February 11th, 2010
Once they'd set up their cameras,
Andrew and JenniAnn checked on the turkey pens with Adam whose
interview was starting their fourth day of interviews.
They thought their visit to his feathered friends was nearly through
when he brought them to a small, shed-like building. "And this
mom and dad didn't seem to get the memo about hatching season being in
May and June. I had to build this to keep the lil guys warm."
"Babies!" JenniAnn practically shrieked, setting off an echo of
piercing turkey chick cries. "Oh! They're so
Andrew laughed. "Laja, are there baby anythings that you don't
"Snakes. Although they're slightly less... less cute when
babies. But... still not cute. Oh..." She knelt down
to get a better look. "How old are they?"
"About three weeks," Adam answered rather proudly. "Would you
like to hold one?"
"Won't the mom and dad be upset?"
"If these were wild turkeys, probably. But these ones are used to
visitors." Adam gently scooped a baby up and handed it to
"Hello, sweetheart," she cooed. "Look at your pretty feathers."
Adam looked at Andrew questioningly. He loved the turkeys but
pretty? He wasn't so sure.
Andrew only shrugged and sat down to pet the turkey. It tilted
its head into his palm.
"Oh! She... he... whatever likes you!" JenniAnn
murmured. She looked on fondly as Andrew pet and held the
turkey. He'd opted for a bit more formal outfit that day, donning
a white shirt, red tie, gray cardigan, yet he didn't seem to mind at
all as the turkey left a trail of cedar and tiny feathers all over the
"I won't know the gender for a few weeks but I think he or she likes
both. The mom and dad are two of my more people and angel
friendly birds so I think I might have my hands full with this
brood! They could wind up clingier than Alexander," Adam pondered.
"Clingy isn't always bad," JenniAnn responded rather pointedly.
"No, it's not," Adam assured. "But I really think I'd rather have
a lady follow me into the kitchen and insist on eating at the table
instead of a grown turkey. Turkeys are much messier than girls."
Andrew and JenniAnn looked incredulously at Adam.
"I'm serious! Alexander actually managed to fly into my kitchen
window and was sitting in a chair... looking at me expectantly when I
came back with my orange juice planning on a nice, quiet meal
alone!" Adam chuckled and shook his head in dismay.
"So what did you do?" Andrew asked.
"I love the guy but I was not sharing a table with a turkey. It's
just not right. So... I had dinner by his pen."
"Aww! You're awesome, Luscious!" JenniAnn beamed up at him.
"I think Tess would have gone with crazy but I'll take awesome.
Thanks," Adam returned her smile then pulled out his pocket
watch. "I hate to rush but the Father just told me I have a
tentative at 10:02 so maybe we should get the interview started.
I promise you can both come back and see the babies again. I
don't even mind if you stay after I leave."
"Cool, yes, let's start." JenniAnn cuddled the baby then returned
him or her to Adam. The three watched as it snuggled back amidst
its siblings. Then they moved to a blanket they'd sat near the
pond and immediately began the interview.
"Adam, buddy," Andrew started, "thanks for letting us interview
you. You've chosen 'love and humor.' It seemed perfect to
JenniAnn nodded and smiled at Adam. "It was a lotta fun to come
up with questions for."
"Yes, definitely. And the first thing we'd like to know is if you
can share about a time you've used your sense of humor to really help
someone you love?" Andrew asked.
Adam bestowed a sheepish grin on them both. "When have I not used
it? Actually, cheekiness aside, there have been moments when
humor was the only thing I had at my disposal. It was sort of my
way of conveying what I felt at that particular moment or time.
Sometimes people have misunderstood me, but that's sometimes the only
way I could show my assignments or other angels that I care. Love
and laughter seem to go hand in hand, at least from my point of
view. Just look at how fondly Dyelanders regard Alexander and his
brothers and sisters and the two of you with those babies."
JenniAnn looked longingly back to the shed.
"Later," Andrew promised.
Adam chuckled. "Thanks for making my point. If I hadn't
joked with Tess that year about the 'noble turkey', then things
would perhaps be different than they turned out to be. We may not
have had the heartache of fixing turkey pens or keeping them from
drowning when they try to get off of Tourkia, of course."
"I think the good... and cuteness... definitely out weighs the bad,"
JenniAnn responded. "And I, for one, am very glad you took on
Tess. Dyeland just wouldn't be the same without Alexander and
Company! So, along the same lines, can you tell a little about a
time someone used humor to show how much they care about you?"
Adam contemplated his many memories. "I can't really recall any
Dyeland incidents, but I do recall the conversation I mentioned just
now with Tess about the turkey as the national bird. When she
made that comment about Ben Franklin being a loud mouth who didn't know
better than to come in out of the rain, I genuinely was amused.
Of course, I would be the first angel to admit that she probably did
not mean it that way and instead of being humorous, she was being
Andrew shrugged. "Whatever her intentions were, I'm for anything
that brings us a smile during assignments."
"True. There was another time when you and I were jamming in the
Cafe and something amusing happened. I don't remember what
specifically, I just remember being happy, but not really knowing
why. I suppose if I stopped and thought about it, there would be
a great many moments when something someone here said or did would make
me laugh or smile. It's just hard to pin down the specifics in a
ten minute interview."
"I understand that. Sometimes I wish I remembered more about all
we've experienced than I do. Maybe that's why I make all those
scrapbooks. But a general sense of happiness and well-being is
probly more important, anyhow," JenniAnn concluded.
"I think so," Adam agreed.
"How we doing on time?" Andrew checked.
"I have fifteen minutes."
"I don't think we'll have any problem getting through these next three
before you need to leave. Let's start with..." Andrew had
Adam's set of questions... or so he thought. He'd drawn a
blank. Clearly he had too much on his mind.
"Being serious," JenniAnn reminded.
"Right, thanks! Speaking of wishing we could remember
more..." He let out a self-deprecating laugh. "Adam, do you
ever find it difficult to know when someone might be helped by humor
versus when they really need you to be serious?"
The elder angel of death shook his head. "Not really, because I
do know that there is a time to be serious and a time when humor is a
workable solution. I don't want to give off the impression that I
don't know when to be serious and when joking is acceptable. I
honestly do know when it's appropriate. Some may think that I'm a
very blunt or dry humored angel, but the Father creates all kinds, and
somewhere out there, there's an applicable place or situation for
someone with my, shall we say, gifts? Yet, with that said, I do
know the distinctions and so it's not really that difficult for me to
decipher between the two.
"I'm not surprised. I love it when you make me laugh but you've
also been there for all of us at much more serious times and you were
amazing then, too," JenniAnn complimented. "I'm very fond of your
gift. I know we all are... even Tess."
"Thanks, Lady Luscious. I'm glad about that." Adam squeezed
her hand and smiled.
JenniAnn returned it then moved onto her next question. "So
speaking of that gift of humor, I wonder how often you come across it
in others. Do you often have assignments who use humor to show
their love to others?"
Adam nodded with enthusiasm. "All the time, and some of their
creative outlets leave me constantly amazed. Recently, Yva showed
me a film that outlined that idea perfectly. It was called The Court Jester
was a very amusing film, but it also had very touching moments with the
main character. During certain moments he could be quite comical
and funny, but during other moments, he was a rather soft spoken, kind,
and loving individual. I hope that I emulate that same sort of
idea, although not as slapstick-like as the film depicted."
"I can't say I ever caught that one but I'm sure ya do!" JenniAnn
"Me too. Although I've definitely seen you in some slapstick
moments. In fact, the whole Alexander at the table incident..."
Andrew raised an eye brow and grinned at his friend.
Adam chuckled. "That was definitely a slapstick moment. I
"Maybe ya should do a lil recap for the others since we didn't record
that bit," JenniAnn suggested.
Thinking it a good idea, Adam did so.
Once Andrew had stopped laughing, he gave Adam his final
question. "Have you always been humorous or is that a trait
that's developed over the years?"
"Am I really funny?" Adam questioned.
"Definitely!" JenniAnn assured.
Adam smiled. "Thanks, I'm glad you think I am. But for
me... I mean; that's a really interesting question. It's
sort of the same when Yva told me about someone asking her if she sang
well. She said that she didn't know how to answer that because
the question was quite subjective. I suppose the same sort
of response could be conveyed about my humor. I like to
make people laugh and smile. You might think I'm funny, but
someone else might think I am a total fool. As for how long I
have been this way, I don't really know. Maybe I
always have been to some extent. I have truthfully never
fully contemplated whether or not it is present, so I would say it's
been a gradual change. I know that I didn't wake up this morning
say 'I think I'll be funny today or make you laugh'. I
that any character trait happens from one day to the next, it is all
gradual and develops through the person's experiences."
"Cool, sounds right to me." JenniAnn frowned. "And as for
people that may think you're a fool... well, I'd feel sorry for
them. They're missing out on knowing a great person."
"I would, too," Andrew agreed.
"Thanks. And as much as I would love to remain here and be
showered with praise, I have to head out," Adam jested.
"Alright. We can reschedule the praise shower for later,"
JenniAnn joked back.
Adam hugged her. "Something tells me you actually would schedule
something like that."
"And decorate for it and print invitations," Andrew teased.
JenniAnn stepped away from Adam and began to help Andrew with taking
cameras down. "You know me so well."
"That and Andrew knows that we need little excuse to throw a party,"
Andrew chuckled. "There is that." He stepped away from the
camera case he was packing and hugged his fellow angel of death.
"Well, buddy, I hope your tentative goes well and I guess we'll see you
Sunday if not before?"
"Count me in. You two enjoy your interviews and if you stick
around, have fun with the turkeys. Just make sure the pens all
get closed. I don't want my kitchen invaded again." Adam
winked then strode away and disappeared.
Andrew and JenniAnn finished stowing away their cameras then made one
last check on the turkey babies. They were fast asleep and they
both laughed to find themselves yawning.
"I need more chai," JenniAnn whispered as they exited the shed.
Andrew shook his head. "I think you need more sleep."
JenniAnn shrugged as they stepped out into the sunlight. "Okay,
but I *want* more chai... although you're especially cute when you're
being all... advisory."
"Yet not cute enough to be listened to?" Andrew smirked.
"Yes, definitely cute enough. But I'm stubborn enough to resist!"
The angel of death laughed. "Alright. If you're not going
to rest, I
advise that we head to the Cafe. It'd be good to go over Nigel's
questions one more time and I think I could manage a scone and some
"Second breakfast! We can eat like hobbits!"
Andrew smiled. "Sure. So let's head on back to the Shire if
"Definitely. The chai and scones are calling me."
"Might want to see a doctor about that. Sounds like a
hallucination to me."
JenniAnn laughed giddily then started a race to the shore, not even
minding that she was doomed to lose.
As he sat across from JenniAnn in a
booth at the Cafe, Andrew glanced over the note card she had
written their questions for Nigel on.
"I've been psyched for all our interviews but I think this'll be really
good," JenniAnn gushed. She lowered her voice. "And kinda
help with the residual feelings from the Mick and Beth issue."
Andrew looked up when the door bell jingled. "Speaking of
Beth..." He tilted his head towards the door. "Isn't this
her usual work time?"
JenniAnn craned her neck to see that Beth was, indeed, standing near
the door. "She looks a lil daunted."
"I'm going to see if she wants to come join us." Andrew stood up
and walked towards the newcomer. "Hey, Beth. You meeting
Beth smiled with relief at Andrew. "Oh, no. I just got
called away really early so didn't get any breakfast. I thought
you'd mentioned the scones here being really great so I thought I'd
"They definitely are. In fact, JenniAnn and I were just having
some." He indicated where JenniAnn sat waving. "If you want
you can join us. Although if you have work to do, we understand."
Beth shook her head. "No! I said I was taking a break and I
meant it. I'd love to join you! Let me just put in my order
and I'll be right there."
"Great!" Andrew smiled at her before returning to JenniAnn.
"She'll be right over."
"How'd she seem?"
"Just fine, actually."
JenniAnn sighed with relief. "Good."
In no time at all, Beth had returned with her tea and scone.
Andrew and JenniAnn waited for her verdict. "Oh, yeah...
They're definitely delicious!" she declared with a contented
smile. "I should come here more often."
"You should! So how are you?" JenniAnn asked, careful to keep any
leading tone out of her voice.
"Oh... good moments and bad moments. This... this is a heavenly
moment," she declared before taking another bite. She glanced at
Andrew then. "In more ways than one, I guess!"
Andrew chuckled. "It's good to see you smile."
Beth shrugged. "I realized I had to pull myself together for
work. Plus... I don't know... there's just something very calming
about being here."
