"Your common sense tells you best not begin but your fool heart cannot help plungin' in
and nothing and no one can stand in your way you just have to love who you love."
~Alfie Byrne in "A Man of No Importance", lyrics by Lynn Ahrens

Hi all,

Okay, so usually we don't have two newsletter this long so close together.  But JABB 264 was originally planned for November and then got pushed back.  Which made it very close to the annual Valentine's Day story.  Oh well!  I promise the next newsletter will be much, much shorter.  Likely even shorter than JABB 265.

Anyhow, people seemed to enjoy JABB 239 so I thought a reprise would be fun.  But since I've been in one of my angsty moods, seriousness snuck in.  I hope it'll turn out to be good seriousness.  As far as notes... I don't think I really need to explain as much as I did last year.  For anyone who wants a visual, I imagined Elijah as played by Jesse L. Martin but that's just me!  I've had this character in mind for a while so I'm glad I finally found an appropriate way to introduce him.

BIG thanks to Liz (Henry and Lady Beth), Nicole (Rose and Tess), and Yvette (Nigel, Yva and Sir Sven, Willy, Andi, and Adam) who wrote the answers for their characters!  I really enjoyed reading those answers and definitely couldn't have written this on my own!

Happy Valentine's everybody!!!

God bless,

Feels Like Home

Sunday, February 8th, 2009

Andrew smiled as he knocked on the front door of Willowveil.  It was that time of year again!  As an angel, Valentine's Day didn't quite have the importance for Andrew that it did for so many humans.  However, that had begun to change once he'd come to Dyeland.  He could truly see the fun in it.  The ridiculously goofy valentines, the smörgåsbord of candy, and, starting the previous year, the interview with JenniAnn about a type of love.  The angel of death couldn't help but think how different this session would be.  Last year had been strained at best.  After nearly eight years, their friendship had been at the point of breaking.  Now it was...

"First interview!" JenniAnn chirped as she threw open the door and hugged Andrew, completely derailing his train of thought.  "Aww!  And you look so festive!!!  Red and white flannel... lovely." 

Andrew blushed but smiled back at his interviewer.  "It seemed like a good idea."

"Incredibly good.  So... where did ya wanna do this?  Where specifically screams 'love of Dyeland' to ya?" 

"I thought maybe we could go to my place.  Actually I thought the Fields of Gold originally but it's a little chilly outside and I don't want you to catch cold and be hoarse for all of these.  And, well, I just don't want you to catch cold period."

The woman beamed up at Andrew.  "You're cute when you're being protective."

Andrew's face fell.  "Only then?  I thought I was always cute."  He grinned at her.

JenniAnn laughed.  "You know exactly what I think about you and your perpetual cuteness.  But that was especially cute.  And speaking of cute... it'd be adorable to get shots of Lulu in this so, yeah, let's go to your place.  I just need to grab a few things and then I'll be right over."

"I can help you carry the cameras and everything.  It's why I came over.  So where are they?"

"Aww, thanks.  In my room still.  With my luck Fawn is probly sleeping on the case but let's go see."

Andrew followed her up the stairs and was relieved to find her dog curled up in a bean bag chair and not on the cameras.  Andrew was pulling the camera bag onto his shoulder when the phone rang.

"Sorry, hold on." 

"Take your time," Andrew called after JenniAnn as she stepped into her office.  As he waited he flipped through a stack of photos on her desk amid her scrapbooking supplies.  Most of the photos were expected.  One of the gang at the Irish pub in Missouri.  The Christmas tree.  He and Rose ice skating.  Vincent blowing out birthday candles.  Willy and Yva at the factory.  Him at the Washington Monument... in 1963.  Try as he might, Andrew had never been able to figure out who it was that got JenniAnn these bits of his past for the scrapbooks she made him.  He believed her when she told him she had no idea.  For a long time he'd suspected Adam and then Tess but both had assured him they weren't involved.  Andrew believed them with all his heart but still wondered who else would have any interest in his past.

The angel set the old photograph back down and glanced towards JenniAnn's office.  It was quiet.  Too quiet.  Alarmed, he poked his head into the room and saw JenniAnn sitting on the couch and staring into space.  His first thought was that she was having a seizure and he dashed to her side. 


She blinked and stared at him for a moment before crumpling against him, sobbing.

Andrew put his arms around her and looked to the ceiling but no explanation came from the Father.  Whatever had happened, it was obvious that the woman was supposed to tell him.  "Laja, what's happened?  Can I help you?"

She pulled away just enough to see his face.  "I-it was my m-mom."  She drew in a deep breath and tried to gain control of her voice.  "My great-aunt Sophia, you know, also my godmother... sh-she..."  The sobs took over again.

Andrew hugged her once more.  He'd known for some time that JenniAnn's godmother was in the advanced stages of Alzheimer's but he hadn't realized her death was impending.  "I'm sorry, Laja.  I know you know that now she's happy and..."

JenniAnn sat up and shook her head.  "No.  I mean... not yet.  She, uh..."  She inhaled deeply, trying to steady her voice.  "Heart failure now.  So it will be soon.  My mom called to tell me to come back as soon as possible to... to say good bye and... be there for the funeral.  It's just...  I feel like I'm losing her twice now.  She was the only one who really seemed to understand me.  She never pressed me about when I was getting married... or... or kids.  I always thought maybe...  She was a nurse during World War II.  She met a soldier there and fell in love and... and he died there.  And she never did move on.  I guess I thought... I dunno.  She understood that you can't just will yourself to be 'over' a person... or even want to."  She blushed and then stood up to pace.  "I'll need to leave, of course.  And so... so I should pack.  I wonder what the weather's like in Nebraska?  And... I feel terrible about the interviews not happening now but...  Everyone was so excited and now I'm bailing and...  I already set up appointments and..."

Andrew stood up and put a hand on her shoulder.  "Hey now, you're not bailing.  Everyone will understand and you... you need to sit down and take a moment.  This... it's a terrible thing to have to go through as it is.  I know how much Sophia means to you.  Right now you need to focus on what time you have with her and... and saying good bye."  He steered her back to a chair in her room then sat down at her laptop, pulling up a news site.  "It's warm the next couple of days.  After that it dips to below freezing, snow possible.  I can help you pack if you want."

"It's mostly clothes."  She looked doubtfully at him but gave a slight smile.

"Don't trust me?  Okay, how about you do that and I'll make some calls and let everyone know plans have changed.  Maybe you can do a St. Patrick's Day documentary this year or... hey, would you rather I take your place?  I could do the interviews.  I was supposed to be here this week, anyway."

In answer, JenniAnn leapt up and hugged the angel of death.  "That would be... wonderful.  To come back and be able to see it... that will help me get through... what's going to happen.  Thank you, Andrew!"  She began to gather cords and batteries and placed them in a duffel bag for him.  "Beth said she'd be happy to help with editing if you want her to and, oh, be sure to use two cameras so there are shots of you, too, and... you're sure?"

"It's no problem.  You just take care of yourself, try to enjoy this time with your family and... know we're praying for you, Laja.  I wish I could go with you."  He went to her and squeezed her hand.  "Actually, you said you didn't have the interview after mine until tomorrow.  Maybe I could just help you settle in and then..."

JenniAnn shook her head.  "I wish you could, too, but since only my parents know who and what you are..."  She blushed.  "I'm afraid my grandma might, ummm... try to talk you into becoming her grandson... again."

Andrew blushed at the memory.  "Oh... right."

"Yeah.  So...  I will miss you.  Terribly.  But I'll just think on your all being here and having a great time and I'll be back soon and..."  Her eyes filled again and she bowed her head.  "It's selfish b-but... I-I don't want to leave.  I want to stay with you!"  She looked up at Andrew but the compassion emanating from him made a separation even harder to contemplate and she turned away.

"I'll write every day, how about that?  And you can call," the angel assured, gently turning her back towards him.  "And if things get really bad, I'll stop in.  I'll just make sure your grandma doesn't 'accidentally' give me any heirloom rings if I do."  Andrew looked hopefully at JenniAnn, knowing she needed a laugh.

Her face broke into a smile and she laughed at the image of Andrew shaking his coat pockets and inspecting gifts for telltale gold.  "Okay.  Thank you, I needed that.  But for now..."  She began to choke up again.  "Good bye, Andrew."

"Good bye, Laja.  Take care of yourself.  And remember that God's there with you.  And that we're all waiting here for you."  He hugged her.

JenniAnn nodded and hugged him back.  When she was ready she let him go and watched him pick up the camera bags and leave.


Monday, February 9th, 2009

Monday morning arrived clear and unseasonably warm.  Andrew closed his eyes and tilted his face to the sun as he rowed towards Heavenly Playground.  This was a true spring day and a perfect time to begin the Valentine's interviews.  JenniAnn had scheduled Nigel first and Andrew was looking forward to sharing morning tea with his fellow angel.  He was pleased when he came ashore and could just make out Nigel seated in the gazebo.  He had hoped the interview would be conducted outside so they could enjoy the atmosphere and it was obvious Nigel would not disappoint. 

"Good morning, Andrew.  It is a very fine day, is it not?" Nigel asked, beaming as a pair of swallows flew by.

"A beautiful day!  I was just thinking as I got here that I was glad to see you were outside.  It would be a shame to spend too much of today indoors."

Nigel nodded.  "So I concluded and I will not be surprised if Yva and Sir Sven choose the outdoors for their setting, as well.  They are to follow me, correct?"

"Yes.  At least according to this note JenniAnn gave me."

"I was sorry to hear of her aunt.  My prayers, of course, are with her family.  Have you heard from her since her arrival?"

Andrew began to set up the cameras and shook his head.  "I wrote her this morning.  I thought she might call but, uh, privacy can be hard to get so..."

"Yes, I would imagine a great many family members are around."

"Right.  But I'm sure she'll contact us if she needs anything.  I wish she'd been able to do this because I know she loves it but, you know, since she can't I'm really looking forward to this."  Andrew checked to ensure that the cameras were focused correctly and then sat across from Nigel.  "So, are you ready for your close-up?"  He grinned expectantly at Nigel.

The guardian angel looked curiously at his fellow angel.

"Sorry.  I meant are you ready to start?" the novice interviewer clarified.

Nigel straightened his tie and nodded.

"Great!  So, Nigel, what in particular do you love so much about Victorian England?"

Nigel considered the question for a moment then smiled, looking off into the distance before glancing back towards the camera and then Andrew.  "I always felt that the pace of the time emanated the sense of calmness and serenity.  I cannot really say with absolute certainty what it is about the time that makes me feel the way I do, perhaps it is an overwhelming irony that I feel the way I do about it.  As you perhaps know, my being in contact with those like Vincent, as well as Lady JenniAnn, reminds me that the time period is not always the most positive.  There are diseases that have not yet been cured, and you; yourself, have perhaps seen the negative side of everyday life there."

Andrew nodded.  "I have.  But there are negative sides to every time and every place.  I think it's up to us to look for the beauty God has placed there."

"Quite true.  So, I cannot really say with absolute certain what it is about the time that appeals to me.  Yet, I can say that a feeling is perhaps as good an answer as any.  Once upon a time, Yva told me that there was something romantic, almost fairy tale like, about my time, and perhaps that was what brought her into this overwhelming positive feeling she has whenever she visits me.  I cannot say that I have those very same feelings about the time, as I am an angel and that romantic sense of things is as foreign to me as to you.  Of course, there is something about it that is elaborated on in your modern movies and plays that perhaps adds to the overall feel of it.  Maybe I have seen such films and can relate to that aspect of things."

"Maybe.  There sure are a lot of them.  Clearly Victorian England has captured the imagination of many modern people.  Which, I guess, is a good segue to my next question for you, Nigel."  Andrew tilted his head, curious.  "Why do you think people form attachments to particular times and places?" 

"As I said above, perhaps through the viewing of the time in such a romantic and exotic manner."  The angel paused and shook his head with a smile as he recalled some of the more fanciful Hollywood renderings of his time.  "Through films and stories that take place during those time periods, that somehow adds to that sensation that says and implies that all places and things are made up in that way.  Perhaps it is that far removed feel that one has that makes them feel that there is something exotic about it.  Yet, I have seen people go to a place, and suddenly the whole place is not as they imagined, and that disappointment has been overwhelming."

"So it seems to be more than a little dependent on prior influences, doesn't it?  But what about the experiences you have after coming to know and love a place?  Like what are some ways in which the love you feel for your home time and place changes after being exposed to other places? Or does it?"  Andrew stood up to adjust the cameras as a shaft of sunlight shot into the gazebo.

Nigel waited until Andrew was back in his chair then answered.  "It does not lessen the love I have for my time, but it does enhance the fondness that I have for it.  Perhaps the best concept is the person who said ‘be it ever so humble, there’s no place like home’.  One can go away from the place they call ‘home’ for a time, but when they return from having been away for an extended time period, the fondness that goes along with it somehow remains, even increases.  Then I return to my time and my flat and feel an overwhelming fondness for it.  To me, I cannot imagine existing outside of this time period."

"I think I can relate to that.  I've thought similar about Dyeland many times."  Andrew bowed his head and smiled fondly. 

"I am confident you are not the only one, Andrew.  This place means much to so many, myself included.  Indeed, it can sometimes be difficult to express how dear it all is."

Andrew chuckled.  "That makes it sound like you knew what my last question would be.  And I hope you can find the words.  So here it is: if you had only one day to try to show someone why you love Victorian England so much, how would you spend that day?"

Nigel thought for a few moments.  "I would take them to William’s home and share with them the beauty that is inherent in the simplest of things.  Along the way, I would share with them the marketplace that neighbours his home.  A visit to the theatre would no doubt be the activity that we will enjoy.  There is something very special about being able to experience these events without the luxuries of the modern day.  Somehow if they can understand the feeling that comes with accepting the simpler things in life, then they may be able to better embrace the things of the modern era.  I do sincerely hope that that makes some sense to you."

"It does, very much.  And I'm sure it will to everyone else when we get together to watch this.  I just hope I can put it altogether as well as JenniAnn did last year."  Andrew looked doubtful for a moment as he began to take down the cameras. 

Nigel set a hand on his shoulder.  "I have every confidence you will, Andrew.  She trusts you and so do we."

Andrew beamed, feeling more confident.  "Thanks.  But I guess now I better see if Sir Sven and Yva are ready.  Actually..."  Andrew noticed movement a few yards away and waved to where Yva stood in a garden.

Nigel waved, too, then smiled back at Andrew.  "I am sure your next interview shall go very well.  I enjoyed this.  Many thanks for being so willing to claim this task as your own.  It would have been a great shame to have let go so new a Dyeland tradition."

"Well, thanks, Nigel.  That's what I thought.  Thanks for sitting down with me.  So you headed to England any time soon?"

"Shortly, yes.  But I shall be back for the great unveiling of your masterpiece."  The guardian angel smiled at Andrew's arched eye brow.  "It will be.  Do not underestimate yourself."

Andrew's face relaxed into a smile, too, as he picked up the camera bag.  "I'll try not to.  Take care, Nigel."

"You, as well," Nigel called as Andrew walked down the steps and headed towards Yva.

"One down, Andrewkins!  How did it go?"

"Good, I think.  I mean I hope...  Nigel was great."

"I'm sure his interviewer was great, too.  Sir Sven will be out in a moment.  He's just finishing an experiment.  So how are you today, other than busy?"

