"So much of me is made of what I learned from you.
You'll be with me like a handprint on my heart."
~lyrics from "For Good," a song from Stephen Schwartz's Wicked

Hi all,

Welcome to the fourth annual Valentine's Dyeland story.  I'm so pleased that this one came together because for a while there I didn't think it would.  We'd started working on this right after New Year's and then, of course, things changed very suddenly.  I really struggled with writing this one in the wake of John Dye's passing.  On one hand, I didn't want it to be terribly sad.  On the other, how could I go on as if nothing had happened when this is a story about people who would be total strangers if not for his life and work? 

So...  I spose this story became a paean of sorts tucked into your typical Dyeland holiday tale.  There is some sadness and grief.  But mostly I think this is a story about realizing how precious the bonds between each of us are.  It's also about the gratitude we feel towards Mr. Dye for bringing us all together.  Like us, the Dyelanders feel that gratitude and, in this story, choose to express it by having a food/clothing/etc. drive to benefit the homeless and hungry and honor the man who meant so much to them.  While it'd be nice if we were altogether to collect donations as the Dyelanders are, I say we should still give it a shot.  I'd like to encourage people to consider donating what they can and getting it to their local shelters.  I think it'd be a truly awesome way to continue John's legacy of compassion during this season of love!

Finally, I'd like to thank Nicole for writing Tess' and Rose's responses.  Liz also wrote not just Henry's and Lady Beth's answers but also their questions so that was nifty.  Further, Yvette actually wrote her characters' entire segment for which I am very grateful.  You'll notice her part marked off my asterisks. 
I know this was a trying time and you all really pulled through.  Thank you all!  Also, I'd just like to thank all the members who have been so supportive during this difficult time.  Thank you truly.  And, of course, thanks to John Dye.  Without his beautiful portrayal of Andrew, Doc, Jeff, etc... parts of this story wouldn't be here.  Nor, in fact, would anything of JABB be here.

God bless,

The Unbroken Circle

February 9th   *~*~*  
February 10th   *~*~*   February 11th

February 12th   *~*~*  February 13th   *~*~*   February 14th


February 9th, 2011


Andrew's face lit up when he entered the Cafe and spotted Monica, Tess, and Adam waiting for him in their favorite booth.  In the past few months, they and others of their angelic friends had gotten back into the habit of meeting up when their schedules allowed.  Each visit brought a renewed sense of friendship and love and Andrew couldn't think of a better way to start his Valentine's celebration. 

As the angel neared the table he noticed that, predictably, Monica was ordering another latte as Tess looked on warily.  Andrew chuckled at the all too familiar scene.

"Well, here's our very own Walter Cronkite," Adam greeted.

Andrew smiled.  "I don't know that I can ever aspire to his greatness.  And I doubt Mr. Cronkite would have interviewed his subjects in flannel and jeans."  He waved his hand over his casual ensemble.

"He would have had JenniAnn been his co-interviewer and he wanted to keep on her good side," the elder angel of death countered.

Monica laughed as she scooted over to allow Andrew into the booth.

"Now that's an image!" Tess exclaimed.  "But something tells me JenniAnn is much happier with our Andrew here.  How are the interviews coming, baby?  First day, isn't it?"

Andrew smiled thankfully at Monica and sat down.  "It is.  And they're going really well, Tess.  The interviews with Vincent and Catherine and Mick and Beth were great.  JenniAnn seemed really happy.  I feel like maybe... well, maybe we're all turning a corner.  And last night at dinner, some of the girls came up with a really great idea."

"What's that, Andrew?" Monica asked.

"As we go around interviewing everyone; we're going to collect food, clothes, whatever people have to give and then we're going to donate it in John's honor.  I'm taking some to the shelter I spent some time at the November before last and Mick offered to deliver the rest around California."

"That's a beautiful idea, Angel Boy."  Tess affectionately squeezed Andrew's hand.  "So the girls are doing well?"

Andrew nodded.  "You know, there are still some difficult times.  But they're all remembering him in their own ways and that seems to help.  I don't think I've seen Rose wear any shoes except yellow Converses since he went Home.  And JenniAnn's been wearing a peace sign necklace the whole time... okay, so really she's just dressed like a hippie the whole time.  Even more so than usual.  Yva organized a musical celebration of his life and Lady Beth baked a cake and had us all over for his birthday."  A small, enigmatic smile flashed across his face before the angel's gaze drifted to the nearest window.

Monica set a hand on her friend's shoulder.  "Andrew, are *you* okay?"

"Oh, yeah.  Fine.  Great.  I was just thinking about how this past month has given me new appreciation for something I've always loved about humans.  You know one of the things I think is most amazing about them?"

"What, buddy?" Adam asked.

"That even without seeing what we have, they know and they feel how connected they are.  They see strangers on the news and they reach out to them.  Time and again.  And they have these intense connections to each other... sometimes when they don't even know each other.  This... love," Andrew mused, his eyes sparkling with immense admiration and fondness.  "And for most of them nothing... not distance, not differences of opinion, not varying cultures, not even death severs that bond in their hearts.  I think John felt that and it's why he showed so much compassion in his life.  And because he touched the girls' lives so deeply, now they're reaching out even more than usual... helping to further his legacy of caring for those in need."

"And we will, too," Adam vowed.  "John spent seven and a half years delivering our message... God's message... to millions of people.  And that's only what we saw.  The Father knows it didn't begin or end with the show.  So I think we can spend a few millennia carrying his message for him."

"That we will," Tess agreed.

Monica nodded enthusiastically.  "I've been thinking and came to realize that without John... indirectly, of course... you and I, Andrew, well, we, uh..."  The caseworking supervisor bowed her head.  "Well, it's just that the girls had a lot to do with my realizing how much I missed your friendship and how I needed to be a better friend to you.  And they wouldn't have been here without him and without their presence here... you and I..."  She shook her head sadly before brightening.  "Well, I suppose I've been a wee bit humbled by realizing that we're all part of that connection you mentioned, too.  We've all been touched and bettered by his life."

Tess beamed.  "We have, Miss Wings, we have."  The supervisor noticed that Andrew once again seemed to be deep in contemplation.  "Now what's on your mind, Angel Boy?"

"Immortality and all the ways it can happen.  We all know that when the Father calls someone Home, then they live on forever there with Him.  But one night, shortly after Dawn died, the girls and I got to talking about how, in a way, all our assignments, our friends, the humans whose lives touched us... they live on in our hearts.  Forever.  The inspiration and love they gave us... well, we angels carry that with us for all time.  Then we pass that along to future assignments.  And so, in a way, even when our friends have left this life... they still go on touching those that are yet to come.  Through us."  Tears welled up in Andrew's eyes but he smiled still.  "It's an honor and a privilege to carry on for them."

There were a few moments of silence as the other three angels silently contemplated Andrew's thoughts and nodded assent.  Adam, Monica, and Tess all knew that the preceding months had been momentous ones in their friend's life.  He had come to fully realize, appreciate, and accept how intertwined his life now was with humanity.  The passing of the gentle man who had helped some of their human charges realize that Andrew and his fellow angels of death were to be embraced with love and not fear had further deepened the angel's commitment to them and to his work as God's angel. 

The four roused only when a waiter set Andrew's usual cup of black coffee in front of him and affectionately squeezed his shoulder.

The blonde angel of death smiled and patted her hand then turned to his fellow messengers of God and raised his mug.  "To John.  May we all honor his life in our own lives and never lose sight of the message he brought to so many, our message: 'God loves you.'"

"To John," the three angels echoed with affectionate smiles as they raised their eyes heavenward.


That evening, Andrew made his way up Willowveil's main staircase and walked down the hall towards JenniAnn's office where they'd agreed to meet to edit the days' interviews.  He paused in the doorway, his smile growing.  JenniAnn was already reviewing the footage and while sitting down would have no doubt made the task easier, she had music from the 1960s playing in the background and was swaying to it.  The angel was further amused when she began to sing along... with a twist.

"'I can see me loving nobody but you for all my life.  When you're with me... Andrew... the skies'll be blue for all my life!  Me and you.  And you and me.  No matter how they toss the dice, it had to be.'"

Andrew couldn't contain himself any longer and began to chuckle.  His amusement was increased by the way Lulu and Fawn had their heads tilted as they studied the woman.

JenniAnn spun around and stared at him, her face a far brighter red than his own blush.  "How long have you been standing there?" she demanded as Andrew stooped to greet the dogs.

"Oh... I dunno...  Long enough to hear 'baby' morph into 'Andrew.'  It's a good thing my name only has two syllables, huh?'" he teased.

In spite of her embarrassment, JenniAnn giggled.  "Well, I don't call you 'baby.'  Only Tess does.  And those are decidedly un-Tess-like lyrics.  Still... it's highly unangelic to eavesdrop... although I suppose I did invite you here."

"You did."

"And give you a key."

"You did that, too."

"And it was my own fault for not realizing it was already 6:25 which is 6:30 in Andrew-time.  So I suppose I shall forgive you," JenniAnn concluded.

Andrew moved to hug her.  "Thanks for that.  It wouldn't be much of a Valentine's week if you were mad at me.  Not to mention it making for a pretty awkward series of interviews."

JenniAnn laughed and returned his hug.  "We don't want that.  So how was your get-together with the others?"

"Great.  I always love catching up with them.  And they're really looking forward to their interviews.  Monica especially.  This'll be her first time.  And they also think the clothes/food/etc. drive for John is a good idea.  They've promised to collect some things themselves."

"Wonderful!  I'm really glad we're doing this.  It just... it helps you know.  Maybe not so much with the lingering sadness.  So many, many people miss him and... and... that's... well, that's still there and will be for a long time," JenniAnn admitted.  "But then there's the drive to want to do good for him when he did so much good for all of us.  It helps with that." 

"  Andrew smiled gently.  The slight tremor in his friend's voice told him that some cheering up was in order.  In the past weeks the empathetic angel had gotten even better at determining when his friends needed some time to grieve and when they needed help in the form of an assuring or cheering word.  Now was most definitely the latter.  He reached into his pocket, feeling the familiar cool smoothness of his pocket watch but also another item.  "Laja, I've been thinking about something you said on the 31st.  About how seeing John in the mime make-up helped you learn not to take yourself so seriously.  Maybe it's time I learned that, too.  Here."

The woman tilted her head as she looked at the green flash drive Andrew was holding out to her.

"I'll set it up," the angel offered. 

Growing more curious, JenniAnn took a seat beside Andrew on the bench they used when editing the documentaries together.

Andrew ensured the file his friend was working on was saved then attached the flash drive to her computer.  He cringed as the files loaded, tempted to back out.  However, after a few seconds passed, the angel located the one he needed.  He opened the video and paused it.  "Ready?"

"For the record, I'm really glad you're you.  Cause if some random guy asked me to watch some mystery video... I think I'd be a lil freaked out right now.  But, uh, yeah... go."

Andrew grinned and hit play.

"Oh... my... gosh..." 

Andrew's face began to color but he kept his gaze on his increasingly amused friend.

The tenseness in JenniAnn's face relaxed and she began to laugh hysterically, saved from falling off the bench only by the angel of death's quick reflexes.  "Oh... my... gosh..." she repeated after regaining some composure.  "How can a person dance and play sports so well and be so uncoordinated otherwise!?!"

"It's a talent," Andrew responded wryly.

JenniAnn began to giggle again as an on-screen Andrew attempted a solo practice round of hopscotch and failed miserably, somehow managing to fall back into a bush.  When the video finally ended with an embarrassed Andrew catching Eli with the video camera trained on him, a giddy JenniAnn turned to the flesh-and-blood angel behind her.  "Why are you showing me this?"

The blushing angel of death shrugged.  "I thought you needed a laugh.  And maybe the others do, too.  If you want to use it in the documentary, I mean."

"You'd be okay with that?"

"Sure.  I can't promise you I won't roughly resemble a beet while that portion airs.  But if it makes everyone else smile and laugh as much as you did... I'm fine with watching me make a fool of myself."  Andrew grew more serious.  "Laja, I feel indebted to John, too.  And part of my way of coping with that is being a good friend to all of you.  Maybe this video is a way to do that."

JenniAnn hugged him.  "Andrew, you already do it so well.  But..."  She glanced back at the video.  "This might be a nice additional way of doing that."

Andrew chuckled.  "I thought you'd feel that way."

"Now I bet you're wishing you'd had a camera when you came in here."

"I am.  But something tells me I'll get my chance yet." 

JenniAnn rolled her eyes as Andrew smiled wickedly.

"How about a nice rendition of 'I Will Follow Him'?" Andrew suggested.  "I've always liked that one."

"My, someone has a high opinion of himself, thinking I'd 'follow him wherever he may go,'" JenniAnn teased.

Andrew blushed again, realizing how conceited he'd inadvertently sounded.

"Aww, poor Andrew!" JenniAnn cried, hugging him.  "Sometimes I wish you actually did have a bigger ego... but you don't."

"Not for lack of trying on your and the other ladies' parts," the angel responded, both amused and touched by their constant attentions.  "But I do just like that song.  It's catchy."

"I know ya do.  And it is.  And I would follow you... if it were allowed."

Andrew smiled and hugged her back.  "I know you would, Laja.  But now..."

"Now we have work to do!"
  Just as she was about to resume the video of her cousins' interview, JenniAnn stood up.  "Just one sec."

Andrew looked on as she dashed to her bedroom.  He smiled softly when she returned a few moments later, carrying a pillar candle with a dove embossed on the glass.  Standing, he moved beside her as she set the candle on a table in front of a window.

JenniAnn lit the candle.  "Thank you," she whispered.  Then she crossed herself.  "Thank You."

Andrew clasped her hands in his and for a few moments before they restarted their work, they prayed.


February 10th, 2011


The next morning, Adam made his way to Serendipity to meet Andrew and JenniAnn.  He pulled a wagon filled with boxes behind him.  The angel smiled as he thought about the interview to come.  For the first time, he and Andrew would be questioned together and speaking about how love figured into their work as angels of death.  The idea had originally come to the two as a way to lighten JenniAnn's workload but, truly, both angels had been looking forward to the occasion for their own reasons.  They simply enjoyed talking about their work with each other.

When Adam reached the house, he debated whether to carry the wagon in or leave it.  He was about to knock and ask when the door flew open.

"Hi Adam!" JenniAnn cried, immediately hugging him.  "Andrew's just setting up the cameras in the living room.  Come in!  How are you?  How've your assignments been?  Ooh!  You brought stuff!"

Adam smiled, thrilled by her happy demeanor.  "I'm doing great.  My assignments have been great.  No falling chandeliers."  He stepped back and waved to the wagon.  "And I brought some clothes and canned goods.  I decided I didn't need the latter.  If I get hungry, I'll just get Lady Beth or someone to make something for me."  He winked when JenniAnn crossed her arms over her chest and glared playfully.  "So where do you want them?"

"The garage is unlocked.  Let's just stack em in there with Andrew's and my stuff.  I think we can handle it ourselves, no need to go get Andrew.  He's much better at the camera stuff than me so best leave him to that."

"Sounds like a plan.  So how are you?" Adam asked as they unloaded his wagon.

"Good, thanks!  Better.  I mean... well, we all still have our moments, of course.  But Andrew and I spent some time talking and praying last night and just... everything seems better now," JenniAnn responded.

"Andrew does have that way about him, doesn't he?"  Adam smiled proudly.

"Yep.  And so do you.  I'm so glad you were with us during those first few days, too, Adam.  Seeing you both and Henry and Eli... it just, ya know, helps me remember that he's okay.  That everyone's okay.  Cause God's holding us all."  The woman brushed at a tear but smiled as she hugged Adam.  "Thanks for bringing all this.  And your wagon.  You looked very cute pulling it."

Adam laughed.  "Thank you, my dear.  It was between that and my wheel barrow.  The wagon was red so it seemed more festive."  He closed the garage door after placing the last box.  "You ready?"

JenniAnn nodded eagerly.  "You bet!"

They quickly made their way back to the house and into the living room where Andrew was still at work.

"How you doing, buddy?"

Andrew made one final adjustment on a camera then turned to Adam.  "Can't complain.  The sun is shining and I'm spending time with two great friends."  He smiled at his guests.  "And yourself?"

"The same.  And very excited to see what our interviewer has in store for us."

"Well, I have everything set to go.  Ready, Laja?"

JenniAnn nodded vigorously.  "Definitely!"  She waved the two angels to Andrew's couch, angled the cameras, hit record, then claimed the chair across from them. 

"Laja, you have one camera pointed at Adam and one at me.  No one can see you.  Adam and I can share a camera," Andrew pointed out. 

JenniAnn grinned.  "Trust me, when people watch this they won't want to be seeing me."

"I might!" Andrew protested as he got up to fix her camera.  "I see enough of my mug every morning when I shave."

The woman tilted her head.  "You shave every morning?"

"Yes...  Or pretty close to it.  Sometimes, you know, with assignments I might not get to it as regularly but... wait, why are we talking about this?" 

"I dunno.  You brought it up."

"Not as a discussion piece!" Andrew cried, his super smooth cheeks turning red.  Even with eleven years since he'd come to Dyeland, he still couldn't fully fathom the fascination the girls had with his hair.

Adam stared into the camera, eyes twinkling.  "Join us next year when I'll be interviewing JenniAnn about her love of Andrew's hair."

"Oooh... good idea!  Cept I think others may want in on that."

"Et tu, Adam?" the blonde angel paraphrased with a dramatic sigh.

JenniAnn giggled.  "All right, all right.  Let's get back on track.  Although I'm sure the other girls will be mad that I changed the subject so quickly."  She grinned then smiled serenely.  "So I am interviewing you both about how you experience and see love as angels of death.  So... first question: sad to say, human culture hasn't always depicted angels of death or the like in the... well, loveliest light.  Sometimes they come off as entirely dispassionate and cold, sometimes as outright evil.  So I know that sometimes your assignment greet you with... well..." 

"Screams of terror?" Adam tried.

"Name calling?" Andrew added.

