Friend & Guardian

“Can we play tomorrow?” Russ asked. The red-headed boy asked Katie from the door to his room. He held a football in one hand and looked eager to leave.

“Tomorrow?” The blonde girl asked. She sat on his bed with a confused look. Russell never turned down a chance to play. The boy nodded with a sly smile.

“Yeah. The guys finally asked me to join their game! I’m kind of late already.” He turned to leave. “See you later, Katie!” he shouted behind him without fully turning around.  She sat on the bed and waited for several minutes for him to return. Then she began debating what to do next when she realized he was not going to. A sudden voice made her jump.

“Hi, Katie,” she recognized the voice and did not look up. She replied after the initial surprise wore off.

“Hey Ezey,” Katie replied out of habit. After a moment a realization struck and she looked at the calendar on Russel’s wall. After she confirmed the date she looked at the clean-shaven man in a dark suit. He leaned against Russel’s closet door eating a fried chicken leg. “Why are you here, check in isn’t for another week?” she asked.

“You’re done,” he smiled at her from behind the drumstick.

“Done? Done with what?” She scooted backward onto the middle of the bed and pulled her legs up to her chest.

“Done playing with Russel. It was a favor for the boss, remember?” Ezey asked. Katie shook her head.

“No! I remember! I asked if I could play with Russel and the man said as long as I wanted.” Ezey nodded. He slipped the gnawed chicken bone into the pocket of his suit coat and pulled out a handful of fries.

“You can keep playing with him if you want, but it’s a different game. He won’t be playing with you anymore,” he explained while finishing the fries in his hand.”

“Why not?” she asked. Ezey shook his head.

“C’mon Katie, the boss told me you’re a smart girl. You have to know what’s going on.” Katie rested her chin on her knees and stared at Russel’s NFL themed comforter.

“He outgrew me,” she whispered. She was glad to have Ezey there the first time she admitted it to herself. She ignored the signs for weeks but deep down she knew why the man was there. The boss checked in on Katie only a couple of times during the first year, then Ezey showed up. He said the boss made him Katie’s supervisor and he showed up every month to check on Katie for the next three years. She considered him a friend, however that works in the afterlife. “How can I keep playing with him?” she asked.

“The next game is called ‘Keep Russel Safe’. All you have to do is follow him around, invisibly,” he made a point to say. “…and make sure nothing squashes him. Can you do that?”

“You could tell me you want me to be his guardian angel. I’m smart, remember?” she asked with a sad, but playful smirk. Ezey smiled but shook his head.

“It’s not what I want, I’m just the middleman. Katie,” Ezey sat on the edge of the bed and looked into her light blue eyes. “Do YOU want to be Russel’s guardian angel?”

“What happens if I say no?” she asked.

“You get to move on.”

“Not me, dork. What happens to Russel?” Ezey chuckled.

“He needs a guardian angel, so he gets one. You get first pick, but if it’s not you then we’ll assign someone else.”

“What’s moving on? I get to go to Heaven?” Again, the dark-haired man shook his head.

“You’re not quite at that level yet. Moving on, for you, means you get to go around again.”

“I want to be his guardian angel,” she said. Ezey nodded and produced a clipboard from the inside of his coat. He handed it to her with a pen.

“New contract,” he smiled at her.

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