Luciano ‘Luke’ Vargas sat on the sofa in his studio apartment with a bottle of vodka in one hand, and his iPhone in the other. The man was only twenty-six, wearing a black t-shirt and jeans, he looked like a man in mourning.
Luke had his late mother’s Italian skin, her elegance, her artistry. She was the reason he was a writer and an artist. But he had his Dominican father’s hands; the hands of a factory worker who slaved away at a dead-end job until his body gave out. Perhaps that was why Luke was so upset at what Stacy had done.
Luke glanced at his phone screen. His background was him and his now ex-girlfriend. With her pale skin and dark hair Stacy looked like Snow White; the fairest princess in all the land. She exercised her right to an abortion, her body her choice, but her reason was what broke his heart. “I don’t see a future with you,” he repeated her words as he went to the app store. He loved her, he would have married her- but no, she didn’t see a future where she woke up by his side. She didn’t see them growing old together. “Well fuck you, Stacy!” Luke said as he started the download.
He had heard of Tinder but up until now had no reason to use the famous hook-up app. “I need a photo.” He ran his fingers through his hair and took a quick selfie in time the app was downloaded. Luke filled in his age and location with no other information. All he wanted was a hookup, someone to make the pain go away.
He sat down and started to swipe right on everything on screen. After all someone else had to swipe on him if they wanted to talk. Just his luck every girl had black hair and ivory skin, like some kind of sick cosmic joke. “This is such bullshit…”
‘Bing!’ He had a match.
“Crying or smoking?” asked the text.
“?” Luke replied.
“In your pic. Your eyes r red. u crying or high?”
“Does it matter?”
“Just wondering: R U looking 2 party or 4 a rebound girl?”
“Rebound- bad breakup.”
“Wow, sorry. DTF?”
Luke knew DTF meant ‘down to fuck.’ Somehow he lucked out and was playing the Tinder game on easy mode. But was this really what he wanted? “I don’t even know you,” he said out loud.
“I know you,” the text replied. “Look at my picture. We’ve met on multiple occasions.”
How the-? He assumed the phone had activated a voice to text feature. He did as she said and looked at the profile: Shannon, age twenty-eight, originally from San Jose, California, but somehow currently in New Jersey less than a mile away from his current location. Her face did not look familiar, and there was no occupation listed. “I’m sorry I don’t remember you.”
“I work at the clinic where you take your dad for his chemo treatments.”
“Oh, ok.” That explained why he didn’t remember her. His father had been fighting stomach cancer for a decade, but in the past year, it had metastasized to his heart, lungs, and brain. He had been transferred to hospice care. So needless to say, among all the drama, Luke tended to not notice the faces of the clinic staff.
“The last time I saw you, you were holding your father’s hand while he slept.”
That had to be at least a week ago. “He decided to end treatment.”
“O, I’m so sorry. Can I come over? We can just talk.”
“Sure.” Luke sent her his address since she was pretty close already. He barely sat back down when he heard the buzzer. “Hello?”
He jumped back in shock. “Um, come on up.” How close had she been? Was she stalking him? Worst case scenario, he was about to get robbed and murdered.
Best case: she looked just like her photo. “Hey,” said the girl with the long black hair and sky-blue eyes.
“Hey…” Luke was frozen with nerves. There was nothing remarkable about the girl, in fact, she didn’t even resemble Stacy (at least that’s what he kept telling himself.)
Shannon gave an awkward half smile. “Can I come in?”
“Yeah, of course, sorry, would you like something to drink?” He took a few steps towards his fridge. “Soda, beer, vodka?”
“Do you have Redbull?”
“I think so,” Luke said as he tossed her a can from the fridge. Luke was partial to Redbull with vodka and lime. But Shannon appeared to prefer drinking the foul-tasting beverage straight from the can.
“What?” she asked, her blue eyes seemed to shimmer when she smiled.
“That stuff is nasty,” Luke said with a smirk.
“It’s an acquired taste,” Shannon replied with a shrug. “I mean it has to be,” she leaned in close to Luke, pressing her lips to his ear, “Redbull gives you wings.”
