Guardian Of An Angel - Chapter 4

The next day was a Saturday, so Lori was spared from having to go to school. He woke up around lunch time, to see Angel nervously poking the TV set with a fork.

"Gaah...Angel, leave that alone. It's just an inanimate object, it's not gonna kill you or anything."

Angel glanced over at Lori doubtfully and gave the TV one last poke to make sure, before going over to the sofa-bed and starting to poke Lori instead.

"Ack! Quit it, I'm awake already!" he protested, throwing a couple of pillows in Angel's direction. Angel backed away to a safe distance, ruffling his flight feathers in impatience. "And put those wings away before Natalya sees them...she'd probably freak out and hit you with something...I dunno, I wanna sleep s'more..."

Angel replied by picking up an empty mug that had been half-hidden under heaps of clothes, and hitting it with the fork. Lori winced, hiding under his duvet to try and block out the annoying noise.

"OK already! ...I'll get up now, just stop that bloody noise!"

Angel began a victory dance, until another well-aimed pillow whacked him around the back of the head.

A while later, the two teenagers were on their way downstairs, Lori in a half-open black shirt, spiked dog collar and matching belt, and shiny PVC trousers, and Angel in ripped black jeans and one of Lori's white school shirts, because he refused to wear all black.

Lori decided not to switch the lounge's TV on, remembering Angel's freak-out session last time, and went straight into the kitchen.

"Huh? Empty? Where's Natalya?" he walked over to the refrigerator with Angel hovering close behind, worried that the yummy food provider had vanished.
There was a green post-it note stuck to the refrigerator door, scrawled untidily by someone not altogether used to writing in English.

"...Master Loreley, I gone shops for more food. You make your own breakfast, if you ever want eat, damn fool starving yourself...but you no mess up my kitchen, or I kill you! And you no be trying anything with your little boyfriend either, or your parents kill /me/! - Natalya." Lori read out, blushing slightly at the 'boyfriend' part. "...What's she mean, /I/ have to cook breakfast? I don't even know how to make toast!"

Angel looked despairing, gazing up at Lori with pleading eyes.

"And it's no good trying to be cute...I honestly can't cook - ow!" he winced as Angel poked him in the stomach with his fork. "Stop stabbing me with that thing! Are you trying to kill me or something? How would you like it if I went around pulling your feathers out all the time?"

Angel giggled.

Lori pouted, snatching the fork and dropping it into the sink, on top of a pile of dirty dishes. As he did so, he noticed the huge, round plate that had carried the triple-chocolate-gateaux, glinting under the harsh, high-powered kitchen lightbulbs.

"Hey, Angel...wanna bake a cake?"

Angel nodded eagerly.

"Okay, then! I dunno the recipe, but I guess we can make it up as we go along, right?"

Angel nodded again, and held up a bottle of barbecue sauce.

"Riiight...how about /I/ make it up, and you just follow my instructions..."

"OK, we've got two kinds of sugar, three kinds of flour, four kinds of chocolate and about a million types of spices and stuff, although I'm betting most of them would taste pretty gross in a cake...Angel, please stop eating the cherries..." Angel hid the half-empty tub of glacé cherries behind his back, looking guilty. "...eggs, milk, butter, low-fat butter, I Can't Believe It's Not Butter, margarine, sunflower oil spread, olive oil spread, cheese spread, low-fat cheese spread, I Can't Believe It's Not Low-Fat Cheese Spread...Angel, that's cooking chocolate, it'll taste weird on its own..." Angel reluctantly put the block of chocolate back on the kitchen counter "...raisins, apricots, strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, greenberries, gooseberries, swanberries...not that I know why we've got any of those, seeing as we're making a chocolate cake, not a fruitcake...Angel, please take that colander back off my head..."

Angel beamed, hitting the colander with a wooden spoon.

"Gee, thanks, that was just what I needed..." Lori replied dryly. "You're not an angel, you're just some clinically insane person who...hey!"

Angel scowled and hit the colander harder.

"Ow! OK, forget the stupid ingredients lists, let's just make the cake! Right, we need a mixing bowl, and a spoon, and...stuff...this is what I get for skipping Home Ec. classes..." he sighed, watching as Angel cheerfully dumped half a bag of flour into a saucepan. Lori decided to ignore Angel, rolling up his shirt sleeves and beginning to measure out flour and sugar.

Angel contented himself for a while by dropping eggs onto the floor and watching them shatter. After using up a whole box, he got bored and climbed up onto the counter, sitting down and fixing his eyes on Loreley.

"Eh, this is no good...I don't know what I'm doing. Hey, Angel, pass me the eggs, willya?"

Angel blinked.

Two hours later, Angel and Lori were perched on a couple of bar stools, sipping cans of Coke through straws as they waited for Lori's attempt at triple chocolate gateaux to finish baking. The Akemi family's oven was so hi-tech that it had taken half an hour to switch it on (in the end it had been Angel randomly turning dials that did it...so they had no idea what temperature he had managed to set the oven at, or how long the cake would be cooking for).

