The girl with angel wings cried, silent, fat tears that slipped down her cheeks and splashed on her pretty pink dress. She trudged just past me, plopped down on a bench and sighed.
I’d stopped by the library this evening to quickly drop off some books, but the light had gone all golden-hot and slanting against the fountain in the courtyard. So I slid my returns into the book drop and sat by the fountain to watch the sun set. I’d been there about ten minutes when my forlorn angel appeared, closely followed by her parents.
She looked maybe 8 or 9 (but don’t go by me; I thought my niece was three until she reminded me that three-year olds are rarely in elementary school), with skin the color of well-creamed coffee and shiny patent-leather Mary Janes. Her wings were pink bakery-box cardboard to match her dress, edged in white spangles and attached to neck and waist with wide pink ribbon.
Her parents sat, too, one on either side of her, and for a moment we all watched her cry. The father made an impatient gesture and started to speak, but the mother held up a restraining hand. “Que…” she began.
“Oh, speak English,” snapped the girl, “Why can’t you speak English like everybody else? They laughed at me. I told you I had to have a long white robe. You can’t be an angel in a dumb pink dress!”
“You know we can’t afford to buy fancy clothes right now,” said the mother patiently, “Not until your papa finds another job. We can only buy the big things.”
“But this was big! I had to stand up there with all the other kids and now they know I’m poor.” The girl finally sobbed, covering her face with her hands. “They know that was my old dress. I was the only one! Why couldn’t we just stay home?”
The father flushed and said something short, angry and hurt in Spanish, but the mother shook her head. “We have food, and a place to live, and we’re none of us sick. And sometime things will be better. I’m going to learn to sew and then the next time you’re in a play I can borrow a sewing machine, maybe, and make your dress. Now, do you want an ice cream or not?”
The girl stood, then her father rose and slipped an arm around her shoulders. The mother took her daughter’s hand, and the three of them headed down the sidewalk.