Amanda opened her eyes and stared at the flaming numbers of the alarm clock to her right. It was 2:35 am, Pacific time, and her silk pajamas were covered in sweat. It had happened again.
The two women had met about a year earlier, courtesy of common friends, and the chemistry between them was immediate. They liked the same songs, shared a love for screwball comedies and silly puns, and didn’t shy away from rough sex. They had more things in common, but this trifecta had been enough to seal the deal. The night after the first dinner, they hit the club circuit, drinking Vodka shots and badmouthing men, before ending up in Debra’s place, testing the limits of her water mattress. It resisted every attempt.
“I don’t deserve her,” she muttered. “I don’t deserve any of this! Fuck, who am I trying to fool?”
“Mandy? Are you in there? Is everything okay?”
“You have nothing to apologize for, sweetie. I’m coming in, okay?”
Before she could complete the sentence, Debra was already standing above her, worried eyes locked on her pale face. The African-American woman sat beside her and hugged her.
“Can’t you tell? I must look like a mess.”
“Don’t say that. It’s not true.”
“You’re the one with the beauty and the brains, dear. I’m just... plain old me.”
“I bet the number of people who would love to be ‘plain’ like you count in the millions, Mandy. Come on, let’s get you up, and then we can talk about it.”
“I want you to tell me what you remember of this last dream,” Debra pulled her up and helped her remove the sticky clothes. Then she fetched a towel and gently rubbed it against her breasts and back.
“Emptiness? Like nothing matters and everyone is laughing at you for trying to think otherwise?”
“Good. I want you to despise that sensation as hard as you can so you don’t feel tempted to give in to it. Dreams are just that. The feelings they evoke can’t hurt you unless you make them real. They’re not, but we are. I’m real, you’re real. What we have is real and I’m not going anywhere.”
“Because I love you, silly. I shouldn’t have to say that by now.”
“As are you.”
“Easy there, sweetie,” Debra escaped her passionate embrace and laid her down, arms to the side, legs slightly apart. Her heart was pounding like the thundering hooves of a thousand wild stallions.
“I do. I always want you inside me but there’s something I need you to do for me first,” she pressed her trimmed nails against her bosom.
“There’s still some angst in your body, and it needs to know it’s not welcome among us. We’re going to get it out, you and I, like we did so many times before, okay?”
“Yes. It’s imperative we do it, so you are at ease. Look at me and take a deep breath, Mandy. You already know how this goes.”
“Inhale, count to three, and then exhale. Keep your breathing steady and your eyes on me. Take it all in and... one, two, three, let go. Again. Fill your lungs with air and your thoughts with my voice and... one, two, three... let them flow through your lips, drifting into my words. We are going to your safe place now, that part of you where nothing can harm you or make you feel less than what you are. It’s easy to find it if you know where to look and it starts with this simple breathing exercise. Fill your lungs again and release the tension of those horrible dreams. One, two, three... there it goes, like a puff of smoke trailing into the distance and vanishing... Do it again, getting closer and closer to that blissful solace that’s fresh and sweet like spring water raining down a snow-capped mountain... See it reflected on my eyes as you continue to breathe for me... One, two, three... one, two, three... one, two, three...
“Perfect, exactly like you and the connection that binds us. I’ll keep you safe from the demons of the night and those that come at you during the day as well. All you need to do is breathe deeply and remember that it’s as easy to count up from one to three as it is to count backward from three to one, falling between the spaces until you come to rest in perfect harmony. We’ll have our fun, but first, you’ll get some sleep... warm, inviting, and tranquilizing sleep. You’ll sleep for my eyes. You’ll sleep for my words. You’ll sleep for me. Embrace this now. Peace and joy are yours. One, two, three... three, two, one... One, two, three... three, two, one... and... sleep, Mandy. Close your eyes for me and sleep.”
“Good. I can see you’re there. Stay in your haven for as long as it takes and when you open your eyes again, if you’re still willing, I’ll be here to give you the best orgasm of your life. Sleep, dear. You deserve your rest and nothing but the best. No more disheartening dreams will haunt you tonight, I promise.”
“How long have you been there?” Debra asked, squishing the cigarette butt with her slippers.
“Why have you come?”
“You have hundreds of children to choose from, and you’re not welcome. Pick someone else and leave me alone, please.”
“I don’t go by that name anymore. It’s Debra and you know it.”
Debra pushed her mother’s wings away from her face and replied, “No. The only thing I’m tired of is you constantly showing up to mock my life choices. I’m not going back with you, okay? Not today, and not ever, so go torment someone who gives a damn.”
“It’s not a waste. Humans are immensely flawed creatures, but they’re also the most amazing creations of all. I’ve learned more about the way the universe works living among them than in eons by your side. I’ve known from the beginning coming here was the right choice, and meeting Amanda solidified it. This is where I belong and you won’t take it away from me.”
“You only say that because you don’t know what true love is.”
“You were not invited, and no one is keeping you. I would listen to your own words and bail as soon as possible if you’re so upset,” Debra scoffed.
“I could name hundreds of things, but let’s start with the most obvious. Amanda’s dreams have been getting more intense and more frequent by the day. She’s troubled by insecurities that keep her up at night and threaten to undermine everything we’ve accomplished here. You wouldn’t happen to have anything to do with that, would you?”
“You’re no stranger to things like that. I haven’t forgotten what you did to Gadamel when he chose to spend two months here against your wishes and neither did he, so... Come clean, mother. This is your doing, is it not?”
“You always excelled at many things, yet lying remains a weak spot. Shame on you for stooping so low! Try that again and you’ll be sorry like you’ve never been before.”
“I wish to live the way I want, with whom I want, without outside interference,” Debra’s wings grew even larger, sharp blades protruding from the tip of the shiny feathers. “She’s mine and I’m hers. I’ll stand against anyone that comes between us, the entirety of Heaven and Hell included if need be. Don’t put me to the test, mother! I stopped fearing you the day I packed and moved here.”
“Forget where I live, mother. If I sense you anywhere near us ever again, I won’t indulge in small talk.”
The angel’s mother snapped her fingers and disappeared without a trace, except a single plume laid forgotten on the welcome mat. Debra grabbed it and crushed it between her fingers before returning to bed and the only thing in life that truly mattered.