Luke chucked nervously. “Yeah, I’ve heard that. It’s why I usually mix in vodka: helps me to stay grounded.”
“You’re so funny!” Drink in hand, Shannon took a seat on the sofa. “So what do you want to do? Netflix and chill?” She kicked her long legs up on the coffee table.
The girl wasn’t tall, maybe five-four, but her denim shorts made her legs look irresistible. Luke sat down and immediately felt an awkward erection. “Oh F-.”
Shannon only smiled. “Sit back and relax,” she said, motioning to his phone. “You pull up a movie, and I’ll work on the ‘chill.'”
Luke nervously covered the awkward bulge with his hand.
“You shy or something? I swiped right, I already know I want you.”
“You might change your mind. I mean, I don’t know how this works.” Luke glanced at the floor. “I mean you can leave whenever you want.”
“O-M-G,” she said with a laugh. “Do you have a micropenis or something?”
“No. Micropenis is anything less than two inches, right?”
“Let me see.” Shannon straddled his lap. With one quick motion, she opened his jeans and reached in her hand. “You’re perfect, just the right size.”
Luke chuckled nervously. He already knew he was four inches, maybe four-and-a-half when fully erect. “The first time we had sex, my ex-”
Shannon playfully stroked her index finger down the bridge of Luke’s nose. “What did the little meanie do?”
“She told me I’m lucky to have such a comfortable sized penis because the last guy she dated really hurt.'”
Shannon covered her mouth to hide her laughter. “Who says something like that?”
“My ex, apparently.”
Shannon put her arms around Luke’s shoulders. “Tell me about her.”
“Did she have big tits? Or a nice tight pussy? I mean, since she was so quick to point out the comfortable nature of your body.” Shannon took off her shirt to reveal her breasts.
They were small enough to warrant walking around without a bra but tempting enough for him to lean in for a kiss. “She was fine, I-I guess.” Luke kissed her collarbone. He wasn’t sure how far he could go or, how far she wanted him to go.
Shannon sat up tall aligning her pink nipple to his lips. “I’ve had people tell me I’m a perfect mouthful.”
Luke felt his heart pounding. The way her soft skin glided across his tongue, the way her body leaned into his touch: he wanted her so bad. “I can see that.”
“My turn.” Shannon elegantly slipped off her shorts, to reveal her lacy white panties. “Let me show you how I like to worship a man.” She stroked her fingers under Luke’s t-shirt, coaxing it off his slender body. “Nice.”
Luke had soft, peach-fuzz, hair on his arms, legs and chest, with a thick dark trail from his navel, leading down to his pubic hair. He was already hard, and his jeans were already open, so he attempted to relax. He felt Shannon take him in her mouth, her lips opening and closing around his tip. Luke then noticed a strange sensation; a hard, cold bead stroking him down the length of his shaft. “Do you have a pierced tongue?”
“Yup,” Shannon said as she smacked her glossy lips. “You’re going to love this.”
Luke felt like he was going to slip off the seat. That was when her fingers went straight up a place he did not expect. “Oh, God!”
Her fingers were massaging inside while her mouth locked on to his cock, moving her piercing over the tip. Luke felt like he was about to burst when she stopped.
“Now,” she took a seat on the sofa, facing away from him. “I want you to f-k me.”
Luke chuckled. He assumed she said ‘fuck’ but the words” came out as ‘F-K’ with two distinct syllables. “I’m not really that great at doggy style.”
Shannon responded by pulling his arms around her, so he was holding her chest. “But I like it when boys hold my tits while they blow their load. Will you give it a try?” she asked as she kicked off her panties and lifted her butt into position, “for me?”
Luke was so hard, and the only thing more embarrassing than failing at sexual penetration would be drenching himself in cum before he could even start. Carefully moving into position behind her, he stroked his tip against her wetness.
When he felt ready Luke thrust into her, his hips moved rhythmically as he felt himself going deeper than he thought possible. Her body seemed to clench tighter and tighter, pulling him in closer.
