Angel, Falling
by Moonslash

She's always liked the idea of angels.

Not all angels, though; the fact that her character's fictional first lover was called Angel made her giggle, but the fascination ended there. Buffy's Angel was a human fallen to demonic status who longed to revert to the state of humanity. Buffy liked that, but she's not Buffy.

What she likes, what she loves, is the idea of angels who long to fall and become human.

It's always been her favorite fairytale; she bought all the DVDs of Wim Wenders' movies and of their bad American remakes, she bought all the books on the topic and she even bought a few pictures she found on E-bay and particularly liked.

Angels inhabit a higher plane. Their existence is richer by a whole dimension than that of humans. And yet, some of them, the ones she likes, want to cast aside the weight of their superiority and become lesser but happier beings.

She understands them. It must be tough to know so much, be aware of so much, have so much wisdom and control and power. Oh, it must be impossible to be happy on top of it all. Yes, she understands. There was a time when she didn't, when she thought angels were perfect and thus happy; but now she knows better.

When she was just a little girl, people would call her "that little angel" and smile at her. She was flattered. She'd go home and stare at her reflection in the mirror for hours at a time, looking for what they had seen. She would try to look angelic, and then she'd want to preserve that image of herself forever - because the angel in the mirror was perfect, and angels must always be happy, and she wanted to be happy too.

She didn't tell her mom about this, but her mom understood. She took her to a professional photographer, and he took pictures in which she looked like an angel, and mom said it was just the beginning. Yes, mom knew.

During one of their trips to the Big Apple for an audition, mom also got her one of those quick portraits you can get from a sidewalk artist, and she even asked the artist to add a halo and wings and a white gown; and then she framed the portrait and put it over the fireplace. When the girl grew up, she made a copy of the portrait and took it with her everywhere she went.

She liked to look at it and imagine herself as an angel, even when her reflection in the mirror drastically differed from the picture (usually due to a radical makeover dictated by a new role). The angel in the picture was her true self: blonde hair in very light waves surrounding her face, big eyes lined with long lashes, childishly pudgy cheeks which she's never been able to lose completely, a long soft neck, a slightly upturned nose over a puckered mouth that made her look innocent and baby-like even long after she'd grown out of sleeping with stuffed animals.

One day she compared the picture of her childhood self with her promotional photos, the ones her agent sent to castings; and with a chill, she realized that in both, she looked like an angel. Except now, she knew that being an angel was hard, so hard.

Her life always felt too heavy, too complicated. It felt vast and murky and complex and there was struggle and great odds and greater responsibilities inside it, and she was stuck in the middle of it all, always having to play the part of a higher being - someone always in control, always on top of things, always decisive, practically infallible.

And oh, how she longed to fall.

She knew how to act like a superior being: mom taught her that. She knew when to smile and when to put her foot down; she knew when to be kind and when to be decisive. She was special - her mother told her so, very clearly, when she was very young. She told her she was a very special little girl and had to behave accordingly, and then she taught her how to use her special power. So she did.

But she was tired, oh, so tired. She wanted to be rid of her power, shed the extra dimension that made her special, and descend among those whose lives were simple and light. They didn't need to make decisions, because their stories practically told themselves; they didn't have to worry about the paths they would take, because the paths took them. They were so free, it made her want to cry. And they were also silly; ridiculously unaware of their freedom, they didn't take full advantage of the happiness at their disposal.

If she were one of them, she would be happy. But how could she be one of them?

At first, the solution presented itself in staggering simplicity: it was the return of the spirit of her childhood self, and it looked so perfect that she began to cry. Her mom thought that the girl was simply overcome with joy at seeing herself on screen. And mom said, enjoy, enjoy it, and be happy, and remember this moment and this happiness because, if you're smart with your career, you'll have many, many more. And the girl waited until mom left, and then she cried harder.

She should have known. These were the gates of happiness: she could slip into a simple girl, any girl the script described, and she could live her lovely, two-dimensional life, and she could have a beginning and a middle and an end; and her story, her every story, would be complete and liberating in its simplicity. But then, she'd have to return to her special place in her special life, and make decisions and worry about her career and cry in her trailer whenever she was left alone.

She found a way to fall. But she could stay fallen only for a little while, and she hated the impermanence of it.

Years passed, and the weight of her life bore down on her. Even while she would be blissfully ensconced in her happy, two-dimensional self, she could still sense the burden of it, waiting to press onto her mind and body as soon as she'd step out. In her real life, she grew limp with exhaustion; the effort needed to get out of bed in the morning was horrifying, and her insides bled with frustration. But she always got up, and she got up on time; because she was special, and so she had to.

She desperately wanted to fall, and to fall for good. But she didn't know how.

One day, she stood in the middle of the set of her character's kitchen. She was waiting for the rest of the crew to get their act together, and she was looking over some last-minute script changes, when she noticed something extraordinary. The director was trying to get a special kind of lighting for the scene with her screen self and her screen mother and her screen sister; and at one point, there were three different sources of studio-manufactured sunlight pouring over her back.

She realized she was facing her own shadow that was now falling almost full-length over the floor. It was tripled into a lovely fan of identical shapes, spilling into contours of varying clarity; it was dark and defined only in the middle where all three shades of herself were overlapping. And the middle was unnaturally slim, but it looked strong, so strong and stable, as if buffered by the two pale silhouettes of the same self that flanked it.

It was... perfect.

Enchanted, she stared at the shadow spilling at her feet. It looked too beautiful for words, two-dimensional but richer than that, and it was clear and clean and it felt light - as if the two lighter shades were long-discarded but fondly remembered wings of her previous self, mystically attached to her true form to remind her that she should be happy and carefree in her simple existence.

She felt the tears of gratitude coming, because finally, she knew what to do.

The next day, she went on a diet.

At first, the weight loss was not terribly visible; only her costume fitter noticed that she was thinning out at the hips, as her outfits needed an extra adjustment. No biggie.

But in time, it started to show. Her thighs, her breasts, her arms and even her always-pudgy cheeks, all began to melt away. People noticed, and some said things that people usually say when they notice such things. If she cared for them, she would hear them out and smile and nod and assure that all was well and she was just exercising harder as her fighting choreography got more and more demanding and whatnot. But in truth, she didn't care. Besides, mom was supportive. For the wrong reasons, but she was supportive.

And so she kept going.

Pretty soon, she could look at the angel in the mirror and she would smile at the reflection. The angel's neck had become so thin she could see every vein in it, and the eyes got even bigger, and look, the body was quickly shedding its third dimension, peeling the mass of existence, and turning into something that, soon enough, would hardly be visible when she stands sideways. The angel will soon turn into its own outline. Soon, she will become the image of happiness and ease and lightness she'd been creating all these years; soon, she will complete her metamorphosis into the shadow.

She can hardly wait.

She watches the last episodes of her seven-year labor, and the girl on the screen looks silly in her unhappiness and confusion, ridiculously unaware of the facility of her existence: she has a beginning, a middle, and an end, and there is no need to fuss about and fight and scream and cry. But maybe there is some joy in acting out, after all, when one is so simple. She smiles in understanding. She, too, plans to indulge in such dramatic exhibitions of her freedom. An angel could never do that, but she will.

These days, she is beginning to feel frail in her lightness, and she gets dizzy with her approaching liberation. She could cry aloud from sheer happiness. She is almost there, almost rid of her special, unendurably real and heavy self. She is almost free of the third dimension. Almost perfect. Almost happy.

And soon, she will fall.


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