I roamed the hallways. The school was unnaturally quiet. There were some students in groups of twos and threes walking around, but even they weren’t chattering as loud as they normally would. None of them looked at me. Why would they? Anna Kelly, fifteen years old, dead. Killed in the school shooting a week ago that made these talkative high school students so subdued today. I’m not, well, gone, so I don’t know what you’d call me. It sounds silly, but a ghost? Spirit? I don’t know. They’re scared, I expect. Scared to be back here. But... there are a lot of people missing. More than there should be, even if their parents didn’t let them come to school, or moved away, or something. Where are they? I travel around the school, searching. There is a light on in the library, and people talking. I walk in.
So many people. I doubt there’s ever been this many people in the library. It’s not the most popular place. There’s a skinny, freckly boy talking, but I don’t really listen to what he’s saying. People are crying like somebody died. But they can’t be here for me. I’m not... I mean, I wasn’t anything special. I’m trying to figure this out, when I hear my name. It’s that boy.
“I never knew Anna that well, but I owe my life to her. I had been bullied for a long time and a few years ago, I was ready to take my own life. I had everything planned out. There were train tracks on the way home from school, and I would just wait until a train came and... you know. I was walking through the school wrapped in the dark cloud of my misery, when I saw her. She smiled at me, asked me how my day was, talked to me. Seems like something simple, but it saved my life. She was like a beacon of light, in the way she talked, in the way she acted. I realized there were good people in the world, that this was a good life and I could make the most of it. And, yeah. We’ll miss you Anna. I’ll miss you.”
The boy sat down. I couldn’t make sense of his words. Who is he talking about? I can’t be that girl. I mean, I remember talking to him, but it couldn’t have meant that much, could it?
Another person stands up. A small, raven haired girl who is sobbing so hard she can barely keep her balance. She finally calms down enough to speak.
“That day. When he came. I was out in the open, in the lobby. He was coming right at me, but then Anna came. She pushed me under the secretary’s desk. She told me to be quiet, that I was going to be okay, that everything was going to be all right. She was so brave, and that made me feel less scared too. She stood up and ran at him, I think she was trying to get his weapon away, and that was when... that was when...” The girl sits down in a fresh flood of tears.
I remember her. I saw her, and she reminded me of my sister. Innocent. I didn’t want her to get hurt. I don’t know why she’s so upset. It didn’t hurt for very long. A sharp pain, lots of blood. Then I was gone, and now I’m back.
Somebody else stands up toward the back of the room. Oh no. Not him. Not Derek. Not the only boy I have ever loved. I run over there through all the people packed in this room. He looks like he has aged a thousand years. Tired, bitter. Each word is a knife, piercing my heart.
“Anna was beautiful. Gosh, she was beautiful. It wasn’t just what was on the outside. She had that smile, that look about her. She was beautiful on the inside too. What’s sad is that she never realized it.” He hits the wall, face twisted in grief, making several students jump. “And I was too stupid, too scared to tell her. I missed my chance, and now I’ve missed my chance forever.” That is when he breaks down.
I’m crying and I hold him, but he can’t feel me or see me. I’m yelling, louder and louder. “Derek, I’m right here! I love you! I love you! I LOVE YOU!” But he never hears me. Never even looks up.
I can’t stand this anymore. I run away, away from all the tears and heartache and loss. Into the gym and down the stairs to the basement. I curl up in a cold, dusty corner with my hiccuping sobs and my grief. “I love you.”
Many Years Later
I still walk the hallways of this school. Different faces now. I’m glad everybody’s coming back today. It’s silly, because they don’t know I’m here anyways, but I feel so lonely during breaks. They pour in, all sunshine and sneakers and backpacks and who kissed who on the weekend and I am content. I follow whoever catches my eye, interesting students. During lunch I see a small boy, who doesn’t even look old enough to be here, being harassed by a bunch of older kids. They push him into the wall. They’re yelling, knocking his books out of his hand. I’m mad. I run back and forth, slamming the locker doors open and closed. The boys look spooked. I do it faster, and finally they leave. I kneel in front of the kid on the ground, making sure he’s okay. He looks up through a fringe of dark hair. That’s when I know this kid is special. He can see me. I clear my throat and say the first words I’ve uttered in several years. “Hey, are you all right? What’s your name?” He looks at me warily. “My name is Shay and I’m fine. You look like that girl.” He notes my confusion. “You know, the one whose picture is in the library? Who are you?” His words hit me like a ton of bricks.
Who am I?
And I realize that they were right
I am beautiful
I am kind
I am brave
And I am so much more.
I smile at Shay. His name is perfect. It means “gift”. He is my gift. He has given me a purpose.
“My name is Anna. I’m your guardian angel.”
And I will be yours too, if you only have the eyes to see me.
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