eyelids were heavy. He tried to open
them but it was too much energy. Besides, why should
bother? His friends... his friends were all actors
pretend to love him. Were Monica and Tess
real? Where was
the Father? Why wasn't he Home?"
Andrew heard soft singing. Was someone crying? Too tired... No point in seeing... Betrayed.
30 Minutes Earlier
JenniAnn set down her pen. She looked around the ballroom and, seeing no one, lifted the letter and kissed it. Next she wrote Andrew's name across it with a flourish. Yva, Rose, Countess Jennifer, and Lady Beth had arrived moments before for a farewell lunch they were sharing before Yva and Rose left with Willy for Scotland the next day. They had graciously agreed to wait a minute or two while JenniAnn finished her letter. Now that it was accomplished, the woman jumped up and headed to the kitchen. However, she'd only made it to the hallway when the phone rang.
"Yes, who is this?"
"My name is Brett and I'm a showrunner for Roses and Thorns."
"Umm... okay... Is that a play?"
Brett made an indignant sound. "No! It's only the Daytime Emmy award-winning soap opera of the year!"
"Oh, right." JenniAnn rolled her eyes. "How can I help you, Brett?"
"Well, your name was listed as one of Mr. Simons' medical emergency contacts."
"Uh, yeah. Andrew Simons, one of our crew members."
"What!?" JenniAnn cried. Her stomach began tying in knots.
"Yes, see, there was a fight on set and Mr. Simons tried to break it up and I'm afraid he got knocked out."
"Where is he?" JenniAnn demanded.
"Warner Brothers in L.A., Lot 65. I'll give your name to the security guards and you can come right in."
"You mean Andrew's there?! You haven't called an ambulance?"
"I'll be right there!" JenniAnn slammed down the phone and rushed into the kitchen. Yva, Rose, Countess Jennifer, and Lady Beth looked expectantly at her. "Andrew got knocked out while on assignment. We gotta go to L.A.!" she cried.
Requiring no further explanation, the four women followed JenniAnn outside and to the willow tree in Andrew's yard. A moment later, they were gone.
"If you're so into monogamy can't you just find a nice vamp lady? Or better yet three or four?" Josef asked with a smarmy grin.
Mick rolled his eyes. "Nice, Josef. Beth and I..." Mick sniffed the air. "Just a second." He walked towards his hall closet and opened it. Out poured JenniAnn, Lady Beth, Rose, Countess Jennifer and Yva. "What's wrong?" he asked. The Dyelanders had never just appeared in his apartment. Something had to be wrong.
"Or four or five women. You've been holding out on me..." Josef said with another grin.
Mick ignored him and looked apologetically at the five women. "What's wrong?" he repeated.
JenniAnn hysterically told him about the phone call. The other four women gasped as she related a more complete rendition to the vampire.
"Okay, I'll drive you to the studio. Come on." Mick grabbed his keys and headed to the door.
Josef followed them with a not entirely noble look on his face.
"Stay!" Mick commanded.
Josef wasn't entirely sure why... but he did.
*~*~*Vince hugged his daughter tightly as she began to cry, genuinely, and tears flooded his own eyes.
Brett met the six at the entry to the studio. He led them through hallways until finally they came to one of the sets. Andrew was laying on the floor, a folded Roses and Thorns T-shirt rested under his head.
As Mick began grilling the actors/witnesses, the five women surrounded Andrew.
Not knowing what else to do, Yva began singing "The Water is Wide." JenniAnn was crying as Lady Beth, Countess Jennifer, and Rose began to pray. They all stopped when Andrew began to stir. His eyelids twitched. He grimaced. Then, after a few breathless moments on the part of the ladies, his eyes opened. And he screamed!
"Andrew! It's okay!" Lady Beth tried to console him.
The angel shook his head. "No..."
"Andrew, do you feel dizzy?" Mick asked.
"You were eating a hoagie!" Andrew accused.
Mick raised an eye brow. "That sounds great but... no."
"Why is that bad? Is he, like, on Atkins?" a young actress asked, casting a come-hither look at the vampire. Mick just looked away, blushing.
Andrew looked from her to JenniAnn. JenniAnn just looked back at him, anxious, and swiping at tears. "Nigel is from the Bronx!" he declared next and looked to Yva.
Despite her concern, Yva burst out laughing. "Oh poor Andrewkins, you must have really hit your head hard. Nigel's definitely not from the Bronx." She leaned closer and whispered. "He's from Heaven, just like you."
