I sighed deeply as I inhaled the smell of life. It’s a very clean, very pure smell.
Or, at least it would be if it wasn’t tainted by the sharp, coppery tang of blood. Blood that was currently being beaten out of a teenage boy who appeared to be about sixteen, making him three years younger than me. Blood that was pouring out his nose, from his lip, his eyebrow… It just oozed out in rivers, staining his pale skin with the scarlet liquid of life.
I shook my head, unable to move from my perch on the roof where I sat, watching the scene with my sad grey eyes. The roof felt almost hollow and empty against my scraped-up fingers and the backs of my muscular legs. I had been sitting there for nearly an hour, watching as the boy-Mikey, if I remember right-was getting beaten to a pulp. I couldn’t do anything, though. He wasn’t allowed to see me just yet.
Finally, the kids give him a few more punches before they decided they’d had their fun. They spat a few more words and phrases at him before sauntering off, presumably to abuse small animals or something similar. They left their victim curled up in between two garbage cans, snuffling and trying to clean the blood off his face. I carefully and quietly scooted closer to him, trying to see him better. There was no such luck, as there was so much blood on his face that it was hard to make any features out, besides the glasses that adorned and dominated his bleeding, broken face.
After what seemed like hours later, he finally stood up, gracefully slinging his backpack onto his shoulder and beginning to slowly walk. He kept his head down as his feet shuffled along the asphalt and concrete, the dirty tar and cement causing him to stumble occasionally, making his tears turn to ones of frustration. Yet he kept pushing on, never slowing down or speeding up to anything faster than his steady plod.
I followed him silently, flitting amongst the rooftops and fences of the overgrown backyards, always staying just out of sight as I recalled the information that was given to me about the skinny boy. His name was Michael James Way. Sixteen. About 5’10. 130 pounds. Lived with his mom, dad, and older brother. All in all, not usually the one I get assigned to. Usually it’s kids who’re abused by their parents, or have drug problems, or something similar.
I wondered what his particular problem was as he entered a somewhat run-down medium-sized house. I perched on the window that felt like it was his as I waited for him to go inside his room, taking in a quick look. The walls were a nice, gentle shade of green, with a matching blue carpet. The walls were covered in movie posters and sketches, but I didn’t see any signs of a sketchpad or anything else related to the visual arts on the old wood desk. A well-kept and obviously well-loved bass guitar sat on a stand in a corner. The far wall had a bookcase that was overfilled with books. Stacks of comic books were scattered randomly on the floor, organized by series. His door was covered in miscellaneous stickers, ranging from cats to rude phrases to brands to bands.
The bestickered door slowly opened as he walked inside, holding a steaming blue-speckled mug. He set it down on the desk before plopping himself down in the overstuffed desk chair, tilting his head back to look at the ceiling. He murmured something that I couldn’t hear through the window before sitting back up and pulling a razor out from the pages of one of the books- a music book, it looked like. He rolled his sleeve up and sliced one, two, three lines into his arm, one above and two just below his elbow. I could tell they weren’t going to scar- they weren’t deep enough for that- but just enough that the milky skin, staining it with scarlet once more. I noticed his facial features now that he had washed all the blood off. I caught a glimpse of a strong, handsome jaw, and warm hazel eyes.
He quickly hid the razor and pushed some tissues against the cuts to stop the bleeding, wincing slightly from the pressure he was putting on them. I scooted closer to the window to get a better look when it swung open and I crashed heavily onto the plush blue carpet, earning a surprised shriek from him as he flung himself away from the window.
“Wh… Who the fuck are you?” He asked, stammering slightly. I noticed his voice had an almost strained tone to it as he asked his question. I pushed myself upright with my arms, sitting on my knees and looking at him. His eyes were wide with fear, and I felt guilt shoot through me when I realized I was the one that had caused his eyes to be tainted in such a way. I carefully cleared my throat.
“I’m Rose. Your guardian,” I said, raising an eyebrow as he gave me a look as if I was insane. “Yes, I do realize Rose is a name typically used for females, and I am a male.” I flicked my deep brown hair out of my face, only to have it fall right back again.
“What do you mean by guardian?” He asked, still giving me that look. “Like, foster parent or something?”
“Shit, I’m not that old!” I said, somewhat offended. “I’m your guardian angel. Your spirit guide, visible conscience, whatever you wanna call me.” I informed him. This time his face took on a look of skepticism. I sighed. “You don’t believe me.”
“Well… no. Not really.” He replied honestly, pushing his thick-rimmed glasses back to the bridge of his nose, where they had slipped from during the exchange. “Why would I need a guardian angel? I’m fine on my own.”
Now it was my turn to be skeptical. “Oh really? So getting beaten up by five people of assorted gender is being ‘fine on your own’?” I asked, immediately regretting my condescending tone when his face flushed with guilt, embarrassment, and shame. I relaxed, feeling myself soften, before speaking again. “Look, I’m just here to help and to give you advice. Not in the way a school counselor or therapist would- I know your experiences with them- but more as a friend or mentor would.” I explained, watching his reaction. His eyes still held lots of mistrust and uncertainty, but also a smidgen of hope. I smiled at him, hoping he wouldn’t reject the idea completely. A total rejection meant a failure, and failure meant being grounded from the living world and a return to the dead one that I so desperately wanted to escape.
He was silent for several moments before answering. “Well, I guess we could try it for a little while.” He gave me a small, weak, wavering smile.
“Awesome!” I grinned. “I already know pretty much everything there is to know about you, but I won’t tell you anything about me, just to make it more interesting.” A loud bang suddenly resonated from downstairs as someone slammed a door shut with exceptional force. Mikey jumped a little and his honey hazel eyes flew to the door. “What was that?” I questioned. He gulped suddenly.