London, England – 1857

“Evil little witch. You’re trying to give me the sickness… like you did to my son! I’m soaked to my brittle bones! Frozen beyond repair!” Anastasia Riktophen droned on and on as she and her daughter in law sat on a bench along the side walk, perfectly safe and dry under the shielding of a building waiting for the quick shower to pass.

It was the same routine every day since they arrived in London. A stroll in the morning, lunch in the cafe… Polite chit chat in the afternoons and avoiding another deathtrap in the evenings. Granted, Anastasia was a crazy old women who was about as flighty as a bat… but she never failed to think up the most horrible and painful ways to seek her revenge on her son’s widowed wife.

Autumn sighed to herself. She really had no reason to put up with the old women. She could easily put her in a home… or allow her to stay with one of her noble friends, but knowing Anastasia, she’d poison her nurses and escape in to the city streets. Lord only knows what kind of trouble she would cause then.

“Look Stasia, the rain has let up already. Let’s continue our walk…” she replied, ignoring the woman’s complaints.

Michael walked through a park and stopped to looked up at the cloudy sky. The rain had finally let up and it was now just drizzling. He ran a hand through his golden blonde hair as he scanned the trees surrounding him and saw that no one else was in the park. Smirking to himself, he looked upward with a silent sigh. Taking wide strides, he rushed in hurry to somewhere unknown. Not paying attention, Michael bumped into a woman with bright red hair, whom seemed to be walking along with her mother. He took mild amusement in the color being so odd, before giving an apologetic smile. “I’m sorry. I was in hurry… maybe I should slow down.”

“No, no! Be my guest! You didn’t hit her hard enough!” Anastasia chimed at the blond haired man. Autumn frowned at the woman, only slightly before wiping it from her face and giving the man an apologetic smile of her own.

“That’s alright. I believe I wasn’t quite paying attention myself.” she smoothed out the wrinkles in her dress. It was a horrible habit every time she ‘bumped’ into strangers. This time it was a little more literal. “We’ll just be out of your way, sir…”

Michael shrugged giving a lazy grin. “It was nice bumping in to you, in any case.” As both women turned and left, Michael rubbed the back of his head. The old lady seemed like a crazy old bat, but the red head was sweet. Shrugging to himself, he started off again.

* * * * * * * * * *

“There’s the weakling over there! Damn the little rat, thought he could escape.” Gabriel sighed. Not another bashing – what had he done this time? Same as usual. Been himself. He watched the boys approach him nervously, and his eyes darted to the steel fence surrounding his school, his hell. It could mean trouble, perhaps suspension, but he’d do anything to get out of that hell hole.

Gabriel ran to the fence and began to climb up. It was slippery because of the rain, which had by now passed, but still he struggled up and over. He didn’t want to jump down, but a large gust of wind hid him from the side, so he fell over. A sharp stab of pain went through his left side, but he stood up, and walked on. Another gust of wind blew through his blonde hair, and he felt free at last. The rain drizzled onto his nose and he smiled. Now, where would he go? Gabriel eventually decided to head to the park. He snuck around the streets quietly, watching for anyone who might try to take him back. He took off his blazer and tie and left them in an alleyway to make it a little harder to see that he was a pupil at that school. He reached the park, and there were only a few people there. His blue eyes took in the scenery, and he sat down on a nearby bench.

Michael strolled the park, his eyes lazily scanning the scenery. In the distance he could see someone sitting on a bench, from his point of view he could tell it was a boy, maybe a young man with blonde hair and not the most pleased expression. For a moment a faint feeling of recognition struck him. A tingling of memory from a long, long time ago. Curiosity getting the best of him, Michael walked over to the bench and took a seat.

“Hello…” he smiled, studying the boys face without trying seem like he was. Leaning back on the bench he gazed back over the park. He saw some squirrels darting around the ground then shooting up into the trees. He chuckled as he saw one squirrel jumping around on the ground making a fool of himself.

Gabriel heard someone walking over to him though didn’t take any notice really until he was addressed. He looked up and smiled pleasantly. “Good day,” he said politely. Watching the squirrels play, he grinned. The flowers were beautiful in this park.