Andrew once again gazed up at the glorious blue sky.  "I'm loving this weather.  And I really did enjoy interviewing Nigel.  I can understand why JenniAnn wanted to do this again." 

"I'm sure she appreciates you doing it for her.  We all do."  Yva adjusted a wicker love seat and a matching chair as Andrew assembled the cameras and their tripods.

"Thanks.  So how are you?"

"I'm very well and excited to do this.  Sir Sven is, too.  Here he comes now."  Yva smiled as her husband sat down beside her. 

"Good morning, Andrew," he greeted.

"Good morning, Sir Sven.  Yva and I were just commenting on how beautiful the day is.  A perfect day to talk about love.  But then I guess all days are perfect for that," Andrew added.

Sir Sven chuckled.  "I would think it would have to be that way in your line of work."

"Neither rain nor snow nor sleet nor hail can keep us from the 'God loves you' thing."  Andrew grinned then took a seat across from the couple as Yva laughed.  "But... I guess we should get to the questions before I forget them.  I was really interested when I saw that you chose 'love and compromise.'  That's a great topic.  I imagine in your years together there have been more than a few circumstances that required compromise. How did you determine what was the right level of compromise for each of you?"

Sir Sven shrugged.  "No idea."

Yva rolled her eyes playfully.  "Typical.  Actually I think that this question is rather hard to answer because it has so many loose ends to it.  First, the willingness to compromise comes from both of us." 

Sir Sven nodded.  "Good idea."

"I thought so," Yva smirked.

Andrew smiled at the easy way the two interacted.

"I guess to love another is to accept the things in the other person that makes them different," Yva started again.  "I don’t expect Sir Sven to give up parts of himself for me, and he doesn’t expect me to give up parts of myself for him.  Perhaps that’s why we haven’t encountered such tooth and nail compromises, because we have always accepted one another.  Does that sound about right, honey?"

"Uh-huh.  Rather like the bears."

"Yes, when we got married and started collecting bears, you did a lot of complaining about the bears taking over and eating us out of house and home."

Andrew couldn't help but laugh at the image of bears overtaking the young couple's home.

Sir Sven smiled fondly at the memory.  "Yes, but now I can’t imagine not having them around.  If the bears weren’t here, something would be missing."

"That's great.  A perfect example.  Thank you.  But I know sometimes... well, I've seen people that haven't found the balance like you two have."  Andrew looked distant for a moment as a few troubling assignments came to mind but he soon returned his thoughts to the happy couple before him.  "What do you think are some signs a person has compromised too much for someone they love?"

Yva didn't hesitate to respond.  "I think when they start to change from being the person they were into something else less desirable.  I remember just before I had met Sir Sven, I was dating someone who tried to change me into a strange quasi version of himself."  She smiled as Sir Sven reached for her hand then continued.  "He wanted me to like the same things he liked, listen to the same music he listened to, even change my views for his sake.   That didn’t work out so incredibly well, and I ultimately came to the realization that I didn’t like myself very much at all.  I was rude to people I would never have thought to be rude to, I was easily prone to anger, and simply started to despise the person I had become.  When it became too much of a self sacrifice and it ceased to make me happy with myself, then I started to wonder how much I really ought to give up for the sake of this person."

"I think it can happen, specifically this drastic change in personality," Sir Sven added.

Andrew nodded, his face grave.  "I'm afraid I've seen it happen.  But I'm very glad you realized what was happening, Yva.  And I know I'm not the only one who is."  The angel's face lit up as Yva and Sir Sven smiled at each other. 

"That would be correct," Sir Sven responded then looked at Andrew expectantly.

"Right, next question.  Can you describe a time in which you did make a compromise that was difficult for you but you recognize now that it was necessary and positive?"

Again Yva was ready with a response.  "For me, it was when we moved to Germany and also when we spend much of our time away from Dyeland there.  I sometimes remind Sir Sven, specifically when I get angry about something, that I did make this compromise for him, but it wasn’t something that I feel necessarily badly about, nor was it something that I did for him.  I do miss my friends sometimes, and I feel as though I have said good-bye to so many people, but there exists no one to blame for that, as it was a choice I gladly made.  Today, I wouldn’t have it any other way.  I’m glad that I decided to do that even though it entailed learning a new language and being unable to work."

Sir Sven reflected for a moment before he answered.  "Well, I did the same thing, I moved to Dyeland, so that I could be with my sweetie-pie.  Of course, between you and me, Andrew, it seems she spends a lot more time with Willy at Pure Imagination than on the Heavenly Playground."  He winked.

"Do you feel neglected my sweet, lovable, Sir Svenni Cuddlebear?"

Andrew chuckled, enjoying the easy-going teasing.

"Yes, I do feel neglected."

Yva snuggled closer.  "Any better?"

Sir Sven beamed.  "Much."

Andrew hoped the cameras had caught the warmth of the moment.  He was almost sorry to move on but knew he had to with lunch time nearing.  "I'm glad you feel better, Sir Sven."  Andrew's smile widened as the man nodded.  "Now my final question: could you tell us about a time that you were especially grateful for a loved one’s compromise?"

That time it was Sir Sven who answered first.  "I am grateful to my sweetheart for moving so that we could stay together."

Yva nodded.  "Ditto. I guess that’s the important thing about compromise.  If one is grateful for the things that the other does, then perhaps it doesn’t seem like being a compromise or a sacrifice, it’s just a part of life.  I would say it’s simply something that comes with being married."

"Well, it has worked with us for nearly fourteen years, so there must be something true to these words," Sir Sven added.

"I think there is," Andrew agreed.  "Well, thank you both very much.  This was truly great.  I love seeing people as happy as you two are."  He stood and began to pack the cameras again.

"And we love seeing you, Andrew.  You did a great job.  You deserve some lunch.  Care to stay?" Yva asked as she and Sir Sven stood to help him.

Andrew beamed at her.  "You know I don't turn down food."

"Smart fellow," Sir Sven interjected.

Andrew chuckled and then followed the couple inside for lunch.  While he waited, he looked around the cozy, inviting home.  His heart was warmed by the mementos of his friends' love for each other and their many ursine companions.


That afternoon the yard in front of Serendipity and City Hall was temporarily turned into a football field.  With Rose's interview not scheduled until dinner time, Andrew decided an impromptu game would be the perfect way to enjoy the wonderful weather.

As Adam tied up the game with a touchdown, Tess and Lady Beth stepped out of Serendipity carrying drinks and snacks.

"Half time already?" Andrew asked after congratulating Adam.

"You bet it is, Angel Boy.  You all need to take a rest and have some juice.  We don't want any run down angels of death or young ladies," she insisted.

Adam gratefully accepted a glass of orange juice and a cookie.  "Thank you.  So when are we going to see you out on the field, Tess?"  His eyes sparkled as he waited for her response.

Tess rolled her eyes.  "Not in this lifetime, baby, and it's a verrrrry long one."

Rose laughed.  "It's okay, Tess.  We love hearing you cheer... for both teams."

"I cheer like the Father.  God doesn't choose sides so neither will I.  I just enjoy watching all of you have some fun."  She handed Andrew a can of ginger ale.  "So is this going into your documentary as a section on 'love of the game,' baby?"

"You know, there's an idea I hadn't thought of.  I could score it with the Super Bowl theme."  Andrew chuckled at the thought.

"We'll have to serve buffalo wings during the premiere if you do that," Lady Beth joked. 

"I don't know about the Super Bowl theme but I do remember JenniAnn telling me after the fact that she wished she'd thrown in more footage of all of us together," Countess Jennifer recalled.  "So I think you should get that camera set up."

"I'd be willing to take the other one and move around for some shots.  It's just too bad we didn't think of this before Adam's touchdown."  Yva smiled at the elder angel of death.

Adam winked.  "Don't worry, I think I have another one in me."

"Not if I have anything to do with it."  Henry glared at Adam then began to laugh as Adam glared back.

"Oh!  Get the camera before anyone else does anything else that funny!"  Rose laughed and moved to go retrieve them from Andrew's porch herself as he and Yva followed.

Soon the field erupted with cheers as the game began again and the cameras rolled.


Meanwhile in Nebraska...

"Don't drop the ball you idiot! Geez...  I can't watch any more," a man mumbled at the TV.

JenniAnn sighed wistfully as she watched her father and other members of her family taking in yet another football game in the living room of her grandmother's house.  She knew that they needed some release but the only appreciation she had for football stemmed from Andrew and he was most definitely not on the screen.  She remembered his letter then and drew it from her pocket.  She was sharing a room with her cousin, Veronica, and hadn't managed to find a moment of privacy to so much as open it.  The only quiet room in the bustling house was Sophia's room.  JenniAnn made her way there.

She was surprised when she entered to find Elijah, the nurse the hospice had sent, sitting in a chair beside the bed where Sophia slept.  "Oh, I'm sorry.  I didn't realize you were here right now.  I thought your shift ended at noon."

Elijah smiled and nodded.  "It did.  But Rebecca, the other nurse, had a family emergency so I agreed to stay."

"That was nice of you.  I hope you didn't have any plans.  I'm sorry if you did."

The man shook his head.  "No.  Besides, I wanted to stay.  You have a great family."

JenniAnn nodded.  "Yeah.  It's just a little..."  A cheer rose up from the other room.

"Loud?" Elijah guessed.

JenniAnn laughed.  "A lil.  I've lived alone since college so it's taking some getting used to.  But how about you?  I feel bad that I've hardly said anything to you.  It's rather rude."  She blushed at the memory of being introduced to him.  The staring and clasping his hand for a more than standard length of time...  She'd simply been alarmed.  It seemed foolish now.  The African-American man with short black hair and a cropped beard looked absolutely nothing like Andrew.  Yet something in his eyes...  She'd avoided him since out of self-preservation.

"I understand.  It's always a little awkward.  Did you come in here to read your letter?  I promise I won't read over your shoulder." 

"Oh!"  JenniAnn realized that in her nervousness she'd been tracing her name on the envelope. 

Elijah chuckled.  "From the infamous Andrew?"

The joke and complete lack of judgment on the man's face put JenniAnn at ease.  "My reputation precedes me, apparently.  And yes and thanks.  I really would like to read it but first..."  She tread softly to the bed.  "How is she?"

"She hasn't been waking up much.  When she does..."  Elijah softly patted the sleeping woman's hand.  "She's confused."

JenniAnn drew in a breath slowly.  "It's been that way for a while.  She seems mostly stuck in the past.  Sometimes... sometimes she calls for Eli.   Kinda ironic, really.  Your name being so close to his.  Eli was the man she met during the War."

"Someone mentioned that."

"But then... that may not be the dementia.  When I was little and I'd be over at her house... sometimes I'd hear her talking to him.  I guess it made her feel less alone to imagine him there."  JenniAnn smiled at the melancholy remembrance.

"Maybe he was closer than you thought," Elijah suggested.  "Our loved ones usually are."

JenniAnn bowed her head and nodded.  "I believe that, too.  But sometimes it's hard to feel it." 

Elijah looked at her sympathetically.  "Read your letter.  I won't tell anyone."

Gratefully, the woman accepted the chair he pointed to and, at last, read Andrew's encouraging words.


Back in Dyeland...

Andrew, Rose, and Josephine laughed as they watched the footage from the game earlier. 

"My you run very fast, Andrew!  And look at your hair a-flying!  It's a wondrous sight."

Andrew blushed.  "I see you're in on the 'make Andrew blush' game, too, Josephine."

The elderly woman laughed.  "Yes, Rose here did mention it to me."

Rose laughed.  "You can't be surprised, Andrew."

"Oh, I'm not surprised at all.  I've learned not to underestimate a single one of you." 

"Good thinking, young man."  Josephine winked.  Well she knew Andrew was not a young man but still she used the phrase.  "How about I go start some cookies and let the two of you start your interview?"

"Are you sure you don't want us to help, Aunt Josephine?" 

"No, no," she insisted as she pat her niece's hand.  "You two have business to attend to," she rose then and smiled appreciatively when Andrew stood, too.  "Wondrous politeness, too," she commented.

Andrew smiled as she hugged him and then turned to Rose.  "So is this okay or had you wanted to be interviewed somewhere else?"

"No, I like the parlor.  This is good.  Here, let me help."

In no time at all the two had the cameras ready. 

"So what's my first question?" Rose asked, anxious to begin.

Andrew smiled at her eagerness and glanced at his notes.  "So, Rose, you’ve chosen to talk about 'love and friendship.'  I guess I’d start our interview with this: why did you choose that for your topic?
"Before coming to Dyeland I didn't have a whole lot of friends, not real ones anyhow."  Rose's face clouded for a moment as she recalled that dark time.  "I don't think I even fully understood to any extent what being and having real friends meant.  I also never had a 'real' family, but now I have both of those things and more."  Her face lit up and she smiled at Andrew.  "That makes me feel loved, so I guess that is why I wanted that to be my topic."
Andrew was moved and squeezed Rose's hand for a moment.  "We're all very glad you've found that with us.  Dyeland wouldn't be the same without you, Rose.  But speaking of real friends, what would you say was the most loving thing a friend ever did for you?"
"Aww, Andrew, that's not an easy question really, cause a lot of friends have done a bunch for me.  But I think I'm going to go with that time my father showed up out of nowhere.  You were all there to support me and still are.  When he wanted to take me back to Chicago with him, even though I didn't want to go, you were all ready to try and keep that from happening.  That's something I'm not ever going to forget."

"I don't think any of us will.  We didn't want you to be taken away any more than you did.  We'd have missed you a lot.  I've come to realize that each of us... we all have a role here than only we can play, you know?  And I know that sometimes I've needed each one of you to help me... like last month."  Andrew averted his gaze from her for a moment as he remembered their time in Missouri.

"I know," Rose assured as she also thought back on that week.  "And we've all been really glad that we were able to do that, Andrew.  I hope we're always there for each other no matter what."

Andrew nodded.  "I think we will be.  And that goes along with my next question.  Do you think there are particular times in life when a person most needs to be surrounded by the love of friends?"
Rose sighed before responding.  "Yeah... like when everything seems really bad.  When someone is feeling lonely or scared or maybe just really sad, that's a great time to have friends around.  Even if they can't fix the problem or even completely understand how you're feeling, sometimes just having them around and knowing they love and care about you, sometimes that's enough."
"I couldn't have said it better myself.  So, last question, what are same ways you show your friends that you love them?"
"Well, I spend time with them and talk to them.  When they're unhappy, I try to be there for them in case they need anything or maybe just want to talk and even cheer them up a little, if I can.  And hugs.  I know hugs make me feel loved, so I give them to my friends and hope they feel loved then, too."

"I know at least one friend does."  Andrew smiled at her.  "You give great hugs, Rose, and I'm always grateful for them."

"Right back at you," Rose responded and then got up to hug her interviewer.

"I wonder if this happens to Barbara Walters?" Andrew asked with a wry grin.

Rose laughed.  "No offense to her but I'd rather hug you, Amish Boy."

"Amish Boy with digital cameras?"  Andrew raised an eye brow then chuckled.

"Sure."  Rose laughed, too, and helped Andrew pack up the equipment.  "Ooh, I think I smell Snickerdoodles."

"Me too."  Andrew made a show of rushing the packing.

Rose laughed even more at Andrew's antics.  Beyond her amusement she was relieved at the happiness that exuded from him.  Missouri had been difficult for everyone and him most of all.  But that night Rose knew, no matter what, their lovable, optimistic friend would always come back to them.


