“I’ll take it.”
“That will be $5.25, with tax.” The cashier eyed her dubiously as Jenny pulled an assortment of change and lint from her pants pocket, spreading it out on the counter in front of her.
“That’s all I have.” No apology or remorse in that statement, just fact. If she might have felt embarrassment at one time, that memory no longer registered. It had slipped away with all the rest.
The girl behind the register scooped the change into her hand, all $2.57 of it, and handed it back to Jenny.
“Keep it. They shouldn’t be charging for that jacket anyway. Just because it belonged to some famous person doesn’t mean it’s fit to sell.” The clerk muttered that last sentence to herself. Jenny barely caught it.
“Who did it belong to?” Not that it mattered. Jenny wouldn’t recognize the name.
“Some big movie star,” the clerk said, warming up to the subject. “His helicopter went down right over an active volcano. Swallowed him up, right in the middle of a live broadcast. It was all over the TV. Didn’t you see it?”
She stopped, took in Jenny’s obvious homeless condition. “Well, anyway, his estate donated a lot of his clothes here. The owners won’t miss one ratty jacket – oh, sorry, no offense.”
“Thank you for your kindness.” Jenny meant it. The underpass where she slept had been cold the last few nights. The jacket would keep her warm, even if others thought of it as ratty.
“Welcome to the fold.”
Jenny snapped awake, hugging her new jacket more tightly around her. It wouldn’t be difficult for someone to rob her of her only possession. A beautiful man stood before her, an aura of golden light about him drove the shadows to distant corners.
“I didn’t mean to startle you. What is your name?”
His gentle voice shattered Jenny’s suspicions; the kind face framed by light brown hair made her feel safe. She shrugged in answer to his question.
“I don’t remember, but people around here call me Jenny.”
“Come with me, Jenny. I can take you away from this.” He stretched out his hand.
Fear nibbled at the empty corridors of her mind. “What do I have to do in exchange?”
“All I ask is that you remember how you moved up in life – a simple thing really – and talk to me once in a while. That’s not too much to ask, is it?”
“Who are you, my guardian angel?”
His rich laugh filled the void in her memory. “If that’s how you perceive me. Take my hand if you agree to my terms.”
Jenny woke up to the sound of a knock. She opened her eyes and stared at the comfortable bed, the silk sheets caressing her skin. She sniffed the air. Gone were the odors of car exhaust and sweat, replaced by the delicate scent of jasmine. Her hair drifted across her shoulders in a dark cloud as she sat up, its clean bounce a welcome change from dirty strands.
The door opened slowly, a woman entered with a tray of food. “I hope I didn’t wake you, but you requested breakfast at 7 am.”
Jenny felt disoriented, but hunger drove her to nod at the woman, who set the tray on a table and left her alone once more. Shoving her old jacket aside, Jenny donned the dressing gown lying next to it on the chair and hurried over to the table. Her guardian angel joined her there.
“Is it to your liking? You’re a wealthy woman now.”
“I don’t understand,” Jenny replied around a mouthful of food. She couldn’t help it; it was more food than she’d see in a week of living on the street.
“There’s nothing to understand, just enjoy it and remember how you got here.”
There was something in his golden stare that spoke of greater depths, layers within layers. Jenny shoved it away, too grateful to question. He winked out when the housekeeper came back to collect the empty dishes.
Jenny spotted her old jacket in the back of the closet as she dressed for the charity event. The memories flooded back as she ran her hand across the worn and stained garment.
“It’s been awhile since you’ve called me. Why have you forgotten?”
The voice no longer soothed her; instead, it chilled. Icy tendrils of fear slithered in ribbons around her heart. She’d purposely spent the last few months determined to forget about her unsavory past. The world Jenny moved in now wouldn’t understand her rise to the penthouse any more than she did, but she liked the view from up here. Nothing would stand between her and success, not even him.
“I’m sorry. I guess I’ve been busy.” Lame, but she couldn’t say much else.
“I forgive you…this time.”
Jenny shuddered when he faded out again, but finished dressing. She was the guest of honor, and benefactor, for the new homeless shelter benefit that would begin in one hour. It wouldn’t do for her to be late for her own party.
The golden angel stood in front of a park bench, studying the sleeping form huddled within a worn and stained camel-colored jacket. The homeless man had wrapped layers of newspapers around his legs to protect against the chill in the air.
The being noted the two-week-old headline on one of the sheets – Heiress dies in fiery crash – and smiled to himself. They always forget. The bench sleeper opened his eyes, staring in drunken befuddlement at the golden glow.
"The Golden Demon"
Copyright: © 2009 Laura Eno
Copyright: © 2009 Laura Eno
Laura Eno lets the stories decide how long they’ll be. Some are flash and some are novels. Various online publications include 10Flash, Everyday Weirdness, The New Flesh, MicroHorror, Flashes in the Dark, Static Movement, House of Horror. To learn more about her, please visit http://lauraeno.blogspot.com