Glancing back at the boy, Michael couldn’t help but wonder about the familiarity. “Do I know you?” he asked scrutinizing his face once again.

Gabriel looked up at the man as he spoke, and squinted his eyes. “No, I don’t think I’ve had the pleasure. Come to think of it, you do look familiar.”

Michael nodded slowly. “I was thinking the same…” His looks weren’t as familiar to him… light blonde hair and blue eyes. It was something deeper, a sense he could feel that he knew the boy. It had been so long since Michael had trusted his senses… ‘Someone I know from long ago… from the war? …Gabriel!’ “Gabriel… the archangel” Michael said his final thought aloud as he glanced at the boy, keeping his voice low so no one would overhear his words. “Am I correct?” The boys face look confused as he nodded a confirmation in reply. Michael gave a mysterious half smile as he stood from the bench. He nodded a goodbye before walking off, his boots making a soft sound on the grass with each step.

‘Huh?’, thought Gabriel. ‘He knows me. He knows I am an archangel.’ Gabriel’s head was riddled with thoughts as the man… no – the other angel walked away! He pondered for a second, then leapt on to his feet and took off after Michael. Gabriel caught up with him in not much time at all. They had left the park and were walking down the streets of London. He looked up at Michael and spoke. “I know you’re an archangel too, right?” Gabriel seemed insure, but he could feel the connection! “The only thing is… Who?” he asked, still blindly following the man, not really knowing where he was going or why he was going there.

Michael finally stopped, at the steps of a grand church. Looking down at Gabriel with a smile across his face he responded, “A curious angel, aren’t we?” He continued up the church steps, hoping the boy would follow. Opening up the doors, he gave a faint smirk as he stepped inside. Paintings and statues of Jesus, the Virgin Mother, angels and other religious pieces adored the walls and shelves. Candles lit the room, casting shadows along the walls. Michael finally stopped after walking to the front of the church, taking off his white coat and dropping it on bench. “Shut the door Gabriel…” The boy shut the door and Michael stretched as he took a seat on the bench. “You know me as Michael…” he said, turning around to look at Gabriel.

A girl sat alone in the first row of benches of the lonely church, her hands on her lap. Bowing her head, she prayed in silence. Half her prayer were those she had learned in catechism, the other half was more of a monologue in her mind. She had been there for about an hour. Adriel looked at the sumptuous altarpiece behind the High Altar and her lips moved in silence. She leaned back and simply admired the images and the work of art… but also..!! Then she heard voices and someone entering the church. A man walked down the isle, finally reaching the last pew and sat down, not noticing her sitting in the first row. A boy following close behind him.

Gabriel was smiling as he trailed Michael. He hadn’t been to this church before, and he admired the beautiful stained class windows, with pictures from the bible depicted on them. He felt safe in the church, despite how eerily quiet was. Looking to the direction of the altar he spotted someone else! He could see the long dark hair of a girl, and curiously wondered what she was doing there alone. She looked alarmed and slightly confused by his and Michael’s entrance.

Michael glanced to the side, seeing the girl… not seeming surprised at her presence at all. “Come to pay your respects?” he smiled gently, an odd mystery air about him. She still had that look of confusion and quickly rose from her seat. Michael raised a hand in defense, speaking soothingly. “You don’t have to be afraid… I am Michael and this is my friend Gabriel.” he gestured towards the boy with the blonde hair and wide blue eyes. He walked to her until he was only an arm length’s away. “What is your name?” he questioned.

Confused, Adriel placed her hand upon her heart and looked up at the man walking to her; she had to rise her face to see his eyes when he stood in front of her, he was so tall. Her green and golden eyes were wide open in surprise – most of the people in the city weren’t that outgoing. She looked at the boy named Gabriel, then back at the man who introduced himself as Michael. They didn’t look familiar, but felt familiar; Adriel looked at them with confusion showing in her beautiful face.

“My name is Adriel.” She gave a small step back, this man’s height was a bit intimidating. “I… lost track of time,” she added, seeing the church deserted.