JenniAnn cringed.

The angels of death immediately felt bad for subjecting the woman to their dark humor.  She hadn't built up the immunity they had and took slights against them to heart.

"Laja, that doesn't happen that often.  And when it does, I just remember that I'm someone's Amish Boy and someone else's Andrewkins and another's Dearest and Loveliest," Andrew assured, reaching over for his interviewer's hand.  "I'm sure Adam does the same."

The elder angel nodded.  "I'm Luscious."

JenniAnn smiled as she calmed down.  "That you are.  Anyhow... so when you get such reactions, what's the first thing you do to show them that you're really wonderful, loving beings?"

"Well, I think touch can express so much.  Maybe not when people are angry.  But if they're simply scared, sometimes just setting a hand on their arm or shoulder can immediately put them at ease," Andrew responded.

Adam nodded.  "I've noticed that, too.  Sometimes I tell a joke.  If I can just get a person to laugh and really look at me and see that I don't mean them any harm but that I actually care about them then it gets better."

"Aww, good.  So do you ever have assignments that immediately seem to get who you are and how you are and reach out to you with love?" JenniAnn asked.

Adam chuckled.  "I had one lady open her eyes, see me, clasp my hand, and say 'Well, it's about flippin' time, me boy.'  She was 107.  Quite a character that one was!"

Andrew smiled but it was immediately apparent to the other two that he had a far more serious case in mind.

"Andrew, would you prefer not to answer?" JenniAnn peered at him with concern.

"No, I want to," he insisted.  "The kids tend to reach out to me more.  Especially the ones that maybe didn't have a whole lot of love in their lives."  The angel blinked back some tears then smiled.  "Some of them humble me, too, you know.  They'll hug me and tell me that every thing's going to be okay if they can tell that I'm having a hard time with whatever happened."

JenniAnn brushed at a tear and reached over for Andrew's hand, noticing that Adam clasped Andrew's shoulder at the same time.  "I can't make any sense of things like that.  But it helps to know that someone like you is there.  You carry so much pure love inside you, Andrew.  Kids pick up on that.  And I'm glad they get to experience it.  What you both... and Henry and Eli and all the others do... it's amazing.  When you two picked this topic, I didn't even know where to begin because you've all shown me that there's not a single element of being an angel of death that's divorced from love.  It's what you do."

Andrew squeezed her hand back.  "Thanks, Laja.  It's always good to hear that someone realizes that.  Because we do love our assignments.  And all the others, like everyone here in Dyeland, who the Father has brought into our lives.  I think sometimes people think we just do the Father's bidding out of obedience.  And we are His servants and happy to be that.  But it's not blind... unfeeling obedience.  We love Him and we love His children.  He created us all, how could we not?"

"With your kind hearts and beautiful souls, something tells me you couldn't not love," JenniAnn murmured in response.

There was silence for a few moments while both Adam and JenniAnn studied Andrew who seemed to still be deep in thought.  After a few moments, he roused.  He blushed when he realized both of his friends were looking at him so tenderly.

"I'm all right.  Really," he assured.  "This is definitely a case of it helping to talk about things.  But now I'm ready for the next question if you're ready to ask it, Laja."  His eyes shown as he smiled at her.

JenniAnn nodded, grateful for her beloved friend's resilience.  "Well, thankfully, my next question is much lighter.  I'm just thinking that, as angels of death, you've probly seen lots and lots of things.  So... what's the craziest, most over-the-top demonstration of love you've ever witnessed?"

Andrew grinned.  "I once had an assignment whose girlfriend loved the movie Up.  So he decided he'd propose via balloon.  He filled the entire living room of their apartment with balloons emblazoned with 'Will you marry me?'  I helped blow them up.  I think there were about 300."

Adam did a double take.  "I hope you had a helium tank and weren't doing that manually!  Wait, that wasn't why you were there was it?" 

Chuckling, Andrew shook his head.  "Oh no.  He was a doctor who had lost a patient and I was helping him cope with that.  We had two helium tanks and, trust me, there were no balloon-related fatalities."

"Good.  So did she say yes?" JenniAnn asked eagerly.

"Of course.  I even got to go back to be at the wedding.  There were lots of balloons at the reception, too."  Andrew smiled at the memory.  "Adam, you've been at this even longer than I have.  How about you?"

"I officiated a wedding for two people who met in line for one of those Lord of the Rings movies.  I had to wear a white robe and a fake white beard," the elder angel of death reported with no small amount of pride.

"Ha!  You musta been Gandalf!"  JenniAnn stared at Adam, imagining him as the famous wizard.

"Of course.  And I think I must have given a really good sermon because last I heard 'Aragorn' and 'Arwen' were joined in their split-level 'castle' by Pippen and Frodo and were expecting a little girl they planned to call Galadriel."

JenniAnn cringed.  "Oh, Adam, no...  Those poor kids!"

"Oh, yes."

The interviewer shook her head.  "Wow... by comparison I seem normal."

Both angels of death politely looked to their sides, foregoing comment.

Giggling, JenniAnn checked her notes for her fourth question.  "All right you two... point taken.  So next question.  I know all angels carry the message 'God loves you.'  But how would you say delivering that message is different as angels of death as opposed to, say, caseworkers telling their assignment that?"

Andrew looked to Adam and after receiving a nod, responded.  "I think sometimes there's more of an urgency when we do it.  Ideally, our assignments have heard that message all their lives and see going Home as a positive thing.  But it's not always the case and 'I'll try again tomorrow' isn't always an option for us.  We do what we can to encourage them to accept that message because it goes a very long way in taking away any fear they might have about their deaths."

"That's exactly right, buddy.  And sometimes when we work with those left behind, 'God loves you' starts to mean something different.  Something more, I think.  It's not that they ever felt God's love wasn't important but when they've lost someone... that's when they really need to hear about it.  So they know that not only are they loved but that's where their loved one is: in the midst of God's love.  Forever."  Adam peered intently at the camera as he finished his answer, knowing this was the message his friends would need to hold close to them.

JenniAnn reached over and squeezed both their hands.  "Thanks.  I wish we could show this to the entire world."

"Laja, everyone in the world will hear this message at some point or another
," Andrew assured.  "Pray that they are encouraged by it."

"I will," she promised before sighing.  "I wish I hadn't limited myself to six questions.  There's so much to talk about!"

"Hey there, don't go thinking that whatever you want to ask has to be confined to this interview."  Adam shook his head.  "You can always talk to us.  Any of you can.  I know Henry and Eli feel the same, too.  It's what friends are for."

JenniAnn smiled.  "I know.  Thanks.  Regrettably, my fifth question probly won't take too long to answer.  So... what's the aspect you love most about being angels of death?"

Adam smiled.  "I bet we both have the same answer on this one."

Andrew nodded.  "Me too.  On three?"  He tilted his head to JenniAnn.

"Okay...  One... two... three..." she counted.

"Seeing people's faces when they first see God," Andrew responded.

Adam's voice melded with his friend's as he simultaneously said "How happy people are when they're with the Father."

JenniAnn beamed.  "I actually knew that would be both your answers.  But I guess I just wanted to hear it... in surround sound."

"And we're more than happy to say it, Laja."

"I'm glad.  And now... last question."  JenniAnn peered intently at them both as she spoke.  "I'd like to know if you feel like your own experience of love is deepened at all by now being angels of death as opposed to members of the choir, caseworkers, etc.?"

"I think any angel's experience of love... probably any body's experience of love... deepens as they grow older
," Adam answered.   "I think even if I'd remained in Search and Rescue, I'd feel love more deeply for the Father, my fellow angels, and my assignments than I did back when I was new to that gig.  I have a feeling that my work as an angel of death does have specific implications but I can't think of any right now so I'll leave that to this guy who's far better with words."  He stuck his thumb out towards Andrew.

Andrew smiled.  "All right.  I don't think our love is deeper than a caseworker's or any other angel's.  But I do think the Father sets us each on the path that will best help us develop a deeper experience of love.  For Adam and myself and so many others, the path He chose for us involves being an angel of death.  And I think the ways we experience love that may be unique to our jobs... or at least a bigger part of our jobs... involve seeing just how..." he paused to consider just the right word and his eyes shone when he'd settled on it.  "Immortal.  Seeing how immortal love itself is.  I've seen widows and widowers still deeply in love with spouses they lost decades before.  I've seen people turn tragedies into charities and missions that save countless lives in the name of their loved one.  And seeing all that... it has changed me.  How can I not love humans more when I've seen them do such amazing, selfless things?  And then how can I keep from loving the Father more deeply for creating such beauty in each and every one of you?" 

JenniAnn's eyes welled with tears, finally not from sadness but an intense recognition of love as Andrew finished speaking.  He reached across and took her hand in his.

"Well, buddy, I think it's a good thing I let you handle that one," Adam commented, his crystal blue eyes lighting up as he looked at his two friends.

JenniAnn moved to hug him.  "Your answers were beautiful, too, Adam.  I just wish it weren't over but..."  She sighed wistfully. "We have places to be!  Yva and Co. are expecting us at noon and since being late would be extremely out of the ordinary for the two of you, we best be on our way.  Adam, you coming along with us or do you have somewhere to go first?"

"I think I'll tag along.  Keep you two out of trouble," he answered with a smirk.  "A little bird told me that last year you two spent part of your journeying to and fro time engaging in races and climbing trees.  Someone should be the adult."

Andrew chuckled.  "And you really feel that's a responsibility you can handle, Adam?"

Adam's silver locks flew as he shook his head.  "No.  But I'll keep an eye out for an adult while we race."

Laughing, the three packed up the cameras and headed south in the Jolly Green until they reached the shore near the Fields of Gold and set off on a boat race to Pure Imagination.


Since JenniAnn's previous attempts to go boating by herself had ended with minor catastrophes, she had gratefully settled into Andrew's boat when the three had set off from the Glen of Goodness.  Despite their competitive aspirations, both angels of death soon found themselves so taken in by the beauty of the water and the newly awakening Spring that the race was forgotten and the two boats idly sailed towards the island which was home to Willy Wonka's Dyeland factory.

"Laja, look.  There's a swan on the other side of Adam's boat."  Andrew pointed to the graceful bird.  He frowned when he realized JenniAnn was staring off into space.  Concerned that she was having a seizure, he gently set his hand on her arm and repeated her name.

JenniAnn immediately stirred.  "Sorry, did you say something?"

"I was just pointing out the swan."  He tilted his head in its direction.

The woman smiled softly.  "My Swan Boat's found a swan."

Andrew grinned but soon sobered.  "Are you all right?"

"Yeah.  Just spaced out.  Do you...  Maybe I shouldn't ask."

"If it will help you then ask and if I can't answer or don't think I should answer, I won't.  But you have to know by now that you can talk to me about anything, Laja."

JenniAnn pulled her sweater coat more tightly around her.  "Do you think Yva's going to leave soon?"

Andrew jolted.  "Why do you ask that?"

The woman shrugged.  "I dunno.  It's just... things seemed to be going really well.  I mean I felt like the cruise and finally talking things out really helped a lot.  And then she was with us in Iowa and that was great.  And Christmas... Christmas was beautiful.  And she was with us that day last month when we found out about..."  Her voice drifted off.  While they were all healing, that day was still painful to revisit and so she left it unspoken of.  "And for John's birthday.  And it just seems like now she's got quiet again.  Do you think we've done anything wrong?  Or not done something we should have for her?"

The angel regretted that moving closer to JenniAnn would likely involve a capsized boat.  He settled for releasing an oar and squeezing her hand.  "Laja, sometimes people just... they need some time.  I don't want to bring up painful memories but maybe doing so for just a moment will help put things in perspective.  Remember back in 2005 when you left Dyeland?"

"For three agonizingly long months.  Yes."

"But you needed that time for yourself.  And no one begrudged you that.  And when you came back to us... you seemed more content, more sure of yourself and your place with us.  Maybe that's what Yva's experiencing right now.  And if so, we need to trust her and love her but... I think you know what I'm going to say."

"That I should be having this conversation with her and not you?"

"There you go."

JenniAnn smiled warmly at him.  "Forget Swan Boat, you're in all out Skin Horse mode now, my wise and adorable friend.  You're right.  I will talk to her.  Who knows?  Maybe she even has something to say and that's why she suggested this big shindig and didn't just have us swing by to pick up the donations."

"Could be," Andrew agreed.  "That sounds like Yva's doing."

JenniAnn felt much more at ease as Andrew sailed the boat further and the lavender and blue factory came into clearer view.  The sun shone off it, making it look like a beacon of hope.


When Adam, Andrew, and JenniAnn stepped inside the store room one of the Oompa Loompas had led them to, they gaped in amazement.  Willy had graciously offered to donate several preserves, baking necessities, kitchen supplies, and other items to the Dyelanders' collection but they'd had no idea just how much he was offering them.

"Good gosh..." JenniAnn murmured.

"I'm going to be putting a lot of mileage on the Jolly Green today, I think," Andrew mused.  He smiled and shook his head, truly touched.

Upon hearing the angel of death's words, Willy's and Yva's attention shifted from the treats they were laying out for their friends to the three new arrivals.

"Welcome, dear lady!" Willy greeted JenniAnn first.  "And, of course, dear sirs."  He smiled at the two angels.

"Willy, this is..."  Andrew shook his head again, speechless as he surveyed the room.

"It's amazing," Adam finished for his friend.

"It's a good cause for a good man," Yva responded, embracing the tall angel.  "And a good excuse to get everyone together.  Because I... there are some things I'd like to say to everyone."

JenniAnn tensed.

Andrew hugged the brunette woman once she'd stepped away from Adam.  "And we'll listen to whatever you have to say, Yva."

"Thanks, Andrewkins."  Yva smiled up at him.  "But until then... Willy and I will show you around.  We kind of have a process we thought might work best for boxing everything up and it might help if a few other people know it."

Yva and Willy led their friends through the aisles of food-laden tables, explaining how it was organized.  They were just finishing when the rest of their friends began to arrive and in no time at all the room echoed with a cacophony of laughter and chatter as goods were sorted and prepared for distribution.  With so much help, the group was finished within an hour.  The tables were rearranged to form a rectangle for easier communication and lunch was brought out.

After a few minutes, when it seemed nearly everyone was finished with their meal and had shifted attention to the sweet treats, JenniAnn turned to Yva.  "So... umm, this thing you wanted to talk about?  Are you... I mean is everything all right?" she whispered.

Yva nodded.  "Yes, I think so.  I hope so.  But do you think you could wait just a moment for my full answer?  I think everyone... all of our friends gathered here..."  She paused to smile tenderly at the others.  "They all need to hear it."

"Sure, Yva."  JenniAnn smiled back, feeling slightly more at ease.

After waiting a few moments to ensure everyone had finished lunch, Yva stood up.

JenniAnn cast a concerned glance at Andrew who was seated at the table across from them, between Lady Beth and Rose.  He smiled reassuringly at her then gave his full attention to Yva.

*As she stood in front of her friends, Yva looked out among the throng of Dyelanders who were assembled.  Clearing her throat, she regarded them each in turn.

“JenniAnn, I know that you and Andrew sort of counted on all of us to take part in the interviews this year, but for some reason, I just couldn’t figure out what to say or do.  I love you all so much, and sometimes it doesn’t always take explanations or answering questions to show or prove it.  It’s just a feeling that one has or shares with those close to them.”

She looked over at Andrew as she felt the tears catching in her eyes.  “It was like that day you needed someone to take Lulu for a walk because you were on a case and were afraid that you wouldn’t get back in time.  You know that I’m scared of a lot of dogs, but I did this because you are my friend and I had the time to take care of her.”

As the angel offered a smile and a nod, she continued.  “While we were walking around the park, I started thinking about how it’s just those little things that people do that tell each other that they care, or that the world is a much better place because they are a part of it.  It may have seemed insignificant at the time, but it was my way of showing you that I care for you, and that you are a valued person…I mean angel, to me.  Andrew, I care so much for you.  Sometimes, when I am sitting in my church, I was thinking about this.  I was thinking about how sad I would feel if you were to suddenly disappear and never return.”

“I won’t Yva, I’ll always be there when you need me,” Andrew said gently.  “You have no reason to fear.  As long as Dyeland is here, I will always be a part of it.  Even when I am not physically here, I am still with you in spirit.”

By this time, the tears were freely falling from Yva’s brown eyes.  “Thank you, Andrew.  I think I really needed to hear that.”

“I think we all did,” Willy said softly as he looked at his adopted daughter with all the pride that a real father could hold.

“I know it’s true,” Yva said as she sniffed loudly and watched as Adam extended a cloth handkerchief to her and she blotted the remaining tears from her eyes.  “During the last few months, I haven’t been around much."
"Yva, we know you've been around when you could be," Andrew assured.  "You were with us on the cruise.  And in Iowa... something that, trust me, I really appreciated.  And you celebrated Christmas with us.  Other times.  That counts!"
"I know, Andrew.  And I was glad I could be there at those times.  But there were so many other times I haven’t been around.  But even at those times, I have tried to do something for everyone to make it up to them for my not always being here.”

Adam looked up from the sweetheart candies he had been munching on and spoke.  “Was that you that fed the turkeys while I was on a case?”  When she nodded, he smiled.  “I was trying for weeks to figure out who did that so that I could thank them.”

“I remember that, too,” JenniAnn said.  “I got the third degree from you when you got back.  You thought it was me, then Tess, then Rose, then Sir Sven and so on.  Everyone kept saying no, but none of us had any idea at all that Yva was behind it.”

Willy looked at his daughter.  “You’ve been playing the role of ‘cupid on a conquest’ with the lot of us, haven’t you?”

Yva nodded.  “I guess so, I didn’t want to say anything about this until now, but it was something that I thought was important.  In case you guys are still wondering, I was the one who cleaned the Café up after Henry’s last dinner party, and then when Tess needed something for a craft fair, I made several flower baskets.”

Tess smiled.  “They were lovely and the ladies who worked the fair were very impressed.”

