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Dark Angel (Chapter 7)

Gillian felt triumph, wild excitement-and something deeper. An emotion she couldn't describe because

there weren't any ordinary words for it. David was looking at her, and it was almost as if she could see

through his dark eyes. As if she could see inside him… see the way things looked to him…

What she felt was a little like discovery and a little like deja vu and a little like waking up and suddenly

realizing it's Christmas. Or like being a kid lost in a strange place, cold and bewildered, and then

suddenly hearing your mother's voice. But it really wasn't like any of those things; it was more.

Unexpected welcome… strange recognition… the shock of belonging…

She couldn't quite put it all together, because

there was nothing like it in her experience. She'd never heard of anything like this. But she had the feeling

that when David kissed her, she'd figure it all out and it would be the revelation of her life.

It was going to happen-now. He was moving clser to her, not fast, but as if slowly compelled by

something he couldn't control. Gillian had to look down, but she didn't move back or turn her face away.

He was close enough now that she could hear his breath and feel him. Her eyes shut of their own accord.

She waited to feel the touch of warmth on her lips…

And then something in her mind stirred. A tiny whisper, so far back that she could barely hear it, and she

couldn't tell where it came from.

Tanya.

The shock went through Gillian like ice on bare skin. Part of her tried to ignore it, but she was already

pulling away, putting a hand up, turning to stare at the window.

Not out the window. It was too steamed up now to see anything outside. They were in their own

cocoon of whiteness.

Gillian said, "I can't. I mean, not like this. I mean-it isn't fair, because you already-and you haven't … I

mean… Tanya."

"I know." David sounded as if he'd been hit with ice on bare skin, or as if he'd come up from deep water

and was looking around dazedly. "I mean, you're right. I don't know what I was…

It just-it was like I forgot… Look, I'm sure that sounds stupid. You don't believe me."

"I do believe you." At least he sounded as incoherent as she did. He wouldn't think she was a total fool;

her facade wasn't broken.

"I'm not that kind of guy. I mean, it looks like I am, right here, it looks exactly like I am. But I'm not. I

mean I never-I'm not like Bruce Faber. I don't do that. I made a promise to Tanya and …"

Oh, God, Gillian thought. And then a sort of inward scream: (Help!)

(I was wondering when you'd remember me.)

(He made her a promise!)

(I'm sure he did. They've been going together a while.)

(But that's terrible!)

(No, it's admirable. What a guy. Now say you've got to get to school.)

(I can't. I can't think. How are we going to-)

(School first.)

Dully, Gillian said, "I guess we'd better get moving."

"Yeah." There was a pause, and then David put the car in gear.

They drove in silence, and Gillian sank deeper and deeper into depression. She'd thought it would be so

easy-just show David her new self and everything would fall into place. But it wasn't like that. He couldn't

just dump Tanya.

(Don't worry about it, kid. I have a cunning plan.)

(But what?)

(I'll tell you when it's time.)

(Angel-are you mad at me? Because I forgot about you?)

(Of course not. I'm here to arrange things so you can forget me.)

(Then-because I forgot about Tanya for a while? I don't want to do anything that's wrong…)

(I'm not mad! Heads up. You're there.)

Gillian couldn't push away the feeling that he was mad, though. Or at least surprised. As if something

unexpected had happened.

But she didn't have time to dwell on it. She had to get out of David's car and gather herself and face the

high school.

"I guess-I'll see you later," David said as she reached for the door handle. His voice made it a question.

"Yeah. Later," Gillian said. She didn't have the energy for anything more. She glanced back- once-to see

him staring at the steering wheel.

She could see people staring at her as she walked to the school building. It was a new sensation and it

gave her a spasm of anxiety.

Were they laughing at her? Did she look silly, was she walking wrong somehow?

(Just breathe and walk.) Angel's voice sounded

amused. (Breathe-walk-head up-breathe…)

Gillian somehow got through halls and up stairs to her U.S. history class without meeting another

student's eyes once.

