((This was written as an entry for a contest. The idea is to tell of a :30 second friendship. The details of the contest are here.))
I catch the last train home.
I delay the trip as long as possible, avoiding returning to a house full of resentful strangers, but it is time to go or risk the police coming to find me later. The bright lights inside and dark night without combine to turn the windows into mirrors.
The only other person on the train is a man who is wearing too many coats. He sits at the other end of the car. The doors slide closed and I take a seat as far from him as possible.
I want to be alone.
I sit as close to the wall as I can, hugging the glass. I stare at the reflection of my hopeless tears falling onto my coat as we start to move. I am 17 and alone in the world. I have just decided to accept that my life has no meaning. I contemplate suicide, but know that I can not actually harm myself. It is not a happy thought.
Suddenly, she is there.
Behind me in the glass, her reflection looks like a middle-aged woman carrying too many shopping bags. She and her bags crowd onto the seat right next to me. I shift my back toward her resentfully, wondering why she doesn’t sit anywhere else.
I wipe my tears with my sleeves. I can only cry alone.
We ride in tense silence until she begins searching her bags.
“Look at this,” the angel says, holding out a small tissue paper envelope with the top folded over. I turn in the seat, somehow knowing she will not let up unless I do. I take the envelope, confused.
Inside the envelope is a beaded bracelet. They are very popular. I have seen the cool kids at school wearing them in a variety of colors. It is not the sort of thing I can afford.
This one is pale pink.
“It’s rose quartz,” she says. Seeing that I won’t respond, she adds, “they are real stones, not just plastic beads. Rose quartz are for love.”
“It’s pretty,” I say meekly, trying to pass it back to her.
She shakes her short dark hair and gives me a small smile. “You keep it.”
She gathers up her bags with a sense of finality, refusing to take back the gift. “Even if it doesn’t seem likely, there are people that love you.”
Her words shatter my tenuous calm and I sob openly into my hands, crinkling the paper envelope but unable to stop. I am broken by the kindness of this stranger when my own family cannot see my worth. When I collect myself and look up again, she is gone.
I stand up and turn around, searching the car. I see that she is no longer on the train. There are only rows of empty seats and that one man, who still doesn’t turn around.
The train has not stopped, we are still between stations. I look around, confused. I know there is no way to move between cars while the train is moving, she is either here, or she never was.
My angel disappeared as quickly and quietly as she appeared. She left behind her words of kindness and that bracelet made of love. I wore those stone beads for years, a constant reminder that I was loved, even if I couldn’t see by whom