In the back of the church, the priest gave a black bible to Raphael and smiled. “May it do you good, Ralph. Do not fight in school again. I know they are bullies and you can’t stand them but it’s just the way life is, all right? Just bear with it and all will be fine.” With a smile, the priest left to do his work, listening to confessions.

Walking in the lone corridors which echoed his walking sounds, Raphael had several thoughts in his mind. ‘That’s not the way life should be… I just cannot stand them.’ Stepping out of the corner, Raphael saw two people talking to his church friend, Adriel. “Who are they, Adriel..?” Raphael interrupted as he continued standing in the corner, voice echoing in the large empty church. He looked at both boys questioningly.

Adriel’s gaze moved in the direction of Raphael’s voice. She gracefully tilted her head, still confused by the strange feelings of recognition she felt towards the two men she had just met. However, she was glad to know a friend of hers was around. “These are… Gabriel and Michael. I’ve just met them,” she softly replied.

Michael stood silent near Adriel, glancing in Raphael’s direction. The soft smile never left his face as he watched and listen to the two speak. ‘It is simpler than I thought it would be to bring them together…’

Raphael walked towards the three and gazed long at both Gabriel and Michael. A tinge of familiarity tugged at his mind but he didn’t care. He didn’t like anyone talking to Adriel. ‘Look at that small guy!’ Raphael thought he looked sneaky. ‘And look at that big guy!’ He decided that one looked like a hooligan. Not everyone who dressed well could be defined as a ‘good boy’. Still looking at Gabriel and Michael with animosity, Raphael said to Adriel, “When are you going back? Do you need me to send you back?”

Adriel hesitated, for she indeed felt recognition towards the strangers, and she wanted to find out why. Raphael was getting impatient. Adriel was curious about Gabriel and Michael, so she tried to be complacent. She moved out of the tight space between the prie-dieu and the long bench and stood next to it in the lateral aisle, so they all could meet there in a large space, to relieve the tension in the air. She smiled shyly at the three. “It’s still early for me to leave,” she told Raphael, “I still get some time to be here, but yes I’ll be glad if you help me when I leave.” She nodded and had a grateful smile for him. She looked at Michael and Gabriel. “I hadn’t seen you at this church before, but…” Her phrase lingered in the air, unfinished.

Gabriel shuffled on his feet, feeling increasingly uneasy around the strangers. The boy talking to Adriel seemed to be extremely wary of him and Michael. He felt like he knew them all but he was still nervous. “Actually… I’ve never been to this particular church before,” he replied pleasantly. “I don’t know about Michael though.”

Michael stood silent watching Raphael, crossing his arms and letting out a sigh. He walked back to the first row of benches and sat down, glancing out the stained glass of the church windows. “You shouldn’t stare so much, your eyes might freeze that way.” He lazily replied, with a grin. But his grin faded as he spoke again. “They are returning, Raphael.”

Raphael said nothing, but kept his eyes fixed on Michael and Gabriel. A sharp pain of recollection shot through his brain, as those strange twinges of memory reveled themselves to him. He turned and shot Michael a deadly sharp glance, as if ordering him to silence. “I don’t care when.” Raphael said as he looked at Adriel, “But I will kill every single one I see!”

Adriel’s gaze grew sad. She looked into Raphael’s eyes, then she looked at the stained-glass windows with passages of the Bible in them. She understood then whom the others were and she knew her true existence was pulling her again with mightier strength, dragging her out of the little world she had been living in. Adriel bit her lip in silence. Her feelings hadn’t failed to her. ‘Where may I find hope?’, she thought. “Now I see,” she simply said to them, but looking at Raphael. She looked at the others, then laid her hand on the pillar next to her.

Raphael saw Adriel’s sad expression and he shut his eyes. Scenes of his sister’s death flashed past his mind. Ripping flesh and splashing blood. His beautiful and gentle sister… ripped to pieces. ‘I can’t… I can’t forgive them!’ Raphael could not bring himself to forgive and forget. He wanted revenge. He would kill every single demon he laid his sight on, good or evil. He hated them to the core and that was it. Raphael turned his face away when he felt his eyes water. He was crying again, he knew it. He did not want to be seen as a sissy and he turned his back to the other three. He bit his lips and frowned, trying to swallow his tears back.

