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There was a voicemail from her mom on the phone. Charity ignored it as usual. It was usually bad news from her mother. She had too much to do at work and it was already after 5. She was just getting ready to start on her paperwork when she heard the front office door open. She hated being the stand-in receptionist, but she had the office closest to the front.
“Welcome to Skyline Engineering Services, can I help you?” she asked as she ran up to the front. When she saw the man, she stopped. He was a curious creature–young, lean, with longish blond hair, white-washed jeans, and white t-shirt. He looked like a teen heartthrob from the 80s.
Charity had had crushes on white stars just like all her classmates, even though she was black. This guy was cute, but he didn’t look like a typical client for a consulting firm. He must want to use the bathroom, she thought.
“I’m looking for Charity,” he said casually, adjusting his shoulder bag.
“I’m Jesse. I’m here to help you.”
“Help me what?” she asked, thinking of all the work she needed to get done. Was this a prank?
He frowned. “You haven’t talked to your dad yet?”
“Why would I?” she asked. She hardly ever called him. She had been out of his house for twenty years and was happy about it.
He rolled his eyes and took out his phone. “I’m early. Call your mom back.”
“What are you talking about?” She started backing away to go get her phone.
“Hey, calm down. Look, I’m an angel. I’m here to help you, once you realize you need help.”
“A what? Help with what?” She turned around, hoping he would disappear and she could go back to work. She went to her office to grab her phone. When she picked it up and turned around, he was there. She jumped. “How’d you get here?”
“I walked down the hall. You really should talk to your mom. Then you have to go see your dad, and then you’ll want me. OK?”
“You’re bossy for an angel” she said, dialing her mother. He didn’t answer, crossing his arms. She tried to avoid his blue eyes watching her while the phone rang. “Mom?”
“Hey, honey. Have you called your father?”
“You really need to go see him.”
“Why?” It was frustrating to talk to either of her parents.
“I think he needs to tell you in person. Please just go see him. I’ll be there tomorrow morning.”
“What?” It had to be serious if her mother was traveling from three hours away. She never came back to town unless someone died. Charity’s heart lurched, and she remembered the trauma of her grandmother’s death. She hated it when people died. She quickly called her father.
“Charity, how are you?” His voice was smooth and calm as usual.
“I’m fine. Just wondering why I’m supposed to call you.”
“Yeah, well, I’m sick. Come on over and let’s talk about it.”
She hung up and looked into the intruder’s eyes.
“What’s going on?”
“You’ll find out, and you’ll want some kind of comfort. That’s why I’m here.”
“An angel? But you’re early?”
“Yeah, I didn’t read the schedule right,” he said, glancing at his phone again.
“Aren’t you supposed to be all-knowing?”
“I don’t know what I’m ‘supposed’ to be, but I don’t know anything that’s not told to me. I read Charity Williams, Daddy issues, and came on down.”
“I don’t have Daddy issues,” she said, getting her purse and turning off the light. “And you’re a terrible angel.”
“Suit yourself. See you when you get home.” She turned the light off on him and left. She peeked in her coworker’s office, but it was empty. Curious if the angel was still in her office, she looked around the door frame.
He was checking his phone, the light from the screen highlighting his blond hair. “I’ll let myself out,” he said without looking up. She grumbled and walked away.
Her heart was racing as she drove over to her father’s house. What was wrong with him? How serious was it? What did he want her to do about it? Charity tried to stay out of his life except for a monthly check-in, and usually those were spent talking about the game or movie on TV rather than life.
He usually asked, “Have you gotten a boyfriend yet?” The answer was always no. Sometimes with an added, “I don’t need one.” She didn’t like being single, but she hated the thought of a man making her fit into his life.
Her father was in his usual spot, the recliner in front of the TV. She sat in her spot, the couch beside him. That way they were both facing the TV and not each other. She looked at him this time, though, trying to see signs of illness. “What’s going on?” she asked.
“They recommended that I stop dialysis,” he said, still looking at the TV. He was a big black man, overweight with short gray hair. She remembered when he was young, strong, and active. “I have an infection. I only got a few weeks.”
“Can’t you take antibiotics?”
“I’m too weak, they said.”
“Aren’t you waiting to get a transplant or something?”
