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Before We Were Songbirds

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The Volkswagen Bus was painted an odd shade of purple. Elisa Ambrose blinked at it a few times, rather surprised. Not so much for the color, but for the fact that this was the first one of these vans that didn't have that awful smell floating out of it. She had two dollars in her pocket and her dad told her to find herself something special. He was off looking for a musical instrument for her brother for his birthday. She looked at the assortment of goods on the table in front of the van, glancing once at the man behind it, who was scanning one of those newspapers that they sold at check-out counters. The ones that had stories about insane things like aliens visiting the earth.

How stupid.

She was ten and she knew better than to believe in that sort of thing. Perhaps it was the lack of the smell that drew her to the table, or perhaps it was something near the back of it. When she was close enough to set her fingers on the front of the table, free from the jostling crowd, she could see it more clearly.

It was a porcelain angel – the like of which she'd never seen, not even in those magazines her mother got. It stood about a foot tall, its wings were outstretched, forming an arch over the angel's head. It was a boy angel – dressed in armor. In his right hand, he held a sword, as if the weapon was on the down-stroke. In the left, a gleaming gold-colored trumpet. The angel was holding the mouthpiece of his instrument to his lips, no doubt calling for his fellow angels to rally to him in a fight.

A shadow fell over her and she looked up into the face of the man who was running this stand. Elisa didn't even pause, she opened the notebook she always carried and scribbled down a question on the paper. How much is the angel? She held it out to the man, hoping he wouldn't say something sarcastic as plenty of people in this place had done a time or two when she did this.

The man smiled, his brown hazel eyes scanning the words and then he handed the notebook back to her. Then, so Elisa's surprise, signed the answer to her. “The angel costs four dollars.”

Elisa felt her face fall. Four dollars. She seriously doubted she could go back and ask her dad for another two dollars. She shook her head and set her notebook down so she could sign a reply. “I don't have that much. But thank you.”

Something in the man's face changed and he held his hand out to stop her from leaving. “I'll tell you what, if you can tell me the angel's name, I'll let you have it for free.”

“Mister, that's not... it's a beautiful angel, you can't just give it to me!” She rubbed her nose, honestly wishing she could leave – so she could try and find something to blot out the angel on the table. It'd look so nice with that other one of hers, the one that once belonged to her uncle.

She saw the man laugh before he replied. “You're that certain you know who he is?”

Elisa raised her chin and nodded. “That's the Archangel Gabriel. He's the one who usually carries both a sword and horn. Just like Saint Peter is the one with keys in paintings of the Apostles.”

The man nodded in reply and got out a mess of tissue paper from under the table and wrapped the delicate angel and then put it into a paper bag. After it was safely nestled in her hands, he signed to her again. “Now make sure you take good care of him. You look like a very responsible girl and I'm sure you can give him a safe home.”

“I will.” She grinned. “Thank you!”

The man nodded. “Now why don't you go find yourself something nice to eat?”

Elisa nodded and headed back into the crowd, her face beaming as she hugged the bag to her chest.

Gabriel watched the little deaf girl go, his smile sad. Even being an archangel didn't make him omnipotent. People with futures tied to his went dark the moment he made contact with them. He had no idea how he and the girl – Elisa – he knew her name – would be connected. But the porcelain angel would keep her and anyone she cared about safe from supernatural harm. At least whenever they met again, she wouldn't remember him.

That at least, was a blessing.

He settled back into the opening of his van, watching the crowd, feeling very much alone. So much was in flux, so much was up to chance right now – just making sure one little girl and her loved ones were safe was a bit of consolation.