"The beginning of love is to let those we love be perfectly themselves,
and not to twist them to fit our own image.
Otherwise we love only the reflection of ourselves we find in them."
~~Thomas Merton

Hi all,

Yay!  I'm sure this is just what you wanted.  *Another* story.  But I promise this story is much shorter than the last one... and very different. 

This story was born out of a conversation I had with Nicole about shippers.  Unfortunately, with Dyeland, it's a lil difficult to have the characters take on shipperism head-on.  The most compelling way to do that would be to have one person write the story and another confront them about that.  But I just don't think that's realistic in Dyeland where Andrew, Monica, etc. aren't merely characters but friends and loved ones.  I mean would you write a fictional story about two of your friends/acquaintances getting together?  It would be a lil creepy.

Instead, I wanted to write a story that would confront the issues that bother us most about shipperism without having the character actually be a shipper.  Hopefully I succeeded!

Big thanks to Nicole for her feedback as I worked on this!

God bless,

So, without further adieu...

"A Moment of Grace"

Andrew, JenniAnn, and Rose were raking leaves at Hopeful Haven.  Occasionally they would pause in their work to give in to their inner children and jump in the piles of fallen foliage they had taken great care in creating.  The two women also took the time to stop and admire the flannel and denim bedecked angel who, with bits of leaves in his hair, somehow managed to look even more handsome than usual. 
As the trio worked, a gust of wind blew through the trees and knocked a torrent of leaves from their branches.  JenniAnn gasped at the beauty of the flame-colored cast-offs drifting down around them.   Rose sighed contentedly.  Andrew smiled.
"Somehow, even with all the autumns I've lived through, I'm still amazed at the beauty the Father has given us," he mused. 
Rose thought of teasingly asking how many autumns that might be but thought better of it.  The moment was too enchanted for joking.  Instead she hugged him.  "Today has definitely been lovely."
"It reminds me of what it felt like to be a kid.  To not worry about getting dirty or mussing my hair.  Just admiring nature, thanking God for it."  JenniAnn beamed at Andrew.  "You brought a lil of that back to me, ya know."
"How so, Laja?"
"Well... if someone who is at least a few thousand if not a few millions or billions of years old can just kick back and have fun and not worry about being mature and proper... so can I," JenniAnn explained.  "So thanks for that."
Rose nodded.  "I didn't really have much of a childhood.  And I spent a lot of time worried about not angering my aunt and uncle.  But here... it's good to be able to enjoy the simple things and just have fun.  So thanks for that, too."
Andrew beamed at them both.  "You're welcome.  Thank *you* for enjoying this day with me.  We'll have to do it again soon.  It looks like we'll have at least another round since there are still so many leaves up..."
JenniAnn's cell phone rang.  She blushed.  "I'm sorry.  I thought I put it on vibrate but..."  She grew pale.  "I did.  But not for the emergency line..." 
Andrew and Rose exchanged worried glances as JenniAnn answered the call.
"Hello?  Wait... who?  Oh my gosh.  Hey, Bennie," the blonde woman greeted.  She shot Andrew a panicked look.
Andrew ran his hand through his hair as his face clouded.
"Who's Bennie?" Rose whispered.
The angel of death sighed.  "She used to live here.  She came a little before I did and left a couple of years later.  She's... well, she tends to look on the negative side of things and was always a little... critical of others."
Rose bit her lip.  She could tell Andrew was putting matters in a kinder light than they likely were.
"Umm, sure...  We could meet to catch up.  Your place?  I dunno...  How about here?  Still know the way in?  Okay, good.  When?  Tomorrow.  But I don't..." JenniAnn looked to Andrew who shook his head.  "Well, Andrew's not going to be here so maybe some other...  Oh.  Well, sure.  Girl talk sounds..."  She gulped.  "That sounds like fun.  All right.  Great.  Let's meet at my place at... yeah, it's still just me in Willowveil."  She glanced over at her friends with a bewildered look.  "Right.  Noon it is.  I'll make lunch.  See you then, Bennie.  G'bye." 
