They all knew the unwritten law, but curiosity can be a terrible thing, even for creature’s so pure of spirit as they. God had given mankind free will, and in a fit of recklessness he had also granted this gift to his angels.
As with Adam and Eve, there had, however, been a catch.
For Mankind, it had been the forbidden fruit, but for his celestial beings the temptation was even worse. They were forbidden direct contact with God’s greatest creation: Earth. “Not one foot shall thou place upon the land,” he had proclaimed, “Lest thou be banished from the Heavens for eternity.”
Aélia was not the first of her kind to be tempted. Over the countless centuries others had fallen from God’s grace. It was well known that some had fallen. In fact, for some, touching God’s green earth had not been enough. Once fallen, they had sought it all.
For Aélia, the slippery road to mortality had started quite simply. It happened on the platform of a London Tube station, ironically called Angel. The station held no particular significance to God’s celestial beings, Aélia just happened to working there.
Her current task was to watch over Miss Celia Beckett. Miss Beckett had been standing on the platform, waiting for the 8:15 when Aélia’s world was suddenly torn assunder.
As the train hurtled into the station, Celia’s left foot hesitantly crossed the yellow hazard line drawn on the tarmac of the platform. It was followed by her right foot, and before Aélia could stop Celia, she found herself out of a job.
Aélia should have been paying better attention of her ward. She should have read the warning signs. She knew about Celia’s recent break up, the nights in, watching weepy movies and too much chocolate ice-cream, but she had never believed that Celia would take it this far.
Of course, there was not much that Aélia could do. That was the curse of free will, after all. Aélia could give silent comfort by her presence. She could even scream a mute warning of impending danger to her ward in times of crisis, but humans seldom listened to that little voice in their heads anymore.
The problem was that at the very moment that Celia decided to take her life, Aélia was otherwise distracted.
Aélia had seen him again; the mysterious man who haunted her dreams. He had been standing on the other side of the tracks, waiting for the King’s Cross St. Pancras train.
Aélia had been daydreaming, wondering who he was, where he was going. For some inexplicable reason she had felt a strange connection to the young man ever since they had first crossed paths in Boots Chemist, a week ago.
The screech of the incoming train brought Aélia back to reality, but far too late to save Celia Beckett. In the blink of an eye, Celia was heading towards the light, leaving Aélia task redundant.
Pandemonium ensued, and the station shut down for the next hour. The area was cordoned off, emergency services were called, and various people were treated for shock.
Unable to do anything, Aélia floated there for a while, an inch above the tarmac, and watched the world go by. In truth, she was a little stunned by it all, and burdened by a little guilt. Eventually, she drifted off through the crowd and sought solace in the Whitechapel Gallery. She always found a sense of peace while strolling amongst the pictures there.
A week passed before Aélia returned to the scene of the accident.
It was 8:17 a.m. on a dreary Wednesday in Islington, but Aélia was oblivious of the weather. Angels could only watch, they could not feel the world around them.
Aélia hovered amidst the crowd of early morning commuters, sending out comforting thoughts wherever she could, when all of a sudden she noticed something. On the platform opposite was the young man who had haunted her dreams.
He was sitting there, quite serenely, reading the Guardian newspaper. Without considering her actions, Aélia drifted across the tracks toward him. Peering over his shoulder, she was surprised to find him reading an article about Lucian Freud, the painter. Aélia had recently viewed an exhibition of his works and had been enraptured by the features on his portraits.
Dragging her eyes away from the paper, she studied the stranger’s face more closely. He had a rugged lived in sort of face, more of a rugby player’s face than a male model. His jawline was shadowed with a light bristle, and his nose was slightly off centre, but he was nonetheless rather handsome. His clothes looked clean, but they had clearly been chosen for comfort rather than style. His boots were the sort people used for hiking, and his corduroy jeans were starting to fade from use.
That was when he turned and looked directly at her.
People weren’t supposed to do that. She was invisible, after all. Perhaps he had sensed her presence.
His eyes locked on hers, and her spirit felt lost in the depth of his eyes. They were as blue as a summer sky.