Adriel bit her lip slightly and walked to Raphael in silence; she stood next to him and touched his hand ever so softly, then laid her hand on the bench nearby. Just to let him know she perceived his grief and she cared about it. She remained next to him in silence, sort of covering him. Half because she wanted to know, half to draw attention from Raphael, she cast a glace at Michael. “What’s brought you to this place?,” she asked. “Are you sure yourself if the time is near? What actions are we to take?”

Michael remained silent for several moments, staring up at the stained glass. He seemed distant, and deep in thought. “That is your choice to make.” he replied softly. “I only came to inform you, I’ll do nothing else.” His words were cryptic, then he turned to face them. “I’ll take my leave.” He nodded a silent goodbye before exiting down the isle and leaving the church. Gabriel followed close behind, equally as silent. The church door closed with a low creak.

Not even a minute later, wearing a dress in fashion with a shawl gently draped over her, a girl entered the church. She looked like the perfection of society. However, her eyes held a lost look, which made others uncomfortable. Caring a pad of paper and a charcoal pencil, Rishta sat herself in the back, looking up at the decorated ceiling. “Perfect,” she whispered, “the light is just right. I will now be able to finish my sketch…” Just as she opened her pad, she stopped. Looking strait she saw people, but not just people, angels. She knew they were, she could see they were, their auras were so bright like the rays of the sun. Quickly, praying to anyone above that she would not be seen, she stood up and backed away, hoping that she could get out… Then it happened. Rishta hit into a pedestal outside the room and knocked over a vase, however, it did not crash. Using every ounce of energy she could summon at the moment, she managed to keep it up casting a simple spell of wind. Unfortunately, this little burst of energy did not last long. With a heaven-shattering crash, the vase broke. ‘Oh, no…’ Rishta thought, ‘Why me? God help me get out of this unknown…’

The loud crash caught Raphael’s attention as he turned. Spotting the girl, he walked over slowly. As he came within a few inches of the girl, he scrutinized her from head to toe, not caring if it was appropriate or polite. Squatting down, he picked up a piece of the broken vase and looked up at the girl with a smile across his face. It was an unpleasant smile, almost threatening. Rishta couldn’t help but feel chilled, as though he thought she was some evil, coming to annihilate the world. She couldn’t stop quivering, as his stare pierced her. And when he spoke, Rishta, unfortunately, became a bit miffed.

“Too bad girl. Seven years of bad luck.” Raphael said, sneering.

Adriel blinked, she had felt a subtle gust of power flowing somewhere in the church; when she turned, she was startled at the sound of a fragile thing crashing on the floor. Adriel gave some steps after Raphael, her skirt swooshing as she did, but she still stayed at some distance. She looked at the girl with curiosity, yet kindness in her pretty eyes, then down at the shattered vase. “Oh…” When Raphael spoke of back luck, she frowned slightly. “Raphael…,” she muttered.

“Well, sir, if I have my bad luck omens right, I am not going to have bad luck anytime soon. That was a vase, not a mirror, and unless you know for a fact that vase had a curse on it, I suggest you refrain from using those terms on me. I did not do anything to you, and life causes me enough problems as it is!” Rishta said suddenly, then stopped, furious at herself. ‘Why did you have to go around and blab?! Are you insane! He might know you’re a half-breed!’ Well, she might as well try and save this little mishap.

Raphael’s face darkened and his brows knitted together tightly. His expression was calm but eyes murderous. Of course… his sister had told him that breaking a vase was seven years bad luck. Raphael believed in everything she said, even when he knew she might be lying to him. And everything she said, it became a part of his life and his beliefs. He stood silent as the girl continued to speak.

