Chapter 17:

Archangel and a Mother's Vice

The Legend of the Pervy Archangel

Christmas Eve. In most cases, this was the day where couples and families would come together in the spirit of giving and share a delicious meal in each other's company. Some of these people would go out to a fancy restaurant, while others would sit down to a home cooked meal that some amazing woman (or amazing man) spent hours slaving away over a hot stove, or a hot oven, or both, cooking.Bookmark here

For Alice and Michael, their Christmas Eve was spent, not with family―not in the traditional sense―but with the their co-workers.Bookmark here

While many of the women who worked at Distractions were simply showgirls for hire, there were a few who had their own sad story to tell. Michael learned this after several days of working there.Bookmark here

Maria, for example, had been married and divorced a total of four times. Her last husband had left her when he found out that she'd become sterile after her first failed pregnancy. Michael had to give the woman props for never giving up. Since her last marriage attempt ended in failure, she had decided to devote all of her time and effort into her business and never let her lack of a love life get her down. She was always smiling.Bookmark here

Jannice had been rescued from a slave ring that had business dealings all over the world, including the US, but operated outside of Bangkok. The experience not only left her traumatized and addicted to several of the drugs her captors had used to keep the women they kidnap sedated, but also broken. A part of the sixteen year old girl who'd been kidnapped off the street died from that experience. Michael felt a lot of compassion for the woman, and he often treated her with incredible kindness.Bookmark here

This kindness tended to be very painful.Bookmark here

Or maybe that was just Alice's fist.Bookmark here

She didn't like it when he treated Jannice kindly for some reason.Bookmark here

Murphy and Catherine were sisters who ran away from home ten years ago. Their father had been an abuser of both substances and his daughters. While their faces were still as pretty as ever, Michael knew that both had several scars on their back and chest from where their father's whip had hit them. While he didn't have clear confirmation, he suspected they carried even more terrifying scars on the inside.Bookmark here

Jannice, Murphy, and Catherine all shared an apartment together on First Street and Corona Avenue, just a few blocks down. Michael remembered asking Alice why she didn't also live with them. He had even pointed out that it would be much easier on her budget.Bookmark here

“I used to, but it just didn't work out. Jannice and I could never get a long, and sometimes our arguments would get… a little heated. Murphy and Catherine are pretty timid and easily frightened by violence and, well, I didn't want to traumatize them further, so I left. Besides, the last thing I want is my mom showing up there and making a mess of their lives, too, especially Jannice's. There's no telling what kind of trouble those two would get up to if they ever rekindled their old friendship.”Bookmark here

Those had been her words. Michael could understand where she was coming from, abstractly at least. He even respected and admired her decision.Bookmark here

Alice truly was a remarkable young woman.Bookmark here

“What are you staring at, Michael?”Bookmark here

Even when she was angry at him for staring at her.Bookmark here

“Nothing, nothing,” Michael responded, waving a hand in the air as a warding gesture. “I wasn't staring at you or anything. And I certainly wasn't staring at your chest, or your hips, or your legs…” When Alice's face grew both red and stormy at the same time, Michael squeaked. “And I'm going to shut up now.”Bookmark here

“That's the smartest thing you've decided to do all day,” Alice said, still glaring. “And you're lucky it's Christmas, or I would have pounded your face in for those comments.”Bookmark here

“Gurk.”Bookmark here

They were all sitting on several couches inside of Distractions. The club was closed for the day, since it was Christmas. Murphy and Catherine, the sisters, were sitting together, quietly listening to music on their headphones. Michael wanted to ask what they were listening to. He didn’t, but that was only because they became timid when a man walked up to them. That’s why they were the chefs of Distractions. While they were sitting together, Jannice sat with Maria. She had initially tried sitting with him, but Alice had used her fists to claim the spot next to him, not that he was complaining.Bookmark here

“Relax, Alice,” Jannice said. “You should be pleased that he's even looking at you. It means he thinks you're attractive.” She sent a smile Michael's way. It was a smile that disturbed Michael a lot, because it sort of reminded him of those pictures he'd seen of sharks. “I know I wouldn't mind if he looked at me.”Bookmark here