Andrew and Rose took a seat on either side of JenniAnn once she'd plopped on the ground with a groan.
"I'm sorry I can't be there, Laja.  I really am.  I have an assignment.  Although I should be done around... 12:33.  Maybe I could swing by then?" Andrew offered.
"Maybe, we'll see.  Thanks, though." 
Rose smiled at Andrew's precise knowledge of his availability the next day.  "And maybe I could just happen to stop over for lunch?  I mean whomever this Bennie is, I don't know her.  So it's not like I care what she says.  I can keep you company for the thirty three Andrewless minutes."
JenniAnn grinned and bestowed a grateful smile on Rose.  "You'd do that?"
"Sure!  But what exactly are you worried about?"
JenniAnn shrugged.  "I dunno.  It could be perfectly fine.  She says she just wants to catch up, hear what's up with people.  But she knows that the people she really knew aren't around any more.  Just Andrew and me.  Not much to update her on.  I just feel weird about it.  Something in her tone..."
Andrew put an arm around JenniAnn's shoulders.  "Just remember not to let her push you around or make you feel bad about yourself.  You're doing great things with your life and just because it's not the life Bennie wanted doesn't mean there's anything wrong with it."
JenniAnn cast the angel an admiring and appreciative smile.  "Thanks, Andrew."  She sighed.  "Well, maybe my first tactic will be just to wow her with my culinary skills!  I think I'll go check in with Lady Beth and see if she has anything stunning and easy I could do."  The future hostess stood up and hugged both Rose and Andrew once they, too, were on their feet.  "Thank you for the wonderful day.  It was amazing.  Rose, I'll call when I have more of a plan for tomorrow.  And, Andrew, I hope your assignment goes very well."
"I believe it will.  And I mean it, I will come right over if..."
JenniAnn giggled at the sight of Andrew going into "big brother mode" and hugged him again.  "I know, Andrew.  So I'm sure I'll see you tomorrow.   Maybe you could fill Rose in on good ol' Bennie."  
Rose thought JenniAnn's smile as she made her suggestion seemed forced.
"Of course, Laja."
"Thanks.  So... until tomorrow... I hope you both have a great evening! 
"You too!" Rose called as JenniAnn departed and made her way to the coast.  "So what am I missing?" she asked the angel.  "JenniAnn didn't seem to want to talk about it but I think she wants me to know."
Andrew frowned.  "She does.  And she doesn't like talking about it.  Things with Bennie were always complicated.  She's a little older than JenniAnn.  They went to high school and college together.  Bennie wasn't a bad kid but she definitely had more of a 'wild side' than JenniAnn ever did.  JenniAnn didn't see that as a problem.  I definitely didn't see it as a problem.  Bennie did.  She was always trying to get JenniAnn to 'live it up.'  Boys, drinking, late night parties.  JenniAnn just wanted quiet conversations and coffee."  The angel smiled at his friend's simple and endearing tastes.
"I can't imagine her caring much about high school and college boys when you were around!" Rose exclaimed.
Andrew blushed.  "She didn't.  Which just made Bennie more determined.  One night, sometime in 2002, I got a call from JenniAnn.  To this day I still thank the Father that I happened to be at Serendipity that night.  Robert and Allison were out of town and if I hadn't been there..."  The angel shook his head, dismissing the thought before continuing.  "So Bennie had invited JenniAnn to her apartment to study.  But really it was a party.  And not a very sedate or legal one.  I have a feeling memories of that are why JenniAnn insisted Bennie meet her here tomorrow, not at Bennie's place.  But back to that night.  A guy said something to JenniAnn that upset her.  Bennie laughed it off."
"Some friend..." Rose muttered.
Andrew shook his head, still dismayed so many years later.  "I think JenniAnn felt the same way.  Since Bennie had picked her up, JenniAnn couldn't easily leave.  She eventually made her way to the apartment lobby which is when she called me.  By the time I got there, Bennie had discovered she'd left, followed her, and she was none too happy to see I was JenniAnn's escape ride.  She said a few things that I hope JenniAnn didn't hear.  I don't think she did."