“I… am sorry for my outburst. I normally do not like to be interrupted when I am working on a piece.” Rishta replied again, pointing to her art pad. Then she looked back at the girl with the kind face and called out. “It’s alright, do not worry about anything. I’ll just clean this up and leave you all alone.” Quickly, shaking as she did it, she picked up the pieces of the broken vase, all except the one the other angel was holding. “If you can give that to me, I will take care of it, and pay the priest in charge for a new vase…” Rishta then trailed off, her and outstretched, then, as she peered at him, she felt a wave of a deep sadness. “Are you alright?” she said to the man who had just insulted her, “You look… upset.”

Raphael stared hard at Rishta and he got mighty annoyed. She was a stranger, had no idea who he was at all and she was asking what bothered him? As if he could trust her. Raphael through the broken piece of the vase against the wall behind Rishta, then smiled grimly. “I’m sorry. That was an accident.” Turning back to Adriel, he said in an equally cold manner, “I’m going back to the Father now. I forgot about my confession.” Raphael turned and walked into the dark corridor and returned to the confession room once again.

Adriel nodded at Raphael as he spoke to her and left. “I’ll see you later, then,” she murmured so he could hear her. Then she turned to the girl.

As Rishta looked into his face, so dark, murderous and sorrowful at the same time, she couldn’t help but feel she had made a terrible mistake. She could feel a close feeling of loss within him, able to sense this because of her mother. His sister? Mother? Some female in his life, gone, like her own mother. And then, as he smashed the last piece of the vase behind her, she did not move, not even caring if she got cut. Such pain, sorrow, and frustration…. he reminded her of herself. “I, again, am sorry for everything… now and in the past.” Rishta then trailed off. She turned back to Adriel and walked to the girl, handing her a purse. “I do not know who is in charge here. Could you give this to the head priest… for the vase?” She then stopped, not knowing what to say.

Adriel seemed to hesitate, but she took the purse. “I’ll make sure the head priest will receive this,” she assured the girl. As an art student, Adriel was dubious pocket money would cover the expenses for the vase, but she added with a gentle smile, “I’ll explain to the priests it was an accident, don’t worry.” Intention counts, sometimes. She looked up at the girl, examining her features She was way taller than Adriel, but not as tall as Michael. Adriel’s big, cat-like green eyes were filled with kindness and curiosity. She saw the girl was a half-bred; half angel, half human. She had heard stories about half-breed children, but she had rarely seen one – even being an Angel of Death. Adriel wondered if the girl was able to see what the others and she were; but Adriel chose to be discrete, not to get the girl more nervous than she already was.

Rishta looked at the girl as she took the purse. She saw the doubt in her eyes, but when she opened the purse, Rishta knew she would see a pile of gold coins. After all, what did she need it for? Hesitating, she paused for a moment before speaking. But guilt tugged at her and realized she had to know. “Forgive me for intruding, but is he going to be alright?”

Adriel was surprised when she saw the gold coins, but her surprise was a joyful one. “He will be fine,” Adriel said, reassuringly with a nod. “Please don’t worry… I’ll take this to the head priest.” She took out an embroidered linen handkerchief to wrap the money in it so she could give Rishta her purse back; Adriel opened the purse to put the money in the handkerchief.

“Thank you for your help. I am not exactly religious and… lets just say I am not into social gatherings.” Rishta whispered, still in a state of paranoia. Then, looking deep into the girl’s kind eyes she saw. Rishta jerked back! ‘No! It cannot be true! She knows…’ Rishta then perceived Adriel backing off of the thought. Her conscious effort not to make Rishta feel uncomfortable. ‘Thank you mother for this gift of insight! Maybe she won’t tell.’ “Once again, thank you.” Rishta repeated again. But she couldn’t hold back now that she knew. Whispering so only Adriel would hear, “You know what I am, don’t you? Do not worry, I know what you are too… him too? Am I correct?”

When the girl nervously asked Adriel if she knew what she was, the Irish in her was about to playfully answer she was a leprechaun, but she held back the joke since she saw the girl was indeed nervous and scared. Adriel smiled, reassuringly. She had no reasons to deny the evident. “Yes, I know,” she softly replied. She didn’t talk about the others, but she nodded at the last question. “Don’t be shy. I am Adriel. Adriel Oscar. May I ask for your name?” Adriel folded the handkerchief delicately, wrapping the gold coins and handed back the purse with grace and friendly kindness.