Andrew tilted his head, considering this. Next his eyes fell on Rose. "You were scared of JenniAnn because she was angry about the tabloid."
"Tabloid? Andrew, I'm not sure what you mean. Maybe you should lie back down for a bit..." Rose bit her lip in concern.
"I think that's a good idea," Countess Jennifer agreed and began to refold the T-shirt.
"Can we get him some water?" Lady Beth asked a nearby staffer.
Andrew was just shaking his head.
"You broke him!!!" JenniAnn suddenly jumped up and screamed at the actors who were milling around. "What the heck did you do!?!" she demanded.
"At least they didn't lie to me," Andrew muttered.
"Wh-what?" JenniAnn stared at him.
Andrew looked away. "Pretended you cared about me for... for an Emmy."
JenniAnn began to shake.
"Andrew..." Yva gently chastised.
"But she told me..."
Mick went to JenniAnn's side but she dashed away to crouch by Andrew. "You listen," she whispered so only the angel could hear. "I will kiss you right now if that's what it's going to take even though I'm kind of afraid I'll then be turned into a pillar of salt or... or smited... smoted? And I think you actually might feel pretty bad about that if it happened, even in your... altered state. But I'm willing to take the risk if that's what it takes for you to believe me. I never faked anything with you, Andrew."
After a moment, Andrew smiled sheepishly and then began to chuckle while still brushing at tears. All week he had struggled to get through to these people and put an end to the taunting and fighting. He knew he had to break through the sense of vulnerability, neglect and betrayal of those working on Roses and Thorns. In his dream and the moments that followed, he'd felt all of those things. But honest, if slightly over-dramatic, words had broken through those emotions. Maybe now he could give them the words and the help they desperately needed.
The four other women, having not heard JenniAnn's words, just stared at their emotional friend in disbelief and became worried about Andrew's sanity. Mick, who had heard because of his over-developed hearing, shuffled awkwardly.
"I think maybe they really did break him..." Lady Beth murmured to Rose who was then nearest to her.
Andrew finally spoke to JenniAnn. "You wouldn't get turned into salt or smote, Laja. But I'd be more than happy to settle for a hug and... I believe you," he whispered back. Andrew got to his feet then and began to hug each of his assembled friends, thanking them as he did.
The group all turned when they heard sniffling behind them.
"That was flipping beautiful. Why can't we be like that?" a man in a Yankees hat said, wiping at his eyes. He then self-consciously turned away.
"You can be, Darrell," Andrew assured the actor. "This could be a great place to work for all of you, just like it was in the beginning. Taylor," Andrew smiled at another man. "Laurel," another smile to the young woman who had asked Mick about Atkins. "All of you!" Andrew gestured to the others who were milling around.
"I don't think so!" Taylor, picking at his sandwich, protested. "Not when she's demeaning us and going to bring down this show with her spoiled brat antics!" He glared at Laurel.
"Daddy!" she shrieked.
The Dyelanders, Mick, and Andrew, with a sense of deja vu, looked on as a well-dressed man on a cell phone ran out and superficially consoled his daughter whilst brokering a deal on the phone.
Andrew pressed on. "I think deep down you all really care about each other. I mean here you are on a show about relationships... maybe not the kind of relationships we'd all like to be in," he added hastily as he noticed two of the actors who were playing fratricidal brothers walk through and to another sound stage while a crew member sprayed one down with fake blood. Andrew blinked but continued. "This show is about relationships nonetheless and maybe things would go a lot better if you all focused on the most important relationship of all: yours with God."
"Oh great, a religious nut. Daddy, make him go away!" Laurel pleaded.
The producer, whose named really was Vince, was transfixed. "No, I think we should listen." Not breaking eye contact with Andrew he removed the cell phone from his ear and stuffed it into a pocket.
"Groovy, maybe then your crew members won't start demanding combat pay," Rose whispered to the Dyelanders who stifled giggles.
Andrew moved to Laurel and Vince. "Vince, God gave you a beautiful gift with this child of yours. And He knows you love her but you need to ensure that *she* knows. And Laurel, God knows you feel neglected and that you strive to hide it with partying and reckless behavior and relationships that get you attention. But it's not the kind of attention you need. God knows you're searching for acceptance and love but both those things are already there for you. You have His love and acceptance because you are His beautiful child!"
Andrew moved on to Darrell. "Darrell, you pretend to be tough and mean. Because you want to keep people at a distance. You don't want to appear vulnerable. But I have a message for you: you are vulnerable! It's part of being human. God created you that way. Acting like you aren't may keep you from getting hurt but it's also going to keep you from making real and true friends."