Vincent looked up at her, this time his voice filled the room.  “Were you the helper who sent me the modern interpretation of Shakespeare’s Sonnets, Yva?”  When she nodded, he continued.  “I’d been trying for weeks to find one, and Catherine had no time to go Above to search.  That book really helped the children interpret the sonnets.”

“I’m glad I could help in some small way,” Yva said blushing slightly.  “The deal is, I want to ask you all to please forgive me for not being around much lately.”  She paused.  “You know I love you all dearly, and I wanted to do something different this year to show you how much you all mean to me.  In one way or another, you’ve all been there for me when I needed you, you helped me through the challenges and heartaches when I questioned myself, and you reminded me in every way possible that God loves me and that I am important.”

“That is what angels do, Love,” Nigel said with a gentle smile.

“I know that, but it wasn’t just angels who did those things, it was each of you.  In your own special ways, you somehow helped me to believe in myself, to reach beyond what I thought were my limits, and touch the sky.  I am totally happy and blessed to count you all as my friends.

“We love you too, Yva,” Willy said as he looked at the group.  Taking a deep breath, he continued.  “Perhaps it is now my turn to confide in all of you as well.  I have always been a very private person, and not even Charlie knows these things about me.  These are things that I really want to entrust in you.”

“What is it, Willy?” JenniAnn asked.

“For the longest time, I have had my doubts about the existence of God.  I didn’t know if there was this entity that existed in some place beyond here who loved me.  I have spoken at length with Andrew about this, because I felt that I needed his guidance, and instead of getting judged, I was encased with understanding and friendship.”  He paused.  “This has not been easy for me because my life has not always been easy.  My father rejected me when I was a boy, so I had always had a difficult task at accepting anyone who could be addressed as ‘Father’.  When I came to Dyeland, I was in the midst of trying to understand and know God.  It was a very difficult time for me.”

“I’ve suspected for a long time that you felt that way,” Adam said softly.  “I have since the day we first met.”

Willy nodded.  “I know, and for that, please forgive me, Adam.  I know that you were the first angel I met, but maybe I needed someone to give me an objective frame of reference without knowing the whole story.”

“Of course,” Adam said.  “I’m glad that Andrew was able to help you.  He’s good at what he does.”

The confectioner nodded.  “In hindsight, I have accepted that perhaps that is the reason, I have felt rather awkward here.  I could tell that some of you may not have felt comfortable around me, purely because of my ‘crisis of faith’.”  He looked over at JenniAnn, whose face was now lowered.   He smiled reassuringly at her before continuing. “It’s okay, I am not angry with anyone about that, in fact, I probably understand better than you think.”

“I’m glad you’re not angry with any of us,” Andrew said.  “It would be just as hard for one of us to change or curb our feelings as it would be for you to try and change who you are.  I once met a lady who said she believed in ‘Science’ not God, and somehow I was able to reach her, so there is hope, if you are open to what we may have to say.”

“Adam is right, then, you are good at what you do,” Willy said smiling.   “But, the point of this is that through all of you, I am starting to believe that there is a God out there.  I don’t know if this God really loves me as you all say, but I am doing a bit better at believing it.  I no longer think that the angels are just good at pyrotechnics.”

The group laughed heartedly as Willy continued.  “Whoever is out there, I know that He or She would have to be as proud of all of you as I am.  I truly am blessed to be a part of a community such as this.  So, with all of your patience and love, I am striving to get beyond my crisis.  I also want you to know that you have played an intricate role in that.  I have never been among a group like this who have looked beyond what I do for a living and are seeing me as a part of a family.  I don’t have to be anything other than what I am.”  He looked at Vincent.  “Do you know who said ‘We know what we are, but know not what we may be’?”

“Yes, that’s Shakespeare,” Vincent said smiling.  “You did tell me when you came, that you had recited several of his quotations.”

“Did he know that when he said it, that it would still impact others some four hundred years later?” Willy asked.

“Perhaps,” emerged the simple answer.  “Strange things can and, often, do happen.

“I think I know what we are now, Vincent, we are ‘love’, we are created in love, so that is what I believe,” Willy said as tears caught in his eyes.  “Yva, you once said that ‘God is Love’.  Do you remember?”

“Yes, Papa, I remember,” she said smiling as she looked up at him.  “But some may not believe that.”

“It’s okay,” Willy said.  “It’s not important that we believe the same things.  That’s what I learned here.  But, maybe what it all means is that when we give of ourselves, we are acting in a way that is love, and it is a sign that we are created in love, and that we are love in expression.”

“That’s beautiful,” Nigel said softly.

Yva looked at Willy, a smile breaking through all the hopelessness, sadness, and heartache of the past year.  Her eyes carried a newfound joy that none of them had seen in ages.   “You just gave me the most wonderful gift in the world.”

“What’s that?”  Willy asked softly.

“You acknowledged the reason I believe in God, and you gave me your blessing to go into the ministry.”  As she spoke, she rushed into his arms and held on with all her might.

Seconds after their embrace ended, she looked at her friends.  “I love you all, and I hope that after tonight, you will never doubt my sincerity.”

“No one doubts it, Yva,” Andrew said softly.  He got up from his seat and walked over to her and enfolded her in his arms.

After hugs were exchanged, all of them returned to their seats.*

"So who's ready for dessert?" Willy called.

The Dyelanders looked at each other and the sweet-laden trays in front of them.

"You mean this isn't dessert?" Adam asked as he reached for more sweetheart candies.

The confectioner laughed.  "No, my dear sir, those are snacks."

"Well, then by all means, let's have dessert," the angel of death responded with a grin.

Fresh from assignments, Henry and Monica arrived just as the coffee and desserts were set out.  They were welcomed warmly and once again the room was filled with the gentle, loving chatter and laughter of friends.

Yva stepped back from the scene for just a moment.  Her face lit up as she took it all in.

Andrew soon joined her.  "Thanks for helping arrange this, Yva.  Everyone's having a great time and I think it helped everyone to hear from you.  It certainly did me."  He embraced her.

The woman returned his hug.  "It helped me to say it and to have all of you here.  It's kind of like the old times, isn't it?"

Andrew smiled out at the crowd, noting Monica laughing with Rose and Lady Beth.  Vincent had Jacob on his lap as JenniAnn crouched before them and tied the little boy's boots.  Adam was animatedly telling some of the others about when he first met Willy while the candy maker occasionally piped in.  Andrew took in several similar scenes playing out in the room then once again looked at his friend and noted the newfound joy reflected in her eyes.  "Like the old times but even better," he agreed, hugging Yva again.  The angel glanced above, silently thanking the Father for all the blessings surrounding him, before he and Yva rejoined their friends.


It was nearly dinner time when the group at Pure Imagination had dispersed.  An hour later, Andrew was on his second round of moving the donated goods from the factory to his garage when he glanced over and noticed JenniAnn smiling to herself.

"Feeling better?" he asked.

"Very."  She sighed blissfully.  "Today was really great.  And it was good to have everyone together for a purely happy occasion.  And..."  JenniAnn craned her neck, still amused and impressed by the boxes filling every available spot in the van.  "This is a very impressive haul.  So many people will be helped by Willy's generosity and our teamwork.  I'm really glad we worked together on boxing everything.  It honors Mr. Dye on two different levels: giving to a group of people he cared so much about and making it happen as friends... friends he brought together without ever realizing it.  Friends that won't be drifting away any time soon."

Andrew smiled, content with his friends' happiness and his own blessed friendships.  "You know, I'm really glad we've kept doing this for four years now.  And I don't think it really matters whether we interview people or all participate in something like we did just now.  But spending a few days focusing on love... real love and not just the outward trappings of boxes of chocolate, a dozen roses, and jewelry... that's how Valentine's Day should be celebrated."

JenniAnn grinned.  "I'm not sure Hallmark and the florists would really appreciate that non-commercial sentiment, ya know.  Not to mention Victoria's Secret."

The driver chuckled.  "I'm not sure Victoria's Secret has ever much cared about my opinions."

"I'd love to sit in on that marketing meeting if they did, though.  That'd have to be pretty hysterical."

"Laja, you'd spend the entire meeting with your hands planted firmly over my eyes.  I know you."

The woman knew better than to deny it so only giggled. 

A few moments passed in companionable silence before Andrew noticed that JenniAnn was staring at him. She seemed to be studying every line of his face as if she was trying to commit his image at that exact moment to mind.  "What is it, Laja?"

JenniAnn smiled gently at him.  There was seldom any hiding from the ever-attentive angel.  "I was just thinking about something else Yva said.  About thinking about what it would be like if you disappeared."  Tears began to trail down her cheeks.  "I think... I think sometimes that's one of the hardest things about death.  It doesn't just make you think about the person who died although you do feel that loss so strongly.  But all the others who you've lost before.  And about how you'll lose others yet... and if this hurts so much, how are you going to bear the ones to come?  And I've realized... my answer to that question... it's a lot you.  Sometimes it seems like my faith in God and your friendship and love... and mine for you... are the only things keeping me from losing my mind during times of grief."

Andrew pulled over and stopped the car.  He moved a box that was resting on the middle seat to the floor.  JenniAnn immediately unbuckled and slid over, resting her head on his shoulder.  "Laja, those are all very natural responses after someone we care about passes on.  But I meant what I said to Yva and all of you.  I'll never, ever disappear.  Humans... sometimes they leave and it's not their choice.  But for me to just disappear... that would be a choice.  And it's one I would never make.  I love you all too much to do that to you... or myself."  He gently brushed some tear soaked hair away from her face and smiled.  "I know you believe that God's love is unending.  And it is.  The Father is always there, always loving us.  But I need you to believe something else, too."


"That you're all stuck with me for all eternity, Laja."

JenniAnn pulled away and stared at him.  "Stuck with?"

"Oh, yeah."  Andrew radiated peace and amusement as he returned her gaze.

At last, JenniAnn laughed again.  "I think I would have gone with 'You're all going to be blessed eternally by my awesome presence' if I were you."

Andrew chuckled.  "Wasn't it you who was giving me a hard time last night about my ego and you expect me to say something like that?"

"Okay, maybe not.  But thank you.  Whether 'stuck with' you or 'blessed eternally' by you... I'm very glad you'll always be there, Andrew."

The angel hugged her.  "Me too.  And remember: there are no permanent good byes.  Got it?"

JenniAnn beamed at her friend and hero.  "Got it."

"Good."  Andrew smiled at her then restarted the car and headed back to Willowveil for an evening of editing and revisiting the day's blessings.


February 11th, 2011


The next morning, after a brief visit to an assignment, Andrew set out for Henry's house where he and JenniAnn would be interviewing his fellow angel of death and Lady Beth on angel-human friendships.  JenniAnn was teaching class that morning but had agreed to meet up with him there at noon when the four would share lunch.  However, the angel of death had allowed himself enough time to stop at Salome first.  Andrew's assignment had gotten under his skin and he felt a walk in the labyrinth might help put him at ease. 

When he stepped off the bridge and moved past the grove of trees that surrounded the labyrinth, Andrew noted that someone was already there.  He instantly recognized Owen from the Tunnels.  He'd never known the man to have an interest in the ancient meditation and, thus, was pleasantly surprised to find him there.  Noting that he seemed to be nearly done, the angel set his camera bags down, took a seat on one of the benches, and waited.  He began to pray until he heard foot steps approaching him. 

"Good morning, Andrew," Owen greeted. 

"Hey there, Owen.  How are you?"

"Good.  Better.  Psyche mentioned this to me," he pointed to the labyrinth, "and so I've been giving it a try.  I hope I didn't throw a wrench in your own plans."

Andrew shook his head.  "Oh no.  More than one person can walk it at a time.  I think I was on one with two... maybe three other people when I first did.  What did you think?"

Owen took a seat beside the angel.  "I liked it.  It's a very different way of praying, contemplating.  It's definitely not anything people would have done back in the church I grew up in."  There was a tenseness in the man's voice as he spoke of his former congregation.  "You want to know why I'm really here?"

"If you want to tell me, sure.  I'm here to listen."

Owen smiled.  "Remember when I first came Below: strung out, beat up, and pretty damn sure I'd be kicked out once everyone figured out I was gay?"

"I do."

"I also, unfortunately, wasn't too sure what to think of you.  Psyche tried to tell me that you wouldn't judge me and that I should trust you.  But the impassioned pleas of a lovestruck twenty two year old couldn't really do much to override years of being told that God had condemned me, that angels were just waiting to smite me.  And our friend must have eventually realized that.  She stopped trying to force me to meet with you.  Instead, Psyche invited me over to Willowveil and told me I just had to watch this movie starring her favorite actor."

Andrew smiled.  "John."

"Who else?  He was her first crush.  You were... are her first love.  Psyche clearly has a type."  Owen smirked.  "Anyway, so she pops Mother, Mother into the VCR.  I bawled like a baby for the entire half hour.  I could relate so strongly to Jeff.  His father's hatred, his mother's emotional distance.  And even though I didn't have HIV/AIDS, I'd felt like my life was ebbing away.  Watching him, I didn't feel so alone in those experiences.  And then Psyche decided to follow it up with 'The Violin Lesson.'  I'm thinking now that maybe she'd just bought stock in Kleenex and was trying to drive up the prices."

The angel chuckled, ever-impressed at the way the young man could bring humor to any situation.   "If that's the case then JenniAnn should be a very rich woman by now.  So what happened when you watched that?"

"I'd just watched this guy play a gay man.  Not meekly but proudly.  Jeff was a strong character, a powerful character.  And now here was this same guy playing an angel.  A pure, heavenly being.  A son of God. And a pretty ticked off one!  When he confronted the man's father...  Let me tell you, that was a moment."  Owen blinked and smiled with embarrassment.  "But then I guess you'd know that."

"Something like that did happen in real life during one of my assignments, yes."  Andrew thought back through the years, back to the tense scene in the workshop and the later, more tender ones, at the hospice.  "But I can only hope I brought the power and the compassion to that assignment that John did on the show."

"I'm sure you did, Andrew.  But, for me, seeing that same man play those two roles...  It became obvious to me that believing I deserved to be treated with dignity, respect, and love and the existence of God... they weren't mutually exclusive."  Owen pulled a handkerchief from his pocket and brushed at his face.  "I prayed for the first time in years after we watched those.  So that's why I'm here now.  John Dye helped me reclaim my faith.  And so, in his memory, I'm going to work on strengthening that faith.  I've been coming here every week since he died in order to do that.  And maybe, some day, when another young man or woman is left pondering whether God really loves them... I can tell them what he told us and what you still tell us: 'God loves you.'"

Andrew blinked back his own tears.  He was always touched by stories of children who had found their way back to the Father but Owen's tale had a special poignancy.  He had been led by the same man to whom he himself owed so much.  He thought of something Monica had said years before: "When one voice stops, God will always raise up other voices." The angel well understood Owen's need to be an even more encouraging, more compassionate voice... a voice raised in memory of another's.  He pat Owen's shoulder.  "I think you'll do a wonderful job with that, Owen.  I've seen how you inspire your students.  I know you'll be the voice of inspiration and hope to so many."  He smiled at the man then sighed contently and looked up at the clouds. 

"Thanks.  I hope so.  I'll do my best.  Like you, like him.  Thanks for doing what you do, Andrew." 
The man peered intently at the angel, regretting that he'd earlier missed how careworn he looked.  "So what brings you here?  Everything all right?"

Andrew nodded.  "You know, listening to you helped a lot, Owen.  Thanks.  You gave me an idea.  Art can do pretty amazing things and show people the truth they most need to hear.  Make them talk about things that are important to discuss.  Your story makes that pretty clear.  See, I have this assignment I've been visiting off and on while acting as a volunteer for a food delivery program for veterans.  He was wounded... shattered, really, in Vietnam... not physically.  But emotionally, spiritually.  He can't let go of some things he did... and didn't... do during the war.  He won't reach out to those he served with, men and women who would understand.  He feels paralyzed by the memories.  And he looks at me... seemingly this thirty something 'kid' and he isn't taking what I say about the need to forgive himself and God very seriously.  But maybe I need to take a cue from you and JenniAnn.  And John's work."

Owen smiled, knowing where Andrew was going.  "I'm sure Psyche'll be happy to let you take Tour of Duty with you when you see your assignment again.  I bet it'll get a dialogue going between the two of you at the very least."

"I think it will," Andrew agreed, already feeling more hopeful.  "You know, I went into this thinking about how interconnected we all are.  JenniAnn loves Touched, especially John's part, and she used that and Mother, Mother to reach you.  Then today you shared those memories with me.  And now I have a shot with my assignment because of that and Tour.  And it all circles back to John."

"It reminds me of that old song."  Owen cleared his throat and began to sing.  "'Will the circle be unbroken?  By and by, Lord, by and by."

Andrew joined in though his voice caught as he did.  "'There's a better home a-waiting, in the sky Lord, in the sky."

They continued singing, both knowing that their particular circle... a circle in which an actor's work begot love and friendship time and again... would, indeed, be unbroken.


Andrew was in a much better frame of mind as he made his way to Henry's.  As he walked, he mused over how the Lord truly did move in mysterious ways.  He'd gone to Salome hoping for solitude and quiet but instead found the guidance he needed in a discussion with a friend.  He felt renewed hope when he thought of how he might be able to reach his assignment, Roger.

Andrew was nearly to the house when he heard someone behind him.  He paused and smiled when he saw JenniAnn running towards him, clutching her peace sign to keep it from flying into her glasses.

"I thought you'd beat me here by quite a while," she commented once she'd caught her breath.  "I was pretty surprised when I saw ya only a few yards ahead back in Serenity City."

"You should have called out.  I would have stopped.  You didn't have to run after me, Laja."

She shrugged.  "A lil running won't hurt me.  I'm really glad that Henry and Lady Beth dropped off their donations last night.  I love the Jolly Green but it'll be nice to just walk back to Willowveil.  Nicer still when we don't need to wear heavy sweaters or coats to do it but... I'll take this for now!  At least it's sunny-ish."  JenniAnn smiled up at the sky.  "So how are you?  How was your assignment this morning?"

