Lash Broken Angel
Author:L.G. Castillo

Lash Broken Angel - By L.G. Castillo


1





Thirty-five years ago

Lash peered at the arrivals board, confused, his hazel eyes scanning the list of flights going in and out of the Houston airport.

“1724. 1724,” he muttered. Flight numbers, cities, and arriving gates flipped over as changes were made to the gate arrivals. “Damn it. How do you read this thing?”

He brushed a hand over his dark hair with frustration. A seraph should be able to find something as simple as the arriving gate of his work assignment.

Lash sighed as he glanced at the information that the Archangel Gabrielle, his direct supervisor, gave him. Lucky him, he was assigned to the one person who delighted in his misery. He didn’t put it past her to intentionally give him the wrong flight information and make him scramble at the last minute to find his charge.

“Javier Duran, age eight. Flight 1724, arriving at 12:05pm,” he read. He flipped the card over and gazed at the photo of the little boy with light coffee skin, chubby cheeks, and big brown eyes.

“Where is your plane, little one?” He looked back up, and the numbers “1724” popped onto the screen.

“Finally.” He noted the gate number and made his way through the bustling crowds at the airport.

“What? I can’t hear you?” Lash heard a young woman yell into the pay phone. “No, his plane hasn’t landed yet. It should be here in a few—”

He turned to look at the woman who stopped midsentence, curious to see what happened. The woman squinted through her pink-tinted glasses straight at him.

Lash jumped back in surprise. It was as if she could see him. Most humans couldn’t when he took his angel form—except for small children or animals, but even that was rare. When an adult did manage to get a glimpse of him, they often dismissed it as a figment of their imagination.

“Anita, qué paso?” the voice on the other end of the line asked. “What happened?”

“Wait a minute.” Anita took off her glasses and wiped the lenses with her floral polyester blouse.

Lash stood motionless, waiting to see if she would say something about his presence. Anita placed her glasses back on. Brown eyes looked in his direction again. After a moment, she shook her head and continued her conversation.

“Never mind, I thought I saw something,” she said as she turned her attention back to the caller. “Give me the information again. I need to write it down.” She dug into her purse and drew out a scrap of paper. Candy and gum wrappers fluttered down onto the carpet along with a black pen. “Where’s my pen? I can’t find anything in this purse.”

“Say a prayer to St. Anthony,” said the voice on the phone.

“Good idea.” Anita closed her eyes. “St. Anthony, St. Anthony. Please come down. Something is lost and can’t be found. Help me find my pen so I can write down the information Gloria should have given me this morning before my eight-year-old son got on the plane all by himself. And while you’re at it, can you ask the Lord to forgive Gloria for her forgetfulness? She has to put up with my ex-husband, and only the Lord knows how helpless that man is—especially when it comes to washing his underwear.”

“That’s enough prayer,” Gloria snapped from the other end of the line.

Lash chuckled. There was no St. Anthony—at least not in the airport. He picked up the pen and placed it on the edge of the pay phone shelf.

Anita shivered. “Dios mío, I felt a chill. They keep it cold in here. They should—” Her eyes widened when she spotted the pen. “How did that get there?”

Anita turned, and Lash held his breath. She was nose-to-nose with him, so close that he could smell her minty breath and see a red lipstick stain on her front tooth. She took a deep breath, closed her eyes, and smiled. “Gracias, St. Anthony. I’m blessed.”

Lash blinked with amazement. It’d been a long time since he came across a human like her. He didn’t know the tiny dark-haired woman, yet an aura of peace surrounded her. It was as if she knew they were watching over her.

He glanced at the clock and left Anita talking to her friend. The boy’s plane was scheduled to land soon. As he rushed down the hall, he wondered if his assignment was Anita’s boy.

When he got to the gate, he looked out the large window at the empty space where the plane should have been. Instead, Jeremy, his best friend, stood on the tarmac. He was dressed impeccably, looking more like a model off the cover of a GQ magazine than the archangel of death. His golden hair, brushed back off his face, glimmered under the Texas sun. Lash found it rather odd that he would care about his appearance, considering that he rarely appeared in his human form. Most people knew him only by his angel name, Jeremiel, and when he did appear to them, it was because they were dying. Jeremy, like Lash, decided to modernize his name a few years ago. Too bad he didn’t do the same with his clothes. Compared to Jeremy, Lash looked like the perpetual teenage rebel, favoring ripped jeans and fitted t-shirts.

Lash wondered why Jeremy didn’t mention he had an assignment in Houston during last night’s poker game. For the first time since they started playing decades ago, Lash was winning, and they were having a great time—smoking cigars and drinking whiskey. It wasn’t until Gabrielle showed up and handed Lash the assignment that Jeremy became unusually quiet. Jeremy appeared so uncharacteristically upset when he had asked Lash to have an IOU on his winnings—although Lash couldn’t think of when he’d ever have a need to call him on it. Gabrielle seemed to have been in a foul mood, too. Maybe he should have reconsidered puffing smoke directly into her face. She probably didn’t like that.

Lash was about to join him on the tarmac when Gabrielle glided into view. She whispered something into Jeremy’s ear, and his ever-present smile froze. Whatever she’d told him, it couldn’t have been good.

