Abigail's shattered life finally starts coming back together, just in time for her to realize exactly who her "guardian angel" is.
Angel: Part 6
For a moment when I look into Chad’s face, the fragile, disconnected world I’d existed in for ten long months stabilizes.
Until I remember he’s a Guardian Psychiatric Analyst. An Angel. A Guardian Angel—like Uncle Edgar’s ads tout. The holographic image of someone’s mind because their body is in a coma, or some other life-supported state. Because he’s almost dead.
I thought he died. I thought he burned in the plane with my father. I screamed his name and lost my mind when the voice on the phone said, “I can’t get to my phone. Leave a message and I’ll get back to you.” My father’s death crippled me. Chad’s death broke me, shattered me into a million pieces.
The weight crushes my chest, everything collapsing in on me. He’s close to me and yet never further away. I start clawing at him—at the hologram of Chad, my hands scraping wildly and distorting the image.
“Abbey … Abbey, I’m sorry.” His voice cackles like a bad cell connection and the image blinks. He tries reaching out. Then he’s gone.
I moan in utter sadness, expecting the pain to take over, hoping the darkness will rescue me. It doesn’t. I remain agonizingly aware of all I’ve lost again.
My mother rushes into the room, looking frantically around for Chad. She yells for a doctor, expecting me to go to pieces.
Logic starts working its way through my brain. I grip Mother by the shoulders. She freezes, surprised at my clarity.
“Did you know Chad is alive?”
Mother blinks. I suppose she’s waiting for my words to melt into incoherent drivel. “No. No, dear. Of course not. But—alive?”
I bite back the howl of pain that accompanies her assumption. “Yes. If he’s projecting a hologram from Guardian, he’s alive. Where?”
Now Mother’s gulping back sobs. I know I’m acting unfairly. She held it together for so long—brought me through so much. “Don’t do this to yourself, Abbey, please!”
“Where, Mother! Where?” I shake her, pleading.
“At the Guardian Hospital, of course. Where else, Abbey?”
I drop my hands and rush out of the room to the garage. Minutes later I tear out of the driveway in one of the fast cars lodged there. The security guard at the hospital yells at me when I park the car in an ambulance unloading, but I ignore him. I sweep past the reception desk before I realize I don’t know where to go.
I whirl back around, practically charging the receptionist. “Where is Chad Rathburn?”
She must recognize me because she jabs at her computer right away. “I’m sorry, Miss Emsley. No one but immediate family is allowed in Mr. Rathburn’s room.”
I slam both hands down on the counter. “Tell me what room before I come across this desk and find it myself.”
Out of the corner of my eye I see the other woman behind the desk whispering hurriedly into the phone, but the receptionist says, “3210” and I’m off down the hall before the other one hangs up.
The elevator will only take me up to the 28th floor because special Guardian patients occupy the higher levels. A security guard blocks the stairs.
“Do you know who I am?” I challenge.
“I’m sorry, Miss Emsley, I can’t let you in here.”
“Let me in!” I scream, “Just let me in!”
I suppose he figures dealing with Uncle Edgar seems easier at the moment, so he pushes open the door, and I dash in before he changes his mind. I’m not even winded after sprinting up four flights of stairs.
I ignore the shocked nurse when I emerge from the stairwell. I twirl frantically, trying to figure out what direction to run before Uncle Edgar shows up to drag me away. I see 3210 just down the hall. I rush for it, pushing open the door violently.
Skin grafts and thick burn scars cover every inch of Chad’s body. Cautiously I step closer. I run my hand gently over his ridged arm and his disfigured face. How did he even survive that inferno?
“Chad,” I whisper mournfully. I kneel next to the bed, dropping my face into his chest. “Not alive,” I say. “Not really.”
But this could be enough. I could survive the rest of my life with the Chad hologram—only a flicker of who this man really is, but enough for me.
I grip Chad’s mutilated arm and choke back a sob. Can I really live with that choice? Can I face Chad knowing I’m imprisoning him? Can I sink to Uncle Edgar’s disgusting level, keeping people alive for my own profit even if I can justify it?
I could. I really could.
“You shouldn’t be here, Abbey. This isn’t good for you.”
I lift my head, gazing at Uncle Edgar. “You’re a horrible man.”
Uncle Edgar holds his hands up defensively. “You’re the only one I’ve ever sent him to. I swear, Abbey.”
“And all the others?”
I look back at Chad’s face. Agony shreds my insides. I brush my lips across his forehead and reach toward the wall. Uncle Edgar lurches forward, surprised.
I rip out the plug and match the wail of the heart monitor with one of my own.