At the phrase ‘Don’t be shy’ Rishta almost found herself laughing. However, it came out as a soft smile. She was not shy, not to say in the least. The word was cautious… extremely cautious. After all, not all people could be as accepting as this Adriel was. “I am Rishta Anu Farishta.” Rishta answered, as she accepted the purse, with amazing grace and dignity. “You are an angel of Death aren’t you?” Annoyed at herself, Rishta said, “Forgive me. I have a tendency toward bluntness.” However, this little bluntness could not stop her power. She could feel Death’s gentle grasp around the girl, her kindness, and her playful spirit. Odd, for a Death angel. Then again, she wasn’t all sunshine and happiness herself. “Thank you, once again.” Rishta said, her voice still soft and musical, in a haunting, lost way. However, no matter what she said, she still felt lost, in the area of that other angel. So much pain… something she could relate too.

Adriel smiled again and nodded. “You’re welcome,” she replied with a nod full of grace when Rishta said her thanks. She gently held the handkerchief in her hands as she looked at the girl. Being Angel of Death, she was used to tend to tortured souls: she was used to the anguish of people, to their fears, to their despair and the common belief that there’s no deeper pain than the own. Adriel was used to soothing and relieving souls for their last and everlasting journey, and in her experience she knew well how hard it was for a wounded soul to accept its wounds, and to accept help from others. She didn’t need to summon any power of her own to realize the girl had seen in Raphael something she could feel identified to: something about pains of the girl’s own. Rishta’s soft smile had something defiant to it. You don’t know me; you don’t know my pain, it seemed to say. Rishta was being cautious, covering her vulnerabilities from this stranger.

“Angel of Death, I am.” Adriel softly confirmed. “I belong in the second Sphere of Heaven.” She had a friendly, warm smile for Rishta, perceiving the deep fears and anguish concealed beneath the surface. Rishta reminded her of a wounded little animal that could cuddle to a warm hand then lash out and run away the next minute. Adriel measured her words carefully and ever so gently, trying to make her feel accepted and welcomed. “I see you’re interested in drawing; I enjoy tracing sketches my self.” Adriel smiled and the smile twinkled golden in her green eyes. “Would you show me your work?” She shyly motioned to Rishta’s sketch pad. “Excuse me if I’m too forward,” she softly added.

Raphael had lied, he did not intend to go to Father for a confession session. He was not the type to do such a thing. Instead he lurked in the corridors, leaning against the dark walls. With a brooding scowl across his face, Raphael decided that he hated the woman, with no care to whom she was. Human or angel. He didn’t like people prying into his personal affairs, and wouldn’t stand idly by accepting it.

“Ralph! You broke a plate! Seven years of bad luck! Quick! Say a prayer!”

“I thought that only applies to mirrors, sis?”

“Don’t argue. Anything breakable is seven years bad luck!”

“Doesn’t sound convincing.”

“I thought I said ‘don’t argue’? Shut up now and say a prayer to chase the bad luck away!”

“Yes yes…”

“I won’t let them know and I don’t want them to know. It’s my own affair and I want to settle it myself.” Raphael muttered to himself, eyes blazing with anger as memories of his sister lingered in his mind. He left the corridor and walked back to the main room of the church where Rishta and Adriel remained talking. As he walked to the row of benches, he stared hard at Rishta. He felt like slapping her with a sarcastic remark about her heritage but changed his mind at the last minute. Sitting down on one of the benches, he waited.

Rishta was surprised that she had guessed right: an angel of Death. An odd power, scary, but calm. Almost feared by many, but not by her. She accepted death. After all, it was a part of life. So many people in her life had died: her father, her mother, from a disease that no one knew of, her grandparents, slaughtered in a fight… her friends, dead because of her cowardice. Softly she sighed, the pain visible on her face, only for a moment. She then straightened up, a smile on her face.