Andrew quickly and vaguely filled her in on Roger and his visit with Owen then made his request.

"Of course you can borrow the DVDs!  For as long as he wants them.  I'd actually really like that.  Furthering John's legacy and all."  She hugged Andrew.  "And I'm glad talking with Owen helped you feel better about the situation.  I wouldn't want you to be sad during this interview.  Angel-human friendships is generally a very nice, uplifting, happy topic I've found."

Andrew smiled at her.  "So have I.  And a nice, home cooked meal is a happy thing, too."

At his words, both he and JenniAnn realized how hungry they were and raced to the house. 

Henry laughed as he opened the door.  "Well, either you're both very eager journalists or very hungry ones.  Which is it?"

"Both.  And I actually beat Andrew in our race!  Of course, he was a bit weighed down by the cameras..." JenniAnn confessed. 

"We'll go ahead and count it, Laja," Andrew allowed, grinning.  He inhaled deeply.  "Mmm.  It smells wonderful.  Freshly baked bread..."

"Plenty of that.  And Lady Beth is just finishing the angel hair pasta mornay," Henry explained, leading them into the living room so Andrew could drop off the camera bags before they entered the kitchen.

Andrew's eyes grew wide when he noticed the impressive spread.  He hugged the cook once she'd hung her apron up.  "Lady Beth!  This looks great!"

"I hope it tastes great, too.  If not... I'll blame Henry.  He helped."  She winked over Andrew's shoulder at the bespectacled angel of death.

"Oh, I don't think any blame will be necessary, only credit," JenniAnn assured.

"No time like the present to find out."  Lady Beth waved them into the chairs and once Henry said the blessing, the four dug in.

Andrew savored the first few bites before smiling up at his hosts.  "This is wonderful.  You two really outdid yourselves.  Thank you for inviting us to join you."

JenniAnn nodded.  "It's really perfect.  Thanks for doing this."

"Henry and I could both imagine you two rushing from your jobs to interview to interview... relying on granola bars," Lady Beth playfully glared at JenniAnn, "and chips for meals," her gaze shifted to Andrew.  "We couldn't very well allow that to happen."

"Well, thanks for taking care of us.  We do enjoy these but I suppose we do sometimes get carried away," Andrew admitted, touched that Lady Beth had taken such careful notice of their habits.  "But how've you both been doing?  It was great to see you yesterday at Willy's."

"Same old, same old, buddy," Henry responded.

Lady Beth smirked.  "Don't believe him.  Henry's had plenty of excitement lately.  Why don't you tell Andrew and JenniAnn what your last assignment involved?"

Henry rolled his eyes but smiled.  "I was playing the king at one of those medieval restaurants.  Which, trust me, the food just didn't rate with what our Lady Beth has spoiled us with."

"King Henry... has a nice ring to it," JenniAnn mused.

"So long as it's not followed by 'the Eighth,'" Andrew's nose wrinkled.  "He did not treat women well."

Henry laughed.  "Now there's an understatement.  Trust me, I was a good king.  And I treated my queen... who was actually married to my first knight... very well.  And I got to do a revelation from atop a horse.  Could have used C.J. for some refresher tips on horsemanship, though.  I'll have to talk to her when she gets back.  But Lady Beth's had her own excitement, too."

"What's that?" JenniAnn asked.

"Trying new recipes.  New ingredients in old recipes.  That's excitement for me!"  Lady Beth shrugged as if it was no big deal but her friends could tell how rightly thrilled she was with her culinary accomplishments. 

"And it's excitement we all get to benefit from."  Andrew smiled proudly at the cook. 

"Of course."  Lady Beth smiled back at him before turning to JenniAnn.  "How are the kids?"

The conversation shifted to the Tunnel children for the remainder of the meal and soon it was time for the interview to begin.  Very practiced, Andrew soon had the cameras in place and rolling.

JenniAnn smiled at the two interview subjects.  "Ya know, one of the things I really love about this year is how many people picked to be interviewed in pairs or like Yva and Willy planning the whole group thing.  And you two are no exception.  You chose to be interviewed about the friendship that can develop between angels and humans.  So, Lady Beth, our first question is did you ever expect to have angels as friends?"

The talented cook adamantly shook her head.  "Most definitely not but I'm sure glad that I have since I've made some wonderful friends.  I've occasionally even forgotten that they're angels due to their different personalities but I'm sure there's a reason for that.  I wouldn't have it any other way since this is something different that I'm glad I've been able to experience."

"Me too," JenniAnn agreed, beaming at both Andrew and Henry.

Andrew warmly returned her smile then focused on his fellow angel of death.  "Well, Henry, how about you?  Did you ever expect to have human friends?"

"No, I never thought I would," Henry responded.

"Aww..." JenniAnn cooed.

Henry smiled.  "Well, when you're constantly on the move doing the Father's work, you're never able to settle down and get close to anyone.  After hearing about Dyeland from Adam, Andrew, Tess, and Monica; I decided to come here and see for myself what it was like.  That's when I realized that I could have another home... other than the one with the Father... and be able to make good friends here.  It's helped me realize how much I appreciate who created me and what I've been given so far."

"That's beautiful, Henry.  Thanks.  And I know we're all really glad you found your way here."  JenniAnn smiled at her host then turned to Andrew.

"Right.  Me again.  We didn't want to wind up each only getting to ask one of you questions," he explained.  "So, Lady Beth,
knowing how much it takes for you to let someone close, was it easier with us angels?"

"Mmmm... good question."  Lady Beth paused for a few moments to carefully weigh her answer.  Finally, her eyes lit up and she nodded.  "Whenever I met another angel, I did feel a calming affect come over me which I guess made me realize that I wasn't going to get hurt.  I never get that feeling when meeting another person therefore I never know if that person is good or not.  So it's probably easy to say that, yes, it's easier to make friends with the angel.

"And well worth the time because they make for fantastically wonderful friends."

Lady Beth laughed as JenniAnn's comment elicited blushes from both angels of death.  "Good job," she congratulated.

"Thank you," JenniAnn accepted with a grin.

Henry smiled as he shook his head.  "Will that 'make an AOD blush' game ever get old for you, do you think?"

"No," Lady Beth, JenniAnn, and Andrew answered in unison, the latter knowing full well he'd never escape it.

JenniAnn giggled but quickly refocused on her questions.  "Henry, I've always wondered and... I'm not sure if you can answer this but I thought I'd try so...
were there any stipulations from the Father about becoming friends with humans?"

Henry thought about his response.  It was a bit delicate.  He caught Andrew's eye and when his fellow angel of death nodded, he soldiered on.  "The Father did make me aware again that by becoming friends with humans that I would have to eventually deal with their mortality.  He made me do some soul searching to make sure that this was what I wanted and how I would be able to come to terms with their eventual return Home.  It was only after some time that I realized that, yes, I wanted humans as friends."

Lady Beth reached for her friend's hand and tightly squeezed it.

Simultaneously, JenniAnn felt Andrew's hand tighten around hers.  She smiled bravely at him then at Henry.  "Just last night Andrew reminded me that there are no permanent good byes.  And he also said that we're stuck with each other."

Henry chuckled.  "Now that's an interesting way to put it.  But Andrew's right.  And I'm glad I made the choice I did.  I humbly appreciate what the Father has done due to His kind and generous nature because I wouldn't have done this otherwise.  He guided me in the right direction, made me work things out, and then allowed me to go in the direction that was best for me.  It's the only way I was able to experience the joy and love of human friendship."

"And our lives definitely wouldn't be as rich without that," Andrew opined.  "Thanks, Henry, for that thoughtful answer.  I can't imagine making a different decision myself, either."  He sighed happily.

"Good.  Because any other decision would be exceedingly difficult for your human friends to bear," JenniAnn responded.

Andrew patted her arm.  "It wouldn't be any easier for us.  So just remember... we're stuck."  He smiled to assure her.

JenniAnn returned the smile and directed her attention to Lady Beth.  "We're very blessed, huh?"

"You better believe it," her friend responded.

"Every minute of every day.  And my last question for ya kinda hinges on blessings.  Lady Beth, does it make you feel closer to the Father by having angels as friends?"

"Most definitely, yes," she responded eagerly.  "I always knew that the Father was there but now I have affirmations every day about His love and I realize that life is better now than ever before.  I've been able to see how the Father expresses His love in different ways and how this love can be peaceful, calming and all around us.  It has made me realize that I'm prepared for anything even more so now than before I met the angels."

JenniAnn's eyes misted as she nodded.  "That's so true.  I was just telling Andrew about how I can't imagine facing hard times without him."

"The feeling is mutual, JenniAnn," Henry assured.  "You all help us through hard times, too, sometimes without even realizing it.  I know I've come back here after difficult assignments and found a lot of comfort in the friendships I have here."

Andrew nodded.  "Me too.  We often tell our assignments and each other that the Father gives us what we need when we need it.  And I think that's definitely true for His bringing all of you into our lives now."  He held both JenniAnn's and Lady Beth's hands in his own for just a moment then, releasing them, looked to Henry.  "So that's how I feel, too, and now, Henry, for your last question... is there anything you want to say to Lady Beth?"

After a pause, Henry turned in his chair so he was facing Lady Beth.  "Thank you very much for everything.  I know I've made many good and wonderful human friends here in Dyeland but you've become a very special friend to me.  I wouldn't want to change anything we have... especially the cooking classes, the talks in front of the fireplace during the cold months, and everything else.  I hope that we can have many more good times like the ones we have had to this point in time.  I know that I appreciate everything so far and will continue to hold all the memories close to my heart."

Moved, Lady Beth looked over to Andrew and JenniAnn.  "Is it okay if I answer that question, as well, in regards to Henry?"

"Y-yeah," JenniAnn responded, busy fishing a tissue out of her pocket.

Lady Beth swiveled around to face Henry.  "Henry, I want to thank you very much, as well.  I know that you came after many of the others did but you fit in perfectly.  You've sat back and let me kibitz with Adam... who else would give him back one liners?... as well as shared cooking classes with Andrew.  You are a special person and I'm honoured to call you friend."

Andrew's loving gaze traveled to each of the other three individuals in the room.  There was nothing more to say, he knew Lady Beth's words were the perfect ones on which to end the interview.  So he quietly stood and held out his arms, smiling as a group hug ensued.


Since editing footage from a single interview wouldn't take much time and neither was due anywhere until after 7:00, Andrew and JenniAnn lazily made their way back to Willowveil.

"I really am glad we seem to be in for an early spring," JenniAnn remarked.  "Now, if the flowers would just start growing..."

"Soon, Laja.  Soon they'll be all over the place.  Roses and lilacs and those little violets that grow all over the place."  Andrew surveyed the empty fields surrounding them, imagining them as a rainbow of color and filled with the hope that reality would soon match his vision.  "And daffodils," he added, recalling they were JenniAnn's favorite. 

JenniAnn shook her head and turned away.

Andrew saw her hand raise, seeming to brush away a tear.  "Laja, what's wrong?"

"I'm, uh, not sure about the daffodils this year," she responded.

"They come every year.  Of course they'll come again," the angel assured, gently setting his hand on her shoulder.

"No.  I mean, I know.  I just mean... seeing them.  I'm not sure about seeing them and how I'll take that.  Years back, I decided they were my flower.  They mean 'unrequited love' and seemed apt because, well... I was too foolish at the time to realize you did love me back."  JenniAnn shook her head at her younger self's blindness.  "Not in the same way, of course.  But as truly.  As you do everyone... all of us, your friends, your assignments.  And in the last years... though I knew it was true before... I've seen what it's like for you when they don't love you back.  And, thus, the daffodil became your flower, in my mind.  A sad reasoning, yes, but because I associated them with you... they made me happy.  But at some point in this last month, the association transferred to John.  Because that's what I feel when I think of him sometimes... that every thing's unrequited.  From the sense of not being able to tell him what a difference he made, knowing there will be tragedies yet we won't be hearing his reassuring voice again like we did after Columbine, after Matthew Shepard was killed, after 9-11... on down to the less serious things like never seeing everyone get all pumped up for a new movie or show."

Andrew waited, sensing she had more she wanted to say.

"Does it ever get old?  The seasons changing, I mean?" JenniAnn asked.

The angel was surprised by the abrupt change in subject but, content to follow her lead, shook his head and smiled at his friend.  "No.  Neither do sunsets or sunrises.  Or births.  Or seeing two people fall in love.  Or people reaching out to each other in kindness."

Before JenniAnn could respond, a chilly breeze struck up and called to mind the harsh day a month before and Henry's invocation of mortality.  She felt a pang of dread shoot through her as she stared at the angel who she would one day leave behind. 
The sensation aborted her furtive attempt to redirect the sullen conversation.  Feeling unsteady, she reached for his arm.  "Andrew, do people... spirits I mean... can they see that sorta stuff from Heaven?  Can they see who they've left behind?" she asked in a hushed, desperate tone.

The angel of death gently steered his friend to a large rock and took a seat beside her on it.  "Laja, do you remember when you used to get so worked up about how maybe you felt more for me than you should?"

JenniAnn nodded, flustered.  "Well, I mean it was never personal but... I mean there's not even a word for what I am to you so I thought maybe what I felt was some sort of abomination."

Andrew shook his head.  "Absolutely not.  But do you remember what I told you then?  About how the Father could have created each and every one of us in our own worlds.  It wouldn't have been too big of a task for Him.  No task is too big for the Father.  Not even making countless worlds.  He could have separated us all and made Himself our only companions.  But He didn't.  He put a bunch of us all together.  Because love and loving... that's who He is and it's what He wants for us, His children.  Love is the most important force in the world because it comes directly from God.  And if He didn't separate us at our births, He wouldn't separate us at death, either.  I can't tell you too much about Heaven.  One day you'll know, Laja.  But I can tell you that from their side... there is no separation.  When I'm in Heaven, I feel your love and all the love of all our friends just as intensely as I do right now, sitting here with you.  They do, too.  Because they didn't leave you behind, even if it feels that way... and I know it does.  You're with them always because we're all with God.  It goes beyond simply seeing.  They *know* that they're loved and they know that they're thought of and they're always, always loving back."

JenniAnn smiled gratefully at the angel and held one of his hands in both of hers.  "When I go Home... I'd like to be able to watch over you, Andrew.  It's only fair.  You've watched over me since I was seventeen.  And I... I just want to do whatever I can for you.  Forever."

"Laja..."  Andrew pulled her into his embrace and briefly rested his chin on her hair.  At times the Dyelanders could push him beyond his usual eloquence and this was one of those moments.

The two sat in silence for a moment until Andrew shifted and smiled down at JenniAnn.  "So when that time comes... and I hope it's not for a long time... you're telling me I'll have to be on my best behavior for all time?"

JenniAnn giggled as she brushed at a few tears.  "Something tells me that won't be terribly hard for you.  Especially considering my idea of your best behavior isn't always your actual best behavior.  You're pretty cute when you whine, for example."

Andrew chuckled.  "So whining will still be acceptable?"

"Yes.  Also developing an attitude with Tess sometimes is a good thing.  Often times..."  She grinned and stood up.  "We better get going.  The dogs will be anxious to get outside.  And... thanks.  For answering my question and making me laugh."

"That's what friends are for, Laja," Andrew responded before taking her hand and walking with her across the bridge and back home.


That evening, after Andrew had left to meet with Roger again, JenniAnn called together the ladies of Dyeland.  Though busy with his own charitable efforts in Thailand, Josef had sent them crates of toiletries to be donated to their effort and they needed to be sorted into individual baskets for distribution.  Lady Beth, Rose, and Yva had readily agreed to lend a hand and, though C.J. was away attending classes, they had connected with her via webcam so she could visit with them.  It was a welcome opportunity to talk, just the five of them.

"So how's Andrew holding up?" C.J. asked.  "I was wondering because you know how he can get.  Especially when everyone's relying on him... as I'm sure everyone is now.  I've even called him a few times.  I just... needed to hear his voice."

"He seems good," Rose answered, looking at the monitor.  "What do the rest of you think?"

"Henry and I both thought he was in great spirits this afternoon.  Teasing, smiling.  Typical Andrew."  Lady Beth smiled at the memory.

Yva nodded.  "I think, like the rest of us, he has his moments of sadness.  Simply because he has such compassion for people who are grieving, even though he knows death is only the beginning of a new, better life.  This is what Andrew does: helps people during difficult times.  He loves doing it.  But I do hope he realizes that he's not supposed to be working when he's here and that if he needs a break, we can manage."  She turned to JenniAnn.  "You've spent the most time with him lately with the Valentine's project.  What do you think?"

Though she'd been listening to the conversation, JenniAnn had also been mentally replaying the previous afternoon.  "I think you're right.  Andrew feels immense compassion and maybe sometimes that can be a little draining.  But I don't get the sense he feels that with us now.  Like this afternoon..."

"You don't have to share anything if it's private," C.J. assured when the other woman's voice cut off.  "I only wanted to check with all of you about him."

"I know.  But I think it'd be good to share.  I'm just not sure anyone particularly needs to see me go all weepy again," JenniAnn confessed, smiling sheepishly.

"We've resigned ourselves to the fact that you're a sap for life, JenniAnn," Rose teased.

The joke made JenniAnn less self-conscious and, with an appreciative smile, she continued.  "When we were walking back from Henry's, Andrew was commenting about the flowers blooming soonish.  And he specifically mentioned the daffodils."

"Uh oh."  Rose frowned.

"Why 'uh oh'?"  Yva asked with some confusion.  "I thought you loved them."

"I do.  But, as I told Rose during one of those first, teary phone calls, they remind me of Mr. Dye now and the prospect of seeing fields of them... thinking of who the world lost... I dunno."  JenniAnn shrugged, attempting to blink back tears but soon giving up.  "So I confessed that to Andrew and then begged him to tell me whether those in Heaven can see the good we try to do in their memory.  And he talked about how God created us all to be together.  And how His love ensures there is no separation even in death... even when it seems like there is.  And he wasn't glowing when he spoke.  I mean not like we've seen him do with assignments.  But he was..."  The woman shook her head, striving for words she couldn't find.