He followed Jeremy’s gaze and looked at the cloudless sky. In the distance, he saw a tiny speck, and instinctually he knew it was Flight 1724. Lash glanced at Jeremy and wondered if his assignment involved someone on the same flight.

Jeremy gave Gabrielle a nod and, in an instant, vanished. Dread hit the pit of Lash’s stomach when Gabrielle lifted her arms into the air and swirled her slender hands in circles. Trees surrounding the airport swayed as the wind picked up and dark clouds began to form.

Lash pressed his palms against the glass pane. What was she doing? He gritted his teeth, wondering if she was intentionally trying to make his job more difficult. He’d been told to watch over Javier and to make sure he returned safely to his mother. She conveniently forgot to tell him the boy would be in danger—or that the danger would be Gabrielle herself.

Lash watched as she continued to manipulate the wind and clouds, and the sky darkened.

“Looks like a storm’s comin’,” said a woman sitting in the row of seats behind him.

“That’s Texas weather for you,” said the male companion next to her. “One minute it’s a sunny day; you blink, and then all hell breaks loose.”

A loud bang of thunder caused the glass to vibrate under Lash’s hands. He stepped away as a stream of ice pellets slammed to the ground.

“Lord, have mercy,” the woman said as she pressed a hand to her chest. “That was a loud one.” She looked out window. “I hope it passes soon. Wouldn’t want to be caught up there in this storm.”

It was then that Lash knew why Gabrielle and Jeremy were there and why he received this assignment. Not all the passengers of Flight 1724 were going to make it into Houston—not alive.

He closed his eyes and projected himself into the plane. When he opened them, he was standing in the aisle next to a pretty girl. Her pale blond hair was tucked behind her ears, highlighting vibrant blue eyes. She couldn’t have been more than twelve, yet something about her made her appear wise beyond her years.

Lash gazed out the window. A fog of darkness surrounded the plane. The people sitting in the seats close to him muttered frantically as they looked out. They were scared. He quickly brushed away feelings that threatened to bubble up. He needed to focus.

A whimpering sound from the seat behind the girl caught his attention, and he stepped toward it. Sitting in the seat was a small boy, his feet barely touching the floor. Javier.

“Mother, he’s scared,” the little girl said. “May I go sit with him?”

The woman, an older replica of the pretty girl, took a sip of her cocktail. “No, it’s not safe.” The plane gave a jolt, and she dropped her drink to the floor, the amber liquid splashing on her white linen suit. Color drained from her face as she clutched the armrest. “Oh my God.”

The girl leaned to the side and looked back at the little boy. “But, he’s all alone.”

“Do as I tell you, or I’ll have to tell your father when we get home,” the woman snapped as she dabbed her pants with a napkin. “The flight attendant will tend to him.”

Lash watched the girl blink rapidly and felt a tug in his chest as she wiped away her tears. She placed a determined looked on her face before turning her attention back to the boy.

“It’s okay. Shh, don’t cry. We’ll be landing soon,” she said. “What’s your name?”

The little boy looked up. Brown eyes framed by long lashes locked with hers. Tears lined his chubby cheeks. “Ja—Javier.” He sniffed and wiped his nose with the back of his shirtsleeve.

“Hi, Javier. I’m Jane.”

The plane dropped, lifting Javier off his seat for a split second before he slammed back down. He sobbed.

Lash knelt next to him and sent a wave of calm, hoping the boy could sense his presence.

Javier wheezed in and out as if trying to catch his breath. A pale hand reached out toward him. “You’ll be all right, Javier. Don’t worry. I’ll hold your hand until we land. Okay?”

Javier looked at Jane. His black curls bobbed as he nodded.

Lash ached as Javier reached out his hand and placed it in Jane’s. It had been a long time since he’d seen anyone act so selflessly. He glanced around the plane, expecting to see Jeremy. Since he wasn’t there, maybe there was hope for the little girl and the others.

The plane trembled violently, and the flight attendants ran down the aisle, ordering the passengers to buckle their seatbelts. They then rushed to their own seats and strapped themselves in.

There was a loud pop followed by a screech of tearing metal. Screams filled the cabin, and yellow oxygen masks dropped from the ceiling.

Jane let go of Javier’s hand for a moment to put on her mask, and he cried. Lash leaned in and whispered, “Don’t be afraid. I’m here for you.”

Javier continued to cry out as Lash hovered over him. He looked over to Jane, whose trembling hands were placing the yellow mask over her face. When she was done, she leaned back, stretching her hand back to Javier. “Put on your mask,” she yelled.

Javier grabbed her hand and looked at her with a blank expression.

Jane gazed directly into his eyes and pointed at the floating yellow plastic. “Put it on.”

Javier nodded and frantically placed the mask over his head. There was a loud bang.

Screams were swallowed as soon as they started. Javier’s eyes widened, and Jane turned around to see what he was looking at. She gave a high-pitched shriek. Flickers of orange and red reflected off Javier’s mask, and Lash stiffened. A wave of heat slammed his back, and he turned ready to fight off whatever was coming to harm the boy. His stomach dropped when a wave of flames rolled down the aisle toward them.

