tagMind ControlLloyd's Angel Ch. 12

Lloyd's Angel Ch. 12


Lloyd's Angel: Reconciliation

November 2010

I'm not sure I actually slept at all; I just knew that I felt like crap when I finally slunk out of bed and started the coffee maker. I sat there in the kitchen and stared at the thin stream of brew spilling into the carafe.

"Happy 75, Lloyd," I told myself morosely.

Some of it was self-pity, but I felt like every decision I'd made since Alexandra died had turned to shit. It was my 75th birthday, and I was sitting alone with no living relatives reflecting on the fact that I was probably accidentally killing myself with medications while trying to recover from raping a man and effectively destroying the life of a woman who didn't deserve it -- and that was just the last twenty-four hours.

My business partner saw me as just a tool to be used, and the only person who'd tried to befriend me had been shattered beyond hope of repair into pieces that either mirrored the darker side of my soul or existed as a fragile facade of what had been.

On top of that, my balls ached with their load of unspent semen. Good things never happened on my birthday.

I watched the morning news while drinking my coffee and a few more aspirin. At least Glory's boyfriend had been locked up as planned. The breathless on-site reporter was thin on details, but he said police claimed to have a confession. With luck, he'd be butthole buddies with some bruiser real soon now, and get put away for a long time.

I needed to have a talk with Danny about Glory, but that couldn't be done over the phone. We'd have to see if we could set up some proper support for her, or she'd disappear into the underside of society. It had seemed the lesser of evils last night, but it was still evil.

Over fifty years of habit prodded me into action and I dragged into the store right on time.

"Happy birthday, Lloyd," Angela told me when we met in the break room. "You look like you did a little too much celebrating last night."

I grunted noncommittally and helped myself to another cup of coffee. It was pretty pathetic when the break room brew was better than what came out of my coffee maker at home; maybe it was time to splurge and get a new one.

"Would you maybe like to go out for a drink or maybe dinner and celebrate again?" she asked.

I looked up, surprised. It was hard to say which of us was tenser.

"I'd like that," I answered and surprised myself with a brief grin.

Angela hadn't relaxed completely. "If you don't mind, there's a friend I'd like you to meet. I thought we could all go out together."

It seemed out of character for me to sound too enthusiastic, so I tried to keep my tone neutral when I replied. "Any friend of yours is a friend of mine, Angela."

She was watching me closely, and I don't know if she bought it or not, but Angela flashed a pleased smile.

The crooks could have robbed us blind that day and I wouldn't have noticed. Maybe they did. I wandered around the store in a daze; when I was by myself, I speculated on why Angela had chosen today to reach out again, and why she'd apparently changed her mind about mentioning Rose. When we were close enough to converse without using the comm system and letting the rest of the staff listen, we discussed where we might go and how dressy it should be.

"I'm definitely taking a break from this uniform," Angela told me during one of those latter interludes. "And you must own something that doesn't make you look like the doddering grandpa who got out of the old folks' home by mistake. For God's sake, Lloyd, I know men half your age who would kill to have your hair."

My salt and pepper days were long behind me, but I still had a full head and it had a nice wave. I liked Angela's far better, but wasn't about to say so. "I can probably find something. A suit?"

Angela laughed loud enough to attract attention. "Not if it makes you look like one of those idiots from corporate!"

"Perhaps you'd like to come over and pick out something yourself?" I inquired archly.

"Getting ahead of ourselves, aren't we?" she riposted. "Look where we work, Lloyd," Angela gestured broadly around us. "Surely some of this fashion sense must have rubbed off on you!"

I interpreted this to mean a sport coat, although I was on the fence about the tie. "You will, I trust, exhibit some of this fashion sense yourself?"

Her eyes twinkled. "I wouldn't want to spoil the surprise."

I felt like some wet-behind-the-ears teenager going on his first date. After some deliberation, I picked out my second-best sport coat, but compensated by wearing a shirt I knew Angel liked; it seemed likely Angela would have similar tastes. It had French cuffs, which I fastened with a pair of heavy gold Home Run cufflinks. They wouldn't mean anything to somebody who didn't already know what they were, and they were simple and elegant; I wondered again how they'd gotten past Danny. I straightened the silk tie Angel had given me for my birthday last year; if it was too much, it could come off in an instant.

I really wanted to bring roses for Angela, but it seemed inappropriate for coworkers, and doubly so if Rose was there to witness it. As a standby, I'd stopped on the way home and bought a bottle of modestly expensive wine to serve as a more politically correct hostess gift.

After arriving early and pacing for a few minutes, I decided to screw propriety and rang Angela's apartment. I noticed in passing Rose was one floor above her.

"Come on up," her velvet soprano welcomed me over the buzz of the door lock.

My heart wanted to mount the stairs two at a time, but sanity prevailed and I arrived outside her door with my wind intact. It was ajar, but I knocked anyway before letting myself in.

"I'm just finishing up, Lloyd," she called from the bedroom. "Make yourself at home."

I looked around; the place hadn't really changed in the two years since I'd seen it last. The furnishings were sparse -- not unfinished, but carefully chosen by somebody who was used to travelling light. Everything was tidy, with the exception of an empty garment bag trailing over the corner of the futon.

"Oh, nice," Angela commented, and I looked up.

She was a vision in black, superficially not that unlike her working uniform -- if an Italian sports car could be called "not unlike" an American minivan. The differences were in the details. The turtleneck and slacks hugged her trim figure, displaying her eye-pleasing contours and making her look taller. A heavy link belt rode low on her hips and complemented a simple necklace and earrings. As usual, her hair was swept up in some simple twist I'd never been able to figure out.

"Wow," I choked out. My throat felt dry.

Angela laughed. "Lloyd, you're so articulate! I've always liked that about you." She approached me and tweaked my tie straight with a gesture that was heartbreakingly familiar. "You remembered," she whispered, stroking her hand gently down the tie.

Shocked, I looked her in the face. There was a spark in those dark eyes I'd never seen during the day, and her earrings matched my cufflinks. "Happy birthday," she told me with a wide smile.

"Angel?! I mean, Angela?"

"Angel is fine," she said. "Here, sit down before you drop that and break a toe or something." She confiscated the bottle I'd forgotten I was holding and steered me over to the futon.

"Angel! What are you doing here?" I still felt I must be dreaming.

"I live here," she replied, sitting next to me.

"But, Angela? Is she gone? God, have I finally killed her?" It was getting hard to breathe.

"Lloyd, calm down! We, she, whatever; we're fine!" She shook her head with an air of amusement, and turned her attention back to me. Wrapping her arms about me, she pressed herself close, letting her physical presence soothe me.

I fearfully asked her, "Do you remember?"

She didn't ask what. "Mostly. You hurt me, Lloyd -- badly. In ways I can't even describe. I trusted you, and you violated that trust."

There was no need to say more. I remembered the night two years ago, when we'd sat together on this futon on the 73rd anniversary of my birth and the third anniversary of my wife's death. When the pent-up demands of three years of grief and more than five years of celibacy fractured my self-control and I raped a young woman. The night I abused my special gift to shred her psyche and rebuild a warped plaything to pander to my base desires and a veneer to hide my crime. The night I'd surely condemned whatever remained of my tattered soul to Hell.

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