"Are they things you think I should know since I'll be meeting this person tomorrow?  I mean if she said nasty things about JenniAnn then I'd like to be prepared with some comebacks!" Rose declared, determined to straighten this stranger up.

The angel of death picked up a leaf and began to twirl it between his fingers as he answered.  "No... not about JenniAnn.  I think it bothered Bennie that I was holding her friend back from a 'normal life.'  I'm sure she didn't like knowing that her longtime friend had feelings for someone who could never reciprocate."

"Andrew, there's no way JenniAnn herself actually felt that way." 

"I know.  Now."  He smiled with contentment.  "At the time I wasn't sure.  I told Bennie we'd discuss it all the next day.  But she stopped coming around after that and seemed to avoid JenniAnn on campus.  We didn't see her until years later and then only briefly with a chance meeting in New York."
"I think JenniAnn mentioned that to me once.  She said it turned into a Broadway number?"  Rose looked quizzically at Andrew. 
He laughed.  "That was the height of JenniAnn's RENT stage so, yeah, it did."
"At least something good came out of it.  That sounded like fun when she was telling me about it.  But back to Bennie... do you think she'll do anything mean tomorrow?"
"You know, I don't think she's actually mean.  I think she honestly believed JenniAnn was just too naive to know what she wanted from life and Bennie thought it was her job to help her find out.  Bennie thrived in college.  Meeting all those new people, falling in love.  I think she wanted her friend to know that same happiness."  Andrew shrugged.  "Hopefully having lived a little more life herself now, Bennie will have learned that the same life path isn't for everyone.  God didn't create us all the same and that's a great, beautiful thing.  Maybe Bennie knows that now and she really does want to check in, even make amends."
"Maybe.  I hope so.  Either way, I'm glad JenniAnn agreed to let me be there.  I won't let this Bennie be mean to her," Rose assured.
Andrew look at her proudly.  "I know you won't, Rose.  I feel much better knowing you'll be there.  And I know you'll call me if things take a bad turn."
"You know I will, Andrew."
"Thanks.  So how about we head inside and ask your aunt if she's up for some cocoa or cider?"  Andrew looked hopefully at Rose.
Laughing, she nodded.  "Sure.  Although if you want cider or cocoa you could just say that.  We made cookies, too." 
Andrew's face lit up.  "What kind?"
"Peanut butter."
"It's really been too long since Aunt Josephine and I had a good talk..."
Rose grinned.  "I'm sure she's willing to fork over a few cookies and some cocoa for some time visiting with her favorite blonde angel of death."
"I'm the only blonde angel of death she knows."
Rose shrugged.  "Well, for now you're definitely her favorite blonde angel of death.  At least until Adam bleaches his hair or something."
Andrew chuckled and followed Rose into the house.

The next day...

