Welcome to my cursed story! ;-)
Just kidding. I don't believe in
curses. But in the course of writing
this story I:
1. Forgot about its existence for a
2. Thought our family dog was
dying. (Joshy's fine, thank God!)
3. Had some super fun migraines.
4. Cut my wrist accidentally while
slicing watermelon. (Bright side: The
melon was super tasty. Down side:
Typing one-handed is no fun at all.)
5. Had two fires spontaneously start
in my yard... actually as I was writing
6. Had my JABB computer files weird
out on me.
7. Experienced drought in my area
which is a real stormy story mood killer not
to mention just plain sad.
8. Maybe some other stuff I've
But now... finally... it is done and I just
want to get it sent. My apologies for
it not being as polished as I woulda
liked. Points 1-7 prevented my usual 3
rounds of proofreading. And it's
basically just the written equivalent of a
clip show, anyhow. So... Read on
if you want a brief history of Andrew in
Dyeland. If you don't then go watch
the TBAA Season 5 DVDs. As for me, I'm
going to restock my First Aid kit, hide the
knives, and read up on fire-fighting.
And, unlike storm-phobic JenniAnn... I
will be praying for a good, rainy
thunderstorm! And I think I need to
buy some paper clips... Ya never know
when they might come in handy...
As JenniAnn took her
sixteenth turn around the basement, Andrew
kept watch from the couch where he sat
sandwiched between Lulu and Fawn. The
woman had been only seventeen when they'd
met and now she was only days away from her
thirtieth birthday. In those twelve
years, the angel had seen JenniAnn mature in
many ways. She no longer wore princess
dresses... well, she wore them very
rarely. She was not as prone to
sulking as she'd once been. She did
not speak in stilted, nearly Shakespearean
English just to make herself seem
older. She didn't shy away from tough
topics when they were speaking. They
were both... as she was rather fond of
reminding Andrew when he got overly
concerned... "properly grown-ups now."
However, at least one relic of JenniAnn's
childhood remained: her phobia of
Andrew checked his
pocket watch. It had been nearly
twenty minutes since the tempest unleashed
its rage, sending JenniAnn dashing through
the tunnel that connected her home to his
and City Hall. The angel of death was
becoming concerned that his friend would
wear herself out... or at least wear a path
into his carpet. The state of the
carpet was, of course, the lesser of his
"Laja, why don't we
play a board game or something?" he
suggested. "You know, keep your mind
A clap of thunder
cut Andrew off and rattled the house.
JenniAnn shuddered then began pacing again.
Squeezing out from
between the petrified dogs, Andrew
approached the woman and steered her to the
couch, plopping Fawn onto her lap and taking
a seat beside them. "We're in the
basement. We're safe. Even if it
turns into a tornado, it won't get down
here," he reasoned as he took Fawn's former
"But it came on so
quickly... What if... what if someone
was out for a walk and no where near shelter
JenniAnn when he saw the tears form in her
eyes. "We've prayed that everyone is
safe, we checked in with everyone we could,
and if anyone is out there then we have to
remember that the Father holds them in the
palm of His hand."
Drawing in a deep
breath, JenniAnn nodded. She closed
her eyes for a moment then looked back up at
Andrew. Her lips were beginning to
curl into a smile when another clap of
thunder sounded and she gasped.
"So that was a 'no'
to the board game?" Andrew checked
with a grin, trying to elicit the smile
JenniAnn had lost.
Calming, the woman
shrugged. "Just don't feel like
it. How about... Well, do you
have anything down here I could
organize? Or how about some
laundry? Or dusting? If I just
got really focused on a task then
maybe..." She gulped when the pops and
dings that meant hail started. "Maybe
I could distract myself?"
thought. "I could run upstairs and
"You didn't even let
me finish, Laja."
"I don't care what
you have up there or how desperately out of
order or dirty it is! You're not going
up there during this. And don't give
me that 'I'm an angel, Laja. Angels
don't die,' line. I know that!
But that doesn't mean they can't get nicked
up by a shattering window or the like!
Or knocked out by a wayward branch..."
She shuddered again.
Andrew knew he
couldn't argue that point and even if he
could, it wasn't worth further stressing
JenniAnn. And if something *did*
happen while he was upstairs... he knew well
enough that JenniAnn would come after him
and that was a terrible thought.