Darrell nodded solemnly and then went off to apologize to the costume girl he'd snapped at earlier.
"Taylor," Andrew turned to the other actor. "I know you're going through a tough time since your divorce. And I know you feel unloved and abandoned. But you're not . Deep down everyone on this show cares about you. And you want to know what's even more important? God is with you every moment of every hour and He loves you! He will never betray you!"
"God loves me..." Taylor repeated.
Andrew nodded, unaware that the Dyelanders and Mick were all nodding behind him.
"God loves me!" Taylor said again, this time more sure of his words. He beamed as he spoke. Laurel came towards him and hugged him.
"Let's call it a day, everyone," Vince announced. "Go home. Spend time with your loved ones." He turned to Taylor then. "Taylor, why don't you join my family for dinner?"
Taylor looked at Laurel who nodded eagerly. "Yes sir, I'd love to," he accepted.
"Andrew, thank you. I think you told us exactly what we needed to hear. I'd invite you over but something tells me your friends there have other ideas," Vince smiled at the women and Mick.
Andrew chuckled. "It was my pleasure and, yes, I think we do."
"I'm, uh, sorry about what happened..." Vince frowned.
"Things happen for a reason," the angel assured him.
Then the set began to clear out until only Andrew and his friends remained.
"So can you leave now or are you still on assignment?" Countess Jennifer asked.
Andrew looked upward and then grinned. "I'm free to go."
"How do you feel, Andrew?" Mick asked.
Andrew shrugged. "Still a little dizzy maybe but otherwise good."
"Let's get you home... lowercase," Yva suggested.
"I'd like that," Andrew complied readily.
While Mick returned to his apartment to face Josef, the others headed to a nearby park where they entered a secluded grove and disappeared into a portal there.
Once they were all safely back at Willowveil and sitting comfortably in the living room, Andrew told the ladies about his dream and how it had agonizingly meshed them with his assignments.
"How terrible..." JenniAnn murmured. "No wonder you were so outta sorts!"
Andrew shrugged. "I'm just glad it wasn't real although... I don't know that I'll be in the mood for any April Fool's Day identity pranks Tuesday."
"I think we can all promise you that after today's events none of us are in the mood for that," Rose assured him.
"Rose and I will be in Scotland then, anyway, but even if we weren't we wouldn't do that to you, Andrew," Yva added.
Andrew sighed happily, "I know. Although..." His face flushed.
"What is it?" Lady Beth prompted.
"I know it's silly but... do you think I could just look in the storage room?" Andrew requested. "I just think it'd make me feel better. I mean it's not that I doubt any of you but... the dream was just so vivid."
The five women exchanged concerned glances among themselves.
Andrew ran his hand through his hair. "What is it? Please just tell me. I... I can take it." He drew a deep breath.
Countess Jennifer stood up. "I think we should show him." The rest followed her towards the hallway and then into the ballroom. They all stood facing the storage room.
Lady JenniAnn lifted a thin chain from around her neck. There was a key at the end. She handed it to Andrew.
Nervous, Andrew inserted the key in the door. He hesitated before opening the door. Once again he drew a deep breath. He closed his eyes and swung the door open.
There were no lights, no cameras, and no action. There was only... him! In various boardgame forms!
Andrew scanned the shelves, laughing as he did. "Andrewopoly? Not-So-Trivial Pursuit : The Andrew Edition? A Mancala game with little gems shaped like... me?" The angel held a faux sapphire, miniature version of himself in his palm.
"Well, we were bored..." JenniAnn mumbled.
Andrew picked up a small bag that made a metallic sound as he opened it. "Jacks. Well, these are actually normal."
"Umm, we call them Andrews," Rose confessed.
"Okay, how did you alter Jenga?" Andrew questioned, removing a box of rectangular blocks from one of the shelves.
"Oh we don't actually play Jenga with those," Countess Jennifer explained.
"Then what do you do with them?" the angel pressed, highly amused if not slightly embarrassed by this discovery.
"We throw them," was Yva's short response.
"Okay..." Andrew picked one up and threw it into the ballroom. Nothing other than gravity happened. "I don't get it."
"Not at the floor!" Lady Beth went to retrieve the block. "We throw them when we're watching 'Touched.'"
"What!?" Andrew shook his head but laughed.