JenniAnn cleared the last dish off the table and reclaimed her seat across from Bennie and next to Rose.  She was pleased with how smoothly the visit had gone thus far.  They'd made it through an entire meal without incident!
"That was delicious, thank you.  Your cooking abilities have definitely improved since college," Bennie complimented.
"Thanks!  We have a friend, Lady Beth, who gave a bunch of us cooking lessons.  I actually got the recipe from her."  JenniAnn smiled.  "Can I get either of you anything else to drink?"
Bennie shook her head.
"I'll take a ginger ale, please," Rose requested.
"That sounds good.  Bennie, sure you don't want one?"
The prodigal laughed.  "I'm fine, thanks.  Andrew's drink is really catching on.  Which reminds me..."
"Reminds you of what?" JenniAnn prodded. 
"Just what I wanted to talk about.  You two told me so much about all the new buildings and traditions but you said very little about the people.  Especially not about our esteemed AOD.  So... still in love with him?" Bennie cast a sly look at her old friend.
JenniAnn began to feel ill-at-ease.  Nonetheless, she smiled calmly.  "My feelings for Andrew are as they've always been, only deeper."
Bennie peered with great interest at JenniAnn upon hearing the answer.  "Really..."
Rose began to squirm.  She feared her friend was unwittingly treading in dangerous waters.
"So what's that been like?"
The hostess shrugged.  "It's hard to explain.  And kind of private.  But things are good.  Communication is much better."
"So how long have things been... deeper?" Bennie pressed.
"That's an odd question."  JenniAnn looked at her interrogator with confusion.  "It's hard to tell exactly when something like that happens."
Bennie smirked.  "Wow.  Sweetie, if you don't know when it happened then things here are apparently a lot more wild than I thought!  Bravo!" 
JenniAnn grew even more confused.
Rose glared at Bennie.  She didn't care for the woman's condescending tone.  Further, she was beginning to believe Bennie and JenniAnn were talking about two entirely different things and that the former was completely clueless.  Or worse...  "You know Andrew's an angel, right?" she checked.
Bennie nodded.  "Sure.  But he's still a man.  And I, for one, am glad he's finally decided to be honest about that."
Rose pulled her cell phone out of her pocket.  She noted it was 12:32.  
"Okay, I think I got lost somewhere in this conversation," JenniAnn admitted.  "Of course, Andrew's an angel.  And a man, albeit not a human one.  But he's always been honest so... what are you talking about, Bennie?"
"Oh, you know how he was when we were younger!  Everyone swooning all over him!  And him all 'Angels don't experience romantic love.'"  Bennie rolled her eyes.
JenniAnn blinked, not believing what she was hearing. 
"Anyhow, just glad he finally gave up the act once you came of age.  It makes you both seem so much more... normal."
At 12:33, Rose surreptitiously sent a text then looked up at Bennie.  "Andrew and JenniAnn have always been perfectly normal.  And, news flash, whatever you think is going on between them... it's not going on.  Andrew would never lie.  And he would certainly never lie in a way that would involve playing with someone's emotions."
"Oh good freaking gosh..." JenniAnn moaned.  "I am so flipping naive!  You totally thought I was talking about...  Crikey, Bennie!  What the flip is wrong with you?"
"What's wrong with me?  I'm not the one who has been fawning over some guy for over ten years and apparently still hasn't closed the deal!"  For a moment there was a flash of sympathy in Bennie's eyes.  "Did he end up with someone else?"
JenniAnn began to shake.
Rose prayed that her text would soon be answered, preferably in person.  In the meantime, she took advantage of the awkward silence and directed her attention to Bennie.  "I don't know what your whole story is, Bennie.  And maybe you have some sort of memory problem and if that's the case then I'm sorry.  But something tells me you're just refusing to believe what you've been told.  Andrew is not with JenniAnn.  He's not with anyone you may have ever met here.  He's not with anyone, period.  No one at all.  He is an angel of God.  The love he feels is not and has never been the same type of love as humans in romantic relationships feel.  And it never will be," she explained. 
Bennie defiantly crossed her arms.  "I just don't see how that's possible.  How can someone never experience that?"
"You're a human.  Andrew is not.  Trying to project a human attribute onto a non-human doesn't make sense!" Rose insisted.  "I don't see Andrew going around demanding that you glow!"
"Well, color me disappointed!  I came back here because I thought maybe, finally, those two," she waved at JenniAnn and the air, "would finally be interesting, exciting, passionate people."  She glared at JenniAnn.  "You I always had my doubts about.  Miss Goody Two Shoes.  But him... him I had hopes for.  He always seemed like he had a wild streak."