***

Lash’s footsteps echoed in the Room of Offerings, a vast room where the archangels displayed the gifts that humans had offered to Heaven over the centuries. Paintings and sculptures lined the walls. He paused in front of a large mahogany case and stared at a tiny statuette, a likeness of Gabrielle, through the glass pane. His light eyes darkened as he took it out and brushed his hands over the smooth stone. He snapped off the head and crushed it between his fingers, turning it to dust. He placed the figurine front and center back on the shelf and smirked, knowing Gabrielle would go ballistic when she saw it.

He turned when the large oak door squeaked opened, and Archangel Raphael walked into the room, his solemn blue eyes resting on Lash as he neared him. “Lahash,” his voice was thick with disappointment.

It wasn’t Raphael’s first time escorting Lash to the Hall of Judgment, a place where angels were disciplined for their wrongdoings and were judged whether they were worthy to stay in Heaven. It never worried Lash that he would ever be deemed unworthy—Raphael always saw to that.

Glancing at the headless figurine, Raphael pursed his lips but didn’t comment on it. “Michael will see you as soon as he’s finished questioning Gabrielle.”

“It’s Lash,” Lash mumbled under his breath. He hated being called by his heavenly name, but Raphael, old-fashioned in his ways and adamant on keeping traditions, insisted.

Raphael ran a hand through his blonde waves of hair with frustration. He didn’t acknowledge that he had heard him. Lash knew he could. Some of the special perks of being an angel included amplified sight, hearing, and strength—the flying was an added bonus.

“Why did you do it, Lahash? Gabrielle gave you specific instructions. All you had to do was follow them.”

What answer could he give to his mentor, the one person who always defended him when he decided to go his own way? He wished he could tell Raphael the truth. When Gabrielle gave him instructions to save the boy, he was happy to do it. After years of helping humans who threw their lives away with frivolous pursuits, he thought at least with the child there was hope. There was something about children, with their open minds and unblemished hearts that felt so different from the jaded hearts of adulthood. Saving the boy was easy; leaving the little blonde-haired girl to her fate was not.

“Gabrielle made a mistake. She must have overlooked that another young one was on the plane, so I figured what would be the harm of saving both of them?”

“There was no mistake,” Raphael said.

“The girl deserved to live.”

“It’s not for you to decide. You know that.”

“Yeah, yeah, the Boss makes the decisions.” Lash waved him off and sat down on one of the leather couches in the center of the room. He tried to follow through on his assignments, but lately it had become more difficult to accept them even though he knew Michael and Gabrielle received their instructions from God.

Raphael sat across from him and leaned forward. “Lash, you care deeply for humans, and that’s what makes you a great seraph. But you must learn control. You cannot make decisions without thinking them through.”

“I know what I’m doing.” Lash sank into the white couch and leaned back, lacing hands behind his head. “I don’t agree with some of the decisions made around here.”

“You are young. You will grow to learn that the decisions we make are based on much more than what is set before us.” Raphael’s voice grew stern. “Every action has consequences that must be taken into account.”

“Come on. She’s a little girl.” Lash threw his hands up. “I gave her a chance to grow up and live out her life. What could be the harm in that?”

“More that you know.”

Lash rolled his eyes then his face turned serious. “You should have seen her, Raphael. There was a good in her I hadn’t seen in anyone in a long time.”

“I’m sure there was, but you have no knowledge of what she is to become.” Raphael sat back and a faraway look crossed his eyes. “There was a time when I followed my heart. I dared to defy Michael and the others.” Raphael’s eyes drifted down, a sad expression crossed his face. “I did so at great cost.”

Lash had seen that expression from time to time and wondered what had happened to Raphael to cause him such obvious heartache. He wished he could remember the first time he met him. For some reason, there was a gap in his memory. All he could remember was waking one morning with Raphael sitting by his side.

As Raphael stood up and walked to the door, Lash followed and playfully punched his shoulder. “Hey, don’t worry. I’ll get a slap on the wrist like last time.”

Raphael shook his head. “Someday your rebelliousness will catch up with you.”

He grinned. “Not today. I’m sure of it.”

As they went down the corridor, a tall, slender angel approached them. Waves of flaxen hair framed a scowling face. “Michael is ready to see you.”

Lash smirked. “Well, good morning to you too, Gabrielle.”

Gabrielle narrowed her green cat-like eyes. “Do you not understand the ramifications of what you’ve done? Or is it that you just don’t care?”

He was about to answer when Raphael stepped in front of him. “Don’t answer that. Gabrielle, I believe it’s best to take this conversation to Michael. Shall we?”

Her eyes softened when she looked at Raphael and then turned cold. “You can’t protect him this time.” She turned to Lash, and her eyes looked him over with loathing. “Why do you even bother?” Turning on her heel, she walked toward the Hall of Judgment.

At the door, she stepped aside and stood beside Raphael. As Lash walked in, he winked at him, trying to hide his growing anxiety. Strange. In all the times, he’d gotten in trouble before, he’d never been anxious. Something was different.

“Don’t sweat it, Raphael. I’ve got this covered,” Lash said. What’s the worst they could do to him?