Lori surveyed the kitchen and shook his head in despair. The floor and most of the counters were blanketed in a thick snowdrift of flour, marked with trails of footprints where they had walked through it. The eggs that Angel had dropped were sitting around quite happily, shiny round yolks floating lazily amongst tiny, jagged islands of sand-coloured eggshell. Towers of piled-up plates, bowls and dishes were scattered everywhere, as were random cooking utensils half-covered in blobs of cake mixture, and various packets and boxes with their contents spilled out.

"You know that if we don't clear this up by the time Natalya gets home, she'll probably try and bake /us/ in the oven..."

Angel nodded and tugged Lori's sleeve urgently, pointing at the clouds of heavy black smoke that were slowly seeping out from the oven.

"Oh SHIT! It's burning! We need to open the oven! Open the oven!" he dropped his can, sending up clouds of flour as he raced across the kitchen and began frantically whacking the different dials and buttons above the oven door. "It won't open! Angelllll, help!"

There was a bright flash of light as Angel's wings burst out of his back. He began to calmly fan the smoke away with them, still happily sipping his drink.
Lori continued pressing the different buttons. Suddenly the smoke doubled in thickness, billowing out even faster than before in suffocating inky-black clouds that made them both cough.

A high-pitched smoke alarm went off, and water sprinklers began showering the entire kitchen. Angel squealed and covered his head with his wings, accidentally knocking a huge pile of plates onto the floor. Lori winced as he heard the inevitable crash and tinkle of broken glass. "Angel, put your wings away already!"
There was another flash of light as Angel obeyed, blinding them both for a second. A piercing shriek cut through the smoky air.

"AAAAAAAAAAGH! My kitchen! Master Loreley, what you done to my kiiiitcheeeeen?"

The furious figure of Natalya strode out of the smoke clouds, dropping the armfuls of shopping bags she had been carrying. There were more quiet shattering noises as the items in the bags reminded everyone that they shouldn't have been dropped.

"You little vandals! You destroy all expensive machines...your parents kill me!" she wailed, dropping onto her knees and grasping the sides of her head as if it was in danger of exploding. Lori took a step forward, about to apologise, when the housemaid looked up again, grinning madly and with a not-entirely-sane sort of look in her eyes.

"I kill YOUUUUU!" Natalya dived up again, lunging for Lori with a frying pan in one hand.

"Ack! Run for it!"

Lori grabbed Angel's arm and dragged them both down behind the counter. A number
of apples went flying over their heads, followed by two pineapples and a watermelon.
Lori's eyes widened as he watched the watermelon, awestruck. "Whoa, she must be stronger than she looks to throw that thing!"
Angel nodded in agreement, watching the melon explode as it hit the refrigerator.

There was a second of silence as the smoke cleared away and the water sprinklers stopped, before Natalya's face appeared directly above them, looking down from over the edge of the counter.
"Ehe heh...boo!"

"Shiiit!"

Lori scrambled away towards the exit, Angel following behind and dodging the boxes of crackers flying through the air after them.

"That's right! You run! You run out of my kitchen and you stay out, little bastards! Ahaha!"
Her yells chased them down the corridor and up the stairs, all the way back to Lori's bedroom.

Angel collapsed onto the bed, watching as his host locked and bolted the door closed. Lori turned around, grinning awkwardly and running a hand through his hair.

"Er, yeah, sorry about her, Angel...she gets kind of, um, hyperactive sometimes."

Angel stared at him doubtfully, as if to say 'your parents actually pay that loon to look after you?!'.

"Um, well...she's on medication. At least, she says it's medication." Lori paused, then shrugged it away. "Whatever, as long as she doesn't try and kill me or anything, I'm fine with her. I would have stayed and helped her clean up, if she hadn't gone all psycho on us."

He sighed, slumping down on the bed next to Angel and looking around for the TV remote.

"I guess we can't make your cake now, though...not that it would have been edible anyway, most likely."

Angel shook his head mournfully. Lori was silent for a while, leaning up and gazing at his bedroom ceiling. Angel glanced up too, but quickly got bored of staring at nothing but black space. He pulled a box of cookies he had been hiding from behind his back, and tapped Lori on the head with it.

Lori blinked, taking a moment to realise what had happened, before he noticed Angel and the cookies again.

"Huh? You got cookies, Angel?" Angel nodded and continued waving the box around frantically "Hmm, okay...I think I've got some drinks and stuff in that stupid minibar-type thing mom got me ages ago...let's have cookies and milk!"

