The Angel Whispered Danger - By Mignon F. Ballard


“I saw an angel today,” Josie announced.

“Really?” I glanced at the ten-year-old in the passenger seat beside me. My daughter was sometimes given to flights of fancy, but since these were the first words she’d spoken to me in over an hour, I jumped in feetfirst. “And where was that?” I said.

“On the beach this morning. Walked right out of the water—had on a dress.”

“She was wearing a dress in the ocean? What kind of dress?”

“I don’t know . . . a wet one, I guess.”

I looked to see if my daughter was teasing, but her expression didn’t change. “Looked kinda brownish-green. Junglelike,” she added.

“Did she have wings? How do you know she was an angel?” I asked.

Josie looked out at the green expanse of a cornfield on our right: shoulder high in early July and rinsed tender with last night’s rain. The car window was down and wind ruffled her soft butterscotch bangs. “I just know,” she told me, adjusting the fluorescent pink-rimmed sunglasses on her sunburned nose. “But I don’t think I was supposed to see her.”

I smiled. “Why not?”

She shrugged. “Because . . . when I looked back, she was gone.”

We could use an angel, I thought. A whole passel of them. How did you count angels? A bevy? A flock? A band? I remembered the stirring refrain from the opera Hansel and Gretel I’d learned as a child, something about fourteen angels guarding sleep. Fourteen might get a bit crowded, but we could surely make room for one or two.

I slowed to make a turn and glanced at Josie, who had grown silent again, and now sat stiffly, arms folded. Stubborn to the core, even to her taffy-colored curls that went this way and that and wouldn’t stay put if you slicked them with “bear grease,” as my mama liked to say. Just like mine, only lighter. But my eyes were blue; Josie’s were like her dad’s—warm and brown with flecks of light, like the sun on Buttercup Creek, where my sister and I used to wade.

At least she had my imagination. I hoped it was only imagination. Had Ned and I driven our child to hallucinating?

The two of us were on our way to a family reunion at Bramblewood, my great-uncle’s sprawling place in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, and Josie had made it clear from the first that she didn’t want to go. The reunion was an annual event, and the three of us: Ned, Josie and I, usually looked forward to attending, combining it with a visit with my parents, since Bramblewood was just outside Bishop’s Bridge, the town where I grew up. This year the festivities were to last several days to mark the fiftieth year Uncle Ernest had hosted the affair. And for the first time, Ned would not be accompanying us.

For the last couple of years, life together had not been all that pleasant for my husband and me, and so at the beginning of the summer, without a whole lot of discussion, we’d decided to try it apart. To appease our daughter, I had just spent what seemed like the longest week of my life in a “borrowed” cottage in Isle of Palms, South Carolina.

“Now, look here, Kate McBride, I’m not taking no for an answer. The time away will do you good,” a friend had insisted, pressing the key to her family’s beach house into my hand. “Walk on the beach, build sand castles with Josie, relax. You need this time together.”

But guilt had led me to invite Josie’s friend Paige along for the trip, and the longest conversations the two of us had were over what television shows they certainly were not going to watch. I had been more relaxed during the process of a root canal.

“Paige seemed to have a good time,” I said to Josie’s stony profile. “Did you two have fun together?”

My daughter’s lip stuck out far enough to ride to town on. “I don’t see why you wouldn’t let me stay at Paige’s. Her mom said it was okay. Why couldn’t you just leave me there until that old reunion’s over?”

Josie had been pouting since we had dropped off her friend back in Rock Hill, South Carolina.

“Because, Josie, this is a family reunion, and you happen to be my family.”

“Dad’s your family, too,” she said with a question in her voice.

“Yes, of course he is, but he’s busy getting ready for that seminar in California. You know that, honey.”

“Are you and