There, arriving just as the bell rang, she realized she had a problem. Her history textbook, along with all

her notes, was floating somewhere down toward West Virginia.

With relief, she caught Amy's eye and headed toward the back of the classroom.

"Can I share your book? My whole backpack went in the creek." She was a little afraid Amy might be

miffed or jealous at the way she'd run off with David, but Amy didn't seem to be either. She seemed

more-awed-as if Gillian were some force like a tornado that you might fear, but that you couldn't get mad

at.

"Sure." Amy waited until Gillian had scooted her desk closer, then whispered, "How come it took you

so long to get to school? What were you and David doing?"

Gillian rummaged for a pen. "How do you know we weren't picking up Tanya?"

"Because Tanya was here at school looking for David."

Gillian's heart flip-flopped. She pretended to be very interested in history.

But she gradually noticed that some of the other students were looking at her. Especially the boys. It was

the sort of look she'd never imagined getting from a boy.

But these were all juniors, and none of them was in the really popular clique. All that would change in

Gillian's next class, biology. Half a dozen of the most popular kids would be there. David would be

there-and Tanya.

Gillian felt, with a sudden chill, that she might not really care anymore. What did it matter what other

people thought of her if she couldn't have David? But she had a fundamental faith in Angel. Somehow

things had to work out-if she just stayed calm and played her part.

When the bell rang, she hurried away from Amy's questioning eyes and into the bathroom. She needed a

moment to herself.

(Do something to your lipstick. It seems to have gone away somehow.) Angel sounded as puzzled as

any human boy.

Gillian fixed the lipstick. She ran a comb through her hair. She was somewhat reassured by the sight of

herself in the mirror. The girl there wasn't Gillian at all, but a slender, insubstantial femme fatale sheathed

like a dagger in black. The girl's hair was silky, the palest of all possible golds. Her violet eyes were

subtly shadowed so they looked mysterious, haunting. Her mouth was soft, red, and full: perfect, like the

mouth of a model in a lipstick commercial. Against the stark black of her clothing, her skin had the slightly

translucent look of apple blossoms.

She's beautiful, Gillian thought. And then to Angel: (I mean, I am. But I need … a Look, don't you think?

An expression for when people are

staring at me. Like, am I Bored or Slightly Amused or Aloof or Completely Oblivious or what?)

(How about Thoughtful? As if you've got your own inner world to pay attention to. It's true, you know.

You do.)

Gillian was pleased. Thoughtful, absorbed in herself, listening to the music of the spheres-or the music of

Angel's voice. She could do that. She settled the canvas bag on her shoulder and started toward her

locker.

(Uh, where are you going?) (To get my biology book. I still have that.) (No, you don't.)

Gillian maintained her Thoughtful expression, while noting that heads turned as she walked down the hall.

(Yes, I do.)

(No, you don't. Due to circumstances entirely beyond your control, you lost your biology book and all

your notes. You need to sit with somebody else and share his.)

Gillian blinked. (I-oh. Oh, yeah, you're right. I lost my biology book.)

The door of the biology lab loomed like the gate to hell, and Gillian had trouble keeping Thoughtful

pinned to her face. But she managed to walk through it and into the quiet buzz that was a class before a

bell was about to ring.

(Okay, kid. Go up front and tell Mr. Wizard you need a new book. He'll take care of the rest.)

Gillian did as Angel said. As she stood beside Mr. Leveret and told her story she sensed a new

quietness in the classroom behind her. She didn't look back and she didn't raise her voice. By the time

she was done, Mr. Leveret's pouchy, pleasantly ugly face had gone from a startled "Who are you?"

expression (he had to look in the class register to make sure of her name) to one of pained sympathy.

"I've got an extra textbook," he said. "And some outlines of my lectures on transparencies. But as for

notes-"

He turned to the class at large. "Okay, people. Jill-uh, Gillian-needs a little help. She needs somebody

who's willing to share their notes, maybe xerox them-"

Before he could finish his sentence, hands went up all over the room.

