My 2006 NaNoWriMo novel. Woo! Note: since I am posting as I go along, the storyline is backwards. To read this, start from the oldest post and read to the newest.

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Location: Los Angeles, United States

I am an awkward, stubborn, slightly insane woman who would rather talk Plato than Prada, rather watch Frank Capra than Carrie Bradshaw, and rather listen to Norse myths sung in Icelandic than anything currently on the radio. Yeah. Told you I was weird.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Chapter 4

I had considered sleeping through the sunrise service on Easter morning. I was tired, and hadn't I gone to church enough that week? But I decided to go anyway, just to avoid questions later.
Ryan was taking a car up to the church, and we all met in front of my dorm at 4:30 on Sunday morning. It was bone-chillingly cold, and we all shivered, even while wearing our coats.
There's something about 4:30 in the morning that is infinitely depressing. It's still a long time until dawn, but close enough that going back to sleep is unlikely. It's long before the day can become to warm up, and the cold is as intense as the darkness.
We piled out of the car and shuffled around to the back of the church, where a small group was gathered. A fire was lit in a small brazier, and candles were lit from it. After we'd all received the new light, we began to make our way towards the church, pausing for interminable readings and psalms. While I was eager to get inside, where I could sit down and possibly begin to get warm, something about the cold darkness was comforting; at least I didn't have to pretend like I felt warm and fuzzy and happy.
The mood didn't change much when we entered the church. It was as cold and dark as the night outside, and I strained my eyes to see the front of the church. Suddenly, all the lights in the church came blazing on. I closed my eyes against the invading brightness, but not soon enough; green and purple spots floated in front of my eyes. All around me, the people were ringing bells and singing; the church resounded with the clamour, and I couldn't block it out. I tried covering my ears with my hands, but the sound was too loud, too overwhelming.
I just wanted to go back to the darkness, to the quiet. I could even learn to stand the cold, if I could just be left in peace, and not assaulted by light and sound.
Fortunately, the majority of the sound soon subsided, and my eyes accustomed to the light. The service finished in the normal fashion with communion; as we walked out of the church, the sky was bright and clear with the coming morning.
You ever have one of those weeks when you just can't get comfortable? It's nothing in your body or your physical surroundings, just a feeling of unease that won't go away.
I went to my classes, but couldn't focus on them. I squirmed in my seat, and gazed out of the windows, and doodled on all my notes. I jumped whenever I was called upon to speak in class, and barely noticed when friends called my name.
It felt like what I imagine an amputee must go through; wanting, and needing, to scratch an itch on a limb that no longer exists. How would you lie comfortably after losing a part of you? Wouldn't you always feel it missing?
Let me hasten to add, it wasn't so much that I missed Angie herself, although I did. I could identify those feelings, and in time, come to deal with them. But it was something else, like a scent that wafts through the air, but can't quite be identified or located. Almost like the tang of water in the air before a rainstorm.
It took me a while to realize what it was. I missed joy. I missed hope. They had begun to take root in my soul, and when they were torn up by the roots, the wound was so deep, I hadn't even been able to recognize it for what it was.
I got several sympathy cards in my mailbox that week. I know that no-one ever knows what to say in times like this, and you don't really expect them to, but all the same, the general effect of the cards was to make me feel a bit sick. "I am genuinely sorry for your loss-Stephanie Fletcher" Did she really know what I'd lost? Was she as uncomfortable writing the card as I was reading it? I tucked it into a book, and stuck it back on my bookshelf. Perhaps a time would come when I could re-read it, and be grateful for it, but not now.
"Another angel has flown up to be with God-we will all miss her, and you in particular. This loss must be so hard, and I wanted you to know that I'm praying for you. Katie Ward." She wasn't an angel, she was a lamb. Do lambs fly, or are they simply slaughtered?
"She's in a better place now. How can Heaven compare to this world?" That was from my roommates. God knows they meant well. But Angie loved this world, she loved Los Angeles better than just about anywhere else in the world. She wanted the City of God, to be certain, but she was so enthralled with the City of the Queen of the Angels.
Angie's Journal: entry
On the very top of a hill, which you can see from another hill in Brea, there are a few lines of houses, all some variety of white, and all larger than any house I've ever lived in.That hill is the City of God. I started calling it that a few weeks after I starting driving that route to church. I began to notice that no matter what time of day you saw the hill, it was magnificent. The houses gleam like alabaster, the trees are like emeralds, and the atmosphere is...well, it's different.
The best time is at sunset; the lower-lying areas are mostly dim and shadowy, but the hill is still catching the most intense light of the day. The houses shine golden, and the western-facing windows pierce the sky with the reflected rays of the sun. I think it was at sunset when I first thought of that hill as the City of God.
Each time of day is different. When I go to work in the early morning, the slightest hint of light touches the eastern walls, and the air over the hill is a warm pink mist. At mid-morning, the houses are the color of pale butter, the air clear and bright, and the blue sky behind it all. Noon, when the trees are at their greenest, and the birds are singing. Afternoon, when a sort of waiting rest falls over the streets up there; people coming home from work, eating dinner, tying up the loose ends of the day. And then at night...There is a special comfort I feel when looking at the City of God by night. It lacks the color and washes of light, but there's a sea of the deepest blue that settles over the homes on the hill, and the windows are lit with a cozy light. Some houses are full of people, talking, eating, laughing. Some only have the members of a family, going about their lives in the evening.
I've never driven up to that hill. I don't need to, and I really don't want to. I know that if I get too close to it, I will be overtaken by the illusion of ordinariness. The fact that the people who live on that hill are ordinary people, with regular jobs, standard-issue sins, and the overall human condition would disguise the truth of the City of God in their midst. I am just like them, a regular human with boring sins and a very daily job. I won't be able to see the truth if I went up there now.
Someday, I will go over there. In the twilight, when the western sky is still slightly pink but everything else is deepest blue, I'll walk up the streets of that hill. The last of the light will have died as I walk up to the gate of one of the houses; all the windows will be lit, and the glass will shine like gold. I'll hear the sounds of people inside, laughing, drinking, being together. I'll pause for a moment at the door, turn, and look out at the valley behind me. It will be almost invisible in the shadows, but perhaps I'll just be able to make out the outline of my former place. Then I'll hear someone call my name from inside, the door will open in a blaze of light, and I will walk into the warmth and joy of the City of God, home for the first time.
As an inveterate eavesdropped, I tend to pick up on any conversation that takes place in my general vicinity. Also, these guys were talking pretty loudly, so it would have been hard to ignore them even if I'd been trying to. I was sitting in front of the library, killing time until class started in the chapel across the lawn.
One of them had picked up a copy of the school newspaper from the bin beside the book drop, and was skimming the headlines, his friend looking over his shoulder. "Anything interesting this week?"
", not really. Couple of national headlines, statistics about how much silverware is stolen from the cafeteria...Tribute to that chick who died a couple weeks ago."
"Yeah, well, they gotta print that. Little Miss Goody-Two-Shoes, who got to die early before giving up on any idealism about this whole thing. It's pure gold for a paper like this."
"So, you think she was really as innocent as they say? I bet she was hiding something; everybody like that is."
"Yeah, probably. I always wondered about that headscarf she wore; like she just had to prove she was better than all of us."
I didn't catch the rest of the conversation, as they had gone into the library, but I'd heard enough. I felt sick, and also tempted to run after them and knock their heads together.


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