“Yeah, that’s what I’m talking about,” Shannon moaned, as she moved her hips with increased speed. “Pound me like you mean it! F-k all your problems away!”
He gripped her chest hard, holding her like a stress ball. The way she was screaming like a porn star, at first it was a turn on, but quickly became annoying. What was she, an escort? Was he going to be presented with a bill at the end of the night? Was this all some cruel prank?
“You doing alright?” Shannon asked in a moan.
“I’m fine.” Luke’s mind drifted to the moment Stacy left him. He could picture all of his unsold books and paintings, his inbox filled with rejection letters from agents and galleries. Then to the moment when he left his dying father alone in the hospice care. “Fuck the world, fuck this life!” Muscles trembling, Luke laid back on the sofa, too overcome with emotion to even speak. There were tears in his eyes but worse, Luke was still hard: he hadn’t even finished.
“Lay back, close your eyes,” Shannon said, her voice soft and soothing.
Luke did as she asked. He closed his eyes and allowed her to take control. He felt her hands then her lips. Luke laid his head back, trying to relax but soon he could feel the suction of her throat, like a pressure point massage. The deep, soothing sensation coaxed out one glorious orgasm. “I’m sorry, this is so humiliating.”
Shannon only giggled. “Don’t worry. Nice guys always finish last.”
Luke couldn’t help but laugh. He kept his eyes closed. If she chose to leave he didn’t want to have to watch her go.
“It’s ok, just let me hold you,” Shannon said, wrapping him in a blanket. Or at least it felt like a blanket. Luke did not remember keeping such a warm, soft down comforter on his sofa.
He awoke the next morning alone. “Of course,” he said as he looked to the empty vodka bottle. “It was all a fucking dream.” Then he saw her.
Shannon stood before him, her body nude, with every curve as perfect as he remembered. Except for one detail- on her back was a pair of massive white wings. “I have to get to work.”
“What?” Luke sat up and went straight for his pants. “What is this? What are you?”
“I want you to stay by your father’s side tonight,” she said as she closed her wings over her body. “I’m sorry.” In a flash of light she was gone.
Luke quickly got dressed and splashed some water on his face before making his way to the hospice clinic. It was only around noon, but if this were truly his father’s last day on earth, he wanted to be there.
“Hi Dad,” Luke said as he entered the darkroom. “You asleep?”
“I have no reason to sleep,” the dying man muttered, facing the window.
Luke walked over to open the blinds, letting in the bright light of the mid-day sun. “Much better. You may be dying but you’re still a human being, you deserve more than four blank walls.”
“For the time being. Although a coffin typically has more then four sides, if I’m not mistaken.” Luke’s father moved his trembling hand to the bed controls. “No matter, the oven in the crematorium certainly has four sides.”
“Funny,” Luke sighed. His father was six-foot-two, and prior to his illness, he had the strength and physique of an athlete. He had even competed in kickboxing and other martial arts. But the man that lay in the bed was a sickly shadow of his former self. But something looked off. Luke lifted the blankets to reveal a bandage on his father’s stomach. “Where’s your feeding tube?”
“I was going to tell you.”
Luke’s hands were trembling. “I was supposed to be notified of any changes to your medical care.”
“Only if I am not of sound mind,” he said as he sat up, looking his son in the eyes. “Unfortunately my mind seemed to be holding strong, more so then my other organs.” His father blinked away tears. “Part of me hopes it’s because the brain is where the soul resides. Although I know you don’t believe in such things.”
“For the last time, I am not an atheist,” Luke groaned, now recalling why he limited his visits to once a week. “I just don’t support organized religion.” Luke could sense his father’s blatant disbelief. After all, the last time Luke set foot in a church was his mother’s funeral. “I saw an angel.”
“You saw an angel?” his father asked, with noticeable sarcasm.
“Yeah, she told me I needed to be here.”
Luke shuddered. The idea had not occurred to him, but not it was all he could think of. “She said her name was Shannon, but she was a little like mom…” His mother’s name was Gabby, she had black hair, brown eyes, and a honey-tan complexion, but personality wise the similarity was downright creepy.