Somehow that brought everything into focus for Gillian. She was standing in front of a classroom with

everyone staring at her-that in itself would have been enough to terrify her in the old days. And sitting

there in front was David, wearing an unreadable expression, and Tanya, looking rigidly shocked. And

other people who'd never looked directly at her before, and who were now waving their hands

enthusiastically.

All boys.

She recognized Bruce Faber, who she'd always thought of as Bruce the Athlete, with his tawny hair and

his blue-gray eyes and his tall football build. Normally he looked as if he were acknowledging the

applause of a crowd. Just now he

looked as if he were graciously extending an invitation to Gillian.

And Macon Kingsley, who she called Macon the Wallet because he was so rich. His hair was brown

and styled, his eyes hooded, and there was something cruel to the sensual droop of his mouth. But he

wore a Rolex and had a new sports car and right now he was looking at Gillian as if he'd pay a lot of

money for her.

And Cory Zablinski-who was Cory the Party Guy because he constantly seemed to be arranging, going

to, or just recovering from parties. Cory was wiry and hyper, with foxy brown hair and darting

fox-colored eyes. He had more personality than looks, but he was always in the middle of things, and at

this moment he was waving madly at Gillian.

Even Amy's new boyfriend Eugene, who didn't have looks or personality in Gillian's opinion, was

wiggling his fingers eagerly.

David had his hand up, too, despite Tanya's cold expression. He looked polite and stubborn. Gillian

wondered if he'd told Tanya he was just trying to help a poor junior out.

(Pick… Macon.) The ghostly voice in Gillian's ear was thoughtful.

(Macon? I thought maybe Cory.) She couldn't pick David, of course, not with Tanya looking daggers at

her. And she felt uncomfortable about picking Bruce for the same reason-his girlfriend Amanda Spengler

was sitting right beside him.

Cory was friendly and, well, accessible. Macon, on the other hand, was vaguely creepy.

This time the voice in her head was patient. (Have I ever steered you wrong? Macon.)

(Cory's the one who always knows about parties…) But Gillian was already moving toward Macon.

The most important thing in life, she was discovering quickly, was to trust Angel absolutely.

"Thanks," she said softly to Macon as she perched on an empty stool behind him. She repeated after

Angel: "I'll bet you take good notes. You seem like a good observer."

Macon the Wallet barely inclined his head. She noticed that his hooded eyes were moss green, an

unusual, almost disturbing color.

But he was nice to her all period. He promised to have his father's secretary photocopy the thick sheaf

of biology notes in his spiral-bound notebook. He lent her a highlighter. And he kept looking at her as if

she were some interesting piece of art.

That wasn't all. Cory the Party Guy dropped a ball of paper on the lab table as he walked past to get rid

of his gum in the trash can. When Gillian unfolded it she found a Hershey's kiss and a questionnaire: R U

new? Do U like music? What's yr phone #? And Bruce the Athlete tried to catch her eye whenever she

glanced in his direction.

A warm and heady glow was starting somewhere inside Gillian.

But the most amazing part was yet to come. Mr. Leveret, pacing in the front, asked for somebody to

review the five kingdoms used to categorize living things.

(Raise your hand, kid.) (But I don't remember-) (Trust me.)

Gillian's hand went up. The warm feeling had changed to a sense of dread. She never answered

questions in class. She almost hoped Mr. Leveret wouldn't see her, but he spotted her right away and

nodded. "Gillian?"

(Now just say after me…) The soft voice in her head went on.

"Okay, the five classes would be, from most advanced to most primitive, Animalia, Plantae, Fungi,

Protista… and Eugene." Gillian ticked them off on her fingers and glanced sideways at Eugene as she

finished.

(But that's not nice. I mean-) She never got to what she meant. The entire class was roaring with

laughter. Even Mr. Leveret rolled his eyes at the ceiling and shook his head tolerantly.