“It’s too late.” He rubbed his eyes. “They said I should make preparations. Your mom is coming over tomorrow. casino siteleri She’s getting her lawyer to write a will for me. The one who did the divorce. I told them I want everything to go to you.”
“OK Dad, but…isn’t there anything they can do?”
He looked over at her. He had tears in his eyes. “What’s the point, baby? I don’t want to be tied to a machine the rest of my life. It’s bad enough sitting there four hours a day, three days a week. And who’s going to pay for that? The government?”
“You have your retirement, Dad.”
“Five years left,” he said, turning back to the TV. “With all the expenses, I could stay alive for five years. Might as well give it to you. Buy a new house or something.”
“I don’t need a new house,” she muttered. She felt herself tearing up as well. “Why didn’t they know sooner?”
“They didn’t read the tests right, they said. Missed something.” He shrugged.
“When did you find out?”
“Have you called Aunt Marie?”
“She’s on her way. Your mom’s taking care of everything. Just try not to worry about it. I love you, Charity. You know that?”
Sometimes she doubted it, but she nodded anyway. “I love you too.”
She drove home in a daze. She thought she felt sad, but she also felt relief. A few weeks, and she wouldn’t have to avoid him. A few weeks, and she could stop being so angry at him. Of course, a little voice said in her head, in a few weeks, she could forgive him.
Jesse was sitting on her front porch, and she felt a flare of annoyance. He wasn’t helping much. “Why aren’t you in the house?”
He spread his hands. “I can’t walk through walls, just open doors.” He stood up to follow her in. “Did you get the news?”
“Yeah,” she said, sighing. She didn’t even want to take her shoes off. She just wanted to lay down and be alone.
“So what’s the deal with you and dad?” he asked, sitting on her couch. She sat beside him.
“Aren’t you supposed to know?”
“Yeah, they sent the file but I didn’t read it. Quicker to hear it. Besides, talking about it is good for you.”
She shook her head at him. “There’s nothing wrong with our relationship. I just would rather not be around him.”
“Why not? Did he touch you in the bad way?”
“No!” she said, shocked. “No, he was a nice guy, he just…he didn’t know how to take care of a teenage girl. He and Mom got divorced when I was 12, and I stayed with him. But he would go out with all these women, and have sex when he thought I was asleep. He always had a girlfriend, sometimes more than one.”
“Were you angry?”
“Yes. I wanted things to go back to normal.”
“Did you become the rebellious teenager? A lot of American children do that.”
“Not really. I did a lot of reading. I didn’t date many guys.”
“Oh.” He leaned back and nodded. “Right, so now that he’s dying, you have to come to terms with the fact that you were jealous of his relationships.”
“Where did you get that from?” she asked.
“Look at you. I don’t even have to read your file to know. Mid thirties, single, career woman in a technical field. You’re out to prove that you don’t need men, but the one person you want to know it is leaving the earth.”
“I don’t…” she thought about it. Did she need her dad? No, she had done everything to try to avoid needing him. Full scholarship to a college far away, good engineering job, her own house, her own car, everything. “I came back to town so I could keep an eye on him.”
“Guilty conscience. What is it, dialysis that he’s on?” She nodded. “Do you even know how he gets back and forth to the hospital?”
“He said he didn’t need me to take him.”
“Like father, like daughter then. But I’m not his angel, I’m yours.”
“Are you going to tell me to have a heart to heart conversation with my father before he dies?”
“I’m not going to tell you to do anything. I’ll just help you figure it out.”
She sighed again. “Do you want something to eat?”
“No. I’ll take a–what do you call it? Pop. They don’t have those the last place I went.”
“Where was that?” She couldn’t imagine a country without soda.
“You wouldn’t know it. A few galaxies over.”
“Oh,” she said. “Interesting.” She got up and walked to the kitchen. “Are you new at this?”
“Yeah, I just got out of school. This is only my second service assignment.”
“Really? What’s your degree in?”
“Temporal physics,” he said. She stared at him.
“Are you serious?”
“Yes. We have a certain amount of community service to do each millennium, so here I am.”
Simple as that, she thought to herself. “What kind of job do you do normally?”
“Oh. So is time travel possible?”
“Can we jump ahead so we don’t have to do this?”
“I don’t have the authorization,” he said. He took the glass offered to him, studied it, and drank it. “Yuck,” he said.
“I have milk and honey if you want,” she said sarcastically.
