The lights were much too bright after I’d been in the dark for so long. And it smelled like coffee and donuts. I walked over to the glass doors that housed an array of different beverages and grabbed chocolate milk. I shook it, listening to the milk swooshing back and forth as I turned to the isle of chips and found what I had been so hell-bent on having: Muncho’s. I opened the bag, and the fresh aroma made my stomach cramp.
“Give me all your money!” I heard a deep voice yell from the front of the store. “Everyone hit the floor!” The voice was angry, hatred penetrating every word.
I tilted my body to the side, trying to see what was going on. A tall man wearing a blue ski mask held a small gun to the cashier’s temple. He moved the gun away from the frightened man and waved it at the crowd of frozen people—shock and fear written all over their faces—before all of them slowly hit the floor.
I stepped back, calmly, until my back touched the cold cases of drinks, and then slid down to the ground. My back against the glass made a light squeaking noise.
I thought for a moment. I could run and try to make it out of here alive, or I could sit, eat my chips, drink my milk, and meet my fate head on. I knew it was only a matter of time before my fate caught up with me. I was sick of spreading untimely demise on everyone around me—on everyone I loved.
Michael’s face and his music played across my mind. I was only glad that he hadn’t had the chance to get attached, not that he seemed to care. I still couldn’t help but think of how protectively he positioned himself in front of me when Yuma turned his glare on me. I could tell he was trying to shield me from some unknown threat, but from what? The only person I seemed to need protection from was me.
For a moment, I allowed my mind to wonder to pleasant things. Such as, what was on his mind? What was he about? So many unanswered questions plagued me. Maybe heaven, if that’s where I was headed, would be able to answer them for me.
“Stay down or I’ll blow each and every one of your heads completely off your bodies. Do you understand?” No one answered. There were hushed cries among the people.
It was only a matter of time now before he found me, hiding like a coward, crunching my potatoes, guzzling my chocolate bliss. I looked forward, trying to find an open space between the chips, to see if anyone else was hiding between the aisles. Then, like a ghost, the shadow of a large figure, moving swiftly across the wall, caught my attention. What was that shape? I squinted, opened my eyes, and squinted again, trying to make out the odd figure. It seemed to be…angel wings. I checked my head—no liquid. I wasn’t dead. Yet.
“What are you doing?” a strange, accented voice said to me. But even though it was strange, I instinctively knew who it was. Michael. The fedora-wearing, music-playing, muscular angel. The hat was still on his head.
I must have cursed him when he captured my attention back at the bar. I felt a huge amount of guilt as he sat before me, the magnet for demise.
“I’m sitting here, waiting for my death.” I took another sip of my drink.
“I see that.”
“I wouldn’t sit there, if I were you. I’m a hazard to your health. If you want to get out of this alive, you might want to go and sit with the oodles of noodles.” I took a chip and popped it in my mouth, trying to crunch quietly so I wouldn’t draw attention to Michael.
He was much too beautiful to die, of this I was sure. Especially to die this way. If there was any way for him to go, which was hard for me to imagine, it would be in a blaze of glory. Fire exploding around him while he marched through smoke rings to some unknown sphere reserved for people who were that beautiful and perfect. I couldn’t see it any other way.
“Have you lost your bloody mind!”
“Oh, sorry.” I didn’t mean to be rude. I offered him the bag. “Muncho?”
“Put the damn chips down, woman, and get behind me.”
“Sorry, no can do.” I stared at his face for a moment, anticipating the big pop. At least if I was going out of this world, his face would be the last thing I saw on this earth. Heaven before heaven.
He grunted. “I am aiming for heaven, but I’m going to wind up in hell dealing with you.” He shook his head and sat next to me with a deflated look plastered to his face.
The man with the hidden face found us and pointed the gun toward me. I sat, dazed, again—helpless prey locked in the snake’s eyes—unable to make a noise. I took Michael’s hand, warm and blissful, and for a moment, I couldn’t imagine anyone else being next to me. But he pulled away from my embrace and locked eyes with the masked man. Slowly rising from the floor, his shoulders squared, he seemed bigger than his medium build in this moment. Carefully, with his hands held high, he moved toward the man, never withdrawing his blue eyes from the gunman’s face. Suddenly he stopped, right between Diet Coke and Pepsi, and the two just eyed each other.
I waited for the fire, for the smoke rings to appear, but nothing happened. Minutes trickled on, dragging out the intense showdown.
The angry man lifted the gun and took a step toward Michael, pointing the weapon directly at his head. I couldn’t look away. I could hear my heart screaming, my mind begging, “Please! God no! Not him!” I wanted to look away, but I was paralyzed.