"More?" Rose offered.

"Yes!" JenniAnn cried.  "I know that sounds kind of weird but it's the only thing that works.  Andrew was... more Andrew."

Lady Beth smiled.  "Andrew mentioned something to me today, after our interview.  He said that one of the things that touched him most was how often John expressed that he felt blessed to be able to play an angel, to say those words: 'God loves you.'  Andrew said that he was humbled.  Because sometimes he gets frustrated when assignments won't accept the message or behave in ways that run counter to it.  But that he was going to focus more on the blessing of simply being the one sent to say it.  Maybe that's what you saw, JenniAnn.  Some renewed commitment and spirit from an already committed and spirited angel."

JenniAnn sighed, nodding enthusiastically.  "I think that's it exactly."

C.J. smiled from the monitor.  "And now that angel is probably getting to do exactly that right now."

The five all smiled, praying that was the case.


In a drab apartment in Philadelphia, Andrew sat in a dimly lit living room.  In the recliner next to his sat a graying man, transfixed by the image on the screen.

On the TV, a young man in fatigues stood in the rain.  He began to savagely attack his mustache then dissolved into sobs.  "Just... trying to get clean.  Just wanted to get clean... didn't work," he murmured.

As the credits rolled a few moments later, tears slid down the viewer's cheeks.  "I know that feeling," he confessed to his visitor, the first words he'd spoken to Andrew that were neither gruff nor sarcastic.

"I know you do, Roger," Andrew responded gently, grateful to see a crack in the thick wall his assignment had constructed around himself.  "And God knows it, too.  He knows because He's never been apart from you.  He wasn't then and He's not now."

"How do you know?" Roger asked, his tone more pleading than demanding for once.

Andrew smiled.  "Because I was there, too.  And I saw the sacrifices of conscience that you made every day, Roger.  I saw the heartbreak you felt, surrounded by death.  I saw the creeping sense of isolation you experienced when the others, men as confused and heartbroken as yourself, turned against you.  But Someone never turned away.  I'm an angel, sent by God to tell you that He loves you, Roger, and He always has and always will."

Tears streamed down Roger's face as Andrew began to glow.  "I... I wasn't alone?" he asked, incredulous.

"Never," the angel vowed as he embraced the weeping man.

Long into the night, the two talked about all the things Roger had kept inside himself for decades.  To Andrew's delight, the man even requested he return so they could talk more and watch more of the show that had gotten through to the wounded man.

February 12th, 2011


The next morning, Andrew and JenniAnn met beneath the willow tree in his yard, each bringing their dogs with them.  The two furry friends ran off to play as soon as they glimpsed each other.

JenniAnn knew at once that Andrew's assignment the previous night had been a success.  He was grinning from ear to ear.  She immediately hugged him
when she stepped beneath the branches.  "I take it by the absolutely delightful expression on your face that Project Doc Hock worked?"

Andrew nodded enthusiastically.  "I wish you'd seen Roger.  He'd isolated himself for so long that he didn't know how many others felt exactly what he did.  He'd tucked his memories and his emotions into some place deep inside himself and hid away from anyone who might uncover them.  But to see them brought to life, on screen, right there in his living room...  It helped him talk about everything he most needed to.  He even asked me back.  I mean I would have come back, anyway.  He's my assignment and the Father wouldn't abandon him.  But to be asked back... that says a lot.  He wants to keep watching, too."

"That's wonderful, Andrew.  And... truly touching.  Another person helped by John's work."  JenniAnn smiled tenderly.

"And to think we only know a very small portion of people who are."  Andrew shook his head in amazement. 

"But he knows the full extent now," the woman mused.

"He does, Laja.  He really does."

They both sighed with happiness for the progress Andrew's assignment had made and fondness for the actor who had helped him make it.  Then, exchanging smiles, they picked up their camera bags.

"So ya excited?" JenniAnn questioned, smiling up at the angel.

"About?" Andrew prodded.

"Later today Monica will be doing her first ever interview here!" the woman cheered.

The angel smiled.  The Dyelanders were always so thrilled about anything they thought might make him happy.  "Oh that..."  His smile broadened.  "Yes, I'm excited.  And I'm also excited to see what's in that basket.  I smell blueberry muffins.  So?" 

JenniAnn kept her hand on the lid.  "Not until we get to Tess'!  And there are raspberry and apple cinnamon, too.  She said she was in a bit of a hurry so I thought I'd save her the time making breakfast and then we can have it together.  Although... I suppose you could have a sample or two or three."  She grinned and held the basket out to him. 

"Thank you, Laja.  Just one for now," Andrew responded, happily selecting a muffin and giving her the thumbs up sign.

"You're welcome.  Just glad they didn't burn at all."

"It's delicious.  But we better get going since Tess has to get to her assignment."

"Can we come back here for a bit later, though?  The tree's so beautiful.  And the vines are so thick, so soon in the season.  I think you must do something to it," JenniAnn hypothesized.

Andrew laughed as he stepped out and held the branches back for her.  "I'm an angel of death, Laja.  That doesn't grant me any powers over nature.  If the tree blooms early, it's only because the Father wants it to.  But, sure, we'll come back."

"Good."  JenniAnn turned to where the dogs were frolicking.  "Lulu, Fawn, c'mon!  Let's go see Widget!" she called.

Andrew laughed again as the two dogs gleefully sprinted towards the shore.


Tess was waiting at the shoreline of Sonata Isle when Andrew rowed the boat to the dock.  She warmly hugged her Angel Boy and JenniAnn.  "Well, good morning!  How are you babies?"

"Excellent," JenniAnn responded, lifting Fawn out of the boat as Andrew grabbed the far more rotund Lulu.  Once the two were on dry land and noticed Widget, they once again tore away from their keepers to go play.

"Doing great, Tess," Andrew responded.  "Yourself?"

"Doing good, baby, doing good.  I'm very glad the Father gave me a little time to spend with you both.  I would have missed our little tradition."

"And breakfast," JenniAnn added, holding the basket up.

"Tess, JenniAnn made us some delicious muffins."

"He knows cause he begged one from me earlier," JenniAnn kidded, smiling up at Andrew who had plastered on his most innocent look.

Tess laughed.  "Somehow it doesn't surprise me that Andrew got one and I'm also thinking you were plenty happy to let him, JenniAnn.  Well, shall we go to the gazebo again?"

Andrew and JenniAnn both nodded.  It was a beautiful site and brought back pleasant memories of the year before.

Once they were sure the dogs were staying out of trouble, Andrew and JenniAnn got the cameras in place and situated themselves on either side of Tess.  As they visited, they shared the muffins and some tea but a glance at Andrew's pocket watch soon revealed that time was fleeting. 

"Ready, Tess?" Andrew checked before starting.

Tess brushed a strand of silver and black hair back into place and smiled.  "That I am, Mr. Halo."

Andrew smiled at the old nickname. "So, Tess, we do a lot of talking about love of all different types in our line of work.  I'm curious about why you chose the theme of 'love over time?'"

"Because love is an ever changing thing, Andrew," she began.  "As angels, we tell people of God's love for them every day and His love for us is a constant thing.  But there are other types of love in this world, too, and they evolve and change over a period of time.  Sometimes it grows strong and deeper while other times, unfortunately, just the opposite seems to happen."

JenniAnn frowned, all too familiar with the phenomenon.  However, she didn't feel like dwelling on the unpleasantness and moved onto the next question.  "Tess, have you ever had an assignment that involved love altering over time... in a good way... and could you tell us a little about it?"

The long-time caseworker smiled as she nodded.  "There was this case I had just a few years ago.  Two women, a mother and her oldest daughter.  As the mother grew older and into her seventies, she and her daughter spent more and more time together.  That love they had for each other evolved, it grew to deeper and different levels.  By the time the mother passed away at the age of ninety-years-old, she and her daughter not only had a mother and daughter bond, but they were like best friends and sisters.  The love they shared for each other was stronger than it had ever been before and it was a beautiful thing."

"That really is beautiful.  Thanks, Tess.  I hope my mom and I turn out like that," JenniAnn responded.

Tess patted her hand.  "I know you love your mama, baby, and I have no doubt you could have that."

Andrew smiled at JenniAnn to encourage her then focused his attention back on Tess.  "That was a really great example of how love can change, for good, for humans.  But how about you, Tess?  Could you give us an example of a time in which *you* experienced how love can alter over the years?"

"Oh, well that's an easy question, Angel Boy!  As a supervisor, I've trained and kept an eye on a lot of different angels over the years.  I care for all of them, but I've grown closer to some than others.  My love for them has grown over the years.  They're not just part of my job.  They're like my family.  That's an altering love I am very thankful for."  She leaned over to hug Andrew and kiss his cheek.  "You're definitely one of the ones I've grown closer to, Andrew.  I've loved you from the first moment we came to know each other, baby.  But I've grown prouder of you and found so many more reasons to love you in the many, many years... don't ask, JenniAnn... since."

JenniAnn smiled at the preemptive rebuke and looked on with absolute delight as Tess fussed over Andrew, brushing his hair back into place after she mussed it.

For his own part, Andrew was basking in the affection and warmth he felt with Tess.  "I love you, Tess."

"I love you, too, baby.  And don't you ever forget it," Tess ordered.

Andrew grinned boyishly.  "I won't, Tess."

JenniAnn was sorry to continue the interview, wanting to stay in that perfectly adorable moment.  However, she realized both angels were looking at her expectantly.  With a wistful sigh, she moved on.  "All right, that was lovely but now... question four."  She checked her note card and frowned.  "Sometimes change scares people.  I would guess love changing really could.  But could you explain to us how sometimes that's a really positive thing?  Sorry, that's kinda redundant.  And I feel like I should just loop what we just recorded of you and Andrew and put a big ol' Exhibit A on it."

Tess smiled.  "It's okay, baby.  I think the examples I've just given are great examples of that.  A mother and daughter's relationship growing closer, friends coming together and forming an ever strong bond. 
Those are wonderful examples. But I've witnessed even more examples.  Husbands and wives are often more in love with each other after they've grown old and after years of marriage than they were when they first married.  Love can run deeper than we usually ever expect it to."

"I definitely believe that," JenniAnn agreed.  "Sometimes it's almost like it sneaks up on you.  All of a sudden you just realize how much you love someone.  And it can be overwhelming.  But it's a good feeling."

"That it is, baby.  And I wish I could sit here all day and talk to you two about it.  But the Father has other ideas.  Although He is letting me spend Monday with all of you for which I am very grateful."  Tess lifted her eyes to the sky and smiled with gratitude.  "So, Andrew, what's on your mind for my last question?"

"I'm thinking that, even though love can change, there have to be some constants.  What do you think those would be?" the angel of death questioned.

"Well, I think the obvious one would be the love a parent has for their child.  We've seen examples of this many times.  All children grow up and some end up doing just horrible things, and yet, if you ask their mother or their father, they'll still tell you how very much they love their child.  They absolutely hate what the child's done, but that doesn't change their love for them.  No matter what age, a parent will always love their babies, no matter what happens."

"And so will God," Andrew added thoughtfully.

"That's right.  The perfect Father.  And now..."  Tess rose slowly from her seat.  "I am off to try to get a church choir to stop squabbling about politics and start singing!"

JenniAnn smiled, confident that Tess' demeanor was just the thing to remedy the situation.  "Thanks, Tess, for spending the little bit of free time you had today with us."

"Any time, baby, any time.  You and Andrew have a wonderful time finishing your interviews."  She hugged the woman then turned to Andrew and embraced him tightly.  "You keep smiling, Angel Boy.  It's been good to see you so happy."

Andrew beamed.  "That's pretty easy when I'm surrounded by so many friends.  Take care, Tess.  We'll see you for Valentine's Day."

"That you will.  Oh and those boxes on the porch are for your collection.  You can come get them later if now's not convenient.  I know you're off to see Monica soon."  Tess smiled, glad that her two Angel Babies had repaired their friendship.

"We have a little time in between so we'll take them now.  Thanks, Tess."  Andrew hugged the supervisor again then took her arm and walked with her down the steps.

"Widget, c'mon," Tess called as she walked towards where the three dogs were.

Andrew was shocked when the dog obediently came running.

"I've only been working on that for over a decade," Tess muttered.  But her face lit up as she crouched down to scoop up the little dog who snuggled against her neck.  "Good bye, babies," she called.  "We'll be seeing you Monday."  She smiled back at Andrew and JenniAnn once more then began to fade away.

Andrew watched, smiling after his friend. 

JenniAnn hopped down from the gazebo and approached the angel, hugging his arm.  "She's right, ya know.  You have seemed much happier in the past few months.  Not that you were ever a downer by any stretch of the imagination."

The angel continued to smile.  "Glad to hear that."

"It's just... with everything else that's been going on, having you so content and joyful... it's helped."

"You know, I've felt the same way myself about many of you.  The two of us... I don't think things have ever been easier or more honest and comfortable between us.  And Monica's come back.  And now things are better with Yva.  And there have been bright spots and I've had great moments with each of you in the recent months.  I believe the Father often arranges things in our lives so that when difficult to take news comes, we're at least in the best possible place we can be, surrounded by the best possible people to help us through.  I think He's done that for us now."

JenniAnn smiled up at the clouds.  "I think He has, too."

Comforted by the well-founded belief, the two packed up their cameras, Tess' donations, and the dogs in order to return to Willowveil and grab some lunch before trekking to Monica's home in Veritas.  They had been warned to bring the Jolly Green with them...


JenniAnn's jaw dropped when she and Andrew stepped into Monica's entryway after her lilting voice called them inside.  There were boxes everywhere and clothes strewn over side tables, book cases, and chairs.  Shoe boxes lined the walls.

Before either could comment, Monica entered.  "I'm so sorry!  I meant to get here earlier so I could have everything boxed for you.  My assignment was supposed to end at 9:00 but just as I was leaving I saw a precious wee girl crying and she'd lost her dog and, of course, I had to help look for the poor thing."

"Of course," Andrew agreed when the caseworking angel paused to draw in a breath.

"It took us nearly two hours but we eventually found Buckles at a bakery... begging treats, of course... and then I noticed the bakery had double mocha scones so... since being adventurous and trying new things is sometimes a good thing... I felt I ought to try one."

Andrew chuckled.  "Purely for the sake of being adventurous.  Got it."

Monica grinned, knowing she couldn't get anything past her old friend.  "So I only got here an hour ago and I thought I had plenty of time but apparently..."  She brushed her auburn locks out of her eyes as she surveyed the mess.  "Not."  She smiled sheepishly at her guests.

"But this... it's all meant to go?" JenniAnn asked, incredulous.

"Ah, yes.  You see, last week I found myself staring at the mirror in the department store I was working at and thinking that I didn't much care for my clothes but they were stylish and I thought supervisors should look stylish.  Polished.  Sophisticated."

"Uh huh..." Andrew prodded, wondering what she made of him in his faded jeans and a gray and white sweater he knew he'd had since at least 1999.

Monica's ramble continued.  "They're perfectly good clothes.  And I'm thankful to the Father for them since they're what I wanted.  But they're just not me.  And so I'm going back to my roots."  She waved to the flowy floral skirt and lengthy, pastel sweater she was wearing.  "But all of this...  Surely it'll suit someone.  And they'd be wonderful outfits for a first interview, don't you think?  Maybe Catherine's shelter could take some for the ladies there when they look for a job?"

JenniAnn surveyed the stacks.  There were plenty of sleek skirts, high heels, tailored suits, and tawny blouses.  All very professional.  "Definitely," she readily agreed.  "Monica... this is amazing and very generous."

Monica beamed.  "I hope they bring confidence to whomever receives them.  I think it's wonderful what you're doing.  Now... if you'll give me a moment to finish moving out a few things in the parlor, we can start!  I'll come back to this later."  She wrinkled her nose at the mess.

"Monica, JenniAnn and I aren't in any hurry," Andrew assured.  "Why don't you just let us help you box up what you..."  He rounded the corner and stopped, surprised to see that there was far more than "a few things" in the other room.

The caseworker-turned-supervisor blushed.  "No hurry?" she checked.

JenniAnn giggled.  "No hurry at all."

Monica handed both Andrew and JenniAnn boxes and their work began.


An hour and a half later, Andrew stood at the back of the Jolly Green.  He ran his hand through his hair.  With his other arm, he held the last box.

"Maybe if we turn that box there on its side..." JenniAnn suggested.  She made an attempt but the boxes were so tightly packed that she was afraid of setting off an avalanche of boxes.  "Ya know, I'll just hold it on my lap on the drive back."

"You won't mind?"

"Not at all.  It's for a good cause!"

"I can't believe she had so many clothes!" the angel of death exclaimed.

"Hey, it's a lot more complicated to dress for us girls.  Besides, you'd probly have tons of clothes, too, if people didn't, ya know... steal some of them."  JenniAnn grinned at him.

Andrew returned her smile.  "True."  He moved to the front of the van and sat the box in the passenger seat.  "So you ready for the interview?"

"Definitely.  You?"

"Sure.  Let's head in."

Despite the angel's low-key response, JenniAnn knew he was thrilled.  This interview was yet another sign that his old friend was truly back in his life and intended to remain there.  The subject Monica had chosen said as much.

When the two returned to the parlor, they found Monica tidying it up.  "There now, perfect," she declared as she set down a throw pillow before turning to them.  "So where would you like me to sit?"

"Wherever you're most comfortable, Monica, and then we'll situate ourselves accordingly," JenniAnn responded.

Monica settled into an overstuffed floral print chair across from a matching love seat which Andrew and JenniAnn claimed as soon as their cameras were in order.

"Ready, Monica?" Andrew checked.

The Irish angel nodded eagerly.

"Great."  The angel of death smiled at her and upon receiving a nod from JenniAnn, began the interview.  "Monica, you chose 'love reconnected' for the theme of your first-ever Valentine's Dyeland interview.  Why that theme?"