JenniAnn bit her lip but then spoke. "Okay, so, we sometimes get a lil upset when 'Andrew' gets upset on the show. So... we throw those at the characters who upset him/you. Well, at least we used to. You remember when I had to go buy a new TV and you helped me carry it in? Yeah, well, the day before Rocky really made me mad and so... screen cracked. After that we switched to these." She grabbed another box off the shelf. Andrew peered in and saw similar sized blocks but these were made of foam.
"So... Now you know the secret of the storage room." Yva looked curiously at Andrew. "What do you think?"
"Well," Andrew paused to think. "I'm honored. Of course, I think you all might be a little bit crazy," he grinned. "But I'm glad you're my friends for real. Now... who wants to play Andrewopoly with me? I call being the Banker."
JenniAnn giggled. "There's no Banker in Andrewopoly! But you can be the Angel of Finances."
Andrew laughed. "Okay. What game piece do I get? Usually I end up with the wheelbarrow."
"Oh, there's no wheelbarrow," Rose explained as they set the game out.
"There's a pocket watch, a base ball bat, a tool belt, a labyrinth," Countess Jennifer ticked off.
Lady Beth continued. "A dove, an umbrella, a piano..."
"A leather jacket and an Eiffel tower," Yva finished.
Once Andrew finally stopped laughing, he chose the pocket watch and settled into a four hour game of Andrewopoly among friends.
April 1st- Back in L.A.
After a Vince-approved long weekend, Brett and the cast and some of the crew of Roses and Thorns were gathered to watch the dailies from March 29th in order to determine if any of the pre-fight footage was usable. They all smiled as they sat down and chatted. However, their faces clouded as they watched their bad behavior unfold. Taylor bowed his head as he watched himself take a swing at Andrew. There was uncomfortable silence as they watched the footage of everyone freaking out.
Brett moved to turn it off but instead hit fast forward by accident.
Laurel suddenly gasped. "Rewind, Brett! Rewind to when Andrew gets up."
Brett obeyed and the group stared at the TV.
"Where's that light coming from?" Darrell asked.
"Yeah, why was there a spotlight on a crew member?" Taylor looked to Brett.
Brett just kept staring at the screen. "There wasn't... That light's coming from him!"
"Very funny, Brett. Great April Fool's joke." Vince laughed and shook his head.
Brett looked directly into the executive producer's eyes. "This isn't a joke, Vince."
"He... he was an angel," Laurel murmured.
"An angel sent to help us... and we hit him!" Taylor cried.
Vince shook his head. "I'm not saying Andrew is an angel although..." he glanced again at the video. "Maybe he is. But I do know this: when I apologized he told me everything happens for a reason. So instead of bullying ourselves over this, let's think about why God sent Andrew here and what we're supposed to do about it..."
"Well, let's call and ask! Brett, where's the number of that woman you called? Andrew's medical contact," Darrell suggested. "She'd know how to contact him."
Brett got up and went to a filing cabinet. The rest watched as he rifled through files, a crease in his forehead growing deeper as he did. "It's gone!"
"Well, it has to be there. Who else has access?" Vince questioned.
"Just me! Saturday after everyone left I came back in here to put Andrew's file back. Then I locked the cabinet and my door and left. I unlocked the cabinet just before all of you arrived today and I hadn't left the office since. So either someone broke in over the long weekend and stole the file or... it disappeared on its own." Brett began to pace.
"Was the data ever input into our payroll system on the computer?" Vince moved to Brett's computer. He logged in and typed "Andrew Simons" in a search field. "No search results found" appeared.
The group exchanged amazed glances. There was stunned silence for a time before their planning began.
Four Months Later
Mick was driving to the scene of a crime he was investigating when he noticed a van parked in front of a local Holiday Inn. It had caught his eye because it was painted entirely with a cloudscape. "Andrew's Advice" was painted in cursive across its side. Mick parked in the hotel's lot and entered. He quickly spotted a table in the lobby with various pamphlets stacked on it. He smiled as he read. Vince and Co. had started their own non-profit which offered sessions about how to increase workplace harmony. Mick smiled as he noticed the little note on the last page:
To Andrew, wherever you are, thank you.
Below it were signed the names Vince, Brett, Darrell, Laurel and Taylor.
Mick smiled and tucked the pamphlet away to give to Andrew. Walking back out into the sunlight, Mick bowed his head. A strange noise made him look back up, however. Cooing. There flying just above the heads of the pedestrians on the busy street was a white dove. Mick smiled, knowing that Andrew's assignment was now truly done.
The End... Really, this time!
Happy April Fool's Day!