Chapter 1

June, 2010

In a world full of disappointment, Angelica choose to be alone — not because she liked it, but because it was much easier to sit in the dark rather than risk exposure to the pain of light. She was afraid to commit to any relationship because everyone she had ever loved had either hurt her, left her, or been taken away from her. She was afraid to love and not have it returned, yet she exhaustively searched for the next opportunity, hoping that she and true love would meet face-to-face, but she’d still resist the temptation to get too close to someone. The pain of being hurt outweighed the transcendental feelings of love. If someone was courageous enough to try and break down the walls she painstakingly built, making any stone mason proud, she’d make a promise to herself that she would build the next wall higher and stronger than the one before.

To Angelica, love was an ever-elusive fantasy that she believed was created by little girls dreaming of their knight in shining armor. It was a figment of their imagination, instilled by the exploitation of Hollywood and Ken and Barbie. Why, when the heroine always needed saving, her prince would show up in the nick of time, unsheathe his sword with a vow of protection and there was always a happy ending? Fairy tales didn’t exist, she’d tell herself, they weren’t true — not real life. Fantasies only let people down, making everyone somewhat distrustful, especially Angelica, but yet she’d continue to hope. She’d grasp onto to the idea that the grass was always greener on every side but hers, but yet she was always left holding nothing but a dream, a dream that vanished like the morning sun burning away the fog. It was a slow dissipation, an apparition, a tease, a stab in the heart. Thoughts like these only made the bile rise, creating a burning sensation in her throat. She swallowed hard but it only made it burn even more and she felt the aching of her heart.

The flight from Dallas to Charleston was more than just a little bumpy. It was as if the plane was being tossed around and stomped on like the toy of a rambunctious three-year old. She never liked flying and found herself wishing she had brought a few valium along for the ride. The flight attendant asked if Angelica would like something to drink. She asked for some cranberry juice and added, “Please.” Sitting next to her was a middle-aged gentleman — nice looking — who seemed cool as a cucumber. Without looking up from his laptop, he calmly asked for a Diet Coke.

She realized she had been lost in thought as the can of juice was placed next to her cup of ice, wrapped in a napkin, on the tray outstretched in front of her. There were only a few cubes of ice, not enough to make anything cold — just another illusion. They’d just melt away to nothing, like everything else in her life. She took a sip and spilled a little on her white shirt. “Crap,” she exhaled. What she really wanted to say was a different word analogous to the one she just said, but there was a fragile looking elderly lady sitting across the aisle watching her and she didn’t want to insult her. “A little club soda should take of that, dear,” she said.Angelica forced a smile and took the napkin and try to wipe most of it away, but noticed there was still a small discolored stain that would probably never go away. In a way, it matched the dark stain on her heart.She crumpled up the napkin and placed it inside the empty peanut wrapper, which fell on the floor. She reached down to pick it up, but a flight attendant beat her to it. She reached for the SkyMall catalog and flipped through the pages that contained various odds and ends that guaranteed to make life easier. She stifled a laugh and wished that hope, love, courage, and strength were only a credit card purchase away. If only everything were that easy. She stashed the magazine back in the pocket on the back of the seat in front of her, the pouch reminding her of a kangaroo sac. She picked up another magazine, People, but put it back because she could not stomach looking at the celebs that seemed to be faking their happiness. She was fidgeting and knew it. She looked around at the other passengers who seemed calm and rolled her eyes.

It was a nasty storm and she heard the familiar ding as the Captain came over the intercom saying he was going to increase the planes altitude, asking everyone to please stay seated with their seatbelts securely fastened. The flight attendants put away their drink carts and quickly move up and down the aisle with trash bags, throwing away the drinks that were just handed out and made sure everyone was doing what they were asked. Occasionally they would put someone’s tray back up, including Angelica’s, or ask someone to bring their seat back to its’ upright position. She never understood that part. Who cares if the seat is a few inches back? Will it really make that much of a difference if they crashed? The plane thrashed around some more and fear swept across her face. She grabbed the armrests; her nails dug into the frame, making her knuckles turn white. The passenger sitting near the window, another nice looking, but younger well-dressed businessman, said, “Don’t worry. I always think that if it’s my time to go, then there is nothing I can do about it.”

Angelica leaned her head forward, looked into his eyes and said, “But if it’s your time to go, I don’t want to be on the same plane as you.” She was being rude and she immediately regretted her response.Besides, it was a lie. After what she had just gone through with Stephen and the past about her mother, she didn’t care if she lived or died. She just didn’t want it to be too painful or to have to think about it five minutes before the inevitable crash. Suddenly, she felt the plane drop and it reminded her of being on a rollercoaster and how it made your stomach sink, making you feel nauseous. She grabbed her stomach and sighed. She never liked rollercoaster’s either, but at least she knew how the ride would end — she’d probably be dizzy, sick to her stomach, but after a few minutes, she’d be back on the ground. The plane began to climb again and she could feel it when the Captain accelerated their speed. She careened her head to look out the window and saw the lightening. It seemed too close for comfort and she prayed that it wouldn’t get much closer. Her breathing increased so she closed her eyes, hoping to calm herself — maybe meditate.

She began to think about Kate, her best friend from medical school, who helped her get the job as an ER physician at University Medical Center of Charleston, where Kate easily rose through the ranks and became the head resident. Kate had dated the lead surgeon in the ER for a few months, and after she felt used by him, she felt he owed her a favor, and had him push Angelica’s resume up the ranks. Angelica couldn’t wait to see her, but deep down was reluctant because Kate had a knack for setting her up on blind dates — something Angelica vowed to never let happen again.

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