Still... he needed to think of something to
calm her down before she made herself
sick. Thankfully, the angel's eyes
alighted on a box sitting on the bottom
shelf of his TV stand. He retrieved it
then sat it on the coffee table in front of
the couch. "How about this? It's
a bunch of letters and cards people have
written to me. I could never get rid
of them but they're not really in
order." He flipped through some of the
contents. "Sometimes I like to look
through them... when I'm discouraged or
feeling a little lonely or..." The
angel smiled when JenniAnn set her hand on
his arm. "So... if I'm looking for a
particular letter I always have a hard time
finding it. I have *tried* to keep
them in chronological order but with digging
through it over the years I'm sure the order
got thrown off. You up for it?"
nodded. "Maybe we could sort by sender
and then chronologically. I mean if
you were looking for a particular one,
surely you'd at least know who wrote it and
"I would," Andrew
JenniAnn began to
remove the missives from the box then
paused. "Good. So everyone will
have their own bundle and then those will go
in order time-wise. Thing is, well, I
would never just start reading things people
had written to you. But in searching
for dates... I dunno. I might see
something I wasn't intended to see."
The angel considered
this for a moment. "Well, how about
you only sort your own letters and cards and
I'll sort the rest?"
"That'll work but
then you'll probly have lots more to do."
"Oh... I don't know
Andrew began to
separate the envelopes into two piles.
As he did so, JenniAnn looked on in
surprise. The two stacks were nearly
equal in size with the one she recognized as
hers only an inch or so shorter. She
grabbed more from the box and helped in the
sorting. Soon there were multiple
stacks, still clustered in two sets.
By the time they were finished, JenniAnn's
stacks remained nearly equal to the others.
when the sorting was finally finished.
"I... I had no idea."
"That you were so
prolific?" Andrew chuckled. "The
letters from everyone else dropped off some
when we started using email and cell phones
more and more. But you... well, you
emailed, called, texted, *and* kept
writing. None of which I mind, by the
smiled. "Good. Because I have no
intention of stopping."
A loud clap of
thunder resonated through the room but
Andrew was pleased to note that after a
moment's anxiety, JenniAnn began to sort her
stacks. He quickly followed
suit. Their serene behavior had the
effect of calming the dogs who snoozed away
on the couch.
gravy..." JenniAnn muttered after a
few minutes of organizing.
"What is it?"
The woman began to
read from a letter, swishing her hair
dramatically. "Dear sir, I should
like to thank you for spending yesterday
with us. I am so very pleased to
have made your acquaintance and do hope
that you will return to us. I must
apologize for the brazen nature of the
tune you heard. It was written in
fun and I hope did not cause you any
embarrassment. I pray your
assignments are going well. Yours
most sincerely, Princess JenniAnn Dwynwen
Chandler.'" JenniAnn glared at
the letter. "Did I really sound so
laughed. "No. But you did sound
like a teenager trying very hard to seem
grown-up. I thought it was
sweet. And I thought the same about
A blush returned to
JenniAnn's cheeks. "Well, the song was
definitely a more authentic representation
of my feelings than that letter was."
"Yeah... I kinda got
that. And, for the record, it didn't
"Of course, I didn't
have the slightest idea what I was going to
do about a seventeen year old who, ahem,
promised to 'ne'er cease to love him til my
last day.'" Andrew glanced wistfully
from the note to JenniAnn.
remember the lyrics! And, for the
record, I think you've managed well."
JenniAnn laughed then noticed Andrew smiling
fondly at a greeting card he'd just picked
up. "Must be from happy times."
"When Yva first came to us in 2001.
the teddy bear stickers that had once sealed
the envelope. "Well, at least our
distinctive tastes make it easy for you to
quickly ID who gave ya something.
Course, the handwriting on the envelope
The angel of death
perused the card and chuckled. "She
called me a 'cutie pie' even then."