“Enjoy drawing, do you?” Rishta smiled, so many similarities! “So do I. It’s a calm pastime. Here, you may look if you wish.” Rishta handed Adriel the art pad, looking for her reaction. All the pictures in there were of holy places, or places of great architecture. However, in the beginning, there were pictures of people: her mother, as she remembered her, her father… from stories that her mother told. They were made so close to accuracy you felt that you might have known them. So many years she had spent on these, dreaming to achieve the impossible: to make them real to her.

Adriel had a grateful smile. “Thanks!,” she said with a look of genuine friendship in her eyes. She took the art pad and opened it carefully, as if it were made of something as delicate as rice paper. She walked over to the next line of benches and placed the art pad on top of the back of the bench, then examined drawing by drawing. In the beginning, she saw pictures of people; the careful, long traces, with little or nonexistent corrections spoke of the love and well knowing of the models the artist had. Every detail had been lovingly completed; Adriel had a soft, happy smile in admiration. She turned the pages, looking at each drawing with attention. She recognized some stories she had ever heard from some of the next pictures; the scenario showed holy places, or places of great architecture; Adriel smiled, recognizing each one with memories of her own. She looked at the pictures again, and felt she had learned some things from them about the artist.

“Also, do not worry about being forward. I am like that myself.” Rishta mentioned, as she felt a cold, piercing stare from the back of the room. She looked up and saw Raphael looking positively murderous and scheming. Kind of like how she felt when anyone mentioned the battle. The angel looked as though he wanted to commit murder. Did he know what she was? Were angels that sensitive? Or was it an instinct? Nonetheless, when he sat down, she was glad he didn’t let loose all the hell he was feeling. At least he wouldn’t make her cry. Rishta then flashed him a timid smile. After all, what had she done? Maybe he would accept her. Then again, maybe not.

Adriel rose her eyes and saw Raphael sitting on a bench, watching them. He still had that angry, aggressive air to him; Adriel looked at him in sad concern and smiled a bit at him, like asking how he felt. Adriel turned to Rishta. “Thank you,” she said with a smile. “Are these people your family, your friends? I like your work; it has so much sentiment, love to it!”

“No, thank you.” Rishta then turned her gaze away from Raphael to face Adriel. When the angel asked her about the people, Rishta felt a stab of pain inside, and her mood considerably darkened. Her face was now unreadable, a closed mask to her turmoil inside. She just closed out all the people. Rishta then shut her eyes, and pressed back against a wall, trying to hold back the flow of tears threatening to emerge. With a struggle, and choking on the words she replied, “Friends. Family. They are just memories… dead memories. Corpses in the grave or blown in the wind.” ‘Mother, father, friends. What are they to me now, but pictures in a book of my fantasies. They are gone.’

Raphael turned slowly and looked at Rishta as he heard her words. He suddenly felt sorry for being so cruel to her. She was just like him, without any family and alone in the world. Getting up from his seat, Raphael walked over to Rishta with gentle strides. When he drew near her, he stopped. “Are you alright?” Raphael asked, trying to sound as concerned as possible but his voice only turned out to be as flat as usual, “Do you need something?”

Adriel looked up at Rishta, her cat-like eyes of emerald and gold transparent as crystal; tears slowly formed in them as she perceived pain in Rishta. Adriel knew she had inadvertently found the string of pain in the half-angel’s soul, and even though it wasn’t the first time it happened to Adriel, it was never satisfactory. Adriel put the handkerchief with the money on the bench and quickly looked in her own little purse for another handkerchief: a little piece of Irish lace and linen with her initials on it. When she looked down to look for it in her purse, a tear slid down her cheek, but driven her attention to tend to Rishta as it was, she didn’t notice. Adriel offered her handkerchief to Rishta, ever so gently.

“I wish I wouldn’t have awaken pain in you,” she murmured. “I just saw the love in your drawings, and I wanted to hear about that love. The souls leave the bodies, but immortal as they are, the love endures…” A soft, tender smile formed upon Adriel’s lips; so subtle it was hard to perceive, as the subtle golden aura that shimmered about her now. It wasn’t out of her power as angel of death, but out of her faith. Adriel held the art pad in her arms against her chest, then offered it back to its owner.