He blinked, looking puzzled, and then shook his head as if to rid himself of an hallucination.
It was then that Aélia forgot herself.
Could this have been how Celia felt as she took that first tentative step towards the edge of the platform?
Aélia’s foot brushed the surface of the tarmac, ever so lightly. A jolt ran through her body and she gasped loudly. Had she risen quickly above the surface, she might still have been saved, but Aélia was still ensnared by the stranger’s eyes. She followed her instincts and placed her feet firmly on terra firma. A coldness crept up her body, starting at her naked feet and rising heavenward.
The chill air of February brushed against her skin for the first time, and her immortality slipped away in the blink of an eye. The cloak of invisibility that had kept her concealed for so long blew asunder on the light breeze, taking the white gossamer feathers of her wings with it, one by one.
The sudden and irreversible weight of mortality nearly crushed her, but as Aélia stumbled forward, a hand caught her by the elbow.
“Are you alright, Miss?” he asked.
The stranger who haunted her dreams was holding her arm, his face a mixture of concern and confusion.
She felt the warmth of his touch, and a almost erotic tingle ran up her arm. She had never felt someone’s touch before.
It felt good, so very, very good.
Hungry to explore these new feeling further, Aélia leaned towards the stranger, letting her fingers lightly brush against the stubble of his jawline.
It felt so good to touch someone.
Angels couldn’t feel. They didn’t get hot or cold. They could only imagine what if felt like to touch someone, to lie beside them at night. Aélia, like many other angels, had often wondered why humans put so much emphasis on brushing their lips together, or why they took such contentment from the simple act of holding one another’s hands.
Centuries of curiosity gave Aélia courage. Leaning forward, she fell fully into the stranger’s arms and planted a light kiss on his lips.
As kisses went, it was probably not a good one, but it was Aélia’s first kiss and to Aélia if felt wonderful. It felt so good in fact, that she decided to do it again.
The first kiss had caught the stranger by surprise. He recovered quickly from his shock, however, and when she kissed him again, he reciprocated …
Aélia was forced to stop kissing him, as her head was becoming lightheaded from lack of oxygen. Angels didn’t need to breathe either, but that was another thing she was going to have to get used to.
Somehow, she found herself sitting in his lap, on the bench. His paper was by now forgotten, and it drifted slowly up the platform towards the incoming train.
“I’m sorry, but have we met,” he asked, his eyes twinkling with curiosity.
“Erm, no, I don’t think so,” replied Aélia, blushing for the first time in her life. She looked around the platform, but thankfully, the other commuters’ were studiously ignoring the kissing couple on the bench.
“Do you regularly go about kissing strangers?” he asked.
“You’re my first,” Aélia replied, honestly. “I’ve seen you a few times, though, so we aren’t really strangers. We met in Boots. Do you remember?”
He was momentarily lost in thought before he shook his head, “No, sorry.”
“Don’t worry. We’ve met now anyway.”
“I’m Peter … Peter Wilson,” he announced, offering a hand.
Hesitantly, she took his hand, enveloping it in both of hers. Lifting it, she kissed his fingertips. “Nice to meet you, Peter.”
He gave her a quizzical look.
She could smell his scent, and wanted snuggle closer and fall asleep with that scent filling her nostrils. Being mortal was proving to be tiring work.
“What do I call you?” he prompted.
“Oh … I’m Aélia … “ Aélia paused trying to think of a surname to use, “Aélia Angel.”
“Nice to meet you, Aélia. That’s an unusual name. Are you waiting for the train too?”
“I suppose so,” Aélia replied. She had not thought this far ahead when she decided to break God’s unwritten command. Suddenly all sorts of problems popped up in her mind. Where was she going to live? How was she going to eat? The endless list of problems overwhelmed her. “Can we just sit here for a while though. I’m suddenly feeling very tired.”
“You do look very pale. Are you coming down with something?” Peter asked with concern in his voice.
Aélia laughed, a sweet musical sound. She had certainly come down with something, and it was fatal, but for all that, she was sure that she had made the right decision.