While Michael shuddered (he may feel a good deal of compassion for this woman, but that didn't mean she didn't scare the Bejebus out of him), Alice glared. “Just because you enjoy having some perv ogle you like a piece of meat doesn't mean that I do.”Bookmark here

“Then why are you even working here?”Bookmark here

“Because I don't have any other places I can work that pays as well, you nitwit!”Bookmark here

“So we're resorting to name calling now? How juvenile can you get?”Bookmark here

“I'll show you juvenile!”Bookmark here

Alice and Jannice stood up, out of their seats, and began glaring at each other. Michael and the others, who sat between them, watched on as the figurative sparks flew from their eyes. He could’ve sworn he actually saw lightning flash from their glares.Bookmark here

“Alright, you two, simmer down.” Maria, acting as the presiding head over this unusual Christmas gathering, also stood up and sent both women a look. “The food will be here soon, and I don't need you two ruining the festivities with your pointless arguing.”Bookmark here

Alice and Jannice glared for just a little while longer, and then looked away with a huff.Bookmark here

The food soon arrived. Rather than have their resident chefs make them food, Maria had ordered Chinese take-out. The place she ordered it from did delivery, so there had been no need for any of them to travel the seven miles to pick it up.Bookmark here

Michael had never eaten Chinese cuisine. While Alice swore up and down that Manda Panda was one of the best Chinese places in the world, he had been too iffy on trying their stuff. Some of the food just looked odd. He would stick to pizza, thank you very much.Bookmark here

He would admit that he sort of regretted not trying Chinese food sooner. It was good. Not amazing, but tasty. And he really did like those pot sticker things.Bookmark here

“See?” Alice said, grinning at him. “I told you Chinese food was awesome.”Bookmark here

“Yes, yes,” Michael sighed. “You did, and I didn't listen. I'm sorry.”Bookmark here

Alice bopped him on the head, but it was nowhere near as bad as her “Grayfield Fist” attacks, so it didn't hurt.Bookmark here

“Your sarcasm is unneeded,” she said. “And the next time I suggest we get some Manda Panda, you're going to try it too.”Bookmark here

“Sure.”Bookmark here

As the dinner continued and conversation flowed, Michael found himself paying more and more attention to Alice. She was looking rather radiant these days, and that brilliance had never been more evident than now. Sitting there, discussing something with the perpetually shy but hard-working Catherine about something, a smile on her face, his roommate had never looked more beautiful.Bookmark here

There must be something wrong with him.Bookmark here

“Alice has been smiling a lot more these days.” The comment, made innocuously by Maria, caused Michael to turn his head. “Did you know that in all the time I've known her, she's never smiled like this?”Bookmark here

Michael shook his head. “I didn't know that.”Bookmark here

“You're the reason she's smiling.” Maria had her own smile on, one that looked too large for such a pretty face. “Did you know that?”Bookmark here

“Really?” Michael looked skeptical. “We are talking about the same Alice, right? The one that's always hitting me and scolding me for being a perv?”Bookmark here

“Of course we are,” Maria said, “and since I've known Alice a lot longer than you, I can say with absolute certainty that you are the reason she smiles so much. She only started smiling like that a few days after you showed up.”Bookmark here

Was it odd that her words caused him to feel breathless? Maybe. He looked over at Alice again, at the way she held herself, the way she spoke, her face, her smile, he took it all in and began to wonder. Was he really the reason she was so happy? Did he really make her smile? And why did his chest feel so warm at the thought?Bookmark here

“What are you staring at pervert?”Bookmark here

Uh oh.Bookmark here

“Eh!? No wait! Alice―”Bookmark here

“Grayfield Fist!”Bookmark here

“Laoth!”Bookmark here

~The Archangel Michael~Bookmark here

The night was brisk, chilly. A cold breeze swept through the streets, causing anyone still on them to freeze. Or walk faster.Bookmark here

Alice and Michael were the ones walking faster.Bookmark here

“Tonight was fun,” Michael said. He smiled at Alice as they raced to her apartment. Alice, to his surprise, matched his smile.Bookmark here