Andrew set down the camera case and scooped Lulu up the second he got in the door and hugged her.  "There's my girl.  Did you have a good evening?"

Lulu licked his face.

"I'll take that as a yes.  Now where's your friend?"  Andrew looked around for Fawn.  Upon realizing how crammed her parents' and grandmother's houses would be, JenniAnn had asked Andrew to watch her and he'd readily agreed.  Lulu waddled away and Andrew followed her into the living room where Fawn was curled up on the couch.  She leapt off when she saw Andrew and brought a plush football to him.  Both dogs looked expectantly at him.  "Have you two been patiently waiting for your turn since this afternoon?"  Andrew threw the ball and watched Lulu and Fawn dash after it.  As they chased the toy, the angel noticed the blue envelope on the coffee table.  He smiled when he saw his name written across it, the 'w' turning into a heart.  After a few more tosses from him, Fawn and Lulu became engrossed in their own game.

Andrew sat down and began to read JenniAnn's letter, smiling at her account of minor family squabbles and repetitive football viewing.  His heart went out to her when she wrote about her aunt's declining condition.  The angel of death brightened a little at mention of Elijah.  He was glad she'd found an understanding soul.

"Give everyone my best," she closed.  "And, Andrew... dearest and loveliest of all Andrews... I hope you *are* using both cameras.  Cause I really will be crushed if, when I get back, that video's completely devoid of you.  Ah, what am I saying?  I know our friends.  Ain't no way they'd let ya do this without the appropriate visuals... especially if you're wearing flannel."

Andrew blushed, laughed, and glanced down at the flannel shirt he was wearing.  He went to his desk and sat down to write his response.  As he did, he thought about that day's interviews and activities.  He understood now why JenniAnn had been determined to keep the new tradition going.  Yes, they'd all enjoyed watching the video together and that was reason enough.  But he felt the gratitude she must have felt the previous year.  Nigel's words had given him cause to think about all the word "home" meant to him and how, even when he was away from Heaven and Dyeland, the memories of both consoled him.  Yva and Sir Sven had offered him a glimpse of true, romantic love at its best with the appropriate balance of self-sacrifice and self-assurance and respect.  Their discussion had been the perfect salve for the anger he had been left with after Dawn's death at the hands of Alex.  Lastly, he thought of Rose and all she'd said about friendship.  That bond had gotten them all through so much and Andrew knew it could never be broken.  He set down his pen and offered a prayer of thanksgiving to the Father for the comforting realizations.  Then he turned his attention back to his letter.

"Dear Laja," he wrote, "I'm sure you've noticed this but we have some pretty amazing friends..."


Tuesday, February 10th, 2009

And in the Tunnels beneath New York City...

Andrew sat with Vincent, Father, and Jacob as they waited for Catherine to make her way to Father's chamber.  Since Jacob had come into their family, she'd tried to come home for lunch whenever possible and JenniAnn had scheduled the interview accordingly. 

As they waited, Andrew sat on the floor, rolling a ball back and forth to Jacob.  The toddler roared with laughter every time the ball came towards him, causing the men in the room to laugh, too.  But suddenly Jacob stopped and toddled towards the entry.

"Mama," he called.

"Mama will be here very soon," Vincent assured his son.

A moment later Catherine entered, huffing and puffing slightly.  "Sorry I'm late.  Psyche got the time zones confused and called right before I was going to leave."

"Is anything wrong?" Andrew and Vincent asked in unison.

"Jinx," Father chimed.  "The children reminded me of it," he hastily added when the other three adults looked at him with unmasked surprise.  "Catherine, please tell us what you've learned.," the elderly man added with his usual seriousness.

"Sophia's declining even more.  They think it might be today or tomorrow."  Catherine bent to pick up Jacob who was clamoring at her feet then looked to Andrew.

Andrew shook his head.  "I don't know.  How is JenniAnn holding up?  She wrote me yesterday but I know a lot can change very quickly."

"She's sad but resigned.  And they have her rooming with her younger cousin...  Veronica's a bit of a wild child so I imagine she's having a hard time finding much time to process things for herself.  I wonder if maybe I should go?  Sophia's from the other side of the family and I hadn't planned to go but I could try to diffuse the..."  Catherine was cut off when Jacob began to cry and clung to her neck.

"I don't think JenniAnn would want that.  Jacob needs you.  But maybe I should stop in and..."  Andrew drifted off when Catherine shook her head.

"I'm not sure that's the best idea right now but I'm sure she'll let us know when it might be.  She said she'd be writing you later today."  Catherine tried to assure Andrew with a smile.

"Perhaps right now the best you can do is assure this documentary is completed, Andrew.  My godchild was very relieved when you took it on and I know she would not wish for you to disrupt it now," Vincent added.

Andrew ran his hand through his hair and nodded.  "You're right.  I know Catherine doesn't have much time so is everyone ready?"

"I believe so," Father answered for them all.

Andrew had already set up the cameras and so he began as soon as everyone was seated with Jacob playing on the floor between them.

"Laja told me you chose 'love through the generations.'  Great topic and I hope my questions measure up," Andrew smiled at the group across from him.  "First, how do you think the love we share with our parent or parents influences our future relationships?"

"I think, at least for me, the love I had for my parents and how their love made me feel has a great impact on the relationships I have now with Vincent, Jacob, and Father.  My parents always made me feel secure and like nothing I did could ever make them stop loving me.  I feel that now with Vincent and Father and I'm committed to ensuring Jacob feels that assurance and love, too," Catherine answered.

Father brought his hand to his beard as he thought.  "My parents were not greatly affectionate with we children, I'm afraid.  That caused me some pain growing up.  I endeavored to be less reserved with Vincent and with Devin and, indeed, all the children."

"You did very well with it, Father."  Vincent smiled appreciatively at the patriarch.  "I never imagined I would have children but when Psyche came and Jacob and the other children... I knew I wanted to be strong and stern as Father sometimes was and needed to be.  However, I felt that it was more important to show that affectionate, unconditional love he showed to me.  I only hope I have done even half so fine a job."

"More than that, my boy," Father assured, with a husky voice.

Andrew found himself blinking back tears over the exchange.  "Those were beautiful answers.  Thank you for sharing them with us.  So, umm..."  Andrew took a moment to gather his thoughts before moving onto the next question.  "As parents, is it ever hard to see your children’s circle of influence, which once was almost exclusively you, broaden?"

Catherine began to laugh.  "I haven't experienced that too much yet but I have a feeling Father will have something to say."

Father smiled and reached across Vincent to give his daughter-in-law's hand an affectionate squeeze.  "I believe Catherine is recalling some of our, ahem, discussions during the early days of her courtship with Vincent."

Vincent smiled to himself.

"You have to understand, Andrew," Father continued, "that Vincent was more than a son to me.  We worked together, we governed the Tunnels together.  I was his confidante and often he was mine.  Most fathers eventually see their sons off to college and into their own homes.  But Vincent was at my side for over thirty years.  So, yes, it was difficult for me when he began to spend so much more time with Catherine.  I had wanted to share my world with him.  I considered myself and my memories to be his glimpse into the world Above.  But Catherine... she brought so much more of it to him than I ever could.  I was happy for him but I was, selfishly, sad for myself."

"It was not selfish, Father.  Perhaps I could have balanced my time more wisely and..."

"No, Vincent.  Even your father can make mistakes so let me confess mine.  You'll have your turn in twenty or so years."  Father beamed at Vincent and then at Jacob.  "Of course, now I realize that Catherine, and she and Vincent as a couple, bring so much to me.  Including this precious child."  He reached down to stroke his namesake's mess of curls.

Andrew smiled at the happy family.  "That's great and you're all very blessed and, more than that, I know you realize it."

"We most certainly do," Catherine assented.  "So what's next?"

Andrew glanced at the tablet in his lap.  "Many families end up physically distanced from each other and may only see each other for holidays and special occasions.  But most of your family remains close.  Are there positives and negatives to that?"

"The only negative I can think of is that it makes the rare occasions we must be apart even more difficult," Vincent answered without hesitation. 

"Like now with Psyche.  And there's Devin, too.  We miss him," Catherine added.

Father looked wistful for a moment as he thought of his eldest son.  "However, it makes our reunions with Devin all the more joyous.  Still, I am grateful that Vincent has remained so near."

"I can tell," Andrew looked with great fondness at the two men.  "So, finally, what one lesson would you want to pass down to the next generation?"

Father thought and then his face lit up.  "Nothing is impossible.  That is a lesson my son has taught me."  He patted Vincent's hand.

"Believe in your own goodness," Vincent added.  "That is a lesson both Father and Catherine taught me."

"Love conquers everything."  Catherine looked with pride at her family and then smiled at the camera.

"It does.  And I think that's a great note to end this on.  Thank you very much.  And thank you," Andrew stooped down to Jacob's level, "for letting me play ball with you, kiddo."

"Ball!" Jacob cried and pushed the ball towards Andrew.

Father laughed.  "I think you are stuck with us for some time yet, Andrew."

Andrew laughed and shrugged and began to again play ball with Jacob.  No stranger to the appeal of a man with a small child, Catherine dutifully shifted the camera so her cousin and all the ladies in Dyeland would see what she did.


Back in Nebraska...

JenniAnn shut the door behind her, leaned against it, and closed her eyes.  She drew in a deep breath and then forced a smile for Elijah's sake.

"Problems?" he asked.

"You could say that.  Veronica and her mom were trying to get me to go shopping for... for a dress for Aunt Sophia."  She bit her lip at the implication.

"They mean well."

"I know but I know what dress she wants!  There's this blue dress that was always her favorite.  I never knew why but she adored it and she told me that if I had any say then I was sposed to make sure she got buried in it.  I know it's not stylish.  I mean it's patchwork even but..."  She paused.

Elijah gently took Sophia's hand in his and closed his eyes. 

JenniAnn looked on curiously.  For the moment the man seemed a million miles away.  "Elijah?  Is everything okay?"

Elijah jumped and shook his head in an attempt to clear this mind.  "Sorry.  I just thought I heard her start to say something.  Please, go on."

"Not much more to say.  I was outvoted."  JenniAnn gently sat on the edge of the bed.  "I'm sorry, Aunt Sophia.  I-I wish you could tell them what you wanted."  She bent to kiss her godmother's forehead then stood and looked to Elijah with brimming eyes.  "I hate this.  She always stood up to them.  She always defended me when they got going with their fix up schemes and... and now I can't even do this for her.  And... and... I... I'm sorry."  She began to sob.  "Andrew..."  She froze.  She hadn't meant to say his name.  She knew he couldn't hear or come.

Elijah stood and hugged the young woman.  "Shh..." he whispered.

Sophia stirred.  Elijah and JenniAnn turned to her.  For a moment the haze of the medication and dementia seemed to clear from her eyes.  They locked with Elijah's.  "Tell her, Eli," she murmured.

"Sophia!" Elijah cried and knelt by her.  "Sophia," he repeated softly as he took her hand.

Sophia blinked then her face contorted with anger.  "Who are you?" she demanded before turning away and closing her eyes.

JenniAnn watched as Elijah's face fell.  She closed her eyes for a moment as a wave of knowledge hit her and it all became wonderfully, terribly clear.  She understood why Elijah reminded her of Andrew and why her aunt had continued to speak to the presumed dead Eli.  The nostalgic, wistful look she'd caught on Elijah's face when he watched over his patient made complete sense in that moment.  JenniAnn opened her eyes and stood behind Elijah, resting a hand on his shoulder.  "I'm sorry, Eli," she murmured to the angel of death as he began to weep.


Later that day in London...

Andrew looked on with admiration as Willy and Yva gave him a tour of the factory.  There had been some changes since his last visit and he was impressed with how they'd managed to get everything back in order after some of the machines had broken down.

"Papa's thought of so many new inventions for Easter."  Yva beamed at Willy.  "When it gets closer you should come back and see them in action, Andrew."

"I'd like that.  You know, this place is amazing.  Well, of course, you know that."  Andrew smiled at Willy.

The candy maker looked proudly at his surroundings.  "I do and thank you, Andrew.  It's always good to hear from someone else.  Of course, I hear it fairly regularly from my PR lady over here."  He beamed at Yva.

"Always the truth, though!" she insisted.  She glanced at a large purple clock with backwards numbers and then back at the two men.  "I'm meeting Andi to help out with a Victorian dress she's designing for University and you two have an interview so I think we should part ways here.  Are we still all meeting at the Café for dinner?  I hope so."

Andrew nodded.  "I'm planning on it.  Willy?"

"You can count on it, my dear," he promised Yva before hugging her good bye.  He directed his attention to Andrew then.  "So how are you taking to the interviewer role, Andrew?"

"It's great.  I wish the circumstances were better, of course, but... it's amazing the things I'm learning.  And more than that it's the feelings.  It's hard to not feel good when you're talking about love, especially among friends."  Andrew smiled as he thought back on his previous interviews.  "I was surprised JenniAnn wanted to do this again because it seemed like a lot of work but now I understand completely."

Willy reached his office door and lead Andrew in.  "I hope this is something we'll do every year.  They could be like video time capsules of Dyeland and the Siblings Cities."

"Great point, Willy.  I'll have to tell JenniAnn that.  I don't think anyone would object."  Andrew noticed then that his cameras were already set up and ready.  "Wow."

"The Oompa Loompas are very efficient," Willy explained.

Andrew smiled at seeing the appreciation Willy had for his workers.  It was no surprise why Willy had chosen "love of work" as his topic.  Anyone who knew the man could speak of the immense attachment Willy had to his work and those he worked with.  Andrew was eager to discuss these things with him but waited patiently for Willy to check his messages and take a seat at his desk.

"Ready?" the angel checked.

"Ready and waiting," the chocolatier answered with a smile.

"Great.  Have you always loved your work, Willy?"

The confectioner shook his head.  "Not when I first started out.  Looking back over thirty five years of work, I can’t say that I was always happy with my work.  Starting out, I worked more out of necessity than for fun.  In fact, back then, I would work from eight in the morning until close to midnight to perfect ideas and experiment with various kinds of sweets.  It was not always from an internal longing to be the best at what I do, but to be able to have the rent when it came due."  Willy paused and bounced a replica of a Gobstopper from one hand to the other.  "You see, very few people know this about me, but when I first started out, I was about fifteen-years-old and had just been emancipated.  During that time in my life I was coming into the realization that my work was important, but it was more or less a necessity of survival.  When I got older and opened the factory, I came to the realization that not only was my job fun, but it was something that I truly did love.  It took time, though, perhaps close to twenty years to really reach that conclusion and embrace it."

"I'm glad it came to you and that you can truly enjoy your work now, Willy," Andrew smiled before proceeding to his follow-up question.  "What is it you love most about your job?"

"Making people happy."  Willy smiled and waved to a wall full of clippings and advertisements showing satisfied customers.  "When I step out beyond the factory walls and I see something as simple as an unhappy child unwrapping one of my candy bars and taking a bite..."  He paused to replay a scene in his mind.  "After some seconds have passed, then I watch as a smile stretches across their face after only one bite.  This somehow makes me realize in a very profound way that what I do is very special.  To be able to work at something that makes others happy somehow becomes a gift in and of itself."

"Your job as a gift.  Wow.  I'd never thought of it in those terms but I feel like that, too.  I wish everyone could feel that way.  If someone is working a job they don’t love but are bound to for any number of reasons, do you have any advice on how they might find joy in their work?"

