Chapter 19

Here is a snap of my brain at work.  I am following my guardian angel down my apartment hallway to my bedroom where I will get into my bed with my now ‘not so normal’ cat, Emma, and I will fall asleep and said guardian angel, now named Fred, will watch over me until I wake up tomorrow morning…OMG!!!!

AND…he will continue to watch over me for the rest of my entire life.

AND…I will see him in action and no one else will.

AND…if I tell anyone, they will either lock me up…or send me somewhere with…you know…padded walls and people who always smile at you.

AND…FRED WILL BE THERE WITH ME!!!  WATCHING.  OVER.  ME…….FOR FUCKING EVER!!!!

And yet…and yet…I feel strangely peaceful and calm as I begin my normal sleep ritual.

First lying on my right side and then turning over to my left side where I fall asleep instantly…as I have done for 24 years.

“Tobey!!!  Wake up!!!  The fire alarm is going to go off in a couple of minutes.  You have to leave now.”

Chapter 20

My eyes flew open and I could hear Fred talking to me.  What did he mean?  The room wasn’t even smoky and there was no alarm…

      BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP

Oh…there it was.  Gosh that’s loud.  I’m always shocked how loud the alarm is.

Now there was enough smoke so I could smell it.  I shrugged on my slippers as I walked after Fred down my hallway and out the door into the apartment hall.  No one else was out there.

“This way,” said Fred.  He was leading me toward a foggy light at the end of the hall.  WTF…had I really died?  Was this the “light” that everyone keeps talking about when they die?

No, no of course not, I told myself.  It’s just the apartment emergency light.  WAKE UP TOBEY!!! I shouted to myself and shook my head and blinked my eyes.  There was a lot more smoke now.

Then I pulled back…

“Wait.  Where is Emma?  Do you have her?”  I hollered ahead to Fred.  Now I couldn’t see him very well.  The alarm was so much louder in the hallway, I could hardly hear my own voice.

“She’ll be fine, Tobey.  You have to leave now.”  His touch was more insistent but he wasn’t grabbing me.

“No!  I can’t leave Emma.  I’m going back Fred!”

I turned away and felt his touch on my arm disappear and I slowly made my way back down the now smoke-filled hallway until the red  from the EXIT sign showed I was at my door.  It hadn’t locked when I had closed it.

“Thanks God!!” I said out loud.

I pushed the door open and quickly closed it, making sure that Emma had not run out into the hall.

I knew where that little squirt would be…under my bed…where she always went when that dratted alarm went off.

The smoke was getting thicker.  I ran into my room coughing.  I shut the door in case Emma tried to slip out.

I clapped for my light to go on.  It did.  But then all the lights went out!

 

Epilogue:

Remember at the beginning…when I said this story was partly true?  Well…here is the true part.

One night about 12 years ago, I did wake up unexpectedly and as I was rolling over I saw a “black ribbon, shimmering in the corner.”

I looked at it for a few seconds and then closed my eyes and went back to sleep.  I had absolutely no fear and I recall smiling as I drifted away.  I knew I had seen something special.

When I woke up the next morning I realized I had accidentally seen one of my guardian angels.

Guardian angels are always around us…but we do not see them as a rule.  But occasionally it does happen.  Google it.

The rest of the story…just fun.  I hope you enjoyed it.

The “Real” End.

Chapter 31

Complicated conversations were not Stella’s strong suit.  She tended to stare off into space if I talked too long.  And in Stella’s world, too long was defined as one or two minutes.  A yawn often escaped.  But I liked it that she never turned away from me when I was talking.

“I wonder,” I said, “if this rose is connected to the someone, the as yet un-named someone, who said ‘good-by, Charlie’ or whatever to me last night?  And how does that someone know my real name?  We still haven’t figured that out.

“I should call Hanah and see if she remembers if there was anything odd that happened last night.  Or maybe she knows who shouted out my name.”

“Still sleeping, I bet,” said Stella.

I continued.

“Because I’m sure it has something to do with last night.  Of course, she had been pretty busy with that cute cop that wandered in around midnight.  He was pretty interested in her too.

“Lucky Hanah.” I said wistfully.

“You know she’s asleep.” persisted Stella.

“So you say.  But I should call her anyway to find out if she still wants to go to that party tonight at that after-hours place.”

Stella paused from another round of bathing and looked at me.  Her eyes were all squinty.

“I thought you were done going to those places…didn’t the cops raid that place a couple of weeks ago?”

I ignored the comment, knowing how true it was.

I really didn’t even want to go out at all tonight.  And I totally knew I shouldn’t go to that after-hours place.  And neither should Hanah.  If we ever got caught there we could lose our jobs.

Sometimes it sucks to be young and have a really great job.  You have to be so responsible.

“You weren’t very responsible last night.” said Stella.

“I know.  I know.  That…was the last time…for sure.”

“I’ll be keeping track.” said Stella.

I really just wanted to stay home and watch TV with Stella.  Eat hot buttered popcorn and ice cold Haagen Daz Belgian Chocolate ice cream.  Curl up on the sofa.  Watch the ‘Gilmore Girls’…again.