"Because it's one I've considered very deeply over the past few years and especially these last months.  I also believe it's such a hopeful theme.  What's been lost can be found again.  Friendships can be repaired."  She smiled tenderly at her interviewer when she finished her response.

"I'm... I'm really glad they can," JenniAnn murmured, moved by the sight of Andrew reaching across the coffee table and gently squeezing his fellow angel's hand.  She sighed contentedly, happy for them both, then moved to the next question.  "How do you know when it's the right time to reconnect with someone you've lost touch with?"

"I think the truly right time is not to lose touch with them in the first place.  But sometimes... sometimes maybe we do need a little time away to realize what a blessing... a true gift from the Father... that we had and took for granted."  Monica bowed her head.  "Some of us need more time to do that than we probably should."

"Monica... it's all right," Andrew assured, moved by the regretful expression on the younger angel's face.

"Ah, Andrew, but it wasn't.  You were there for me through so much and when you needed a friend the most... after you were homeless..."  Tears flooded Monica's eyes.

Andrew crouched on the floor beside her chair and offered her a handkerchief.  "Monica, it's okay.  You're here now."  He smiled brightly, hoping to cheer her.

"I'm sorry," JenniAnn whispered, wishing she'd asked something else, anything else.

Monica shook her head adamantly.  "You shouldn't be, JenniAnn.  This is something I should talk about so I never make the same mistake again."  She returned Andrew's smile, gratefully accepting the handkerchief from him.  "Because I don't want to drift away from my friend a second time." 

As Monica hugged him, Andrew
marveled at how right everything seemed.  Once released, he returned to his spot beside JenniAnn.  He abandoned the question he'd originally planned, opting for one he knew was more important. The angel of death refused to let his longtime friend carry the burden of their once fractured friendship alone.  "Monica, the truth is it usually takes two people to damage a friendship... or any relationship.  With us... I know I made some mistakes.  What are some things everyone can do to ensure that their relationships stay strong and close?"

"Well, I suppose..."  Monica carefully considered how to answer Andrew's question without hurting him.  "As angels, it's our job to deliver messages from the Father to His children.  We understand the power of words, of communication.  But sometimes... like everyone, we can lose sight of the importance of talking with our friends.  Or we may be afraid to hear what our friends say because it might tell us that this person we look up to and admire... they have doubts and heartbreaks, too.  That can be frightening.  And I'm sure it's difficult for them, too."  Without meaning to, she found herself staring at Andrew.

The angel of death looked back at her with a tremulous smile.  "It is.  But sometimes the difficult things are the most important things to do."

Monica nodded.  "I think that's the short version of my answer.  Sometimes friendships make for difficult work but it's rewarding work.  I know that now."

"Me too," Andrew agreed, brightening upon hearing her words. 

"And he means it.  He told me I'm stuck with him and I'm thinking you are, too, Monica," JenniAnn teased.

Andrew chuckled, tilting his head toward JenniAnn as he smiled at Monica.  "One little lapse in eloquence and she won't let me live it down."

"You did make yourself sound a wee bit like a punishment, Andrew," Monica pointed out, laughing as she did. "And I know you're not that, my friend."

"Yeah, well..."  Andrew blushed, touched by Monica's words.

"I think we best give Andrew a break," JenniAnn concluded.  "I need him to finish this off with me tomorrow.  So I spose I'll give ya the next question, Monica.  Obviously there can be many rewards stemming from reconnecting with someone.  What would you say are the biggest ones?"

Monica contemplated her answer for a few moments.  Her eyes lit up and she turned to point to a photo of she and Andrew on St. Thomas during the cruise the group had taken over the summer.  "Well, there's reclaiming a shared past.  Remember how much Andrew and I enjoyed watching those iguanas?  And only he and Tess would ever understand how they made me think of Fluffy.  And then there are the little things... the sound of your friend's laughter, the warmth of their hugs.  And often your old friends have made new friends in the meantime and you get to become friends with them, too.  Without Andrew, I would never have met you, JenniAnn.  Nor Yva or Rose or Lady Beth.  Not C.J. or any of the others."

"The circle," Andrew murmured, thinking back on his visit with Owen.

The two women looked curiously at their friend but as he continued to smile to himself, they left him to his own thoughts for a few moments.

When he was ready, Andrew's smile fell on Monica.  "That was a great answer, Monica.  Thanks.  Now my last question is, in your opinion, what's the best way to prevent drifting away from a friend again?"

Monica peered intently at the angel of death.  "As I said before, communication is a big part of it.  But I also think it's important to never, ever forget how much you love them and how much better you feel having them as a friend.  Because an eternity can be a very long time if you're not stuck with anyone."  She grinned mischeviously.

JenniAnn laughed, amused not only by Monica's remark but the delightful sight of Andrew fully erupted in laughter.  "Very, very good response, Monica," she praised.  It seemed to her that there were few better ways to end an interview than with Andrew filled with joy and fully aware of just how loved he was.

Andrew suddenly stopped laughing, his head tilted to the side as he stared at something across the room.  "Uh oh."

"What is it?" JenniAnn asked in alarm.

The angel of death pointed behind Monica who turned to find a box that had gotten pushed beneath a table and was barely poking out from beneath the cloth that covered it.

"Oh dear..."  Monica frowned.

"It's all right, Monica."  Andrew shrugged and went to retrieve the box.  "I'll go see if I can somehow squeeze it into the van.  I'll be right back."

Once he had left, JenniAnn busied herself packing up the cameras.

"Thank you for inviting me to do this."  Monica set a hand on the woman's shoulder.

JenniAnn smiled at her.  "Well, thanks for letting us.  Andrew clearly had a very good time."

"He's really happy here with all of you."

"Us," JenniAnn corrected.  "All of us.  You have a place here, too, Monica."

"I know.  And I've no intention of ever giving it up again.  I've been thinking, lately, of what you said to me that time in Missouri about how as a mortal, not knowing how much time you have..."  The angel abruptly stopped speaking, her cheeks coloring.

"Go on.  It's okay, whatever you have to say," JenniAnn encouraged.  "Death can come quickly and... and unexpectedly.  Not talking about it won't change that.  A wise man once decried the fact that we don't talk about death much and, thus, find it difficult to deal with grief.  Let's not let his death be reason to compound the problem."

Monica nodded, impressed with the woman's calm response and the words she'd echoed.  "Well, it was after you ended your phone call with Andrew with 'Love you' and you explained that you never knew what life might bring so you said what you could to him while you had time to say it.  I've realized that I need a little of that philosophy myself.  I can't take Andrew for granted simply because he and I will never experience death.  I am grateful for that lesson, JenniAnn. And I am grateful to all of you for being there for my friend when I couldn't bring myself to be.  Because Andrew... he loves you all so.  Humans, I mean.  And it wasn't terribly often that love was returned.  But here... here he's surrounded by it.  I'm sorry I was ever jealous of the friendships all of you have with him, JenniAnn.  I see now that the Father saw fit to bless each of us with a true, gentle, loving friend who has room in his heart for each of us."

JenniAnn nodded, too moved to speak between the import of Monica's words and the image of Andrew as he came into view through the picture window.  The angel of death paused in the yard, tilted his head to the heavens, and smiled, seeming to silently thank his Father for everything.


JenniAnn rested her head on the box in her lap and turned to look at the angel of death behind the wheel.  She smiled as he bopped his head to the song on the radio.  He'd kept it on a 60s station ever since noticing she drew comfort from the era's music.

Andrew glanced over at his passenger, his face registering concern.  "Are you all right, Laja?  Are you tired?  We've had a pretty hectic day so far."

The woman smiled dreamily.  "Not tired.  Just thinking."


"Do you realize how absolutely and completely loved you are by so many people?"

The angel looked back out at the road.  "I think..."  Andrew's voice cracked as he mused at how often the Dyelanders  touched him so deeply that he was left grasping for words that usually came so easily.  "I think," he tried again, "that you all help me to realize it and accept it more and more every day.  And I'm really grateful for that.  And I hope you all know that I love you, too."

JenniAnn sighed when he glanced back over at her and she noticed a tear sliding past the corners of his gentle smile.  "We do, Andrew," she promised.  "All of us."

Andrew nodded, content and brimming with love for the friends God had given him.


February 13th, 2011


Andrew and JenniAnn had agreed to once again meet beneath his willow tree before starting their final day of interviews.  Though they'd planned for 2:15, JenniAnn settled against the trunk at 2:00.  She well knew Andrew's preference for arriving early.

At 2:13, JenniAnn heard approaching footsteps and a moment later Andrew pushed through the branches.

"Sorry I'm late, Laja," he apologized.  "My assignment ran a little long and..."  The angel of death shook his head.

JenniAnn hugged him.  "You're not late.  Just a lil less early than usual.  It's okay.  But what about your assignment?  Were you at the same one since ya left last night?"

Andrew nodded. 

"A difficult one?"

"Domestic violence," he muttered.  "I think I convinced the woman to get help, to leave but... you just never know.  Sometimes I get called back.  Tonight will be a big test for her."  He stared at his hands, unable to
fathom how anyone could use their own for such cruelty. 

"Oh, Andrew..."  In a practiced, tender gesture, JenniAnn took his hands in hers. 

The angel continued to stare at his hands, now intertwined with his friend's.  "How do you know to do that?" he asked quietly.


"You do it a lot: hold my hands when I'm agitated.  It's good.  I'm glad," Andrew stressed, not wanting JenniAnn to become self-conscious and draw away.  "And at times like this it means more than a hug but... I've never told you that.  So how did you know?"

JenniAnn blushed.  "At points... before we met... I'd watch Touched and I'd see 'Andrew' fiddling with something when he was distressed or just staring down at his hands.  And I always wanted someone to just grab them and still them and hold them in their own and soothe him.  I'm not sure if that was actually a tic of John's or just something he latched onto to play, well, you.  But by the time we met, I guess I'd imagined doing it so many times it was just second nature.  I kinda spent a lot of time watching him and thinking 'What would I do now were I there and "Andrew" was upset?'  Turns out it wasn't as useless a thing to consider as some thought..."

Andrew swallowed a lump in his throat, mentally adding an item to his list of ways his life had been made easier because of one man.

"As for your assignment," JenniAnn continued, "I know you did your best.  And I'm sure it did her good to spend a little time with a gentle, loving man."

"I hope so."  The angel drew in a deep breath then smiled at his friend.  "So... love and art.  I feel like they'd both do me a lot of good right now.  Where we headed?"

JenniAnn studied his ever-expressive face and eyes, worried by the abrupt redirection.  "You're sure you're okay?  Because we can wait a bit.  Rose isn't expecting us til 5:00."

"Laja, I would like nothing more than to do this right now."  He gently squeezed her hands.  "Please.  I can't just sit around and wait.  I'm praying but beyond that, there's nothing I can do about my assignment unless the Father calls me again tonight.  Until then... Laja, I want to think about something good." 

The pleading tone in his voice settled the matter for his friend.  "Then it's off to the Roseate for us," she responded, smiling warmly at him. 

It was a short walk and soon the two were entering the lower level of the theatre which housed Dyeland's modest art collection.

"I wanted to take you to an actual art museum," JenniAnn explained.  "I know our lil space probly isn't so amazing when you've been to MOMA, the Tate, the Ufizzi, the Louvre, and more."

"Laja, are you kidding?  I love our art museum!" Andrew enthused.  "True, we don't have any universally recognized masterpieces.  But I walk through here and I see the prints of DaVinci, Michaelangelo, Titian, and I think of all the fun we had collecting them so Vincent could have the experience of being in a museum.  And then there's the artwork people in Dyeland created.  The works by street artists we've picked up during our travels...  All art museums have artwork, Laja.  But this one has the most memories for me.  I love this place."  To prove his point, Andrew eagerly entered the nearest gallery.

He and JenniAnn explored the rooms together, reliving all the memories hanging on the walls. 

"So which are the ones I'm going to be interviewing you about?" the angel asked, spinning around to take in the entire gallery and trying to guess which his friend had chosen.

"None of these.  My display is in here."

Andrew's eye brows arched as JenniAnn took his hand and pulled him into a room he was sure was empty.

"Sibyll said I could use this as our very own little gallery for the interview," she explained.

Andrew took in the sparse, all black room.  It held only five covered easels and their two cameras.

"This may be a lil difficult to shoot," JenniAnn realized.  "But maybe after we're done, we can just zoom into the pieces individually but otherwise just do wide shots?"

"Sure," Andrew agreed, eager to go with anything that got the interview started quickly.  He was looking forward to seeing what five pieces, out of eons of human-made art, JenniAnn had chosen to show him.  When both cameras were in place, the angel joined JenniAnn at the first easel.

"Ready?" she asked.

"Very," he responded.

JenniAnn pulled the sheet off and admired the Waterhouse print she'd revealed.  "In all fairness, what I took about love from this was actually more related to the Tennyson poem.  But since you're interviewing me about art and not poetry, this'll do."

"The Lady of Shalott," Andrew recognized.  "You have a print in your room.  It's also where you got the name Willowveil from, isn't it?"

"Good memory.  Yep.  First line, third stanza."

"So what does it tell you about love?" the angel asked feeling a bit apprehensive as he studied the girl in the boat.  Occasional English professor that he was, Andrew knew the poem: girl falls in love with boy, boy is not interested, girl dies via possible suicide.

The woman tilted her headed and studied the forlorn lady.  "It reminds me of how my thoughts on love have changed, actually.  I used to think this painting and the entire Lady of Shalott theme was the most romantic thing ever.  She fell madly in love with Lancelot and when she couldn't have him... well, she died.  I don't think it was so much a suicide as just... passively fading away.  And, in my mind, that was romantic: believing whole-heartedly that there was only one person for you.  But now..."

Andrew looked at JenniAnn hopefully. 

"Now I've seen too much grief to find that stance defensible.  The Lady was isolated but, in the real world, most of us are not.  Even if it sometimes seems that way.  We're all connected and a death can deeply impact us all.  Life is important.  Even when it's painful and angsty.  I mean she could have focused all her love for Lancelot into her art.  Or turned it outward, reaching out to others.  She could have shown the world that true, agapic love that asks for nothing in return exists still.  But she didn't.  So now the painting reminds me of how *not* to be in love. 
If, God forbid, I could never see you again... I'd still want to live for you and the memories of what we'd once shared... tell your story, not die for you."

Andrew let out a deep breath he hadn't realized he'd been holding.  Whatever self-destructive force JenniAnn's love for him had once unleashed in herself, it was apparently conquered.  "I am so glad to hear you say that," he confessed, hugging her.

JenniAnn beamed at him.  "Poor love.  I've really put you through the emotional ringer these past 11 years!"

Andrew shrugged and shot her a good-natured smile.  "I'll get over it.  In a few millennia.  With lots of counseling."

Laughing and rolling her eyes, JenniAnn waved him over to a second easel.  "This one is far happier."  She removed the cloth.  "The Artist and Her Daughter by Marie Louise Elizabeth Vigee-Lebrun."

Andrew smiled at the happy painter and her little one.  "So what does this one say to you about love?"

"I just adore how happy both mother and daughter look.  You can tell they love each other very much.  It reminds me of being little when love was very simple.  Affection always came easy.  I mean look at the lil girl's hand at her mother's neck."  JenniAnn's own hand hovered over the child's.  "It's so sweet.  I sometimes miss the days of thinking my mom could make everything bad not so bad at all.  And when I look at this, well, it gives me hope that someday I'll be able to give my own little one that sort of assurance... even if only for a little while."

The angel squeezed her shoulder.  "I believe you will, Laja.  And I, for one, am going to have a great time watching you as a mom.  And I'm counting on babysitting.  You know, giving them lots of candy right before bed.  Jumping on the couches...  Football in the house."

JenniAnn laughed.  "I'd like to think you're joking but something tells me you're not."

Andrew shrugged, a mischievous smile lighting up his face.

"Well, let's move on before you have any more time to further your diabolical plans.  So..."  JenniAnn turned to the third easel.  "Behold, Gustav Klimt's The Kiss."

The angel's face lit up.  "I knew you'd pick this one.  You have it on a dress.  I remember because you wore it last year when we interviewed Vincent, Catherine, Father, and Owen."

"Good man!  Actually remembering what a girl wore.  Quite impressive."

"Well... it's not every day you see someone running around in Klimt."

JenniAnn laughed.  "I spose not.  I really do love the painting.  To be honest, I mostly like the colors.  But also how love is depicted.  Golden and warm.  And... well, clingy.  They're lost in each other.  It may not be my particular brand of romantic love, being so physically passionate and sensual, but without those aspects of love... yours truly would not exist and, much worse, the entire human race would long since have died out.  And you, my friend, would just have to find some other species to feed you red velvet cake and keep you calm on Halloween."

"And that would make me very, very sad.  Although I'd miss the company and the hugs much more than cake," Andrew insisted.

JenniAnn paused to hug him.  "I know."  She smiled up at the angel then turned back to the painting.  "Anyhow, I wanted to for sure get this one in here cause I think people should know that even if a person has chosen... or was born with... a celibate life style, it doesn't mean they can't appreciate the value of romantic love.  I mean Monica goes nutty over weddings.  And I know you still value it even though you don't feel it or want it."

Andrew nodded adamantly after chuckling at JenniAnn's all-too-fitting description of Monica.  "Sure do.  Romantic love is a great, beautiful thing.  It's God-given.  I've loved being able to see some great couples fall in love and stay in love.  It's inspiring.  Think about the couples in our own lives.  Yva and Sir Sven, Vincent and Catherine, Mick and Beth, your parents... their love and dedication to each other is heart-warming to see.  And they can teach us all so much about things like commitment, compromise, devotion.  Those aren't qualities only necessary to romantic love."

"Don't I know it.  Cause I see em an awful lot in you."

Andrew blushed.  "Thanks, Laja."

"Only telling the truth," was her demure response. 

"So anything else on The Kiss?"

"Naw, I think that'll do it.  And now I have to get the fourth piece of art outta my purse."

