It was already past midnight, the air is chilly, bathed by the full moon’s soft light, illuminating fragments of shadows lurking in every corner of the deserted street. It was strangely quiet broken by echoes of howling dogs from a distance and the eerie whisper of the wind, rustling the leaves of the trees. A lone figure was oblivious by her surroundings as she hurriedly walk on the sidewalk as if being chased by an unknown force. The breeze played with her long hair and on her face etched an impatient frown and her fingers twisted in a frantic gestures.
Oh my! Why do I have to forget the time? Why do I have to live with my Aunt in this farfetched subdivision? I should’ve been enjoying the party rather than worrying my head off of an alibi to escape my Aunt’s wrath. She cried irritably and walked even faster, almost to a run and suddenly stopped.
She shuddered as the wind embraced her jeans and shirt-clad figure and realized that she’s standing in front of a vast deserted lot where there stood the skeleton facade of a ruined building. It looked so scary especially the concrete ceiling in which it sagged at the middle as if trying its best to kiss the solid ground beneath. She frowned even more and irritably brushed the scary thought aside, then an idea struck her and before she could make a move, she heard someone called her name.
It was a faint sound, carried by the breeze from afar. She listened for a while and shrugged her shoulder, thinking it was just her imagination and proceeded to take the short cut through the ruined building when she heard it again, louder this time and nearer.
She suppressed a shiver and turned her head slowly. “Hello, Ashleigh……”
Ashleigh blinked her eyes when a man emerged in front of her. She had a glimpsed of his face when it was illuminated by the moon. It is an interesting face, handsome but not too much. It is rather thin for her liking. A smile stretched his lips, showing off his dimples on both cheeks but something is missing somehow and she just can’t pinpoint it at the moment. She scanned his face and found herself staring at his eyes and sensed rather than saw the sadness that crept out from his soul. Ah! So that’s what was missing, his smile never reached his eyes and found herself pitying him.
“Who are you?” How did you know my name?” Ashleigh asked curiously.
“I’m Leo. I know you because I lived not far from here, so, basically, we’re neighbors,” He answered lightly.
“Oh?” She raised her left eyebrow and looked him up, noticing his gangly stature and found herself smiling back at him. He seemed harmless, she mused. “What are you doing here? Uh…..I mean…..How come you’re still outside and not at at home sleeping? It’s rather late, you know.”
Leo looked past her as if in deep thought and shrugged his bony shoulder. “I couldn’t sleep……Anyway…..” He looked at her again, “….. our house is just around the corner so, I decided to take a stroll and lighten up my mood.”
“You know what? You’re kind of weird. I mean, don’t get me wrong here, okay? It’s just that most people wouldn’t dare take a leisurely walk alone on this deserted street especially at past midnight as if it’s a beach front or something ….but….here you are.” She crossed her arms in front and shook her head in wonder, raising her left eyebrow unconsciously.
Leo smiled mysteriously and suddenly grew sad. “I’m not most people, Ashleigh,” He looked past her again but this time, he stared at the ruined building at her back. Ashleigh felt again that sudden chill that made her shiver literally.
“C’mon, I’ll walk you home,” she started to protest but Leo grasped her elbow and guided her along the road. It seems like an invisible force propelled her to go along with him and forget her first intention of getting a short cut through the deserted, ruined building. They’ve walked in silence, hearing only their somewhat synchronized breathing, giving him a surreptitious glance from time to time until they reached her Aunt’s house. She then turned to him but froze when Leo leaned his hands lightly on her shoulders. He stared at her seriously. “Don’t waste your life and wait time to run out on you…..just like what I did with mine,” Ashleigh just stared at him dumbfounded. Leo removed his hands and walked away.
“Leo, wait!” Ashleigh called out to him but he was gone and she just stared into nothingness. She then shrugged her shoulder indifferently, fished out her key to open the wrought iron gate and slowly went inside.
Weird, that guy is really weird. Oh well, he is out of my concern and shook her head just to clear her puzzlement. She then climbed the tall mango tree that grazed the tiny balcony beside her room on the second floor and prayed that her Aunt will not wake up since her room is on the first floor. Ashleigh got inside her room without disturbing anyone, breathed a sigh of relief and smiled triumphantly. Mission accomplished!
“Ashleigh! Ashleigh!” She heard someone call her name and felt her shoulder shook.
“Go away.” She mumbled and turned on her stomach, wanting to sleep some more.
“C’mon, Leigh! Wake up! I’ve got news for you!” Her shoulder were being shook so hard, she was afraid it will be dislocated from its socket. Ashleigh opened her eyes and drowsily sat up on her bed. She tried to focused on her cousin and rubbed the cobwebs of sleep from her eyes. “What do you want? It’s still early!” She snapped disgruntedly and yawned.
” Ah, ah, ah, don’t you dare sleep on me again,” Her cousin Debra glared through her thick spectacle while shaking her right pointer finger at her in a no-no gesture and her left hand resting on her ample hips. “Something horrible happened last night! A guy was found dead and buried underneath the rubble of the ruined building at the deserted lot……” Debra rattled on, excitement coating her voice, not seeing the change on her cousin’s face.
“Oh my God, it’s Leo!” Ashleigh cried in horror.
“……Ron came home late last night, around midnight or so and decided to take the short cut through the deserted building. When he was halfway through, the ceiling just collapsed and he was buried alive inside and……”
Ashleigh didn’t hear the rest of what Debra is saying when he realized it wasn’t Leo who were dead but suddenly grew pale and shivered when reality sunk in on her. She hugged herself tightly and thought dreadfully, if Leo didn’t dissuade me from my brilliant idea and didn’t literally dragged me along the long route, I could have been in Ron’s place……She felt sick to her stomach, pushing down the bile that is forming down her throat and suddenly sprang up, taking her cousin by surprise and cutting off her rambling.
“Where do you think you’re going? I’m not through yet with my story!” Debra cried in frustration and stamped her feet for emphasis.
“Sorry, Deb. I have a very important thing to do,” she smiled at her and proceeded to go to her bathroom but made a u-turn to asked her cousin, “Oh, by the way, do you know where Leo lived? I just want to talk to him.”
“Leo!” Debra shouted incredulously, “are you out of your mind! You’ve met him! How? When? Don’t you know he used to be a drug addict! Uh, uh, I’m warning you Ashleigh, stay away from him. He’s bad news. He might–“
“Will you please shut up!” Ashleigh snapped. “I don’t care. Just give me his address and I’ll explain to you later why I need to talk to him,” she asked calmly.
“Okay, I’ll give it to you. The house is at the corner with a red gate along our street, numbered 221-A. Don’t blame me if he will do something to you. I did warn you.” Debra said haughtily.
Ashleigh ignored her and entered her bathroom to freshen up and went out.
She met Leo on the way to his house, looking disheveled and lonely, his thinness and hollowed cheeks were more pronounced in daylight.
“Leo!” she ran to him and hugged him briefly. “Thank you for saving me.”
He stared at her in surprise. “Saving you?”
“Yes, last night. Do you remember it? When I came home late?” She inquired.
“Oh, that. It’s nothing.” He shrugged it aside nonchalantly and started to go on his way.
He turned and looked at her blankly.
“Thank you for being my new friend.” She smiled at him.
Leo smiled back, showing not only his dimples but a twinkle in his eyes, making it alive with happiness. “Yah,” he replied and walked away whistling.
Nice but weird, really weird.
……angels can be in different forms.
Jesus love you ❤