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
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
JenniAnn nodded. "Thanks for doing that. And for... ya
know... earlier..." Her gaze drifted to a forlorn basket of dog
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
"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?
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
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,
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
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
"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
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
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
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
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
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
They all peered out their own windows and took in
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
Everyone surreptitiously looked over and saw a girl of about 25 in a
yellow sun dress standing near the door. She was sneaking peeks
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
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,"
"Hasn't stopped others..." JenniAnn teased. "And you do look
especially cute in that shirt."
"Angel Boy always looks cute," Tess countered, affectionately squeezing
"Naturally, that's why JenniAnn said *especially,*" Lady Beth explained.
The rose-hued angel of death was relieved when Raquel and Nico
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
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
"We shall!" Raquel happily agreed.
They all followed the blissful couple out into the sunlight to where
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
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,
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.
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
"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
"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
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
Rose rolled her eyes. "All right, how long have you been saving
that one for?"
"Just a week."
"Definitely," JenniAnn agreed.
"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!"
"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
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
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
"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
"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
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
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
"I'd love to."
Soon the party-goers were making their way around the ship's promenade
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
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
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
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
"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
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
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
"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
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
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
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
"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
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.
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
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
"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,
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
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
Rose laughed. "I think any time is an appropriate time for a
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
The four women looked at JenniAnn curiously, only Andrew knowing what
"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
"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
The six stood in a circle as Yva led them in prayer.
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,
"I much prefer April Fresh with sandalwood cologne," JenniAnn opined as
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
"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
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
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
"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
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
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
"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.
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
"Don't be modest, Andrew. We *made* it for you, Tess," Adam
corrected, unfolding the small bag he held and holding the contents out
Her curiosity displacing her anger, Tess peered down at
"It's a friendship bracelet. A different lady, near the braid
lady, was making those and taught us. We even chose the beads,"
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
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
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
"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
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
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
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
The woman laughed. "Isn't temptation more something the other
"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
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
"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
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
Andrew was rendered speechless.
"You have a good night, too!" JenniAnn called with a cheery
Erica frowned and continued her retreat.
"Drink much?" JenniAnn muttered. "Good freaking gosh! The
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
"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
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
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
"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
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
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
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
"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
"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
"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.
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
"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,
Laughing, Tess shook her head. "None taken, Andrew. Trust
"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
fancy name for it. How about that?" The supervisor reached
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.
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,
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
"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."
"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
"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
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
"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
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
her that her new beginning as a supervisor came with a farewell to her
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
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
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
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.
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.
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
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.
More cheers followed as the couple turned to the crowd, blissful and
Whatever confusion Monica had felt
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
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,
bar patrons. The stress had gotten to her and both Andrew and
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
her, after all. But
she wasn't simply jealous of JenniAnn, Yva, Rose, C.J., and
Beth. It struck Monica that she was jealous mostly of herself,
"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
the younger angel to a secluded area of the ballroom and brushed at her
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
Tess opened her mouth to respond but was interrupted by the sound of
"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
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
"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
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?"
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
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
Tess were at their side with the former requesting a turn on the floor
with Monica. Feeling both sad and grateful, she relinquished
hand and went with Adam.
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
As Sinatra's "It Had to Be You" began, a very particular memory rose in
the angel of death's
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
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...
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
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
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
"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...
Ruth 1:16 & 17
"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
"Starlight" by Muse
"Twin Soliloquies/Some Enchanted Evening" from the Original Motion
Picture Soundtrack of South
"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!
(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. :-)