“Luca…” Luke’s father’s was facing the now blindingly bright window. “Luca, estoy muy orgulloso del hombre en el que te has convertido.” He swallowed hard, struggling to continue, “y el hombre en el que te convertirás.” He then laid back, eyes closed.
“What?” the word choked in Luke’s throat. He spoke little to no Spanish. The idea that he would not be able to understand his father’s last words- the cosmic cruelty was unimaginable. Luke stood up and walked to the door. He punched the metal, hard. “Ow!” He could hear Shannon’s laughter.
“He said…Luca, I am very proud of the man you have become, and the man you will become. Your Dad calls you Luca?”
“Yeah, he did. He said Luke sounded too plain, too American. My mother wanted me to have an Italian name. He called me Luca because it made her smile. Then when she was gone, he called me Luca in her memory.” Luke turned to his father’s body. He was dead, cold, but next to Shannon stood his father as a young man. The sight brought tears to Luke’s eyes. “So that’s it? You’re taking him, and then what? You’re just going to leave?”
“Did you want me to stay?” Shannon asked in a whisper, as if such an idea was rare for her kind.
“I don’t know. I mean if you want to, if you can.”
“Let me finish up here first,” she said as she waved her hand, summoning a portal of white light. Shannon then turned Luke’s father’s spirit towards the heavenly pathway. “Come on now, your Gabriela has been waiting for you.”
“I’m going to see my wife?” his voice was trembling with emotion.
“On earth, she was your wife, but in heaven, she will be what she was always meant to be; your other half. When you are reunited, your spirit will finally be whole again. Together you will decide to live forever in God’s kingdom or cross over into the next life.”
Luke’s father gave one last nod, and finally departed into the light.
“Are you the angel of death?” Luke asked in a meek voice.
“No,” Shannon replied with a laugh. “That’s like assuming the flight attendant owns the airline. I am a guide, I sheppard all good souls to the light.”
“An angel of mercy?”
“I kinda like that name, it has a nice ring to it.”
“Luke, do you want me to stay?” Her voice was nervous, strangely anxious.
Luke sensed this was his one and only chance to speak from the heart. “Yes, I want you to stay!”
“Because you’re afraid of being alone?”
“I’m not afraid,” the words fell from his lips before he could take them back. His only family was dead, and he was talking to an angel. Luke was, in fact, very afraid.
“Then what?” she asked. “And don’t say something stupid like ‘I love you.’ We’ve been on one date, if you could even call it that.”
But he did. Maybe that was his problem; he had so much love to give but no one to receive it. “I could. I-I could love you, take care of you.” Luke pursed his lips as he realized he was essentially begging a supernatural being. “I don’t know what you are or what you’ve been through, but…” Luke suddenly chuckled softly to himself.
“What’s so funny?”
Luke paused to wipe tears from his eyes. “I just remembered a joke my dad told me during his last chemo session.”
“When he was declared untreatable?”
“Yeah, he looked at me and said, “A guy sits down with his doctor to get his test results, the doctor says, ‘The good news is you don’t have lung cancer, it’s all in your head.’ The guy is all, ‘That’s great news!’ But then the doctor says, ‘No, brain cancer is much worse.'”
Shannon covered her mouth as she giggled. “That was a good one. Your dad is going to fit in just fine up there.”
Luke swallowed hard as tears continued to flow. “What I remember most about that moment was his smile. It was a real, true smile. He was in so much pain, but he found the strength, the courage to smile. That’s the kind of courage I want to have, to just smile through the pain. And maybe once I learn how to do that, I can guide others; teach people how to survive, how to love. That’s the dream.”
Shannon had gone silent. She cupped her hands over her face as if trying to hide her emotions. “I won’t be returning in this form. I might be ugly, like a pigeon or a stray cat with one eye.”
“I’d still love you.”
“Ok,” she said with a nervous smile. “I’ll see you soon.” With that, Shannon vanished.
Luke shook his head as he wiped the tears from his face. “Yeah, sure. I’ll be on the lookout for a stray cat with your blue eyes.”