Rishta opened her eyes slowly, them shining with diamond tears that have yet to be spilt. Gracefully she accepted the handkerchief, and at that moment, a silver tear slid down her cheek. She dabbed at it with the laced accessory and then stopped. She refused to cry anymore. Even though she could not smile, she now had regained enough control to speak.

“No, it is not your fault. I understand. I cried because it was the memories that I have to keep forever, because I cannot let them go. It is like a knife in my soul, a permanent embedded knife. Because I cannot forget. As an angel of Death, I know you understand, but please, do not feel pain because of it. They are my friends and family. Dead for centuries, but alive in my sketches.” Rishta then looked at Adriel in the eyes, as her aura shone. Faith, this girl had so much of it… if only she could find some of her own. Gratefully she accepted the art pad back. “Thank you once again.”

Rishta then turned her attention to Raphael, who was standing by her. His intentions had changed, and now once again, she could see herself in him. “I am fine, really. It is just some nightmares that won’t go away. I think you understand. I do not need anything. Maybe what we all need is closure in life. I know for a fact that is what I need. Only I don’t know how.” She then offered a small, timid smile, despite the effort it bought from her soul. It was not his fault that he sounded flat, even though he tried. After all, now she sounded like the dead man risen. She looked out of the door, seeing that night was approaching, maybe in an hour. She then shut her eyes briefly. Night always made her remember the past, it too was a lonely thing, and like her it was cold on the outside and wonderful on the inside.

Adriel nodded and smiled softly at Rishta. She then smiled at Raphael, glad and moved at seeing him change his threatening attitude towards Rishta; Adriel picked up the hanky with the money and looked towards the main gate of the church; soon it’d be nightfall! Adriel had a movement in surprise. It was very late! She had lost track of time. “I’ll take this to father Alfonso before I leave.” she softly said with a gentle nod, then she hurried to the sacristy.

“Hold on a second!” Rishta said, a wild thought running through her head. Maybe, just maybe, she could pull this off. Even though she hadn’t in a long time. She turned towards everyone. “Since it is getting late and I really would like to continue our conversation, would you all like to come to my house for dinner? I normally don’t go out often, and I would like to get to know you all.” She then trailed off, looking at them all. “But if you have other plans, then maybe we can meet some other time.” Rishta then stopped, feeling anxious, maybe they already had plans. Maybe they didn’t want to know her. Well, not that she could blame them. She then looked at the others, waiting for their response.

Raphael brushed his fingers through his mane of golden hair, looking thoughtful. “I don’t mind.” he said finally. Turning towards Adriel, Raphael asked, “What about you?”

Adriel stopped and turned when Rishta called out. Adriel was surprised at her request, but she had a child-like delighted smile. When Raphael asked her, Adriel blinked and blushed slightly. She walked back to the group and looked up at Raphael. “It’s getting late, but if I send a note to my family and I let them know I’m with you, they won’t get worried,” she told Raphael with a smile. She smiled happily at Rishta. “I’ll be glad to join you for dinner,” she said with a nod. “Thank you.”

Rishta then smiled, her face happy. She was surprised that Raphael was the first one to agree. They were all changing so quickly. “I am glad you two can make it.”

“It’s alright with me.” Raphael replied. “Do you have any vehicle? I will walk along if you doesn’t have any or I will sit on Adriel’s bicycle.” Raphael said, trying to be kind.

Adriel smiled at Raphael and nodded at his words. “Before we leave, I’ll take the money to Father Alfonso.” She hurried to the sacristy.

“Well, my driver is out now, he can send someone ahead.” Rishta said, looking thoughtful. “Then they can warn the servants…”

“Done,” Adriel said with a smile as she returned a few short minutes later. “We can leave as soon as you want, Rishta.”

Rishta looked around. “If there is nothing else, then let us go.” She then turned and began to walk out of the church. Oh well, the art would have to wait another day, after all, it was nearly night. And then her conscious ‘spoke’. ‘Excuses, excuses. Face it, you are HAPPY. And the first time in a long time too…’

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