Willy shrugged but continued on with his answer.  "I am not certain if I could offer up advice about it, as I went through my years of paying dues and striving to get the most out of my work.  One of the things that I would say is that people should try their best at finding something positive about the work they do.  It doesn’t really matter what the job is, but if they can understand the joy that their efforts might bring to another, that might help them to recognize the endearing qualities of their labors."  Willy frowned for a moment.  "Of course, I have encountered individuals who did not love their work, and somehow it became simply a job they did for the sake of making ends meet.  I have lived in that manner, and I could fully understand the sorrow that came with trying to do a job, or fulfill a task, that did not make them at all happy."

"Maybe simply knowing someone else empathizes with them could help," Andrew suggested.

Willy nodded.  "I'm open about this when the... earthly press interviews me."  He smiled at the angel of death.

Andrew chuckled.  "I'm glad to hear it because it probably does help people to know Willy Wonka went through his share of struggles, too.  But let's end with the good stuff.  Looking back on your years of work, what’s your most cherished memory of it?"

Willy considered his answer and his gaze fell on a photo of himself and a young boy.  A proud and nostalgic smile formed.  "I would have to say that my most cherished memory of the years of work would be finding Charlie as my apprentice and being able to teach him the things that I have learned over time.  I would not say that I know more or am better equipped than he, but I would say that he is still luckier than I in that regard.  He has been granted the opportunity to learn from me the things that I have spent many years striving to understand or accept.  Whether or not he chooses to embrace those things is strictly up to him."

"And I think Charlie appreciates that, Willy.  And I appreciate your taking the time to do this.  I know you're probably very busy with Valentine's Day almost here."  Andrew began to dismantle the cameras.

"We are but I think these are important.  Time capsules, remember?  It would be a shame to be left out." 

"That's true."  Andrew paused for a moment, the words hitting him in a more sobering way than they had before. 

"Your interview with Andi is next?"

Willy's question brought Andrew back to the present.  "Yes.  That should be interesting.  She wasn't in the documentary last year."

"Much has changed since last year," Willy pointed out.

"Don't I know it?  And I think it's overwhelmingly for the better."  As Andrew finished packing he thought about all that had changed.  JenniAnn was talking to him, freely and easily.  Andi was no longer a cause of worry.  Mick and Beth were together.  Tess was spending time in Dyeland.  He'd once again found himself struggling with an assignment but that time it had taken him minutes, not days to turn to his friends.  Andrew beamed.  "Actually, I know it's for the better."

Willy smiled at the angel's optimism and led him to a small workroom where Andi was waiting.


Andrew could tell Andi was slightly nervous and he tried to put her at ease by discussing the half-finished dress she and Yva had set aside.  When he confused "brocade" with "broadcloth," Andi patiently explained the difference to him.  It didn't take much time after that before she relaxed and Andrew began to interview the young woman about her chosen topic of "love and forgiveness."

The angel shot Andi an encouraging smile and asked his first question.  "Andi, could you share with us what forgiveness has meant to you?"

Andi nodded.  "It has meant a lot.  I mean; if not for that one aspect of things, I would probably have never been able to make any sort of contact with Dyeland.  I probably would not have been able to let go of what Markus had done to me, because I would still be sitting around saying that I deserved it.  Adam told me several days after they had found me outside the factory in London that they had discovered what had happened to me.  Then after all that happened, everyone was so kind to me, their letters and notes really helping me to find closure.  Willy even let me stay at the factory and treated me like I was a part of his family instead of just being someone who is, more or less, a burden.  Mick was there and he was nice, and Vincent wrote me a letter telling me that he forgave me for the problems I had caused.  Even Nigel was being nice, even though at first things were strained.  Now he’s been like a friend…and Charlie… he really helped me to make peace with it, so forgiveness really means a lot."

"They're a great bunch of people and I'm glad everyone could help you, Andi.  I know they are, too.  Thank you for being so open about that time in your life."

"Sure."  Andi smiled at Andrew.  "Thanks for listening.  It feels good to talk about it."

"You're welcome, Andi.  Are you ready for another question or did you have more you wanted to say about that?" Andrew checked, not wanting to rush her.

The young lady shook her head.  "That's it so I'd like the next question."

"Okay.  Do you think it’s possible to forgive without love?"

Andi shook her head again, this time with more confidence behind it.  "No, I think love and compassion are a major part of it.  If it wasn’t, then to say ‘I forgive you’ would not mean much.  I think that a lot of people reminded me of that when they said those words to me, but then they offered a hug, or took the time to write a letter.  All the same, I do think that forgiveness is something that sort of releases the person from the strain from having this feeling that one is doing something wrong."

"I agree with you there, Andi.  So supposing someone does find that love and compassion and they do forgive you, how would you go about showing them that you love them and will do your best not to hurt them again?"

Andi stirred the cocoa before her as she thought.  "I don’t know, Andrew, that’s something that I’m still working on.  I know that I won’t say anything bad about another person, but I don’t know if they will ever fully trust me again.  I know that they forgave me for my actions, but I don’t think they can forget it, because in the back of their minds, there’s always going to be the idea of ‘will she do it again?’ or ‘can we really trust her given what has happened?’  I guess that’s why I haven’t been back to Dyeland, but have tried to support the people who live there.  I hope that makes sense to you.  I sometimes wonder if it’s just me trying to make sense of everything."

"It does make sense to me, Andi.  And you want to know something?  We've all done things we regret.  We've all... we've hurt each other before.  I know I have."  Andrew shook himself out of the memories that were flooding back to him and kept focused on the job he had to do.  "But we do find that trust in each other again.  It just takes work and time and... love, like you said."  He looked at Andi, hoping his words would comfort her.

She rewarded him with a smile but seemed surprised by the revelation that Andrew could be hurtful.  "Really?  You mess up sometimes?"

"Really," Andrew assured.  "None of us is perfect but God doesn't expect us to be.  And we don't expect each other to be.  We just try to do our best for ourselves and each other and when we mess up we apologize and try to make up for the hurt we've caused.  Just like you.  And I guess that brings me to our last question.  I'm sorry that it's kind of goofy.  There’s a famous quote from a movie that says 'Love means never having to say you’re sorry.'  What do you think about that?" 

"I don’t really know.  I think that I would like to be able to exist without having to always say I’m sorry, but I’m not really sure.  Maybe love should not exist to keep people from apologizing, but should simply be what it is," she suggested.

"That sounds about right to me.  And this is probably the last time I'll ask a question based on Love Story." 

Andi looked at him, confused.

"Old movie," the angel of death explained, smiling at the fact that to him it was a very new movie.

"Oh.  Okay.  So I did alright?" Andi asked, a doubtful tone in her voice.

"You did great!  Thanks for doing this, Andi."

There was a knock at the open door then and the two turned to see Charlie.  "Sorry, I didn't mean to interrupt."

"Hi Charlie.  Don't worry, you didn't.  I was just about ready to start packing up."  Andrew smiled at him and then began to do exactly that.

"Good bye, Andrew.  It was nice talking to you."  Andi waved as he walked away.

Andrew nodded.  "It was nice talking to you, too."  He smiled at the couple and then left them to make their plans for the evening while he set off to enjoy his own.


That night in Dyeland...

"So how's it looking so far, Andrew?" Rose asked as they sat around their regular table at the Café.

"Unfinished," Andrew responded with a grin.

"Well, obviously!"  Yva laughed.  "But every thing's in focus?  No one looks green?"

Andrew chuckled.  "Everyone's in focus and no one looks green.  Although Adam does look like a gray and blue blur in some of the football scenes."

"You sure did, baby," Tess added, smiling warmly at Adam.

The elder angel of death smiled.  "I'll take that as a compliment of my impressive speed and agility."

"There's a section about love and football?" Willy asked.

Andrew shook his head.  "Not exactly.  But we decided that we should have some scenes of day-to-day life in Dyeland.  Because we all love Dyeland.  Also, originally JenniAnn was going to interview me about my love for Dyeland but when her mom called..."  Andrew frowned, wondering how everything was going in Nebraska.  "I think showing what I love about Dyeland is just as good as talking about it."

"I'm sure it will be, Andrew," Yva assured.  "I'm just really touched that you'd choose that as your topic."

"How could I not after last month?"  Andrew's gaze traveled from one friend's face to another. 

Rose reached across the table and squeezed his hand.  "We're just glad you're handling everything okay and that all of us, whether we were in Missouri with you or praying for you from wherever, were able to support you.  Because we love you.  And Dyeland, too."  She smiled at the angel.

"Hear, hear!" Henry called as he raised his glass of root beer.

Lady Beth clinked hers against his.  "Dyeland forever!" she yelled.

A chorus of "Dyeland forevers!" followed hers. 

Andrew beamed and raised his glass to the camera set up in JenniAnn's chair and then clunked it against those of his friends. 


Wednesday, February 11th, 2009


It was well after midnight and most of the people in the house had gone to bed.  Only Eli and JenniAnn remained awake.

The latter was flipping through a photo album, her head in her hands as she stared at the pages.  She stopped on one photograph in particular.  It was clearly the 60s.  Eli was wearing bell bottoms and a muslin shirt, Sophia smiled from beneath a floral wreath.  She was clad in a blue patchwork dress.  *The* blue patchwork dress.  The photograph caught JenniAnn's attention for reasons beyond the hippie vibe.  She flipped from that to the front of the album.  In the 1940s Eli looked at least a full decade older than Sophia if not two.  However, in the other photo they seemed to be peers.

"So you did meet during World War II?" JenniAnn looked up at the angel who still sat in his chair beside the bed.

Eli nodded.  "I was a chaplain.  I would pray over the men that were brought in as Sophia and the other medical staff did what they could for them.  I got to know Sophia pretty well.  We'd talk sometimes in the rare, dull moments.  She was a character!"  He laughed.  "You did *not* tell Sophia what she should or shouldn't do."

JenniAnn smiled.  "I noticed.  I always wanted to be that sure of myself.  But go on, please.  I'd love to hear more."

"One day I went out with a group of men and..."  Eli drew in a deep breath.  "They were surrounded and... no survivors.  I took them all Home."

"I... I can't imagine what that's like for you.  All of you."  JenniAnn brushed at a tear.

"It never gets easier.  And this... this was especially strange.  I thought I was done because, well, it would have looked a little suspicious to show up very much alive after that.  But the Father told me I had to go back to the base, the chapel specifically.  I found Sophia there and she was... she was sobbing.  I'd seen her cry when we lost men before but this...  This was different."

"She was crying for you.  She loved you." 

The angel of death nodded.  "I had no idea.  I was shocked to discover she was in love with me.  I didn't have much experience working in the long term with humans and... well, even if I was human that would have been... frowned upon in the 1940s."  Eli grimaced. 

"I'm afraid so," JenniAnn admitted.  "So what happened when she saw you after thinking you were dead?"

"She ran to me and hugged me and that's when she told me she was in love and...  Well, that's when I had to tell her who and what I was and that I could never return her feelings.  She sat there in that chapel and listened to me.  She was very quiet.  I'd never seen her that quiet."  Eli smiled at Sophia and then inhaled deeply.  "I braced myself for anger or disappointment.  Even disgust.  But she simply said she felt what she felt and she wouldn't have wanted to change a single thing about me.  And if I was an angel of death, well, then she was in love with an angel of death.  She'd always wanted to live a unique sort of life, she continued, and that was about as unique as she could imagine!"

JenniAnn laughed, imagining the shocked angel and her firecracker of a godmother sitting in a chapel having this conversation.  "So what happened then, Eli?"

"I stayed with her for a few days to encourage her.  Even knowing I was alive, the loss of the other men... all the loss of life was difficult for her.  Only she could see me, of course.  And then we went about our lives from there.  She returned here, helped raise her nieces and nephews, became a teacher.  I went about with my assignments and stopped in whenever I could.  You know better than most that I didn't and couldn't return the love she felt.  But I did... I do love Sophia."

"I know.  Like what Andrew feels for those of us back in..." JenniAnn stopped.

Eli smiled.  "I know about Dyeland.  I have for... well, since late 2002."


"Sophia was worried about you.  She said you seemed withdrawn.  So..." Eli hesitated.  "Now keep in mind Sophia is a very hard person to turn down."

The woman laughed.  "Go ahead, I promise I won't blame you for whatever you're about to confess."

"Thank you."  Eli smiled.  "She asked me to see what I could find out.  Use my connections.  I had no idea if the Father would help me but suddenly I was standing in front of this... castle.  That got my curiosity going and then *I* started to wonder what you'd gotten yourself into.  I heard voices then.  Yours and Andrew's.  I recognized his from assignments we'd worked on together and yours from the times you visited your aunt.  And I have to say at first I was worried that he was there for you.  But then... then I figured out I had it backwards.  You were there for him."

JenniAnn thought back on that night beneath the willow tree.  "He had a bad assignment.  A woman had been beaten to the point that she had amnesia and he... Andrew was devastated."

"But you helped him.  And when I saw that, I knew history had repeated itself.  You loved him."

"Very much.  And I wouldn't change a single thing about *him,* either.  So what did you tell my aunt?"

"Exactly what I told you.  That history had repeated itself.  I hope you don't mind that I did but she was worried and..."

"I don't mind.  But why didn't she tell me?"

Eli looked at his hands and blinked back tears.

"Oh..."  JenniAnn did the math in her head.  It was very soon afterwards that Sophia began exhibiting symptoms of Alzheimer's. 

The room was silent for a moment before Eli picked up his story.  "I would sometimes check back in.  Sophia wanted to watch over her godchild and so I did for her.  It wasn't long before I realized the cause for your seeming withdrawn.  When Andrew would go away... I could tell just by looking at you whether he was in Dyeland or on assignment."

"Augh...  I'm that obvious?"

"Just a little.  And in time you weren't the only one."  Eli smiled at her before his face clouded.  "When Sophia began forgetting things, I went Home and to Records and Permanent Files.  I took some of the photographs from my file, things Sophia had been involved with.  I thought maybe they'd help jog her memory.  But while I was there I also had another idea.  Sophia always said the times I was away went easier when I wrote or sent a memento.  So..." Eli lowered his voice.   "Andrew's a great guy but that dude's sometimes a little too modest for his own good."

JenniAnn laughed and nodded.

"Andrew didn't realize those little bits of his past would mean so much to someone.  I did.  So I took some things from Andrew's file and when he was away from Dyeland..."

"Oh!  Oh!  Oh my gosh!  You're my Source!  For Andrew's scrapbook stuff!" the woman cried.

Eli burst into laughter as JenniAnn enthusiastically hugged him.

"You gave me the peasant shirt photos!!!"

"Something told me you'd want those.  Sometimes I felt sorry for Andrew.  I had him so confused."

"Can I tell him when I get back, Eli?"

The angel nodded.  "Sure.  I'll just be careful to avoid him for a few days," he jested.

JenniAnn laughed and then moved away.  After another moment she sobered.  "So... did your plan work?  Did she remember?"

"Sometimes.  But then one day..."  Eli looked down at Sophia's sleeping form.  "I had an assignment in Georgia.  When I was finished I stopped into the nursing home like I usually did...  I should have thought about it but I just..."

JenniAnn reached for his hand.  "You don't have to tell me."

"I do."  He steadied himself and began again.  "She screamed.  A nurse ran in and, of course, she saw only Sophia.  She calmed her down and I... I left.  I didn't come again until the heart attack.  I didn't want to upset her again.  And now I'm here until..."  His voice cracked.