“Yeah, it was. Even though Jannice almost ruined it.”Bookmark here

“You were just as eager to pick a fight as she was, if I recall correctly.”Bookmark here

“Do I have to give you another beat-down tonight?”Bookmark here

“Eek! I-I mean no, Mistress Alice, please don't.”Bookmark here

“That's better.” A pause. “And what's up with the mistress?”Bookmark here

“Erm? Sorry.” Michael flushed. “I remember hearing Jannice say something about how she wished someone would call her mistress and the words just sort of came out for some reason.”Bookmark here

“Ugh, please don't listen to anything that woman says.”Bookmark here

“Okay.”Bookmark here

When the pair arrived at the apartment, they were in for quite the surprise. Alice, more so than Michael.Bookmark here

Reaching the apartment door, they were greeted to the sight of a figure slumped against the wall. Michael, with his hawkish eyes, could make out raven hair and a pale face with a slightly pointed chin. This woman, she looked a lot like Alice.Bookmark here

“M-Mom!?”Bookmark here

Ah. that would explain it.Bookmark here

Wait.Bookmark here

“That's your mother?” asked Michael, only for Alice to not answer him. The young woman rushed to her mother's side, kneeling down and trying to lift her up. She couldn't. The woman's limp body flopped and floundered, dead to the world and dead weight to Alice.
“Help me out here, Michael.”Bookmark here

Michael didn't hesitate to help. Together, they lifted the insensate woman up between them, each one wrapping one of her arms around their shoulders. Up close, they could smell the woman's breath as she inhaled and exhaled. It stank of alcohol and Lord-only-knew what else.Bookmark here

The Archangel also noticed that her teeth had been rotted out; they were yellow and stained, with mold covering her gums and several teeth missing. Her hair, which he could see much more clearly now as it fell about the woman's slumped head, looked stringy and rough, coarse, like sandpaper. This woman might have once been a beauty comparable to her daughter, but her lifestyle had obviously caused those looks to wither.Bookmark here

“Ngg...”Bookmark here

As Alice brought out her keys and unlocked the door, the woman stirred. Her head bobbed once before jerking upright. Dark blue eyes flickered beneath ragged bangs. She turned her head left, then right, before stopping on Michael.Bookmark here

She smiled.Bookmark here

It wasn't a very pretty smile.Bookmark here

“Hey there, handsome. Want me to show you a good time?” she asked, her voice hoarse and scratchy, probably from drug abuse.Bookmark here

“I'm not really sure that's a good idea, um, ma'am.”Bookmark here

“Aw, come on.” Her toothy grin unnerved Michael more than Jannice's shark-like smile. “I promise I don't bite.”Bookmark here

“Well, that's nice, I guess.” Michael hoped Alice wouldn't mind if he dropped this woman. She was really making him uncomfortable. “But I'm still not interested. And your daughter is on the other side of you.”Bookmark here

“Daughter?” The woman turned her head to stare at Alice. The door was unlocked now, and Alice and Michael half-carried, half-dragged the young woman's mother over the threshold. Alice's mother just squinted. “You know, you look awfully familiar. Do I know you from somewhere?”Bookmark here

Alice just barely withheld a sob.Bookmark here

Her mother passed out soon after that, and Alice and Michael managed to take the drugged out woman to her bedroom. Unlike Alice's room, her mother's room was fully furnished with a bed and a dresser, and it even had a nightstand, though all of the furniture was second hand.Bookmark here

Michael would have wondered why her mother's room had all of the furniture when she was almost never home, but he didn't need to wonder. He knew. Alice, even if she said she had given up on her mom, still hoped that the woman would one day return and they could be a family again.Bookmark here

It made his chest ache.Bookmark here

After some effort, they set the woman down on the bed and pulled up the covers. The two then adjourned to the living room, where they both sat next to the small, potted Christmas tree positioned on the coffee table.Bookmark here

“I'm sorry you had to see that,” Alice said, her voice soft, coarse, and filled with emotions Michael felt should never be heard in her voice.Bookmark here

“It's alright.” Michael really didn't know what to do in this situation. What do you say to someone whose mother just returned after at least one or more months of absence, drunk, high on drugs, and unable to even remember her own daughter?Bookmark here