"Can't argue with
her there! And wow... I totally forgot about
this!" JenniAnn held another card out
softening even more, Andrew took the card
from her. It was homemade and the
words "Congratulations on the new angel"
were neatly drawn on the front in stylized
script. Inside, JenniAnn, Yva, and
many friends who had long since moved on had
written him short notes. They wished
that he might find a good friend in
Gloria. They assured him that she
could have no better helpers than him,
Monica, and Tess as she learned what it
meant to be an angel. "In some ways it
seems so long ago. In others... just
yesterday." Andrew turned to face a
photo of the four that Rose had taken at his
last birthday celebration.
JenniAnn hugged the
angel. "Do you still wish, sometimes,
that the four of you were working together?"
Andrew gave the
question the consideration it was
owed. Finally, he shook his
head. "No. I miss seeing them so
often. I think maybe I always
will. But I know the Father knew what
He was doing... He always does. If I
was still working with them... maybe I
wouldn't have Violeta. Maybe we
wouldn't have had *our* assignments in
Missouri and West Hollow. I'm happy
now, Laja. I really am." He
squeezed her hand. "I don't believe in
coincidences. Angels... we just
can't. And I don't believe it's by
chance that the group we have now really
started to form in the couple years before
and the couple years after Monica, Tess,
Gloria, and I went our separate ways.
God knew what was coming and He saw to it
that I had people surrounding me when that
happened and in the difficult times that
followed. I mean... look." He
brandished a postcard depicting a majestic
stallion running into a lake. "From
June 2002. C.J. sent me this on her
first vacation after coming to
Dyeland. She was already planning our
first ride together when she got back.
That's not a shabby feeling... knowing
someone's spending part of their vacation
thinking about coming back to you.
Those last years working with Monica,
Gloria, andTess were... well... they were
hard times because I could sense that a
separation was coming. But when I had
something like this to hold onto..."
Andrew smiled at the postcard then back up
at JenniAnn. "Friends are never
replaceable. But when you start to
drift away from one... nothing can heal that
as well as the love of other friends.
I always had that. I still have that."
do." JenniAnn beamed at Andrew, happy
to see him so contented and
As the rain and hail
pelted the house, the two focused again on
their sorting. After a few minutes,
Andrew heard JenniAnn draw in a sharp
breath. He looked up to find her
holding several leaves of paper held
together with a metal clasp. The edges
were frayed, a telltale sign of having been
torn from a notebook.
The woman flipped
through the pages. "My... my journal
from May 2005... when you were on trial
and... and in jail."
lightly brushing his fingers over the ragged
edges. "I can remember when you gave
me those. It was a few hours after my
welcome home party. You couldn't sleep
so you came over. You didn't do that
very often back then so I knew you were
struggling. You said you couldn't talk
to me much about what it had been like but
figured I had the right to know. Then
you handed me that."
JenniAnn nodded and
began to read. "'It's hard to
believe you're only yards away from
me. The distance seems
infinite. I know it's largely my
fault. I know I'm the only one of us
girls to not come see you. But I
Andrew took the
bundle from JenniAnn when her voice
faltered. He kissed her hair when she
rested her head against his shoulder.
As JenniAnn tried to calm down, Andrew
thought of that assignment. He'd been
accused of murdering a man, a crime that had
actually been perpetrated by the prosecutor
of the trial: his own assignment,
David. The angel had wanted to do the
Father's will, as always, and understood
that justice would only be done if David
could see the cost of his cover-up.
But the toll on Andrew's friends had been
immense. They'd packed up their lives
and camped out in the small town where he
was being held. C.J. and Yva had been
away then but there'd been Jess who spent
the days touting his innocence to anyone who
would listen... once even getting
reprimanded by the judge during his
trial. Margherita had backed Jess up
and plotted with her every step of the
way. Audrey had turned sleuth,
dedicating her time to trying to find the
real murderer. Under the watchful and
caring eyes of Adam, all three of the girls
had visited him in jail. It struck
Andrew how ironic it was. Of the four
girls who had traveled to be near him, it
was only the one who had then stayed away
who remained. Of course, JenniAnn
hadn't really stayed away. She had
thrown herself on the mercy of a friend who
had been a guard at the jail. Every
night Dan had let JenniAnn into the jail's
basement. The young woman had spent
the nights in a room below Andrew's cell,
praying and playing hymns for him.