"You mean you wanted him to have a wild streak.  You wanted Andrew to fall in love.  Because then he wouldn't be a disappointment.  Then he would fit nicely into your little box," JenniAnn said through gritted teeth.  She well knew that people often formed misconceptions regarding Andrew, even that they'd stubbornly stick to them despite evidence to the contrary.  But she was flabbergasted that a Dyelander would believe such a thing... someone who supposedly knew and cared about Andrew.
Bennie threw up her arms in disgust.  "I just wanted him... you both to live a little!" 
JenniAnn jumped up from her chair and began to pace.  "You wanted us to live a little?  You know what, be disappointed in me.  Consider me a freak.  Call me a prude.  You always did.  It stopped hurting a long time ago.  But him..."
Rose thought she heard the front door open and went to check.  She didn't want Andrew wandering from room to room, looking for them when they needed him that very moment.
JenniAnn continued to fume.  "Do you realize all the crap Andrew has had to put up with because of us humans?  The wars, murders, rapes, abuses, etc."  Tears began to cascade down her face.  "What do you think that does to him?  And as if that hasn't taken enough away from him... now you need to pick at his very being!  You talk about letting him live but you're the one who doesn't want him to live as he is!  You're the one who wants him to be someone else!  Well, that I won't allow!  I won't let you hurt him!"
JenniAnn spun around to see Andrew and Rose entering the kitchen.  She ran to Andrew and then, remembering Bennie, stopped a couple of feet from him.  She simply stared at the angel.
"Bennie apparently believed you and JenniAnn were together.  Now she's..."  Rose felt bad for Andrew but knew she had to make him aware of the situation.  Even without her, he'd find out soon enough.  "She's disappointed because we've told her you're not 'together' with anyone."
Andrew realized that JenniAnn had kept her distance out of fear that Bennie would twist whatever happened.  She was afraid of giving her more ammunition.  But as an angel, Andrew could only live in the truth.  It wasn't an option for him to pretend to be more or less than he was.  He would never be in love with anyone.  But he would also never be the person to stand idly by when a friend was in pain.  Andrew went to his distraught friend and pulled her to him.  He stroked her hair as she cried into his coat.  "It's all right.  I'm all right.  Laja, I see a lot of really beautiful things, too.  Please, please don't torture yourself thinking about the rest.  And not about what's going on here, either.  I'm gonna take care of this."  He turned and smiled at Rose, squeezing her hand.  "The two of you have given me a good introduction.  But now... now I have a few things I'd like to say to Bennie." 
JenniAnn and Rose watched as Andrew walked towards the table and took a seat across from Bennie.  After exchanging a quick glance, they followed him and took seats on either side of him.
"Hello, Benita.  How are you?" the angel asked.
"Wow, using my full name there.  You must be ticked."
Andrew disregarded the woman's sneer.  "Yeah, well, I'm not particularly happy when I walk into a room and find one friend crying and another looking pretty angry."
Bennie shrugged.  "Maybe try to make some more mature friends."
"Why would you say something like that?" the angel of death demanded.
"Don't you ever get tired of being their knight in shining armor?  Always coming to their rescue but them never giving you what you need."  Bennie shook her head.  "I actually feel sorry for you, Andrew.  I thought things would get better for you once everyone grew up.  But when some people refuse to grow up..."
Andrew caught the accusatory glare she bestowed on a simmering JenniAnn.  He opened his mouth to defend her but Bennie cut him off.
"Well, hey, there's always Monica, right?"
"Yes, Monica's still in existence.  And she's also an angel.  And she also doesn't get herself involved in romantic relationships.  Because that is the way the Father created her," Rose seethed.
"Exactly."  Andrew smiled at Rose before turning back to Bennie.  "I was always up front with all of you about that.  Romantic love is a beautiful, wonderful thing.  It's a gift from the Father.  And being able to get to know the couples here and during my assignments... seeing inspiring and loving marriages unfold... that's one of my favorite parts of my job.  But it's not for me or Monica or any other angel."
"I know you always said that but..." Bennie trailed off.
"But what?  Do you think I lied to you?  I would never, ever lie to anyone!" Andrew insisted.  "I loved each and every one of you.  And I still do.  I'm an angel.  It's what I do!  And I also want to be a friend to every person who comes here."
"I just don't get that," his accuser snapped.  "I think you're in denial.  I've seen the way you look at them.  Hell, you were clinging to 'Laja' not five minutes ago!"
"He was comforting a friend who had a run-in with a bully!" JenniAnn shouted.  "Do you assume every person who hugs *you* wants to start off on some mad, passionate affair?"