Andrew's eye brows arched as JenniAnn dug through her bag, one of the few aspects of her life that defied her organization and his comprehension, and withdrew a folded piece of paper which she placed on the easel.  It was an ink drawing, old-fashioned.  The subject was a distraught young woman, slouched in her chair with her head on the top of her vanity.  Above the piece of furniture hung a round mirror.  Instead of a reflection, it depicted a masculine angel peering down at her and looking as if he was trying to speak to her.

JenniAnn stood beside the real-life angel, studying the image with him.  "I found it once in a book of angel clip-art in a chapter on 19th century graphic art.  Uncredited.  I've scoured the Internet for it, hoping to find the artist, but never did.  My guess is some person without renown drew it.  But I don't care if it's not famous.  I love it.  I like to think that the two know each other, love each other even.  In their own ways.  And she's sad because sometimes her angel needs to be away."

"But he's never really away," Andrew interjected, his voice soft and assuring.  He knew that when JenniAnn looked at the drawing, she didn't see two unknown subjects but themselves.  "And he hopes she always remembers that.  And he also hopes she knows that even when he's not physically with her... and her unpictured friends... he's still thinking of them and loving them."

"She does know.  They all do.  Sometimes it's just hard."  JenniAnn bowed her head for a moment before smiling at Andrew.  "But worth it."

"Good."  Andrew beamed. 

"Tis.  And... it's also good that you don't have wings like he does.  None of your flannel shirts would fit.  And our hands would get all feathery when we hugged you."

Andrew burst out laughing.  "You know, those are two things I just don't think about.  But you're completely right, Laja.  So what do you have for your final piece of art depicting love?"

"Well... for this last one I'm not entirely sure the artist intended to show love.  But I do feel it when I see it."  The woman pulled the last sheet away. 

"Monet's The Artist's Garden at Giverny," Andrew recognized.

"Yep.  Originally I picked it cause I was going to say that it reminded me of that first day we met you in the Fields of Gold.  And how that was the beginning of the greatest adventure in love in my life.  And that... it's still true.  But I've found myself looking at it a lot lately.  In a different way.  It reminds me of what I think Heaven looks like.  On Friday, after you left for the evening, I found myself staring at it.  And I imagined all the people I've cared about who have gone Home gathered in a place like that." 

Andrew noticed immediately as tears welled in JenniAnn's eyes.  He knew better than to say anything.  She was speaking of a sacred moment and he dared not interrupt.  Silently, he wrapped his arm around her shoulders.

"And they were happy and so alive, Andrew."  JenniAnn smiled up at him through her tears.  "And I suddenly had this vision of some petals and leaves falling from the trees.  And as they fell around the people, they laughed and their faces... the biggest, truest smiles I've ever seen!  And I realized they experienced them as a sorta... caress from God and from those of us still here.  They could feel love in the way I can feel heat or the breeze.  Tangible and comforting and bliss-inducing.  It gave me peace because I realized that you were right.  That love... love is what binds us together.  Not just 'til death do us part.'  But forever.  And I realized that I could, in my heart, leave them there in that wonderful, gorgeous place and go on in this place... still loving them, still feeling their love."

Andrew had no response.  None was needed.  His friend's words were the only way to end the segment and he didn't trust his own voice in any case.  So he left the cameras rolling for a few minutes as he and JenniAnn stared at the print, remembering and willing their love to those on the other side.


JenniAnn was quiet as Andrew drove down a dirt road bordering the Fields of Gold on the way to Nadezhda.  But the angel knew she'd speak soon.  She always did when they came that way.

"There!" JenniAnn cried, pointing out the window to a nondescript spot in the Fields.  "There's where we first really met."

Andrew smiled.  "It'll be eleven years on St. Patrick's Day."

"I wish all the others that were with us that day were still here in Dyeland.  But I'm also glad that so many people have come since.  Yva and C.J. and Lady Beth and Rose.  My cousins.  Your friends.  Eli.  Mick, Beth, Josef, and Logan.  Willy.  Nigel.
  And now Monica's come back.

"My hair's come back..." the angel added with a grin.

JenniAnn giggled.  "I liked your short haircut, too.  But, yes, your long hair's comeback was much applauded."

"Thank you for your support of my hair experimentation," Andrew teased.  "Hey, do you remember how thrilled you were when Rose first arrived?"

"Yes!  We hadn't had a new human come for well over a year.  We were getting overrun with angels!"  JenniAnn glanced over at the angel, grinning and happy to see him smiling, too.  "And it was good to not be the baby of the group any more.  But mostly... I was glad to have a new friend."  She looked wistfully at the field as they glided by.  "Sometimes it all seems like yesterday.  I've been thinking a lot about one of my favorite quotes lately.  It's from Chaim Potok's The Chosen.  'As you grow older you will discover that the most important things that will happen to you will often come as a result of silly things.'  It is silly in a way, isn't it?  I'm only here because my teenage self turned on a TV show and developed a crush.  And yet... so much that's important to me is here: all of you."

The angel nodded sagely.  "I've been thinking about that a lot myself: how almost every connection, every friendship here somehow circles back to Touched and what John did there.  Even the ones that began before 1996... they wouldn't be the same without him.  You made that pretty clear earlier."

JenniAnn smiled, marveling at it all.  "It's appropriate that the timing of these interviews worked out the way it did.  We never intended it but the last two interviews for this year revolve around what art teaches us about love, how it impacts how we experience love.  Paintings and drawings for me, movies for Rose.  Because, really, that's what this entire eleven years has been about."

"How the love one actor brought to a role gave life to a loving, caring community of friends," Andrew summarized, his voice strong and full of admiration and gratitude.

"And we'll love him forever for that and so much more," JenniAnn murmured.

"We will," the angel agreed.  He smiled encouragingly at his friend before parking the van and setting off to conclude their interviews.


Andrew and JenniAnn were barely out of the boat before Rose came running towards them. 

"Woo hoo!  You're here!  And just in time.  We just finished taking the cookies out of the oven," she greeted, hugging each of them.

"Cookies?" Andrew asked as his face lit up.

"Yes.  Several different kinds.  Mostly to donate but we made plenty for everyone here, too.  We even decided to try something new.  Something you, Amish Boy, I think will especially like," Rose tantalized.

JenniAnn giggled.  "Way to build up the suspense, Rose.  Sounds awesome.  So how are you and your aunt?"

"Great!  Now that it's not so bitterly cold, my aunt's having an easier time getting around.  And everything... it's just happier.  It's good to know warm weather and flowers and green trees are right around the corner," the younger woman answered as she led her friends into the house.  "How about you two?  You just finished your interview right, JenniAnn?"

"Uh huh.  It was... pretty moving.  The interviewer was stellar."  JenniAnn cast a sly smile at Andrew.

Andrew wrinkled his noise showily.  "I thought he was dressed very unprofessionally.  Who conducts an interview wearing jeans and a well-worn beige sweater?"

"Cool people," Rose responded without missing a beat, causing the angel to blush.

"I can't even be self-deprecating any more without you two making me blush!" Andrew complained as he chuckled and smiled at Rose.

"Are you two picking on Andrew again?" Josephine called from the door step.

Andrew grinned and nodded vigorously. 

Josephine laughed.  "Well, then come on in, Andrew.  I'll protect you.  And I'm sure my niece has already told you that we have some cookies to share."

Andrew hugged the elderly woman.  "She has.  Although your company would have been reason enough to come, Josephine."

"Such a sweetheart," she replied, patting his cheek.  "Now, come on.  The weather's definitely improving but it's still a bit chilly and you've been on the water.  Let's get you warmed up."  She tugged Andrew's sleeve and the two girls followed him inside.

JenniAnn inhaled deeply as she took off her coat.  "I can't tell what kinda cookies ya both made but they definitely smell yummy."

"C'mon!" Rose called, waving them into the kitchen.

Once clustered into the small but cozy room, Andrew and JenniAnn noted several tins of cookies cooling.  Several more remained on cooling racks.  The angel of death immediately noticed some bright red cookies with pale frosting.

"Are those what I think they are?" he asked.

Rose picked one up and handed it to him then retrieved another for JenniAnn.  "Why don't you try one and see?"

Andrew dutifully obeyed, savoring each bite.  "Definitely red velvet and really delicious red velvet at that.  It's amazing."  He hugged both bakers.  "Thanks for sharing.  Means a lot."

"We're not done!" Josephine insisted, touched as she often was by how much the smallest things meant to Andrew.  "Help yourselves.  And, so long as you have time, we can go sit in the parlor and snack as we visit."

"We definitely have time," Andrew assured, always eager to spend time visiting with his friends.

For the next hour, the four chatted until it was time for Josephine to leave for a sewing class she was teaching with Tess.

"Thanks for all you've been doing, Andrew," the old woman whispered as he helped her into her coat as they stood near the front door.  "You've been there for the girls an awful lot this month, I know."

Andrew hugged her.  "You've all been there for me so many times before.  And I feel like... no, I know that I belong here."

Josephine beamed at him.  "Thatta boy."  She grabbed a tin and handed it to him.  "Red velvet cookies for later.  Take care, dear."

"Thank you, Josephine, you too." 

When a polite knock sounded at the door, Josephine opened it to reveal Tess.

"Hello, Josephine!  Ready for our adventure?  And Andrew!  I hoped you would be here, Angel Boy.  Happy Valentine's Eve!" she greeted warmly, entering just long enough to embrace him.

"You too, Tess.  Headed to a sewing class, I hear."

Tess nodded.  "At the same church I was at yesterday.  I'll get them settled yet.  With Josephine to help."

"I've known you long enough to know not to doubt you on that, Tess!"  Andrew smiled confidently at her.  "But we'll still see you tomorrow, right?"

"Wouldn't miss it for the world," the elder angel vowed, hugging him again. 

Josephine clasped his hand.  "Tell Rose I'll be back by 9:00.  You three have a good time, dear."

"Same to you, Josephine.  Have fun with your thimbles and threads and things, both of you," Andrew called as they made their way to Tess' car.  He smiled after them as they drove off then re-entered the house. 

Returning to the parlor, Andrew found Rose and JenniAnn had already set up the cameras and were seated in the appropriate positions.  He smiled.  "I take it you're ready to get going?"

Rose nodded excitedly.  "I was kind of hoping we could get through this a little quickly and then actually watch a movie.  I mean, if you're not too busy with editing or assignments."

Andrew turned away for a moment, not wanting his friends to see the worry on his face as he thought about his past... and tentatively future... assignment, Olivia.  Once he'd regained his composure, he smiled affectionately at the younger of his two friends.  "I hope we can make it work.  And I guess that's my cue to get going."  He flipped on the cameras then took a seat beside JenniAnn.  "So, Rose, what's the first movie somehow related to love that you remember seeing?" he asked.

Rose laughed.  "Well, I'm trying to decide whether to tell you this.  You're gonna laugh at me."

"Try me," Andrew responded.  "I've seen more than my share of embarrassing movies.  Even been in one.  I was an alien once, remember?"

His interviewee laughed.  "That puts it in perspective, thanks.  The movie would probably be Robin Hood.  You know, the cartoon by Disney with the fox and rabbits and all the animals?"

"Aww!" JenniAnn cooed, remembering her own Disney-centric childhood.

"I still love that movie," Rose admitted.  She tilted her head and stared at Andrew.

"Something wrong?" he checked.

"I was just thinking that you'd make a very good Robin Hood, Andrew.  Green is your color, after all."

The angel of death wrinkled his nose.  "Tights are itchy.  I did my time with them back during the Renaissance.  Never again."

This revelation sent both of the women into a fit of laughter.

Andrew blushed.  "I suppose I should thank the Father that there were no cameras back then so Eli can't sneak photos to you."

"No, but there may be some paintings around.  Sketches.  Maybe even a tapestry," JenniAnn teased.

"You do realize I have your mother's number on speed dial and I think she'd be more than happy to let me borrow your baby book," Andrew threatened, smiling sweetly.

Rose laughed even more when JenniAnn folded her arms across her chest.  "I think he's got you, JenniAnn."

JenniAnn sighed dramatically.  "Well then... I shall just move onto the next question and not dignify my blackmailing co-interviewer with a response." 

Andrew chuckled.

JenniAnn proceeded, her face betraying her amusement and relief at Andrew's happy demeanor after the morning he'd had.  "So..."  She smiled brightly at Rose.  "What's the most romantic movie you've ever seen, Rose?"

The Notebook, hands down," the younger woman replied, needing no time to consider her answer.  "I love that movie!  It's one of my favorites.  It makes me cry every time.  I can watch that movie any time.  And, plus, I love Noah's hat."

"Suddenly my last birthday present makes a lot of sense," Andrew mused, looking mischeviously at Rose.

She smiled at him.  "Hey, it's a good look."

"And it is a good movie," JenniAnn agreed.  "Although not so much for Andrew's shirts which tend to get eye shadow and such on the shoulders during viewing of that movie, thanks to weepy friends."

"Poor Andrew.  How many times have you gotten 'watered' since you came to Dyeland?"

The angel of death shrugged and smiled good-naturedly.  "I don't mind.  Maybe it'll make me grow.  I think I'd like to be as tall as Adam."

"Aww, you're perfect just as ya are, Andrew," JenniAnn assured, hugging him.

Rose nodded in fierce agreement and moved to hug him herself.  "Definitely."

"Thanks."  Andrew beamed at them both, touched though not surprised by their assurances.  The Dyelanders were always quick to lay to rest any little self-doubt or detrimental thought he had about himself.  Not to mention their unfailing support when he simply needed some cheering, as he did right then.  Their friendship had taught him so much and so, with ease, he came up with his follow-up question.  "Rose, what would you say is the best lesson you've ever learned about love from a film?"

"I've learned a lot of things and I don't know that I can pin it down on any one movie.  But I'd say that you should fight for it," she insisted.  "It doesn't matter what kind of love it is.  If you love somebody, if they mean something to you, then don't let them go.  Strengthen your relationship with them and let your love grow.  Love is a wonderful thing, no matter what kind it is.  If you love somebody, then that's a special thing, and you should take care of it."

Andrew looked proudly at her, the youngest of the Dyelanders.  "Well said, Rose.  That sounds a lot like something the Father might have us say to an assignment."

"It really is a beautiful message," JenniAnn agreed whole-heartedly.  "Our little group is filled with evidence for it.  Unfortunately... well, not all movies teach such lovely lessons.  So... are there any movies that just make ya cringe because of what they seem to be saying about love?

"I'm sure there are some, but I can't really think of one off hand.  Probably cause I don't watch it."

"Wise move," Andrew interjected.

Rose smiled at him.  "Wait.  Does Twilight count?  Yeah, I think that counts.  But I can't really say much about it because I haven't really seen all of it."

"That's more than I have.  I've never seen any of it.  All I know is that a girl loves a vampire and the vampire is sparkly at times."  JenniAnn shrugged disinterestedly.  "Call me crazy but I think glowing is so much more of an attractive trait than sparkling."

"Yep.  A vast improvement," Rose readily assented, eying the angel of death with a bemused expression on her face.

Andrew, who had taken a sip of the tea Josephine had given him earlier, struggled to swallow upon hearing the pointed remark.  "You two..." he squeaked out.

"Well, it is!" JenniAnn cried.

Rose laughed.  "Andrew, I'm going to have to agree with JenniAnn.  You're far more attractive than Edward.  I'm definitely Team Andrew."

"Ditto," her friend echoed. 

Blushing, Andrew replaced his mug on the coffee table and shook his head.  "Do you two plan these exchanges?"

"Nope, just comes naturally."  Rose smiled beatifically at him.

The angel of death chuckled.  "Well... I think it's about time we wrap this interview up before you permanently turn me red.  So my final question for you, Rose, is... if you could pick any movie to watch with your friends... hint, hint... for Valentine's what movie would you pick and why?"

"Aww, how about Robin Hood?" she suggested.  "We all know that one of the greatest love songs of all time is the theme song from that movie.  Or maybe some sort of a romantic comedy.  Something funny, because then we could all sit and laugh together."

JenniAnn smiled tenderly at her friend.  "I think that sounds like a perfect thing to do right now.  Cause being together and relaxing and having a good time sounds really good."

"It does," Andrew agreed.  He paused to glance at his pocket watch.  Olivia's husband wasn't due back for another two hours.  He sent another silent prayer to the Father then turned to Rose.  "Well, so are we watching animated foxes fall in love or hilarious dating hijinks ensue?"

"Animated foxes falling in love," Rose decided.  She ran to get the movie and the three settled in to enjoy her childhood favorite and each other's company.

At points during the film, Andrew glanced at his pocket watch; mentally converting the time to match Olivia's time zone.  He prayed that the call would not come then thanked the Father for the two friends on either side of him, keeping him company as he waited.


The woman paced in her bedroom, occasionally glancing at the empty suitcase on the bed.  She replayed the church worker's words from earlier: "We can get you help.  We can get you out of here.  I know a shelter, a good shelter.  I can take you there right now.  You deserve better than this, Olivia.  God wants a better love for you.  This... it's not love."  She'd blushed when he'd gently touched her bruised chin.  It was the only tender touch she'd felt from a man since her husband had begun hitting her only days after their wedding the prior year.

But the man didn't understand.  He didn't know.  He wasn't a poor woman with minimal education and no job prospects.  She couldn't support herself.  And how was he to know she deserved better?  He didn't know the mistakes she'd made in her life!

Defeated, Olivia plopped onto the bed and turned on the TV.  She clicked past the block of sports channels and stopped at the first decent thing she saw.  It looked to be a period piece.  1930s.  Soft jazz was playing.  Two men, one unseen, were at a bar.  A glamorous, though embittered seeming, African American woman stepped into the club.  Olivia smiled.  She recognized it.  She had watched Touched by an Angel religiously during her high school years. 

The woman watched, enthralled, as the TV angel approached the distraught Billie Holiday.  A quiet gasp escaped her lips as he tenderly raised the singer's bowed head.  She instantly thought of the church worker.  He'd even looked considerably like the fellow in the fedora.  It struck her then that they had the same name: Andrew.