The pages in the
angel's hands were the words JenniAnn had
penned in those lonely hours. He
turned his attention to them. "'I
just can't bear the thought that then I'll
need to leave you,'" he read
aloud. "'There. In that
awful, drab cell. I know it's
selfish. But I can't. Please
know that I love you... I will
always love you. I'm just sorry I'm
so bad at it.'" Andrew set the
bundle of paper down. "You weren't bad
at it, Laja. That was never
true. You were twenty two and in love
with an angel of death who, oh by the way,
was on trial for murder at the time.
I'm not sure anyone could say they'd be
really great in that situation. The
hymns helped. And I did know you
cared. Besides, that was only our
first real challenge as a group. From
then on out... you were right there with
me." He squeezed his friend's hand
then reached for an envelope from his
stack. "And sometimes... well,
sometimes I didn't make that very easy,"
Andrew added as his face clouded.
JenniAnn tensed when
she saw the envelope. She recognized
it very well despite not being the author of
the letter inside. The smiling teddy
bear sticker that sealed it belied the
frustrated and hurt words inside.
As if on cue, an ear-piercing clap of
thunder resounded as she saw Andrew slide
his finger between the sticker and paper.
Andrew didn't even
need to read this letter. The words,
written in November 2006, were seared deep
into his psyche. An assignment had
gone terribly awry and rather than seeking
solace among his friends... friends the
Father had sent him to for exactly that
reason... he had withdrawn.
Stubbornly, he had resisted every attempt
the girls had made to draw him out and get
him to talk about his feelings. He
thought he'd been sparing them but his own
pain had blinded him to what they were
actually going through. As the days
had worn on, Lady Beth, who had arrived only
a year earlier, had buried her hurt feelings
in her baking. C.J. began to spend
even more of her time with her horses.
JenniAnn had tried to coax him back with
carefully selected poems only to wind up
literally throwing the book at him.
Yva, however, had been far more blunt.
time,'" she had written, "'you've
told us that you valued our friendship and
that you felt blessed to be accepted for
who you are. But was it really ever
friendship, Andrew? And did you ever
really accept us for who we are? Or
were we just your consolation prize when
you couldn't save the world? I've
certainly never considered us to be a
bunch of takers and users. You can't
simply swoop in whenever one of us is
having a bad day and then treat us like
little children who need to be sheltered
when you're the one struggling. No,
we're not angels. But we are adults
and we are women of character. I
don't want or need a babysitter. I
want and need a friend. Can you be
that or not?'"
"Yva, umm, did feel
badly after the fact for the... tone of some
of what she wrote. But she was so
hurt..." JenniAnn explained when Andrew
remained fixated on the letter. "Thing
is... I think we all wish we'd said or done
a thing or two differently back then.
We shouldn't have demanded you tell us what
happened. We should have just been
there with you, prayed with you... hugged
you. I think we all just wish..."
"That I could have
told you that was exactly what I
needed?" Andrew mustered a wan smile.
"I just... I didn't
feel like I deserved that. Laja, I was
so upset and I felt like I'd failed
Susannah... and she suffered terribly and
horribly for it. I just knew that
because of my failure, Ernest had lost the
person who meant the most to him. I
didn't feel like I deserved all of you after
that. But I never, ever stopped loving
any of you. It was... well, sometimes
angels lose their way and get confused just
"And we know that
now... even though we'd never agree to
it. You *did* deserve us. But at
the time we just didn't understand that
sometimes simply being there is
enough. And you didn't understand just
how much we needed to be there. But
with time and a *lot* of talking and
writing... we got past it and came out
stronger for it. And I remember I
became 'Laja' shortly after that."
recalled stumbling upon the nickname and
smiled warmly back at his friend. "You're
right. And then only a few months
later... a happy occasion." He
produced a brightly colored missive.
"Rose's first letter to me."
A round of hail
started up again, catching both angel and
woman off-guard. The latter blanched
upon hearing the sound of breaking glass.
"Think of it this
way," Andrew whispered in a conspiratorial
tone, "I'll probably have a lot of reason to
wear my tool belt."
nervously. "Just too bad it'll be too
hot for flannel."
light-weight plaid if it'll make you
happy." Andrew smiled when she hugged
him in response.
"If you're there,
I'll be happy." JenniAnn drew in a
deep breath to calm herself. "So...