“I bet you're wondering what that was all about.” Alice sniffed. Michael had wondered, but he really didn't feel like asking. He was afraid of the answer. “My mom, she did so much drugs they ended up giving her severe brain damage. According to the doctor I took her to, the area that was damaged was the Cerebral Cortex, the part that deals with memories. A good chunk of them are missing.”Bookmark here

Michael wondered if hearts made a sound when shattering, because he could have sworn he just heard his break.Bookmark here

“I'm sorry,” he said. What else could he say? Even a “sorry” felt weak in the face of such a distressing issue.Bookmark here

Alice rubbed at her eyes with the sleeves of her jacket, or rather, Michael's jacket. “S'not your fault. Don't worry about it.”Bookmark here

Michael did worry about it. He could tell that Alice had not gotten over this. He wanted to do something for her, to take away the pain she felt, to help her get over this problem and heal the wound no doubt resided in her heart. He desired to do all this, but he didn't know how. All he could do was redirect her mind away from her mother and onto something else.Bookmark here

“Why don't we open each other's presents?”Bookmark here

Since it was Christmas, presents seemed to be the best way of taking Alice's mind off her problems. Sure, it wasn't Christmas day, which was when they would have normally opened presents. But sometimes, you've gotta make sacrifices for the sake of keeping the atmosphere light in the face of such gloom.Bookmark here

And it worked, at least a little. Alice perked up. “Yeah. That sounds like a good idea.” She reached over and grabbed the gift she had bought him, shoving it in front of his face. “And you're going to open mine first.”Bookmark here

“I thought it was usually ladies first.”Bookmark here

“You look girly enough.”Bookmark here

“Aw, gee, thanks. I've always wanted to be told that I look like a chick. Maybe now I'll be let into the female side of the hot springs since I look 'girly enough.'”Bookmark here

“Do you want me to hit you?”Bookmark here

“... No.”Bookmark here

“Then shut up and open your damn present!”Bookmark here

Looking at the object in his hands, Michael couldn't determine what it was. It was in a box, that much was clear, and wrapped in red and green paper. He held it to his face, eyes narrowed. He shook the box, listening carefully.Bookmark here

Nope. He still couldn't tell what it was.Bookmark here

“Don't just look at it,” Alice urged. “Apen it.”Bookmark here

“Mu~ Don't rush me. This is the first Christmas present I've ever gotten, you know. I want to savor the moment.” When Alice just tossed him a look that contained both amusement and annoyance, he unwrapped it, opened the box, and unraveled the item inside.Bookmark here

As Michael stared at the white T-shirt in his hands, he could only think of one thing to say.Bookmark here

“I like big butts?”Bookmark here

He looked at Alice, a single raised eyebrow.Bookmark here

“I tried to find one that said 'I like big boobs,' but they didn't have any,” she admitted.
The shirt that Alice had gotten Michael was a large white T-shirt. On the front was the image of a very big booty. Michael had once heard it called a black booty, but he didn't really know what that meant. Underneath the large rear end were the words “I like big butts” in bold lettering.Bookmark here

“I'm really not sure how I should take this,” he said.Bookmark here

“With a thank you and a smile.”Bookmark here

Michael deadpanned. Alice just smiled. Eventually, against his will, Michael smiled too.
“Thanks, Alice,” he said softly. “I'll be sure to treasure this.”Bookmark here

“N-no need to go that far,” Alice said, blushing. She looked away. “It's just a Christmas present.”Bookmark here

Michael just smiled. “And now it's time for my present.” He gave a wide grin as he handed her the small box. Like Alice's, it was wrapped in red and green paper, which made sense because they used the same wrapping paper. That's what happened when two people lived together.Bookmark here

Alice took the box, much smaller than the one she'd given him, carefully unwrapped the paper and opened the box. Inside was a small slip of paper. She looked at the paper, and then at Michael. “If this is an IOU, I swear I'm gonna hurt you.”Bookmark here

