“I’ve seen you before,” Ryn said after a long, drawn out silence. “You come to our shows a lot.” he smiled with a hint of awkwardness.
Hazel nodded, feeling just as uncomfortable. The adrenaline rush from moments prior had already worn off and she seemed to have forgotten how to speak. Of all the many times that she’d imagined getting the opportunity to speak to Ryn, she’d never imagined it would be like this.
“Well, thank you for helping me,” he said.
Hazel nodded again. A silence descended upon the two of them once again and they both stood there, staring, as if they were both expecting the other to do something. Hazel wondered why he didn’t just turn around and leave. She herself couldn’t move, couldn’t speak. Where had all that confidence from before gone? She was standing face to face with her favourite boy band member and she couldn’t bring herself to say a word to him.
Ryn started to say something but he was cut off by a sudden bright flash, almost like a firework exploding in between the two of them. Instinctively, they both stepped back and shielded their eyes. The light was so bright that for a while neither of them could see a thing and Hazel’s heart was pounding. She wondered if the girl from earlier had come back and was trying to attack them again.
When the haze finally cleared though, there was no sign of the tall girl. Instead stood a man (if such an ordinary word could be used to describe the being), draped completely in a white robe that seemed to go on and on so that it was difficult to tell where it ended and the concrete ground beneath him began. His hair was blonde but not like Ryn’s; his had an almost unearthly glow to it. His face was kind but mysterious and also ageless; he somehow looked like a grown man and youthful all at the same time. His blue eyes looked like deep pools of light. Most striking of all, were his big white wings that were shaped just like the ones Hazel had been sure she’d imagined in the dark sky earlier.
“Sorry I took so long,” he said. His voice was gentle, soft, and almost familiar, like that of a loving parent whose voice you hadn’t heard in a while but would always recognize. “I had to make sure everything was back to normal with that poor girl.”
Hazel’s mouth was wide open. Ryn, on the other hand, had a hand to his temples as if he was more than ready to go home and call it a night.
“This must be a dream,” he was mumbling to himself.
“No, I’m afraid it isn’t,” the strange man said soothingly, turning to Ryn with a soft expression which only seemed to annoy the boy further. “But don’t worry, you’re safe now. Thanks to Hazel.”
Hazel was finally able to speak again. “How do you know my name?” she blurted.
“Oh right, sorry. Let me explain,” he said.
“Please do,” Ryn muttered sarcastically. Hazel suppressed a giggle at his sour expression.
“My name is Nathaniel and I’m what you might call an angel,” his wings fluttered slightly then, as if to illustrate his point.
Ryn didn’t look convinced. “Yeah, sure.”
Nathaniel went on as if Ryn hadn’t said anything. “Right now, your world is being plagued by negative energy. It’s everywhere. It can and often does consume people and lead them to hurt others or themselves. That was what you just witnessed earlier. That girl had been struggling with negative thoughts, so a Dark Spirit was able to take advantage of that and transform her into a monster.”
“A monster?” Hazel found herself repeating before she could stop herself.
“Don’t tell me you believe this guy,” Ryn almost spat at Hazel. “Negative energy that can change people into monsters? He’s clearly crazy.”
Hazel clamped her mouth shut once again.
“Is this some kind of a prank? Are the other guys in on this?” Ryn continued, looking around rapidly for an explanation or a hint of anything suspicious.
“No, this is all real. I promise you; angels are incapable of lying.” Nathaniel said. “I’m one of the many angels sent to Earth to help purify the planet of negative energy. A small number of humans have also been chosen to help me with this task. One of which - as we witnessed today - is Hazel.”
Hazel didn’t know what to say so she just stared wide-eyed at Ryn, hoping he’d know. He still didn’t look convinced. “Okay, well if she’s the chosen one or whatever then you don’t need me to stick around.”
Hazel wanted to cling onto Ryn and beg him not to leave her all alone with this strange man. Ryn was the only familiar sight in a landscape of confusion. Before she could say anything, Nathaniel answered.
