Well, I figure I should share the continuation of this story, since it ended somewhat in the middle of something.
Gabriel is slowly worming his way into my heart.
It turned out that angelic looking guys and cats have one thing in common: They’re not overly fond of water.
She thought it would be easier to just take Gabriel to the underground lake and give him a quick wash there. He followed her there easy enough, but once he comprehended what the ultimate purpose of the trip was he began to act like a small fussy child. It must have made a rather amusing scene for anyone passing by, if anyone ever did just pass by an underground cave system, a seven foot something tall person with wings being dragged into the water by a girl almost two feet shorter than him. Luckily his size did not also mean strength, though he did put up one hell of a fight.
“You’re dirty, Gabriel. If you’re ever going to leave here you can’t look like such a mess.”
Gabriel didn’t have anything to say to that, but put his best sulky face.
Eventually she had to settle for having him at the very edge of the lake, using an old towel to rub the worst of the grime off his abnormally pale and smooth body.
It was then it occurred to her that if she actually was going to bring Gabriel with her when she left the caves, she also had to consider the fact that he was buck naked. Obvious genitalia or not, a naked dude walking around would get plenty of attention and not the good kind.
She chewed her lip as she carefully rinsed out the wings with cold lake water and Gabriel shivered noticeably.
“Is cold”, he murmured.
“Well, it’s going to be much warmer outside”, she promised, then paused for a beat.
“Gabriel, how long have you been in here anyway?”
He tilted his head to the side, as if he’d not understood the question, but then he began to count on his fingers. He folded one finger at a time, slowly, while he stared down at them.
Eventually he let out a huge sigh, which made his entire body quake and shook his head.
“Don’t know, huh?”
Well, it can’t be too long, she figured. Not if he was still alive and not completely starved to death. The pallor of his skin did indicate that he’d been here a while though.
With another mouth to feed, one that ate twice as much as her she found her supplies running low faster than they would have if it had just been her down here. The reality of her situation began to sink in, that she’d found this weird dude here in the caves and she was going to have to bring him with her when she left. How the hell was she supposed to explain him to her mom and her boyfriend? Where was she going to keep him? What was he going to wear?
She decided she’d leave the caves late in the evening and sneak into the house by night. If she was lucky her mom would be working the night shift or otherwise occupied when she got back to the house with Gabriel in tow. Distracted enough not to notice the seven foot winged being tagging along.
She peered over at the very person she was contemplating and watched him sort pebbles and rocks into different piles. Nice tidy piles, with near identical rocks and pebbles in each.
No, he wasn’t just any old bum, even if you ignored the huge wings on his back.
Finally she was down to her last can of baked beans and the last bag of Doritos, so she announced to Gabriel that she would be leaving in the evening. It was final decision time. She could always leave Gabriel and come back with food for him, but that would be a big risk too. Her mom would catch her if she kept leaving the house ever so often with cans of food and chips.
No, leaving was better and she announced her intent to Gabriel the next morning.
“You’re coming with me in the evening, Gabriel”, she said. “I’m going back home.”
“Home?” he said, tilting his head to the side in his special way. The matted curls on his head bobbed a little. His hair was still dirty, but it looked better now after she had rinsed it out some.
“Home is…outside, like I told you. There’s lots of crunchy food there!”
“Crunchy!” Gabriel beamed a smile at her.
Whether he was a true man or not, the road to his heart went through his big stomach just as it did with any other boyfriend she’d had.
By nightfall she wrapped a blanket around the confused Gabriel’s huge frame and shouldered her bag, now very much deflated.
Gabriel picked at the fabric, as if he was trying to remember what its purpose was.
Well, if he’d been walking around nude in the dark for a long time, then maybe it was normal to think that covering yourself up was weird. She’d have to teach him the purpose of clothes soon enough though.
“Let’s go”, she said with her best, encouraging smile and headed outside into the cool night air.