“It's not,” he said. “Just unfold it and read it.”Bookmark here

Alice unfolded it, but she couldn't read it. “It's too dark.”Bookmark here

“Oh, right. Let me turn on the lights.”Bookmark here

Michael went over and turned on the lights. He then sat back down and watched Alice's face morph from skeptical to shocked in two seconds.Bookmark here

She looked at him, her eyes the size of ping pong balls. “Michael, this is...”Bookmark here

“It's not quite a bed,” he said, rubbing the back of his neck, “but it was the best I could do on such short notice.”Bookmark here

Michael, with a little help from Clara, managed to buy her a queen sized memory foam mattress. the sheet of paper in her hand was the receipt for it. It also gave the date for when the mattress would arrive. Because Michael didn't have a car, he'd had to pay a little extra for the delivery, which had really cut a large chunk from his funds.Bookmark here

Seeing Alice's face, he could only think one thing.Bookmark here

Totally worth it.Bookmark here

“I figured it would be more comfortable than that blow up mattress in your room,” he continued, noticing that Alice was still staring at him. “It should arrive the day after Christmas.” His expression became sheepish. “I tried seeing if they could deliver it on Christmas morning, but apparently no one works that day.”Bookmark here

When Alice still didn't answer him, he looked at her.Bookmark here

He was surprised to see tears streaming down her face like small droplets of clear crystals.Bookmark here

“A-Alice?” he said in alarm, “are you―”Bookmark here

As Alice collapsed against his chest, wrapping her arms around him and crying into his shirt, all words fled him. For the second time since they'd met, Michael had made her cry. He felt like the biggest dick in the world.Bookmark here

No. That was not a sexual reference.Bookmark here

“A-Alice! I'm sorry! I didn't mean to make you cry! P-please, don't cry!”Bookmark here

“I-idiot,” Alice muttered through her tears and hiccups. “I-I'm not crying because I'm sad.”Bookmark here

“You're not?” Michael was confused, naturally. Why else would someone cry if not because they were sad?Bookmark here

“No.” Alice looked up at him, her eyes a brilliant glimmer within the night, outshining the light bulb overhead, which was very impressive because that light bulb was brand spanking new. “I'm crying because I'm happy.”Bookmark here

“Oh.” Michael relaxed. “I didn't know people could do that.”Bookmark here

Alice shook her head. “You really are an idiot, aren't you?”Bookmark here

“That's mean...”Bookmark here

Michael trailed off as Alice continued to look up at him. His heartbeat quickened as she began to lean up, her head tilting back, eyes fluttering closed, lips pursing. Oh, snap! She was going to kiss him! What should he do? Could he really let her do this? Let her kiss him? Would that be right? Was it so wrong? He liked her, and she seemed to like him. Would God be upset if he kissed Alice?Bookmark here

“Azazel, for consorting with a human woman, I hereby banish you from Heaven, never to return. From now on, you will be forced to live on earth as one of the fallen, and your black wings shall signify your fall.”Bookmark here

Michael remembered when Azazel had been judged and sentenced. How his friend had been banished because he'd become intimate with a human woman. How God had, after Azazel was driven from Heaven, warned all the other angels that the same fate awaited them should they consort with humans in acts of sexual reproduction.Bookmark here

He couldn't do it. He couldn't let her kiss him.Bookmark here

Incapable of thinking up another way of stopping Alice from kissing him, Michael pulled the girl into a tight hug.Bookmark here

“Michael?” Her voice sounded lost, confused. It just broke Michael's heart more.Bookmark here

“I-I'm sorry, but I can't,” he whispered. “We can't do this.”Bookmark here

“What? Why not?” Alice, with some effort, pushed herself out of Michael's grip. The look she gave him made his entire body feel simultaneously hot and bone-chilling cold. “Is it because I'm not attractive enough? Because I don't have tits like Clara or Jannice? Is that why you don't want me?”Bookmark here

“No! By the Almighty no.” Michael shook his head. “Alice, you… you're the most amazing, beautiful people I've ever met.”Bookmark here

His earnestness must have shone through because now she just looked confused and a little hurt.Bookmark here

