winging it! confessions of an angel in training
Fourteen-year-old Angel in Training Grace Lightbourne isn’t a great student, but thinks she has come up with the perfect way to avoid studying. She’ll ask the Big Kahuna to go straight to Earth, skipping her last three years of school, so she can train as an apprentice Guardian. It would seem to be an inspired idea, but in the second before there’s no turning back she thinks, I musta been totally mental when I came up with this? And, then, Oh, well, here goes.
She has no clue what she’s in for when He agrees. Archangel Michael isn’t happy about her special mission. There’s one pesky full angel who keeps getting in her way. And then there’s Victor, who has teenage temptation written all over him. Still, Grace is convinced she’s on a fast track to her wings. Because, seriously, how hard can it be to be a Guardian Angel? She’s working with humans, right?
Winging It! is the first book in the Angel in Training series, an irreverent and light-hearted take on Angels, Heaven and everything else that’s divine.
Have you ever decided to do something that seemed like a good idea—maybe even an inspired idea—and in the second before there’s no turning back, you think, I musta been totally mental when I came up with this? And then, Oh well, here goes.
Confession: That was exactly what ran through my mind when Gabriel sounded his trumpet and I took my leap of faith.
In the enormous circular room at the center of the Temple, Archangels stand against the walls. Everything in the room is made of white marble—walls, floor ceiling, columns—which makes for a hard, chilly atmosphere. What I wouldn’t give for a shaggy rug, a comfy chair or a space heater. Strangely, even though someone has the AC set to frigid, my palms are sweating, so I wipe them on the plaid skirt of my Catholic school uniform.
I ditched the traditional white linen robe we’re supposed to wear in the hope that dressing memorably would show The Big Kahuna I’mdifferent from all the other Angels-in-Training. Independent. Non-conformist. Holy, hip, and human.
That kind of thing.
Confession: I’m not human, and don’t want to be, but I gottaplay the part for this whole thing to work, you know?
Today is Declaration Day. Or as I call it: D-Day. After our first three years of general schooling at the L’académie de Divinté, a.k.a. Angel School, it’s time to specialize and pick our eternal vocation. Then, we’ll study that for the next three years. Finally, after that—and if we pass—we’ll receive our wings. In between, we get other junk like a scepter, scales or flaming swords. Some can’t wait to get their chariots, but I’m all about the wings. Who needs wheels when you can fly?
Three more years feels like for-e-ver.
As I wait, sweating it, Gabriel sounds his trumpet. A bright, multi-colored pulsing light spirals into the room through a doorway and glides toward me.
Is that Him?
Seraphim fly over the light all holy, holy, holy. As they soar, the Archangels and I bow our heads.
Seraphs, in case you didn’t know, are at the top of the Celestial Being hierarchy, and it takes eons to get one of those jobs. Everyone thinks they’re such a big deal, but I don’t get it. All they do is fly around Our Head Honcho, non-stop. I mean, c’mon. The job seems pretty repetitious and not highly skilled, if you ask me. The best thing—no, the only thing—about Seraphim are those awesome wings, which almost makes me think about aspiring to their job. Almost.
As the glowing ball of light approaches, I shield my eyes. Sheesh, that’s bright!
A fiery hand emerges from the orb, holding out a pair of sunglasses. I don’t believe it, they’re glam. Gingerly, I take them and put them on.
“You’re welcome.” The ball of light constricts, shifts, and then Santa emerges: chubby, red suit, a sack of gifts tossed over his shoulder. “It’s time to declare your vocation, Grace.”
Of course, I already know this. That’s why we’re here.
“I have an inkling of what you’d like to do.” Santa becomes the light, which shifts again, and now He is a ginormous computer, whirring softly. How much memory does He have? Oh yeah—
Which can get on someone’s nerves, because if you know, just tell me.
Archangel Michael bows his head in the direction of the computer then steps away from the wall, bearing his flaming sword. “Declare your vocation, Grace.” He sheathes the sword and looks annoyed, crossing his super-sized wings over his arms.
My stomach knots. Michael’s always intimidated me because, well, first of all he towers over me with his very muscular build. I’m sure that’s useful as he leads the army of Angels against doers of evil, but it can be a teeny bit intimidating. But to be honest, the thing that really makes me rubber-kneed is that he’s never liked me. Not since his guest lecture in my first year at Angel School during Celestial Structure 101.