“No, thank you. They haven’t sent the timeline for tomorrow yet, so is it canlı casino ok if I stay here tonight?”
“You can sleep on the couch.”
Charity didn’t sleep well, trying to forget what she hated about father. His nonchalant attitude toward everything. It was fun when she was younger, but it got annoying when she had the serious concerns of a teenager. She remembered the way he used to answer the phone in his bedroom, and then come out with his jacket on.
“I’ll be back later,” he would say. “Go to bed before midnight.”
Every few months there would be a new woman over for dinner. Young, pretty, black more often than white. They wanted to hang out with Charity and have girl talk. All they got were angry glares.
There was one woman who lasted a few years: Sheila. She figured out the best way to get along with Charity was to ignore her, and Charity appreciated that. It was bad enough hearing them have sex in his bedroom. Charity hated it, but sometimes it made her horny. She did not date much, but eventually she figured out the cure: masturbation.
Her mother showed up the next morning around 10am. Charity took the day off, but still worked on a few things at home. Anything to keep her mind off her father. Jesse hung around the living room, checking his phone or watching TV. He gravitated toward the Discovery Channel. While watching a show about aliens in Egypt, he said, “They’ve got some of these things right.”
When her mother came in, she gave Charity a hug. “I’m so sorry, honey. Oh an angel,” she said, looking over at Jesse.
“You can see him?”
“Of course I can. I’m Baptist,” she said. Charity looked between her and Jesse, who shrugged.
“Forgot to adjust my invisibility settings.”
“Are you coming with us?” Charity asked.
“No, you won’t need me until lunchtime.”
She shook her head and looked back at her mom. Her mom said, “I have a plan already laid out.”
“What kind of plan?”
“Your father’s going to need a lot of care in the next few months. We need to make sure he’s going to be comfortable. I don’t want him surrounded by strangers in his last days.”
“Mom, why can’t they do something?” She felt herself tearing up again.
“You know how the system works, honey. They’re not going to do anything for a black man.”
“Mom!” They were middle class now, but both her parents had grown up in the same inner city neighborhood. Her dad was the first in his family to go to college. He never said anything about it, but her mom always had a chip on her shoulder about “the man.”
Her mom had papers and schedules, but Charity couldn’t focus on anything. She felt the same way when they went to see her father. The lawyer wanted to talk about beneficiaries and durable power of attorney, but it was just noise to her. Her father was taking it all in stride, her mother was in super-organized mode; she was lost.
They ordered lunch to come to the house–healthy sandwiches and salads. Charity was happy to answer the door for the delivery man. His blue eyes looked strangely familiar, but his long brown hair and baggy clothes didn’t ring a bell.
“Hi, Charity,” he said, handing her the box of food.
“Jesse?” she asked, and he nodded. “I guess you can shape shift too.”
“As needed.” He walked in the house, and she led him in the kitchen away from her parents. “How are you doing?”
She shrugged. “I’m still in shock, I guess. I don’t know how they are getting along so well.”
“Your mom has always loved him.”
“How do you know?”
“I read the file. She cared for monogamy more than fighting him.”
“Did it say why she got crazy religious?” Her mom had started going to church all the time after the divorce. Charity hated going to church. The music was great, but the sermon was always about the moral failings of the world. And her mom was always trying to hook Charity up with the younger men.
“Why else do people have religion? For comfort. For stability. It helps her be at peace with what’s next.”
“Is God real?” she asked.
“Is He mad at me? Am I going to Hell?”
“Above my paygrade.” She sighed, and he looked at her. “You mom has a way to make sense of it all. Your dad needs to know that you’ll be all right. Show him you’re a capable woman, even now.”
“Is that all he wants?”
“Do you have more deliveries to make?”
“No, but I have to take the car back. I’ll meet you at the house.”
“You stole a car?”
“Do you know how slow walking is?”
“What about your wings?”
He shook his head. “Earthly mission, earthly form. I’m not a cherub or seraph, anyway.”
She let him out and brought the food to the living room. She did her best to pay attention and even participate. Her father gave her a smile at the end of the day, and she felt much better about how things were going.
Her mom dropped her off at home and went to the hotel for dinner. Charity was glad to spend some time alone–well, besides Jesse. She watched TV with him, but didn’t see any of it. She was remembering kaçak casino when she first heard her parents really fighting.
