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Violet’s Angel





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Baton Rouge

The Doucet-Bainbridge Sanitarium

March 30

Violet was coloring the pretty balloon she’d drawn on the white padded wall purple—they said she could!—when she heard excited voices from out in the hall. Just as she turned around from the wall and her picture, she heard the door schunk open in the room next to hers.

Her heart fluttered like a happy fairy in her chest.

He was here! Her angel was here.

The man with the blond hair—Mr. Purcell, Violet remembered—who’d picked her up at the airport and driven her here (while sneaking glances at her and pretending not to) had told her that her angel would be living in the room next to hers.

Mr. Purcell had never said so, but Violet could tell he didn’t like her nighttime angel. His lips would twist like he tasted something pickle-sour every time he said the word angel. The little voice in her tummy told her that Mr. Purcell was not a nice man. He stared too much. And kept making the sour-pickle face. She’d been happy to see him leave.

And even though she missed her mommy very, very much, she looked forward to seeing her pretty angel with the gold eyes and black wings again.

Violet carefully put her crayon back in the box, then hurried across the room to her bed so she could climb on it and look through the window into the next room.

A special room, the nice doctors in their white lab coats had told Violet. So you and your angel can see each other any time you want. Once her angel had arrived, they promised to take good care of him and make him happy. Just like they were making her happy in her little room with the soft white walls and the TV and coloring books and Wii games.

Violet just wished her mom was here too. But she was still sick in the hospital deep underground.

Bouncing onto the bed, Violet pressed her hands against the window, and looked into the other room. A doctor in a white coat and a nurse in green scrubbies stood in the center of the room along with Mr. Purcell. It looked like they were arguing.

A big red blanket—no, it was thick, silly, so it was a comforter—was piled on the concrete floor. Violet noticed a tendril of black hair peeking out of the comforter, and one white hand. Violet smiled. The fingernails were painted black. It was her angel.

Her smile faded as she watched. Why was he in the blanket? Was he asleep? And why was everyone waving their hands around and looking upset? Their voices were muffled through the thick-paned window, but Violet held her breath and listened.

But the words she heard made her heart beat fast, fast, fast in her chest.

Shot. Won’t stop bleeding. Not healing.

The nurse in his scrubbies knelt beside Violet’s angel and pulled back the comforter. His white skin was covered in red stuff, his face and hair too, like someone had splashed him with a bucket of ketchup. She could only see to his tummy, but everything she saw was wet and red.

Violet’s breath whooshed out, and her tummy did a strange, twisting roll. Her heart beat faster and faster.

Blood, her little voice said. That’s blood and he’s dying.

But he can’t die. He’s an angel.

He can if the bad people get to him.

Oh. I didn’t know that. How do I help him?

Be his angel.

“Okay,” Violet whispered.

The nurse flipped the comforter back over Violet’s angel and shook his head. He looked at the doctor in her white coat and they talked about surgery and feeding. Mr. Purcell just paced back and forth, looking like his face had turned into a storm cloud.

Another nurse in scrubbies wheeled in one of those little beds that roll around—a gurney, that’s it!—and they picked Violet’s angel up, comforter and all, and rolled him out of the room, the doctor and nurse following.

Violet stared at all the blood gleaming on the floor. Big wet smears. Her tummy did another flip-flop. She swallowed hard.

Mr. Purcell stopped pacing. He turned and looked at her, his eyes widening as though surprised, then he shook his head. Violet looked back, wondering if he was the one who had hurt her angel and made him bleed.

She heard him laugh, then say something like: Not Chloe. Then: It might be your lucky day, kiddo.

He walked out of the room and, after a moment, Violet jumped off the bed and ran to her coloring table and grabbed the black crayon from her box. Going to the white wall, she started drawing a pair of wings while she waited for her angel to return.

If she was to be his angel, then she would need wings.

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