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Amongst The Living

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Angel walked up to the front desk, not caring about anything but seeing his sister. Behind the desk, a woman sat with her hair tied up in a neat bun. Her name tag read: Amanda.

“How can I help you sir?” She said.

Feeling nervous, he wrung his hands together, and said, “Amanda, I would like to see Molly. She has blond hair, but it might be grey now, and um blue eyes and ummm…”

Angel tries to tell her about Molly, but he doesn’t even know what she looks like or how she acts. Amanda’s eyes lit up.

She nodded, “Ah, yes! I know who you’re talking about. What’s your relation? I have never seen you here before.”

“Ah.” Angel rubbed his neck. “I’m her brother.”

Amanda guffawed. “What? You look so young!”

“You’re sweet, sugar. Our dad just had me super late.” Angel lied effortlessly.

“Ah, alright!” She typed a note on her computer. “Just sign the visitor log right there.” She pointed to a book next to him.

Letting out a breath he didn’t know he had been holding, he nodded and signed the form.

“Alright. Follow me!” She said kindly and moved to walk down the hallway, Angel following close behind.

They passed many doors and a recreational area with some residents talking and playing games.

Finally, they came to a stop in front of one of the doors with her name tag. Amanda knocked and opened the door softly.

“Molly. You have a visitor.”

Angel’s sister was sitting in a rocking chair on the balcony, the sliding door open. She looked up towards Angel as he walked towards her. The first thing that crossed her face was shock then a terrible sorrow. He never wanted to see that look on her face ever again. Angel proceeded to take off his hat and clutch it against his stomach. She looked so different from when he had last seen her. Her long golden hair and unblemished skin long gone with old age.

“Anthony? Is that really you?” She could barely even get that much out before he nodded. He knew it was her from her voice.

Angel kneeled in front of his sister and began to sob into her blanket. She didn’t seem surprised, only concerned, runnnin her hands through his hair and speaking quietly of her love for him out of habit.

In that moment, every single thing that Angel had ever suffered through, in death and life, came rushing towards him like a bowling ball.

The pain he had felt the very first time his father had ever hit him, while his brother stared at the ground too afraid to move and too guilty to look at him.

His mother's kind face and cold hands as she died from a terrible sickness laying in her bed.

The very first time Val had ever taken advantage of him, and Angel had cried afterwards feeling disgusting in his own body.

The many times Angel had been forced into sex with someone in a porno or on the streets because his contract with Val made him feel as if he was bound by metal chains, leaving deep bruises in his skin, and he knew he couldn’t say no without facing the consequences.

After a while, Angel finally looked up at Molly. Her eyes were glistening with unshed tears as she gently ran her fingers through his hair.

“Anthony, it’s going to be okay. I promise I will never leave you.” She comforted him just as she had when they were alive together.

Angel slowly got up and sat down in the chair next to hers.

She reached for his hand and they entwined their fingers, memories of when they were alive by eachothers side. “Anthony, how are you here? You died decades ago. Are you even real?”

He nodded. “Yeah, I am, and it’s a long story, Molls, but I’m here now at least for a little bit.”

“Okay.”

He turned to look at her, really look at her. She was so different from the last time he had seen her, especially her hair now completely white and skin wrinkled, but he could still see the remnants of what she used to look like. In fact, the one thing that hadn’t changed was her eyes. They still sparkled as bold and blue as they had ever been when he was alive.

She squeezed his hand and said, “Tell me how you’re here.”

He looked away. “Molls, I don’t know if I can. It’s really complicated.”

“Anthony! Just tell me already. I’m your sister for godsake!” Angel looked at her, suddenly more nostalgic.

Angel rubbed his other hand across his neck. “I’m dead, Molly. I’ve been dead a really long time. I can only be here for a little bit before I gotta leave.”

Molly didn’t seem shocked. “I knew you couldn’t have come back from the dead. I was the one who found ya, ya know.”

Angel made a sound like a wounded animal. “No, Molls. I’m so sorry. I-”

She cut him off. “I found ya there in your room. I was checkin’ in on ya after that bad fight with pops a few days before.” She paused and took in a breath. “You had already died. Your curtains were pulled, so I went over to open them. I called to you to wake you, thinking you were merely asleep under your blanket. My hand brushed across your leg, cold as ice. I could feel the fear race through me as I pulled the blanket away from your face.

“Your skin was inhumanly pale and I could see the veins under your skin. You had curled up like a baby. It made my skin crawl as I tried to process it. I fell on the floor and backed up ‘til I hit the wall. I wretched and shook on the floor. I could barely call out for help.

“After that pops found ya and he was shocked and angry. I couldn’t say if he was mad at himself or you. Our brother couldn’t stand to look at ya, guilt clear in his eyes.”

Molly had started to stare at something far away, tears falling across her cheeks. Angel felt his heart clench and he felt terrible shame.

“Molly, I just… I couldn’t anymore. Not after what he had done.”

Molly finally turned to look at him. Her lip quivered as she said, “I know, but I would have helped. I would have ran away right then and there, if it had meant you would have still been alive. I would have done anythin’ to help you, but you couldn’t see that. Your mind was hazy and clouded over with the pain and your drugs. It was Angel Dust, right? At least that’s what you always called it anyways.”

Angel couldn’t look her in the eyes, feeling her frustration and sadness. “Molls, I can’t change what I did, then or before that. I know that and it kills me every single second I’m still breathing.”

“I know, and I haven’t been mad at you for a long time. It all happened so long ago and I’m too old to hate my dead family.” She let out a sigh. “Anthony, I love you so much, and no matter if this is real or not, you have to remember that. I missed you so much after you died, and I still do all the time.”

Angel held both her hands. “Molly, my sweet little sis-”

“You’re only older by 6 minutes, so watch it.” She said, just like when they were little kids. Angel felt a feeling nostalgia and sadness bubble up in his chest.

He held up his hands. “Alright, alright! But I love you too. I won’t burden you with all that has happened, but I never stopped needing my sister. There were so many moments that I wished to have you back, to feel your comforting hugs and hear your kind voice. ”

She nodded and they fell into a comfortable silence. A calmness that Angel had never felt before washing across him, body and soul.

After a moment of silence, Angel asked, “Molly, what did you do after I died? Ya know, after I died.”

She looked at Angel then off into the distance. “Pops and our brother died soon after that. It was a shootout over some sort of drug deal. I don’t remember much besides getting as much cash outta Pop’s safe as I could. I ran as far from our home as I could and ended up somewhere in the country. I bought a house with the money and filled my days with endless hobbies,” She turned to look at Angel, a small smile on her face.

“I actually became a painter. It was a good way to work through all the memories of the past, and I made a decent living off of it. I also remember all the barn cats that would wander into my studio. I had a few too many paintings stepped on or covered in cat fur, but I found peace for the rest of my life until I retired.”

They spoke for a while after that about her art and what else she remembered until the visiting hours were over.

Before he left, the last thing she told him was “Don’t hold it in, Angie. Let people love you and care for you. I know it’s hard, but I never want you to be in pain like that again, bottling it all up until the bottle cracks with the force. Okay?”

He held her close for the last time. He didn’t know how he knew, but he could tell that she was coming to the end very soon. Angel said his goodbyes and put on his hat.

Angel was full of new, raw emotions as old wounds began to heal. He couldn’t remember the last time he had felt so undeniably, wholly human.

He went through the reopened portal and landed in Stolas’ house.