Rose snickered when she saw Bennie open her mouth to respond and find herself without a comeback.

Andrew sighed and rested his head in his hands, considering his next move.  He'd been taken aback by the entire conversation.  He was prepared and more than willing to defend JenniAnn.  But he'd had no reason to believe he'd be defending himself!  During assignments people often assumed he was in a romantic relationship.  But they had also assumed he was human.  He'd never met anyone who knew he was an angel, who had been told he experienced a different sort of love, and *still* persisted in believing he was romantically inclined!  Still at a loss for words, Andrew glanced over at JenniAnn and Rose. They were the inspiration he needed.  He smiled confidently at the interloper.

"Bennie, I can understand that it's difficult to put yourself in the place of someone else, especially someone who was created differently than you.  So if you need to think of me in human terms then... think of me as an older brother.  To all of you and even to Monica.  A big brother who wants his sisters to always know that he'll be there for them and that he cares very much about them and their feelings.  And one who is very grateful the Father created them.  That's the kind of love I feel.  Can you understand that?"

"I can understand loving your siblings.  But not excluding romantic love," was Bennie's terse reply.

"Bennie, I never excluded romantic love.  That makes it sound like at some point I made a choice.  I didn't.  This is how I was born.  This is how the Father created me."  Andrew reached across the table to pat the woman's hand.  "I have always accepted you and my friends in Dyeland as you are.  And many of them accept me exactly as I am.  That means a lot.  I would love to know you do, too.  But even if you don't... I'll never regret who I am."

JenniAnn and Rose were beaming.  They felt immensely proud to have a friend who could meet vitriol with reasoned, loving words.  But a moment later, their happiness was dashed.

Bennie pulled her hand away from Andrew.  "I just don't get it," she reiterated.

Andrew frowned and bowed his head.

"And I don't get how you don't get it!" JenniAnn cried.  "But I'll take you at your word.  I guess my question then is... why does it matter?  Why do you need Andrew to feel the same things you do?  Why can't you just live your life according to your own being and let Andrew live his according to his own being?  Why did we have to mirror your life in order to be considered 'passionate, exciting, and interesting?'  Why... why couldn't you just be our friend and love us as we are?"

Bennie rolled her eyes.  "Are you really that stupid?  Didn't you think it was suspicious that I befriended you only after I saw this one pick you up one day after school?"  She pointed at Andrew. 

"Bennie..." Andrew intervened with a warning tone.

"So you never cared about me... " JenniAnn batted away a tear.  "But earlier you said you want us... Andrew and me... to 'live a little.'  If you didn't care about me... why would you care about whether I was enjoying life?  Why keep introducing me to all those boys?"

"Bennie, please, think about what you're going to say and the impact it could have," Andrew pleaded.  The situation was falling into place in his mind and he couldn't bear for it to be laid out in cold, cruel terms for JenniAnn.

"Things have gotten a little heated.  We're all stressed.  Maybe you could continue this conversation another time?" Rose suggested.  She wasn't sure what was going on but the look on Andrew's face frightened her.

Bennie disregarded their advice and focused on JenniAnn.  "To get you out of the way.  But now I see that plot was pointless."  She looked at Andrew with disapproval.  "It was a lost cause.  *You* were a lost cause."  She shrugged.  "Oh well.  It's not like every girl dreams about palling around with the grim reaper, anyway."  Her cruel gaze remained fixed on the angel of death.