"Until the end.  Oh, Eli...  These last few years must have been... well, hellish.  I'm so sorry."

The angel smiled through his tears.  "The decades I knew Sophia were wonderful and I know we have some wonderful times ahead.  I don't..."  The angel stopped.  He looked at Sophia.  Her breathing was growing labored.

JenniAnn's eyes grew wide with fear.

"Go get your family," Eli directed gently.

JenniAnn nodded tearfully and left the room.


Later that morning in Dyeland...

Andrew was awoken by his phone.  He glanced at the clock.  6:17 AM.  A call that early was alarming and he snatched the phone up, reaching across Fawn and Lulu.

"This is Andrew."

"Sorry, did I wake you?"

"Yes, but it's okay.  Catherine?"

"Yes.  I just got off the phone with JenniAnn.  Sophia passed away earlier this morning."

Andrew closed his eyes and prayed for his friend and her family.  "How did JenniAnn sound?"

Catherine sighed.  "Tired.  Sad.  But there was something else... I don't know what it was."

Andrew ran his hand through his hair.  "Do you think I should check in?  Maybe I could just get her away for a while, maybe for lunch or..." 

"She said she was writing you later.  If she wants you to come, I'm sure she'll tell you in that.  I'm sure just knowing you're thinking of her helps.  I'm going to send an email to everyone after I hang up.  I'll let you know if I hear anything more, Andrew.  I promise."

"Alright.  Take care, Catherine.  Thanks for calling."  He hung up and stared at the phone in his hands, feeling helpless.  It wasn't fair that the previous month JenniAnn and the others had set aside everything to support him in his anguish yet now he could do nothing.  Andrew had come to feel something like a big brother to them all.  It was a big brother's job to wipe away tears and offer encouraging words.  And it was an angel's job, too.  Andrew felt frustrated at being kept from those roles and concerned about such limitations recurring in the future.  He had a sense of foreboding that he couldn't shake. 

A soft smile returned to the angel's face as Fawn wiggled her nose beneath his left hand, begging to be pet.  Not to be outdone, Lulu began to lick his right hand.  He wondered for a moment if the Father was using the dogs to break through his sour mood. 

"Okay, let's go get you both some breakfast," Andrew said as he got out of bed.  He scratched the dogs' heads and then led them down to the kitchen to begin the day.  If he couldn't be there for JenniAnn, Andrew was determined to make sure she had a stellar documentary waiting for her upon her return and that all his friends would be pleased with what they'd created together.


By the time Andrew reached Angel's Reststop his mood was a bit improved.  He'd spent an hour reviewing footage he'd shot and found himself laughing and smiling at his friends' insights and good humor.  Henry's smile as he greeted him told Andrew that this interview would be just as heartwarming as the previous ones.

"Good morning, buddy.  So are you ready to talk about love of food?" Henry asked.

Andrew blanched.  "Love of food?  JenniAnn told me you'd picked 'love for your fellow angels and the Father.'  I planned questions that now..."

Henry laughed and shook his head.  "Sorry.  I was just kidding.  I spoke to Lady Beth shortly before you got here and she joked that I should have chosen that instead.  Relax, Andrew.  I've been hearing that you're doing a great job with this."

Andrew sighed with relief and smiled.  "You had me going there.  So where did you want to be interviewed.  Kitchen table?" he suggested with a devilish grin.

"Joke all you want but I think it's as good a place as any.  And I just cleaned," he added.

"That time of year already?"

Henry playfully punched Andrew's arm as they walked into the house.  "You're just full of the devil today."

"I hope not.  I always thought I looked better glowing goldish white than blue.  The blue might mute my eyes, you know?"  Andrew tried to scowl demoniacally but succeeded in only looking mildly grumpy.

"I wouldn't quit your day job, Andrew.  I've seen scarier Kindergarteners.  Are you alright, though?  You seem a little... giddy."

Andrew shrugged and set down his camera bag on the kitchen table.  "I am.  I mean I'm sad for JenniAnn and after learning about that Mick called to say Josef might have to cancel his interview so I'm concerned about what that means.  But I don't know.  I just have this... sense."

"Sense of what?"

Andrew ran his hand through his hair.  "I don't know.  Just a feeling like some thing's coming and I don't know if it's good or bad or indifferent."

"Do you want to talk about it?" Henry offered.

Andrew smiled and shook his head.  "No, I'm here to talk about your love of the rest of us and the Father, not strange presentiments.  Thanks, though."

"We could reschedule..."

Andrew's blonde locks flew as he shook his head more adamantly.  "Really, it's okay.  I think if we start it will take my mind off whatever this is."

Henry looked doubtfully at his friend.

Andrew finished with the second camera and sat down.  "I'm gonna start asking the questions whether you're gonna answer them or not," he drawled, crossing his arms over his chest with an expectant smile.

Henry chuckled, wondering if Andrew realized how much like a stubborn toddler he looked.  "Fine.  But I mean it.  If later you want to talk, I'm here."

"Thank you.  I really do appreciate that, Henry.  So can we start?"

Henry took the chair across from Andrew.  "Whenever you're ready."

Andrew turned the cameras on then gave his fellow angel of death his full attention. "Henry, I’ve thought about this myself before and I’ve never quite found the words.  Maybe you have.  How would you say love for our fellow angels is different from the love we feel for humans?  Or do you even think it is?"

"You're right about one thing, it is a little difficult to find the right words for this question but I'm going to give it my best shot," Henry began.  "The love we have for our fellow angels is unique, special, full of the Father's love.  There are no qualms when it comes to helping each other out in any situation."  He paused to give Andrew a pointed look and smiled when the blonde angel stifled a chuckle.  "We're like an extended family that keeps growing all the time.  The love we feel for humans is similar but slightly different in certain aspects.  Often we have the ability to protect our human friends from harm while at the same time showing them what the Father is really like.  We help them understand that love and show them how to share it with others.  Even though we love all humans, our love for our human friends is also special and unique.  It's this love that makes me feel more... human."

Andrew nodded.  "I think you did a great job of finding the words.  I wish everyone could hear that.  If there *was* one thing you could really get through to people about the type of love we angels feel, what would it be?"

Henry paused, thinking back on assignments he'd had and all he wished he could have told them.  Finally, he settled on his answer.  "The one thing is how fulfilling that love is.  It fills the soul completely, filling all corners and crevices of the body.  No one is complete until they are filled with this love."

"It is a great feeling.  One I hope we never fully lose sight of.  But..."  Andrew took care to broach the next question carefully.  "Do you ever have times when it’s... more difficult than usual to feel your love for the Father and His for you?"  He was surprised when a faraway look came into Henry's eyes.

"I've been more fortunate than most and have had only a few minor incidents when it's been close but only one time when the strain has been quite prevalent."  Henry withdrew his pocket watch and began flicking it open and closed as he continued.  "This time was during the early 1500's and not one of my most uplifting periods.  I was ready to walk away from everything and deal with whatever punishment the Father wanted to give me."

Andrew looked at his friend with ill-concealed shock.

"It took many months for me to realize that I couldn't do without the Father and took the first step to healing and asking for forgiveness.  Because of who He is, the Father had forgiven me way before I could forgive myself and took me back into the fold, no questions asked."

Andrew raked his hand through his hair and shook his head.  "Wow.  I had no idea, Henry."

"I don't talk about it much.  There are more pleasant times to remember."  A smile once more appeared on his face.  "But it's good to occasionally.  It makes me realize how grateful I am for the Father's forgiveness and love."

"I... I would guess so.  Wow.  I'm just...  I'm glad you came back, buddy."

"Me too.  So what's next?" Henry prodded, hoping to get his shocked friend to focus.

Andrew glanced at his notes.  "So now that we've established how moving and... and healing the Father's love is what do you think is the best way to show the Father that you appreciate His love for you and love Him?"

"The best way I can show my love for the Father is simply do my best in whatever I'm doing.  It doesn't matter if I'm on an assignment, doing some AOD duties or being with my human friends, I show my love every day by being who I am."

Andrew beamed at his friend.  "And we're very grateful for that, Henry.  Thank you." 

"I've had a nice time and could I just say one more thing?" Henry requested with a glint in his eyes.

"Sure, why not?"

Henry looked directly into the camera and smiled.  "Lady Beth, I promise you that next year I'll talk about my love of food."

Andrew was laughing as he shut the cameras down and began to pack them away.  However, he hadn't forgotten about Henry's revelation.  "I'm sorry if my questions brought up a sore subject."

Henry shrugged.  "It's not so sore any more."

"Good.  Did you want to talk about it?"

"Some day I'd really like to do that but right now isn't someone expecting you?"  Henry picked his watch up off the table and held it for Andrew to see.  "Why am I not surprised you planned your interview with Lady Beth to coincide with lunch time?"

"I wish I could take the credit but JenniAnn plotted these all out.  But I'm not complaining."  Andrew picked up his bag then gave Henry a friendly slap on the back.  "Let me know if and when you want to talk."

"You do the same, Andrew," he answered as he walked with him to the door.  "We're all in this together."

Andrew stepped outside and surveyed the beauty of Dyeland around him.  "I know and I won't forget that.  Have a great day, buddy."

"You too," Henry called out as Andrew headed towards Lady Beth's.


Andrew sighed as he pushed the plate, which had not long before held a generous portion of coffee cake, away from him.

Lady Beth looked at him expectantly from her chair on the other side of the coffee table.

"Magnificent," Andrew declared.  "Thank you for lunch... and dessert, Lady Beth."

"My pleasure.  Thank you for coming over.  It's always much nicer to prepare a meal for more than just myself."

"Let me help with the dishes?" the angel offered.

"They can wait.  I've been anxious to see what questions you have for me.  Has everything gone okay?  I know you didn't have much time to prepare."

Andrew nodded.  "Everything's gone really well.  Everyone's been so open and interesting.  I've been here for almost nine years now but I've learned that there's still so much about everyone, even people I've known for much longer, that I don't know.  It's made me really look forward to all the time we'll have together in the future."

"Hopefully you won't be the only one learning new and exciting things.  There's a great deal of mystery attached to you, Andrew," Lady Beth pointed out with a devilish smile.  It grew as Andrew began to laugh.  "I know one particular factoid in high demand."

"I think I know what you're talking about.  My age.  You know, we angels need some take on 'I'm taking that secret with me to the grave," Andrew mused.

"You're right.  I don't think that saying quite works for you, thank God.  And you better not use it, even joking.  If you say that around some of the others during one of their more angsty moods you're liable to end up with house mates," the woman teased.

Andrew's face reddened both with a blush and increased laughter.  "You know, I think *that* is my cue to start this interview.  What do you think?"

"Go for it."

Andrew checked the view from the cameras once more and then began, hoping his normal color had returned to his face.  He had a feeling Walter Cronkite had never stalled an interview due to blushing and he wasn't about to either.  With a confident smile, he directed his attention to Lady Beth.  "Can you describe a moment when you truly felt God’s love?"

Lady Beth smiled fondly.  "One moment was the time I was making a decision as to what I wanted to do with my life.  I guess I had come to that fork in the road that everyone encounters and I wasn't sure as to what I wanted to do.  After some soul searching and praying, I wound up in Dyeland.  It was then that I realized that my purpose was to be here with everyone."

"So God's love led you here?"


Andrew glanced heavenward and smiled.  "Not at all.  I'm glad He did.  So what do you think is a good way to help others realize God loves them?"

"I'm sure that there are better ways to spread his love but the way I think is best is by word of mouth and by showing everyone.  I know that the angels share the love by talking to people and I believe that they're better at doing that than I am.  As for showing people how that love is shared, one good way is how we are with each other, humans and angels, here in Dyeland."  She indicated her photo lined mantle, smiling at the shots of the group.  "I know it's a bit difficult when we're away from Dyeland but I do hope that some day in the future, we can show that love and spread it around."

"Oh, I think everyone's doing a great job with that already.  And I'm glad because the world needs more of that.  Do you think there are misconceptions people have about God’s love for His children?"

The woman frowned.  "Yes, there are misconceptions.  There are a lot of angry people out there in the world and they all blame God for that anger.  These people believe that God is at fault for sickness and death especially when loved ones are affected.  Unfortunately, it's not noticed that God hurts, as well, when someone is sick and/or dying.  Eventually some do come around and realize that they are wrong but not everyone is capable or wants to realize that God isn't the one to blame."

Andrew bowed his head.  "That can be tough to witness.  But we can always keep hoping and praying for people like that.  God never closes the door on them.  He's always there."

"I know and you and Adam and Henry and the others are doing a great job of sharing that," Lady Beth assured, patting Andrew's hand.

"Thanks.  It's a privilege and an honor to bring God's love to others.  So how do you think the love you feel for God impacts the love you show to others, Lady Beth?"

"My love for God does impact my love for others.  He's the one who has shown me what true love really is and how to give it to others.  If I never received God's love, I wouldn't know how to love myself or anyone else.  This love can come in various packages.  I believe that the appreciation I have for cooking and baking is one form of this love since it's something I can share with everyone," she concluded.

Andrew's face lit up.  "Funny you should say that.  Henry was just telling me that the two of you were talking about 'love of food.'  He'll be glad to know you worked it into your interview."

Lady Beth laughed.  "I'm sure he will.  But I know he'll be even happier about the treats I bring to the showing of this."

"You know him well.  I can't wait.  Thanks for sitting down with me and thank you for the meal.  We really do understand the meaning behind it and that makes it even more enjoyable.  Thanks, Lady Beth."  Andrew hugged her.

"You're welcome.  Now, let's go pack up some leftovers for you.  I don't want you sitting down to edit the video with a bowl of plain old potato chips or something from the freezer."

Andrew didn't argue and followed her into the kitchen.


Josef hadn't shown up at 8:00 that evening as planned.  Andrew had tried to call him but there was no answer.  The angel grew more concerned but comforted himself with the knowledge that whatever was going on, Mick was aware and helping his friend.  If Josef was troubled, tonight was not the night to be discussing "lost love." 

It was almost 9:00 and Andrew was reviewing footage in the living room when he heard a knock at his door.  Curious, Andrew went to see who it was.  He could barely make out the blonde man in a suit standing on the darkened porch.

"Josef, are you okay?" Andrew asked as he held open the door, hoping his guest didn't see the dogs flee up the stairs.

The vampire shrugged.  "I've been better.  Sorry I'm late.  Today just hasn't gone as planned," Josef answered with a grimace.

"Mick mentioned something about that.  Listen, we could reschedule.  Or we could just not do this," Andrew offered.

Josef forced a smile.  "No, I want to.  I want... I want what I felt for Sarah to be known and remembered.  So, please, can we start?"

Andrew nodded, sympathetically patted Josef's shoulder, and led him into his office.  It seemed the most suitable setting for Josef and he'd already set up the cameras there in case he did make it for the interview. 

Josef sat down in the chair Andrew indicated, feeling ill-at-ease, but the angel's friendly smile helped calm him.

"You ready?"

"Yes.  I'm not getting any younger," the vampire deadpanned.

Andrew smirked before flipping the camera on.  Taking his seat, he peered intently at Josef, trying to judge whether he was truly ready for this. 

"Andrew, please.  I'm not going to break down on camera and make you look like a bully, I promise.  As long as you don't ask me about the stock market that is."  Josef grinned.

The angel chuckled.  "Okay, I got it.  So," he glanced at his notes, "Josef, my first question for you is what helps you keep going even in the face of immense loss?"

