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episode fourteen - the powerful part five
Enoch didn't let me get away from him so easily as you might think that day at Cedar Cliff recently. I'd pushed past him, but he just couldn't leave things alone.
"I see you're not trying to claim otherwise," he called after me. He'd just said my father was a rapist. As I've explained, between what Phyllis Cross had said and what my father hadn't said, I knew that Enoch was correct about this.
I turned around, faced down the alleged angel. "I know what my father is." I glanced down the hall. There were no doctors, no orderlies, no patients in sight. Enoch and I were alone. "Was," I corrected. "I know what my father was."
"Problems getting people to believe you, though, right?"
I nodded. "You know there were. I told you about them." I'd talked to Enoch one day at the old church shortly after discovering the truth about my father. I'd just been to the police, and no one believed what I told them about my father.
"That's right, you did, didn't you. You took my story in the church to heart, didn't you?"
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"I'm just saying, maybe you missed the point in it."
"Or maybe you did. Just because it was your story doesn't mean you know what it's about. Unless you're going to admit that you just made it all up. Admit you're no angel."
Enoch smiled. "You believe I'm an angel, son. I know you do. So did Olivia."
"I know she did. That's part of why she killed herself."
"Told you that, did she?"
"You know, you shouldn't admit to such things in these halls. Wouldn't they just love it if they knew you thought Olivia came to see you after she was dead?"
"Plenty of people think I'm crazy already. What difference would it make now?"
"Admissions always make all the difference, son. No matter what someone knows about you, no matter what you know about someone else, an outright admission always changes everything."
At this, it was Enoch's turn to walk away from me. As he headed down the hall, I heard him say, "tell your mother I said hello." Then he was gone, vanished around a corner, vanished into thin air, gone.
I continued on my way to my mother's room, careful not to be seen by anyone else. I thought about Enoch mentioning my mother, and I remembered something he'd told me before, that he'd known my mother long ago.
I'd talked to Enoch only one other time since Olivia's death. In the interim three years, I'd not really wanted to talk to him. I blamed him for Olivia's death. Not completely, of course. I could list all the causes of her death--and surely, I would make that list just as much as my father might--but ultimately it does not matter what all caused it. Finding the cause, punishing those responsible--that just won't bring her back. Hell, it won't even bring back her ghost. I didn't care to talk to Enoch. But, there were times that I imagined finding him, telling him off for his part in her death. I wanted him to know just how much he'd hurt me, how much he'd hurt Jaimie. I wanted him to know that, angel or not, he was not a good man. He was no saint. I imagined excuses to be at that old church again, happening upon him inside, perhaps enthralling some group of younger kids with one of his stories, perhaps convincing some other depressed girl that there WAS an afterlife so she could go ahead and kill herself, perhaps just sitting there alone, and I'd interrupt whatever he was doing and I'd yell at him. I'd make him stop his angel bullshit once and for all.
Jaimie wanted to talk to him for completely different reasons. She didn't understand quite what he'd done to her sister. She believed he really was an angel and could tell her something that would make it all mean something. She thought he could make her sister's death mean something more than it did. And, on some other level, she was mad at him, like she understand he held some of the blame for her sister's death but wasn't quite sure how. And, though I didn't believe Enoch could alleviate any of the scar Olivia's death had left on her little's sister's heart, I conceded a few times. I walked Jaimie to that old church, looking for Enoch. But, he was never there.
Usually, we'd find no one at all. Occasionally, we'd find some kids playing around. Once, we'd found some guys, teenage and older, drinking. I remember now Sam Carson being among them, but I must admit I'm not sure if my imagination places him there now or if he was really there then. Another boyfriend Phyllis Cross has had was also there, some guy whose name escapes me. And, Dalton Phillips was there. I hid when I saw Dalton. I don't know why.
Then, there was a day I went over there alone. I don't recall what got me headed that direction that particular day. Jaimie was with some friends of hers. Haley was off doing something with Kyle. Josh and Barbara were at the playground, but I just wasn't in the mood for useless playground games. Swinging on swings just seemed so silly that day. I'd spent the previous afternoon talking to Paul Lodge, a local cop. He'd practically laughed in my face when I'd told him that my father had raped Olivia. I wanted nothing but to find some real proof of what my father had done, to show everyone who he really was. And, wouldn't they all just love it? Wouldn't they just love that the patriarch of the Adams family was not only the trash they often said he was but much much worse? I was thinking of this, smiling over it, when I found myself in front of the old church.