"I'm glad you feel that way and I hope you stay as long as you like,"
Beth took a sip of her tea then began to carefully fold her
napkin. "What would your feelings be about me... living here?"
she asked. "It's okay to say no. I can get another
apartment. I just... I guess I'm liking this work in L.A., live
JenniAnn absently stirred her chai.
Andrew knew it was up to him to respond. "Wow, well, yeah.
You can definitely move here. I know no one would object.
But, Beth, is that what you really want? Or is it just what feels
safest right now?"
Beth blinked. "Wow. You get right to the point."
Andrew patted her hand. "I guess because sometimes I don't have a
lot of time with people before I move on. I just want you to take
your time is all. We'll always be here for you. If that
means some place to stay for a while, we can give you that. If it
means a home, we can give you that, too. But there's no reason to
rush into deciding which it is."
Beth smiled. "I understand. And thanks. I just feel
so... in limbo."
"Have you..." JenniAnn drifted off.
"Talked to Mick?" Beth shook her head. "I called Josef,
though. I think Mick was nearby. He was very...
vague. But I got the impression Mick was upset." She bowed
her head. "I may have over-reacted. But I also can't
completely dismiss what that fight brought up. I love him.
I said some hard things that night but... it didn't change that.
But what I've come back to countless times since then is... where's the
future in this?" She saw that JenniAnn looked somewhat frightened
by the question so turned her attention to Andrew.
"I'm not sure, Beth," Andrew responded. "But I also know... from
experience... that no one is ever guaranteed a future with the one they
love. At least... not in this life. I think what you need
to ask yourself and what Mick needs to ask himself is something
JenniAnn actually brought up." He smiled at her, thinking she
might want to take over. The wary look in her eyes spurred him
on. "If a cure isn't found then these next few years are probably
going to be, well, the easiest for you. Do you want to spend them
angry at each other and wasting that time? And what if the cure
is found? How are you going to feel if you spent these years
avoiding each other, loving each other from a distance, when you could
have been building a life?"
Beth sighed and bit her lip. "I'd feel pretty lousy either
way. But... maybe it doesn't matter what I feel. Mick is
dead set against somehow being a drain on me... limiting me.
Which, come to think of it, is what I worry about for him... when I'm
Andrew smiled. "Funny how two people can have the same worry but
never really talk about it, huh?" he asked pointedly.
Beth lowered her head and smiled. "Are you saying I should be
having this conversation with Mick?"
Andrew patted her hand. "It's a thought."
JenniAnn beamed at Andrew. It was like seeing him at work,
something she seldom had a chance to do.
"I just need a little more time to myself... to think things through
but... I tend to think that when an angel makes a suggestion, it's
worth following. After all, you were right about the
scones." Beth took another bite and rewarded Andrew with a goofy
The discussion left all three feeling much more hopeful... and just
Late that afternoon, Andrew and JenniAnn
made their second
trip in the week to Heavenly Playground. They briefly chatted
with Yva and Sir Sven who they found tending to their yard and the
bunnies then proceeded to Autumn Wind where Nigel was waiting for
The guardian angel showed them into his parlor and they took some time
to admire the changes in decor he'd made since last they'd been
there. It felt strange to them to be setting up their digital
cameras in such a stately room from another era. Nigel only
looked on, impressed by their ease in handling contraptions that
"Are you ready, Nigel?" JenniAnn asked once they were set up.
He nodded and took a seat in his favorite armchair, across from the
settee where his interviewers would be sitting. He gaped at the
Andrew knew, despite having sat through two of these in past years,
Nigel was still made uneasy by the cameras. "You know, when I saw
my first camera, I was pretty taken aback. I could understand why
some people were upset by them," he recalled, hoping to let Nigel know
his nervousness was understandable. "But now I'm glad we have
them. It's great looking back on these videos or flipping through
scrap books and photo albums."
Nigel nodded. "Yes, I must admit I enjoyed coming together to
view the interviews. It has certainly been a blessing, as well,
to be able to obtain so many likenesses of my friends here."
"I bet. I love having photos of my loved ones around," JenniAnn
agreed with a breezy, calming smile.
"There is one of Yva in her garden of which I'm quite fond," the
guardian angel mused.
"I've always loved that one of the two of you standing near the gazebo
just a ways from here," JenniAnn continued. "I dunno why.
It just really captures ya both, I guess."
"I think one of my favorites is the one we took last year at the
Valentine's party. Everyone looks so happy." Andrew smiled
at the memory.
JenniAnn sighed. "I was deliriously happy."
Andrew blushed. He knew why that had been the case.
Nigel's smile traveled from one to the other. "We were quite
happy to have you back with us and Andrew very relieved that you had
not penned that hurtful note. Have you, ah, spoken to that cousin
of yours since?"
"Oh... I made my feelings known," JenniAnn responded with a grin.
Andrew chuckled. He knew the full story was a little more
colorful than she was telling Nigel. JenniAnn had a vindictive
streak and slights against him brought it out full force. Thus,
the meddling Veronica had woken up one morning to her own note.
It had said simply "I love Andrew," written 505 times... once for each
cruel word Veronica had written to him. Finally, it had been
signed simply "Your loving cousin."
"I hope that helped you move past what occurred."
"That it definitely did, Nigel!" JenniAnn beamed at him then
The angel of death could see that the exchange had put Nigel at ease
and he was going to inquire about starting when Nigel beat him to it.
"Shall we begin, then?"
"We'd love to! I'm so excited about this topic. So Andrew
agreed to let me ask the first question about courtship and love in the
19th century!" JenniAnn enthused. "And so... could you give us an
overview of sorts about Victorian courtship, please?"
"To start, I must say that it would take quite some time to elaborate
on the traditions of courtship in my time," Nigel began. "There
are vast differences between that and what transpires in today’s
world. Romantic love is the primary requirement in that
sense. In order to court a lady a gentleman must make his
intentions known. He cannot simply approach a lady and ask her
out. They must go through a formal introduction first and then he
would present her with his card. The lady would then look over
the options and through giving her card to the gentleman, then he would
know that she was interested in knowing him."
"Kinda like how nowadays prospective dates exchange phone numbers and
email addies... only fancier?" JenniAnn asked.
Nigel was thrown by the idea. "And how is that done?"
"I dunno. I think they just write them down on a napkin or scrap
paper or something."
The guardian angel tried to hide his dismay at the idea of using a
napkin in place of one's card. "Perhaps something like that,
yes. I am not quite sure how it is done in your time."
JenniAnn blushed. "To be honest... I'm not, either." She
smiled when Andrew briefly sat his hand on her shoulder. "Okay,
after the card exchange then?"
"The gentleman would then escort the lady home," Nigel continued.
"The act of courting would take place in the lady’s home and under the
watchful eye of the parents. There is generally a chaperone
present and marriage proposals are handwritten messages. Of
course, this is based on a class system. In lower classes the
traditions may vary."
"Thanks, Nigel, for that great overview! Andrew, you're up next."
"This sort of came up with the card versus napkin discussion but what
aspects of Victorian courtship do you find to be better than modern
courtship rituals, Nigel?" the angel inquired.
"I find the traditions of my time to be quite stringent, but many are
nice, and it seems much safer than a young lady trying to infer if
someone is interested in a relationship with her through a dance club
or a movie house." Nigel looked to JenniAnn, concerned he might
seem to be putting down her own era.
She shrugged. "I've always thought that must be so
nerve-wracking. The very idea makes my head spin!"
"Mine, as well. I am not sure I could work as Andrew does,
occasionally lending counsel to couples in your era."
JenniAnn recalled earlier at the Cafe with Beth. "Oh... he does
remarkably well," she complimented.
"Thank you. But I had my stumbles through the Victorian era so I
imagine Nigel could teach me a thing or two." Andrew smiled at
their subject. "Is there anything else?"
Nigel nodded. "Indeed. To me, telephone conversations seem
rather impersonal, and I like watching as young ladies receive a
proposal in a neatly written letter. That is, to many young
ladies, the most romantic aspect of courtship. The proposal
letter is quite a lovely item, and I am certain that today, many ladies
would treasure that."
"I'm sure. I treasure letters that aren't even proposals so...
definitely," JenniAnn agreed. "I mean I'm all for the whole down
on one knee with a ring thing a la my parents and Vincent and Catherine
but I bet lotsa ladies would love to have a letter to reread.
That was a really nice answer. Thanks, Nigel!"
"My pleasure. I quite enjoy speaking of my time. Before we
move on, can I get either of you more tea?" he checked.
Andrew and JenniAnn shook their heads. The latter waited for
Nigel to fix his own cup then moved on. "As the counterpoint to
what Andrew asked, are there any aspects that you think have improved
in modern times?"
"I believe that the family always having control and dominant influence
over a couple has become somewhat lightened in today’s world."
Nigel frowned as he recalled some examples of how deeply troubling such
enmeshment could be.
JenniAnn could nearly see Andrew's mind drifting back through the
years, as well. However, she only patted his hand and focused her
attention on Nigel as he continued to speak.
"Whenever I stop and consider the vast challenges that many individuals
face in today’s world regarding their family, I must say that I am
quite happy that the couples have managed to court one another with a
focus on the couple as opposed to the outside family influences," Nigel
"I recall watching this film, My
Big Fat Greek Wedding
, and seeing traces of the past in the
present day, so perhaps people are finding that sense of balance in
their relationships with one another."
"I think so. Many weddings I go to have a lot of traditional
elements to em," JenniAnn mused.
"And that's great to see as long as they're traditions the couple
wishes to uphold. And many do. I've also been to some
weddings where families found really inventive ways to compromise,"
Andrew added. "Some even incorporate Victorian traditions even if
they don't realize it. And it's not just weddings. Laja,
that's where your 'language of flowers' you like so much came in."
"Yeah, I think I read that somewhere... or maybe you told me
before. That's definitely a cool tradition!"
Nigel smiled. "I am pleased that some traditions have continued
to flourish, even in Dyeland."
"Me too." Andrew responded, smiling himself. "But moving on
from the romantic aspects of love in the 19th century, do you see many
general changes in other types of love from the Victorian era to the
2000s? Like the bonds between parents and children, friends,
"Actually, I do see the love that emanates during both times, it is
simply demonstrated in different ways. The bonds between parents
and children are perhaps the most empowering when one considers the
distinctions between my time and today. I must say that with all
of the advantages of today, I tend to prefer the days of old, where the
word of a person meant more than it does in this day and age."
"I do miss that," Andrew agreed.
JenniAnn let out a melancholy sigh but seeing that Nigel was growing
concerned, smiled at him to encourage him to continue.
"I must also say something with regard to the distinctions between
carrying oneself in a friendly and casual manner as opposed to a formal
mode of address," the guardian angel pressed on. "This is present
in many languages outside of English, but in the past it existed
whereas today, there is no distinction."
"Yeah, I remember learning that in Spanish class and wondering how we
modern English speakers lost that. I mean, sure, we have 'thee'
and 'thou' but no one really says that much," JenniAnn pointed
out. "Cept sometimes in
Nigel nodded. "I must admit I have not heard it much at all in
your time. Perhaps that is what I miss the most when I look at
the past in relation to today. I hope you understand what I am
saying. It is not to say that the way individuals relate to one
another is false, but when I recall the day I first made myself known
to Yva, she asked me why I was behaving in such a formal way with
her. She did not understand that that was my way, and perhaps
that is the grandest of all distinctions between the two; whether it is
the love expressed between parents, children, friends, or those whom
"Could be," JenniAnn responded. "It's definitely cultural.
I can understand Yva being thrown."
"It's definitely been interesting watching the languages evolve,"
Andrew added. He smiled brightly. "But the love's still
there and that makes me very happy."
"Most assuredly," Nigel agreed.
"And now... wow, last question already?" JenniAnn glanced at
Andrew for confirmation.
He nodded. "These have really been flying by."
"I hope our interview subjects have felt the same way!"
Nigel laughed. "I am quite sure they have. I have found
this discussion to be delightful."
"Aww, good!" JenniAnn smiled gratefully at him. "So... last
question and it's my personal favorite. Nigel, can you give us an
example of something truly loving you've seen in your time?"
"I recall seeing the empowering love between a young man and a
lady. Unlike the issue depicted in your first question, the
lady’s home life was rather an unhappy situation," he recalled.
"The young man came from a family rich in nobility and the young lady
was surrounded by her alcoholic father and brothers who demanded her
attention to work and home. She was the only girl in this family
and it was expected of her. They did not wish to let her go
because of her working the home. The young man was quite
determined to bring her to his home, contrary to the objections of his
family. Eventually, the couple found their way to one another
through the Father’s love."
JenniAnn had been holding her breath but exhaled with relief.
"Yes, it was one of the most empowering and emotional assignments that
I have ever had." Nigel's smile grew as he recalled that joyous
day. "I was quite honoured to be there for them and when they
married, there was a great celebration of their love. It was a
beautiful event that detracted from tradition, but showed that even in
the most stringent of places and times, that the power of love is the
most beautiful and wonderful of things."
Andrew smiled. "And I think we can all agree with that no matter
when we were born!"
"Oh, yes, definitely. And when was that again?" JenniAnn asked,
looking innocently at Andrew.
Nigel laughed. "Yva spoke to me of the game you share with Rose."
"They're very persistent about it," Andrew informed good-naturedly.
"That probly wouldn't be considered very good in your time would it?"
the woman asked.
Nigel considered the question. "I believe young ladies of my time
were, perhaps... more delicate in seeking information about their
JenniAnn giggled. "I think that's a very polite way of telling me
to leave you alone, Andrew."
He chuckled. "Thanks, Nigel."
JenniAnn shrugged. "Eh, it's not as much fun without Rose,
"Good point. But now how about we get these cameras down?"
"I'm all for that. They really look clunky in here."
JenniAnn wrinkled her nose as she eyed the cameras and their tripods,
obscuring a gorgeous curio and grandfather clock. "I'm glad that
some of your time's traditions made it into my own, Nigel. But
I'm really not that fond of my time's technology in the midst of this!"
"It does not seem quite right," Nigel agreed. He was greatly
relieved when Andrew and JenniAnn had their equipment packed away and
the room was once more the peaceful, elegant yet cozy parlor of his
After spending some time visiting with the guardian angel, Andrew and
JenniAnn returned to Willowveil where they were greeted by excited,
hungry dogs. After getting both their pets and themselves fed and
out for a walk, the two settled in her office for a long night of
editing the day's interviews. Time consuming as the work was,
Andrew and JenniAnn were aware at every moment that it was a gift to
see the people they cared so much about talk so passionately and
tenderly about what they and the Father held so dear: love.
Neither had any sense that, by the following night, the friendship
Andrew and his friends
had all come to count on in their own ways would be forever altered.
February 12th, 2010
JenniAnn waved as the last of the Tunnel
children left the classroom chamber. She was picking up books
when Andrew entered.
"Aww, you missed the kids!" she lamented.
"I caught most of them in the hall, headed to lunch. So how was
class? Did you fall asleep?" he questioned.
"No, I did *not* fall asleep, Mr. Sleep Patrol. And we were only
up til 1:00, anyhow."
Andrew's eye brows raised, characteristically. "Only?"
"That's actually not that late considering some of my night
owl escapades during college," JenniAnn smiled wistfully recalling the
nights spent reading poetry beneath the starry sky and waiting for
Andrew to return so she could quiz him about whatever had come up in
her history class... the remembrances were even more alive to her as
the present-day Andrew looked quite teacherly in his khakis, white
button-down, and red sweater vest. "Anyhow, I'll catch up on
sleep after the
14th," she added after shaking herself from her reverie. "I just
really wanted to go through what we got
yesterday. It doesn't seem like we should already be down to our
last two interviews! I'm kinda glad Eli's isn't til
tomorrow. It'll be a bit of a crunch but I don't wanna finish
today. I like this."
Andrew hugged her. "Me too."
"So how was your assignment?"
"It was a really great one. I took Home a woman who lost her
husband in Vietnam. I wish you could have seen the
reunion!" Andrew's face lit up at the memory.
"Aww, I'm always glad when you have that kind of assignment. And
I'm glad for them."
"Me too. But you never answered about class. How was it?"
"Aww, it was so cute, Andrew!" JenniAnn gushed. "Come
here." She led him to a bulletin board. "We took turns
reading various passages about love from the world's religious
Then I gave the kids some of the extra valentines from the party and
asked em to write things they love on them."
Andrew surveyed them, smiling as he read "my family," "the Tunnels,"
"our playground," "the stars," "God," "our tree house," "music,"
"Vincent reading us stories," "my mommy," "my friends," "dogs," "my
doll," "sports," "getting hugs," and so many others. "This is
great. If they're okay with it, we should have a part in the
video where we pan over this."
"Aww, yeah. I'll check but I'm sure they'll be cool with
it. After all, they were more than happy to appear on camera
during the crafts party." JenniAnn smiled as she looked over the
board again. When her gaze landed on one particular valentine,
tears welled in her eyes. Andrew seemed to have missed his own
name on it.
"Laja, what is it?" Andrew asked, concerned. Her took her hand
and led her to one of the chairs, taking one beside it for himself.
"Shelby got a little upset during the project."
Andrew grew even more concerned. "She seemed alright when I saw
her. Gave me a big hug."
"Yeah, I think I put her mind at ease but the thing is... she was
feeling a little... disloyal or something."
"Disloyal?" Andrew questioned. "She's five! Who could she
"Nobody really. But she thought maybe she was being disloyal to
her parents, her dad especially."
"I'm really not sure how to say this..."
Andrew could tell that while her concern
for Shelby was real, wherever JenniAnn was going with this she was
most concerned about how he'd feel. "Just start at the
beginning," he encouraged.
"Alright. So I gave the assignment and the kids started
writing. And one of the lil bit older kids saw her write your
name down. So he started teasing her about wanting to marry an
angel." JenniAnn laughed even as she wiped away her tears.
"She gave him the dirtiest look!"
"So then she just said 'Don't be silly. I don't love Andrew like
that. I love him kinda like a daddy.'"
"And I don't think she planned to say that cause she looked really
distressed afterwards. And then she asked me if that was wrong
cause she 'loved her actual mommy and daddy in Heaven.' And I
assured her that they understood. I mean she was only two when
they died. I know she doesn't remember much. But I could
understand a lil girl being worried about that. I mean after the
whole foster care run-around... you're probly the only
guy seemingly close to her dad's age that she really became close
to. So... well, I guess I thought you should know."
Andrew ran his hand through his hair.
JenniAnn sucked in her breath nervously. She saw that undefined
flicker across his face.
"I knew she cared about me," Andrew murmured. "And I really do
love her. But does she understand... I mean I can't adopt her or
anything like that. The way I come and go... that's too hard for
a little one."
"Oh, Andrew, I don't think she expects that!" JenniAnn responded
soothingly. "Shelby's happy
here! It's not like she's dreaming up what to do with your guest
bed room or anything. But... I dunno. I guess I was just
concerned because I know you already feel way more responsible for the
rest of us and our feelings and well-being than you really
should. And now there's this."
Andrew peered at her, his own eyes flooding. "Laja, it has never
been a responsibility I felt stuck with. It's never been
something I didn't want."
JenniAnn had to blink back more tears. It was obvious Andrew
deeply felt what he said. His normally barely detectable accent
often thickened when he really cared about what he was
saying. His "nev-ahs" about sent her over the edge.
Andrew wished there was some way she could feel how honored and blessed
he felt but knew he'd have to settle with trying to tell her. He
wrapped his arm around her shoulders. "I will be there for
Shelby, however she needs me to be... for as long as she needs me to
be. I won't let her down. And this isn't gonna make me feel
bogged down. I feel so blessed to have each and every one
of you in my life and to know you all love me... however you love
me. So don't worry about it. If Shelby gets distressed,
we'll deal with that. But for right now, you seem to have handled
it perfectly. Okay?"
JenniAnn drew in a deep breath. "'Kay," she agreed.
"Now let's go get Fawn and Lulu and head to Rose's. I'm sure
watching them cower in the face of the mighty Theo will make you feel
much more light-hearted."
The woman laughed. "Our dogs really are very cowardly."
"I'm afraid so. But we love them, anyway." Andrew gave her
a smile, hoping to cheer her even more. Of course, he succeeded.
As predicted, Lulu and Fawn spent the
first five minutes of their visit to Hopeful Haven hiding beneath
Josephine's coffee table.
Josephine clucked her tongue and shook her head. "You shouldn't
be afraid of a little cat. The two of you are both bigger than
Unmoved, Fawn and Lulu remained as they were.
Josephine laughed then directed her attention to the pets'
caregivers. "You three have a good time with your
interview. I'm sorry I can't stay longer but Tess and I are
volunteering at an old folk's home. Although I'm a little
concerned the workers will just show me to a room."
"No way, Aunt Josephine!" Rose protested as she gathered up her aunt's
scarf and gloves.
Josephine stroked her niece's hair. "You're such a
sweetheart. Oh! You all are!" she added as Andrew helped
her into her coat and JenniAnn went for the door.
"Thanks, Josephine," Andrew responded. "We wish you could stay,
too, but I think it's great what you're doing. And we'll see you
"I wouldn't miss it for the world!" the old woman vowed. She
peeked out the window. "I see Tess coming."
JenniAnn opened the door and ushered her in.
"How you doing, baby?" the angel asked as she stepped inside.
"Just super! Excited for our interview with Rose."
Andrew nodded. "We're talking about love and pets. Speaking
of that... how's Widget?"
Hearing his name, the little dog poked his head out of the bag Tess was
"Hey there, Widget!" Andrew greeted, laughing.
"I thought the people at the senior center would enjoy my little guy,"
Seeing Andrew paying attention to another dog at last forced Lulu and
"Oh, now, just a second," Andrew told them. He gave Widget one
more pat and hugged Tess and Josephine then knelt down to pet a jealous
Fawn and Lulu.
"Have a good time you two!" Rose said as she hugged them both.
"We certainly will," Tess responded. "Have a good time,
babies. Rose, I promise I'll have your aunt back to you soon."
Rose laughed. "I trust you, Tess."
"G'bye!" JenniAnn called.
She and Rose waved at them for a time then closed the door. They
turned to find that Andrew had managed to get the dogs and Theo to come
within a yard of each other. Theo pawed a catnip ball which
intrigued the two dogs.
"I think if I move and leave them here, they might actually start
playing," Andrew guessed. He slowly stood up and moved to the
couch. The three watched for a few moments. Theo batted the
ball nearer the dogs. The two girls and Andrew smiled when Lulu
nosed it back.
"Good, they've made friends!" Rose enthused.
"I think it'll get better now that the weather is nicer and we can have
em out and together more often." JenniAnn looked hopefully at the
three. "They'll get accustomed to each other again."
"I'm sure they will. Since they're occupied... we better take
advantage of it. Rose, you ready?" Andrew checked.
"I'm ready! Here, let me help you two." With Rose
assisting, the cameras were soon ready.
After ensuring that both Rose and JenniAnn were settled, Andrew turned
his attention to the interview. "Thanks, Rose, for talking to us
about love and pets."
"I've been looking forward to it, Amish Boy!"
Andrew chuckled. "You're really stuck on that one, huh?"
Rose smiled. "Maybe a little... just a little."
Still laughing, Andrew gave her the first question. "We were
thinking some history might be good first. So what was your first
Rose's face softened with a nostalgic look as she remembered. "It
was this small, tabby cat that lived in my uncle's garden shed in the
backyard. I don't even know if my aunt and uncle ever knew she
was back there. But I found her in there one day when I was
probably about six. I called her 'Kitter' and fed her little
scraps and stuff, since we didn't have any cat food. Some days
I'd just sit in there and do my homework while I scratched her
head. She was a really sweet cat. She did eventually die
when I was in about the 9th grade. And a few years later I got
Theo and moved here. But Kitter was definitely an awesome first
"That's amazing you kept her hidden for so long," JenniAnn
marveled. "But I'm glad she was there for you. Kitter
sounds very sweet."
Rose nodded, wistful. "She was. She didn't have the evil
streak you know who has." She tilted her head to Theo with a
smile. "But I love him."
"Of course!" JenniAnn looked to the three pets who were merrily
playing. "And I know Theo loves you. What do you think
makes a pet's love so meaningful to you?"
"I like that they don't care what you look like or say really. I
mean, yeah, they definitely want you to feed them!" Rose laughed,
recalling Theo's grouchiness in the morning before she got the food
out. "But they love you with this awesome, loyal love. It's
great. If you've got a dog or a cat, then when you come home all
they want to do is snuggle up with you on the couch and have you pet
them and talk to them. And you can tell 'em secrets and I
guarantee you that they're not gonna tell anybody!"
JenniAnn shivered. "Imagine if they could. Eek!"
"Maybe Lulu could tell us Andrew's age." Rose laughed and looked
from Lulu to Andrew with a mischievous grin.
"Tough luck there, ladies. I never told Lulu. I was afraid
you'd hire one of those dog whisperers and bribe her to reveal
it." Andrew laughed at the mental image.
JenniAnn smirked. "Right. Cause we'd actually do that..."
Andrew crossed his arms over his chest and shot her an "Oh really?"
"Okay, we'd totally do that," Rose admitted as JenniAnn nodded.
"I wouldn't put it past you! But moving on from *that*
topic... Rose, how would you describe the love you feel for a
When she was finished giggling, Rose responded. "Well, it's
different, I guess. For some people it is like having a child, I
think. But for others, it's sort of like having your best
friend. There's lots of ways to describe it. Do we give
pets their own kind of love? I think maybe some people do.
They like their pet a lot and would be sad if they were gone. But
I don't know, I think some people see their pets more 'human' than
others do. And that's totally okay. I see my pets as my
best friends. But not everyone does."
Andrew nodded. "I think that's how I feel about Lulu. She's
one of my best friends."
JenniAnn gave them a diffident smile. "I carry Fawn around like a
baby. At least when she lets me."
"And that's okay," Rose assured. "Just as long as you don't
starting dressing her up in onesies and feeding her from a bottle."
JenniAnn laughed. "She would sooo not go for either of
those. Although she'd probly steal the bottle and just chew on it
and then for weeks I'd be finding plastic bottle bits around
"That might not be a lot of fun," Rose agreed.
"Nope! I'd much rather play catch or something." JenniAnn
smiled at her dog then turned back to Rose. "And I guess
it's my turn for the next question. Rose, was there a time in
your life when your pet meant even more to you than usual?"
"That would probably be Kitter," Rose decided after thinking for a
moment. "Mostly because I was sometimes a bit lonely growing up
and she was always happy to see me. But I love Theo, too.
Even though he can be a little ornery at times! But when I first
moved to Dyeland and didn't know anybody yet, he was really great to
have around. I told myself that even if I didn't make any friends
here, I'd always have Theo. Of course, now I have all of you, and
my aunt Josephine, and Theo! So I am very blessed! But
yeah... I don't think I can narrow it down to one time in my
life. I think having a pet has always meant a lot to me."
"Then I'm glad you've had them for most of your life. And I'm
very, very glad you came here." Andrew beamed at her. "I
can't imagine Dyeland without you now."
Rose returned his smile and moved to hug him. "Thanks,
Andrew. I can't imagine not knowing all of you! I know the
people here will always be a part of me and I wouldn't have it any
"Good!" JenniAnn cried.
Andrew nodded and smiled again at Rose. "And here we are at the
last question already." He grew more serious. "What would
you say is a difficult aspect of loving a pet?"
Rose sighed. "They don't live as long as we do. So it's
really, really hard when they get old and eventually die. We tend
to look at them like they'll be here forever, even though we know they
won't be, it's not something that I think most people really think
about. And when you've had a pet for maybe three years or even
fifteen, it's sometimes kinda shocking for them to just be gone.
And it's always sad. It takes some time to get past. But we
usually have a lot of good memories."
The three silently watched their beloved pets for a while then.
"And we are awesome at choosing a good note to end things on," JenniAnn
finally said sarcastically.
Andrew and Rose both laughed. She'd said exactly what they'd both
"I'm sorry," Andrew apologized. "We were so excited to write the
questions, I don't think we gave much thought to ordering them."
"It's okay," Rose assured. "But maybe you can just end with some
footage of us playing?"
"I think that is a really great suggestion!" Andrew agreed.
Moving the cameras outside, they captured the two dogs and their new
cat friend running wildly around the yard to the sound of their keepers
laughing. Soon, the angel and two women joined in and Rose's
interview ended on a much happier note than her interviewers' poor
planning had promised.
After dropping JenniAnn and the dogs off
at Willowveil, Andrew had to immediately leave for another
assignment. Stepping inside, JenniAnn noticed that her answering
machine was blinking. Very few people called that number any
more, most used her cell phone number. Curious, she hit the
"Hello there, JenniAnn! This is Fr. Mike. Sorry I didn't
call you back after I had to cut our conversation short on
Wednesday. One of my parishioners had an emergency. He's
fine now, thank God. Anyway, I hope
everyone in Dyeland is well! And in the Sibling Cities,
too. I think you and Mr. St. John will be very happy to see what
I received today. When you get this, give me a call."
JenniAnn gawked at the phone. It was a sign. It had to
be. Months ago, at Mick's request, she'd contacted Fr.
Mike. The priest was the son of Sybill and the enigmatic
Storyteller who had lived in Dyeland since long before she and the
arrived. If anyone could help Mick, she knew Fr. Mike
could. Well-versed in the ways of the Catholic Church, he'd also
inherited his parents' free spirits. And his birth in Dyeland and
the necessity of keeping it under wraps had taught him the value of
secrecy. He was the perfect man to annul a vampire's
marriage. Even at that, it had been tough work... but it sounded
like the deed was now done.
Shaking with anticipation, JenniAnn picked up the phone.
Josef checked Mick's monitor and saw
JenniAnn standing alone in the hallway. She was holding a file or
notebook. He couldn't tell for sure. He hoped she wasn't
contemplating doing an interview.
Sighing, he buzzed her in. "Come in, JenniAnn. But just...
stay by the door. I'll come to meet you."
JenniAnn was thrown when she heard Josef's voice instead of
Mick's. She began to consider that maybe she should have
called. However, she'd been so excited after her visit with Fr.
Mike that she hadn't thought of it until that moment. "No going
back now," she said to herself and stepped inside. The waiting
view alarmed her. Mick's usually immaculate apartment was
trashed. There were bottles strewn around. Clothes lay in
piles. Open books were flipped over chairs and balancing
haphazardly on side tables.
Setting the file down, JenniAnn stooped to pick up one of the bottles
However, she couldn't smell blood. And there were a few drops
remaining. The liquid was clear... and it smelled strongly of
"This is what it looks like when a vampire goes on a four day bender,"
Josef explained as he came down the stairs. "I'm sorry. I
was just starting to clean when you showed up. You know, you
really shouldn't... I get that Mick's your friend but he's not in
a very... welcoming state right now."
"I thought Beth was going to call him!"
Josef sighed. "She did. Idiot wouldn't pick up the
phone. Maybe it was for the best. He was, uh... indisposed."
"I'd say so!" JenniAnn began to help toss bottles into the trash
Josef was holding. "Why didn't you say anything? Someone
could have come to help."
"Whether I like it or not, Mick's my responsibility these days.
Damn, I love being a sire," Josef answered, sarcasm dripping from his
voice. "It wouldn't have been safe to have anyone else
here. I'm just sorry I didn't get back in town until yesterday."
"Is this all because of the fight with Beth? Or is something else
"It's Beth. There's nothing else to Mick right now."
JenniAnn set a hand on Josef's shoulder. "There's you."
"Yeah, thanks. Mick's not really in best buds mode right now,
though." Josef surveyed the room and saw that most of the bottles
were gone. He shifted his attention to the clothes.
"Apparently being heartbroken means you get a free pass on using a
hamper," he joked darkly.
JenniAnn forced a smile. "So... where is Mick?"
"I tossed him in the freezer a while ago. He needed it. So
what brings you here? An emissary from Beth?"
"Um... no. The Catholic Church, I guess."
Josef burst out in laughter. "Seriously?"
"I dunno. I guess in a manner. Umm, how much do you know
about Mick's marriage?"
"It was a sham... and a shame. A crime of passion, so to
was one messed
up, deceitful chick. The marriage was epically bad but they tried
to make it work. But I suppose it's a little hard to feel much
love when the Mrs. turned you into a monster because the whole 'til
death do us part' thing just wasn't enough for her. So they
reappeared a couple years ago. Teased Mick with the cure.
Tried to win him back and for a moment... I think she might have.
But our hero had actually matured and realized that a relationship is
more than sex. And Coraline was last seen being taken away by her
equally malignant siblings. That had to be one hell of a family
reunion!" Josef shook his head. "Sorry. I should
watch my language. And that was probly more
than you want to know."
JenniAnn shrugged. "I kinda knew it all though Mick was a bit
more... genteel in his rendering of it."
Josef looked abashed. "Sorry."
"It's okay. I'm a big girl. Anyhow, I only asked cause I
wanted to make sure you knew enough about it. I shoulda guessed
you did. In any case... even though Mick's not really a devout
Catholic any more, I guess the fact that he and Coraline were still
technically married in the eyes of the Catholic Church got to him."
"Something like that. So... knowing I took all those theology
classes and knew some priests... he asked me to try to get this."
JenniAnn grabbed the file off the coffee table and handed it to
The vampire accepted it and opened it. "An annulment."
"I think he wanted a fresh start... with Beth."
Josef nodded. "He did. So now he has that... but no Beth."
"Oh look. It's an intervention."
JenniAnn and Josef turned to see Mick had entered the room.
JenniAnn gasped. He was disheveled and ghastly
pale. "Hey, Mick."
"JenniAnn," he greeted.
"How are you?"
"Groovy," he grunted.
Josef handed JenniAnn back the document and nodded.
"Mick, I heard from Fr. Mike. That's why I came by. He,
umm, had to fudge the birth years and some other details a bit but...
he finally got your annulment through. Here." JenniAnn
handed him the paper.
Mick stared at it. "I'll frame it and put it in my office."
He laughed as he plopped on the couch.
JenniAnn stepped away at the sound of his ugly, bitter laugh.
"Mick, you said you wanted a fresh start. Here it is! And
Beth called you! So... take care of yourself and then call her
back!" JenniAnn demanded. "Oh, Mick, if you could see her!
She misses you so much!"
Josef drew near his friend. "Mick, JenniAnn took time out of her
day to bring you this. Don't you think you should at least thank
"Oh, look the playboy's become a Sunday school teacher now!" a
shot back. But his demeanor softened when he looked to
JenniAnn. "I am grateful, thank you. I'm just really,
"I'm not sure you're quite at hungover yet," Josef muttered.
They were silent for a while. Eventually, JenniAnn spoke
up. "Mick, Andrew and I spent some time with Beth
yesterday. We've actually spent quite a bit of time with her
lately. And we all concluded that the two of you just really need
to sit down and discuss your concerns and feelings and..."
"We all?" Mick rolled his eyes. "I don't need the Dyeland
Consortium to sort out my life. Thanks, though."
"Don't be like that. It's what Beth wants. What Andrew and
I think is immaterial, you're right. I'm sorry I brought us into
it." JenniAnn sighed.
"Mick, I know the future might be hard. And I myself have
sometimes been troubled by the idea that one day I'll look older than
Andrew. But that doesn't change the..."
Mick bounded up. "Let's just get this straight. You and
Andrew are not the same as me and Beth."
"Of course not. But there are similarities."
"No, there are not!" Mick bellowed.
"Yes, there are! Andrew is never going to change but my friends
Something in Mick's eyes frightened JenniAnn and she stepped
away. He looked wild. Josef pulled her back towards
him. But instead of doing anything violent, Mick only
"Wow. So your dearly beloved Mr. Perfect hasn't told you yet?"
Josef pushed JenniAnn towards the door then grabbed Mick by the
arm. "Mick, you're drunk and you don't know what you're
saying. Come on, let's go."
"Hasn't told me what?" JenniAnn demanded.
"About his plan. It was before Christmas and I came over to help
him out because of the arm thing. I got there early and that
black dude was still there."
JenniAnn let out an irritated sigh. "Eli."
"That's him. Must not have realized I was there and
these..." He yanked his ears. "These are golden."
"Mick!" Josef chastised upon seeing that his friend was bound and
determined to not shut up.
JenniAnn braced herself. "Let him talk. If he's going to
talk trash then I want to hear it so I can straighten him out."
"I tried not to listen but 'deep cover' kind of just gets a James Bond
fan's attention, right?"
JenniAnn felt her stomach begin to churn.
"So Andrew's going on about how he'd ask God about that. Eli's
talking about what a big deal it is. Then he made some joke about
whether Andrew could really handle his hair going gray."
"Oh God," JenniAnn moaned. Everything was starting to fall into
place. That strange look. Andrew telling Shelby and Millie
not to worry about getting older. He hadn't said "I'll love you
no matter how old you look" as he had to her in the past. He'd
only said not to worry. She'd thought he was trying to calm
them... now she realized he'd been saying not to worry because it
simply wouldn't happen. And then there was his reaction to her
Skin Horse comment. And the troubled look that had crossed his
face when she'd made the remark about running around Skellig chased by
an eternally handsome him. The room seemed to be spinning and she
slumped against the wall to keep from falling.
"Shut the hell up," Josef seethed.
Mick snickered, undeterred. "Hey, so I guess... in a way... you
Josef shoved Mick onto the couch. "You are a damned awful, mean
drunk." He moved to JenniAnn who had begun to sob and embraced
her, practically holding her up.
The sound of her crying pierced through Mick's stupor. "Oh
God... Oh God... JenniAnn, I..."
"Stay away. Just stay the hell away," Josef ordered.
Mick continued towards them.
Josef's eyes turned an eery blue and he stepped towards his
Mick tried to duck away but stumbled into the coffee table. He
tripped over it, landed sprawled on the floor, and passed out.
Josef shook his head, glaring at the still body as he regained his
normal appearance. He returned to JenniAnn's side. "Come
on, let's get you home." He led her to the hall closet. "Do
you want me to come with you?" he offered.
Mutely, JenniAnn shook her head.
"Are you sure you're alright on your own?"
JenniAnn looked up at him. "Nothing is alright, Josef," she
murmured before stepping into the portal.
Saturday, February 13th, 2010
Andrew was concerned when he showed up
at Willowveil at 8:00 AM, as promised, and found it completely
empty. JenniAnn and both the dogs were gone. He compared
his pocket watch to the clock on the computer in her office where she'd
said she'd meet him to work on the video. It was definitely
He hadn't ventured into her bedroom. It would have been unlike
her to still be sleeping. Nonetheless, he knocked. "Laja,
are you in there? It's okay if you want to sleep in.
Actually, I think that's a good idea. I can come back."
"Laja, I'm coming in." Worried for her, Andrew burst into the
room. Empty. The bed
was made. Unsure what else to do, he closed the door, made his
way to the ballroom, and sat by the window. He assured himself
that maybe the dogs had gotten hyper and she'd taken them for a
walk. Sitting there he had the best chance of seeing them
return. Five minutes passed. Ten. Fifteen. He
pulled out his cell phone, planning to make calls. He hadn't had
it with him during his assignment and noticed for the first time that
there were 8 missed calls and one message... all from Josef. He'd
to them later. He was dialing Tess when he finally saw JenniAnn,
and only JenniAnn, approach the door. Letting the number go
undialed, he winced when the door slammed
behind her. Worried, the angel made his way towards the
hall. He had
to stifle a gasp when he saw his friend more closely. She looked
absolutely elemental. She actually had leaves in her unkempt
hair. And she was
wearing the same dress as the day before. That in itself was
"Laja... what's going on?"
"I went for a walk," she answered flatly, not looking at him.
"With the dogs?"
"Rose has them."
"Where did you walk?"
"Laja, it's only just after 8:00! How early did you get up?"
incredulous. He hadn't taken too strong a stance on her poor
habits yet but ridiculous behavior like that would push him towards it.
"I didn't sleep. I went there last night."
Andrew thought of the missed calls from the vampire then. His
worry transformed into dread. "Laja, l-look at me."
She shrank away.
"Laja!" he shouted. "Look at me!"
Startled by his raised voice, JenniAnn looked up. "Oh... oh no...
not yet," she cried.
Andrew studied her neck and breathed a sigh of relief then looked
behind him, thinking something there was causing the look of horror
that had appeared on her face.
"Y-your glasses," JenniAnn moaned.
Andrew raised his eye brows. "I usually wear them when I need to
spend a lot of time at a computer. Laja, you know that."
"You haven't w-worn them in a l-long time."
"I didn't think I needed them but last time we worked on the video, my
eyes did start to bug me a little so..."
"Let me see them!" she demanded.
Andrew yanked them off and handed them to her. He watched,
alarmed, as she took her own off and put his on. For some reason
it calmed her... but only slightly.
"The prescription hasn't changed. Maybe it hasn't started
yet. Maybe it's not too late." She thrust the glasses back
Andrew took them and set them on the railing, thinking it best he
proceed without them until whatever was going on was out of her
system. "Laja, what are you talking about?
What hasn't started? What's too late?"
"Mick heard you. He heard you and Eli talking."
"When? About what?"
"You haven't been honest," she accused.
Andrew felt anger rise up in him along with hurt. "Laja, I have
never, ever lied to you! Not to any of you!"
For only the second time that morning, her eyes locked with his.
"So you just forgot to tell me you'd gone deep cover? What?
Were you going to wait until one of us noticed the first gray hair or
wrinkle and then tell us 'Oh, by the way...'"
Andrew looked at her, shocked. Then he remembered. He'd had
that discussion with Eli only minutes before Mick had arrived.
But apparently Mick had been there longer than he'd realized.
And for some reason Andrew couldn't fathom, he'd told JenniAnn within
the last few hours. "Oh, Laja." He reached out to pull her
into a hug.
She stepped back. "Have you lost your mind? Why would you
do that? Why? Why? Why?" she demanded.
"Laja, first of all, I haven't done that. I haven't even asked
the Father... formally. That's why I didn't tell you or anyone
may not even happen. But, yes... I have considered it."
JenniAnn was somewhat calmed. "But you won't do it?"
"I didn't say that."
JenniAnn tensed. "Why?" she repeated.
"Because I don't want to have to pick and choose about what parts of
your lives to be a part of."
"And what's that supposed to mean? You're a part of all our
"Here, yes. In the Tunnels, yes. But, Laja..." He
took her hands in his. "Why didn't you
let me go with you to your grandpa's funeral? Afterwards, you
told me that as you saw your cousins walk down the church aisle with
their spouses and significant others... when they cried into their
shoulders... you hated
being alone then and you wanted me there. But you didn't
A tear slid down her cheek. She opened her mouth to answer but
then shook her head. "I won't let you do this."
Andrew was taken aback and released her. "You won't *let* me do
"Fine then... I can't stop you but... I'll... I'll never
forgive you if you do!" she cried. "Never."
"Then I'm willing to spend however long it takes trying to convince you
to. Please don't say never, Laja," he pleaded.
JenniAnn drew in a ragged breath. There was that accent
again. And with it Andrew so nearly won her over. But then
her mind reeled back... years before. Late 2002. She began
to rock unsteadily on her feet.
Andrew grabbed her and steadied her.
"Never," she repeated. "I can't... I can't agree with something
this awful. Y-you... a stroke. Or a heart attack.
"Laja, be reasonable. Just because we have older human forms
doesn't mean we're human. Sam's never had a stroke.
Gabriel's never had a heart attack. Ruth is the picture of
health. Have you ever seen Ronald looking unwell?
And..." Andrew cut himself off. He wasn't sure whether what
he had to say would help or hurt his argument. "What happened in
November happened to a thirty or forty something body. It's not
if I can't get hurt looking like this. I've never
been invincible. I wouldn't be even if I looked exactly like this
forever. But I'd always be immortal."
Unconvinced, JenniAnn buried her face against his red and black flannel
memories were strengthening. "I-I
found you on your
porch. Y-you were crying. And I asked why. And
then... then you tried to cover it. I was barely twenty and you
were always so protective... even more then. But I finally got it
out of you. A-and I'll never forget the sadness on your face, the
grief. You told me Tess had developed Alzheimer's," she finished,
to sob. "If that happened to you..."
Andrew patted her back. "Laja, that was... yes, that was very
hard. But you know what? I had never heard of that before
and I've certainly never heard of that since. God used that to
strengthen Monica and to reach out to an assignment that needed
Tess. I'm not supervising any of you and you're not my
assignments. We're talking about two completely different
JenniAnn still wasn't convinced. "Even if the worst you ever feel
mild arthritis... you could avoid that entirely! It's too much to
"So perpetual youth is too much to give up for *all* of you but dating,
marriage, having children... that's alright to sacrifice just for me?"
Andrew asked as gently as possible. He knew he was treading on
JenniAnn pulled away. "Andrew, that's not the same. Lots of
humans are single. But I don't see lots of angels going deep
cover just cause they're fond of some humans! What you're
contemplating... it's not worth it!"
Andrew drew in a deep breath. "It is to me. And I'm not
sure 'fond of' quite covers what I feel. Laja, back in
October you told me you needed someone to be on your side in... in
this." He indicated the two of them. "You wanted to know
that there was someone who wasn't on some level hoping you'd reverse
your decision, move on from me, and consider getting married. Do
"And I said I was on your side. Well, Laja, now I need you to be
on mine in this. This is my choice. This is what I
want. Please." Andrew waited. True anxiety wasn't
something angels often felt but he felt it then. He had to strain
to her hear answer when she, at last, gave it.
She tore away from him and up the stairs. Andrew jolted when
her door slammed. Swiping at a tear, he prayed for guidance on
what to do next.
Her body wracking with sobs, JenniAnn
slid to the floor and sat with her back against the door and
her head in her hands. She tried to listen for some hint of where
Andrew had gone. Had he left? Had he come
after her? She didn't hear anything for several moments until she
jolted at the sound of a voice in her room.
"'Don't urge me to leave you or to turn back from you,'" the familiar
voice recited. "'Where you go I will go, and where you stay I
will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God.'"
JenniAnn looked up to see Eli standing in front of her balcony
door. She bowed her head, embarrassed that he'd seen her in
such a state. "I'm sorry, Eli. I spaced
your interview but now... now's really not a good time any more.
And... and I can't even begin to express how much an AOD reciting
wedding vows is *not* what I need to hear right now."
Eli shook his head. "Don't you remember those words from your
Bible classes? They really struck you, precisely because they
aren't wedding vows. Sure,
people sometimes use them as vows. But they aren't.
At least they weren't originally. Here," he picked up her Bible
and handed it to her. "Start from the top of chapter 1 of
Ruth. Aloud or silently. It's up to you."
JenniAnn silently read as directed then looked up. "Yeah,
okay. So Ruth said those words to her mother-in-law. Trust
me, I don't need guidance on how to behave with a mother-in-law."
"You're missing the point, kiddo." Eli crouched in front of
her. "Ruth loved Naomi. She'd spent many happy years with
her while married to her son. They became a family. And
even when he died and there was no reason for them to remain a family,
Ruth still wanted that bond. So she spoke those words.
Naomi thought Ruth could lead a better, more comfortable life
elsewhere. But Ruth was determined. She loved this woman
that had become her family. She loved the life she had.
Just like Andrew
loves the life he has here and the people that are a part of it."
JenniAnn shook her head. "Eli, it's *not* the same. The
sacrifice is not the same."
"Not exactly, no. But the sentiment and the determination
is." He smiled
at her. "JenniAnn, do you remember me?"
"Eli, don't be ridiculous. I know who you are. We met last
year. My godmother was in love with you. Thus proving that
perhaps falling in love with AODs is the result of a genetic mutation,"
Eli chuckled. "I doubt that. But that's not what I
mean. When we met... did you remember me?"
"Why would I remember you?"
Eli sighed and looked at nothing in particular as he thought
back. "Sophia was so proud of you. I remember when she came
home from the hospital. And she talked about how beautiful you
were. You were 'the sweetest, most darling angel'... I was a
close second, she assured." He
laughed. "And the first time she got to babysit... I'd
never seen her so happy. She loved you so
much. Every Tuesday starting when you were six weeks old, your
parents went out. And so Sophia got to watch you the whole
evening, every week... and sometimes I got to help her."
JenniAnn's head snapped up and she peered into the angel's eyes.
"I... I really don't remember you. I'm sorry, Eli."
He stroked her hair. "It's okay. That was what we
wanted. I stayed away shortly after you began to talk."
"People began to ask who 'Ee-yi' was. How could Sophia have
possibly explained me? Even if she'd introduced me then, after so
many years... what was going to happen in twenty when I still looked
the same? It's never been an option to just go around shouting
that I'm an angel. And it's not an option for Andrew,
either. I'd never met a deep cover angel so the possibility never
even occurred to me. And even if it had... I'm not sure I would
have made that decision. Sophia and I were different from what
you have here.
She loved her family and friends but she was a traveler at
heart. We both were. And so me staying younger, stronger...
it made sense. But that doesn't mean it was easy. I didn't
like staying away from you. So that's why when Andrew told me
what he was considering... I couldn't dismiss it, JenniAnn. I
lived on the outskirts of your life and even in Sophia's life I had
to limit my involvement. Andrew doesn't want that." He
smiled encouragingly at her. "'Your people are his people.'"
"But that's been true for years now, without Andrew... doing this."
"How long could that continue, JenniAnn? What if some of you have
children? I suppose it could all work out if they went to school
Below or took classes here. But what if they wanted to go to a
normal school? Do you tell them no? Andrew would *not* want
that. If you agree, does Andrew go to their first day of
class? Or does he wait until their grade school graduation?
Or does he wait until high school? College? Or does he go
to them all and risk a fellow student wondering why your child's uncle
never seems to change? And if he does limit his involvement...
you're always so concerned about his reputation. But, believe me,
he'd rather have people wondering what he is to all of you than have
them think of him as that deadbeat that disappeared when the kid was
Moved and frightened by that vision of their shared lives, JenniAnn
hugged Eli for support. "I... I don't know."
"But he does know the answer. Trust him. And trust the One
who will ultimately make that decision when the time comes," Eli urged.
JenniAnn nodded and let him go then settled back against the door.
Eli looked curiously at her.
"What?" she queried.
"Do you think you could move?"
"Umm... sure. Why?" JenniAnn let him help her up.
Eli chuckled. "Well... because Andrew's leaning on the other side
of the door and that's just really making me think I'm stuck in some
maudlin, break-up movie and that soon the music of Snow Patrol or the
going to start playing."
For the first time since she'd arrived
at Mick's apartment the night before, JenniAnn laughed. But then
she glanced at the door. "H-how long's he been there?"
"The whole time, I think," Eli answered. "Don't worry. He
hasn't heard this."
"I... I want to see him," JenniAnn murmured.
"And you will. Soon. But first... there's one more
thing." Eli smiled and withdrew a small object from his pocket.
Andrew looked at his pocket watch
again. Ten minutes and JenniAnn hadn't budged from her
room. While he'd waited, he'd returned Josef's call and learned
of Mick's drunken secret-spilling and his jab about turning. It
was no wonder JenniAnn had snapped. Andrew knew that, somehow, he
had to break through the wall she'd thrown
up. Bored and distressed, his anxious gaze traveled around the
hall way. It landed on a decorative waste paper basket. Not
quite sure what he was doing, Andrew pulled it to him. Inside was
only a couple crumbled up pieces of paper they'd been taking interview
notes on. He tossed them to the side then turned the basket
over. A piano would have been better but the makeshift drum would
have to do.
He tried to remember the words they'd "sung" together all those years
before, the night Adam's version of "Spin the Bottle" had been
born. It was before the "two passes rule" had been added.
They both knew they didn't have a hope of reaching all those high notes
so they'd thrown themselves into just having fun with it... Ever
since then, he'd only had to utter a few lines to make her laugh.
It was worth a shot.
Back in Los Angeles, Mick was finally
beginning to stir. He winced and brought his hand to his head.
"Good morning, sunshine," Josef greeted from his spot on the couch
where he'd been reading to pass the time.
"Hey," Mick mumbled. His gaze drifted to the papers on the
table. Seeing them, memories of the previous night hit him full
"Yeah. That about says it all. I thought maybe later we
could go outside and you could steal candy from small children and
punch old ladies," Josef suggested caustically.
"I didn't mean..." Mick sat up and buried his head in his
hands. "How is she?"
Josef shrugged. "Don't know. I tried calling Andrew to warn
him and tell him to keep an eye out for her. He only got back to
me a few minutes ago and the damage had been done. She's holed up
in her room, he doesn't know what to do. So bang-up job
there. What were you
thinking? That was for Andrew to tell. Not you. And
it's not as if you can't keep a secret... even when you're
smashed. You chose to tell JenniAnn... you chose to hurt her."
Mick groaned. "Oh God..."
"Why? Why did you do it?" Josef pressed.
"I-I was jealous... jealous that he could make that choice. And I
Josef glared at him. "You want to talk about jealousy? Beth
loves you. Beth wants to be with you. And you've spent this
week hiding away from her, ignoring her, and just generally acting like
an ass. Meanwhile, my Sarah is dead. She is dead,
Mick! I can't have her with me. But if I could... I
wouldn't squander that chance. And I sure as hell wouldn't use my
heartbreak as an excuse for hurting people who care about me.
JenniAnn and Andrew helped me to tell Sarah good bye." Tears
began to roll down Josef's cheeks. "They and... and God... gave
me... that last moment
with her. And I will always be grateful to them for that.
And if you don't make things right with them..." Josef stood up
straighter and brushed at his face. "You're on your own, my
Mick watched as Josef left, roughly closing the door behind him.
JenniAnn pulled away from Eli's
embrace. "What the..."
Eli covered his mouth with his hand. "Please tell me he's
not..." He began to laugh hysterically. "No man
should ever, ever sing that song."
JenniAnn drew nearer to the door and the horrible singing accompanied
by drumming. She giggled. Andrew had a very nice voice but
Eli was right. It wasn't his song at all... but it had been
"'Bad dreams in the night. They told me I was going to lose the
fight. Leave behind my wuthering, wuthering Wuthering
Heights. Heathcliff! It's me, I'm Cathy, I've come home
So cold, let me in your window."
"Oh, please, let 'Cathy' in so he'll stop!" Eli begged.
Kate Bush is cringing without knowing why!"
Giggling, JenniAnn cracked the door open. "I'm going to open this
so please stop leaning on it or else you're going to fall in."
Andrew immediately jumped to his feet and replaced the basket, tossing
the paper back inside.
JenniAnn opened the door. "Hi," she greeted shyly.
"Hi, JenniAnn." Andrew peered past her. "Eli," he
greeted. "Did you, umm, show up early for your interview because
we're a little..."
Eli shook his head. "I showed up for my assignment."
Andrew did a double-take. "Wait... so am I..."
"The fellow considering a big change? That'd be you, my
friend. But, actually, I'm about finished. You won't be
interviewing me but I was sent here to give you these." He
reached into his pockets again and handed each of them a card.
"These are the topics you each would have picked had the other been
doing the interviews alone. When you decided to work on it
together, you opted to cut yours and focus on preparing the film.
The Father had other ideas." He looked to JenniAnn. "You
interview him about the topic on that card. The questions are
already there but feel free to add your own." He turned to
Andrew. "Likewise for you. This isn't for your
video. Some things need to be said... in person... to yours
friends first. And not all the questions have to do with
love, anyway. But this is important to the Father." He
turned to JenniAnn. "You get some breakfast and take care of
yourself. But then the both of you are going to talk. Got
Andrew and JenniAnn nodded, each knowing they had little choice in the
"Great." With that, Eli disappeared.
JenniAnn shuffled around, feeling bashful. "I'm just, uh, going
to go clean up."
Andrew nodded. "I'll fix something for breakfast while you do
"You don't have..."
"Let me," Andrew insisted.
JenniAnn nodded and watched him leave the room.
Andrew balanced a tray with one hand and
knocked on JenniAnn's door with the other. She held it open and
appreciatively eyed the tray laden with two bowls of oatmeal, fruit,
orange juice, and toast. Andrew had decided that a caffeine-free
meal would be best.
"It's not much. But I was worried if I spent too much time, Eli
would come back and tell us we were procrastinating." Andrew
JenniAnn let out a giggle as Andrew set the tray down on the coffee
front of her love seat. "Good thought."
Beyond that, they found conversation difficult and focused on their
When they'd both finished and moved the tray out of the way, Andrew
tilted his head to the cards that they'd sat on one of her
bookshelves. "Do you
want to look at yours first?" he asked.
"Let's both look at once."
Andrew nodded and retrieved their cards. "On
three," he directed as he handed her the card bearing her name.
"One, two, three."
They both studied the cards.
Andrew began to chuckle. "You were going to make me interview
you... about me?"
JenniAnn smiled. "Yes and clearly God thought it was a good
idea. And yours... Dyeland. I was going to interview you
about your love for it last year but, of course... life intervened."
"I guess the Father thought it was better late than never."
JenniAnn nodded. "You start, Andrew, please."
Drawing in a deep breath to steady himself, Andrew looked at his first
question and settled back onto one side of the love seat.
"Alright..." He couldn't believe the Father was
making him do something so awkward. However, he knew that if
God willed it... there was a reason. "Why do you love me?"
JenniAnn smiled. "Because you're kind and gentle and
loving. A-and you go out into the world and you see things that
would break so many people. Or turn them bitter and hard.
And that's all true of Adam and Henry and Eli, too. And I do love
them all very much but you... you've always been different.
You... I don't know how to say it. You just... make me more
"What do you mean by that, Laja?" the angel prodded gently.
Saying her nickname restored some of the ease he usually felt when
talking to her.
She looked out the window. "It's hard to talk about. But I
guess... You know I'm very happy for all the loving couples out
Andrew nodded solemnly. "Of course. And you get very
unhappy when something happens to them."
"Exactly. And I cry at weddings. And I love hearing
people's 'how we met' stories. Choosing wedding presents.
And it's like I said Monday night. I feel safer knowing real,
true romantic love exists but it also reminds me of... birds."
She gestured towards a tree branch just outside her window on which two
Andrew did a double take. "Birds?"
"Yes. I know it sounds weird but it's like... do you ever watch
birds fly and just think they look so beautiful? And it brings
you happiness to see them. And you feel like, somehow, your life
would be far poorer without those birds?"
"I can't say I'd ever thought to put it that way but... sure. I
can relate to that."
"Do you want to be a bird?"
"And if the birds could talk to you, do you think you'd fully be able
to comprehend their... birdness?"
Andrew shook his head. "No, I'm not a bird."
"But what if almost everyone around you was a bird? Or what if
you actually were a bird but didn't feel like a bird?"
"That would be pretty difficult."
"Right. And what if you found someone, finally, who was similarly
"I think I'd stick pretty close to them."
"So... I'm a bird... but I don't really feel like a bird. And you
are not a bird."
It was beginning to dawn on Andrew that JenniAnn was maybe a lot more
like him than he'd previously gathered.
"I have some of their tendencies and I feel parts of what they...
people in actual romantic relationships, I mean now... feel."
JenniAnn looked up at him, trying to judge if he was following her
rambling. It seemed he was. "But, before you, when my
friends would approach me with their love woes... I just plain didn't
get it. It was like I was some other species. After you...
I got it a little more. I guess I feel like, via what I feel for
you, I gained some small hold on the reality my friends live in.
I really and truly think I am in love with you. But I also think
my way of being 'in love' isn't really the same as most people's.
I do find you attractive... always and, yes, especially with the jeans
Andrew blushed and reached over to squeeze her hand.
"And I do love dancing with you and probly other things some people
would consider romantic. And when I see you with the kids... I do
feel longing in some deep way I can't quite define. And I do like
having you near but... if tomorrow I were to wake up and find this had
all been some dream and you were human and if I had even the slightest
inkling that you were interested... I think I'd panic. Maybe I
have altered my life a little for you. But when you inferred I'd
given up dating, etc. for you... I suppose I did. But I
also know it would never have made me happy like you do... it would
never have driven away my aloneness like you have. And that's one
of the reasons... I'm terrified by anything that threatens to take you
away." Her eyes welled with tears as she stood up and began to
pace the room. "I really and truly don't know how to cope without
Andrew hugged her mid-pace. "I promised you I wouldn't leave
you. That's still true. And it will always be true, no
matter what comes. And I think you'll feel better if you
understand why I began to consider... changing."
Nodding, JenniAnn pulled away. "I guess that's my cue to ask you
the first question which is..." She looked to the card and
laughed though it was tinged with sadness. "What about us
you on to consider
making this change?"
Andrew sighed as they reclaimed the love seat. "You know, for
of my existence, I worked alone. With the Father, of
course. And various supervisors that guided me. But I
considered myself something of a loner. And then I started
working with Monica and Tess and... it just felt right." He
smiled as he recalled all the great times they'd shared. "Sure,
there was the occasional problem or hurt feelings. But I was
happier than I'd been when I worked cases alone. And then..."
JenniAnn reached for his hand. "Then every body went their
separate ways with working cases.
You... had a sense, didn't you, that it was coming?"
"Sometimes back then you looked so troubled and, actually, lately... I
same look. I was worried something was changing again... but I
couldn't have imagined this."
"I suppose I have been a little nervous about how all of you would take
this. You probably saw that. But this is the exact opposite
of what happened in 2003, Laja. With all of you, I feel a
part of a family again. I didn't have a choice before with Monica
and Tess and Gloria. But I feel like I do with all of you in
Dyeland. If the Father allows me to, I'm doing this so we can all
"Do you think He will?" she asked.
Even though Andrew could tell her utter repulsion to the idea had gone
away, he could tell she still wished the possibility didn't
exist. But he wouldn't mislead her, even if it meant causing her
some pain. He thought back to his vision at Christmas. He'd
hoped to catch a glimpse of himself, wanted to see signs of age on his
own face. However, the Father hadn't shown him that. He'd
shown him only his friends, waiting for him. When Andrew had
stepped out of the ballroom on that snowy Christmas Eve,
all doubts were gone and what little he had seen seemed answer
Laja. I really do."
She closed her eyes but nodded.
"You've always been so afraid I'd fade away and leave you. But
people fade away and grow apart in many ways," Andrew continued.
"And I know we would never choose that but already you, and maybe the
others, too, have pushed me away at times. Because you felt you
"Like at my Grandpa's funeral," JenniAnn murmured. "You asked me
about it earlier but I didn't answer."
"Do you want to now?"
She nodded. "I didn't ask you because even though I wanted you
there desperately... I knew there would be more difficult funerals to
come. And if you had come then... how would I have explained you
to my extended family in the hopefully many, many years later at my
parents' funerals? I knew I had to make a choice. So I did."
"And I don't want you to have to any more. And I definitely don't
want the little kids to have to, either. Laja, what if Shelby's
one of the kids that decides to move Above? What would you have
JenniAnn inhaled raggedly. "I... I dunno. When I told you
about her valentine yesterday... that just convinced you even more
to... to age, didn't it?"
Andrew nodded. "Yes, Laja. But I would have learned
eventually. And even if Shelby hadn't said that... Laja, do
you remember on Tuesday when I got back from an assignment and was
upset but didn't want to talk about it?"
JenniAnn nodded, frowning as she recalled how sad he'd looked.
"Do you want to tell me now? I can take it, Andrew. As long
as you're with me," she encouraged.
Andrew averted his gaze, fumbling with a throw pillow. "A little
boy. His own father had beaten him until..." His voice
broke off for a few moments. "And then I had to convince him that
not all fathers hit, that one Father loved him so much. That He
wanted him in His Home where he'd always, always be loved. And he
was so happy when he saw Heaven and all the loving people waiting for
him. But... I'm so tired of seeing those scenes unfold. I
can hold the kids and reassure them and love them but it... it doesn't
change what happened
to them, what they suffered. And nothing in the world is ever
gonna make that right."
JenniAnn began to cry into his shoulder, clutching his hand in
"But... when I go Below or when I think of being 'Uncle Andrew'
somewhere down the road..." Andrew smiled through his tears and
squeezed JenniAnn's hand. "I find a lot of peace in seeing the
children growing and happy, knowing I can be a apart of their lives...
not their deaths but their lives, Laja! I need that
balance. I've gotten used to having that balance and I don't... I
can't lose it. So this isn't about you or anyone else unwittingly
pushing me to
consider this. It was always me and only me. One reason I
didn't want to say anything... maybe not until it happened... was
because I didn't want any of you making decisions based on whether or
not it'd push me to take that step. "
"I believe you," JenniAnn assured. "And... I do understand your
keeping it quiet for now."
"Thank you. So... can I ask the next question?"
"This... I've always wondered about this one but I could never bring
myself to ask it," he confessed.
"I'm sorry if it's something you've struggled with but God must think
it's important to get it out in the open," JenniAnn reasoned.
"He must." Andrew smiled at her then dragged his right hand
through his hair. "Have you ever wished you didn't love me as you
"For a while... yes," JenniAnn admitted, watching him closely, fearing
she'd hurt him. "I wanted to fit in, Andrew. And I see now
my whole relationship with Eliot was an attempt at that. I did
love him but I was never in love with him and... it wasn't fair to
him... or you... or even me. I hated feeling like I'd
disappointed some family members by not being married and, well,
pregnant. But I just have this awful feeling that if I hadn't
found my way back to you... thanks to Mick, ironically... I would have
spent my whole life running from relationship to relationship, trying
to find what we had and always failing and leaving a trail of wronged
guys behind me. And I would have hated myself for that.
And... when you were homeless..." She looked away and nervously
smoothed out her skirt.
"It's okay, Laja, I can take it," he encouraged.
"There was a moment... shortly before Rose and I visited with you... I
felt consumed by my own helplessness and grief and worry for
you." Tears slid down her cheeks. "For the briefest moment
I wanted to run away from you and what I felt but... I couldn't,
Andrew. I knew it would be like living without my heart.
So, in short, I have wished that but it's a wish that I am so very glad
didn't come true."
Andrew sighed with relief. "Thank you. I... that makes me
feel a lot better."
JenniAnn hugged him. "Good. I love you and I want to love
you," she stressed.
"Thank you. I love you, too," the angel responded, returning her
JenniAnn glanced at the card in her
"I'm ready," Andrew assured.
"Okay, then. You told me that this... that growing older... was
worth it to you. What did you mean?" she questioned intently.
"Do you think it's every century I find a group of people who love
me like all of you do? I've been thrown out of houses, run away
from..." He chuckled but it held a note of sadness. "I've
even had the occasional person throw holy water on me and try to send
me back to where I came from... and I don't think they understood that
to be Heaven.."
"No, it's not!"
Andrew acquiesced with an almost imperceptible nod. "It is better
now. Even if that happens, eventually I come here. And here
there are people so unafraid of me, they'll prod me mercilessly about
my age." He chuckled again, truly amused. "I have my own
specially and lovingly made teddy bear. I can play 'Spin the
Bottle: Dyeland Style'! How many people get to have that much
fun? I have someone who in a
demonstration of her, admittedly reckless, love; got me the dog I've
wanted for a long, long time."
JenniAnn blushed and beamed at him. She wanted to say something
but his words were too precious to interrupt.
"There are the children who grew up being taught that I would never,
ever harm them." Andrew stood and walked to one of her book
shelves. In front of the books was a row of photographs of them
all. He studied them. "And when I lost sight of that all...
when all the hate and the cruelty and the anger clouded my mind and
broke my heart and hurt my spirit... you all fought for me. And,
yes, with me.
But you didn't give up. You all loved me that much. And you
remained at my side when I mourned Dawn. And in November... don't
you think I realize it would have been easier to turn your backs and
wait in Dyeland until my assignment ended? But you didn't.
You were all there for me every last moment you could be." The
angel picked up a photo from that Thanksgiving dinner. There he
was in his cast, visibly wearied, but smiling in the center of a group
hug. He handed it to JenniAnn who had moved to stand at his
side. "Can you understand why this is worth it to me?"
"Y-yes," she responded. She smiled at the photo then reached up
to hug him again. "I do, Andrew."
"I'm glad, Laja. Very, very glad."
"And I'm sorry I acted like such a maniac."
Andrew chuckled. "I suppose now that I can look back at it from a
safe distance... it's a little endearing. You wouldn't have been
so angry if you didn't care so much."
"Exactly. But still... and imagine me thinking I could or
couldn't let you do something! Gah, Yva would flip after what she
said about the whole Sir Sven flying thing!" JenniAnn cringed at
her own audacity. "And that bit about never forgiving you."
"We all say things we don't mean when we're upset," Andrew
"So you forgive me?"
"With all my heart."
"But I think I'd feel even better if I could ask this last question
"Of course," JenniAnn agreed, following him back to their seats.
"I'm going to need to tell the others soon. I don't want to risk
another... slip. I figure I'll do it individually. I think
"Good. And whatever their reactions are... I think I could handle
them knowing this answer now that you've had some time." Andrew
peered at the card then back up at his friend. "Will you be on my
side with this?"
JenniAnn took his hands in hers. She flinched slightly when she
noticed the thin scar on his right palm, a seemingly permanent reminder
of his most recent and most violent stint on the streets. She
worried about what other transformations would follow once he'd been
granted his request.
Andrew waited, outwardly patient but inwardly anxious again. Her
initial reaction, though smoothed over, increased his concern about how
the others would react. If he could be assured that he had even
one of them committed to his decision, it would be easier to face
whatever the rest felt. But reluctant acceptance was not the same
as valuing his choice. He tried to read her expression when
JenniAnn finally looked up at him.
"Yes, Andrew. I will," she vowed at last.
Finally letting out the breath he hadn't realized he'd been holding in,
Andrew hugged her. "Thank you, Laja. Thank you so much."
"I feel like the thankfulness should be all on our side," she
"No," he assured.
Reluctantly, JenniAnn eventually pulled away and reclaimed her
card. "Are you ready for your last one?"
Andrew chuckled. "I think I better be."
"True enough. We're not allowed to put it off."
JenniAnn grinned before focusing on the task at hand. "When you
were first considering going deep cover, what were your concerns about
how we'd react?" She blushed, recalling those initial
"I knew you'd all be concerned. I didn't want that. But
mostly it was not wanting any of you basing your decisions off 'Is this
going to force Andrew's hand?' I'm doing this to give us all more
options, not reign them in. So I absolutely do not want
that. And I do remember how concerned you all were when I broke
my arm and the days leading up to that." Andrew gazed across the
room again at the Thanksgiving photograph. "I knew that you'd
worry I'd be more... fragile eventually. And I didn't want that
at all. And..." He blushed.
"What?" JenniAnn prodded gently.
Andrew smiled, feeling foolish. "I think I might miss all the
compliments if you all don't feel the same way about how I look.
I mean... I may not always be handsome or cute or... lovely. And
knowing what you told me earlier... if how you feel about me is your
hold on their world of romance and attraction... I don't want to take
that away since it's important to you."
"Oh, Andrew," JenniAnn cooed. "Didn't you ever wonder why I use
'lovely' more than the others? Yes, you are handsome and you are
cute. But those qualities have always been secondary.
Lovely is more encompassing. You're lovely because of who you
are, how you act, what you do. And that won't change. In
fact, it will deepen." She withdrew the object Eli had given her
from her pocket. "Remember when we visited Sophia's grave and I
left her that note?"
Andrew nodded, too moved to make any other response.
"I told her I wished she was here to guide me cause lately... it would
be nice to talk to someone who has been through this all before like
she had with Eli. Because even though you've said so many times
how grateful you are and how blessed you feel about us being there for
you, I still feel like it's never quite enough. Like there's
always more I could do for you. But I didn't know what.
"Laja, I don't know what that could possibly be."
"I do. When I was younger, I called you 'my Skin Horse.' It
was cute, maybe. Endearing. But it was only half
been Real like the Skin Horse for a very long time, Andrew. But
you didn't become Real
a child loved you... even if I did. I have a sense you were Real
from birth. And that you became more Real when you
first looked upon one of us humans with love, when you first comforted
who was grieving, first brought the message of God's love to
someone. And you become more Real each and every day.
You're one of the most Real
people I know and even though I've known you for only a very small
portion of your life, I know this is true. But for all
my goofy, dreamy, swoony compliments to you... I obviously haven't done
a good enough job of ensuring you that I see you as Real. That I
love you because of that Realness, not physical beauty. Not
because you are
Andrew who is cute. Or Andrew who can wear the heck out a
flannel shirt and blue jeans. Or Andrew who has amazing
hair. But Andrew who is Real because he is... love." She'd
begun to cry but soldiered on. "So Sophia asked Eli to give this
to me. This is her guidance. Now I'm giving it to
you." She dropped the object
into his hand and closed his fingers around it. "So if forty
years from now... you wonder... if I still love you... and I'm not able
to tell you... just hold tight to this and remember this moment.
Remember that I love the Real you... whether your hair is golden or
silver... or... or gone. Whether you look like a Greek god... or
man. I love you."
"I love you, too," Andrew responded, his voice cracking but he didn't
care. He opened his hand and gazed down at the miniature skin
horse resting in his palm.
They sat for a long time, embracing. Neither knew that just
outside the door, someone had heard every word from JenniAnn's
reference to the Skin Horse onward. And in her words, he heard
his own feelings echoed.
Mick wouldn't interrupt them. He'd return later to apologize...
bearing very large, very soft plush frogs and several cases of ginger
ale. And he would make a point of calling before any future
Dyeland visits. There would be no more accidental
eavesdropping. But just as Andrew and JenniAnn needed that moment
to themselves, he and Beth needed their own.
With some reluctance, Josef had turned
over Beth's location when Mick called. Mick tried to
make peace with his best friend but knew it would take more than a
single chat. He'd selfishly disregarded Josef's own pain,
only going on about his own. He was determined to make up for it
no matter how long it took. His commitment was even stronger when
it came to Beth.
Thus, he found himself ambling through the Fields of Gold even though
the sun shone bright in the sky. His guitar case felt heavy,
weakened as he was from the light and his well-deserved hangover.
He was grateful when a cabin came into view. He knew it must be
the one Beth was staying in, the clothes hanging on the line were her
own. He noticed, too, that the windows were open. He'd
hoped they would be.
Standing before the cottage, Mick opened his guitar case.
Strapping it on, he began to play.
"'The book of love is long and boring. No one can lift the damn
thing. It's full of charts and facts and figures and instructions
for dancing. But I love it when you read to me. And you can
read me anything,'" he sang.
Beth had been working on a report when she heard his voice. Her
heart began to beat fast with hope. She stood and walked towards
door, peering out. The sight of Mick after four long days and
five heartbreaking nights without him brought her immense joy.
She opened the door and stepped outside.
Mick smiled wanly when he saw her. Tears pricked his eyes but he
continued to sing. "'The book of love is long and boring and
written very long ago. It's full of flowers and heart-shaped
boxes and things we're all too young to know. But I love it when
you give me things. And you ought to give me wedding rings.'"
Beth approached and stroked his hair.
He finished the remaining lines then removed the guitar and knelt
before her. "I am an incredibly stupid man. But I am a man
who loves you very much, Beth. And I am sorry that I hurt
you. I am so sorry. And I have no right to ask now... what
I intended to ask tomorrow before Botoxgate 2010 happened."
Beth laughed deliriously even as she began to cry.
"I love you... and only you. And I will love you... until the day
I die. No matter how many years away that is." Mick held
Beth's hands in his. "Whenever it happens... it would mean
everything to live... and to die... as your husband." He kissed
her hands then fumbled for his coat pocket. "I don't expect an
answer now. I think we need
to talk about some things, first. But right now you deserve to
know... I love you. Forever. No matter what comes.
Will you marry me, Beth?" Shaking, he held the ring box out to
She sighed as she sat on the grass, pulling Mick towards her. "I
agree we need to talk but... you deserve to know... I'll say yes.
I-I love you, Mick. I-I want to go home."
Mick nodded, tears streaming down his face to match her own.
"I've missed you so much."
Beth's response was to give into the longing she'd felt since closing
their apartment door behind her and kiss him.
As soon as they'd both fully calmed down
and JenniAnn had rested, she and Andrew left to retrieve Fawn and Lulu
from Rose. The weather was fair and since they carried only some
thank you treats for Rose and Josephine and not their cameras, they
decided to walk. They were nearing the lake that bordered the
Fields of Gold when Andrew held his arm out and stopped JenniAnn.
He smiled beatifically.
"What is it Andrew?" JenniAnn asked.
"I think we're going to need to go a roundabout way to reach Rose
without being noticed," he told her.
"Noticed? By who?"
Andrew took her by the shoulders and turned her towards the west.
JenniAnn had to stifle a cry of glee when she saw two figures, one with
long, blonde hair and the other with dark, curly hair, dancing beneath
the shade of a tree. Not wanting to be intrusive and only needing
that one moment to restore her faith in Mick's and Beth's love for each
other, she turned back to Andrew and hugged him. "That's so
"It really, really is." He smiled up at the sky. "Thank
you, Father," he whispered.
"Amen," JenniAnn added.
The goofy smiles didn't fade from either of their faces for a long
while as Andrew led JenniAnn to the coast by less traveled paths.
After a few moments, JenniAnn finally spoke.
The angel gazed up to where she pointed. Two birds, not unlike
the ones they'd seen outside her window, were flying together...
fearlessly facing a new day. Andrew hugged his friend. "You
said it exactly right, Laja. It does make me happy to see
them. And I would feel like my life was a little less rich
without those birds... the feathered ones and the non-feathered ones,"
he clarified with a smile.
Sighing contentedly, JenniAnn nodded. "May they never know such
February 14th, 2010
entered Willowveil shortly before 9:00 AM. After coping with all
of the previous 24 hours and completing some errands necessary for the
video, both he and JenniAnn had turned in early the night before.
The video only needed slight tweaking and so they'd agreed
to complete it over breakfast in her office. The angel
laughed when he stepped into the room and found himself
staring at three very large, vibrantly colored plush frogs. Lulu
timidly approached them, staring at the amphibians warily alongside
"Mick's been by?"
"How'd ya know?" JenniAnn asked.
"He stopped by my place around 7:30 with several cases of ginger ale
and one very heartfelt apology," Andrew explained. "He said he
was coming here next."
"That he did. And he even named them." JenniAnn's hand
drifted from a magenta frog to a cerulean one to an emerald one.
"Mea, Maxima, and Culpa. Which actually sounds kinda cute but in
English that makes them My, Most Grievous, and Fault which, ya know,
is a lil bit weird."
Andrew chuckled. "So how did he seem to you?"
JenniAnn thought. "Well, apologetic and embarrassed. And I
told him that I was hurt and scared out of my mind by all that but...
that I couldn't forget that if not for him speaking up two years ago...
I might still be living a lie. And if he hadn't volunteered his
P.I. services back in November..." She shook her head, banishing
the thought. "Well, I couldn't rightly hold a
grudge. So once he was assured of that he seemed, well, blissful."
"Good. And how do you feel?" Andrew checked.
She sighed. "I feel... blessed and loved," she responded.
"The same," Andrew agreed, hugging her. "And very, very ready to
show this off." He pointed to the disk that was on her computer
"Me too. We're meeting everyone at noon so... three hours."
"And have you decided?"
JenniAnn grinned. "Yes, I believe I have. And I say we go
"It'll be different than previous years," Andrew pointed out.
"True. But different can be good. So... I'm game if you
Andrew gave her a sly smile. "Game on."
They toasted their plan over coffee and heart-shaped French toast
before beginning their
The Cafe was nearly at capacity when the
great video unveiling was set to begun. After a potluck lunch,
every person who had been interviewed, several of the Tunnel children,
Josephine, Henry, Mick, Beth, Josef, and Eli all directed their
attention to the
screen that nearly covered the karaoke stage.
To the sound of clapping and cheers, Andrew and JenniAnn climbed to the
stage to address their friends.
"JenniAnn and I would like to thank every one of you who had a part in
this video. We had a great time interviewing so many of you and
spending time with so many more of you. We love you all very much
and hearing you speak about the types of love that are meaningful to
you... it was a gift." Andrew beamed as his gaze settled on each
JenniAnn nodded. "Sometimes your answers were funny. Some
very serious. But they all touched us. And we hope this
video we put together with your help touches all of you."
With that, the video began to roll.
There were laughter and tears as the interviews played, interspersed
with shots of life in Dyeland and the Sibling Cities. There were
"awws" and cheers during footage of Adam/Father Christmas among the
children at the Phoenix. Several Dyelanders cringed even as they
laughed when it became obvious Andrew and JenniAnn had seen fit to
include the footage Willy had shot of them dancing like maniacs at the
Renaissance Faire. However, no one could accuse the two of being
selective with their embarrassing scenes. The group laughed
thunderously at footage of Andrew donning several barrettes after some
of the little girls had begged the chance to style his hair.
There was a scene of JenniAnn proudly showing off the shirt covered
with Andrew's nicknames... only realizing after a rather exuberant
explanation of "Rakish One," in which she recalled his habit of failing
to utilize all his shirt buttons, that Andrew was behind her, grinning
from ear to ear just moments before tapping her shoulder.
Josephine leading a Bible study at the Phoenix. There
was Mick and Beth, pelting each other with snow balls only to get
clobbered by Josef. They'd even captured Eli, in full Lumiere
gear, rehearsing. Rose listing off number after number with
Andrew simply answering "No, try again," with each guess at his
age. Owen patiently helping the children to paint their
valentines. Several people got misty eyed during a scene of Tess
singing at the Phoenix, her soft gaze often falling on Andrew who had
only recently moved in off the streets. There was Jacob curled up
Vincent's lap as Catherine read to them both while Father looked on
proudly. Willy, Yva, and Sir Sven laughing as they made the
rounds of the former's factory. The AOD Band playing for their
ever-appreciative admirers. Nigel speaking to intent Tunnel
children about his time. And, of course, the directors were sure
to include the "best of" from Spin the Bottle nights.
As they all watched each other speak of love and saw highlights of a
year filled with blessings and sadnesses, both of which they'd faced
together, no one noticed Andrew and JenniAnn slip away. Their
disappearance was only remarked upon when the disk seemed to stick and
the video froze on an image of all of them gathered together outside on
Christmas Eve, dripping from making snow angels but incredibly happy.
"Andrew?" Adam called. "I think you need to do something,
buddy. JenniAnn? The video is frozen."
No one answered.
"Baby?" Tess shouted.
"I do not see either him or JenniAnn," Nigel responded with concern.
Yva looked around. "Well, they have to be here. I know they
wouldn't just leave. This tradition is really important to them
"Definitely. And it seems like this is usually the point where
they play some really great, meaningful song," Rose added.
Mick shuffled nervously then rose from the bench he was sharing with
Beth at the back of the Cafe. "Well, the thing is... I kind of
wrecked yesterday for them so it's possible they didn't get to finish
"I don't think that's it," Owen countered. "I think they finished
it because they apparently had enough time to go shopping. I ran
into them yesterday afternoon at a thrift shop back in NYC.
Actually... come to think of it, they were behaving a little strangely."
Josef, sitting very near the stage, heard the distinct sound of
JenniAnn giggling and Andrew muttering "I'm shedding sequins
everywhere." Smiling, he kept mum.
"I believe this must be part of their presentation," Vincent
reasoned. "I know my cousin well and she would not leave
something of this value unfinished. I cannot believe Andrew
"Oooh! Psyche has a pretty dress!"
Everyone turned to see that Shelby had moved to the side of the
stage. She was smiling as she looked behind the screen.
Eli chuckled. "I hope you're all ready for this."
"You know what they're doing?" Beth asked.
He shook his head. "No but I know them both. And I know
what they're capable of."
Josef continued to laugh quietly at the dialogue only he could
"Shelby saw us."
"Maybe just you. You are a little... eye-catching, you know."
"And you aren't? Grr. Why won't this start? They're
Andrew chuckled. "I've found that it helps to plug CD players in."
And then very familiar notes of a song filled the Cafe and Andrew's
voice came over the speaker. "JenniAnn and I are perfectly aware
that for the past two years we've each ended the documentary with a
nice, lyrical, beautiful song."
"That's right," JenniAnn continued. "But this year... with
everything we've been through together... it's time to have fun!
And sing! And dance! And celebrate one of the greatest
gifts God has given us... each other... a family. So..."
The two emerged from behind the curtains, JenniAnn in a ridiculous
pink-sequined dress and Andrew in an equally horrendous red sequined
shirt redeemed only by his much-appreciated blue jeans. On cue,
disco balls dropped from the ceiling and everyone, fully giving into
the spectacle and the emotion sang and danced together.
"We are family!
All my brothers, sisters, and me!
We are family!
Get up everybody and sing!"
After the first verse, JenniAnn stepped
it all and smiled at her friends. For a brief moment, she felt a
pang of worry as she thought about what Andrew would soon have to tell
them. But then she heard a shriek of laughter and saw him
twirling Shelby around as other lil ones patiently waited their
Yva and Sir Sven danced past her. "This was a great idea!" the
former shouted, laughing.
JenniAnn smiled and nodded.
A moment later, Eli approached. "It'll be alright, kiddo,"
he encouraged, noticing her preoccupation with Andrew. "No matter
what happens, remember who the Head of this family is. He'll get
us all through."
JenniAnn nodded. She giggled again. Andrew was really
getting into the song! He was singing even louder than Tess!
Andrew smiled encouragingly at JenniAnn, knowing what her thoughts had
drifted to. Pointedly, he sang with even more gusto the lyrics of
the song that suddenly took on even greater meaning for him.
"Living life is fun and we've just
to get our share of the world's delights.
High hopes we have for the future
and our goal's in sight!
No, we don't get depressed.
Here's what we call our golden rule:
have faith in you and the things you do.
You won't go wrong.
This is our family jewel."
He was reluctant for the song to end but
when it did, Andrew hugged his equally bedazzled friend. "I'm
we went with this option."
"Me too! We look horrendously gaudy but... look at
everyone!" JenniAnn beamed at all the dear people around them,
still laughing and happily discussing their favorite parts of the
video. She turned back to Andrew. "And you... with the
kids. That was adorable."
Andrew smiled. "I had a great time... especially knowing it
doesn't have to end."
"Never," she added.
"Never," he echoed.
Andrew raised his eye brow. "What?"
"I just love how you say that is all."
Andrew smiled at her, bemused. "Whatever you say, Laja."
"I hope you're not plotting anything else," Rose teased as she
Andrew chuckled. "That was our only surprise, I promise."
"Good. Because now that they saw it on the documentary, the kids
want to learn 'Spin the Bottle: Dyeland Style' and your participation
is required," she stressed.
Gamely, Andrew and JenniAnn agreed and joined the large circle of
people as Adam laid out the history.
As he listened, Andrew's gaze traveled around the circle. Maybe
JenniAnn was right. Maybe he had been Real for more years than
either she or Rose could ever count. But he knew that each of
them made him feel more Real, more a part of something, more the person
the Father had created him to be. And he loved them and Him for
that. Closing his eyes for a brief moment, Andrew told the Father
of his gratitude and love and heard love echoed back to him along with
a sense of peace and determination with which to face the future:
whatever it brought, whatever changed, and whatever stayed the same.
"Thank you, Father," the angel whispered. Then he devoted his
to the rest of the celebration of family, friends, and love in all its