Actually, it wasn't the light she noticed first. It was an eerie feeling that some... presence was in her
room with her.
She'd had the feeling before, waking up to feel that something had just left, maybe even in the instant it
had taken her to open her eyes. And that while asleep, she'd been on the verge of some great discovery
about the world, something that was lost as soon as she woke.
But tonight, the feeling stayed. And as she stared around the room, feeling dazed and stupid and leaden,
she slowly realized that the light was wrong.
She'd forgotten to close the curtains, and moonlight was streaming into the room. It had the thin blue
translucence of new snow. But in one corner
of Gillian's room, by the gilded Italian chest of drawers, the light seemed to have pooled. Coalesced.
Concentrated. As if reflecting off a mirror.
There wasn't any mirror.
Gillian sat up slowly. Her sinuses were stuffed up and her eyes felt like hard-boiled eggs. She breathed
through her mouth and tried to make sense of what was in the corner.
It looked like ... a pillar. A misty pillar of light. And instead of fading as she woke up, it seemed to be
An ache had taken hold of Gillian's throat. The light was so beautiful... and almost familiar. It reminded
her of the tunnel and the meadow and ...
She knew now.
It was different to be seeing this when she wasn't dead. Then, she'd accepted strange things the way you
accept them in dreams, without ordinary logic or disbelief interfering.
But now she stared as the light got brighter and brighter, and felt her whole skin tingling and tears pooling
in her eyes. She could hardly breathe. She didn't know what to do.
How do you greet an angel in the ordinary world?
The light continued to get brighter, just as it had in the meadow. And now she could see the shape in it,
walking toward her and rushing at the same time. Still brighter-dazzling and pulsating-until
she had to shut her eyes and saw red and gold after images like shooting stars.
When she squinted her eyes back open, he was there.
Awe caught at Gillian's throat again. He was so beautiful that it was frightening. Face pale, with traces of
the light still lingering in his features. Hair like filaments of gold. Strong shoulders, tall but graceful body,
every line pure and proud and different from any human. He looked more different now than he had in
the meadow. Against the drab and ordinary background of Gillian's room, he burned like a torch.
Gillian slid off her bed to kneel on the floor. It was an automatic reflex.
"Don't do that." The voice was like silver fire. And then-it changed. Became somehow more ordinary,
like a normal human voice. "Here, does this help?"
Gillian, staring at the carpet, saw the light that was glinting off a stray safety pin fade a bit. When she
tilted her eyes up, the angel looked more ordinary, too. Not as luminous. More like just an impossibly
beautiful teenage guy.
"I don't want to scare you," he said. He smiled.
"Yeah," Gillian whispered. It was all she could get out.
"Are you scared?"
The angel made a frustrated circling motion with one arm. "I can go through all the gobbledygook:
be not afraid, I mean you no harm, all that-but it's such a waste of time, don't you think?" He peered at
her. "Aw, come on, kid, you died earlier today. Yesterday. This isn't really all that strange in comparison.
You can deal."
"Yeah." Gillian blinked. "Yeah," she said with more conviction, nodding.
"Take a deep breath, get up-"
"-say something different..."
Gillian got up. She perched on the edge of her bed. He was right, she could deal. So it hadn't been a
dream. She had really died, and there really were angels, and now one was in the room with her, looking
almost solid except at the edges. And he had come to ...
"Why did you come here?" she said.
He made a noise that, if he hadn't been an angel, Gillian would have called a snort. "You don't think I
ever really left, do you?" he said chidingly. "I mean, think about it. How did you manage to recover from
freezing without even needing to go to the hospital? You were in severe hypothermia, you know. The
worst. You were facing pulmonary edema, ventricular fibrillation, the loss of a few of your bits..." He
wiggled his fingers and waggled his feet. That was when Gillian realized he was standing several inches off
the floor. "You were in bad shape, kid. But you got out of it without even frostbite."
Gillian looked down at her own ten pink fingers.
They were tinglingly over-sensitive, but she didn't have even one blood blister. "You saved me."
He gave a half grin and looked sheepish. "Well, it's my job."
"To help people."
"To help you."
A barely acknowledged hope was forming in Gillian's mind. He never really left her; it was his job to
help her. That sounded like... Could he be ...
Oh, God, no, it was too corny. Not to mention presumptuous.
He was looking sheepish again. "Yeah. I don't know how to put it, either. But it is true, actually. Did you
know that most people think they have one even when they don't? Somebody did a poll, and 'most
people have an inner certainty that there is some particular, individual spirit watching over them.' The
New Agers call us spirit guides. The Hawaiians call us aumakua..."
"You're a guardian angel," Gillian whispered.
"Yeah. Your guardian angel. And I'm here to help you find your heart's desire."
"I-" Gillian's throat dosed.
It was too much to believe. She wasn't worthy. She should have been a better person so that she would
deserve some of the happiness that suddenly spread out in front of her.
But then a cold feeling of reality set in. She wasn't a better person, and although she was sure
enlightenment and whatever else an angel
thought your heart's desire was, was terrific, well ... in her case...
She swallowed. "Look," she said grimly. "The things I need help with-well, they're not exactly the kinds
of things angels are likely to know about."
"Heh." He grinned. He leaned over in a position that would have unbalanced an ordinary person and
waved an imaginary something over her head. "You shall go to the ball, Cinderella."
A wand. Gillian looked at him. "Now you're my fairy godmother?"
"Yeah. But watch the sarcasm, kid." He changed to a floating position, his arms clasping his knees, and
looked her dead in the eye. "How about if I say I know your heart's desire is for David Blackburn to fall
madly in love with you and for everyone at school to think you're totally hot?"
Heat swept up Gillian's face. Her heart was beating out the slow, hard thumps of embarrassment- and
excitement. When he said it out loud like that, it sounded extremely shallow... and extremely, extremely
"And you could help with that?" she choked out.
"Believe it or not, Ripley."
"But you're an angel."
He templed his fingers. "The paths to enlightenment are many. Grasshopper. Grasshopper? Maybe I
should call you Dragonfly. You are sort of
iridescent. There're lots of other insects, but Dung-Beetle sounds sort of insulting. ..."
I've got a guardian angel who sounds like Robin Williams, Gillian thought. It was wonderful. She started
to giggle uncontrollably, on the edge of tears.
"Of course, there's a condition," the angel said, dropping his fingers. He looked at her seriously. His eyes