After about a month of classes, Professor Trueday announced, “We have a very special guest speaker today. Please welcome the Archangel Michael.”
Near the front of the room a huge, stony-faced Angel stood stiffly with the most incredible, feathered, iridescent, elegant wings I’d ever seen.
Professor Trueday normally didn’t exhibit his wings, keeping them concealed while teaching. But this new guy had no problem flaunting his. Mr. Gigantic Wings turned his back to the class, wrote ORDER on the blackboard and said, “In the day-to-day management of the Universe…”
Blah, blah, drone, drone. How will I take this for the next six years? I didn’t really tune in to much of what he said because I couldn’t stop admiring his wings. Behind a cupped hand, I whispered to my roommate, Mercy, “I gotta get a pair of those.”
The Archangel stopped droning, pointed his flaming sword at me and boomed, “You…with the curls. What’s your name?”
I pointed to my chest, my heart already migrated north to my throat. “Me?” I asked in a small voice.
“Well Grace, did you have a question?”
“No, not really.”
“A comment then?”
His eyes were locked on me as I squirmed in my seat. Could he at least put the sword down? “I said to my roommate that I wanted a pair of wings like yours.”
A few of the other Angels in Training, a.k.a. AITs, snickered. Mercy slouched down and held a hand to her forehead, trying to hide.
He smirked and gave them a mighty flap. Papers flew off desks, scattering everywhere. The AITs in the front rows had to scurry around collecting everything. “You like them, then?”
“Who wouldn’t?” I gushed.
One student barked a laugh.
“Then I suggest you pay better attention in class so you don’t end up a Wingless One. Oh, and meet me after school today to serve a Detention for speaking out in class.”
He gave out three more Detentions that day to other AITs. For me, it was the first of countless I’ve received from him over the years. Once, I told Mercy if he’d been around in the beginning, Michael probably would have given The Big Guy, Himself, a detention for Creation taking six days instead of four or five.
I don’t think he can give one during a Declaration. Still, I don’t want to risk it.
“Hi.” I wave weakly at Michael.
Naturally, he doesn’t smile. His expression amps up the tension in the room. Just when I think I couldn’t possibly be any more nervous, scenes from Earth are projected onto the walls surrounding us like two-second clips from movies.
Faster and faster. A beautiful field of wildflowers, a traffic jam, a bowling ball knocking down pins, a bustling city street, a scorpion scuttling across the sand. It’s totally unnerving.
It’s impossible to decide what to focus on—the kaleidoscope of images or God’s shifting appearance. Now he’s morphed into an oversized owl. I finally lose my balance completely.
“What dooooo you choooose?” asks The Owl-God.
I fidget a little. “Um, well, I have this idea.”
“I know you dooooo,” the owl says. See what I mean about the omniscient-thing? The Owl-God offers me a sliver of advice. “We need you to state your wishes. Take your time. Be sure it’s…appropriate.”
“Lord, she just needs to declare.” Michael’s wings tremble a little. Like he has a nervous tic.
“Okay,” He says. “Grace, what will it be?”
I scratch my temple. “I watch Earth. On HVEN TV. A lot—”
Now, Michael’s wings shudder. “Just declare,” he cuts me off with a clipped tone.
“And I was thinking it seems like they could use my help. I know, I know.” I shake my head. “This has probably never been done with an Angel-in-Training, but I’m not really a school-type person. Just ask Archangel Michael. I’m probably more like, uh, Michelangelo.”
The Archangels along the wall titter, and muffled voices leak out behind hands held to their mouths.
But I keep going. “You know who I mean, right? The guy who painted the Sistine Chapel. Anyway, I ran into him at The Hall of Records the other day, and he told me he skipped school and trained as an apprentice. Like, on-the-job-training. And that turned out pretty good, I think.”
Michael’s wings are totally shaking. It’s like a six or seven on the Richter scale. My knees want to buckle, but I’m too far in. Just keep going.
“I just think it would be better for everyone—” I steal a glance at Michael, “—if I went straight to an Assignment. Say, as a Guardian.” I figure he must be as tired of giving me Detentions as I am of getting them.
“This is ridiculous,” Michael bellows. Ridiculous echoes off the walls. “She’s comparing herself to a human who painted Your masterpiece. She can’t skip training.”
At this point, Gabriel steps forward, trumpet in hand, and flaps his wings. “If I may say something. Perhaps I can offer a solution.”