"Sarah," Josef answered without a moment's hesitation.  "She made me appreciate the life I had... and the life I still have even without her.  If I gave up I'd be denying that gift she brought me."

"That's beautiful," Andrew encouraged.  "And I know Sarah appreciates that.  If you could give some advice to someone who had lost a loved one, what would it be?"

Josef sighed then gave a slight smile.  "Don't listen to other people's advice on how to grieve?"

Andrew returned the smile.  "There does tend to be too much of that."

"Yes, but I guess I would tell them to not put a time table on their grieving.  So often in these past few months I've had a string of great days when I thought 'Excellent.  I'm healing.  Everything's going to be fine.'  And then something... a song, a bird chirping, a damn jewelry commercial.  Sorry," Josef grimaced.  "A darn jewelry commercial.  I hear someone call 'Sarah' on the street and it all comes thudding back.  Then I feel angry at myself for getting so upset about things like that.  But I can't help it.  A person just needs to give themselves permission to grieve.  Because it does have to get better but... it just may not be soon."

Andrew noted the anguish on Josef's face.  He flicked off the camera.  "Josef, I really think maybe we should just talk.  Or how about going for a walk?  Or maybe I could call Mick?"

Josef accepted the tissue Andrew handed to him.  "Mick offered to stay with me but I turned him down and now he's out with Beth."

"Then, please, let me hel..." the angel's plea was cut off by the doorbell.  "I'm sorry," he apologized, "but I should see who..."

"Of course," Josef agreed.  He followed Andrew into the entryway and looked on curiously as the angel of death led an old man in.

"Josef, Ronald.  Ronald, Josef," Andrew introduced.  "Ronald is with Records in Heaven and head of our post office here in Dyeland.  Josef is Mick's good friend.  And ours."  The angel smiled at Josef.

"A pleasure to meet you."  Josef smiled and shook Ronald's hand.

The angel turned postman noted the grief in the man's eyes but returned his smile.  "You, as well, Josef.  But I'll let you and Andrew get back to your business.  I only stopped by because a letter from JenniAnn arrived and I thought you'd want it as soon as possible."

Andrew gratefully accepted the letter.  "Yes.  Thanks so much for stopping by, Ronald.  I've been concerned about her."

"Not a problem, my friend.  Not a problem.  Give her my best when you write back, please.  You gentlemen enjoy your evening."  Ronald gave them both a warm smile then left.

It took only a second for Andrew to give his full attention back to Josef.  "So do you want to talk?" 

"Maybe.  But you can go ahead and read your letter.  I'd love the opportunity just to look around."

"I don't mind wait..."

Josef laughed.  "Read the letter, Andrew.  The girls are right.  Sometimes you really are too damn nice."  He cringed.  "Darn nice.  I'm sorry.  Again."

Andrew laughed and shrugged.  "Believe me, I hear worse.  But thanks, I would like to read this if you're sure."

"Absolutely," the vampire insisted then moved into the living room where he examined the myriad photographs Andrew had on display. 

Andrew took a seat in his favorite chair and opened the letter.  He braced himself before he began to read it.  Despite Catherine's warning, a part of him felt as if he should have gone to help his friend through her difficult time.  It continued to bother him that so often the girls had been there for him and now he wasn't able to reciprocate.  He knew that the letter would contain any number of statements that would make him want to leave but he couldn't.  He assured himself that simply being a listener, writing JenniAnn back, and praying would help.  However, once Andrew had unsealed the letter and began to read, he found that it was nothing like he had imagined.  Hurt and dismayed, the angel stared at the final paragraph.

"My aunt's death has brought to light some unpleasant realizations about the sacrifices our relationship has forced upon me.  I think we need to admit to ourselves that this relationship is beneath both our dignities and without a future beyond despair and resentment.  I have waited long enough for you to change but have now concluded it won't happen.  Therefore, I am distancing myself from what was.  I have every confidence that we will remain cordial.  I don't wish to upset any of our mutual friends.  I do ask that you not refer to this letter in the future, simply accepting what it says, and refrain from responding to it as there is little point.  My mind is made up."

Josef turned to ask Andrew a question about a photograph and noticed the pained expression on the angel's face.  Not thinking, he moved behind Andrew.  With his overly advanced senses it took only a moment to read the entire letter.  "My God... what's gotten into her?"

Andrew folded the letter back up hastily.  "You shouldn't have read that!"

"I'm sorry.  I saw you were upset and before I realized what I was doing..."  Josef shook his head, still staring in horror at the letter. 

"Don't tell anyone.  She deserves the chance to speak to the others for herself."

"She deserves???" Josef bellowed.  "Andrew, that was cruel and..."

Andrew blinked and ran his hand through his hair.  "It happens.  People move on from here.  From me." 


Andrew moved to his desk and stuck the letter in a drawer.  "So did you still want to talk?  I'm concerned for you."

"You're concerned for me!"  Josef looked at Andrew, disbelieving that the letter could have possibly been that easy for him to move past.

"If not then maybe we could call it a night?  I'm getting tired and the dogs need out before we go to bed." 

Josef peered at the angel whose back was still to him.  It was clear he wasn't going to say any more about the subject.  "Fine by me."  He headed back into the hall and to the door.  "Good night, Andrew."

"Good night, Josef."  Andrew led the vampire to the door and showed him out.

After walking a few paces Josef turned back to where Andrew stood on the porch, looking up at the sky.  From the moment Sarah had died, despite his newfound friendship with the angel of death, Josef had envied him.  Andrew could still see and speak to those who were gone.  But standing there Josef realized that there were many ways to lose a person and Andrew just had.  It was obvious he was determined to face that loss alone.

Thursday, February 12th, 2009

Andrew reread the letter when he woke up.  He had hoped it was all a nightmare.  But there it was in the shades of blue JenniAnn's letters had previously been. 

Andrew wondered what could have changed so quickly.  Had her aunt's death really forced her to realize things JenniAnn had long kept hidden, maybe even from herself?  Had Missouri been more difficult than she'd let on and this was simply an "easy" out?  Neither option sounded at all like the person he'd known for nine years but nothing in those nine years could account for the letter in his hands.  Had he said or done anything to cause her to react so?  And did any of the others feel as she did?  Andrew felt disloyal for even thinking it.  Yet, the day before he would have felt disloyal thinking such things about JenniAnn and yet... there was the letter.  What if something had happened to her?   He thought of Nadia's anger at him the previous month and of his admission that some part of him wished his friends would never leave Dyeland and be put at risk.  What if now one of those things he'd feared had come to pass and pushed JenniAnn from love to anger?  The theories whirled around in Andrew's mind.  He prayed for clarity but none came.

Again the angel shoved the missive into his desk, hoping to remove it from his thoughts, as well.  Andrew was committed to going on as if everything were normal.  The rest of his friends deserved a good Valentine's Day and he would do everything in his power to bring it to them.  The first task was to finish the interviews.  He glanced at the schedule JenniAnn had written up.  "Mick and Beth re: optimistic love.  Thursday at 8:00 AM so Mick can get to the freezer in time for bed."  Andrew couldn't help but chuckle despite not being in the mood to interview that morning.   It was already 7:45 so he got Fawn and Lulu inside, made sure they had food and water, checked his appearance in the mirror, loaded up the camera bag, and disappeared.


Los Angeles

Andrew reappeared in a service stairwell in Beth's apartment.  He quickly made his way to her door and tapped lightly.  Mick answered, holding a mug.  Andrew stared at it, trying not to wrinkle his nose.

"Coffee.  For Beth, I'm just holding it because I miss the feel.  I may not be able to drink it but I'm told I brew a good cup.  Can I get you some?"

Andrew smiled sheepishly.  Of course it was coffee, he could smell it.  "Sure."



"Beth will be right with us.  She went to get you two some bagels.  She said you could set up in the living room," Mick called.

Andrew proceeded to unpack the bag and set up the cameras.  "Beth shouldn't have done that.  I'm fine."

Mick reappeared with a second mug.  "She had to.  Turns out when you're dating a vampire you don't keep your fridge as well stocked as you might otherwise.  It was either gets bagels or make a breakfast of Cheerios and expired milk for herself."

"Delicious," Andrew responded with a look of distaste. 

"She doesn't know what she's missing.  So did Josef show up last night?  I offered to come over but he told me no." 

Andrew peered into the lense, ensuring that Mick was in the shot.  "He did.  Unfortunately, our interview got cut short.  I thought I might stop by after this to see how he is."

"He's at the office."  Mick rolled his eyes.  "You'd think if you owned your own company you'd give yourself leave to take personal days but not Josef."

Before Andrew could respond, the two heard the door unlocking.

"I'm back!  I hope you like blueberries, Andrew."  Beth walked in and handed Andrew a bagel slathered in cream cheese.  "I wanted the cinnamon but they were out."

"Blueberry is great.  Thanks, Beth."  Andrew smiled appreciatively at her. 

The three chatted as the angel and woman ate their breakfast and sipped their coffee.  Afterwards, Mick and Beth settled onto the love seat together.

Andrew looked with fondness at the couple.  He admired their bravery and their commitment to each other despite the odds.  The love that radiated from them reminded Andrew of his interviews with Yva and Sir Sven and Vincent and Catherine.  It put him at ease and brightened his mood. 

"What gives you the most hope about your future as a couple?" he started once Beth gave him the cue.

"I think, for me, it's the honesty we have in our relationship.  We've had to trust each other so much from the beginning," Mick answered. 

Beth nodded.  "We don't kid ourselves about the obstacles we're going to face.  We know there are going to be difficult times... there have been difficult times.  But we got through them together and I know we'll keep getting through them together.  Of course, the support system we have is enormously helpful.  Josef, Paula, Dyeland.  It's really great."

Andrew smiled, glad to think he and his friends had made an impact.  "So was there a particular moment when you decided you would do whatever it took to make your relationship work?"

Beth got a dreamy look in her eyes.  "Something had happened that made us doubt if things would work out and... and we almost broke everything off right there.  But Mick came back and he described exactly what I was wearing the first time we met... again.  Right down to my bare feet."  She blushed.

"It was the moment I fell in love with her.  Of course, I remembered everything about it."  Mick intertwined his fingers with Beth's.

Andrew looked on as the two smiled at each other.  They looked so serene.  He considered skipping his next question, not wanting to cast a pall over them.  Between the letter and Josef's sorry state, the angel didn't want to think anymore about separation.

"Andrew?  Are you alright?"

Andrew snapped back to attention at Beth's voice.  She and Mick were both looking at him with concern.  "Sorry I was just...  I'm not sure whether to ask my next question."

"Reporters don't shy away from the tough stuff, Andrew," Beth encouraged, knowingly.

Andrew nodded and smiled sheepishly.  "You're right.  My question is: what qualities do you think you’ll need the most to face whatever challenges come your way?"

"We're not deluding ourselves about the challenges we'll face, Andrew, so don't worry about that."  Mick put his arm around Beth.

"We know that, one way or another, we'll have to make some very big decisions.  If Mick finds the cure then he'll have to make a decision and if he doesn't... then I will."

Mick buried his face in his girlfriend's hair for a brief moment. 

"When that time comes we're going to need each other and love and wisdom and... faith.  Faith in our relationship, faith in ourselves, and the faith that no matter what God will see us through," Beth continued.

"He will," Andrew murmured.

"I know."  Beth smiled and brushed a tear from her face.  "So what's the last question?"

Andrew drew in a deep breath and relaxed.  "If you could go back in time and tell yourselves something right after you met… again… what would it be?"

Mick chuckled.  "You're a very, very lucky man, Mick St. John."

"Aww."  Beth hugged him.  "And I would say... fear not."  She winked at Andrew.

The angel of death laughed, glad that the interview was ending on a positive note.  "Thanks.  This was... really great.  I hope you all know that everyone back in Dyeland is pulling for you two."

"Thanks, Andrew.  We need all the support we can get and we've found it from Dyeland since the beginning."  Mick yawned then.

Beth rested her hand on his shoulder.  "You better be getting home."

The vampire nodded.  "I know but first, have you heard anything from JenniAnn?"

Andrew turned and began to dismantle the cameras.  "Not really.  Catherine talked to her most recently."

Beth and Mick looked at each other, confused by the apparent lack of communication between the angel and JenniAnn.

"I'm sure she's busy with the arrangements but really looking forward to getting back home," Mick hypothesized.

Andrew nodded.  "I'm sure she is, too, but you need to be getting back home yourself."  He gave Mick a stern smile.

Mick held up his hands and grinned.  "Okay, okay.  I do make a point of listening to my elders when I meet them." 

Beth giggled and helped Andrew get the rest of the camera equipment put away.  "So we'll see you Saturday?" she double-checked.

"Noon at the Café.  I hope this," the angel tapped the camera case, "lives up to everyone's expectations."

"You know it will, Andrew," Mick assured.  "You'd have to screw up pretty bad for the Dyelanders not to love it."

Andrew chuckled.  "Thanks for the encouragement.  I'll see you soon."

"We can't wait!" Beth called as Andrew left and made his way to the stairwell, a smile on his face as he could hear the indistinct murmur of the couple lovingly saying farewell for the day.


Later that morning in Dyeland...

Andrew laughed as he watched Adam tear after Alexander.  Somehow the old bird had gotten a hold of one of Adam's shirts and it was clear it wasn't one the angel of death intended to give up. 

"Anything I can do to help?" Andrew called as his friend ran by. 

Adam reached once more for the shirt and that time successfully caught it.  Alexander let go without a fight and then ran off towards his feathered friends as if nothing had happened.  The angel of death shook his head and threw his arms up into the air.  Then he turned and took a seat across from Andrew at a picnic table set up near the shore.

Andrew closed his eyes and breathed in the warm breeze from the ocean. 

"It's been great weather, hasn't it?"  Adam smiled, folding his shirt neatly.

Andrew turned towards his friend.  "Heavenly."

"JenniAnn will be glad to get back.  I heard a cold front started up again in Nebraska."

Andrew nodded.  "I saw that online.  It'll be nice to have everyone together again.  So... you ready?"

Adam thought Andrew's sudden change of subject was surprisingly abrupt but decided against saying anything.  He was, after all, against a deadline only about 48 hours away.  "Sure.  I've been looking forward to it."

"Great."  Andrew smiled at his old friend and started the cameras rolling.  "Adam, you chose 'celestial love' as your topic.  I asked Henry something like this and I'd be curious to hear your answer, too.  How would you say the love you feel for your assignments and our human friends differs from the love you feel for us angels or do you think it doesn’t differ at all?"

Adam bit his lip as he thought.  "I don’t think there’s really a difference.  Perhaps a better descriptor would be ‘Universal love’ as that not only exists between romanticists, but it also exists among friends, whether they are celestial or earthbound.  This reminds me of the evening when we were watching movies at Soaring Spirit, Yva was showing the movie Starman.  If you recall, it was about an alien who came from the stars to earth and he had to learn all the aspects of life on earth, including love.  He had no idea what love was, but he learned that it was the most profound thing in the human experience that exists."

Andrew nodded, recalling that and many more movie nights in Dyeland.

Adam continued.  "I never really believed that love is something simply found on one place as that story somehow implied, but I do think that there exists a great many words used that might define the very same emotion.  Oh and please don’t tell me that all of this sounds like I have been sitting in the Tunnels with Father, sweating over a hot chess board and discussing the meaning of life."

Andrew chuckled at the notion.  "I wouldn't dare, buddy."

