Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Have you read Angel Over my Shoulder?

He was the presence that was always in her dreams. He was mostly the backdrop but at times he came to the forefront. She never knew a time when he wasn’t somewhere in her dreams, either watching in the distance, or standing just behind her.

For all of her young life, Leslie has lived two realities; the one that happened in ‘real life’ and the other that took place weeks or months before--in her dreams. No matter how bad, Angel was always there to watch over her. He never grew older and she didn’t think to question his presence. And then one fateful day, Angel shows her a series of events that will change her life and send young Leslie into a tailspin that will test her very sanity.

In this multicultural, paranormal romance, Pepper Pace weaves a tale of a tragic and disturbed young girl whose fate is written…or is it? THIS STORY CONTAINS GRAPHIC CONTENT INCLUDING SEX, DRUG USE, SEXUAL ASSUALT, LANGUAGE. THIS IS STORY AND POST IS INTENDED FOR ADULT READERS ONLY.


~1989 Summer~
The telephone was ringing and her hands were covered in black sticky hair gel. “Shit!”  Grandmama was going to have a shit-fit if the phone woke her up. She quickly wiped her hands on her jeans. They needed to be washed anyways. This was her third straight time wearing them. She sprinted out of her bedroom, hurtling over the ottoman until she reached the phone on the end table.
“Hello?!” She said breathlessly. She’d caught it on the third ring and was half listening to the voice over the phone and for her Grandmother’s movements in the other room. 
“Leslie! Girl, April’s mother is spending the night at her boyfriend’s house and April has the place to herself!  I’m on my way over there now, I’m a come pick you up-” 
Leslie scowled. “You know I don’t like April and she don’t like me.” April used to be one of the girls in school that made fun of her when they were both back in elementary—back before she had began talking again. The kids used to pick on her, calling her retarded. April had even gouged her with her sharp nails because she wouldn’t yell out. 
She heard her friend sigh over the telephone. Missy was her best friend, but that didn’t mean she was a good friend. It wasn’t as if Leslie could tell her that April made her feel like the lost little girl that she had once been; a girl that she had fought hard to bury down within herself.
“Come on, bitch! You can steal some of yo Grandmama’s liquor and pain pills.”
“Hey!”  Leslie said in a hushed yet hard voice. “I’m not stealing pain pills for everyone.  She’ll start missing those.” But the liquor was easy. Despite being barely eighteen, Leslie was responsible for managing the household. Grandmama’s check would get deposited into the bank account and Leslie had the ATM card to withdraw the cash when she had to do the shopping or the checkbook when she had to pay a bill. She had celebrated her eighteenth birthday by getting herself a fake ID that said she was twenty-one. And Grandmama had plenty of pills that Leslie stole for herself and Missy when she wanted to share.  Leslie didn’t even really look at it as stealing. Grandmama couldn’t do things now that she was sick. It wasn’t really stealing when Grandmama didn’t use the money.
“Look Leslie, come to the party.  I don’t want to go by myself.” She heard Missy’s voice become sly. “Derrick’s going to be there.” Leslie felt an involuntary chill run down her spine at the mention of his name.
Derrick made her want to keep her eyes downcast and to duck out of sight. Nothing much made her feel that way these days. Most of the boys she knew were hard; into drugs and stealing and skipping school. Derrick wasn’t, and yet he was still cool. 
“I’m not going because Derrick is going to be there, alright?”  She finally consented, “but because I need to get piss drunk!” 
Missy laughed. “I’ll be there in ten!”  Leslie hurried back to her bedroom and looked at her hair. Every black girl in school wanted long hair except her. She had cut her hair short into a boy cut long ago. And before the phone had rang, she had been experimenting with making a faux Mohawk the way she’d seen the punk kids wearing on MTV. Instead of combing it out, she turned to and fro in her mirror and decided to keep it.
Living in a mostly black neighborhood, Leslie knew that others thought of her as the freak—and not just because she had spent several years as a mute. She wore all black; black eye shadow, black nail polish and proudly sported facial piercings and short hair with spiky bangs.  Some kids in white neighborhoods dressed like this, but not in her neighborhood and not in her school. She quickly pulled off her dirty jeans for a pair of black ones that hid the dirt better. 
She sniffed her armpits and then liberally rubbed on deodorant.  She did brush her teeth but mainly because she’d had onions on her burger for dinner. Afterwards she put on black lipstick to match her heavy black mascara. She didn’t have time to put in all of her piercings, but did get in her tragus and replaced her rook, her labret always stayed in below her lip unless Grandmama made her remove it.  She put in the septum because she knew Missy hated it and would call her ‘bone nose’; she was just putting in the lip ring when she heard Missy blow the horn.
She spritzed cologne on her neck and then hurried to Grandmama’s room.  She paused and took several deep breaths before she could enter. The room smelled of sickness. It was almost overwhelming to her. The television emitted the only light and for a moment her Grandmother’s sleeping form looked lifeless.
Leslie felt a moment of panic before she noted the slight rise and fall of Grandmama’s chest. She swallowed back the lump in her throat and looked at anything but her. She tripped over to the bedside table and picked up one of the many bottles of pain pills. She snuck four pills, Grandmama wouldn’t miss four. She checked the label. Fentanyl—the good stuff. She shoved them into her pocket grimly. Just make me numb, she thought as she slipped out of the room as quickly as she could.