The Owl transforms into a Traffic Light. The green light is glowing brightly. “Certainly, Gabriel. Speak your mind.”
It’s funny how things work out. Like this morning, I took a long time picking my outfit, which made me late, so I was the last in line, which seemed bad but now seems good, because this is taking quite a bit longer than I thought. When Michael made us practice Declarations a thousand times last week, it was much quicker.
“Grace has a beautiful voice,” Gabriel croons. He’s shorter and slighter than Michael. Plus, his trumpet is not nearly as intimidating as the whole flaming-sword thing. “An assignment in the choir would suit her gifts.”
“Um,” I pipe up. “See. I have to disagree. Sorry, Gabe.”
He shoots me a harsh look and one wing does a little flap. The Traffic Light turns yellow.
“I mean, Gabriel. I don’t like the choir. In fact, I really dread singing glory, glory all day long. It’s—” I hold my thumb and forefinger a hair’s width apart, “—a teeny bit boring.”
Gabriel’s mouth drops open, and The Traffic Light changes to bright red.
Yikes. Was that too much honesty? I turn to Him, feeling plain silly speaking to a gadget. It’s worse than the owl. “Sorry.” Then to Gabriel, “You’re a great teacher and everything.”
Gabriel smiles and the Light flashes yellow.
“But back to this Guardian idea, okay? Humans, their lives are such a mess,” I ramble. “I just think, how hard could it be to make them a little better? I mean, I couldn’t make them worse.”
After I say the last part, there’s silence of the complete and total variety. In the quiet, the scenes on the walls fly by us faster and faster—waves crashing on the beach, a full moon, a palm tree. I can’t stand it; I’m so dizzy.
“It really would be for the best.” I sound a lot more confident than I feel.
And then, He becomes the old-man version of Himself. The one from Michelangelo’s paintings.
Because the Sistine Chapel doesn’t show Him doubled up with laughter and brushing tears from his eyes. “She is spunky. I like that.”
Michael’s shoulders droop and his wings wilt. When he speaks, his voice has lost its edge. “Sir, you know this requires much more than spunk. My training program has prepared Guardians since Day One.”
The Old Man steps toward Michael, His elegantly embroidered robe brushing the floor. “I remember another brash Angel-in-Training. That trait has served him quite well for a very long time.” He dabs his beard with the back of his hand. “And it wasn’t Day One, Michael. It was Two or Three. I can’t remember which, and it’s really not important.”
The other Archangels whisper behind hands and wings this time.
Michael’s eyes drift to the floor. “Yes. You’re right, of course.”
What was that about?
The room falls silent again and the scene projected onto the walls of the Temple freezes on human teens walking through a hallway, carting backpacks, laughing, jostling each other.
“This could work. The problem is not too complex,” He mutters to Himself. “And the Assignment is still malleable. All right. I’ve found a Mission that needs a Guardian. You’ll need to depart right away. Timing is critical.”
Yessssss! Ask, and ye shall receive. Isn’t that how it goes?
There’s a flurry of reactions from the Archangel peanut gallery. Some nod, some gasp and others are whispering behind their wings again. All of them are watching Michael. He simply looks resigned.
I bow my head in thanks.
The Old Man says to Michael in a distracted voice, “Is Grace the last Declaration? What do I have now?”
When I peek up from my pious stance, an agenda materializes in his hands.
“Busy, busy, busy—it’s a hectic day. Michael, would you please take care of the details? I’m off to create a new flower then reshuffle a couple of fates and after that, there’s a storm I need to set in motion.”
Michael nods. “Yes, Sir.”
The Old Man gazes at me, through me. “Just so you know, Grace. I prefer the first two, creation and organization. But when you have to do everything, well, that means destruction, too.” His palms open. “And one more thing. You could almost say your Mission is against my better judgment. Of course, you can’t say that, exactly, because it is my decision. Do you understand?”
I don’t, but decide I’d better nod anyway.
“No. You don’t understand yet. One of the only Absolutes in all of this—” his arm sweeps grandly around The Temple, “—is Free Will. For how could I be loving and enslave any Being?”
I still don’t know what He’s talking about, but nod again because it seems like what He’s saying is super-important.
As He glides away and changes back into the pulsing light, Michael calls, “Procedure, Sir?”
With an impatient wave of His hand, back to us all, The Old Man booms, “It will be done.”
Do you love the extras that some movies have? Out takes and interviews with the authors? Well here are some Winging It! Extras.