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The Angel on the Beat-up Bike

He showed up out of nowhere to help her get home safely.

Clouds and the sky

Paula Steinke was enjoying Prospect High School immensely. 

She was now a sophomore, but her parents were still hesitant about giving her more freedom. “I especially worry when you stay late after school and walk home alone,” Paula’s dad explained to her. “Promise you’ll phone me to come and get you.”

Paula promised. But she felt a little guilty. The Steinkes have six children, and her father was busy enough without adding yet another run to his personal taxi service. But she obeyed.

One afternoon, Paula stayed after school to attend a sports match. The game went overtime, and the sun had long set by the time she left the gym. Though she knew she should phone her dad to pick her up, she decided to walk home alone. It wasn’t that far and she’d save him an extra errand.

However, Paula hadn’t realized how absolutely dark her route was, now that winter was approaching. The streetlights threw little brightness on the sidewalks, enclosed as they were by bushes and overhanging trees—which rustled ominously as she passed. No one was outside, and few cars passed her. Paula became increasingly nervous. Why hadn’t she called her dad?

Suddenly Paula heard a sound behind her. She half-turned, preparing to run…and saw a boy about her own age, riding a bike slowly behind her. “Hi, Paula!” he said and smiled.

Paula stared at him: skinny, with short blond hair and a casual air. His long legs were touching the ground, rolling the beat-up bike from side to side. She must know him, she thought. Only he didn’t seem at all familiar. “Hi. Have we met?” she asked.

“I’ve seen you at Prospect High,” he answered.

Paula still couldn’t remember ever meeting him. But the boy began to ask her about the game she’d just attended, and the two fell into easy conversation. As the blocks passed, Paula relaxed. Her escort had come along at the perfect moment.

Just two houses before Paula’s, as if he had known her destination, the boy abruptly pushed down on the pedals. “See ya!” he called over his shoulder and rode away, shirt flapping as he disappeared into the dark. 

Paula went into the house, feeling oddly contented. She waved to her mother in the kitchen, then went upstairs, still bemused. Her father was right, she knew. She shouldn’t be out in the dark alone, and she wouldn’t do it again. But how lucky she had been, to run into that boy… 

She realized now that he had known her name, but she didn’t know his. She grabbed her yearbook to look him up.

But there was no photograph of the blond boy, not in homeroom or activity photos. And although Paula attended high school for two more years, she never saw him again. 

“He said he saw me at Prospect High,” she says today, “and I have no doubt that he did. Guardian angels don’t always have wings.”

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