Maggie liked the cemetery. She didn't understand how anyone else couldn't.
It wasn't like there was a bunch of ghosts or skeletons wandering around, waiting to eat people. If anything, it was kind of pretty. Well watered, neatly trimmed grass grew between decoratively carved tombstones. Sunlight filtered through a canopy of oak and willow trees. Even the graves themselves were nice, usually covered in pin wheels and statuettes and balloons and flowers.
She cut through the cemetery on her way home after school. Her house was only a couple blocks away from the school itself, and the cemetery was all that stood between her and a beeline back. All she had to do was walk in through the front gates, then walk out the back.
Easy peasy. She did it everyday.
Today, she had gotten out early. Mrs. Murrietta had a teachers meeting, so everyone had gotten out at one instead of three thirty like usual. Mom and Dad were still at work- they wouldn't get home for another hour. That meant she had the the day to herself. It was, she decided, high time she did some exploring.
Instead of just cutting through the more orderly rows of graves like she normally would, Maggie took a sharp turn and went to check out the more unkempt bits of cemetery.
On her way, she passed by the funerary services building and a truck parked outside. Tools lay scattered around the entrance. Apparently, they were in the middle of a remodel. She decided that there probably wouldn't be anything interesting in there, anyways, and went off.
She'd never realized how big the place was before. There were entire different sections for different religions, pretty stone houses that wouldn't open, no matter how hard she tried the doors, and a long wall with little cups on it. Some of the cups had flowers in them. Most didn't. Every so often she'd find a loose flower on the floor and place it into on of the empty cups.
She wondered what they were for. Probably, she decided, just for decoration. It made sense: if there were ghosts around here, then they'd probably want the place looking nice.
That still didn't explain the houses, though. Which was a real shame, because they looked like fun places to play in.
Ah well. She shook her head at the waste and wandered off.
She found the angel hiding in the middle of a bunch of lilac bushes. If she hadn't been explicitly set on finding out of the way places, she would have missed him entirely.
He was alone, which was odd in and of itself. All the other statues- even the freestanding ones- had a plaque or something with inspirational quotes.
He was down on one knee, his head bowed and his wings arched out behind him. One arm was leaning on the front knee, the other was holding onto the spear standing beside him. Moss covered parts of his robe in patches, and ivy twined up the spear.
Huh, she thought. Cool.
She went in for a closer examination. Tentatively, she stuck out a hand and prodded the top of the angel's head.
Somebody sneezed. It wasn't her.
She leapt backwards just in time to avoid being snotted on as the statue sneezed again, spraying dist and chips of concrete everywhere.
"Bless you," she said automatically.
"Thanks," said a gravelly voice.
The angel wiped its nose on its sleeve, then dropped back down into the kneeling position.
"Uhm," said Maggie. "Did you know you're alive?"
He looked up at her, then bowed his head again. "Kinda. I don't think I'm dead, at any rate."
"My teacher said that if you're an animal or a plant, then you're alive."
He seemed to consider this. "Well, I've covered in plants. Does that count?"
"I don't know, I didn't think to ask." Maggie suddenly felt quite embarrassed. It seemed like such a reasonable question to ask, too.
"Ah well," he said. "I bet being alive is overrated, anyways." He peered at her curiously. "You don't seem at all upset."
"That I'm almost-kinda alive."
She shrugged. "I beat Kevin at kickball today and got a happy face sticker on my art project."
He nodded as though it made perfect sense. To her surprise, the concrete at his neck didn't crumble or flake. It didn't look like stone when he moved. It looked like, well, skin. Rough, gray skin.
"Are you really an angel?" she said.
He shook his head. "I don't think so. If I am, nobody ever told me. I'm just here by myself."
"Oh," she said.
"Oh." He nodded.
There was a moment of awkward silence.
"So," she said eventually. "What's it like being a statue?"
He shrugged. "Not too bad, actually. Got a nice view of the cemetery. Get to see interesting people, watch them get buried. The families are always fun to watch. It's about fifty fifty split between those who do the wailing and gnashing of teeth thing and those who hold little parties."
Maggie remembered the colorful balloons and pinwheels she'd passed. Huh, go figure.
"Yes," he said. "On that whole I have a good gig here. Got one complaint, though." He rolled his shoulders. If he'd had real, individual feathers, they would have ruffled. "There's some lichen or moss or something growing on my back. Right in the middle, of course. Itches like crazy.
She winced in sympathy. "Ooh, don't you just hate it when that happens?" She had a thought. "Hang on a sec," she said, running off down the path.
"Not like I've got anywhere else to go."
She came back a few minutes later, this time with a trowel from the funerary services building. They probably wouldn't be needing it any time soon.
"Here," she said, ducking between wings to get to the spot. She scraped away some of the moss growing there before going back to the front.
"Oh thank you!" he said, a wide smile splitting his concrete face. "That's been bugging me for ages."
She looked up. What little sky there was showing through the trees and lilacs had turned a shade of orange-pink.
"It's getting late," she said. "I should get home."
"Do you have to?"
She nodded. "Mom and dad won't like me staying out."
It may have just been her imagination, but she could've sworn his wings drooped a bit. "'Kay," he said. He adjusted himself until he was back into the starting position he'd been in earlier.
"Come by again sometime," he said. "Hardly anyone stops by to talk to me these days."
"I will," she said. She made her way out of the lilacs, leaving him to sit and think. She made her way out of the cemetery and ran down her block. The sky was growing darker by the minute. She hadn't realized how long she'd been gone.
Well, she thought. That was. . .Huh. I wonder how long he's been there?
She trotted up the driveway. Both mom and dad's cars were there, meaning that she was-
"Magdalen Renee Vasquez!"
-in big trouble.
Her mother stormed out of the house and caught her on the porch. Maggie went without a fight, listening to first her mother, then her father, tell her exactly how much trouble she was in.
By the time bedtime had come around (which, in light of her being in trouble, was a lot sooner than usual), she had forgotten the stone angel entirely.