Characters: Angela Petrelli
Original Story: Love, Angie, by trascendenza
Angela Petrelli is not a woman of many words. She always chooses them carefully, plucking them like the finest apples at the shopping market (not that she goes to the shopping market). She has been so all her life, in fact; when she was very, very little, her mother used to tell her that she hadn’t said a word until she was three, instead choosing to listen to what everybody else said, and when she finally did speak, it was with a far greater vocabulary and eloquence than could be expected. Her first word, or so her mother told her, was “Please,” spoken softly, tugging on her mother’s coat with one hand and pointing to a cookie with another, eyes wide and lower lip trembling. She got what she wanted. It wouldn’t be the last time.
So when Angela writes letters, she writes them with deliberation and much thought, designing her handful of sentences to say exactly what they need to and nothing more. And it has always been so.
When she was seven, and, in the spirit of youth (for she did indeed possess some of that, and perhaps still does), calling herself Angie, she wrote a letter to her mother:
Papa said hell give this to you next time he visits. I wish I could come see you. He said only grown-ups are allowed in. I think thats very mean. Papa says your having a good time. I listened to the radio after Papa and Bobby fell asleep last night & Samantha at school is my new best friend. You dont have to worry because I have lots of friends. I have to go get dressed for the party now.
I miss you. Bobby misses you too. But I miss you more.
And perhaps she had not quite mastered the art of grammar and punctuation, but the message was heartfelt and clear. Angie had not seen her mother in some time, and did not understand why that had to be so; her father had not deigned to give her a proper explanation. She hoped, with the sort of passion that only a seven-year-old can muster, to bring her mother back into her life, and if she could do that by sending her tiny packets of it, she was determined to try it.
Not long afterwards, Angie wrote another letter:
Will you be my new best friend?
– Angie Castiglioni
For Angie was nothing if not careful. Rejection in person was unthinkable; better the comparatively impersonal method of pen and paper. Not, of course, that she thought she would be rejected—she and Sam were already quite close, and the term ‘best friend’ was only a formality—but she was developing a strong awareness of the necessity of the ability to protect oneself from getting too dependent on any one person. Sam was a wonderful friend, but Angie knew not all wonderful things lasted forever; her mother, gone away for reasons unknown while her father stood silent, was proof enough of that.
When she was eight, Angie started down the path of realizing two things: one, that life was not only occasionally unfair, but sometimes distinctly so, and two, that dreams did not always follow this rule. Dreams, she realized, were a different game entirely, one where life could be thrown to the wayside. So she wrote another letter to her mother, hiding her new knowledge in a veil of complaint:
Do you think next time you come home we can go on a picnic? Papa said you were too sick to come out last time. I’m sorry I was at Sam’s and didn’t get to see you.
It isn’t the same going with Stella. She wears the uniform even when I tell her not to (I thought she was supposed to listen to me) and won’t roll down the hills with me like you do.
I had a dream about you flying like a plane. We’re flying to Italy to see Grandma next week. Bobby is still a snot.
Her little brother was, in fact, a snot. She bore this with the air of one who is absolutely certain that she was the better person and one day everyone would have to do what she said. Stella, too. Angie thoroughly believed that she and her mother and Sam and perhaps some of her other friends would take charge of everything some day, because nobody else seemed to be doing a very good job of it. A world where mothers were sent away and maids didn’t do what they were told, Angie decided, was not a world in its proper place.
When Angie was eleven, her world, sumptuous as it was, seemed small and cramped. Her seven-year-old passion had not seen fit to leave; she could feel her mother’s absence like a palpable ache in her heart. Letter after letter cried out her frustration, couched in the forced, simple words of one who was raised never to show any impractical extremes:
Papa told me you can’t come home for Christmas. But I saved stuffing for you. Grandma Maria said she made it just the way she did when you were a kid. She likes it here, but she has a hard time speaking English. Bobby fell asleep in his chair because he ate too much and Papa had to undo his belt.
Mrs. Templeton asked about you at brunch last week. I hate her but Papa always invites her. I told her you were coming back soon.
My teachers at school are mean. Are your teachers mean? If they are, you should come home.
I have a Christmas present for you. Please come home for it.
And at twelve:
I don’t like that place. Those people are very mean to you. You didn’t look happy. Papa won’t tell me why you’re so sad. Will you tell me why you’re so sad, Mama?
Please stop going back.
