at her sitting on herbed. “What‟s wrong? You look like you‟re going to puke.” She has her head between her knees. She looks up at me, pale and weary. “I feel like holycrap.” “That‟s what you get for partying on a school night. No time to sleep it off now.”
I try to help Beth up, but she shakes me off. We have a pretty good relationship, probablybecause of our close age. I will not get her in trouble for staying out, and she will never narc onme. But if she gets busted for last night she is on her own. We head back to the kitchen, and Mom is at the stove with a cigarette in her mouth. Shehas a beer can open on the counter while flipping eggs—it is not a good scene. She has bed hair,and her pink robe is hastily tied around her small waist. She isn‟t overweight at all. She hardlyeats but one meal a day. Beer is becoming a regular source of calories. Beth takes a seat at the small dining table while I head for the shower. It is time to getready for school. Beth says, “Wow! Mom, what‟s the occasion?” “Can‟t I cook for my girls?” Mom‟s voice has the beginning of smoker‟s gravel. It makesme sad. “Sure, Mom, you can cook whenever you want,” I say on my way down the hall. Myresponse is not sarcastic. Her behavior has me worried. Our small plastic bathroom has a small shower stall. When I finish Beth squeezes by meto get her turn. In our room, I dry my hair, pull it back in a ponytail, and then I go to the closet tofind something to wear. Unfortunately, Beth and I share a closet. My clothes hang neatly on oneside, and let‟s just say Beth‟s side looks like holy crap. I climb into my favorite pair of jeans and look for my long sleeve black tee. Like mostgirls my age, my outfit is planned ahead of time. The black tee will go under my purple and graystriped short sleeve tee. But where is it? There is only one possible answer. “Beth!” I shout with a tone. “You have my black tee shirt; I wanted to wear it today!”She was wearing black when she came home.
Beth sticks her arm out the bathroom door with the shirt dangling on her finger. “Oh, I‟msorry. I didn‟t know you wanted to wear it.” She is doing the innocent routine, poking her headout the door with her hair wrapped up in a towel. When we do fight, clothes are mainly thereason. I inspect the shirt—there is a small hole at the corner of the right shoulder. “Beth, can‟t you wear something without putting a hole in it? Stop wearing my clothes!” Now I can‟t wear this thing. It smells like cigarette smoke and dirt. Great, now Beth issmoking. I am not in charge in this family, so what can I do? I don‟t want things to keep gettingworse. “Whatever,” she mumbles through the wall. She‟d be in the bathroom until we left for school. She never goes anywhere withoutputting on her face. I wear makeup sometimes, but not all the time. It is too hard to get off. The nasty shirt goes into the hamper. The purple shirt will have to do. I pull a dark bluehooded sweatshirt over my head and leave the hood on. It is time for breakfast. Breakfast can be eaten in the kitchen, dining room, or the living room. It is an easychoice because they are all the same room—sorry. Our family trailer is worn down around theedges, but I feel comfortable. When you live somewhere and you wear it down yourself, youseem okay with it—I don‟t know why. The faded wallpaper is coming lose, the white countertops are scratched and dull, and the light brown cabinets are a decade out of style, but the bluecarpet is nice. Mom is sitting on the couch watching TV with her crossword puzzle. The coffee table hasa thick novel, an ashtray loaded with butts, and a beer. I eat quickly, grab my backpack and head for the door.