For his part, Andrew felt his attention was better directed to Rose and JenniAnn who looked ready to pounce.  He held their hands for a moment and subtly shook his head, discouraging them from action.  When he finally looked up at Bennie, his expression showed only compassion.  "I did care about you, Bennie.  And I still do.  Don't ever think otherwise.  But I love the Father.  And I know He created me as He meant for me to be.  He loves you, too, and..."

"I think it was a mistake... me coming here," Bennie interrupted.  "I'll show myself out," she concluded and abruptly fled the room.

The angry, judging look that Bennie had shown them for the past few minutes remained until that last moment.  But Andrew saw something behind it: sadness.  He rose from his chair and followed Bennie out of the kitchen, through Willowveil, and into the yard.

"Bennie!  Please, stop!  Can't we talk more about this?" he called as he ran.

The fleeing woman paid him no heed.  She scrambled beneath the branches of his willow tree and disappeared.

The angel of death stood in the yard and stared at the spot where his former friend had disappeared.  He wasn't left alone for long.  He smiled when JenniAnn and Rose came and stood on either side of him.  The former sat a hand on his shoulder, the latter took his right hand.

"Come on.  You need a ginger ale," Rose asserted.

"And orange juice," JenniAnn added.

"I'd like that," Andrew agreed and let himself be led back into the castle.  To escape the scene of the argument, they moved to the ballroom. 

The three were quiet for some time, each replaying what had happened.

JenniAnn was the first to break the silence.  She was gazing out the window when she began to murmur.  "'He must have seen in her eyes that she had given in to him, that she was prepared to leave him to himself --to love his God, and to do whatever he pleased-- so long as he was only Lancelot.'"

"T.H. White's The Once and Future King," Andrew recognized.

JenniAnn beamed at him.  "You know."

"I taught it once."

"It came back to me when Bennie made that crack about your being a knight."

"What's it mean exactly?" Rose asked.  "I mean I know the main gist of Guenever and Lancelot and their affair and Camelot but how does the quote figure in?"

"It comes towards the end.  The two had done some pretty bad things.  Not just to Arthur but to each other, too.  Honestly, I spent the whole book wondering why they even bothered with each other," JenniAnn confessed with a wry smile.  Then her expression softened.  "Until I came to that part.  It was like in this one moment of grace, Guenever saw Lancelot as he truly was.  Completely.  And she loved him utterly for it, even if it meant sacrificing the life she wanted with him.  It didn't last, of course.  It was just a moment.  But I used to wonder what Lance felt during it.  To be recognized fully and loved completely.  To have someone only want for you to be yourself, no matter what havoc it wrecked on their life.  I-I haven't had to wonder in a long time." 

Andrew moved and stood beside her at the window.  "Me neither.  I know he felt blessed, Laja.  I know because it's what I feel.  And for me it's lasted longer than a moment."

"Me too," she agreed, looking tenderly at him before her aspect darkened.  "Which is why I don't get what just happened!  Why can't she leave you to our God and yourself?!"

Andrew's hand raked through his hair.  "I should have paid more attention back then.  I had no idea Bennie was so confused about who and what I am.  I would never have let you two meet with her alone, having to defend me on your own.  But I had no idea."

"It's not your fault, Andrew," JenniAnn assured.  "I'm the one who should have paid more attention.  Maybe the entire conversation wouldn't have gotten as convoluted and ugly if I'd grasped what Bennie was saying right when she first assumed you and I... well, you know."  She blushed.  "With anyone else I would have picked up on it but with someone who knew you and knows you're an angel... I was clueless."