Adam winked.  "Perhaps I have, but I think you know what I mean.  Everything, whether it is a love between angels and angels, between humans and humans, or between angels and humans is ‘Love’, not the romantic love that Vincent and Catherine or Yva and Sir Sven share, but a universal concept that connects us all to one another, and perhaps that is what really connects us all to the Father."

"I love that idea.  Thanks, Adam.  So let's see..."  Andrew glanced at his notes.  The gorgeous weather made it difficult to concentrate and he was once more relieved that he'd started writing the questions down after the first day.  "Is it ever a struggle for you to love your assignments?" he asked.

"Yes, but it is also a struggle to love you, especially when you behave in your walking wounded way."  Adam grinned and nudged Andrew playfully.

Andrew looked at Adam, alarmed.

Adam grew serious, surprised by the reaction.  "Just kidding, buddy," he explained.

"Right.  Of course."  Andrew chuckled.  "You can always make me laugh, Adam."

Adam looked at him, doubtful, but continued.  "Actually, what really is hard for me is to love them when I feel as though they have been acting in a manner that is less than beneficial to their understanding my presence here.  I know that nothing they do should be taken personally, but it is during moments such as these when I might take something personally.  I generally discover that, contrary to what I intended, I have a hard time loving them in the same unconditional way the Father does.  There have been moments when I have gone into the mode of wanting to bite their heads off, to trying to pray: ‘Forgive me for not forgiving them.'"

"It can be really, really tough," Andrew agreed.  "But we're still on the job so the Father must think we're doing okay," he added with a smile.

"I have a feeling He'll be keeping us on for a long time to come," Adam responded with a grin.  "So what do you have next?"

Andrew ran his hand through his hair before addressing Adam with the next question.  "Do you ever feel upset by the idea that… I mean sometimes we’re with people at their darkest hours and we really come to care about them and then we just move onto the next assignment. I guess what I’m trying to ask is how do you cope with loving someone and then having to leave and maybe not seeing them again for many, many years?"

Adam looked out at the ocean as he began to answer.  "I think that is the hardest aspect of the job, and I haven’t yet learned the fine art of coping."  He turned back to Andrew.  "When you have that one mastered, old buddy, do feel free to let me know so that I can apply that technique."

"I'm afraid it hasn't come to me yet."

"I didn't think so.  It’s not easy all the time.  I am not happy with having to say good-bye to people, in fact, I am as prone to dragging my feet about it as any angel." Adam confessed.  "For instance, I didn’t see Willy for a long time after I was sent to help him in the 1960s.  In fact, after I came to Dyeland, I was wondering if I would ever see him again.  Part of me figured that when I would see him again, that it would be when he would come Home.  Then out of the blue, he showed up in Dyeland and I was happy, I mean genuinely happy that he was here."  Joy came to Adam's eyes as he recalled that day.  "I knew at that moment, for better or worse, sometimes the Father brings people together to make them happy, but sometimes things just happen.  Willy called it pleasant surprises, and I tend to agree with him on that.  Somehow it just made all the difference in the world."

Andrew was cheered by the idea of such reunions.  "I can see that.  I think it's great we've all become friends now.  We've been very blessed to have so many friends around, to have them care for us and to be able to show them we care.  But do you think most humans know how much we love and care about them, Adam?"

"I think somewhere deep down inside they do, but sadly, many do not feel they are worthy of the love and care that we wish to share.  That is why I believe that many are not always aware of the extent that we do.  It’s difficult, I know, but I think that in time they will come to embrace it.  Just look at how Yva embraces Nigel or Lady JenniAnn embraces you.  That’s the silver lining, don’t you think?"

Andrew nodded automatically.  "Yeah, I do," he agreed, relieved that his voice came out as even as it did.  "Thanks, Adam.  I've enjoyed this and..."  Andrew tilted his head as he looked past Adam's shoulder.  "Is that a tie?"

Adam turned around then bolted up from his seat.  "Ted!  You put that down right now!  No!" he shouted as he ran towards the turkey.

Andrew laughed as he watched the riotous scene for a moment.  After a flash of inspiration, he grabbed a camera off the tripod and caught the chase on film for the benefit of all of Dyeland. 


Andrew settled comfortably onto the swing on Tess' porch.  She was occupying a chair across from him.

"How are you, baby?" she asked.

Andrew smiled.  "I'm fine, Tess.  I'm having a great time doing these interviews.  How about you?"

"Oh just fine, Angel Boy.  I've been thinking a lot about you ever since we left Missouri."  Tess eyed him with concern.

Andrew shrugged.  "It was tough, Tess.  There's no getting around that and I can't say I don't still think about it.  And... and I wonder if maybe it had more of an effect on some of the girls than they've told me."

"What do you mean?" 

"Do you think maybe we could do the interview and then talk about it?" Andrew requested.

Tess folded her arms over her chest.  "Andrew, if you need to talk then I think that takes priority."

"I *do* want to talk, Tess.  I just want to make sure this gets done because... because it's important," Andrew insisted.

Tess peered at Andrew.

"Really, Tess!" Andrew assured. 

"Alright then... let's get started."

Andrew flipped the cameras on then shot Tess a wide smile.  "I have to admit, Tess, I was intrigued when JenniAnn told me you’d chosen 'tough love' as your interview topic. Why is it so important to you?"

A pensive Tess rested her head against her hand.  "Well, Andrew, I suppose because I've learned over the years that sometimes love has to be tough.  That's not always easy to do or realize and it's often misunderstood by the one on the receiving end, but sometimes it's simply the kind of love that's needed at the time."
"But how do you know when it's needed?  How does a person know where the line is between tough love and, well, just being too tough?"  Andrew looked at Tess, truly curious about what she'd have to say.  This was something he'd wondered long before the interview had ever come up.
"They don't always know that and that can make things even more difficult.  It's also different for each person. What may be enough tough love for one person, Angel Boy, may not be true for the next; some people need more of a push than others do.  But tough love is exactly that.  It stems from love and it is tough, on both ends.  Though if you ask the Father," Tess paused and indicated the sky, "to guide you and that toughness is coming out of love, rather than anger, then that line should be easier to see."
Andrew smiled, satisfied with the answer.  "Great.  So that being said...  Has there ever been a time you used tough love and it didn’t work out quite like you thought it would?"

"Yes, there has been and more than just once, I'm sure.  Most of those times probably happened because I let my temper and impatience get in the way.  There have been incidences, involving you too, baby, where I thought I was using 'tough love' and I was only just being tough."  Tess reached to him and gently brushed a stray lock of hair from his face after the wind had blown it astray.

Andrew bowed his head and reached for the supervisor's hand.  "Wh-when was that, Tess?"
Tess kept hold of his hand and sighed as she recalled that moment of regret.  "There was this one time many years ago, and you had only just come off of a very hard assignment.  We went directly into another one and you seemed very discouraged and even a little defensive throughout it all.  So eventually I lost my patience and I called you on it; telling you to get your act together, act like an angel, and drop your bad attitude."

Andrew nodded, remembering the occasion very well.  His cheeks burned red at the memory.

"As soon as the words left my mouth, I regretted them," Tess continued.  "Your face clouded over and I saw you flinch as if I had just said the worst thing to you imaginable; though I suppose that at that moment, maybe I had."  Tears welled in her eyes.  "You had been hurting and I hadn't noticed until it dawned on me at that moment.  My intentions had been to get you to 'straighten up' as I saw fit.  But that's not what you needed then.  Sometimes, such as at that moment, all you've really needed was a hug and a little extra love and attention.  I still don't always see that as often as I should, baby, but I am trying and with the Father's help, I'll get better about doing so."

"Tess," Andrew started, his voice quiet.

"What baby?"

"I think you already are," he assured. 

Tess moved to sit beside Andrew on the swing and hugged him.  "Thank you, baby." 

Andrew nodded.  "Maybe I don't need to ask my last question," he suggested after a few moments.

Tess patted his hand and returned to her chair.  "No, I think you should go right ahead, Andrew." 

"Okay," he smiled at her then glanced at his notes.  "Well, how difficult is it to show tough love to someone you really care about?"
"It's not easy."  Tess shook her head vigorously.  "It may not always seem that way, but I don't always want to be so rough on you babies.  However, I have to remind myself that it is for your own good.  I wouldn't be truly loving you if I didn't give you the correction you need when you're wrong.  Though trust me, Angel Boy, despite how often my temper gets in the way, there have also been plenty of times where I would've preferred to hug all of you close to me, rather than be stern and scold you.  But, in the end, just remember that I do it because I love each one of you so very much."  She beamed at the younger angel.

Andrew smiled back at her.  "Thanks, Tess, for a great interview."  He flicked off the cameras then and turned back to her. 

"What is it, baby?" she asked.

Andrew shrugged.  "I don't know.  I've just been thinking, I guess."

"Nothing wrong with that, Andrew.  You want to talk about it?  Here, sit back down with me."  Tess moved to the swing.

Andrew obediently returned to his seat.  "This whole project has been really great but... there was something Willy said that really stuck with me.  And I was thinking about it when I interviewed Josef and Adam, too."


"Willy said these documentaries were like time capsules.  I guess it just made me think about how much can change and how quickly and how many people come and go out of our lives," Andrew admitted.

Tess hugged him.  "I know it's difficult, Angel Boy.  And I know that for all the blessings Dyeland has brought you... it's brought you some concern, too.  But you know better than most that nothing and no one is ever truly lost.  It's like our Taylor says: 'What we do in love is never lost.'  And I know you love these babies and they love you.  That's gonna see us all through whatever comes.  You'll see, baby." 

Andrew felt peace wash over him at Tess' words.  He looked out at the setting sun.

"Now isn't that beautiful?" Tess murmured. 

The angel of death nodded.  A smile spread across his face as a dove landed on the porch railing.


Friday, February 13th, 2009

Andrew stayed inside his house for most of the day.  For hours and hours he sifted through footage.  There were the interviews, of course.  The football game.  Meals at the Café.  Shots of Willy at work.  Rose giving a tour of the tree house.  Lulu and Fawn chasing Theo only to have Theo turn around and chase them.  Countess Jennifer riding her horse.  Lady Beth cooking up a delicious meal as Henry looked on, silverware already in hand.  Adam chasing the turkeys.  Nigel playing his flute.  Adam and Tess singing a duet at the previous night's last-minute karaoke party at the Café.  Yva proudly showing off her teddy bears.  Vincent giving Jacob a piggy back ride through the Fields of Gold as Catherine walked beside them, laughing.  Father challenging Adam to a chess match... and losing.  Vincent beating Father at chess.  Nigel playing Father in a very close game and ultimately triumphing.  Father pretending to pout.  Yva and Sir Sven tending to the rabbits.  Rose and her aunt baking cookies.  Andrew watched as many of them gathered around a picnic lunch in the Fields of Gold the day before, content simply to share a meal and spend time with each other.

The angel chuckled as the scenes went on.  As he watched video of the them at the Café, Andrew thought back on something JenniAnn had said years ago.  Another of their old friends had left and they'd gone to the Café to commiserate.  He'd tried to encourage her and assure her he, at least, would not leave.  He also strove to convince the girl that more people would come.

"I know," she'd assured him.  "But I can see it in your eyes even if you're trying to protect me with your words.  People aren't interchangeable with you, Andrew.  They never have been and they never will be.  It's okay to be sad right now."

She'd been right. 

Andrew continued to edit the documentary, grateful that so many of his friends remained near and that so many more at least remained in contact.  But of the rest... he would never forget them nor would they ever be replaced in his heart.


Late in the afternoon Andrew took off his glasses and rubbed at his eyes.  At last he gave himself leave to take a break.  Grabbing a light jacket, he stepped into his back yard with the dogs.  They happily tore around the lawn, chasing each other.  Andrew laughed at their antics and then climbed up the ladder to the tree house.  He'd realized as he'd filmed Rose talking about it that it had been months since he'd spent any time there.  That evening seemed like a good time to remedy that.  He plopped onto one of the bean bag chairs and closed his eyes, needing to rest them.

"Is he sleeping?"  a voice asked after some minutes had passed.  "Aww, he looks so cute in his glasses."

Andrew opened one eye and grinned.  "Not sleeping.  And thank you."

Rose blushed but laughed.  "My aunt wanted me to bring you these cookies and I ran into Yva on the way to your place.  We saw the dogs playing outside and thought maybe you were up here."

"Is something wrong?" Yva checked.

"No, I think I just strained my eyes looking at the computer screen for so long.  But it's been worth it."  Andrew smiled as he thought about the documentary and showing it to all his friends.

Yva smiled back at him.  "I'm glad to see you smiling today.  You seemed a little... quiet at the karaoke singing last night."

"I can't get much past any of you, huh?" the angel looked at them with an arched eye brow and shy smile.

"I'm afraid not," Rose responded, taking a seat near him.  "Do you want to talk about anything, Andrew?"

"I don't know if I can..." he confessed.

"Why not?  Andrew, I think last month showed that you can trust us and that we can handle things," Yva pointed out.

Andrew nodded profusely.  "Oh, I know that.  I do and it means so much to me.  I only mean...  I mean if it just concerned me I'd tell you right now.  I would.  I promise!" he stressed.  "But I don't know how I can without betraying someone else's trust."

"Hmmm.  That is tough.  If someone said something that hurt or worried you do you think maybe you could, without telling exactly what they said or who said it, ask us about it?  Maybe we could make some sense of out it."  Rose looked expectantly at Andrew after she'd made her offer.

"I think that sounds like a reasonable idea, Andrew," Yva added. 

Andrew chuckled.  "Well, I wouldn't want to be unreasonable..."

"It would be a great disappointment," she joked, looking to Rose for agreement.  "I don't think we'd ever get over it."

"Never," Rose agreed, woefully shaking her head and then shooting Andrew a mischievous grin.

The angel laughed again.  "Okay.  You win.  I guess I just need to know... I mean everyone realizes that I don't...  I mean I care about all of you and love you but..."  Andrew grew flustered and stopped talking for a moment.

"Uh oh.  You didn't find more of those shipper stories did you?  I thought they might multiple like gremlins this time of year."

Andrew shook his head.  "No, I didn't, Yva.  It's not about that.  I guess what I'm trying to say is that I really care about each and every one of you.  We have some really great times around here.  I just hope everyone realizes that it's not... it's not all or nothing with me.  I want everyone to have happy lives and I understand that it doesn't mean palling around with me all the time.  And I'm really glad you have Sir Sven, Yva.  And, Rose, if you find someone then that's great.  But it's great if you don't, either.  As long as you're happy.  But if you did, I hope we could still be friends.  Or... or if something's bothering you, like maybe something that happened last month, please talk to me about it.  Even if you think it might hurt my feelings.  I'd rather have hurt feelings for a little while than... than lose you."

Yva and Rose looked at each other with confusion and concern as Andrew finished his ramble.

"Andrew, you're not going to lose us.  You know that!" Rose assured him.

Yva nodded.  "I doubt anyone's still grappling with anything from last month, either.  Except maybe some residual concern for you.  After all, you *have* checked with us about that, oh, a hundred times already," she gently teased.

Andrew laughed.  It was true.  He'd probably started to sound like a broken record. 

"If anyone's acting like you somehow failed them there then that's their issue.  Just give them time.  They'll come around."  Rose reached over and squeezed her friend's hand. 

Andrew smiled appreciatively at both of the women.  "Thanks, that's exactly what I needed to hear."