Rose's arrival. April 1, 2007, right?"
The angel of death
glanced at the letter. "Very
good!" He chuckled as he scanned
it. "She was very confused by our
April Fool's joke. But she really fit
right in. I can remember how glad we
were. Josephine had her niece, Rose
had family, and we had..."
"Hope. So many
had left... Incommunicado save a
Christmas card every year." JenniAnn
shook her head. "I never understood
"It was never easy
to say good bye. But I had to remind
myself that maybe it wasn't too different
from assignments. We come into their
lives when they most need us and then, when
things are better, we leave. Here it
was just the other way around. When
things were better... they left and found
their own way in the world."
"But not everyone,"
Andrew shook his
head. "No, not everyone. God has
a plan for all of us. His plans for
our old friends involved some place other
than Dyeland. But for some of us...
I'm thinking He's got a lot planned for us
here. Like for me... he had cooking
lessons planned." Andrew chuckled as
he held up a note from Lady Beth written on
the back of a series of recipe cards.
She'd written glowingly about how much she'd
enjoyed sharing her cooking expertise with
Andrew. She recounted several
fiascoes: the time he had put a cup of salt
into cookies instead of sugar... a near-fire
with a wok... bread that had made a handy
doorstop... Though embarrassing at the
time, the memories made Andrew smile.
However, he was most touched by the cook's
sentiment that it was never the food that
mattered most, it was the time they'd spent
together as friends. His smile
lingered as the angel filed away the note
and moved onto the next piece in the
attention from her own letters, JenniAnn
looked up to see how Andrew was coming
along. Her face brightened when she
saw him pull a familiar piece of paper from
his stack. "Catherine's and Vincent's
wedding invitation!" she cried.
"I've been to a lot
of weddings in my life but I don't think
I'll ever forget that one." Andrew
traced the seal, smiling. "And the
marriage... even better. A great
couple and great friends."
immensely proud of her cousins. "Ya
know, 2007 was a rather big year in the
romance department for our friends.
Catherine and Vincent got married!
Mick and Beth met up again and fell in
love! It was Yva's and Sir Sven's 12th
anniversary!" Her face darkened for a
moment before she laughed breezily.
"Well, of course, not everything was roses
and wedding cake." JenniAnn rifled
through her stack of letters hoping to prove
wrong what she knew in her heart was
true. She had not written Andrew
anything... certainly not anything of
substance... for an entire six month period
starting in the summer of 2007 until
Sensing his friend's
distress, Andrew squeezed her
shoulder. "It's in the past,
Laja. And even at the time...I
believed you deserved a chance. I
always believed that."
JenniAnn peered up
at him, her eyes searching his. "But
did you feel it?"
The angel opened his
mouth to respond but found himself unsure of
what to say. He had believed his
friend deserved a chance at "happily ever
after." But he'd also been hurt and
worried that he was destined to become one
of the names on her Christmas card list and
nothing more. Absently, Andrew set
down the wedding invitation and fanned the
stack of letters in front of him. A
speckled gray envelope with his name on it
in a familiar scrawl caught his eye.
Andrew opened it and began to read.
"'I know things
are strained right now, buddy. But
it won't always be that way. Maybe
they'll get married and then Eliot will
feel more secure. JenniAnn will have
her feelings sorted out by then and things
will go back to normal between the two of
you. Heck, they'll probably name a
kid after you. And I'll have to
spend decades hearing about how adorable
yet another Andrew is.'" Andrew
smiled, imagining Adam's impish smile as
he'd written those words. His fellow
angel of death always knew just how to mix
humor and compassion. He continued to
read the letter, knowing it veered into the
latter as it went on. "'Or maybe
not. I wouldn't rush right out to
buy the wedding gift. She loves
you. I know it. But she
doesn't like how much that sets her apart
from most of her peers. She needs
this time to live that life. But I
know JenniAnn well enough to know she
won't sacrifice love or truth or happiness
for the status quo. She'll be back,
Andrew. And then I'll get to spend
decades hearing about how adorable you
are. But that's okay because I have
the market cornered on sharply dressed,
bearded handsomeness.'" Setting
the letter down, Andrew remembered how
encouraged he'd been by those last
JenniAnn set a hand on his arm, wanting...
needing... an answer.