They thought she was hysterical. Witty. One of those types who could break up a whole classroom.

(But Eugene-) (Look at him.) Eugene was blushing pink, ducking his head.

Grinning. He didn't look embarrassed or hurt; he actually looked pleased at the attention.

It's still wrong, a tiny voice that wasn't Angel's seemed to whisper. But it was drowned out by the

laughter and the rising warmth inside Gillian. She'd never felt so accepted, so included. She had the

feeling that now people would laugh whenever she said something even marginally funny. Because they

wanted to laugh; they wanted to be pleased by her-and to please her.

(Rule One, dragonfly. A beautiful girl can tease any guy and make him like it. No matter what the joke

is. Am I right or am I right?)

(Angel, you're always right.) She meant it with all her heart. She had never imagined that guardian angels

could be like this, but she was glad beyond words that they were and that she had one on her side.

At break the miracles continued. Instead of hurrying out the door as she normally did, she found herself

walking slowly and lingering in the hall. She couldn't help it, both Macon and Cory were in front of her,

talking to her.

"I can have the notes ready for you this weekend," Macon the Wallet was saying. "Maybe I should drop

them by your house." His heavy-lidded eyes seemed to bore into her and the sensual droop to his mouth

became more pronounced.

"No, I've got a better idea," Cory was saying, almost dancing around the two of them. "Mac, m'man,

don't you think it's about time you had

another party? I mean, it's been weeks, and you've got that big house… How about Saturday, and I'll

round up a keg and we can all get to know Jill better." He gestured expansively.

"Good idea," Bruce the Athlete said cheerfully from behind Gillian. "I'm free Saturday. What about

you-Jill?" He draped a casual arm around her shoulder.

"Ask me Friday," Gillian said with a smile, repeating the whispered words in her mind. She shrugged off

the arm on her own volition. Bruce belonged to Amanda.

A party for me, Gillian thought dazedly. All she'd wanted was to get invited to a party given by these

kids-she'd never imagined being the focus of one. She felt a stinging in her nose and eyes and a sort of

desperation in her stomach. Things were happening almost too fast.

Other people were gathering around curiously. Incredibly, she was at the center of a crowd and

everyone seemed to be either talking to her or about her.

"Hey, are you new?"

"That's Gillian Lennox. She's been here for years."

"I never saw her before."

"You just never noticed her before,"

"Hey, Jill, how come you lost your biology book?"

"Didn't you hear? She fell in a creek trying to save some kid. Almost drowned."

"I heard David Blackburn pulled her out and had to give her artificial respiration."

"1 heard they were parked on Hillcrest Road this morning."

It was intoxicating, exhilarating. And it wasn't just guys who were gathered around her. She would have

thought that the girls would be jealous, spiteful, that they'd glare at her or even all walk away from her in

one mass snub.

But there was Kimberlee Cherry, Kim the Gymnast, the bubbly, sparkly little dynamo with her

sun-blond curls and her baby-blue eyes. She was laughing and chattering. And there was Steffi Lockhart

the Singer, with her cafe au lait skin and her soulful amber eyes, waving an expressive hand and beaming.

Even Amanda the Cheerleader, Bruce Faber's girlfriend, was in the group. She was flashing her healthy,

wide smile and tossing her shiny brown hair, her fresh face glowing.

Gillian understood suddenly. The girls couldn't hate her, or couldn't show it if they did. Because Gillian

had status, the instant and unassailable status that came from being beautiful and having guys fall all over

themselves for her. She was a rising star, a force, a power to be reckoned with. And any girl who

snubbed her was risking a nick in her own popularity if Gillian should decide to retaliate. They were

afraid not to be nice to her.

It was dizzying, all right. Gillian felt as beautiful

as an angel and as dangerous as a serpent. She was riding on waves of energy and adulation.

But then she saw something that made her feel as if she had suddenly stepped off a cliff.

Tanya had David by the arm and they were walking away down the hall.

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