"Good.  So... any chance of a sneak peak of that video?" Yva requested, giving her best and most innocent smile to the angel who simply laughed and shook his head.

"So how was your day?" he asked them.

"Nice change of subject."  Rose smiled at him then handed him the box of cookies.

"Thanks, Rose."  Andrew gratefully accepted it and then set the box between them to share.  The three sat in the tree house, discussing their day and enjoying each other's company.  When it came time to part, Andrew felt infinitely better and more hopeful. 


Saturday, February 14th, 2009

It was just past 6:00 in the morning when Andrew got up and returned to the living room where his laptop waited.  He'd had every intention of staying up all night but, at last, woeful looks from Lulu and Fawn lured him to bed for a few hours.  He suspected it was only because he apparently made a comfortable pillow.

The angel watched the film in its entirety for the first time.  He was proud of his work but even happier with what his friends had brought to it.  He couldn't wait to show it to them.  He hoped they'd see all the love he had for Dyeland and for each of them.  And he hoped that all of them would be there to see it.


Finally, back in Nebraska...

JenniAnn snuck back into the room she was sharing with Veronica, noting that her cousin was still asleep.  She was mildly annoyed to find her so when everyone else had been up for hours, getting the house back in order, but it meant Veronica was quiet and she needed quiet.  Some members of the family had still not let JenniAnn hear the end of it about the "dress situation."

She stifled a laugh as she remembered Eli offering to take her to the funeral home with Sophia's burial ensemble Wednesday.  The angel and woman had dutifully packed up the tasteful, staid pink dress Veronica and her mother had picked out.  They'd reverently placed it in the backseat of Eli's car and drove off.  And there it had remained as they entered the mortuary and handed off the blue patchwork dress they'd stashed in the trunk.  There had been some outrage when the viewing had started but JenniAnn was unmoved.  She'd kept her promise and honored Sophia's long established wishes.

Eli had stayed through the funeral on Friday.  JenniAnn had last seen him at the luncheon after the graveside service.  He'd hugged her good bye and, as he stepped away, pressed something into her hand. 

As she stood in the room, JenniAnn pulled out the note and read it again.  "I never got to finish telling you something that I think you need to hear.  No matter what happened at the end, I never regretted the time I spent with your aunt.  Never.  Not once." 

With those words the angel of death had put to rest the fears she'd developed about Andrew's, Adam's, and Henry's future with the Dyelanders.  If she or any of the others were to share her aunt's fate, she knew with all her heart that they would never regret the time they'd shared.

As quietly as possible, JenniAnn sat down at the little desk.  She frowned when she realized her blue pen was no where to be found.  It had been low on ink when last she'd written but not yet dry.  She didn't think she'd thrown it away.  But then she had been terribly emotional at the time and there was no telling what she might have done.  She pulled the small wastebasket from under the desk.

"What the..." she muttered, pulling some of her stationery from it.  She knew she hadn't thrown any away.  She flipped the paper over and realized with a start that it was her letter to Andrew.  All three pages.  But there was still more paper.  Frantic, she pulled the other leafs out.  The first page was the cursive alphabet, upper and lower case... the alphabet as she would have written it.  On the second page there were shaky words.  "Andrew," "relationship," "JenniAnn," "untoward," "impossible," "sacrifice," "commitment," and so on.  As the list went on it looked more and more like her handwriting.  Filled with dread, she looked to the third page.

"Dear Andrew,
I'm writing you with the sad news of my aunt's passing.  On this grave occasion I have taken stock of my life and evaluated who and what I would like to be a part of it in the future.  I think it wise to say that your place in my future must be limited."

This was crossed out and a fourth page contained some variation of the same only angrier.  So this was why Andrew had stopped writing!  JenniAnn had thought perhaps Ronald had found it impossible to get the letters to her once the household became even busier following Sophia's death.  But now she realized with horror that Andrew had stopped writing because he thought she'd written him off!  JenniAnn felt nauseated and then began to shake with rage.

"What did you do?" she demanded loudly, turning around.

Veronica stirred.  "Huh?"

"What is this!?!?" JenniAnn shrieked, shaking the papers at her.

Veronica rolled her eyes.  "Relax.  I did you a favor.  It's been, what, nine years since this Andrew character surfaced?  And *nothing* has happened.  Nothing.  I mean I get fear of commitment but geez..."

"You... you... this is cruel!"  JenniAnn began frantically throwing her belongings into a bag.

"Do you really want to die like Aunt Sophia?  Do you want to live like her?  Alone!"

"She was NOT alone!  If you only knew..  And I wouldn't be either!"

"Well, right.  Not now.  I could tell there was something between you and that nurse guy."  Veronica winked.

JenniAnn stared at the younger woman, not sure whether to laugh or cry.  "You have no idea how absurdly ironic that statement is, Veronica.  And I...  I have to go.  I have to go home."  Not waiting for further protest, JenniAnn grabbed her things and left. 


Meanwhile in Dyeland...

Andrew stepped out of his house and stared up at the brilliant blue sky.  It was another perfect day.  It seemed almost a shame to be headed inside to the Café but he'd known it was the most fitting place for the viewing of the Second Annual Valentine's Documentary.  It had been the site of so many of their get-togethers. 

Andrew made his way to the Café.  Applause broke out when he entered.  Everyone was already there.  Almost.  He was unsurprised, though disappointed, that JenniAnn was not among the crowd.

"Hey, you haven't even seen it yet.  Maybe it's no good," he responded to the cheers.

"Aww, Andrew, we don't have to see it to know it's great!" Rose assured.

"Of course, that doesn't mean we don't want to see it," Yva added.  She motioned towards the computer that was hooked to a projector.

Andrew chuckled.  "Aren't we patient?" he teased.

"I think we've all waited long enough for your interviewing and editing debut, baby."  Tess hugged him.

Just then a cell phone rang.

"Sorry!" Catherine called, her face redding.  "Huh.  It's JenniAnn's mom."

The Café quieted. 

"Well, what do you mean she ran away?  No, I don't know..." Catherine's voice trailed off as the Café door flew open.  "She's here.  I'll call you back."

JenniAnn stood in the doorway, her face red from running.

Josef eyed her suspiciously but, being nearest to the door, handed her a glass of water and led her to a chair.

Andrew cut through the crowd and approached her.  He didn't say anything, he didn't know what to say.

"Take a deep breath," Adam urged.  "Did you run all the way from Nebraska?" he teased.

JenniAnn took a deep breath as directed then laughed.  "Just from the willow tree.  Very outta shape, apparently.  But I had help getting to a portal back there."

"You made it back in just enough time to see what Andrew made!" Rose gushed.  She sobered then.  "Oh, hey, how are you with everything with your aunt?"

"I have lots to say about that.  But first...  I think I need to explain some things to everyone.  About... about the letter," she began, her voice shaking.

"What letter?" Yva asked.

"The letter Andrew got," JenniAnn clarified.

"Huh?"  Yva looked at her, confused.  "I knew you two were exchanging letters.  There's nothing wrong with that.  A lot of us do."

"No, I mean the mean letter!"

"You wrote Andrew a mean letter?" Lady Beth asked, aghast.

"Yes.  I mean no!  I mean he must have thought I did!"

Andrew jolted and, at last, made eye contact with the woman.  "Y-you didn't write it?" he asked.

"Andrew didn't tell you?" JenniAnn demanded, her eyes flitting from one person to the next.

"Psyche, it would seem no one here knows what either of you are speaking of so please, do explain," Vincent prodded gently. 

"You didn't write it?" Andrew asked again, that time louder.

JenniAnn had started to cry and shook her head.  Next thing anyone knew she'd leapt up and was hugging Andrew fiercely.

"I'm going to interpret that as a 'no.'"  Josef, feeling incredibly relieved, smiled.

"I would really like to know what was in that letter," Beth whispered to Mick who chuckled and then self-consciously covered it.

"Why didn't you tell them?" JenniAnn demanded once she'd stepped away from Andrew.

"I...," Andrew began, "I wasn't sure how.  Oh, Laja, I'm so glad you didn't write that.  So glad."  He smiled at her and handed her a tissue.

"He thought you deserved the chance the explain yourself to everyone.  I thought he deserved to be able to talk things over with his friends.  Andrew disagreed," Josef clarified.

"Man, you knew about this letter?" Mick questioned.

"I was there when it arrived and the whole advanced reading comprehension thing... I'd read the letter without even realizing I'd started."

"Was this letter what that conversation in the tree house was about, Andrew?" Rose asked. 

The angel looked from Rose to Yva and nodded. 

Henry cleared his throat.  "I consider myself a patient angel but if one more person uses the word 'letter' without explaining what's going on, I may need to start screaming," he interjected with a smile.

"Okay, well, since I allegedly sent the letter... I'll go," JenniAnn volunteered.  She told them everything.  About her aunt and Eli, about how much she'd missed them all, about Eli's being her Source, and, lastly, about Veronica's cruel trick.

"Eli pulled up just as I ran out of the house.  He was the one that got me back.  Good thing, too.  Not sure I coulda run the twenty miles to the nearest portal.  I wanted to see everyone so badly but I... I had to see you."  She gazed up at Andrew, trying to read his thoughts and twisting her signet ring around her finger. 

Andrew smiled at the gesture but his head continued to spin.  It was a lot to take in all at once. 

"Are you okay, Andrew?" Lady Beth checked.

"I just can't believe how every thing's worked out," he admitted then faced JenniAnn.  "I'm very, very glad you came back and that you're not angry with me but your family..."

"I'll go back tomorrow to smooth things over but... I have two families, Andrew.  And today I want to be with this one."  She beamed at all the people clustered around.  "And... I think I can speak for the entire family when I say we *really* want to see that video."

A cheer went up from the group.  Andrew smiled and proceeded to the projector.  Before he turned it on he looked to all his friends.  "I just want to thank everyone who participated and who gave me the chance to do this.  Originally JenniAnn was going to interview me about the love I feel for this place and everyone gathered here.  But even if she had, I'm not sure I could have done a good job of telling you that.  I hope that this shows you."  He beamed at them all then let the footage roll.

They watched, laughing and crying, as the interviews unfolded.  As random images of the past few days, and even some from late December's Andrewcam footage, rolled on, a song began to play.  Andrew bowed his head as it began.  In a few bars it had perfectly encapsulated everything he felt for the people around him and now they would always know.
"If you knew how much this moment means to me
And how long I've waited for your touch.
If you knew how happy you are making me.
I never thought I'd love anyone so much.
Feels like home to me.
Feels like home to me.
Feels like I'm on my way back to where I come from."

Unbeknownst to the Dyelanders, two figures stood in the back of the room watching with them and smiling benevolently upon them. 

"Extraordinary!" Sophia exclaimed, her youthful face lighting up with amazement.

Eli nodded.  "They are.  I'm glad the Father sent us here.  I always wanted you to see Dyeland and know for yourself the kid's okay.  She's happy.  They're all happy."

"I can tell."  The spirit sighed contentedly.  "So are you still going to be sneaking JenniAnn those photos?"

The angel laughed.  "Oh now that's just too much fun to give up.  Besides, I wouldn't want to deprive the ladies.  But maybe I shouldn't be so exclusive.  Henry and Adam had some great moments, too."  He gave a playful wink to his friend.

Sophia tilted her head as she stared at the three angels of death.

"What is it?"

"I'm just trying to imagine what they'd look like in powdered wigs..."

Eli's laugh grew.  "Why don't we just go see?"

Sophia giggled and followed him out the door.  Just before they exited they looked once more at the crowd of people.  They prayed that the Father would always hold them together just as He had kept them together for over fifty years.

As they stepped into the sunlight Eli began to hum.

"'Pennies from Heaven,'" Sophia recognized.  "It was playing that first day I saw you."

"So it was."  The angel turned and bowed to the woman.  "May I have this dance?"

"You may, sir."  Sophia smiled and took Eli's hand.  They danced as a great light grew around them and took them Home.


JenniAnn stared across the room to where Andrew stood, animatedly discussing something with Sir Sven.

"What you thinking?" Rose asked, returning to the table she was sharing with JenniAnn, Lady Beth, Countess Jennifer, and Yva. 

"He's lovely..." JenniAnn murmured.

Rose laughed.  "You won't get any argument from me."

"I'm not sure what that letter said but from what I gathered it was none too nice.  Most people woulda called up their friends and railed on the sender if they got something like that," JenniAnn continued.

"Does it really surprise you that Andrew didn't do that?" Yva asked.  "He had a choice between his wishes and yours.  And he chose to honor yours... or at least what he thought were yours."

"It's not at all surprising to me," Lady Beth interjected, glancing at the angel who was completely oblivious to the fact that he was the subject of their conversation.

"No, it's not.  But it's just made me realize all the more that he's..."

"Lovely?" Countess Jennifer interrupted JenniAnn with a grin.

The blonde woman blushed but smiled and nodded.

There were a few moments of silence then as they took in the celebration around them.  Then Rose spoke.

"So this Eli and your aunt...  Did you ever...  I mean did you ever find yourself looking at them and wondering..." she trailed off.

"About our future?" JenniAnn guessed.

Rose nodded.

"More than I care to admit."

"Did you talk to Eli about it?" Yva inquired.

"Yes.  A little.  And he said... he said..."  JenniAnn's voice faltered at the memory.

"He said he didn't regret anything."

The ladies turned to discover that Andrew had drawn nearer and had heard their conversation.

"You talked to Eli?" Countess Jennifer asked.  "When?"

Andrew shook his head.  "No.  I will, though.  But I know what he said because I know what I'd say."  He took a chair at the table, his gaze traveling from one to the other.  "I would say that I was grateful for every moment we had together.  I was grateful for the love and friendship.  And that no matter what happened, I would always be grateful for this gift the Father had given me in all of you."  Andrew smiled at them. 

"I think that's call for a group hug," Yva suggested, the first to have the power of speech returned to her after Andrew's declaration.

The other five agreed with her suggestion and hugged.  As they drew apart, a microphone screeched.

"Yikes."  Adam, standing on the small stage used for karaoke, put his hands over his ears then touched the microphone.  He was satisfied with the dull thumping noise and smiled.  "Let's try this again.  I was thinking that it just wouldn't be a Dyeland celebration without some dancing.  And I think I know the perfect song to get us started."  The angel of death beamed at his friends and then looked at the juke box.  It turned on and struck up with the opening chords of Dyeland's unofficial anthem. 

"Ladies?"  Andrew smiled at his friends and motioned to the makeshift dance floor.  With smiles and laughter the entire group danced in the Café, feeling grateful to God for the many types of love that made up their lives in Dyeland and everywhere else they felt at home. 

"There’s a place I go when I’m alone.
Do anything I want.  Be anyone I wanna be.
But it is us I see and I cannot believe I’m fallin'.
That’s where I’m goin'.  Where are you goin?
Hold it close won’t let this go."

Andrew realized anew how appropriate the lyrics were.  No matter what the future brought, he would always have this place and these friends.  Every person in the Café realized how important the bonds they shared were and nothing would ever make them let that love go.

The End

The Touched by an Angel episodes referenced here are "Two Sides to Every Angel" and "Great Expectations" (where the Taylor quote came from.)

The Moonlight episode referenced is "Sonata."

The song Andrew chose for the video was "Feels Like Home."  I chose the Randy Newman version only to find out it's actually his song.  Groovy.

The unofficial Dyeland theme song is "Dream Catch Me" by Newton Faulkner.

Many thanks again to everyone who participated! 

Here's the play list for anyone interested: