“The cure for anything is salt water—
sweat, tears, or the sea.”
~ Isak Dinesen

Hi all,

So this is kinda a "bridge story."  I need certain people to be in certain places for the *next* story which I actually thought up first.  Thus, this one bridges "We Trust to Thee" and the story that will eventually come.  If you haven't read "We Trust" then chunks of this may not make much sense.  But I can recap if necessary.

Anyhow, just a note on the "chapters."
  Unlike other stories, this is not neatly arranged by date.  It keeps flashing back to Sept. 3rd.  So I couldn't neatly separate it into dates.  However, those clickable chapter links are very helpful to me when I'm adding stories to the Encyclopedia so I wanted to have some.  I'm sorry if they seem randomly placed.  I just wasn't quite sure how else to do this!

Similarly, I did not intend for this to be a two-parter.  But then it ended up waaay longer than I ever planned so I felt I had to divide it.  (Bonus: I now get a lil vacation from newsletter writing!)  Therefore, the break between Part I and Part II is a lil awkward.

Finally, BIG thanks to Nicole for proofreading this and offering some feedback that really helped!

God bless,

Where You Go, I Will Go

Looking Back      ~      On Board      ~      At Sea        ~        Bahamas      ~      A Wedding at Sea


September 3rd, 2010- Dyeland


JenniAnn sat on the floor of her office in Willowveil Castle.  Sheets and scraps of paper, photos, stickers, brightly colored pens, and more were spread all around her.  Resting on her lap was an already overflowing binder which she intended to make even thicker.  With a smile, she read the words she'd placed on its cover: Andrew's Scrapbook, Vol. V- August 2009 to...  She flipped open the cover.  Her smile grew as she surveyed photos of a summer day's picnic, Andrew's last birthday party, Adam's celebration the following month, the group's visit to a Renaissance Faire, and Halloween.  With no witnesses around to tease her, she lingered over the page showing off the angel of death in his Indiana Jones costume.  It wasn't only her appreciation of Andrew's fetching costume that kept her from turning the page, however.  It was partly the knowledge of what would come next.  She drew in a deep breath when she, at last, turned to the next section.

For at least the dozenth time, JenniAnn was glad she'd used sheet protectors through out the multi-volume project.  A few tears ran down her cheeks, slid off her chin, and splashed onto the plastic.  The hospital bracelet below it remained unharmed, as did the New York Times article describing the testimony Andrew had given at the trial of the boys who had attacked him and several other homeless people.  The book's editor cheered up as she flipped to the following pages which showed off brightly drawn get well cards from the angel's many friends.  They were followed by photos of their Thanksgiving dinner at the Phoenix which gave way to bits of tinsel, faux snow, pressed poinsettias, and Christmas photos. 

JenniAnn blushed and giggled once she'd made her way through a series of pages devoted to random, non-holidays and came to Valentine's Day.  She wished she hadn't put in the ridiculous photo of herself and Andrew in red and pink sequined outfits.  The rest of the section helped to restore her pride.  There were pictures of friends, snippets of song lyrics, interview one-liners, and hearts cut from one of Andrew's flannel shirts.  JenniAnn smiled as she remembered that the shirt's shoulders had fallen victim to eye shadow stains one evening when its owner had watched The Notebook while sitting between two Dyelander women. 

But after that, the scrapbook changed.  No silly string haphazardly clumped onto a page to commemorate a playful group raid of the Jolly Green while Andrew was away.  No random musings collected from the gang after a rousing game of "Spin-the-Bottle: Dyeland Style."  Some photographs depicted Andrew with her.  Or the angel with Yva and Willy.  Or Rose and Tess.  But gone were the group photos that had decked the other pages.

Troubled by all the lost opportunities, JenniAnn closed the cover and traced Andrew's name.

"It's still spelled the same as it always has been.  I don't think you need to check."

JenniAnn jumped and looked to the hallway where the voice had come from.  She smiled when she saw Andrew and patted an area of the carpet near her.

Andrew took the proffered seat, pushing some scrap booking supplies out of the way.  "Everything okay?  You looked a little troubled for someone who just came back from a week long cruise."

The woman shrugged.  "I was just looking back and noticing how all these recent pages are missing group photos."

The angel frowned.  Before answering, he glanced around and his gaze fell on a stack of photos.  Smiling he picked them up and flipped through the stack.  Selecting one, he held it out to his friend.  "It is sad.  But I have a feeling it won't stay that way for long."

JenniAnn grinned as she held the photo she had taken of eight of her friends standing outside Andrew's packed-to-the-brim van.  Yva, Sir Sven, C.J., and Lady Beth looked excited.  Rose grinned from beneath a sign she was holding which read "Caribbean Vacation: Day One!"  Andrew looked exhausted from his van-packing but content.  Adam appeared bemused.  Tess was eying the luggage-filled vehicle suspiciously. 

"And that was just the beginning.  Where's that one of all of us on the beach at Grand Turk?"  Andrew began to look through more stacks.  "Laja!  How many photos did you take?!"

"1,089 but I only printed 250."

Andrew face turned bright red.  "Was this one absolutely necessary to print?"

The photographer glanced at her work.  "Oh, yes.  Very much.  But that's not til Day 7 so..."  She took the photo and set it in another stack.

"So you're going in chronological order?" 

JenniAnn nodded.

"Wait, why is there a map of Missouri?"

"Well, cause, for us that's when the adventure really began.  When we visited Raquel and she told us the happy news.  And we looked at swatches and flowers and picked colors and..."  She looked over at her guest and laughed at his dazed look.  "I have a feeling that's all a blur to you."

"I still don't know the difference between aquamarine and turquoise," Andrew confessed.  "But that was a great day."

"Exactly.  So that's why this section of your scrapbook is starting there.  Well, that and the fact that we flew out of Missouri."  JenniAnn pasted the map onto a fresh sheet.  She smiled wistfully.  "Do you remember how nervous I was when we first got to Raquel's and we didn't yet know what her big news was?"

"I think you cut off circulation in my right hand at one point," Andrew teased.

"It's not like I was the only one!  The way you were raking your hand through your hair, it's a miracle you're not bald!  Hey, maybe that was why I kept grabbing your hand.  I was being protective," JenniAnn suggested slyly.

"Right..." the angel echoed, eyes twinkling as he recalled how the trip that would change so much for him and his friends had begun.


June 18th, 2010


Andrew and JenniAnn stood on Raquel's porch and waved good bye as Owen, Portia, and the Tunnel children drove off.  After spending a week camping in Wisconsin, the group had detoured to Missouri so the two Dyelanders could catch up with their friend, Raquel Seywell.  In order to give them time to do so, Owen and Portia had carted the excited children off to a rare movie.  That left only Andrew, JenniAnn, and Raquel at the latter's cozy house.

JenniAnn turned to Andrew, drawing in a deep breath.  "Well... shall we go hear Raquel's big announcement?  You don't... you don't think she's sick do you?" she fretted.

The angel yanked his hand through his hair, gazing up at the sky.  "I hope not.  I think the Father would tell me if she was."

"It's just... she was so insistent on telling us in person."

"That could mean anything.  Maybe she wants to help us through whatever she has to say.  Or maybe she just wants to see our reaction to something exciting.  Or..."  Andrew's face clouded.  "Maybe she just really wanted some company, Laja.  You know, it really bothers me that her friends are still laying low over a year after Dawn died." 

JenniAnn frowned, watching as his hand again glided through his hair.  Before she could comment, she glimpsed Raquel peeking out the window at them.  "Whatever it is, I think she's pretty anxious to tell us.  Shall we?"

Nodding, Andrew held open the door for her and then stepped inside himself.  The nervousness he felt reminded him of his first visit to the house when he, Lady Beth, Yva, C.J. and Rose had come to comfort the newly bereaved mother.  Before closing the door, he lifted his eyes to the heavens and asked the Father for guidance in helping Raquel face whatever was to come.

"I'm in the living room!" their host called a moment after Andrew locked the door.

The two hastened to the room and looked expectantly at Raquel.

"Sit, sit!" she directed, waving to the couch.

Obediently, Andrew and JenniAnn did.  They looked on with some concern as Raquel flitted about the room, straightening blinds, fluffing throw pillows, and picking up a stray piece of lint here and there.

"Raquel, are you alright?" Andrew asked after a few moments of studying the woman.  Her agitation troubled him.  His hand was poised near his hair when JenniAnn grabbed it, holding tightly.  The angel forced a serene smile for her sake.

The older woman laughed.  "Good Lord, I haven't felt this nervous in a long time.  I'm too old to be behaving like this!"  She plopped into a chair across from them.

Surrendering the angel's hand, JenniAnn reached across and patted Raquel's.  "You're not old at all, Raquel!"

"You're very sweet."  Raquel beamed at the younger woman and grew calm.  "Kids," she began, "there's something I want to tell you because you and your friends mean so much to me."

JenniAnn bowed her head and smiled despite her fears.  It amused her to hear someone refer to Andrew, who might literally be older than the hills, as a kid.  But the affectionate, motherly sort of way in which Raquel spoke also touched her.  She rather liked the idea of someone mothering Andrew.  And she especially liked the idea that Raquel, bereaved of her only child, would be the one to do it. 

"Go on, Raquel," Andrew encouraged.  He steadied himself before proceeding, grateful when his friend's hand once again closed around his.  Whatever happened, he was thankful that he wouldn't face it alone. "If it's important to you then JenniAnn and I want to hear it.  And we'll support you however we can."

"Oh... it's definitely important."  Raquel began to giggle.  "And I do have very specific ideas on how you can support me."

Andrew and JenniAnn exchanged bemused and relieved looks.  Raquel had a wonderful sense of humor but, in all their visits, they had never seen the woman giggle!

"Well... you know how shortly after your last visit I went on a cruise for a month?" Raquel continued.

Smiling breezily upon being delivered from his worry, Andrew nodded.  "I remember very well.  Everyone loved looking at the photos you emailed!" 

"It was beautiful.  And... it was also life changing for me."  Raquel smiled tenderly.  "You see... I've met someone.  A man who has become very special to me."

"That's wonderful!" JenniAnn gushed.  "I'm sure *he's* wonderful!  I think it's so great you have a boyfriend, Raquel!" 

Raquel laughed.  "Well... he's not exactly my boyfriend..."

"Well, whatever he is to you, I agree with JenniAnn.  I'm sure he's a great guy and I'm really happy for you, Raquel.  You deserve to be happy."  Andrew bestowed a bright smile on his former assignment.  He was thrilled that her news seemed to center around a relationship, whatever that might be.  His and JenniAnn's sporadic visits and letters and phone calls from the others could never be enough company.  But maybe this man could be.  "So does your new friend live around here?" he asked, hoping.

"Well..."  Raquel drew in a deep breath.  "Not really.  You see...  He's the captain of the ship.  His name is Nico Moretti.  We met on the ship, naturally, and from that first moment..."  The woman's gaze grew dreamy.  "I... I haven't felt that way since Hank died."

Andrew moved to hug the woman as she recalled her deceased husband.

"Sweet boy," Raquel murmured, returning his embrace.  She settled back against the cushion of her chair and Andrew returned to his seat beside JenniAnn.  "The thing is, kids... Nico's about five years older than myself.  We're neither of us spring chickens thus we don't see much point in wasting time so... we're getting married in August, at sea.  During a week long Caribbean cruise.  I know it seems sudden and you may think I've lost my mind but... there it is!  And I... we... would very much love to have you all there as our guests." 

Andrew and JenniAnn stared at the woman, the latter's mouth hanging open and the former's eye brows arched.

Raquel, nervous again, began to speak at an alarming pace.  "You two, Rose, Yva, Beth, C.J., Adam, Tess, and Monica.  And, of course, whatever plus ones they choose to bring.  I know you all have your jobs and your families so if you can't it's fine and I know this probably seems foolish.  So grand a wedding for a couple of old fogies... but it's really the only way Nico's friends can be there... and if you could, too... I've prayed and prayed you could but I know that sometimes prayers aren't always answered as we'd like so..."

Andrew shook himself out of his stupor.  "Yes.  Of course!" he answered, not wanting to let Raquel fret a moment longer.  "I can't speak for everyone but I'll be there, Raquel.  I promise.  God promises.  Raquel!  I think this is great!" he gushed as he moved to hug the soon-to-be bride.

"You don't think it's too soon?  I was worried it would sound so irresponsible," Raquel confessed.

JenniAnn began to rouse, convincing herself she had heard what she thought she had.  Her face broke out in a grin as she responded.  "Raquel, you've always struck me as a level headed person and I think sometimes when things are meant to be... we just know," she assured, embracing the bride-to-be.

Andrew chuckled when JenniAnn realized her gaze had drifted over to him as she spoke to Raquel. 

Raquel looked from one smiling face to the other, grateful for their support but still concerned.  "And you're sure this isn't goofy?  I mean... I'll be sixty soon!  And married twice already!  Is this... unseemly?"

Andrew shook his head.  "I think you should do what you want to do.  It's your wedding, yours and Nico's.  And since you met on a cruise ship, what better place to get married?  Plus, it's like you said: there's no other way for his friends in the crew to be there."

"And you'll be such a beautiful bride, Raquel!" JenniAnn gushed.  "Ooh, what are your colors going to be?"

Raquel laughed.  "I suppose I should start thinking about that.  And maybe you two can weigh in because... I have one more favor to ask."

Andrew and JenniAnn reclaimed their places on the couch but left room for Raquel between them.  She took a seat and held one of their hands in each of hers.

"You see... a lot of friends fell away after... after Dawn died.  I guess they didn't know what to say.  Now, I do still have my best friend, Carol, who will be my maid of honor.  And, of course, there's the two of you and your friends.  But Nico has a whole ship to stand up for him and... and as happy as the idea of this wedding makes me... I can't quite believe I'm going through it so alone... without Dawn standing up for me.  I mean I know she'll be there in spirit but..."

Raquel began to cry into Andrew's shoulder and JenniAnn softly stroked her back.

After a few moments, Raquel sat up, dabbed at her face with a tissue Andrew handed her, smiled bravely at them both, and proceeded.  "Will you...  stand up with me, JenniAnn?   And Andrew would you be so kind as to be in Nico's party?  I've told him so much about you and he wants someone from my side to stand up there with him.  Do you... do you both think you could?"

JenniAnn felt tears form in her own eyes.  She was very much aware that she would be standing there as a proxy for the girl who could not.  "Of course, Raquel.  It would be my honor," she murmured.

"And mine, too," Andrew added. 

Raquel drew in a deep breath and wiped away the last of her tears.  "I'm so glad!  Thank you!  And I was thinking that maybe the others could take parts, too.  Do you think Tess would agree to sing at the ceremony and reception?"

Andrew laughed.  "I think Tess would be more thrilled than you know."

"And perhaps Adam could take a turn or two?  He has such a fine voice.  And Yva, too.  Maybe they could sing a duet?  Oh and does Monica sing?"

Andrew bit his lip and tilted his head, trying to think of the most diplomatic way to answer.  "Well... were you thinking of having any readings at the wedding?  Monica has a beautiful speaking voice, as you know."

Raquel took the hint and grinned.  "As it happens, I'll have a few readings.  And then, maybe, and this is all only if everyone's willing... maybe Rose could..."  With that Raquel was off and running with her plans.

Andrew couldn't keep the smile off his face as he patiently and cluelessly sat by while JenniAnn and Raquel rifled through magazines and surfed the Internet, plotting the ideal ocean-set wedding.  He couldn't wait until the Dyelanders found out about the adventure ahead of them.


September 3rd


JenniAnn taped the wedding invitation onto a sheet printed with rose petals, concluding the pre-cruise portion of Andrew's book. 

The angel of death continued to flip through the photos, smiling at all the images of his friends.  He looked away and noticed JenniAnn surveying the stacks around her and looking flustered.  "Can I help you do anything?"

The woman looked at him with relief.  "That would be lovely."  She grabbed some paper, a stencil, and scissors and placed them in front of him.  "If you could cut out some shell and starfish shapes, that would be awesome."

"I've been a Kindergarten teacher at least... eleven?... times.  I think I can do that," Andrew agreed with a smile as he set to work.  He'd not even gotten a full shell cut out before Lulu sauntered off the couch where she'd been sleeping and nudged his arm. 

JenniAnn laughed.  "But pay attention to your dog first.  She's probly in withdrawals still.  I'm sure I'll need to take a Fawn break once she gets up.  Their time at the Phoenix sure wore em out!"

Andrew nuzzled the sleepy dog once she'd climbed into his lap.  "I missed you, too, baby," he cooed.

Eyebrow raised, JenniAnn stared at him.  "For a second there, I thought Tess had entered the room."

Andrew looked up to find she was trying to suppress a laugh.  "Hey, you can't spend years working with someone and not have some of their ways of speaking rub off on you!  And having spent this past week with Tess, I guess it came back to me a little.  You know, like when people who have lost their accents go back to their hometown and suddenly the accent's back?  You should have heard me when I first reunited with Tess!  And I did miss Lulu."

Laughing freely, JenniAnn stroked the dog's back.  "Yeah, I missed them both.  Gah, I was a wreck the day we handed em over to Catherine, wasn't I?"
"Wreck might be a little strong.  Maybe... wreck-like?" Andrew kidded.  "As I recall, the dogs weren't your only concern, though.  You had good reason to be emotional."

Nodding, JenniAnn reached for a group photo and let her mind wander back to the start of the previous week.


August 22nd--The Night Before Departure


JenniAnn watched nervously as Andrew stepped onto the scale, holding her suitcase. 

"Well... it looks like you can buy twelve pounds of souvenirs and be able to bring this back without having to pay an excess bag fee.  Good job!"  The angel smiled at his visibly relieved friend.  He knew she'd been a nervous wreck for at least the entire week.  With less than twelve hours remaining before they left Dyeland, he was happy to at least take that one concern away from her.  "So I'll just load this into the Jolly Green and after I stop by Yva's and Sir Sven's, it'll be all packed up for tomorrow!  I can't believe I fit everyone's luggage into the van.  I guess that's another reminder that the Father knew what He was doing when He gave me that instead of a sports car."  Andrew shook his head and laughed at the memory of his dismay upon finding himself with a mini-van.

JenniAnn nodded.  "Thanks for doing that.  And for... ya know... earlier..."  Her gaze drifted to a forlorn basket of dog toys.

Andrew hugged his friend, remembering *her* forlornness as they'd dropped their dogs off with her cousin that afternoon.  "Lulu and Fawn will have a great time at the Phoenix!  Think of all the fun they'll have with the kids!"

"I know.  And it's not like they seemed unhappy there.  So it's not so much them I'm worried about, I guess.  I... I've just hardly ever been away from Fawn and if something goes wrong during the cruise and then I won't have anyone to cuddle and hug and..." 

The angel grabbed a tissue and handed it to the distraught woman.  "Well, I think you can find someone to hug... can't say that I know who in particular, of course..."  He tilted his head, pretending to think very deeply and hoping to make her laugh.  After a few moments his eyes lit up dramatically and he grinned at her.  "Well, hey, you've always said I was cuddly!"

His charade worked and JenniAnn giggled despite her tears.  "Not the same, Andrew."

He feigned disappointment.  "But you also always say I have a very cute puppy dog look."

"And I always say you're modest but I'm beginning to call that into question," she teased.

Andrew chuckled, glad to see her smile.  Still, she seemed agitated as she paced around the room packing her carry-on bag.  He tried to imagine everything that might be troubling her.  "Laja, what is it you think is going to go wrong?  I'm sure Raquel and Nico have seen to everything.  And you know the ship itself is very safe.  I know sometimes crowds are difficult for you but we'll all be with you.  And..."  JenniAnn looked up at him so abruptly he stopped speaking.  "What is it?"

"That's what I'm concerned about," she admitted.  "Us."

"Us?"  Andrew raised an eye brow, looking at her in confusion.  "You mean you and me... us?  Why?"

JenniAnn shook her head vigorously.  "No, no.  Not us," she waved her hand between the two of them.  "Us."  She gestured towards her photo-filled book case.

Andrew frowned and stepped towards the images of all their friends.  In the past, JenniAnn had always replaced the central group photo on a monthly basis.  However, the photo displayed there was from Valentine's Day.  The whole of Dyeland simply hadn't all been getting together as much since then.

"Andrew, things... things haven't been the same lately.  We haven't said much about it but we both know it.  And maybe they do, too.  But I don't know why.  And I... when Raquel first mentioned this, I was so excited.  It was ideal!  A full week all together in a string of cabins!  What better way to reconnect!  But now... with it almost here...  It *does* seem so ideal which makes me worry... what if it doesn't work?  What if we don't reconnect?  Then what?  Andrew... I miss the old us."  JenniAnn's eyes clouded with tears again as she looked up to him, pleading for some comfort.

Andrew bowed his head.  Every word she'd spoken was true.  He also had sensed a distance growing among the people of Dyeland.  They were still friendly when they met up in small groups at the Cafe or volunteered together at the Phoenix or visited Below.  Things went well enough when they played games or worked on improvement projects together.  But lately it felt like they were always striving for the gentle affection, easy exchange of ideas and feelings, and camaraderie that had once come so easily.  He knew how that played on JenniAnn's fear that they would all drift apart.  All too well he could remember other friends who had come and gone from Dyeland.  The current group had become a constant for them both.  Since Rose's arrival over three years previously, no one had left.  The angel fervently prayed that would remain the case.  But he also knew JenniAnn was right.  Something had to change to keep it that way and soon.

With a sigh, Andrew again embraced his friend.  "I miss the old us, too.  But you know what?"

JenniAnn pulled away enough to look up at him.  "What?"

"As special as our friendships are to us, they're even more treasured by the Father.  So why don't we ask Him for help?"

The woman nodded, her face lighting up.  "I think that's a great plan."

They moved onto the balcony, staring up at the sky under which many of their most treasured memories with their friends had taken place.  Together they prayed for guidance.

When they'd finished, JenniAnn hugged Andrew good bye.  She returned to the balcony as soon as he departed.  She crossed herself and offered up a prayer she didn't dare say in front of the angel of death.


September 3rd


"You know, I think the Father did a pretty amazing job of answering that prayer."

JenniAnn snapped out of her reverie.  "Huh?  Oh, right.  Yeah."  She nodded profusely.  "I'd say."

"All right there?  Are you sure you're not still jet-lagged?  Have you taken a break at all between unpacking and this?" Andrew queried.

"I slept last night, trust me."  JenniAnn turned her attention to gluing Andrew's boarding pass from their first flight into place.  A moment later there was a knock on her office door.

The two looked up to see Rose standing in the door way.

"Oh, yay, come in, Rose.  Hi!" JenniAnn greeted.

"Hi.  Hi, Andrew."  Rose did a double-take when she entered the office.  "Somehow I thought your scrap booking process would be a little more... organized, JenniAnn.  Like, you know, you."  She plopped down on the floor next to Andrew.

Lulu rolled off Andrew's lap and onto the carpet, eying Rose hopefully and receiving a belly rub for her efforts. 

Free of Lulu for at least a moment, Andrew returned to his shell and starfish making duties. 

JenniAnn laughed at Rose's wide-eyed dismay at her mess.  "Normally, yes, I'm more organized with this.  But as I'm trying to get this done before the big reunion dinner tonight... not so much!  Ya wanna help?"

"Sure," Rose agreed.  "What do I do?" 

JenniAnn handed her a stack of photos.  "Cut these up.  I don't care how.  I mean obviously don't cut anyone or anything vital out but, like, funky edges or shapes or something.  I just don't like having a buncha rectangles in the book."

Rose smiled as she flipped through them.  "Here we are at the Missouri airport!"  She laughed.  "We all look completely exhausted."

"Even I think 4:00 is too early to wake up.  But it was worth it in this case."  JenniAnn smiled as she recalled the excitement they'd all felt despite the fatigue.

"I've always found flying kind of relaxing.  Well, you know, when I'm not working," Andrew corrected.

"I suppose it can be relaxing... for some," Rose agreed, smiling mischeviously at JenniAnn.


August 23rd- On Board


Rose glanced over at JenniAnn as the plane began its descent.  She was surprised that her seat mate's eyes were shut and she was wincing slightly.

Sensing she was being watched, JenniAnn cocked open an eye.

Rose laughed.  "Somehow I figured that with all the trips you took to New York when you were younger that you'd be better with the whole plane thing."

JenniAnn opened her other eye and turned to the younger woman.  "I'm not nervous about the landing.  But... other things..."

"Care to explain?"

Looking a few rows ahead of them to where Andrew and Raquel sat, laughing, JenniAnn tilted her head nearer to Rose's.  "Well, for one, Andrew seems really, really happy and carefree and... once we board the ship Monica will be there and I don't want things getting weird and awkward and messing up his mood."

"Ah...  Well, things seemed okay when she was around last time."

"Yeah, in November/December," JenniAnn responded with ill-concealed disgust.  "It's a little difficult to not be at all attentive to someone in a cast who looks considerably more fragile than when you last saw him... especially when you only have to act thus for a few hours before disappearing for months."

"Point taken.  Is that all?"

JenniAnn shook her head but before she could continue the captain announced that they would be landing in ten minutes.

"Cruise ship here we come!" Lady Beth called from behind them.

Rose and JenniAnn smiled, their previous conversation tabled.  "So what are you most looking forward to?" the latter asked.

"Raquel said there's free all you can eat ice cream," Rose responded.

JenniAnn laughed.  "Sounds good to me!  I hope they have all you can drink coffee.  Or chai.  Or something caffeinated." 

Rose shook her head.  "I vote we use this time to bring Monica around.  You really need a drinking buddy."

"Tess would *love* that.  We could enable each other's addiction."

"All the better reason to make it happen."

"Did I hear someone say my name?  Babies?"

Rose and JenniAnn looked at the angel across the aisle and smiled beatifically at her.  "We just hope you have a wonderful time, Tess," Rose told her.

The angel frowned.  "Uh huh..."

"Well, we do!" JenniAnn insisted.

Tess turned to Adam.  "Something tells me there's some scheming going on."

The angel of death looked up from the magazine he was perusing.  "How do I get in on it?" he asked with a grin.

"Humph!"  Tess rolled her eyes and settled into her seat, staring ahead.

Adam winked at the two girls before turning to the window.  "I think a person could live for eons and never get tired of this view," he remarked, loud enough for the entire group to hear in their cluster of seats.

They all peered out their own windows and took in the view of light clouds drifting over the brilliant blue of the ocean.  A thrill went through them all, even through the three who had seen the heavenly view so often.  All cares and worries were forgotten when they realized the radiant and massive sea would be their home for a whole week.


After disembarking and claiming their luggage without a hitch, the group moved towards the airport exit.

"Now, Nico said he'd have a van waiting and someone with a sign reading Seywell so keep your eyes..."  Raquel rounded a corner into the waiting area and stared in dismay.  As soon as she came into view a string quartet started up with the opening strains of "Some Enchanted Evening."  A moment later a burly, gray-haired man in a captain's uniform stepped out from behind the band.  Raquel ran into his arms.

"Oh!  How sweet!" Yva cried, hugging Sir Sven.

"I wonder if that's their song?" C.J. pondered.

Beaming, Andrew nodded.  "It is.  Raquel told me that they danced to it the night they met."

The group looked away politely as the fiancés kissed.

"Andrew, did Raquel happen to mention what exactly Nico knows about us?" Adam asked.

Andrew chuckled.  "She did.  Apparently he was at first a little concerned about how to properly greet us.  She assured him genuflecting wouldn't be necessary.  Hopefully he'll be over the shock by the time we meet."  He cocked his head towards the couple behind him.  "Are they still... busy?"

Yva shrugged after looking towards the couple.  "They're talking right now but I'm sure she'll introduce us soon."

"Don't look now but I think some girl's checking you out, Andrew," Rose teased.

Everyone surreptitiously looked over and saw a girl of about 25 in a yellow sun dress standing near the door.  She was sneaking peeks in their direction.

Andrew blushed.  "I'm sure it's just the quartet.  It's not every day you walk into an airport and see one of those.  Or maybe it's Adam."

Adam shook his head, smirking.  "I doubt it.  I look old enough to be her father.  She's definitely staring at you, buddy."

"We're both older than probably every forefather on her family tree," Andrew commented.

"Hasn't stopped others..." JenniAnn teased.  "And you do look especially cute in that shirt."

"Angel Boy always looks cute," Tess countered, affectionately squeezing Andrew's shoulders.

"Naturally, that's why JenniAnn said *especially,*" Lady Beth explained.

The rose-hued angel of death was relieved when Raquel and Nico approached, drawing everyone's attention away from the subjects of his potential admirer and cuteness.

"Everyone, I'd like you to meet Nico," the bride-to-be introduced.

Adam stuck his hand out first.  "Adam and I'm very glad to meet you.  And very glad you're Nico.  I would have been concerned otherwise after that greeting."

The captain laughed.  "Yes, as well you should have been.  I am sorry if it caused any embarrassment."

"Oh no!" JenniAnn exclaimed.  "It was lovely!" 

"I believe you're JenniAnn, correct?  One of the bridesmaids."

JenniAnn nodded, beaming.  "Yep.  And very honored to be so."  She was surprised when the captain, a markedly unreserved fellow, hugged her.

"Now, let me see if I can guess as to the rest of your identities..."  Nico approached Yva and Sir Sven, correctly guessing their identities as the sole other couple in the party.  He identified them all on his first try, bestowing a quick hug to each.  Lastly, he came to Andrew who he paused in front of.  "And you... I know you're Andrew.  I recognize you from the photo at Raquel's."  He pulled the angel into a hug.  "It's truly an honor to meet you and to have you stand up with me."  Lowering his voice, he continued.  "My fiancée has told me of all you've done for her since Dawn's death.  Thank you."

Once released, Andrew nodded and swallowed a lump in his throat.  "Her friendship means a lot to me."  He squeezed Raquel's hand.  "And it means a lot to us all to be here.  Thank you for generously inviting and hosting us."

Nico waved his hand dismissively.  "Weddings are about bringing together not just two people but two families.  The latter wouldn't have been possible without all of you.  And Carol."  He turned to Raquel.  "She arrived a couple of hours ago, my dear, and made me promise not to dawdle in bringing you.  So shall we be off?"

"We shall!" Raquel happily agreed.

They all followed the blissful couple out into the sunlight to where the cruise line's vans were waiting.  As Andrew helped the girls in, he considered what Nico had said about weddings bringing together families.  The angel prayed with all his heart and soul that the Father would bind his own family together during the week ahead.


After a buffet lunch on deck, Raquel escorted the Dyelanders to their cabins.  Monica hadn't yet arrived but she showed Tess the cabin she'd be sharing with her.  The five cabins neighbored each other with Andrew's and Adam's next to Monica's and Tess'.  After the boys' cabin came Rose's and JenniAnn's then C.J.'s and Lady Beth's with Yva's and Sir Sven's completing the block of rooms.  Once they'd all seen their rooms, they gathered on the spacious deck outside the five cabins.

"And, you see, each room is connected by those white doors.  Although they do lock when you want privacy, of course.  And if you want to see, say, Monica without barging in on Andrew and Adam, then just walk through here!" the bride-to-be showed off.  "If you need anything at all, you can tell your steward.  I think you all have the same one.  Or, if you'd feel better about it, just let me know."

Yva shook her head and gave Raquel a warm smile.  "We don't want to be bugging you during your wedding week, Raquel."

"Nonsense.  But hopefully you won't have any problems.  Oh!"  Raquel walked into JenniAnn's and Rose's cabin and returned holding a leaflet.  "You'll get one of these every day and it'll tell you what shows are being performed, what movies will be shown on deck, what type of dinner it is, when we go to port, etc." 

Adam laughed.  "I think JenniAnn already has her eyes on that as scrap booking material."

"You bet!" she assented.

"I think I hear someone at the door," Andrew announced, getting up to answer.

"That's probably your steward now.  I'm sure you'll love him!" Raquel effused.  "They're all so nice and do an amazing job."

C.J. shook her head, hearing voices from the cabin.  "I don't think it's a him."

A moment later, Andrew returned to the deck with Monica after him.

"Angel Girl!" Tess exclaimed.  She rose from the chair she'd been occupying and threw her arms around her former protégé.

"Oh, Tess, I've missed you so," Monica greeted, resting her head on Tess's shoulder.  She smiled at the rest of the assembled group and hugged and greeted them all, coming to Raquel last.  "Raquel!  I'm so happy for you!  I love weddings and I'm sure this will be one to remember.  And an even more memorable marriage.  I can't wait to meet Nico."

"Oh!  I forgot you hadn't yet!  Well, I'll take you now!  Once we set sail he'll be busy for some time so no time like the present."  Raquel turned to the rest of her guests.  "I promise I'll bring her back to you all as soon as possible!"

Smiling, the group waved good bye.  After taking another moment to enjoy the view from their deck, they parted to unpack.


"Do you want to divide the hangers up half and half?" Rose called as she began to empty her suitcase.

"I just really need two.  Most of the rest of my clothes can be folded if you need the rest of the hangers," JenniAnn called from the sleeping area where she was loading up a drawer.

"Okay, thanks.  I'm sure I won't need them all."  Rose busied herself with getting her things in order and the cabin was silent for a few moments.

"Do you think she hugged him at the door?" JenniAnn called.


"Monica.  Do you think she hugged Andrew when he let her in?"

"Sure.  She hugged the rest of us.  I doubt she just shoved him out of the way and proceeded to the deck."

JenniAnn laughed.  "Okay, you're right.  I'm probly being paranoid."

"I really think this could be a good thing.  I mean the last time we spent much time with her was after Dawn was killed.  Andrew was in a very difficult place.  It was all we, who have spent the past years with him, could do to get through to him," Rose reasoned.

"True.  And now we have this happy occasion.  So maybe they can spend time together just having fun, reconnect, and then start again on more solid footing."


More silence followed as the two women neared the end of their unpacking.


"Still here."

JenniAnn poked her head around the corner.  "Do me a favor?"

"Like what kind of favor?"

"If you meet someone named Jack... please try not to fall in love with him.  I really don't want the ship to sink."  JenniAnn grinned.

Rose rolled her eyes.  "All right, how long have you been saving that one for?"

"Just a week."


"Definitely," JenniAnn agreed.


September 3rd


"Laja, tell me you didn't!" Andrew begged, setting his sea-shapes and scissors down.

JenniAnn giggled.  "It had to be done."

"I'll have you know that as the Titanic conversation proceeded, we both agreed that if that was us... we'd have found room for you on the door-raft," Rose informed.  "That part of the movie was so stupid.  They barely tried to balance it."

"Well, thanks.  Although given I'm an angel I'm not sure the stakes would have been as high." 

"Speaking of high stakes...  What's the story here?"  Rose cast a quizzical look at a photo before turning it to Andrew.  "You were smoking?!  In the casino?!?"

"What?!" a voice nearly shrieked from the hallway.

The three turned to see Yva in the doorway, hands on her hips.  "Let me see that."  She approached and took the photo from Rose, looking from it to Andrew in shock.

JenniAnn burst out laughing at her friends' horror.

"Laja!  How did you get that?!  You weren't even there!" Andrew cried.

"I had spies.  Someone had to get photos at the bachelor party... so I asked Sir Sven and Adam."

Yva continued to stare at the photo. "My husband knew about this!?  Andrew, you know how I feel about smoking and I don't care if you're immortal!" 

"Can I just explain?" Andrew requested.  "And hello, by the way."  He smiled.

"Hello and, yes, I think an explanation would be a very, very good idea," Yva responded, settling in to hear the angel of death out.


August 24th- At sea


The ship had been at sea the entire day, bound for the Bahamas.  With Nico's and Raquel's wedding planned for Thursday, they'd chosen Tuesday for their bachelor and bachelorette parties in order to give themselves an evening to rest between the celebrations.  

After a shared dinner, the group divided by gender with the women going off to a quaint little den for dessert and coffee.  The men made their way to the casino.

Once they entered, Nico turned to Adam and Andrew with a contrite expression.  "I must apologize for this.  You see... I planned this before Raquel and I knew if you would be coming.  I realize, of course, that gambling isn't entirely... angelic," he whispered.

Andrew shrugged.  "I've played poker before.  Actually... you taught me."  He turned to Adam.

Adam smiled proudly.  "Taught the man everything he knows... well, at least about flushes and straights."


The two angels of death could tell the news surprised the captain to no end.

"I... I wouldn't have guessed.  Well, nevertheless, we thought it best not to play for money."  Still flustered, Nico waved to the poker table.  In place of chips was an assortment of candy.

Laughing, the angels of death sat down at the table with Nico, Stefan who was his best man, Sir Sven, and two other groomsmen.  After several hands, only Nico and Andrew were left in the game.  Playing a royal flush, Andrew eventually won and happily shared his sweet winnings with his fellow players.  Soon after helping themselves, Adam and Sir Sven wandered off towards the windows to admire the moonlit sea and listen to Stefan, another cruise ship captain, describe some of the islands they would be visiting.

Nico and Andrew remained at the table talking and snacking. 

"Can I ask you something, Andrew?"

Picking up on the captain's serious tone, Andrew removed a root beer candy stick from his mouth.  "Sure, Nico.  What's on your mind?"

"Did you know Dawn very well?  I know you... to use Raquel's phrase... took her Home.  And I got the impression you'd spent some time with her before that but I was never clear on the details.  It's difficult for Raquel to discuss, of course."

Andrew nodded.  "I had an assignment... that's what we call our cases... at the hospice Dawn worked at.  I was the on-site counselor for the staff and Dawn and I became friends.  We planned outings and fun things for the patients and staff."  Despite the heartache he still felt over Dawn's untimely and cruel death, he smiled as he recalled the happy times they'd shared. 

"Raquel has said that Dawn never met a person she didn't like."

"I believe it.  Sometimes when people get really sick, they draw away from others.  Sometimes they're bitter and angry.  But Dawn could reach even those people.  One week they'd be eating dinner alone in their rooms every night and the next they'd be lending their talents to Dawn's musical revue.  All the patients loved her."  Andrew began to stack foil-wrapped chocolates, focusing intently on them as he continued.  "When I started I assumed that if I took anyone Home it would be a patient.  I never saw what happened coming."

Nico noted the pained look in Andrew's eyes.  "I'm sorry.  It should have occurred to me it would be difficult for you to recall that time, as well."

Andrew shook his head and smiled softly at the captain.  "No, I'm okay.  It's good remember the fun times.  She was a great girl."

"I wish I'd known her.  Andrew, I'm trying to think of a way to make her a part of our ceremony, somehow.  While it means so much to Raquel to have all of you here, I know she wants her girl there with her."  Tears welled in Nico's eyes.  "Will you pray that I come up with something that will show Raquel that I care and that Dawn is with us?"

"I promise you I will, Nico.  And I have every confidence you'll come up with a way to honor Dawn for Raquel."  The angel smiled at the man across from him.  "I'm really glad Raquel found you.  Love is the Father's greatest gift.  She deserves a lot of it and I can tell you'll be sure she gets it."

"I will, Andrew.  I promise you and her and Dawn and your Boss."  Nico beamed and stood up.  "But now I believe I need to walk off all this candy before I return to the bridge.  Care to join me?"

"I'd love to."

Soon the party-goers were making their way around the ship's promenade deck.

Pausing for a moment, Nico stared out at the sea and sighed.  "It was on a night just like this one that I met her."

"And you swore you were married to this ship," Stefan teased. 

Nico ran his hand along the rail, admiring the smooth wood grain in the moonlight.  "This ship is my home.  But Raquel will make it a truly happy home."

"I think we need a toast.  I'll be right back.  Adam, care to give me a hand?"

"No problem," Adam agreed and followed the best man back inside.

Stefan and Adam returned a moment later, carrying trays filled with glasses of champagne.

Once each man had a glass, Stefan raised his own.  "On this, his second to last night as a bachelor, I'd like to honor Nico and his bride-to-be.  May your life together be filled with waves just big enough to make it interesting but without ever posing a danger."  He tilted his head to David, another groomsman.

"Umm... well... may Raquel never wish to throw you overboard?"

Stefan gaped at the younger man.

"Well I'm not as good with the sea/wedding references!"

Nico laughed uproariously and clapped David on the shoulder.  "Relax, Stefan.  It's a perfectly sound wish.  Raquel's not yet had to deal with my snoring.  Throwing me overboard may appeal to her."

Stefan rolled his eyes but smiled.  "And here I am trying to give you a nice, touching, memorable toast.  Adam, why don't you try to redeem this?"

Adam thought for a moment.  "May your marriage be like the ocean: inspiring to behold and a joy to be in."

Satisfied, Stefan nodded to Sir Sven.

"May your marriage be of great depth, as the ocean, and more mysterious and wonderful the more you come to know it," he offered.

"Well done!  Tomas?"

"Nico, I wish for you and Raquel a marriage with as much life, adventure, and beauty as the ocean offers... and also a life preserver.  Just in case."  Tomas grinned at David then Nico who were both laughing.

Stefan shook his head, chuckling himself.  "Andrew?  Please don't make us end on this note."

Andrew raised his glass to Nico.  "I pray that your marriage reflects the love of God and the wonder of His creation just as this ocean does.  To Nico and Raquel!"

The five others shouted the couple's names in unison as they smiled at the groom-to-be.

Touched, Nico beamed at the men and clanked his glass to theirs.


After two hours of visiting, well-wishing, and playing games which ranged from Guess the Famous Lovers to Pin the Boutonnière on the Groom, Wedding Pictionary, Love Song Karaoke, and, finally, Design the Ugliest Bridesmaid Dress, the bride's party came to an end.  Raquel had spent much of the day making preparations and was exhausted.

When they discovered the men had not returned, Monica and Tess turned into their cabin to catch up while the five Dyelander women settled into JenniAnn's and Rose's cabin.

They laughed as they recalled the evening's highlights. 

"Could you believe some of those photos Carol brought?"  Yva laughed at the memories of bouffants and loudly printed dresses and shirts.  "Of course, you two probably wanted those clothes."  She grinned at Rose and JenniAnn.

"Raquel did have some great bell bottoms," Rose responded wistfully.

"I just admire anyone who has the guts to wear a mini-dress," JenniAnn added, taking a seat on a chair after opening the deck door just enough to let the cool sea breeze in.

C.J. wrinkled her nose.  "I'll stick with pants, thank you very much."

"The photos were fun to look at," Lady Beth agreed.  "Although I think the highlight for me was watching JenniAnn trying to make her way through 'It's Raining Men.'"  She cast a devilish grin at the blonde woman.

"Okay, someone please explain to me... how is that a love song!?  I felt like a complete dolt!"

The others laughed, singing some of the lyrics, and soon JenniAnn couldn't help joining in.

JenniAnn sighed once their shaky rendition was complete.  "Gosh, I've missed this."

Her comment was met with silence as the women looked at everything but each other, hoping one of the others would say something to dispel the awkwardness in the room.

Determined, JenniAnn continued.  "What's happened to us?  Why did we have to come all the way to the Caribbean just to spend some time altogether?  And why... why when Andrew and I have invited all of you to do things with us... we never hear back?  I mean the visits to Raquel, the Wisconsin camping trip, a few dinners here and there... and... and... nothing."  At that, tears began to pool in her eyes.

Yva was the first to speak, tracing the pattern of the chair she sat on as she did.  "I've not been entirely sure if the invitations were made because you wanted us there or because you felt you were obligated to make them."

"What?" JenniAnn cried.

"I know you value your time with Andrew," Yva added. 

"I do!  But I value the time with all of you, too!  The invitations were sincerely meant and it hurt when they weren't acknowledged!" 

Lady Beth rested a hand on her shoulder.  "I'm so sorry.  I always meant to answer but for a while I was extremely overwhelmed with my own life and unsure how to explain that.  So I didn't say anything.  Then I felt bad that I hadn't responded.  As the cycle repeated, I felt even worse and it just became easier not to say anything.  But I should have realized how it impacted the two of you."

"Thanks, Lady Beth, for explaining.  And if things get overwhelming again... we're here!"  JenniAnn smiled at the other woman then took a deep breath and bowed her head.  "But if I've given the impression to anyone else that I did just want the time with Andrew... and I guess... looking back... I know sometimes I have.  I just..."

"Just what?" Rose prodded, gently.

"I... don't mean to cast blame... and I'm not.  I don't blame him.  But... I think it started during Andrew's breakdown."

"Yes, I think so,  too," Yva agreed.  She looked out the window, gazing at the moonlit sea as she recalled that dark time.  "It was bad enough that he wasn't talking to anyone.  But somehow it hurt more when it seemed like he'd chosen you to be his only confidante."

JenniAnn laughed darkly.  "Oh, I can promise you that didn't happen.  He never told me anything.  I just... lingered around.  Unbidden, probly even unwanted.  He hurt all of us... well, except for Rose who hadn't yet come to us."  JenniAnn paused long enough to bestow a slight smile on the youngest of the group.  "And he needed to see how his silence hurt.  And maybe he needed to experience that lack of communication himself to see it.  Not me yammering away about inane topics.  But I couldn't... I couldn't stay away."

"I was guilty of that, too," Lady Beth pointed out.  "You and I were both there with him for the first few days.  I was even bribing him with my best dishes."

Yva laughed, turning back to the group.  "We all realize he still had to eat, Lady Beth."

"Exactly but even you eventually sided with the group, Lady Beth, and saw that coddling Andrew and basically enabling his reticence wasn't the way to go.  But I just couldn't see beyond the temporary pain of being away from him."  JenniAnn stared at her Claddagh ring, twirling it around her finger as she remembered.

"Don't you think we all felt that pain?" C.J. asked.

"I know you did.  Now.  But at the time..."  JenniAnn shook her head.  "I wasn't as aware as I should have been.  I was just too focused on what I might lose.  And it wasn't just Andrew.  Not exactly."

"Who else did you think you'd lose?" Yva cajoled. 

JenniAnn brushed at her eyes.  "My friends."

"If you were afraid of losing us... why did you choose to spend all that time with him instead of us back then?" Lady Beth queried.

"I wasn't worried about losing you.  At the time I really did think I was dividing up my time and attention pretty well.  I'm sorry I had it so badly miscalculated.  But as for the friends I thought I'd lose..."  The tears began to splash down JenniAnn's face quicker than she could brush them away.

"Maybe we should talk about this some other time," Rose suggested.

JenniAnn shook her head.  "No, I think that's exactly what's gotten us to this place.  We all feel bad about something but then we're afraid someone will feel hurt or not understand or get angry.  And so nothing ever gets discussed anymore.  Not anything truly serious, anyway.  So here it is:  None of you were there when Andrew first came to Dyeland.  But lots of others were.  Yet... none of them are here now.  They all left.  Some without so much as a good bye.  They... they were my friends!  I cared about them!  B-but they just left!  Only Andrew remains of that first group.  Only Andrew has stood there with me at each and every good bye to those that bothered to say farewell.  And only Andrew has talked me through the emotions that followed when they simply and silently left.  If I would ever lose him... I lose my only remaining connections to them, too.  I lose not just this devastatingly lovely person... but also the only one who remembers them.  And now... lately... I've begun to worry that eventually I'll lose all of you, too.  So I... we... really meant those invitations.  And when no one ever went...  I'm beginning to feel like it was a catch-22.  The further I felt from all of you, the clingier I became with Andrew.  But you probly saw that clinginess and assumed that I wanted more time with him to myself.  It was never my intention but looking back, I can see how it would seem that way."

Yva frowned.  "We should have asked you, given you a chance to explain.  It occurs to me now that as angry as I was with Andrew not speaking up... when it was time for me to do the same, I didn't.  I couldn't follow my own advice."

JenniAnn set a hand on Yva's arm.  "That makes two of us.  I should have come right out and said I was upset about the invitation thing.  We could have cleared this all up a long time ago if I had.  So neither of us followed our own advice."

"I think it's something we have to work at constantly," Lady Beth suggested.

"And I think sometimes it's really easy to keep quiet thinking we're wrong to feel like we do.  Or making a mountain out of a mole hill," Rose added.

"Definitely.  And sometimes I worry that what I'll have to say will make people feel uncomfortable or unsure how to react."  JenniAnn bit her lip.  "I'm not an easy person to get."

"None of us are!" Yva cried.  "But maybe we just need to do a better job of trusting each other to listen, even if we don't 'get' each other.  I think that's why I was originally so upset with Andrew that time.  I could never have explained away all the pain he felt, I couldn't have reasoned out why something so vicious would happen to someone as good and giving as his assignment.  But I wanted to know that he trusted me enough to listen."

JenniAnn nodded.  "I know.  I did, too.  And I do think it was wrong of him to keep inside his shell for so long.  But..."  Her voice trailed off and she began to nervously twist her ring around her finger again.

"But what?" Rose encouraged.  "Remember, we're going for all out honesty here."

JenniAnn smirked.  "True enough.  It's just... I've thought about it a lot over the years and I think back then in our zeal to break through to him... whether through tough love or cloyingness... we kinda glossed over the fact that Andrew unburdening his heart to us isn't exactly the same as us confiding in him.  The stakes will always be greater for him."

"What do you mean exactly?" Yva asked.  "We're all left vulnerable when we open up to other people."

"Definitely.  And so is Andrew.  On that front we're the same.  But Andrew..."

"Laja, I'm out here."

The five women all froze.

"Uh oh...  How much do you think he heard?" C.J. whispered.

The others shrugged.

"Umm...  Come in," Rose called.

Red-faced, Andrew walked into the cabin.  "I, um, just wanted to let you all know I'm back and, Yva, Sir Sven wanted to let you know he'll be back in about an hour.  Nico took him and Adam on a behind-the-scenes tour of how the ship, you know, works."  He ran his hand through his hair. 

"Thanks, Andrew.  So why'd you come back?  Weren't you interested in the tour?"  Yva looked at him, curious and worried that he might have heard a great deal of their conversation.

Andrew shrugged.  "I just felt like I needed to come back here.  And I just want you to know, I didn't hear much.  Only you, Yva, talking about being vulnerable and then Laja was starting to say something about me.  It sounded pretty intense so I'll just leave you to finish your conversation."

"Oh, for crying out loud, sit down, Andrew," Yva insisted, laughing.  "We were talking about you.  You've gathered as much.  But... I think we'd all much rather talk with you."

Shaking off the last of his confusion and embarrassment, Andrew smiled and took a seat on the couch between C.J. and Rose.  "So what exactly are we talking about?"

"Well," C.J. began, "we've discussed how we've all felt a bit distant lately."

"And," Lady Beth continued gently, "we've concluded it all kind of dates back to your breakdown."

"Oh."  Andrew frowned.  "You know, I'm still really sorry about that."

"We know," JenniAnn assured.  "And we've all concluded that even though we were upset with you at the time for not being open we've not actually been very good about opening up ourselves."

"Like lately I've felt like when you and JenniAnn would invite us to do things, she only did out of politeness but really didn't want us there because she wanted to spend time with you," Yva picked up.  "But instead of bringing up how I felt, I kept it to myself, stewed about it, and kept believing something that wasn't true."

"But once she did bring it up, I explained that, though I enjoy my time with you very much," JenniAnn averred, "I hate it when my friends... our friends... drift away and we gave those invitations because we were trying to keep that from happening.  And that we *both* wanted them with us."

"Definitely," Andrew agreed.  "I mean the camping trip, the visits to Raquel... they were great.  But I think both JenniAnn and I felt like they would have been even greater with all of you had you been able to go."

Rose hugged the angel.  "We know that now.  So right before you came in, we just talked about different things and feelings that keep us from being honest with each other.  Like feeling vulnerable which everyone, I think, agrees you feel as much as any of us.  It can be hard to bear your soul to someone.  That's probably as true for angels as humans, right?"

Andrew nodded.  "At least for this one."

"We thought so."  Yva smiled at the angel, realizing how much easier it came than it had in recent months.  "But, right before you came in, JenniAnn was about to explain how she figures you have even more to contend with."

JenniAnn grew flustered when she realized everyone was looking at her expectantly, including Andrew.  It was like giving a lecture to the subject of the lecture!  "Well..." she tentatively began, "I hope you'll correct me if I get it completely wrong, Andrew."

The angel reached across to pat her hand.  "I will.  Go on."

"It's just... well, one of the first things we learn about angels... at least the first thing I learned... was that they bring the message of 'Fear not!'  But... there's a lot that goes unsaid in the Bible.  It tells us angels are with us, but we don't normally have to think about what that all means.  And it doesn't just mean pulling someone out of a raging river or carrying someone out of a burning building.  It doesn't even just mean taking old people Home or comforting a child battling cancer.  Sometimes it means being witness to... to unnatural, cruel, terrible things people do to each other."  JenniAnn paused and drew in a deep breath to steady herself. 

Andrew had bowed his head as she spoke and was staring at the floor when he realized JenniAnn had stopped talking.  A moment later he sensed her gaze and looked up.  She appeared worried so he nodded and encouraged her with a small smile.  It seemed to work and she began again, not breaking eye contact with him. 

"And so, you saw something like that.  And you couldn't just forget about it and you couldn't hide how you felt.  But you came back to us.  And we begged you to tell us what was wrong.  And while you knew telling us would be difficult for you because you weren't used to opening up like that to people... you weren't used to being vulnerable as Yva said...  there was an even bigger concern that kept you quiet.  There was nothing of 'Fear not!' in what you had to say.  In your way of thinking, we all had a realistic view of our safety or lack thereof in the world.  We had enough of the good fear that keeps a person safe.  We didn't need any more.  So you didn't want to tell us about this frightening, tragic, painful thing you'd witnessed.  But you hadn't counted on the fact that not hearing from you, not seeing you smile, not feeling free to hug you... that was painful, too.  You wanted to protect us from the world, Andrew.  But we didn't want a protector, we wanted a friend."

Yva closed her eyes for a moment and gave a shuttering exhale before looking to Andrew.  "So did she get it right?" she squeaked out as she wiped some tears from her face.

Brushing at a few tears of his own, Andrew nodded.  "I'm not sure how but yes."

"I've read between the lines in your letters," JenniAnn explained, rising from her seat.  She looked at the beloved faces surrounding her.  "Do you think now would be an appropriate time for a group hug?"

Rose laughed.  "I think any time is an appropriate time for a group hug!"

With that, the six huddled together for the first time in many months.

"So what have we learned?" Lady Beth asked, only half-jesting, as everyone settled back into their places.

"That if some thing's bothering us or if we feel hurt we should talk about it right away," Yva reiterated.

"But that if someone doesn't feel like talking, we shouldn't force them because maybe they have a good reason," C.J. added.

Andrew beamed at his friends.  "However, just because they don't feel like talking doesn't mean they should hide away from friends because simply being with them can heal a lot of wounds."

"And I've learned that God really and truly does hear us and answers our prayers."

The four women looked at JenniAnn curiously, only Andrew knowing what she meant.

"The night before we left, when Andrew picked up my suitcase, we prayed that this cruise would draw us all together and that we wouldn't drift apart.  And it sure seems like God answered tonight," she explained.

"In that case, I think this is an ideal time for a prayer of thanksgiving," Yva suggested.

"I definitely won't argue with that!" Andrew agreed, holding out his hands.

The six stood in a circle as Yva led them in prayer.


September 3rd


Yva laughed as she handed the photo back to Rose.  "Well, I for one feel much better knowing that was a root beer candy stick NOT a cigar like I originally thought.  I hated to think such an important night for us began with you lighting up... and not in the good, glowing way!"

Andrew chuckled.  "Yva, I'll promise you right now that I have no intention of ever becoming a smoker.  If I did my flannel shirts would smell and then people might not 'borrow' them and I could very easily be overrun by flannel shirts."

"Don't even joke about something as horrible as that!" Rose cried, giggling. 

"I much prefer April Fresh with sandalwood cologne," JenniAnn opined as she happily glued down a photo of the five women and Andrew from that night.  She tilted the book so the others could see.  "Look at us... I would want to be friends with us... I mean if I wasn't already us."

"Definitely!" Yva agreed.  "And I'm really glad we talked through that all that night.  It would have been a shame to have it hang over us like a cloud during our various stops."

"We might have missed out on Andrew's big campaign to freak Tess out.  That really would have been a shame!"  Rose sighed dramatically and shook her head.

Andrew groaned.  "I don't know that it was really a campaign."

"Whatever it was, it was certainly fun to watch!"  A wide grin spread across Rose's face as she held the photographic evidence of Andrew's "campaign."


August 25th- Bahamas


Soon after the ship docked just off an island in the Bahamas, the group shared lunch at a tent hosted by the cruise ship.  Once they'd finished the meal, they went their separate ways.  Monica, Tess, Sir Sven, and Yva settled at the beach.  Lady Beth struck up a conversation with a local chef while C.J. and Rose went exploring and JenniAnn shopped for souvenirs for her family.  After about half an hour at their various diversions, everyone congregated at the beach.  Everyone except the two angels of death who had disappeared after the meal.

"Do you suppose the Father called them for an assignment?" Monica suggested.

JenniAnn looked at her nervously.  "If He did, I hope He gets them back by tonight.  You, Tess, Andrew, and I have to go to the wedding rehearsal.  And Adam and Yva were supposed to practice their duet!"

"Relax, baby," Tess soothed.  "I'm sure wherever the Angel Boys went off to, the Father knows where they are and He knows where they need to be and when.  He wouldn't have brought them here only to end up disappointing the bride."

"Of course," JenniAnn agreed. 

C.J. grinned.  "Maybe Andrew got waylaid by that girl from the airport.  I could have sworn I saw her on the boat.  And maybe she had a friend who took to Adam."

Yva laughed.  "I'm sure both of the guys have plenty of experience extricating themselves from delicate situations like that."

Rose rolled her eyes.  "Good.  Because I think they might need to.  Am I the only one who noticed the girl at breakfast who came over and asked Andrew if she could borrow our ketchup only had fruit on her plate?  Do you think she was really going to dunk her watermelon and cantaloupe?"

"Blech.  That's total abuse of a condiment.  And delicious fruits."  Lady Beth wrinkled her nose at the very thought.

"Maybe we should go look for them," JenniAnn suggested.

Tess shot her a Look.  "JenniAnn, you are on a cruise.  You are on a beach.  Look at all that beauty out there.  Enjoy what the Father has made!  Stop worrying, baby!"

Properly chastised, JenniAnn did exactly that and soon the entire group was splashing around in the shallow water, swimming, or looking for shells in the wet sand.

C.J. was the first to notice the two familiar yet startling figures approaching them.  Her hand flew to her mouth and with the other hand she yanked on Yva's arm.

"Hey, what's the...  Oh..."  She whispered to Sir Sven who turned and began laughing.

His laughter drew the others' attention and soon Andrew and Adam had eight pairs of eyes staring at them... and their myriad teeny, tiny braids.

Tess dropped the shell she was holding and stomped towards them.  "What are those and why are they hanging off your heads?" she demanded.

Andrew grinned.  "They're braids, Tess.  This lady down the beach was doing them and she was real persistent and offered us a two for one deal and, well, how could we argue with that?  She was really nice."

"She kind of reminded us of you, Tess," Adam helped.  He smiled sweetly at her but couldn't help patting his plaited hair, testing her.

Rose stood beside Tess, snickering.  "Those so rock!"

The supervisor glared at her.

JenniAnn stepped in between the two and set a hand on Tess' arm.  "Now, Tess, remember what you told me.  We're on a beach, there's so much beauty, enjoy!"

Tess was unmoved.  "I'll tell you what's beautiful: my babies' flowing hair!"

Monica suppressed a laugh.  "Aww, Tess.  Their hair is still beautiful.  Right now it's just kind of... clumpy."

Andrew hugged the fuming angel.  "It's just for a couple hours, we promise.  We'll take them out after dinner, before rehearsal."

"Before dinner!" Tess insisted.

"All right, all right.  Before dinner," Andrew relented.  Adam nudged him in the rib cage, grabbing his attention.  The blonde angel looked down to see the elder angel of death loosen his fist, revealing something inside it.  "Right!  Tess, we got you something."

"Don't be modest, Andrew.  We *made* it for you, Tess," Adam corrected, unfolding the small bag he held and holding the contents out to Tess.

Her curiosity displacing her anger, Tess peered down at Adam's palm. 

"It's a friendship bracelet.  A different lady, near the braid lady, was making those and taught us.  We even chose the beads," Andrew explained.  "This gray one's for Adam.  And green for me.  Brown for Monica.  We thought that represented her eyes but also her love of coffee."

Monica met Andrew's smile with her own.

Adam continued the explanation as he tied the bracelet around Tess' wrist.  "And this purple one is for you because we know you love the color.  And this white one is for the doves.  So you can always remember the assignments we spent together, even when we're apart."

Moved, Tess pulled her Angel Boys into a hug.  "I love you, babies.  Even with your goofy hair.  Thank you."  She turned to Monica.  "You get over here, too, Angel Girl."

The Dyelanders stood back, looking on happily and hopefully.  With their own friendships with Andrew back on track, they prayed that the angels' bonds would be restored, too.


The group boarded the ship shortly before it set sail at 4:00.  As promised, Andrew dutifully undid his braids and washed out the frizzy reminder of them.  When he stepped out of the bathroom, he found Adam standing in front of a mirror.  He was troubled and trying to brush his wild hair into place.

The silver-headed angel of death breathed a sigh of relief when he saw Andrew.  "Your hair looks normal.  Good."

Andrew chuckled.  "Washing it did the trick.  I was a little worried when I first undid them.  I had visions of standing on the altar tomorrow night with my hair looking like something out of the 1980s and Tess shooting me a Look the entire time."

Adam smiled.  "I can't imagine Yva would be really thrilled having to do that duet tomorrow night with me looking like I stumbled out of a hair band.  But speaking of the wedding, Raquel called while you were in there.  She sounded a little panicky.  She wants you to meet her in her cabin as soon as possible."

"I hope it's nothing too serious," Andrew responded with alarm. 

"You better go check.  Don't forget your key card in case I'm still wrestling with this," Adam yanked on a chunk of his hair, "when you get back."

"It'll be fine, buddy.  You'll see," Andrew encouraged before grabbing his card and heading towards Raquel's cabin.  She was only two levels above the Dyelanders' string of cabins and it took no time at all to reach her door.  It flew open before he'd even knocked.

"Andrew!  I'm so glad to see you.  There's something I need to discuss with you before tonight.  I feel awful that it didn't occur to me before now!"  The woman took his hand and led him to the table near the deck.  "But first... how did you enjoy the first port?"

Andrew smiled.  "I had a great time."  Laughing, he told her about what he and Adam had done and promised that he'd have one of the girls show her the photos they'd taken of the braids.  "Did you and Nico have any time ashore?"

"A little.  We got off in the first tender and walked along the beach for an hour or so but we have so much to do, him especially.  I mostly worked on the names for the program so I could get it to Rose to design and that's, actually, when I got to thinking..."

"What is it, Raquel?"

"Will JenniAnn be okay going down the aisle with you?  I mean I know how she feels and how certain things can never be and...  I was going to ask her directly but I know how embarrassed she sometimes gets so... you know her.  What do you think?"

Andrew blinked.  Somehow in all the talk of the wedding and their part in it, the potential weirdness of it for JenniAnn had never occurred to him.  He was relatively sure, regardless of her love for him, she'd never wanted to marry him.  Then again, the entire saga had stretched on for over twenty years for her and he couldn't account for anything she might have wished or imagined as a young girl.  "Wow... huh."  He ran his hand through his hair. 

"Maybe I should just check with her?  I mean it's not too late to rearrange the wedding party.  She could walk with David or Tomas."

Andrew shook his head.  "I'm sure JenniAnn would do whatever she needed to for this wedding.  But she's a little nervous around people she doesn't really know.  I'll have a little time with her between dinner and rehearsal tonight.  Let me check with her about which she'd prefer.  I'll let you know then, okay?"

Raquel squeezed the angel's hand and studied his face for some time.  "Thank you."

Andrew shrugged.  "It's no big deal.  It's actually gotten a lot easier lately to discuss these kinds of things with her."

"That's good.  But that's not what I meant.  Just... thank you for being here with me during this wedding.  And over the past year and a half.  Sometimes I think back on that evening... when the sheriff came to see me.  You were so afraid I'd be angry with you for not stopping Dawn's murder."  Blinking back tears, Raquel gently brushed a lock of damp hair behind Andrew's ear.  "But really I was so glad to know my baby wasn't alone, that someone loving and kind helped her through such a painful time.  And you've been helping me through my own pain ever since."

The angel of death stood and moved to embrace his former assignment.  "It's been an honor helping you and a pleasure getting to know you.  You have no idea how much what you said that night meant to me, Raquel.  I can still remember the feelings of grief and regret and blame leaving me when you called me 'sweet boy' and stopped me from leaving."  He smiled tenderly as he recalled it.  "I'll never forget that feeling and I'll never, ever forget you."

When they broke apart, the two moved onto the deck.  They exchanged memories of Dawn, laughing at times and crying at others.  With each memory, the young woman seemed to become even more present.  Raquel felt as if the sorrow in her soul, though it would be there until the day she died, had become less devastating and raw.  Her daughter would be there with her when she walked down the aisle and faced her future.


Monica and Tess left dinner early, the former to work on her readings and the latter to practice the songs she would be singing.  Andrew and JenniAnn lingered with  the rest of their friends for a few minutes longer before making their way towards the chapel.  The angel of death had planned it so they had enough time to visit beforehand.  He purposefully led JenniAnn through an area of the ship which housed the coffee shop and bakery.

"Laja, we have some extra time.  Let's sit here for a little bit.  How about a frappuccino while we wait?" Andrew suggested.

JenniAnn considered, glancing at her pocket watch.  "I'd love to but I should probly get to sleep earlyish tonight and drinking caffeine now wouldn't make that very easy!"

Andrew smiled, pleasantly surprised.  "I admire your restraint.  But we did skip dessert so..."  He eyed the pastry counter.  "That red velvet cake looks really good.  Or there's one of those fruit tarts you like.  Or an éclair.  Or a lemon bar.  Or a double chocolate brownie..."

The woman laughed.  "Isn't temptation more something the other side does?"

"The way I see it, there's good temptation and bad temptation.  And that cake looks like the good kind."

Swayed, JenniAnn ordered a fruit tart and sat across from Andrew and his red velvet cake.

After a couple bites, Andrew set down his fork.  "Laja, Raquel asked me to check with you about something."

Immediately picking up on the serious tone in his voice, JenniAnn devoted all her attention to the angel.  "About?"

"Well, she's worried that you might feel strange walking down the aisle with me given how you feel... about me..."

JenniAnn giggled.  "Her concern is very sweet but... rest assured, I never actually wanted to marry you.  Not even when I was little or a teenager.  I never imagined our wedding so I can't imagine being in one with you is gonna drive me over the edge or anything."

Andrew sighed with relief.  "Good!"

"Although..." JenniAnn smiled wickedly.  "Come to think of it, I did have a wedding dream once about you."

Andrew began to push crumbs around his plate.  "Oh?"

"Yes.  It was really lovely.  I had an awesome dress, if I do say so myself.  And you looked devastatingly handsome in your tux.  And there were daffodils everywhere.  And we were headed down the aisle, towards the altar... hey, maybe I was having a psychic moment since we'll be doing exactly that!"

"Maybe..."  Andrew gulped down some cake.

"So we neared the priest... and then I was seized by total panic at the idea of you giving me away...  so then I took a sharp left, dragging you with me... I was apparently very strong in this dream... we snuck out from the sacristy, jumped into a black car that I hope was yours else we were car thieves in the dream... and ran off!  And headed to a coffee shop where you bought me a caramel mocha frap with extra whipped cream."  She took a bite of her dessert and grinned.

Andrew stared at her.  "We ran away from your wedding to get coffee?  What about the poor groom?!?"

JenniAnn shrugged, untroubled.  "I don't remember him.  He was probly some blurry, blobby entity.  That's what all the unknown people in my dreams look like.  Anyhow, I think I'll be totally okay tomorrow night as long as you don't attempt to give me away."

Chuckling, Andrew shook his head.  "I can promise you I won't be doing that.  You sure have some... interesting dreams."

"And if I do tonight, it'll totally be your fault for enticing me into all this sugar so late."

"But it's delicious.  Here, try some of this." 

"Only if you try some of this tart.  It's an especially yummy one."

The two focused on their desserts, continuing to tease each other until they were interrupted.

"Hi," an unfamiliar voice greeted.

Andrew and JenniAnn looked up to find the woman Rose had first spotted at the airport standing beside their table and smiling at the angel.

"Hello," Andrew responded.

"I think I saw you at the airport.  With the band.  Very sweet.  So what's your name?" the stranger asked, brushing some hair behind her ear and gliding her fingers through the glistening strands.

"Umm... Andrew.  And yours?"  The angel wanted to be polite but felt very uncomfortable with the intruder.

"Good to meet you.  I'm Erica.  So where ya from, Andrew?"

"Oh, I get around.  But right now my friend and I are..."

"I bet you do."  Erica giggled, completely disregarding the latter part of Andrew's answer and turning her back to JenniAnn.

The angel of death didn't know whether he should be more concerned about Erica's failure to take a hint or the fact that JenniAnn was shooting her a look that would have made even Tess shudder.

"Come to think of it... I think I saw you at the beach earlier!" the flirt exclaimed.  "Was that you with the dreads?"

Taken aback, Andrew simply nodded.

The woman giggled.  "They looked totally hot."  She fingered a lock of Andrew's hair.

Eyebrows shooting up, he tilted his head away from her.  "Well, they're gone now," Andrew retorted, his voice terse.  "And if you'll excuse us, we need to finish our desserts here."

JenniAnn clamped her hand over her mouth to keep from laughing at the way in which Andrew stressed the words "us," "we," and "our" with the result of Erica's sultry grin dissolving.

"Well, I need to be on my way.  Good night.  Maybe I'll see you around, Andrew."  Erica sauntered off, turning back after a few paces to gage the reaction elicited by her parting words.

Andrew was rendered speechless.

"You have a good night, too!" JenniAnn called with a cheery smile.

Erica frowned and continued her retreat.

"Drink much?" JenniAnn muttered.  "Good freaking gosh!  The nerve!"

Coming out of his shock, Andrew smiled at JenniAnn.

"Holy cow!  We were totally sharing desserts and talking in hushed tones and she acted like I didn't even exist!  Just 'Oh... you're so hot!'" she mimicked.

"Actually, she only said my hair was.  And not even in its current state."

"Then she's rude, flirty, *and* is totally clueless."

Andrew chuckled.  "You're jealous."

"Heck yeah!  She touched your hair!  And why the heck are you smiling like that?  Gah, don't reward her rude behavior smiling so goofily like that!  She might still be watching!"  JenniAnn craned her neck, peering up into the spiral staircase in case the flirt was lingering.

Andrew set a hand on her arm.  "I'm not smiling because of her.  It's just... no one's ever gotten jealous over me before.  Well, I mean the dogs sometimes.  And the Tunnel kids.  But never a grown-up.  It's an interesting feeling."

JenniAnn turned back around.  "Well, now you're the clueless one.  It's happened numerous times."

The angel of death blushed.  "Really?"

"We need to finish.  Time's a-wasting," JenniAnn deflected.

Andrew agreed to let the matter rest and helped finish the last few bites of their desserts, smiling as he did.


The rehearsal went off without a hitch.  Andrew and JenniAnn made their way down the aisle without the slightest trace of angst.  Tess' renditions of "Love Divine, All Loves Excelling," "I Will Be Here," and "The Lord's Prayer" brought tears to many eyes.  Monica's readings were perfectly executed, her melodic voice tender as she recited ancient words.

Once everyone was certain they had their part settled, the group dispersed.  Before Andrew could leave, he felt someone tap him on the shoulder.  Turning, he saw Nico looking very excited.

"Andrew, I was wondering if you could give me a few minutes of your time.  I have something I would like your opinion on."

"Sure, Nico."  Andrew hoped the prayer he had said at the captain's request had been answered and that he'd found a way to honor Dawn and show his love for Raquel.  He turned to Monica, Tess, and JenniAnn.  "I'll be down when we're done.  But if you're in bed before that, I'll see you at breakfast."

The four exchanged hugs and once Andrew saw the ladies off and joined Nico in escorting Raquel to her cabin, they were on their way. 

Nico led Andrew through back rooms and passageways.

"Where are we?" the angel asked after taking several flights of steps.

Nico opened a door.  "I believe you'll recognize it now."

Andrew did.  They were behind the counter of a jewelry store he recalled passing. 

The store was dimly lit having been closed two hours previously.  Only one employee remained and she hugged Nico when he entered. 

"Thank you for meeting us, Olivia.  Do you have it?"

Olivia beamed.  "Right here, all polished."  She grabbed a box from beneath the counter.

"I must have passed this several times but only today did I notice it," Nico marveled.  "Dawn was born in December, wasn't she?"

Andrew nodded, momentarily recalling her final birthday as it was celebrated at the hospice. 

"I know Raquel's birthday is in March and mine in April.  Look at this."  Nico took the box from Olivia and held it out to Andrew.  "That's a Tanzanite in the center of the heart.  The birthstone for December.  Then a few aquamarines surround it.  Those are for March.  And then diamonds for April.  Dawn, Raquel, me.  Raquel will always hold Dawn in her heart.  And I will also hold Raquel in mine."

Andrew admired the necklace, struck more by the thought the man had put into choosing it than the luster of the jewels.  "Nico, I think Raquel will love this necklace and she'll love having it with her tomorrow.  It's truly perfect."  He hugged the enamored groom.

Beaming, Nico turned to Olivia and paid for the necklace.  Once the transaction was completed, he turned back to Andrew.  "I will bring it to her now.  Since I will not see her tomorrow until the ceremony."

"I think that's a great idea."  Andrew smiled as he thought again of how touched Raquel would be.

Nico hugged Olivia again before he and Andrew left the store.  The angel noticed the captain growing more nervous as they neared Raquel's cabin.  Once they reached her door, he was shaking.

"Nico, she'll love it.  After all, it's from someone she loves very, very much.  You know, I was a little surprised when she told us she was getting married so soon after meeting you.  But in the time I've spent with you since: I'm no longer surprised.  You know her heart, Nico.  So... go on!" Andrew grinned and knocked on the door himself before retreating down the hall and leaving Nico to greet his bride.


September 3rd


When Andrew finished telling them about the origins of the necklace, the Dyelander women all sighed.

"How romantic!" JenniAnn gushed as she placed a photograph of the happy couple at their rehearsal.

Yva nodded.  "Raquel explained the significance of the heart when I saw her at the reception.  A complete stranger would have been able to tell that no other piece of jewelry on earth would have meant as much to her.  Her face just lit up... although not as much as when she first saw Nico that evening."

"I've been to a lot of weddings in my life, but I think that one will stick with me for a long, long time to come," Andrew mused.

"It was a great wedding.  But let's not jump ahead!  That morning was a lot of fun," Rose recalled.

"And very touching."  Yva smiled at Andrew, holding a photo JenniAnn had snapped of the two of them.


August 26th- A Wedding at Sea


Yva walked out onto the balcony to find Andrew already there.  "Good morning, Andrew!  Looks like Adam got word to you about breakfast on the deck.  We decided last night that it would be fun for a change."

"Good morning.  And, yeah, he mentioned it when I got back to our cabin last night.  I agreed it was a great idea.  Especially on a morning like this."  Andrew turned from Yva to the ocean, soaking in the sea breeze and sparkling water.

"It's beautiful," Yva agreed, leaning against the railing as she admired the view.  "I love how perfectly the clouds are reflected back.  And this turquoise water..."  She turned back towards the angel.  "For a while there, after the oil spill, I was afraid that Raquel and Nico might have to change their plans."

Andrew frowned.  "The thought crossed my mind, too.  Especially after I had a few assignments in the Gulf States."

"Don't you ever get angry?" Yva implored.  "You probably remember when everything was pristine, untouched, unsullied."

Andrew gazed out to the horizon, his first memories of the earth and those of painful moments near the spill were both still so fresh to him though divided by innumerable years.  "It hurts to see how the earth has changed.  And I do get angry when I see people litter or behave carelessly with all this amazing beauty the Father gave them.  But I feel a lot of hope, too, when I see people do their part.  Or simply marvel and appreciate what's out there.  And I do see that.  More and more every day.  And you know something else?"


"I wouldn't go back to that pristine, untouched earth if it meant not having all of you around."  He paused to hug his friend.  "I believe with all my heart that one day humans will learn how to live in harmony with the environment.  And when that happens, I'll think back on this morning and smile."

Yva returned the angel's hug.  "I think you managed to say just what I needed to hear."

"Glad to hear it."  Andrew beamed at the woman.  "Now how about we get these chairs into an oval or something so we can all visit during breakfast?"

"Sounds like a plan to me!"

The two were soon joined by Sir Sven.  They got the chairs and a couple tables in order moments before Adam, Lady Beth, and JenniAnn appeared bearing trays of pastries and fruit, pitchers of juice, and a carafe of coffee.  The enticing scents drew the others out of their cabins and the ten said a blessing before digging in.

"So how did rehearsal go?" Adam asked.

"It went perfectly, baby," Tess answered.  "And your practice?" 

"Adam was a delight to sing with, as always," Yva responded.

"And they both sounded wonderful," Sir Sven added.

"Thank you."  Adam grinned and bowed.

Rose's face lit up mischievously.  "Oh, Andrew, when she got back JenniAnn shared about what happened." 

Andrew blushed.  "I think I know exactly what you're talking about.  That girl?"

Rose nodded.  "I believe our friend's reaction was 'Good freaking gosh!  If another chick hits on Andrew while I'm sitting right there looking dreamily at him... I'm going to henna a Claddagh onto him!'"

"I said only if you'd let me!" JenniAnn added.

"A Claddagh!  How delightful!" Monica exclaimed. 

"So how about it, Andrew?" Lady Beth teased.

"I think I'll skip the Claddagh, although they are delightful as Monica said.  But I had no idea you could do henna, Laja."

"Adeela, one of the Helpers, taught me."

"Really..."  Andrew's eyes lit up at the bit of trivia. 

Tess shook her head.  "I would prefer Angel Boy not sport a wedding ring, real or drawn on."

"Well, Tess, you see they're not necessarily wedding rings but can signify various levels of commitment," Monica explained.  "Andrew could rightly wear one in the unmarried yet committed position.  He is, as an angel, committed to God, after all." 

"That's true enough, baby, but I think it's easier and more proper just to tell the young lady he's not interested.  And that she shouldn't go around fondling people's hair!  Honestly..." 

"Maybe you should chaperone Andrew for the rest of the trip, Tess.  Be his bodyguard.  Keep all those flirts away," Adam jested.

"Yes!"  C.J. seized on the idea.  "You could start a whole new department, Tess.  Angels who go around protecting other angels from the advances of scheming mortals."

"I like it!" Rose agreed.  "Now what could you call it?"

"Tess' Celibacy Seraphs," Adam suggested.

Andrew nearly spit out his orange juice.  "Can you imagine some poor Search and Rescue angel being told they're getting promoted to one of Tess' Celibacy Seraphs?  I don't think so!  No offense, Tess."

Laughing, Tess shook her head.  "None taken, Andrew.  Trust me."

"All right, what about Tess' Chastity Cherubs?" Adam tried again.

"Even worse, Adam!" Monica cried.

Tess laughed.  "You babies are too much."

"Tess' Flirt Fighters?" Yva offered.

"Tess' Come-on Counter Attack?" Lady Beth tried.

"Very good suggestions but I think I'll just keep an eye on Andrew without a fancy name for it.  How about that?"  The supervisor reached over and patted his hand. 

Andrew squeezed her hand in turn.  "I think I'd like that, Tess.  And I'll have you know I have every intention of getting at least one dance with you tonight.  With all of you ladies."

"I don't think you'll be getting any argument from any of us over that, Andrew.  But what exactly are our plans for between now and the wedding?" Rose checked.  "Raquel asked me to design the program and I finished that and sent it to the on-board printing place last night.  Now I'm not sure what to do."

"Adam and I were hoping to sneak in one more practice after lunch," Yva answered.  "Svenni's going to be our critic again."  She smiled at her husband.

"Always a pleasure, my dear," he responded.

"C.J. and I already did our part helping to pick out the cake yesterday," Lady Beth explained.

C.J. nodded.  "So we're free."

"And I don't think Laja and I need to practice walking and standing any more," Andrew added.  "How about you, Tess? 

"Monica and I are set, as well."

"Great.  So maybe we could just check with Raquel and Nico?  See if they need anything?  If they do we might just have to have grab-and-go lunches as we each have time.  And then tonight let's meet out here around, say, 5:30?" JenniAnn suggested.  "I really want photos of us all together all dressed up for the wedding."

The others agreed and after finishing their breakfast, went to see what they could do for the bride and groom.


September 3rd


With Rose, JenniAnn, and Yva surrounding him; Andrew flipped through the photos from that evening. 

"Raquel did a really wonderful job picking out the bridesmaid dresses, JenniAnn."  Yva admired the tasteful, royal blue gown.  "You could actually wear that again.  It's not exactly the hot pink monstrosity you dreamed up at the bachelorette party, that's for sure!"

"And Andrew, you look very handsome in your tux.  And I love that suit of Adam's.  You both looked lovely."  Rose smiled at the photo before Andrew flipped to the next one.

They all burst out laughing.

"Gah, look at our hair!  You can tell there was a gust of wind during that shot!  Serves me right for trying to use the timer."  JenniAnn pointed to where her long locks had flown into Adam's face while his own hair had formed a silver halo around his head. 

"At least some turned out really well.  Look at this one.  Could I get a print of it?  I'd love to put it on our mantel."

"Sure, Yva."

"Ooh, me, too," Rose requested.

"Me three," added Andrew.

"No problem.  If I get the book finished in time, maybe I should just bring some colored sticky notes and people can just use those to mark what they want prints of," JenniAnn suggested.  "But that's only *if* I get it done.  We're only on Day 4 of 9..."

"We keep getting distracted," Andrew pointed out.  "Maybe we need to focus."

"But reminiscing is what makes this fun," Yva protested gently.

"Exactly," JenniAnn agreed.  "So if it's only half-finished, that's okay.  Besides, Lady Beth and C.J. said they'd try to get here before the party.  With their help, we'll get through more.  And Adam said the same depending on how his assignment went.  But now... back to the wedding itself!"

"Umm, before you do that, I think someone should take Lulu outside."  Rose pointed to where the basset hound was pacing near the door.

Fawn roused at the last word and jumped from the couch to join Lulu.

Andrew leapt to his feet.  "Poor girls.  I'll take them outside so you can keep working, Laja.  I'll be back as soon as I can."

"Sounds good.  Thanks, Andrew!"  JenniAnn smiled after him and the dogs jumping at his heels.  Once she was sure he was out of ear shot, she turned to the other two women.  "Do you think Monica will come tonight?"

Yva shrugged.  "I really hope so.  But sometimes it's difficult to guess with her."

"You were pretty insistent with the invitation," Rose pointed out before sighing.  "But Yva's right."

"You know how we told you Andrew and I prayed for our group the night before we left for the cruise?"  After her listeners nodded, JenniAnn continued.  "Well, after he left to get your and Sir Sven's bags, Yva, I added onto the prayer.  I prayed that things would be like they used to be with him and Monica.  And now I'm praying that God answers that prayer just as He did the earlier one."

"We'll pray, too, Yva promised.

"Definitely," Rose agreed.

The three smiled wistfully at another photo from that night.  It was a candid shot JenniAnn had snapped of Andrew.  She hadn't noticed at the time but in the top right corner Monica was visible.  Distant, yet watching him.


The Cadillac sped down the highway, Irish music radiating from it.  It eventually came to a stop at a place that would seem random and unremarkable to anyone else.

Monica stepped out, surveying the field.  It was much greener and more lush than when she'd last been there.  Still, she thought she could determine where they'd stood.  She fancied she could even feel a trough in the dirt where she'd first driven the caddy away. 

Taking a seat on the grass, the angel let her mind wander back to that cold day.  There had been a moment of triumph and well-won pride in her work.  But then...  She wondered how it hadn't occurred to her that her new beginning as a supervisor came with a farewell to her friends.  She remembered bidding Gloria good bye.  It had been hard to watch her first protégé fade away.  But she'd known in her heart the parting wouldn't be for long.  She was sure the Father would allow her to check in on Gloria and He had.  And as devastating at it had been to hug Tess good bye, Monica knew she'd see her again, too.  Just as she felt compelled to visit Gloria, so would Tess stop by during assignments to catch up with her.  And she had.  But Andrew...  Even though she had seen him after that, his good bye had been more real and in some ways final.  They had never truly connected again.  She felt as if even before that day, he'd begun to drift away from her.  Those parts of him she couldn't understand had seemed to grow.  Four years prior to that painful parting in the field, Andrew had started a new life, with new friends.  And for various reasons, Monica could never seem to make herself feel a part of it. 

But then, she'd never really tried.  Even when he repeatedly and warmly tried to incorporate her.  She recognized that now.  It was too painful to watch him with them.  So her visits to Dyeland became fewer and fewer until they were nearly non-existent.  And then came November...  For the second time in a week, the caseworker found herself thinking back on Andrew's injury.

Monica could still remember exiting the school where she and another angel had been assigned to an art teacher.  She'd made her way to the caddy and saw Tess waiting in the passenger seat.  Her heart had leapt until she saw Tess' grave expression.  And then she'd given her the news: Andrew was in the hospital with a broken arm.

Ridiculously, Monica had laughed.  She'd envisioned Andrew breaking his arm during a particularly energetic touchdown or perhaps in a fall from a ladder during some ill-conceived do-it-yourself project in Dyeland.  When Tess had explained, Monica had felt queasy.  The feeling still hadn't left her two days later when she'd finally gone to see Andrew and realized for herself the toll the assignment had taken on him.  Even when she and Tess had returned to Dyeland for his welcome back party, she hadn't been able to cope and had been the first to leave.

Brushing at a tear, the angel pulled a scrap of paper from her pocket and smoothed it against her knee.

"September 3rd, 7:30 PM.  Cafe.  Please come," JenniAnn had scrawled onto it.  And then, in smaller, cramped print she had added.  "It would mean a lot to us.  And to him."

Monica put the note away.  She gazed around the field before sticking her hand back in her pocket again.  That time she pulled up a much loved golden pocket watch.  She traced its edges, opened and closed it.  She felt the familiar ticking of it in her palm.  Finally, she simply stared at its hands and ruminated over bits of the previous week.  Monica did not know that the watch's original owner was at that very moment replaying the night of the wedding in his own mind.


August 26th


Monica made her way to the podium.  She smiled at the beautiful bride, clad in a pale blue cap sleeve gown, and her handsome groom in his uniform.

"'Do not urge me to leave you or turn back from following you; for where you go, I will go, and where you lodge, I will lodge,'" she began to recite.  Though the Bible lay open before her, she had made a point of memorizing the shortest of her readings.  Her gaze drifted over the crowd.

"'Your people shall be my people, and your God, my God,'" she continued.  She noticed that JenniAnn was staring intently at Andrew and seemed greatly moved by the ancient words.  As he returned the woman's gaze, Andrew also seemed to be reading some significance into them that his fellow angel didn't understand.  Monica swallowed a lump in her throat, ignoring the familiar sensation of being an outsider.  "'Where you die, I will die, and there I will be buried. Thus may the Lord do to me, and worse, if anything but death parts you and me,'" she finished, taking her seat to the side and focusing on the couple at the altar.

Tess took her place at the podium, smiled brightly, and began to sing.  "'Tomorrow morning if you wake up and the sun does not appear, I will be here.  If in the dark, we lose sight of love, hold my hand, and have no fear, cause I will be here.'"

As the angel sang the first verse, Raquel and Nico turned towards each other.  During an instrumental interlude, they held hands and began their vows.

Raquel gazed up at Nico.  "Beloved Nico, I pledge to you my love and my life," she murmured.  She smiled gratefully when Carol handed her a handkerchief.  After dabbing at her eyes, the bride continued.  "In the love you have shown me, and in the love I bear for you, I have found healing.  I have come through the worst of life's storms and found myself safely on shore with you.  Where I will remain forever."

Tess struck up with the second verse.  As she sweetly and powerfully sang the lyrics "'Just as sure as seasons were made for change, our lifetimes were made for these years.  So I will be here.  I will be here and you can cry on my shoulder,'" Nico brushed tears from his bride's face and stroked her right hand which was clasped around her new necklace.  When Tess' voice quieted again, he began his vows.

"Dearest Raquel, I pledge to you my love and my life.  As we travel the world together, I know that no matter where we are: I will be home because my restless heart has found its home in yours, my love."

Raquel accepted a ring from Carol.  As she slipped it onto Nico's finger she said, "I offer you this ring in God's name, as a symbol of His love and ours."

Nico repeated the same words to Raquel as he bestowed the ring on her.

For a final time, Tess sang out.  "'I will be true to the promise I have made to you and to the One who gave you to me.  Tomorrow morning, if you wake up and the sun does not appear, I will be here.  Oh, I will be here.'"

As the final piano notes sounded, the pastor smiled at the couple and their guests.  "I now pronounce Raquel and Nico married.  Those whom God has joined together, let no man put asunder!  Captain, Raquel, you may now kiss."

Amid cheers, Nico and Raquel happily obliged.

"Ladies and gentleman," cried the pastor, "I present Captain and Mrs. Moretti!"

More cheers followed as the couple turned to the crowd, blissful and beaming.


Whatever confusion Monica had felt during her final reading had died away as the ceremony came to a close.   It was a pleasure to be in the presence of two people so much in love.  Her heart warmed further at the reception when the newlyweds stepped onto the floor and shared their first dance as Yva and Adam sang "Some Enchanted Evening."

However, the unpleasant feeling rose up in the angel again as the reception wore on.  It had been difficult in a way she couldn't quite explain to see Andrew dance with all of his friends.  It wasn't exactly that she was jealous of the Dyelanders.  Although she had to admit that was partly the source of her emotional tumult.  A deeper reason finally hit her when Andrew and JenniAnn made their way to the dance floor for one of Tess' numbers.  The lyrics and the memory they called to mind swept over Monica.

"'There's a somebody I'm longing to see.  I hope that he turns out to be someone who'll watch over me,'" the supervisor angel sang.

Monica watched the pair on the dance floor.  Andrew whispered something to JenniAnn who began to laugh.  Whatever she said in response made his whole face light up.

It reminded Monica of an assignment she, Tess, and Andrew had once shared.  She had been given the task of handing out a single miracle to lonely, desperate bar patrons.  The stress had gotten to her and both Andrew and Tess had tried to calm her.  Sure enough, the assignment had ended happily.  She and Andrew had begged Tess for a song, he'd held out his hand to her, and then they'd danced to "Someone to Watch Over Me."  He'd laughed with her and smiled at her... just as he was at that moment with JenniAnn. 

There had been moments like that through out the cruise.  At one point she'd seen Andrew applying sunscreen to Rose's face and was immediately transported back to the famous Hollywood sign where she had once perched at his side.  The day before she'd walked onto the deck to find Andrew, Yva, Sir Sven, and Lady Beth reclined in their deck chairs, guessing at cloud shapes and she'd recalled a similar occasion with the former.  At lunch he'd split a basket of fries with C.J. and even that had prompted the memory of her serving him and Tess a coffee-fry-ice cream sundae after one assignment.  Simply seeing Andrew and Adam joke around made Monica recall all the jokes she'd shared with him. 

Even having the memories so near, having that kind of friendship with her fellow angel seemed impossible to Monica in the present.  She recognized it truly was jealousy that was raging inside her, after all.  But she wasn't simply jealous of JenniAnn, Yva, Rose, C.J., and Lady Beth.  It struck Monica that she was jealous mostly of herself, years prior.

"Miss Wings, you certainly don't look very happy."

Monica was surprised to find that as she'd mused, Tess' performance had ended and her former supervisor was at her side.  She forced a smile.  "I suppose I was just feeling wistful, thinking back on the old days."

"Uh huh," Tess responded skeptically.  "And exactly what part of the old days prompted those tears?  Come here, baby."  Tess led the younger angel to a secluded area of the ballroom and brushed at her face with a tissue. 

"I'm not sure really.  I was thinking about that assignment we had at that bar.  The Father gave me one miracle to give away."

Tess smiled as she remembered.  "You hid under a pool table.  Andrew found you."

Monica nodded.  "Tess, why don't I feel the same with him as I used to?  It used to be so easy for us to laugh and talk... even to give you a hard time."

Tess put an arm around Monica's shoulders.  "Sometimes when we see people so often and then suddenly don't... we lose the easy way we once had with them."

"But even when I'm around him, like now, it's not the same," Monica lamented.

Tess opened her mouth to respond but was interrupted by the sound of someone approaching.

"There you are!" 

The two ladies looked up to find Andrew squinting down at them.  "Wow.  It's really dark over here.  I've, uh, danced with all the girls... Tess included."  He beamed at his longtime friend.  "And I was hoping you might share a dance with me, Monica, before I go for round 2 with the others.  Also, Adam's waiting for a turn with you, Tess.  He said to tell you that two centuries is too long between waltzes."

Laughing, Tess stood up.  "Adam's right there.  Too long entirely!  Just let us gather our scarves and we'll be right behind you, baby."

Nodding, Andrew headed back to the dance floor.

Tess turned to Monica.  "Are you all right now, Angel Girl?"

Wiping her eyes, Monica nodded.  "No time like the present to try to begin to put things right," she ventured.

"That's the spirit.  It'll do me good to see you two dancing again.  Just have fun!  Now, come on." 

Monica let Tess lead her out to where Andrew and Adam stood. 

"Ladies," Adam greeted before turning to Tess and offering her his hand.

Andrew and Monica watched them for a moment, laughing when an unheard comment of Adam's prompted a Look from Tess.

Andrew glanced away from the dancers and began to study Monica.  He could tell she'd been crying.  "Monica, are you all right?  If you don't feel like dancing, it's okay."

Monica shook her head vigorously.  "No!  I mean I do.  Feel like dancing.  I'm just a wee bit tired and weddings always make me emotional."

Andrew smiled.  "I remember how excited you used to get when an assignment called for help planning a wedding.  Of course, I do remember one wedding where you weren't particularly excited about one of the guests," he teased her.

She blushed at the memory of how curt she had been with him on their first meeting.  Recovering, she smiled up at him.  "Ah, but you weren't exactly a guest, Andrew.  You were a crasher."

The angel of death laughed.  He felt considerably more at ease after their playful exchange.  Dancing began to seem like an even better idea.  "So, um, you want to head out there?"

When Monica nodded, he led her onto the floor.

They'd no sooner begun to dance than the song ended. 

Andrew smiled with a shrug.  "We'll wait for the next one."

After a few seconds, the band started up with notes that were very familiar to them both.

The wedding singer who was taking turns with Tess began to croon.  "'I'll be seeing you in all the old familiar places that this heart of mine embraces.'"

"I love this song," Monica murmured.

"It's a good one.  Billie sang it." 

"I wish I could have really met her."

"I wish you could have, too, Monica.  I would have liked working with you on that assignment.  It was a little tough."

"I... I've often wished you and Tess were still working assignments with me."

Andrew smiled sadly.  "I know the feeling.  But at least we can always visit."

There was nothing accusatory in Andrew's tone but the words still stung Monica.  She changed the subject.  "You're looking very well.  The last time I saw you your arm..."

"All healed now.  You'd never even know it had been broken."  The angel of death rolled his shoulder to prove it.  He'd noticed Monica's face darken and scrambled to make everything all better.  "I'm back to playing football.  That's what matters most, right?" he kidded.

Monica smiled.  "That's really good.  I... I'm sorry I haven't been back to Dy..."  The angel realized how many people surrounded them.  "Back to your place."

"The Father keeps you busy.  I understand.  You're a supervisor now, after all.  It's a good thing we have..." he lowered his voice, "eternity, right?"

Monica forced a smile, nodding.  The shift in topic from their shared past to their divided present seemed irreversible and the uncertainty she felt with Andrew returned.  "The girls all seem really happy," she chirped.  She noted how Andrew's eyes twinkled at the mention of them.

"Yeah, I really think they are.  This trip's been great for all of us.  Sometimes we get settled into our routines and kind of lose sight of each other but taking this time out has really helped."

"That's wonderful."  Monica kept the faux-smile plastered on her face and focused on the dance.  Right, left, right, left.

The rest of the dance passed in silence and when it finally ended, Adam and Tess were at their side with the former requesting a turn on the floor with Monica.  Feeling both sad and grateful, she relinquished Andrew's hand and went with Adam.


September 3rd


As Andrew continued to watch the dogs frolic in the yard surrounding Willowveil, his mind kept wandering over the past few days.  He recalled days at the beach, magnificent dinners, sunset walks on the deck, and, of course, the wedding.  The angel knew he wasn't the only one thinking of that night.  Strains of love songs from the 30s, 40s, and 50s had been drifting out of JenniAnn's office window ever since he'd been in the yard.  It was obvious the girls were seeking inspiration in the songs they had danced to that night as they revisited Raquel's and Nico's big day. 

As Sinatra's "It Had to Be You" began, a very particular memory rose in the angel of death's mind. 


August 26th


Andrew decided to take a break from dancing and stepped out onto the deck for a breath of fresh air.  He replayed the last few moments.  He could remember a time when he and Monica could sit silently and yet feel entirely at ease.  He could also recall countless conversations both breezy and serious in which the back and forth was effortless and comfortable. 

But then there were the other conversations which had left him feeling like the odd man out with her and Tess, even an intruder at times.  And there were the conversations that had never happened.  Conversations in which he should have told Monica that it hurt when she'd dismiss something he said or pull away when he needed her the most.

Recalling those instances, the angel of death knew he couldn't fool himself.  He was an angel and couldn't lie, not even to himself.  And it simply wasn't the case that everything had been great between he and Monica up until she'd been promoted.  Andrew began to walk the deck as he pondered that difficult truth.  Not long into his wandering, he turned to the aft of the ship and discovered the bride and groom.

Raquel stood nearest the railing, leaning back against Nico whose arms were wrapped around her.  They were both gazing up at the stars.  The tears glistening in Raquel's eyes were the only hint Andrew needed to know who they were thinking about.  Embarrassed to be intruding on yet another private scene, the angel turned to leave.

"Andrew?  Is that you?"

Hearing the woman's voice, he returned to the aft.  "Yeah, it's me.  Sorry.  I didn't realize anyone was..."

Raquel approached the angel, sensing his unease.  She hugged him.  "It's all right.  I didn't want to make our escape before I could see you."

Andrew looked at his former assignment in alarm.  "Escape?" 

Nico chuckled.  "I'm quite sure you've been to enough weddings to know how it is when the bride and groom depart.  We were hoping to avoid the fuss."

"And now we can.  Because you're here.  Come, sit."

Andrew dutifully followed Raquel to a bench.  He sat to her right and Nico to her left.  The angel smiled when she took one of his hands in both of hers.

"It's meant so much to have all of you here with me, Andrew," Raquel began, "but you most of all."

"It's meant so much to be here.  I don't often get to check back in with assignments but I'm very grateful the Father's given me this time with you.  And I'm very glad I got to meet you, Nico."  Andrew smiled at the groom.

"Likewise, my friend," the captain responded with a warm smile.

Raquel sighed and looked out at the sea.  "I'm grateful for that, too.  And so much.  But it didn't keep me from thinking... here I am... a bride again!  But Dawn... Dawn never got the wedding she and I would plot and giggle about when she was growing up.  And here I am marrying this wonderful, extraordinary man who I love and adore and... and Dawn loved someone, too.  But he... he..."

Andrew moved to embrace Raquel but caught himself and looked to Nico.  Receiving a tearful nod, the angel wrapped both his arms around the sobbing bride.  A chill crept through him as he remembered that terrible night when he had held Dawn as she died.  Before he recovered enough to speak, Raquel continued.

"Today... every time I thought about that and just wanted to call it off and crawl into bed and weep... I saw you.  And I remembered that when Dawn died... she was with someone she loved and who loved her.  And I know that you took her to a place of Life and Love.  Remembering that gave me the strength to fully live this life and to love with all my heart and all my soul."  Raquel turned to Nico and caressed his face before focusing again on Andrew.  "I thank God for you, sweet boy," she murmured.  "And that's what I wanted to tell you before we left."

On the night Raquel had learned that Andrew was an angel of death and that he had taken Dawn Home, the woman's compassion and appreciation had rendered the angel speechless.  He felt that same overwhelming warmth as he sat at her side on the bench.  "Thank you for being my friend," he finally responded, the simple statement being both all he could muster and an expression of what he felt most in that moment: gratitude.

Raquel pulled a handkerchief from her sleeve and brushed away the angel's tears then kissed his forehead.  "Good night, Andrew."

Andrew stood, bidding her adieu with a hug.  Nico hugged him, as well. 

"Father, bless and keep them," he whispered as he watched the couple walk away, hand-in-hand.  He drew in a deep breath as they disappeared and he was left to confront all the emotions of the day.  Settling back onto the bench; Andrew thought about those final moments with Dawn, the friendship with Raquel that had grown out of that tragedy, his long-delayed discussion with the girls two nights before, and his awkward dance with Monica.  All of it reminded him of how tenuous and fleeting relationships of all types could be.  Yet, God was the Keeper and Protector of them all.  The knowledge comforted Andrew as he stood up and headed back to the ballroom where his friends waited for him.

To be continued...

Cultural references:
Ruth 1:16 & 17
The Notebook
"It's Raining Men" composed by Paul Jabara and Paul Shaffer
The Bible- Assorted passages were obviously in LJA's mind during her "lecture on Andrew."
"Love Divine, All Loves Excelling" by Charles Wesley
"I Will Be Here" by Steven Curtis Chapman
The Lord's Prayer/Our Father
"Someone to Watch Over Me" by Ira and George Gershwin
"I'll Be Seeing You" by Sammy Fain and Irving Kahal

To anyone interested, this was my play list for writing this story.  I can't explain the songs just yet.  Not until Part II.  Although some are obvious as they've already been quoted in Part I:
"Starlight" by Muse
"Twin Soliloquies/Some Enchanted Evening" from the Original Motion Picture Soundtrack of South Pacific
"Something to Hold Onto" by The Wailin' Jennys
"I Will Be Here" by Steven Curtis Chapman
"Someone To Watch Over Me" as performed by Julia Fordham
"I'll Be Seeing You" as performed by Billie Holiday
"It Had to Be You" as performed by Frank Sinatra
"Ocean Size Love" by Leigh Nash
"Bridge Over Troubled Water" by Simon & Garfunkel
"Dante's Prayer" by Loreena McKennitt
And then the Della Reese channel on Pandora.com which I love!


JABB 308

(Photo Credits: The side photographs used on the banner are from "Touched by an Angel" and owned by CBS Productions, Caroline Productions, and Moon Water Productions. They are not being used to seek profit.  The background of the page and the banner are from my actual cruise.  :-)