As she left the house, Leslie grabbed her leather jacket. She wore a black t-shirt that said simply, ‘YUCK FOU’ written in bold white letters. As she locked the door behind her she could already hear New Edition’s, If It Isn’t Love blaring from the sound system of Missy’s parent’s car. Leslie smirked.  She was listening to The Clash and The Sex Pistols. She shouldn’t have even been born in the United States with her style and likes.  She was in the wrong time and in the wrong place. They would accept her in the UK just the way she was.
Missy paused to stare at her once she was buckled into her seat. “What the fuck did you do to your hair?”  Leslie touched the hardening spikes on top. 
“Faux-hawk.”  Leslie rolled her eyes. “Just drive, bitch and stop gawking at me.” She reached into her pocket and handed her friend a pill. “Fentanyl.”
“Oh. Jackpot!” They both dry swallowed their pills while Missy pulled out of the drive-way and headed to the impromptu house party. Leslie reached into her jacket pocket for a tape.
“Oh fuck no, Leslie! We are not listening to that white-people shit before the party!”
“Just listen to this one song. It’s not rock or anything. It’s kinda soft, a little mellow.”  Missy protested a lot, but Leslie knew that she’d be open minded enough to give it a try.  “Just listen to the words. This group is called The Cure and the song is Pictures of You.”
The two girls drove silently, listening to the lyrics of the song. When it ended Leslie reached over and popped out the tape and then shoved it back into her jacket pocket. 
Missy nodded her head. “It’s cool. Good song.” She glanced at Leslie all joking aside.  “You don’t ever stop missing them, do you?” Leslie suddenly reached for a cigarette and lit it, pausing to take a long drag. 
“When you stopped talking for all of those years…was it because you couldn’t, or because you didn’t want to?”  The two girls had known each other back then when she had been mute. Missy played with her even when Leslie just seemed to be sitting back and letting the world go by. They were long-time friends, but they rarely talked about this.
Leslie took a while before she answered. Finally she spoke the truth. “I don’t know.  I don’t think I even tried. I didn’t care enough to try.” They had never talked about what had brought on her muteness; not in all of these years, only what had stopped it; Uncle Monty. Uncle Monty hadn’t been going to stop what he was doing to her until she spoke; and so she did. 
She came to a sudden decision, perhaps because the pill was working on her, or perhaps old memories had made her vulnerable. She looked out the window. “Sometimes I visit them. We sit around like a real family.”  She paused, staring out the window, waiting for Missy to crack a joke and then she could change the subject and never bring it up again.
“You mean you visit them when you dream?”
“Yes!”  Leslie turned in her seat and looked at Missy in excitement.
“Well, it’s nice that you can dream about them.”
Leslie chewed her lip. “Yeah…but sometimes it’s like they never died and I’m a different person-”
“One without a bone piercing in your nose I hope.”
She took a deep breath. “I don’t have any piercings. It’s like a world where things are different because they never died.” She never thought that it was a real world. She knew it was a dream, or maybe a fantasy. Missy watched her with interest as they stopped at a red light.
“Do they look the same?  Like you remember them?”
“I don’t really remember what they look like until I’m in the dream.” It always gave her a jolt as she thought, ‘That’s my Mama, that’s my Daddy.’ Waking up after was always bittersweet.
“Then it’s a good thing that you can at least see them in your dreams,” Missy said with a conviction that surprised Leslie. She’d never thought to talk about these things with her friend and now wondered why.
“Do you ever dream about stuff that comes true?”
“Sometimes. It’s like, I’ll be doing something and then I’ll say, ‘Damn, that already happened.’”
“Yeah, Déjà vu. But do you ever see the same person in your dreams?”
“What do you mean?”
Leslie shrugged.  “I don’t know.” She leaned her head back against the seat and closed her eyes. Then she just plunged forward.  “There’s this guy that’s always in my dreams.”
“What guy?  Is he cute?”
Leslie looked at her curiously. “You don’t dream like that? A dream with the same person who takes you places, shows you things?”
“It sounds like maybe he’s your Dad.”  Missy pulled up along the curb near April’s apartment building and cut off the car, but didn’t move to get out. 
Leslie was shaking her head. “He’s always been there, even before my parents died. And he’s too young to be my Dad. Plus he’s white.”
Missy was blinking. “Is it Jesus?”
“Jesus? No! I mean, I used to think he was my guardian angel. But then he…”
“What?” She prompted. Leslie shrugged, but was squeezing her hand hard into a fist until her short nails dug painfully into her palm. 
“He showed me some bad shit, and didn’t try to help me.”
“Well, Jesus showed people bad shit. And he makes you help yourself, doesn’t he?”
“Jesus doesn’t have a New York accent.  And he doesn’t wear blue jeans and chucks.”  She opened the car door and began walking up the sidewalk with her hands jammed into her jacket. Missy locked the car doors and caught up with her.
“Maybe he’s a hip Jesus.” Missy was joking now and Leslie relaxed a bit. “The new-age Jesus for cool people.”
“He’s too cute to be Jesus. He doesn’t age, either.  He’s like my age now; eighteen, maybe even a little older, but not much.  But he’s always been that same age.”  She pictured Angel in her mind. “He’s got brown curly hair and sky blue eyes. He is really cute, but not like a model or anything. He’s not big, he’s not small, a little skinny but with muscles, you know?  Like an athlete. And he’s got this hair on his face but not much. It’s like he’s too young to grow a beard. I guess that’s how I know he’s younger.”
“You make him sound real.” 
“He’s not,” she said quickly and tossed her cigarette butt to the sidewalk.  

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