The sky was slightly overcast and along the horizon the clouds still had that golden tint of sunset. She heard the call of some bird and everywhere she heard the whining of nocturnal insects waking up from their slumber.
Gabriel flinched as a group of bats flew out from the cave mouth behind them and he looked like he was about to bolt back inside.
“Come on, it’s perfectly safe, you big baby”, she said and took his hand in his. It was large and warm, swallowing her smaller hand inside its grasp.
He peered at her like a child, despite the size difference, with that look of perfect trust and seemed to decide he believed her.
Leading the much larger man they set off through the arid brush land, hearing dry twigs snap and twist under her boots. Gabriel didn’t seem to react to the rough, rocky surface even though he had nothing on his feet.
The stars came out, one by one and soon the moon rose above, the kind you always saw in cartoons. Glowing like the sun at night.
She was in luck.
The house was dark and quiet when they approached it. The car was missing from the drive way which indicated that her mother was either working or perhaps visiting her boyfriend. If it was the latter, then she might be gone for at least a day.
Growing even more confident she led Gabriel straight for the front door where she had to stop and dig around for the spare key that they always kept under that ugly ceramic garden gnome by the door. Gabriel gazed at the front porch in wonderment, setting the wind chime spinning and singing. The big guy actually smiled at the sound and began to hum a little tune.
She parked Gabriel in the living room couch while she went upstairs to see if she could find anything at all that would fit the large being waiting downstairs. In the bottom of her mother’s closet she found a large football jersey, which had most likely belonged to her mother’s ex-boyfriend, which meant no one would miss it. Some more digging around and she found a pair of sweatpants which looked large enough that they would cover most of Gabriel’s legs.
But first she’d have to give him a proper bath, with soap and shampoo and all. Going by his reaction to the lake water she wasn’t sure if he’d be more enthused about a warm bath in a tub. She would have to try though and began to fill the upstairs bathroom tub with sudsy water, plenty of bubbles so the grime might just flow off him.
When she came back down Gabriel had met the cat. Or rather, the cat had met Gabriel and was not impressed. She was staring at him hard form her vantage point on top of the bookcase in the corner with her tail puffed out. It was a good thing her mother had brought the dogs with her, who knows what kind of noise they would have made. Gabriel was standing calmly by the bookcase, looking up at the cat with a longing look on his face.
“Gabriel, leave the cat alone for now”, she said and guided him back towards the couch. “You can pet the cat later.”
“Crunchy?” he said and gave her an expectant look.
“Sure…You can have some crunchy.”
Maybe if he’d had a favorite snack he’d be more willing to come upstairs for his bath. Childlike as he was, maybe he could be bribed just like a child.
She fetched a big bag of Doritos from the kitchen cupboard and poured some of its content in a small bowl. Gabriel quickly began to munch on them and had soon emptied the bowl. Just like Oliver Twist from the story bearing his name he held out the bowl for her to refill.
“You’ll get some more…After you take a proper bath”, she said with her stern babysitting voice.
Gabriel shrunk back some, wringing his hands in discontent. Then he straightened up and nodded.
“Bath”, he said and nodded again, flexing his wings wide enough that he knocked over the reading lamp by the couch, spooking the cat even more.
Adding bubbles to the bath was the best idea she’d had yet, for Gabriel was so mesmerized by them that he had no issue with being forced inside the water in the tub, as long as there was still plenty of bubbles for him to poke and prod with an investigating finger.
He didn’t even react when she began to scrub the rest of the grime off his skin and lathering up both his hair and his wings with gentle, perfume-free shampoo.
Wrapped in her mother’s boyfriend’s old bathrobe he then sat on the living room couch crunching down on both Doritos and the salad she’d made as a late dinner. If there was one thing she could miss in the caves it was fresh fruit and vegetables.
“Crunchy good”, Gabriel said and crushed a handful of Doritos into his salad.
She wondered what Frito Lay would think if she’d email them with the suggestion to add an angel to their packaging and the text “Even Angels Love Them. PS. Put them on your salad.”