William longed for the stone angel on the hill beside him. He’d take her in his arms if he were not also made of stone, an effigy of the man buried in the mausoleum below. As the sun rose, it cast the curved shadow of her wings across the brim of his tricorn hat. It was always such a brief moment, the shadow of her touch. He fantasized that moment of coolness as the angel’s hand on his cheek, but her shadow never once caressed his face. A beauty like her could never love a statue as marred as he.
If only he could conceal the rocky patch on his face where his nose had once been. Centuries ago, his fine, upturned nose had become the crows’ favored perch. The day those noisy blackbirds at last destroyed it was the day his angel came into view. Her high-cheek bones and soft cascading curls must have been sculpted by Bernini’s hands. Her wings extended into graceful arches behind her, poised to fly, Heaven-bound.
But humans and angels could never be together, not even in stone.
A robin hopped from the oak branch stretched above William and wrapped its talons around the brim of his hat. It had been months since he had heard the robin’s song. Good morning, old friend. As if to greet him in return, the bird perched on his shoulder and began to sing his high, merry tune. And if the stone had allowed, he’d invite his angel to dance the Virginia Reel under the oak growing beside his grave.
But she was all alone, no robin perched on her wings to serenade her a good morning. Go sing to her. She must be so lonely.
From under the oak, the mechanical grass-eating machine roared to life. Startled, the robin swooped from his perch and into the honeysuckle. William watched the machine near the bush, spitting out dewy clippings in its wake. The robin took flight once more, landing on the tip of the angel’s wing. Crimson honeysuckle berries dropped from its beak onto her pale curls. It hopped onto her shoulder and pecked up a berry.
William wished his face could crack a smile as the robin leaned in to the angel’s ear. Then it sang, its chirp quick and happy. A gift from me to you, my love.
William heard voices on the wind. A woman made her way over the hill, her hair hanging in curls like the angel’s. She held hands with a small girl who cradled a bouquet of wild flowers.
They remember her still, he thought as the little girl placed the bouquet against the mausoleum’s iron door. Her mother hugged her.
She is loved and I am not, William thought. They all have forgotten me.
The night’s darkness shrouded his sadness and humiliation at having been lost to time.
The angel’s shadow did not caress the brim of his tricorn hat, for dark gray clouds blocked the morning sun. William welcomed the rain.
Leave me, he thought as he felt the robin’s familiar talons.
The bird hopped onto his shoulder, a sprig of lavender in its beak. William had never seen lavender growing in the graveyard, but his eyes spied the bouquet left for the angel. The wrapper had unraveled, lavender laying atop the carnations and daisies.
She loves me! William rejoiced as the robin tucked the sprig between his hat and ear. She loves me!
The robin did not stay to sing, but swooped off. The wind changed direction, the leaves swaying violently. Even the grass-eating machine slumbered this morning.
The shrieking gale gusted over the hill bringing with it more black clouds. The lavender slipped from his ear, flying off into the graveyard. William despaired. I’ve lost her gift.
Hail pounded the gravestones in the torrential rain. He watched his angel stand defiantly against the storm. Lightening zigzagged across the inky sky, thunder growled as if to summon up more wind.
A crackle and moan startled William, though he recognized the sound of the old oak. Its jagged branches leaned, snagging him in their grasp. Then, with a final snap, the trunk toppled cracking his feet. He wobbled as the stone split away. Free, he rolled down the roof and landed face up in the mud. William watched as the massive oak continued its path, smashing into the angel’s mausoleum. Spare her, please! But the thick branches split her from her base. Her delicate ankle cracked, the jagged line splitting her leg along the hem of her robe. William, unable to look away, watched his perfect angel fall to Earth.
At first, the dawn seemed brighter than he’d remembered. Was it because the oak tree was gone? Strong hands gripped him, lifting him from the earth. That’s when he saw it. His tricorn hat had been cleaved from his head. A jagged head to go with my jagged face.
The men’s voices boomed. “One, two, three, up!”
William’s body clanked against the metal bed of the horseless carriage the men drove. He spied the empty space atop the mausoleum, his angel still missing. Perhaps she has flown to Heaven, William consoled himself.
It was true then. Humans and angels were never meant to be together, not even in stone.
William resigned himself to his lonely fate, until he heard the men’s voices again.
“One, two, three, up!”
His hilltop angel was lowered by gloved hands onto the metal bed beside him. She rocked uneasily on the jagged scar of her missing wing, but her other wing stretched over William like a hand. Her gaze met his, unashamed of her imperfections. And as the sun rose behind them, their shadows entwined.
Samantha Kymmell-Harvey lives in Baltimore with her husband and two crazy cats. Her previous publications include Waylines Magazine, Spark: A Creative Anthology, and Lacuna Journal of Historical Fiction. She is a 2012 graduate of the Odyssey Writing Workshop.