Andrew shook his
head. The words came out in a
torrent. "I only wanted you to be
happy and if you'd been happy with Eliot
then I would have prayed for you both to
have a blessed marriage. I knew... I
understood that would mean changes for us...
between us. But if you're asking what
"I just wanted my
friend back. I missed you."
JenniAnn swatted at
a tear. "Well, I'm back now.
There will be no re-runs of that. I'm
back for good. And as a token of my
promise..." She scanned the room,
looking for something useful.
Giggling, she grabbed a paper clip and began
to bend it. "With this super awesome
office supply ring, I thee promise to never
ignore, block, or run out on come hell or
high water, zombie apocalypse, hostile robot
takeover, or discovery of the living
embodiment of one Mr. Fitzwilliam
laughter, Andrew examined the "ring" she'd
slid onto his right ring finger.
Inspired, and knowing JenniAnn reserved her
own right ring finger for her Claddagh, he
began to string several paper clips
together. "Thank you. With this
devastatingly glamorous tiara, I thee
promise to never ignore, block, or run out
on come hell or high water, abominable
snowman attack, flying monkey mischief, or
commencement of a really great football
JenniAnn laughed so
hard she wiped at tears. "Thank
you. I shall treasure it always.
But you realize C.J., Lady Beth, Rose, and
Yva should get tiaras, too, right?"
grinned. "I'll get going on those as
soon as we finish with this."
Confused, he examined an empty
envelope. "9-07" was written, in his
own hand, in the corner. "Why would I
have kept an empty envelope?"
JenniAnn took the
piece from him and examined it. "Well,
I recognize your name as being in Willy's
hand... So he must have written
you. And September 2007 is when he
first came here so... Flip through
your stacks. Maybe the note just got
shuffled in with..."
A chuckle from
Andrew interrupted her. "Never
mind. I just remembered. I ate
For a moment
JenniAnn was confused. She certainly
couldn't remember Andrew ever developing
pica... Then the answer came to her in
a flash. The note had been etched into
a chocolate bar! They'd all received
one thanking them for the warm welcome and
wishing for the chance to get to know each
of them better. She could remember how
proudly Yva had beamed at her dear friend's
creativity and commitment to a theme.
"I did take a
photograph first," Andrew explained as he
looked. "But I think you may have
scrap-booked that. And... Oh.
This is gonna make you cry." He held a
thick piece of paper out to JenniAnn.
woman did, indeed, grow misty eyed.
"Look at how tiny his little hands and feet
were..." She traced the outlines of
her godson's fingers and toes.
"I loved how they
worded the announcement. "'With
grateful hearts and joyful spirits,
Catherine and Vincent Wells announce the
adoption of their beloved son, Jacob
Chandler Wells, on December 24th,
2007. He is an answer to decades of
prayer and our prayer for him now is a
lifetime of love and happiness,'"
Andrew recited. "It's hard to believe
he'll be five soon."
"It is... Why
do they have to grow up so quickly?"
JenniAnn sighed. "I can still remember
the first time you held him."
Andrew looked at her
"I may not have been very communicative with
you at the time but I was still paying
attention. Jacob smiled. I was
sure he knew an angel was holding him."
smiled. "Now he just wants piggy back
rides." He looked at their
stacks. Progress was obvious but there
were still so many pieces. "It's
amazing how much... well, life there
is. All captured in one box..."
"On this side... and
on the other..." JenniAnn murmured, staring
at Andrew's hands.
it, Andrew had picked up a thick
envelope. JenniAnn clearly recognized
the intricate, slanted handwriting that came
from another era. "Josef..." The
angel was grateful when JenniAnn moved
beside him and hugged his arm. The
letter was addressed to them both so they
silently read together and remembered the
day they had helped the man say good bye to
the woman he loved. Andrew slung his
arm around his friend's shoulders as they
came to the final paragraph.
"'I don't know
how you did it. Sometimes, in my
darkest moments, I think maybe it was all
a trick. A trick done in
kindness. But a trick. Yet
what JenniAnn said... the words she passed
along to me... they were so essentially
Sarah. So I've been left with no
choice but to believe you. She told
me that she would live forever... that she
would love me forever. God! I
spent centuries running from him.