“Actually, you’re a very important part of our assignment as well, Ryn,” he said.
“Why? I didn’t do anything!” Ryn yelled in response. “That girl grabbed me and I couldn’t even do anything so I obviously don’t have any special powers or anything.”
Hazel was a little taken aback. Every time she’d seen Ryn - either on a screen or on a stage - he’d always seemed so laid back. She’d never heard him sound so upset before. It made her heart ache.
“You’re more special then you realize, Ryn,” Nathaniel said in a voice that was somehow soft and authoritative at the same time. “I should know, I’ve been with you your entire life, since I’m your guardian angel.”
Ryn looked as if he were holding back tears and he was about to explode at any minute, out of anger or sadness Hazel wasn’t sure. Hazel - deciding that she had to do something - blurted out the first thing that popped into her head.
“Ryn’s been through a lot tonight. Whether you’re telling the truth or not, it might be too much for him to take in right now.”
Nathaniel for a second looked shocked, then he nodded in approval. “Of course, you’re right. Why don’t you both go home and get some rest and I can explain everything else in the morning.”
Ryn looked as if he wanted to argue but he kept quiet.
“If either of you need me all you have to do is call my name and I’ll be there,” Nathaniel said and then he disappeared in a flash of light just as quickly as he’d appeared. Both Ryn and Hazel were once again left staring blankly, this time at the space where the supposed angel had once been.
“Hazel...isn’t it?” Ryn said shakily after a short while. Hazel nodded. “Thanks...for your help and stuff. Goodbye.”
Hazel tried to smile in response but he was already gone, heading towards the dark, empty street. Watching him go, she felt a pang in her stomach. She didn’t like the way he’d said goodbye, as if this would be their final meeting. She wasn’t a stalker (much) but she cared about Ryn. Therefore, she decided, if she was concerned about him, keeping an eye on him was the right thing to do, right? She’d just make sure he got home okay then she’d go home herself and then sometime later she’d probably wake up in her bed, realizing that none of this had actually happened and it was all a crazy dream. Even in her dream world, she wanted Ryn to be safe so, as carefully and quietly as she possibly could, she began to follow him.
Ryn was heading towards Geek Town Bridge. It was an old stone bridge coloured with intricate artwork and contentious statements penned by local artists. Initially the works of art had been seen as acts of vandalism and there were many campaigns to have it removed, but it was eventually recognized as a symbol of the town’s creative culture and on weekends especially, groups of alternative teenagers or artsy students would flock to the bridge to marvel at it, take photos, or just simply hang out on it. Hazel herself had spent many a lonely Saturday sitting idly on the bridge, watching people pass by.
Hazel tailed Ryn but not closely enough as to attract his attention. It seemed like it wouldn’t have made a difference anyway because the boy was far too wrapped up in his own thoughts to notice anything going on around him. Did he live near Geek Town Bridge or was he commuting to a bus stop or a train station? Hazel had always wondered what kind of place Ryn lived in and now she was going to find out. Strictly for the purpose of making sure he was safe, of course. She wouldn’t turn up to his house uninvited.
What if he did invite her to his house someday? What if - at the next show - he remembered her and wanted to do something for her as a thank you? What if she got to go backstage? What if he gave her a hug? Hazel was getting so carried away with her fantasies that she almost didn’t notice that Ryn had come to an abrupt halt, right in the centre of the bridge. He slowly approached the ledge and began staring out into the lake below as if it held all sorts of untold wisdom. Hazel felt that pang in her stomach again, the same as the one she’d felt when he’d told her goodbye. Was something wrong or was she just jumping to conclusions? Maybe he was just taking a minute to catch his breath before heading home and looking out at the peaceful waters calmed him.
He put one foot up on the ledge then and even after all the other events of the night, Hazel felt more afraid than she’d ever felt in her entire life.