“I love the ‘Gilmore Girls'” sighed Stella.

 

Chapter 32

But…I was also foolishly hoping that maybe tonight would be the night that Bobby would come over during the band’s break and talk to me.  He was so cute.  Think Keanu Reeves with a guitar and a killer smile.

I had such a stupid crush on him even though it appeared that he maybe had a girlfriend. 

There was this gorgeous flight attendant from Delta (and yes, she came to the club in her uniform) who was without a doubt a ten.  Her name tag said, “Tiff”.  And yes, she kept her name tag on too…right on the shoulder of that oh so cute uniform.

During his break Bobby always went over and sat down with Tiff and her friends.  But I thought that last night he was heading in my direction until she crooked her little finger and signaled for him to bring her another drink…and so he did.

Some nerve, huh?  He wasn’t a waiter, for Pete’s sake.  But before he headed towards the bar he turned and had given me a super dazzling smile.

“Maybe he was trying to tell me something…like ‘I was going to come over to you but I have to do this to be polite…'” I pondered out loud.  Stella looked up at me.

“Wow.  That was an amazing stretch…even for you.  Hey, I have a better idea.  Just stay home.  With me.” Stella said.

I got on the bed and laid back against my pillows and closed my eyes, trying to bring up into my foggy, headachy brain last night’s smile from Bobby.  He had been smiling at me, hadn’t he?

I.  Am.  Never drinking that much again.  Ever.

Suddenly a memory flashed like a bolt of lightning in my brain.

A voice.  A man’s voice.

“You’re not driving tonight are you Charlie?”

And me, drunkenly oblivious to anyone but my own pitiful self, had waved a hand in the direction of the concerned voice and dismissed the question with what I thought was a brilliant answer.

“Driving?  Not tonight, babe.  I’m flying home tonight.  Simply flying.”

And then that’s it.  No more lightning bolts.

Chapter 33

Damnation!  Whose voice was that?  And Holy Crap!  He used my real name!  I have to call Hanah right now….or…maybe in an hour or so when I’m sure she will be up and in an agreeable mood to talk and maybe…alone.

Stella peeked her head out from under the covers.

“You look so cute under there.”  I said.  “I bet it’s really cozy.”

In the winter, Stella often burrowed under the covers on my bed and just poked her nose and ears out from underneath.  And…yes…I have several photos to prove it.  And…no…I was not a “crazy cat lady”.  I was pretty sure of that…at least not yet.

I started to move the covers so I could slide in next to Stella.  I kicked off my fuzzy slippers and carefully crawled in.

“Hey!  Don’t squish me!” said Stella.  And then she immediately closed her eyes and went to sleep.

Before my head hit the pillow, I looked one more time at that beautiful yellow rose.

And then to my complete surprise, tears welled in my eyes.  Hey!  What is this all about?  I usually don’t go down the teary,  self-pity road. I was more the “drown your sorrows in booze” type…and, thankfully, only once a year. Bu today I felt really, really alone.

“Me.  You have me, you know.” said Stella…who was actually not sleeping at all, but quietly listening to me…just like she always did.  She nuzzled a little closer to me.

“Indeed.  Oh, indeed.” I said and rolled over and meant to give some careful thought to all that was going on or not going on in my life.  But I fell asleep before one little thought could appear.

Chapter 34

LATER…

I was leaving Doyle’s a good twenty minutes after closing.  Everyone else had cleared out.  I had sent Hanah on her way with her new boyfriend, reassuring her that I was right behind her.  Her “new boyfriend” was the same guy she had met last night.

He was a first-year Minneapolis detective and drop dead good-looking.  Hanah was absolutely on fire.  She had talked of no one and nothing else all the way to Doyle’s…wondering if he would show up tonight like he promised.  She had also mentioned that she would probably be singing with the band.  Oh.  My.

And he had.  And she didn’t. Sing, that is.

They had been inseparable since the minute he walked in and I never got a chance to ask her if she knew who had called out my name last night.

Frankly, I was a little embarrassed to admit even to Hanah that I was drawing a blank about last night’s activities.

But then I discovered that I did not have my favorite pen…the one I always use to take notes.  I searched my purse for the umpteenth time and was not looking forward to pawing thru the rubble on the floor but I knew that was my next mission.

Even the bright white lights they usually put on to hurry us drinkers out into the forgiving darkness had now been replaced by the bar’s red, glowing security lights.

At most clubs, when the last note had been played, people quickly left in droves.  There were after-hour parties to go to and “romantic” hook-ups that needed completing.  But, I wasn’t going anywhere until I found that damn pen.

My dad had bought it for me when I was five years old.  He knew then he was dying and would not be around when I graduated from high school.  He died just before my seventh birthday.

Apparently, it was an old Peterson tradition to give a gold Cross pen to your son or daughter for graduation.  Even death was not going to stop my dad from doing just that.

As I was searching around underneath the nearby tables, I finally found it under some grubby napkins on the floor.  Nice.

When I stood up I got a little dizzy so I sat down and waited for my head to clear.