Olivia was transfixed, moved by the compassion so evident on the actor's face as he delivered his lines to "Billie."  A tear slid down Olivia's cheek as he spoke: "If they're gonna call you lady, they oughtta treat you like one."

The viewer found herself nodding.  If it was true for Ms. Holiday, it was true for her.  She deserved better, just like first the man and then the angel had said.  She sprang up from the bed and grabbed the phone, fishing out the card the man... Andrew.. had given her.  When a woman answered, the words came spilling out.  "I... I need to leave my husband.  Tonight.  He... he beat me last night and I'm afraid tonight..."  Olivia began to sob but quickly regained control of herself, knowing she had to remain calm long enough to make her escape.  "He gets off work in two hours and I don't have a car but I need to leave and... a man named Andrew said if I called this number then someone could help.  C-can someone come get me?"

"Of course," a soothing female voice responded.  "Could I get your name?"

"Olivia.  Olivia Hanson."

"Olivia, my name is Catherine Wells and I'm going to send someone over to pick you up right now, okay?  Now, if I could just get your address..."

Olivia was surprised at the calmness she felt as she relayed the information to the woman on the phone, packing as she did.  The peace stayed with her when there was a knock at her door and another woman named Cira helped her load her two bags into her car. 

As she was driven away from the scene of so many unhappy memories and towards freedom, Olivia slunk back against the car seat and whispered a prayer of thanksgiving for the gentle church worker and the TV angel.


The two documentarians had left Rose's home after sharing dinner with her, helped to deliver some goods to the men's shelter in New York, and stopped at the Phoenix to drop off Monica's donations.  It was there that the last of Andrew's concern fell away when, as he'd unloaded the van, he'd felt someone tap his shoulder and turned to see Olivia, smiling tearfully but proudly at him.

The memory of her hug and the amazing story of who had, at last, pushed her to leave her abuser continued to warm the angel's heart as he and JenniAnn returned to Willowveil and focused on editing their film.  After midnight, they finished watching the entire documentary.  The check for rough cuts and technical problems hadn't turned up anything.  Everything flowed perfectly.  As always, it was a beautiful, funny, moving testament to the love between friends and family.

There was only one more thing to do.

JenniAnn stared at the candle near the window as Andrew dragged the last segment into place on the video software.

"You ready?" he checked, reaching for her hand.

Wearied and both sad and inspired, the woman nodded then rested her head on the angel's shoulder as the final scene and the familiar music played.

Their inspiration, their muse, and their teacher smiled from the screen.  He lobbed snowballs and walked down the aisle.  He hid beneath a blanket and fell, suit and all, into a pool... causing the two viewers to laugh.  He meditated and got into a bar fight.  He celebrated his birthday and embraced his estranged mother.  He ran to wounded men, sang "Jingle Bells," and held a frightened orphan; drawing a ragged sigh from the woman who was quickly embraced by the angel.  And then they watched, smiling, as he danced with an umbrella, played the piano as history was made in a jazz club, and, surrounded by light and smiling, took his assignment by the hand and went Home.  As the video faded to black, the words of the beloved song echoed in the otherwise quiet room.

"When you walk from this place
and you gotta go to meet Him,
it's time to meet Him, face to face.
Take my hand and I will walk with you.
Oh, oh, walk with you
till the clouds fade away.
I tell you I'll walk with you,
each and every day.
Oh, yes, I'll walk with you."


February 14th, 2011


The next morning arrived far more quickly than JenniAnn would have liked.  She fumbled around her kitchen, dazed as she started the coffee.  She cursed herself for not going to bed earlier as Andrew had so wisely advised.  Just as she was sitting down with her cup of coffee, the phone rang.

"Good morning and happy Valentine's Day!" a chipper voice greeted.

JenniAnn smiled, feeling more energized simply by hearing his voice.  "Good morning and happy Valentine's to you, too, Andrew.  What's up?"

"Have you been outside yet?"

"Well, no.  I'm not even dressed.  Still in my pajamas and robe."

"Doesn't matter.  I've seen your pajamas.  They have my name and my nicknames on them.  Cat's outta the bag, Laja. 
You gotta come outside."

"My hair's a mess."

"You've seen me in dreadlocks.  And also with little girls' barrettes in my hair."

Giggling, JenniAnn relented.  "Fine, I'm coming out."  She flipped the phone shut then grabbed a second cup of coffee though it hardly seemed like Andrew needed it.  Once she had her boots tied, she shuffled out the front door and froze on the door step.  It was warm.  Not some middling temperature they'd all agreed to consider warm because it was at least above freezing.  But t
ruly warm.  And the sun blazed in the bluest sky JenniAnn had seen in weeks.

"Isn't it beautiful?" 

She turned to see Andrew seated on the porch swing.  "Gorgeous," she agreed, joining him and handing him his cup of coffee.

"Thanks.  So aren't you glad you came outside?" the angel asked with a grin.

JenniAnn smiled at him then out to the yard.  "Yes.  If this keeps up, everything will be green again very soon."

"I know it still looks like winter but since it doesn't feel like it... how would you feel about relocating the party at the Cafe to the Fields of Gold?  We could go for a nature walk.  It'd do the kids good after all that snow New York got."

"I think it'd do a certain AOD good, too."

Andrew smiled.  "It would.  And maybe a certain other person seated on this porch.  We could bring a big sheet and tie it to a couple of trees and show the documentary on that.  I can carry the projector.  And we'll do picnic lunches."

JenniAnn drew in a deep breath and closed her eyes, imagining it truly was Spring and the difficult winter was behind them.  "Sure," she agreed.  "I'll call everyone in Asteri and the Sibling Cities.  You take Selini and Ilios.  I really can't imagine anyone will object."

Andrew hugged her.  "Thanks, Laja."

"Thanks for thinking of the idea.  It really will be nice to spend the day outside, in a place that means so much.  And you're right about the kids.  They've been stir crazy so..."  JenniAnn raised her mug.  "To a wonderful Valentine's nature walk and picnic."

The angel of death clinked his mug against hers and a flurry of telephone calls ensued.


By noon, the Dyelanders and their friends were nearly through the woods and to the Fields of Gold.

"Look," Rose whispered, pointing a few paces ahead.

"Aww," JenniAnn cooed.

Yva smiled. 
"That's really adorable."

The three continued to watch as Andrew led the group.  A few of the Tunnel children were directly behind him, making a game of following exactly in his footsteps with their tiny shoe prints nestled in the larger ones left by his boots.  Naturally, Rose stopped to take a photo of the prints.

"I can see it!" a small voice shrieked.

"Just hold on," Andrew warned.  "No running.  We don't want anyone to slip in the mud and get hurt.  You can run once we get the the Fields and there's some padding."

Soon enough, the entire group was congregated in the Fields of Gold.  As the children ran around, shrieking with delight, the adults more calmly set lunch out on the picnic tables.  They waited for a while, understanding the children's need to exert some energy and soak in the sun.  Many even joined them in their games of tag and Hide-and-Go-Seek.  But soon the kids were complaining of hunger and so the picnic lunch began.

After the meal had ended and the dishes were cleared away and put back into the baskets, Andrew and JenniAnn stood in front of their gathered friends.

"Andrew and I just wanted to thank all of you for being a part of this," JenniAnn began.  "Whether you were interviewed or not, you were all part of the precious memories that we attempted to capture in this year's little film.  We're thankful for the friendship and love we experience with all of you and see amongst all of you and this year... this year that's been so, so important."  She became weepy and looked to Andrew for help.

The angel hugged her and smiled out at the group.  "I've been thinking a lot... and I think we all have... about why we're here.  And about what a difference a single person can make, even to those they've never met.  The message 'God loves you' is a powerful one.  And it doesn't surprise me that admiration for a man who spoke those words not just on a TV show but with his life brought so many of you together.  JenniAnn and I would like to dedicate this year's documentary to John and to the God he loved and served, our Father.   Thank you and happy Valentine's day."

With that, the two sat back down amongst their friends and the film began.  They all watched as their interviews played out.  There was footage, too, of the cruise many of them had taken which had breathed new life into their friendships: Andrew and Adam with their Bahamanian dreadlocks, Tess fussing over Andrew's "tattoo," members of the group all taking turns on the dance floor.  The Tunnel children's theatrical performances were featured, drawing proud smiles from the little players who were pleased to be included.  Several in the crowd relived the fun of helping to fix up a women's counseling center in Iowa along with the sense of camaraderie and absolute love they'd felt as they supported Andrew during that most difficult case.  Halloween turned into Thanksgiving and then to Christmas when the entire group had joined together to celebrate and to look forward to a future together.  Their impromptu get-together at Willy's offered the most current views of the bulk of the group together.  And, of course, there was the footage Eli had shot of the adorably hopscotch-challenged angel who blushed but smiled good-naturedly as it was shown.  The last segment of the Dyelanders had been recorded the evening before and showed Andrew and some helpers readying the Jolly Green for a trip to New York for the first deliveries of the items they had collected.  And then, because he had inspired them to reach out in such a way, the video transitioned to their tribute to John Dye... the one who had brought the loving community together.


After the video had ended, the group remained in the Fields of Gold for some time to catch up and enjoy each other's companionship.  Andrew and JenniAnn were making plans with Mick to pick up some items for delivery to California when they heard a whooping noise and turned to see Shelby running to them.

The little girl tugged at Andrew's shirt.  "I saw flowers!" she cried, excitedly pointing to where the forest began.  "Come see!"

The two adults were skeptical.  One warm day was hardly enough time to get flowers to bloom.  However, they didn't want to upset the little girl so they each took one of the hands she offered and allowed themselves to be led.

"Aren't they pretty?" Shelby asked as she pointed to a spot beneath a barren tree.

"Oh God..." JenniAnn whispered as she began to shake and feel dizzy.  She reached out for a nearby tree to steady herself.

"Laja..."  Andrew approached and set a hand on her shoulder.

Surprised and a little frightened by her teacher's brimming eyes and unsteadiness, Shelby ran off. 

"G-go tell her it's okay, Andrew.  Please," JenniAnn requested.  "I'm fine."  She didn't take her eyes off the flowers.

After some hesitation, the angel left.  He hugged and assured the little girl her teacher was fine and that she'd done nothing wrong then returned to JenniAnn.  Andrew brought Lady Beth, Yva, and Rose with him.  The three women wondered what had come over their stricken friend.  Then they saw.  Recalling their earlier conversation with JenniAnn, they stared unblinking at the cluster of three daffodils.

"Those... they shouldn't be blooming yet," Yva finally got out.

"Nothing else is," Rose added, shaking her head in disbelief.

They turned to Andrew, hoping for an explanation.  They were surprised to see that, though there were tears in his eyes, he was smiling.  He reached for JenniAnn's hand.

"Laja, when we talked about the daffodils, what you said... about them symbolizing unrequitedness... I didn't think it was wrong.  But it seemed... incomplete somehow.  So last night, after you went to bed and the video was finished, I went into the library at Willowveil and looked at your book about flower meanings.  And it turns out the unrequited association is only a small part of what the daffodil stands for.  It also means regard, new beginnings, rebirth, and..."  The angel drew in a deep breath and for a moment peered up at the heavens.  His gaze then rested tenderly upon each of his friends.  "The last meaning listed was 'eternal life.'"

The women turned from their friend to again stare at the bright yellow flowers, each of the three utterly perfect.

Andrew pulled them all into a hug.  "It's like he said: 'On one side there is life.  And on the other... there's life, too,'" he quoted.  "The Father sent you these flowers.  They're His valentine to you, His beloved children... and His reminder that John and all those we love do live forever, eternally with Him and eternally loved by Him."

The shock fell away from the women's faces and was replaced by peaceful happiness as they looked upon the symbols of hope and life sprouting from the barren ground of winter.  When they looked up to offer thanks, still huddled together, they saw a dove flying far above them.  It was yet another reminder of the man who had brought them together, of the message he strove so passionately to impart: God loves you and death is not the end but the beginning of forever.  They were messages they would carry with them through out their lives, perpetuating the endless circle of compassionate love that he had begun, until it was time to, like him, finally see the truth behind the words and live forever with the One he had served so beautifully.

The End

Author's note: On Wednesday, January 12th, still in shock and incredibly sad, I walked into my office and stared at what was sitting on the front desk.  Each week we get a new flower arrangement for the main lobby.  For weeks, the arrangement had featured wintery flowers of bold reds and evergreen.  There was nothing "springy" or light about them.  Until the 12th when there were three beautiful daffodils.

For at least the past few years, I have incorporated some daffodil symbolism in the stories for the reasons JenniAnn explains.  So it probably comes as no surprise that when I saw them that morning, they made me think of John Dye without whom we would never have had Andrew.  It's possible, of course, that the flowers chosen were simply the whim of a florist across town.  But I like to think, as Andrew says, that the idea came from God and that they were "
His reminder that John and all those we love do live forever, eternally with Him and eternally loved by Him."  Whatever force brought those flowers that day just when I most needed to see them, whether human or divine, I do believe that.   Mr. Dye now lives eternally with God in His love.

God bless you all,

Cultural references:
Campus Man
Tour of Duty
"Happy Together" by the Turtles, composed by Alan Gordon and Garry Bonner
"I Will Follow Him" by Little Peggy March, composed by Frank Pourcel, Paul Mauriat, Norman Gimbel
Julius Caesar
Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring
Shakespeare’s Sonnets
Mother, Mother
"Will The Circle Be Unbroken?" by Ada R. Habershon and Charles H. Gabriel, reworked by A. P. Carter 
"The Lady of Shalott" by Alfred Lord Tennyson
The Lady of Shalott by John William Waterhouse
The Artist and Her Daughter by Marie Louise Elizabeth Vigee-Lebrun.
Gustav Klimt's The Kiss
Monet's The Artist's Garden at Giverny
Chaim Potok's The Chosen
Disney's Robin Hood
The Notebook
Once Upon a Christmas
Twice Upon a Christmas
Best of the Best
"Walk with You" by Della Reese & The Verity All-Stars, composed by Marc Lichtman and Martha Williamson
Note: JenniAnn's reference to John Dye's quote about death and grieving comes from the book Touched by an Angel: Stories from the Hit Television Series!  In it, he wrote: "Actually, I like the role [of Andrew] because death isn't something we talk about much in America.  As a nation, we find it difficult to mourn or grieve, labeling tears a sign of weakness.  Because of that, Andrew is a rather loud character, helping us face something we would rather ignore."

Like LJA, I've found that listening to "hippie music" has really helped me during this time.  So this year I don't so much have a soundtrack as the songs that held me together enough to write this story.  Some directly tie in, others don't.

  1. "Bookends" by Simon & Garfunkel- Seemed like an appropriate opening cantation.
  2. "The Times They Are a Changin'" by Keb' Mo'- This may be my favorite "hippie song" but this version is actually my favorite and it seemed appropriate to include the "Angel of Music" here.
  3. "Let It Rain" by Eric Clapton- Just really like it.  And it moves from a sad place to a far more uplifting one. 
  4. "Happy Together" by the Turtles- This song just made me happy.  And I could imagine LJA redirecting it to Andrew.
  5. "I Will Follow Him" by Little Peggy March- Another from the "just makes me happy" files.
  6. "Get Together" by the Youngbloods- Love this song.  And it fit in so well with the spirit of going out and doing good things for JD.
  7. "I Want to Hold Your Hand" by the Beatles- It's a romantic song.  But given all the non-romantic hand-holding that happens in this story... I'm including it.
  8. "Spirit in the Sky" by Norman Greenbaum- Whenever I started feeling really upset, I played this and sang along... really loudly.  It helped.
  9. "Knockin' on Heaven's Door" by Bob Dylan- The verses don't have a whole lotta relevance but I feel like knocking on heaven's door is pretty much what parts of this story were trying to do.
  10. "Woodstock" by Joni Mitchell- Love this song.  It has a dreamy quality to it that makes it hard to get too depressed.  Just wistful which is pretty much my reigning emotion these days.
  11. "Turn! Turn! Turn!" by the Byrds- It's long reminded me of JD not just cause of its being Vietnam era but also cause of Andrew in "Crisis of Faith."  It played on the radio the first time I really ventured outside of the comfort of home and office after his death.  I was touched and encouraged.
  12. "The Sounds of Silence" by Simon & Garfunkel- A sad one but a good one.  Reminds me of Doc's disillusionment.  In case you can't tell, I'm kinda hung up on Doc.  We never got closure with him, either.
  13. "Chimes of Freedom" by the Byrds- Totally makes me think of Doc and, thus, fits well for the Andrew and Roger scene.
  14. "Blowin' in the Wind" by Joan Baez- Needed a female voice and just like this song.  Reminds me of Doc.
  15. "For What It's Worth" by Buffalo Springfield- Another favorite of mine from the era.
  16. "Let's Live for Today" by the Grass Roots- This is what I imagined Andrew bopping along to in the car.  Cause it does make ya bop and it's a fun mental image given the ah... sensual nature of the verses.  :-)
  17. "Carry On" by Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young- The first couple minutes just grabbed me and seemed so apropos.  I can imagine that part, before all the lover stuff, being played over a montage of the Dyelanders collecting their donations and then Andrew doling them out.
  18. "Beautiful City" from Godspell- Godspell makes me happy.  And this song fits well with the whole doing good theme.
  19. "All I Know" by Art Garfunkel- I've had this song stuck in my head at random points since January 11th.  Cause I honestly didn't know what to do with JABB without John.  All my plans really did seem to have fallen through.  But as the song goes "When the singer's gone, let the song go on.  It's a fine line between the darkness and the dawn.  They say in the darkest night, there's a light beyond."
  20. "Walk with You"- That added verse really gets me now...
  21. "Here Comes the Sun" by the Beatles- If this were filmed, I'd play this after they find the daffodils.  Because things will get better.  John would want it to.
  22. "Medley: Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In" by the 5th Dimension- It's just been stuck in my head.  Good thing I like it!  Maybe for the end credits.  Let the sunshine in...

JABB 321

(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.)