And through this frustration of youthful impotence, this wish to change things, to make them better, Angie discovered a way she might be able to do so.
Do you ever think that maybe we’re not like all the other girls?
She was fourteen, an age well-renowned for its tendency to spin everything around, and adolescence brought with it a disregard for the things that had been hammered into her head for years. There was excitement! There was change! There was the prospect, suddenly much closer, of independence! Oh, what Angie would do when she grew old enough to take her life into her own hands—and what she did already, albeit uncertainly, when no one was around except perhaps Sam. She was faintly aware that the covertness with which she went about this was not so dissimilar from the covertness associated with the other new aspect of life brought by adolescence, but that only made it richer. Angie Petrelli was finally starting to turn around.
I’m grounded. My brother the fink told on me again and my dad flipped his wig. Like ragging those socks was such a big whoop. Meet you at your locker tomorrow.
It was the most exhilarating drug in the world, far greater than any of the things her father had absolutely forbidden her from even attempting to acquire, to rebel. Angie had always lived by her father’s rules, but now she had finally decided that her father was no longer worth listening to. The only things Angie listened to were Sam, her own voice, and the deep thrumming in her chest that came whenever she thought about secrets. Angie, sixteen years old, was starting to fall in love with secrets. Secrets were an inexpressible, visceral thing; she devoured the secrets of others, everything from Sam’s crush on a boy named Caleb to her father’s safe, left unlocked one night after he’d spent too much time with a carafe of brandy. She longed to find as many secrets as she could, and to use them for whatever she needed. Her own secrets, of course, were the pride and joy of her collection; she horded them close to her like diamonds, or perhaps armor.
At seventeen, Angie was more determined to find out one crucial secret than anything else:
I don’t think those straightlaces gave you my last letter, but I’m pretty sure this one will get to you. Let’s just say the attendants there don’t make much dough.
School is fine. Sam says hello. You remember Sam, right? She’s got a boyfriend now. She’s pretty happy about that.
I’m well. But… I don’t think Pa always understands what it’s like to be my age. I try to talk to him about stuff, but he bugs out as soon as I get real.
Yesterday I was looking at pictures of you from years ago. You looked just like me, Ma.
Do we have anything else in common? Anything Pa wouldn’t tell me about?
But it eluded her, forcing her to find a more immediately constructive outlet for her attentions.
I’m going to do it. Wish me luck.
Heard your car got fixed. You should come by and take me for a spin in it.
– Angela Castiglioni
As ever, Angie preferred the protective wall of a letter to the possibility of a personal dismissal.
But as it turned out, once again, she needn’t have worried. Angie was eighteen, and she was in love; love soothed her, straightened her out, hid her rebellions back away in the corner of her mind to keep them safe until she needed them again. Arthur Petrelli was a wonderful man, the sort of man her father had always wanted for her, but he was also a man of layers, secrets large and small buried under a football-player physique and a sparkling smile. In Angie’s mind, there was no better man for her.
When she was 20, he cemented his place in her life; she wanted to scream her joy to the heavens, but kept it behind a reserved smile and perfectly teary eyes. Life, life, life; here she had the method of escape she had been waiting for.
His name’s Arthur. He’s incredible. I can’t believe how lucky I am to have him. Pa will be giving me away; we were hoping you might get a special allowance to come.
If it’s all right with you, I’d like to wear your dress. Stella said she could alter it for me.
I’ll see you next month and we can talk more about it.
Her mother didn’t come to her wedding, but the excuses were so perfect, so pristine, that Angie had to be impressed; she hid the hurt under the knowledge that soon she would be able to actually do something. And the wedding was so lovely, after all, and Arthur was so wonderful, and a bit of respite would only make her even stronger for what was to come.
The weather here is amazing. We may get a villa out here; you and Caleb will have to join us in the summer. Arthur is a terrible honeymooner—my shoes are practically disintegrated from sight-seeing.
I really couldn’t be happier.
Angela Petrelli, née Castiglioni, was a person of deliberate action. Years of careful thought had sharpened her into an unyielding knife, and years of waiting and lusting after secrets had given her enough force to finally, finally go for what she really wanted:
I have these dreams sometimes. It’s as if you’re right here with me, but transparent. Floating.
You tell me terrible things.
I’m going to talk to father about stopping your dosages. I’m not a child, anymore. He can’t deflect me with lies. This has to stop.
I love you.
