Adventures of a Christmas Angel
DARA E HEALY
ANGEL PUSHED the back door gently, trying her best to avoid making any noise with the squeaky door. She could not risk waking her neighbour Junior. The night was unusually quiet. A restless dog barked, while a humid gust of wind disturbed the leaves in the surrounding bushes.
Sitting in the kitchen in almost complete darkness was Monica. Most of the light came from the Christmas tree that was leaning on a table in the living room and a naked bulb in the corridor by the bathroom. The modestly furnished room was in disarray – Christmas presents everywhere, family photos on the ground. The television – smashed – aftermath of another drunken rampage. Angel was relieved that Monica was still alive.
Angel sat down on the chair in front of Monica. She stopped herself from reacting when she saw Monica’s face. Three scratches under her right eye, the left one swollen, and drops of blood on her clothes.
“I can’t take no more, Angel.” Monica had sent the text as Angel was drifting off to sleep.
“Monica. Monics.” Monica stared into the space behind Angel. She sat as if frozen with her hands on her lap.
“Monica,” Angel, whispered again. Finally, Monica’s eyes focused on Angel.
“Where Junior?" Angel asked.
“He on the bed sleeping.”
“And the children? Monics, what about the children?”
Angel started to panic. Finally, Monica said, “The children? They know to go an’ hide under the bed when he start.”
Angel tried to hold Monica’s hand, but she pulled it up her lap and started whispering softly to herself. The pit in Angel’s stomach grew. She pulled the chair closer and whispered, “Monics, what you want to do?”
Monica responded, “He pelt a chair behind baby Jade. Thank God he miss. Jason hold her and run in the bedroom. I ...” Monica started to chatter to herself again.
Angel tried again. “Monics, what you want to do? You want us to go somewhere with you and the children?”
Monica muttered, rocking gently side to side.
Angel decided to go and check on the children. She stepped gingerly over the chaos in the living room and quietly opened the door. The light from the street lamp cast eerie shadows in the bedroom. Angel knelt in front of the bed and saw Jason hugging his little sister Jade.
“Aye Monica, ole ho!” Junior called out in his sleep.
Jason opened his eyes and looked at Angel in terror, but she put her finger to her lips and put on her best smile. She tiptoed back out to the kitchen, listening to Junior muttering in his sleep, terrified he would wake any minute.
“Monics, the children OK. What you want to do? You want some water?”
Monica looked up at Angel. “Ah tired. Leh we go.”
This is what Angel had been waiting for months to hear. She paused to send a text and then sprang into action. She found a bag and packed what she could and bundled up the children, all the while telling them they were playing a game. Angel even picked up some of the Christmas presents. She opened the squeaky back door and helped Monica up.
“Monica!” Junior was awake.
But Angel was ready. “Start the car, Jackie!”
She pushed Monica and the children out of the house and into her friend’s car, just as Junior burst out of the back door, spewing filth and threats at Monica.
“So where they are now?” Angel and her friend Dexter were sitting on a concrete wall on the hill where Angel lived, watching the sunset.
“I doh know, but Jackie will make sure they safe. At least they will be able to enjoy their Christmas away from that man.”
“Girl, you insist on playing detective, eh. What if that man did wake up?”
“Come on, I have you, the original detective himself! You know I wasn’t supposed to be here?”
“On the hill?” asked Dexter.
“No boy, on this earth, alive.”
Dexter looked at her questioningly.
“Yeah, they find me in a garbage bag outside the hospital a Christmas Eve. I think that’s why I like to help people. I know what it mean not to have nothing.”
Dexter looked at her. “Well, you have me.”
“This sunset real beautiful,” said Angel.
“Beautiful,” said Dex as he studied the profile of his friend in the dazzling orange and purple lights of the setting sun.
Dara E Healy is a performance artist and founder of the Indigenous Creative Arts Network – ICAN