“Then why won't you kiss me?”Bookmark here

“Because I'm… Alice, I'm the Archangel.”Bookmark here

Alice scowled. “Not this again.”Bookmark here

“I'm not lying to you.” Michael looked down at her, trying to make her understand that he really was being honest, that this wasn't just some excuse so they wouldn't kiss. “I know you don't believe me, but I'm telling the truth. I really am the Archangel, and as an Angel, as the Archangel, I'm not allowed to consort with human women like that.”Bookmark here

“Don't lie to me,” Alice snapped. “I know you're not some Angel. If you were, you wouldn't be this impure. You wouldn't be such a fucking pervert.” Michael winced. “You don't have to lie to make me feel better.” She stood up, tears of anger and hurt spilling from her eyes. “I get it, okay. I fucking get it. You don't want to be with me.”Bookmark here

“That's not true!” Michael tried, but Alice just glared at him. “It's not that I don't want to be with you! It's that I can't! It's not allowed.” He reached a hand out to her, but Alice slapped it away and took a step back. Michael felt his heart break.Bookmark here

“Don't touch me!”Bookmark here

“Please… Alice… I…”Bookmark here

“Thanks a lot for ruining Christmas, Michael.”Bookmark here

Michael watched her leave, the feeling in his heart, the pain, the hurt, that strange ache that made him want to rip the blood pumping organ out of his chest, increased two-fold with each step she took away from him. When the door to her bedroom closed, Michael clutched at his chest, the pain turning into an almost physical agony.Bookmark here

He looked up at the ceiling, heedless of the tears running down his face. “Why are you doing this to me? Is this your true punishment? If so, then what do I need to do to make it stop? Please, God. Tell me.”Bookmark here

But of course, God didn't tell him.Bookmark here

Because he was in Heaven while Michael was on Earth.Bookmark here

~The Archangel Michael~Bookmark here

Michael and Alice were not the only ones who were having problems that Christmas. There was another person, a young man, who's Christmas sucked just as much as theirs, maybe even more than theirs.Bookmark here

He wandered the streets, his clothing ruffling in the chill winter breeze. He held a bottle of gin in one hand and a lit fag in the other. Bloodshot eyes peeked out from underneath his unkempt hair. They appeared glazed and dull―the eyes of someone who watched their life crumble around their ears like a house of cards caught in a level five hurricane.Bookmark here

Dustin had been a wreck ever since his failed attempt at teaching Alice a lesson. He had no girlfriend, his friends ignored him, afraid and ashamed of what he'd done, and to top it all off, both Michael and Alice had humiliated him. His grades were beginning to suffer too, and he'd been kicked off the varsity football team, all because of that night.Bookmark here

He wanted revenge. He wanted to teach those two a lesson they wouldn't soon forget. But how? How could he when Michael had so thoroughly thrashed him? What could he do when someone else was just that much better at fighting than he was?Bookmark here

“Would you like me to take revenge for you, boy?”Bookmark here

Dustin's eyes widened. “Who's there!?” He shouted, whirling around, searching frantically. “Show yourself!”Bookmark here

“Now don't be like that, child,” the voice said, soothing and melodic, beautiful in ways Dustin could not begin to fathom. Just hearing that voice caused the ache in his soul to vanish, disappearing like it had never existed. “I merely wish to help. You want to take revenge on Alice and Michael, right?”Bookmark here

“Y-Yes,” Dustin said, nodding. He did. He wanted revenge so much, dreamed of it every night. These days, it was all he could think about.Bookmark here

“Of course you do, and I wish to help.”Bookmark here

“How?”Bookmark here

“Give yourself over to me. Give yourself to me, and I will make sure that your friends return, that your girlfriend comes running back to you, but most important of all, give yourself to me, and I shall get revenge for you. I will make those two regret what they did to you.”Bookmark here

As the voice continued to speak, caressing his mind with a gentle touch, like a long lost lover, Dustin found himself nodding. Yes. If he couldn't take revenge for himself, then he could have this voice do it for him. The answer was so obvious now that he almost wondered why he hadn't thought of it before.Bookmark here

“Okay. Just make sure to make those two pay.”Bookmark here

“Of course.” The voice sounded pleased. “Do not worry. I will take care of everything.”Bookmark here

You can resume reading from this paragraph.