And the power of Angela Petrelli’s love was a power so fierce and so strong that it echoed in every careful, precise, deliberate word she chose.
I’d like to discuss a transferal of assets into a trust fund for Nathan. Please contact me at your earliest convenience.
‘Nathaniel’ means ‘gift of God’. Angela was inclined to believe this thoroughly, for all that a child complicated her ability to take immediate action. How much more could she do, how much more leverage did she have, now that she controlled the family line? And her son was so strong and beautiful; she knew with that old absolute certainty that he would be her greatest asset yet. She was splitting apart from her old family; well, now she was making her own. And this time, nothing and no one was going to stop her.
When she was 23, her certainty in that last part wavered a bit:
I wish you could have been here to see our son. He took his first steps yesterday. He’s going to make us proud one day. Our godsend.
I love you. May this letter reach you safely.
But Arthur came back, and with him came someone else, and once again Angela saw the spin of the world, and how to make it spin towards her.
As the world spun, so did the years. The job of parenthood had forced her to wait longer than she’d liked, and she was twenty-seven when she wrote, clenching her teeth:
Sometimes I think I write to you more for my sake than your own. They have you so drugged that I doubt you can tell reality from dream, anymore.
I will find a way for you to come home—one way or another. I swear it.
Love and dedication burn in every vein of Angela Petrelli’s body, but she keeps it hidden; inside, she is a furnace, boiling hot and strong, but outside, she is cold steel, just as strong but impossible to penetrate. Fire can be extinguished; steel can only be brought down by other fires, and if her steel can withstand her own flames, then it can withstand anything. That was as true then as it is now.
The truth always comes out, in the end. Destroy all the records you like. I will not be dissuaded.
Angela Petrelli was thirty-three, and she was one thousand, and she was seven. And she was not alone.
There are others. I always wondered, always hoped. Arthur and I are closer than either of us thought possible.
We’re going to great things, Ma. All of them—they’re like me.
And, maybe, like you?
You don’t have to answer me on paper.
Her joy, the inexpressible joy of finding an entire treasure trove of wonderful secrets, leaked through the pen and onto the paper, peering out behind the words. Power—hope—a new family of her own—and again power, so much power, that she grew dizzy with it; but when one of her handholds on it slipped, so did she, if only for a moment. Then came the steel, once more, guarding her with careful ink.
You are a dear friend, but never again. My moment of weakness was an aberration. I lost my composure—seeing one’s husband in a straight jacket tends to have that effect on one. I tell you this not as an excuse: merely an elaboration on circumstances.
I will be attending the next board meeting.
Never once did her cold, precise words fail her; she etched them on her steel, making them immutable, cloaking her fires when they began to waver.
Arthur needs to see you. Please come as soon as possible. I will not have him locked up for this.
Desperation, frustration, uncertainty; she was thirty-four, and her world was rising, and the power surrounding her threatened to drown her out:
You’re absolutely certain there is no other recourse?
I’m sure you know the gravity that your answer will have on this situation. Please consider very carefully.
I’m about to do a terrible thing. But I don’t think I have any other choice. I’ve spent a lifetime trying to figure out the right thing to do.
I don’t think there is one.
But Angela Petrelli chooses her actions as carefully as her words.
I love you. I want you to remember that, no matter what else they’ve told you. I love you.
But what they’ve done to you—they had no right. And maybe I have no right, either, but I don’t know how else to help you. I can’t let them hurt you anymore.
I made you a promise.
The man giving you this letter will take care of you. He can’t give you back what you’ve lost. But you won’t feel any pain.
I want you to hold this letter up to your face, Ma, and take a deep breath. Think about those flowers we used to pick out front. The yellow ones, remember? You used to make necklaces out of them and tell me that I could whisper all my secrets into them.
Hold this letter up, Ma, and tell it your secrets. Let it take them away.
I love you, Ma. Never forget.
It is December, 1980. Angela Petrelli has severed all connections to the life she used to lead. She has one son—no, she has two sons, and she loves them more than anything in the world, more than most people love anything or anyone else. She is strong. She is powerful. She has her hand on the spin of the world. Everything she does goes exactly the way she intended.
And she knows exactly how she is going to raise her boys.
With every careful word, with every precise action, Angela she molds her family into one that will never break as her old one did. Together, they will do even greater things. She has lost too much; she will not lose more.
The love of Angie Castiglioni, now Angela Petrelli, will forge a family to be proud of.