It was strange. I hadn't even realized I was walking in its direction. I hadn't noticed as I passed out of the main part of town into the rundown, mostly empty section where the church stood. It was the sound of wings flapping that awoke me to knowing where I was, oddly. I looked around, but saw no bird. I looked up into the belltower, thinking maybe it was that bird that had sat there on that fateful day when we first met Enoch. But, there was no bird there either. I looked around. Not only were there no birds, but there were no people, no bugs, no smaller animals, no life of any kind, save a few trees, most of which looked to be dying anyway. And, the place was quiet as could be. Not like that day before, though, when there had seemed to be no sound. I could still hear myself breathe. But, it was like there was no one and nothing anywhere nearby that dared make a sound. This was an altogether more ominous thing than that total absence of sound. This was almost scary.
Then, a sound broke the silence. The door to the church opened. Enoch stood in the doorway. He said nothing. He just looked at me, moved to the side so I could pass him and enter. And, I did just that. I entered the church. Enoch followed and let the door fall back into place behind him.
There were so many things I wanted to say to him, so many things I NEEDED to say. But, when I opened my mouth to speak, no words came out.
"I know, son," he said. "I know."
The thing is, I believed him. I believed that he knew everything I needed to say. And, there was a sadness in his eyes that told me he knew of his responsibility in Olivia's death. In fact, the sadness in his eyes made me think he'd had a hand in many more deaths than just that one.
"It's hard being one of us, you know," he said. "Being an angel, I mean. You'd think it's easy, that getting to know God and getting to carry people to heaven and all those wonderful things would make this such a great life." He smiled, and it looked foreign next to the sadness that preceded it. "Afterlife," he corrected. He let out a short laugh, then his smile slipped away, nearly as abruptly as it had appeared, and he continued talking. "Dying, becoming an angel--it doesn't take away the grief of it all. When you are stuck near so much death it still hurts."
"You're not an angel," I said.
He shrugged. What that shrug meant, I don't know.
"Close your eyes, Travis," he said.
I hesitated, then went ahead and closed them.
"What do you see?"
"I don't see anything," I told him. But even as I spoke those words, I DID see something. I saw Olivia. She wasn't alive; this wasn't a memory. She was an angel, a ghost, an apparition put there in the darkness of my imagination.
"What do you see, Travis?" It sounded like Olivia's voice mixed in with Enoch's.
"I see Olivia."
"And, what do you feel?"
I didn't know how to explain what I felt. Seeing her there, smiling at me, seeing her so close that I wanted to reach out and touch her, I felt like everything in the world was as it should be. I felt what it was to be loved and trusted by someone completely.
"I love you, Travis," Olivia said. "I trust you to do what's right."
She nodded and came closer to me. "You'll protect James from Sam Carson. And, you'll let people know what your father did to me. You'll make them question everyone who was there that night I was..." Her voice drifted off. There was no longer a smile on her face. "I trust you to get a proper resolution out of all this."
"Resolution, retribution, revenge, however you want to say it."
"You don't sound like the Olivia I knew. She wouldn't want vengeance out of this."
"I said 'resolution' first. I don't want vengeance. I want to know that my little sister is being taken care of. I want to know that she's safe. I want to know that I was right to trust you with her life. I want to know that I can trust you with mine."
"You're dead," I replied. "You can't trust me with YOUR life."
"My life goes far beyond the twelve years I had. My life started long before my birth, and has continued past my death and will keep on going. It's not all about mortal life, Travis. I think you know that. You believe I'm here. You believe I appeared to you in your bedroom. You choose to believe I'm real rather than believe you are--"
"Trav's going nuts just like his mother," someone's voice cried out. I opened my eyes, spun around to see who it was. But, no one was in the church but me and Enoch, and he stood silently.
"Close your eyes, son," he said. I did so.
Olivia was there again, closer to me now. "You believe I'm at least a ghost if not an angel," she said. "So, I think you understand that our mortal lives are not all there is. And, after my own mortal life, there's not just this." She reached out and waved her arm through me. Yes, through me. "Noncorporeal," she said. "Hard to get used to." She smiled again. "But, it's not there is for me now. I reside still on your plane, in your memories, in my sister's memories, in my mother's memories, in the minds and hearts of everyone who ever knew me, in police reports, in homework, in carved initials on a tree or two. I'm still in all those things. Parts of me are still out there in your world. And, through them, I'm still alive. It's not the same as me really being alive, but, well, it's something. And, it is THAT life that I trust you with. I don't want vengeance. I don't expect you to hunt down my father and kill him, nothing so dramatic as that. I don't expect you to do anything to your own father or to Jerry Sedgwick or Carl Silvers. But, maybe you'll tell people the truth about what happened. And, even if only one or two believe you, it'll count for something."