"That's understandable.  Who wants to think a friend could misunderstand another friend that much?"  Rose gave JenniAnn a reassuring smile then hugged Andrew.  "And, Andrew, one of the things I like best about you is, until you have reason to believe otherwise, you always think the best of people.  You cared about Bennie and so you could only imagine the best possible excuse for her behavior.  How could you have known she was capable of using someone who trusted her to get to you?"  She looked apologetically at JenniAnn, sorry to have put the facts so bluntly.

JenniAnn shrugged.  "I've lost some fond memories that are now tinged with that unfortunate knowledge.  But I knew I lost Bennie's friendship a long time ago.  Now I'm just upset because she was cruel to someone I love."

"Earlier there was one person in that kitchen who said some admittedly not so great things about me.  But there were also three others... you two and the Father... who I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt loved me.  That's what I felt the most and that's what I'll always remember the most."  Andrew smiled warmly at his friends.  "But I am concerned about Bennie.  Maybe I should have done a better job explaining who I was to her back then?"

JenniAnn scoffed.  "Andrew, I was there.  You couldn't have been clearer.  And it's in the Bible, anyhow.  Bennie went to the same high school I did.  She had to read the Gospels just like the rest of us.  And even if she didn't believe them, there's no excuse for disbelieving a friend who has never given you reason to and then saying something so mean to them.  You're not the grim reaper.  And lots of girls dream of palling around with you.  Some women, too."

Andrew blushed, chuckling.  "Thanks, Laja."

"In a twisted sort of way... she was being kind at the beginning.  I mean her idea of Andrew was completely misguided, obviously.  But she was trying to do what was best for that imagined Andrew," Rose pondered.  She shook her head.  "But what bothers me the most is it seems like towards the end... she did believe Andrew about who he was and what he does and doesn't want and feel.  But she just couldn't accept you as you really are.  Why?"

Andrew frowned.  "There are many, many possible reasons."  He caught JenniAnn's and Rose's indignant looks, recognized that they were on his behalf, and laughed.  "I didn't mean regarding me personally.  Just in general.  Some people... they have trouble accepting what's different.  Others... maybe they're very happy in their lives and that's great.  But sometimes they lose sight of the fact that what makes one person happy would make another miserable."

"Bennie didn't seem very happy, though," JenniAnn pointed out.  "She was pretty coy when we tried to ask how things were with her, actually."

"Maybe it made her jealous to see the both of you happy," Rose posited.

"Maybe...  I can understand begrudging me that... especially when she apparently never cared about me.  But Andrew?"

"I disappointed her, Laja," he responded.

"By being who you are, someone you never tried to hide!" the blonde woman cried.  "What right did she have to be disappointed!?"

"None," Rose answered.  "But sometimes people just aren't reasonable.  And sometimes they don't realize how lucky they are.  The more we've talked about it... I feel sorry for Bennie.  She's missing out on a great friend."  She smiled at Andrew.

"Who is very sweet and lovely," JenniAnn added.  She grinned at Andrew who had begun to blush.

"And very cute," Rose continued.

"And has great taste in clothes."

"And always knows the right thing to say."

When Rose had finished speaking and Andrew was several shades redder than normal, JenniAnn sobered.  She took one of Andrew's hands in her own.   "And who taught me it's okay to jump in piles of leaves even when you're pushing thirty, who supported me through every crisis and fit from the time I was seventeen, and who has never made me think I should be anyone but who I am."

"And who would never, ever be a disappointment to us," Rose finished.

Andrew pulled both his friends into a hug.  He drew in a deep breath and let it out, expelling the last of the guilt he felt for Bennie's confusion.  He was still concerned for her and would always hope and pray that she would find peace and happiness and maybe even return to them.  But mostly he felt loved: loved by the two friends in his arms and those through out Dyeland and by the Father who had created them all and brought them together.  The angel who had spent most of his life bringing the message of God's love to humans had come to a place where they truly loved him... just as he was, just as the Father had created him. 

Andrew was truly happy and felt extremely blessed as he stood there with his friends in their unending moment of grace.

The End



(Photo Credits: The photographs used on this page 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.)