Now I find my very survival, my sanity
hinges on his existence... on the belief
that an angel of death was with my Sarah
when she died, that he passed her final
words onto his friend, that she faithfully
told them to me, and that, one day, I will
see Sarah again. If I start to
doubt... I'll look to the both of you and
The words blurred as
Andrew stared at the letter. It was
both poignant and ironic. Josef looked
at him and thought of the future promise of
a joyful reunion in Heaven with Sarah.
But Andrew saw his own future mirrored in
Josef, too. The vampire's sympathetic
words from a few months before came back to
Andrew. "It's hard to watch you
with the girls and not think... one day it's
going to be you and me on this roof again
except we won't be talking about
Sarah. We'll be talking about Rose or
JenniAnn or... or even Shelby. You
love them. Not like I love
Sarah. But you do. I see
it. And they're all going to leave
you. Probably not by choice. But
JenniAnn grabbed a tissue and gently brushed
some tears from his face. "Maybe we
should finish this some other time.
Actually, it's calming a bit it seems.
And you've been working an awful lot
lately. I won't go back
upstairs just yet but maybe I should head
back to my own basement and let you res..."
The angel shook his
head rigorously. "No. I mean
unless you wanted..."
"No. I'd just
as soon stay but..."
"Then please stay."
JenniAnn studied him with concern.
"You're all right?"
Andrew nodded and
smiled sheepishly. "Just don't really
want to be alone." He turned to Lulu
and Fawn who were snoring away. "No
smiled. "Well, I won't require much
convincing but ummm... Maybe we best
put the letters away."
obviously pretty shaken and the thing is...
well, it wasn't terribly long after Sarah
died that... that Dawn was killed. And
I know that's in a lot of my next letters
and probly in a lot of your next
batch. That was a really hard
"It was. But, you know, it's the
letters from then that I look through most
often, I think. That was our first
real test with this group of friends.
Having you all with me on an assignment...
helping me with it... it was very, very
hard. I love having you around but I
know I was a pain."
"Only at first,
Andrew. You were..." JenniAnn
thought. No single word seemed big
enough. Finally she settled for an old
standby. "You were lovely for most of
it. We all knew that it was difficult
for you to have us there even though we
needed to be there. We knew you could
never fully shut out the reminders that...
that we were no different, no safer than
Dawn was. Not really. But it
really was a privilege to be there. We
got to help get justice for her. We
befriended Raquel and helped her begin to
heal from the loss of her child.
And... and if anything were ever to happen
to me then..."
Andrew rested his
forehead against her hair.
"Then it would help
to know that someone like you would be as
caring and gentle with my parents as you
were with Raquel. She loves you so
Despite the sadness
he still felt when he thought of Dawn's
death, Andrew's spirits lifted when he
thought of her mother. Whereas some
humans railed at him when they discovered
he'd been with their murdered loved ones and
done nothing, Raquel had hugged him and
cried with him. The angel felt a
sudden need for her voice but settled for
re-reading the letter she had sent him a
week after his assignment had ended.
The folds were beginning to tear, indicating
how often Andrew had turned to this
particular letter for comfort.
"'I find myself
daydreaming sometimes about you and Dawn
in Heaven. Maybe you've picked your
bowling rivalry back up. (Be
careful. That girl has a mean
hook.) Have you gotten to see her
spontaneously dance to a Cyndi Lauper song
while she thought no one was around?
Maybe she doesn't care anymore. I
can't imagine there would be much need for
self-regard in Heaven where everyone
accepts and loves you as you are.
But now I'm rambling!
I think I would
have done this no matter what... imagined
her there. That beautiful smile
reflecting her delight as she walked among
flowers more brilliant, more fragrant than
any she ever enjoyed here. It helps,
though, to imagine a friend at her
side. If not for you, my sweet boy,
I wouldn't have that. Hug my baby
good night for me, Andrew. And when
she gives you one of those perfect hugs
back, know it's from me, too."
The angel of death
closed his eyes for a few moments,
remembering scenes not unlike those Raquel
had imagined. It comforted him to know
that one day all of his friends would be
with him, just as carefree and just as safe
as Dawn now was. However, it still
hurt to think of what would lie ahead.