Angel smiled, watching Lori get up and start searching around his room for the minibar. He had no idea what cookies and milk was, but Lori seemed happy about it, so it must be good (unless of course cookies and milk involved painting things black and listening to scary music, in which case Angel could just sit quietly and make sure the television machine didn't try and kill anyone). Lori seemed to have found what he was looking for, because he muttered 'ah! There's that damn thing!' and began messing around with something in a corner.

Angel yawned and let his wings appear again, lazily preening his feathers until Lori got back with two glasses of milk and that shiny thing...that shiny thing that made the television machine angry! Angel watched it nervously, clutching the cookie box a little tighter.

Loreley ignored him, knowing perfectly well what the angel was frightened of. He settled down on the bed again, lying on his stomach and idly pressing a button on the TV remote. The set buzzed into life, a small square of colour in the otherwise dark room. Before Angel could protest, Lori sat up, took the cookie box, opened it and shoved several of them into Angel's mouth.

"Now, don't freak out again, OK? The stuff in the television set can't jump out and hurt you, they're just pictures. And either you stay up here and watch TV with me, or you go downstairs and hope Natalya doesn't try and kill you with a frozen pizza. Choose." he demanded, poking Angel in the chest.

Angel thought for a moment, then pointed to Lori.

"Good! Now c'mon, it's time for Invader Zim!" Lori beamed, settling back down and starting to flick through the channels. Angel munched his cookies in silence, shooting resentful glares towards the ruby-haired boy every few minutes.
By the time the commercials arrived, he was gazing at the television with starry eyes.

Lori began idly channel-hopping again, guarding the remote jealously after repeated attempts by Angel to kidnap it. He paused on a channel showing a commercial for a PC software company.

A pretty woman with long, dark brown hair and eyes, and pale flawless skin, was talking in front of a backdrop featuring the company logo. She seemed to be in her mid-thirties, and was wearing a very expensive-looking grey business suit. The scene switched to an idyllic sunlit garden, where a little girl and her father were throwing a Frisbee for a golden retriever. A patio door swung open and a mother called them into the white-painted house; then all three, plus a little boy just as photogenic as the rest of his perfectly cast family, gathered round a computer to look at video clips, photographs and other things they had done with the company's software. The scene switched back to a close-up of the businesswoman's head and shoulders as she finished her speech, then the logo again against a white background, with the company name and website address underneath it.

The picture vanished, replaced by an advert for floor polish.

Angel looked back at Lori, who was now lying quietly, chin rested on his folded arms, still staring at the TV but not really focusing on the picture, as if there was a second, secret image on screen that only he could see. His chocolate-brown eyes had a strange, wistful look that Angel hadn't seen before, shimmering and oddly bright with some unknown emotion.
That horrible television machine, now it had made Lori sad!

Angel latched onto Lori's arm, snuggling closer to the other boy and trying to offer some sort of comfort. He waited for a minute for a reaction, but didn't get one; Loreley's eyes just sank down to the floor and stayed there, lost in thought.
Angel whimpered, draping his good wing over Lori like a blanket and gazing at him with worried eyes.
Lori suddenly noticed the white feathers brushing against his face, and looked back at Angel with a sad smile.

"Uh, sorry Angel...I was just thinking for a minute." he paused, glancing towards the TV as if he still expected the image of the woman to be there. "...Just thinking, it's ironic the new ad campaign my mom has chosen, with all that happy-perfect-family stuff...but it's nice that she's in it. It's good to know she's okay, still. ...She's always so busy sorting stuff out in overseas offices, and making new business partnerships, so she doesn't need to visit here much. But people say I look like her..." A faint smile flickered across his lips, but died away again a moment later "I don't mind her being away so much now...I'm older, so I'd probably be annoyed of my parents were here all the time. I just wish they had been here a bit more when I was a kid...I was too young to understand about their work then, and I would have swapped any of the expensive toys they got me for a hug and a bedtime story. I cried a lot..." he smiled again, but Angel noticed a small, shimmering tear trickle down his cheek.

Lori sighed, wiping the tear away and sitting up again. "Sorry...I'm boring you to death with my stupid ranting, aren't I? I dunno why it upsets me so much, anyway...at least I know who my parents are, which is more than some kids do...and at least they're both alive...last time I heard." Angel nodded sympathetically and rested his head on Lori's shoulder.

"Hey, Angel...it's dark outside anyway, so d'you wanna go to sleep now or what?"
Angel nodded again, detaching himself from the other boy and taking the opportunity to send the television machine to sleep again with the remote control. He looked back at Loreley, who had simply collapsed back onto the bed, hugging a black pillow to his chest with his eyes closed tightly.
The angel shook his head unhappily, clearing away the leftover milk and cookies and settling down next to his friend.

Lori opened his eyes again, surprised as a soft, feathery blanket wrapped itself around his body.
"Thanks, Angel." he whispered as Angel covered them both with his good wing, nuzzling against the taller boy's chest. He wrapped his arms around the angel, managing to find a genuine smile.

" 'Night, Angel..."