"They don't believe me," I said. I opened my eyes and looked at Enoch. "No one will believe me. They chose to ignore what really happened years ago. They're not going to let me dig up the past now, not without proof."
"Conviction is proof enough," Enoch said. "If you believe it, if you let them see that you believe it, they will believe it too."
Mesmerized just a little, but nothing like that first day Enoch had spoken to us, I believed him. I closed my eyes again, and Olivia was there, inches from me.
"You'll do what's right, Travis," she said. And, she leaned in and kissed me. Her lips on mine were strange, like ice, like fire, like a breeze, a burst of electricity, like a real kiss but so much more. And, even as she backed away from me and faded back into the darkness of my imagination, I could still feel her lips on mine. Kissing a ghost, or kissing an angel--I'd highly recommend it.
Enoch gestured to one of the pews and I sat down. He sat down next to me. And, he told me a story.
"There's a man named Jonathan," he began. "He's wanted since he was a boy to be President when he grows up. A lofty goal, sure. He knows that. But, he really wanted to do it. He hears his father talking about the state of politics these days, and he wants to get in there and clean it all up. He wants to make his father proud.
"He's already a councilman in the town where he lives. He's got a good chance to be mayor once he gets a little older, or at least starts looking his age. He's got a boyish appearance. It'll get him votes, sure, but it will also cost him some. There are those who will love his youth, and there are those who abhor it. In the end, he'll probably win, but it will be close."
"What's your point," I asked.
Enoch started. He glanced over at me.
"You're not so hypnotic this time," I told him.
"Well, this isn't one of my better stories," he said. "I apologize. I'll get on with it."
"Jonathan's father is already proud of what his son has accomplished. But, he wants him to see his dream fulfilled. He wants him to be Mayor, to be Governor, to be President. And, he'll do anything to make sure it happens.
"There are some men who have organized to try to keep Jonathan from being Mayor. They don't like his politics and they're willing to stoop to some very low levels to keep him out of the office.
"And, Jonathan will never make it any further if he doesn't win this one. No one knows this, not even Jonathan, but I've seen it in his heart. He just doesn't have the strength to recover from defeat at this point. He just doesn't."
"You're not an angel," I said. "You can't see into people's hearts."
Enoch glared at me. "You just spoke to your dead friend in front of me, and yet you persist in trying not to believe in such things." He shook his head.
"Yes, son, I am."
"I'm not your son."
Enoch was silent for a moment. He looked up through the incomplete ceiling and roof to the sky above. I followed his lead and looked up as well. It was a clear day, not a cloud in sight, the sky a beautiful shade of blue.
"There's so much going on under that sky," Enoch said. "People living, people dying. People loving, people hating. People making war, people striving for peace. People who--"
"Just get on with your story already," I said.
He looked at me again, then looked down. "Jonathan's father will stoop farther than any of the men who want to keep Jonathan out of office. Jonathan's father is prepared to kill if he has to. He doesn't even realize that when his son learns of what he's done, he'll resign his post and it will all be for nothing.
"He'll kill to see his son's dream come true. It will be an act of love, in its own way. But, it will--"
"--also be an act of hate," I finished. "Did you waste all the good stories on Olivia?
Enoch ignored me as best he could this time. "Jonathan will turn his own father in."
"And, the lesson is?"
"You don't see it?"
I shook my head. "You're telling me I have to turn my father in? Is that it? I've tried. I'll try again, but I don't think it's going to work. No one's gonna believe me."
Enoch just looked at me.
"Or, is it something else," I said. "Am I Jonathan's father in the story. Am I supposed to do whatever I have to, even kill, as long as it is for a good reason?"
"The lesson you find in any story you are told is simply your heart finding its own meaning, son."
"What's that supposed to mean?"
Enoch got up and headed for the door.
"Hey, come back. What's that supposed to mean? Am I supposed to kill someone? Am I supposed to turn them all in? Am I supposed to keep telling the police over and over and over until they believe me? What?"
Enoch kept walking. He lifted the door and went outside. I hurried after him, but the door fell back into place before I got to it. When I lifted it up and went outside myself, Enoch was nowhere in sight.
"What does it mean," I asked, though there was no one there to hear it, no one there to answer it.