She was 11, and it was the middle of the night. Her mom was screaming at her dad, and she could barely hear his responses. Then the front door opened and closed, and her mom cried the rest of the night.
“Your dad and I are getting a divorce,” was all she told her the next morning. No reason why, but Charity suspected it had to do with the phone calls and late nights out. An affair, Aunt Marie eventually explained to her. He’s in love with someone else.
All she heard of the divorce were nightly fights in the living room. The only vote she got was who she would rather stay with. She choose her dad–her hero, her clown, and her science experiment partner. She thought life would stay the same after her mom left.
It wasn’t. Suddenly her dad had no time for her. He wasn’t interested in building rockets with her anymore. She figured she wasn’t smart enough and started studying more. He didn’t seem to notice. When she hit puberty, she thought maybe he wanted her to be more attractive. After disastrous experiments with makeup and pantyhose, she realized she couldn’t please him. He wanted something the older women had.
Charity didn’t know the first thing about sex, and none of the boys she knew were interested in showing her. In college she figured it out, but it didn’t give her any satisfaction. She always compared her partners to her father, and they were never as friendly or funny as he was. If she needed to get off, she masturbated. If she needed a friend, there were plenty of gay guys.
The next day, Aunt Marie arrived, and they took her dad to the hospice her mom had chosen. It was a dismal place, designed to look like a nice apartment complex, They couldn’t eliminate the hospital smell no matter how nice the curtains looked.
Their tour guide was a male nurse named Daniel. He was a handsome black man with green eyes. Charity thought he might be Jesse in disguise, but he didn’t give any indication of it. Her dad’s weakness was evident–even being in a wheelchair most of the morning wore him out, and they left him to nap during lunch.
Charity didn’t want to sit with her teary aunt or anal mother in the cafeteria, so she wandered the halls outside her father’s room. She was shocked to see a familiar woman walking toward her. Sheila. She was older, but still tall, black, and beautiful. Charity remembered all those years she was with her father. He couldn’t keep his hands off her, even in public, and to hear them in his room was like a bad porno. Charity felt the familiar anger but tried the push it aside as she hugged Sheila.
“I’m so sorry,” Sheila said.
“How did you know to come?” Charity asked.
Sheila looked at her strangely. “Your mom said she would let me know what room they put him in. I was the one who called her the other day.”
“You told her about Dad dying?”
She nodded. “I was with him at the hospital when he find out.”
Charity felt embarrassed. “I’m sorry, I didn’t know you were still together.”
“Just friends, really. I drive him back and forth to the doctor. He always wants to talk about you. His little engineer, he calls you. I tell him you’re not so little anymore. I hope you know how proud of you he is.”
Charity shrugged, but only because she couldn’t speak. Did he really care for her that much? At that point, her mom and aunt showed up, and she left them do most of the talking.
They stayed at the hospice until early evening, grabbing take out before going home. Charity was drained. She didn’t know what to think about her father. Her heart hurt, knowing he was dying, but in her head she wanted to say it didn’t matter. She didn’t need him.
Jesse was watching TV at home. She joined him on the couch, and he looked at her with sympathy.
“How was today?” he asked.
“Hard. He was really weak. But Sheila was there. I didn’t even know she was still around.”
He nodded. “She is fairly faithful to him, even when he isn’t.”
“Are they in love?”
He shook his head. “Not in a romantic sense. More like family.”
She thought about the way her mom and aunt were not surprised to see her. “Do you have a family?” she asked.
He shrugged. “More like cohorts, angels we grow up with.”
“Do angels die?” He nodded. “What happens to them then?”
“They join the choir of voices praising the Lord.”
“Sounds nice,” she said. He smiled. “Is my dad going to heaven?”
“I don’t know, but don’t worry about that. It all works out in the end. Just remember that he loves you.”
It was such an easy thing to say, but she had never been sure. Yes, he took care of her, but had he given her what she needed? After her mom left, Charity wasn’t sure she ever felt loved.
She remembered going to prom. She had already turned 18, and she only went because her father wanted her to. He even picked out the dress for her, a red sleeveless number that hinted at her curves. Her date was a boy she hardly ever talked to.
Halfway through, he ditched her to make out with another girl. Charity had gotten a ride home with a friend, only to hear her father fucking Sheila in his bedroom. She went to bed and cried, but she had never told him what happened.
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