As Andrew read,
JenniAnn grabbed two letters she recognized
from his stacks. "Read
these next. I think they'll help."
With a grateful
smile, Andrew took them and began to read
the one Eli had written him on March 17th,
"'I thought I
should apologize for sending JenniAnn that
photo of you dressed as a leprechaun but I
just wanted to make her laugh. She
reminds me so much of Sophia when she
laughs. It's funny. It's been
over a month and I've seen her numerous
times in Heaven but I still find myself
thinking she's here. Yesterday I
took this fellow Home. He'd been
living in a retirement facility and made
me promise I'd go back and water his
plants. I guess he didn't trust the
staff to do it and knew it'd be a few days
before his daughter could get there.
How could I say no to that? I don't
want a philodendron massacre on my
conscience for all eternity! After I
was through, I went out into the hall and
heard Benny Goodman coming from one of the
other apartments. For just a moment
I thought it was Sophia playing her
records. I even started towards the
room. Then I remembered. I'm
sure she'll save a dance for me when I get
back Home but in that moment... I wanted
her here again. Is that
selfish? I guess it is. Not
very angelic. We can't all be
you." Andrew could hear the
good natured smirk in his friend's voice as
he read that line. "'Andrew, I
pray that each of those girls have long,
healthy, happy lives,'" Eli had
continued. "'But I know that, even
in the best of cases, it'll still be hard
for you. You'll have your own Benny
Goodman incidents. But just keep
remembering that you get to go Home.
You get to go back to them. And, if
you're like me, you get to see them live
on in the children they leave
behind. The Father has truly blessed
feeling the knot in his stomach beginning to
dissipate. After letting Eli's words
sink in, he turned to JenniAnn
curiously. "How did you know what
would be in that letter?"
"Eli asked me to
read over it before he gave it to you.
He was afraid the first part would be too
hard for you. I told him you fully
knew what you were facing and that the last
part... well, you had to read that.
It's not so different from what us girls
have told you. But I thought it might
help you to hear it from another angel of
death. Did it?"
did. And I even forgave him for giving
you that photo. Even when you blew it
up and turned it into one of those stand-up
thingies." Andrew chuckled.
"Good ol' Eli."
fondly as she thought of him.
"Yeah. Aunt Sophia sure could pick
em! I'm so glad he came back into our
lives. And speaking of coming back
into someone's life..." She pointed to
the other letter.
You've read this one, too?"
everything Vincent writes is beautiful and
encouraging. He wrote this shortly
after Cora went Home." A loving smile
lit up JenniAnn's face as she thought of her
godfather and his mother. During the
last weeks of Cora's life, Andrew had been
assigned as her in-home caregiver. A
series of miraculous events had allowed him
and the Dyelanders to piece together the
connection between Cora and Vincent and
reunite the mother and child two weeks
before Cora's passing.
Andrew began to
read. "'Today was the first day I
returned to the house. I had a
sudden urge to read a book... any book...
that I knew my mother had read. I
know she struggled in those last
weeks. She told me how greatly she
worried that God would never forgive her
for leaving me. Maybe that's why I
was drawn to her Bible. Did you know
she kept notes in it? I discovered
several. Each one is a precious
glimpse into my mother's life, her
faith. I found one in which she
mentioned you. She'd written 'The
Lord our God is merciful and forgiving'
many times. I imagine her praying
over each letter, each word as she sought
comfort in that assurance she says you
reminded her of, Andrew. The peace
you lent to her then and the strength you
shared with us all as her days waned will
forever be a comfort. Thank you, my
friend.'" The angel brushed at
a tear and smiled. "Beautiful and
encouraging," he agreed.
JenniAnn patted his
"Over half way
through 2009," Andrew commented a few
moments later. "Well, unless we find a
stash really out of order which is highly
likely." He rolled his eyes at his own
"Oooh... this is the start of the letters
where we did that word game we used to
play. Remember? We'd take turns
picking an adjective that described the
other. Then the recipient had to find
an adjective to describe the other starting
with the last letter of the previous
word." JenniAnn paused. "Ya
know... it kinda strikes me now that it was
a bit nerdy."
Andrew laughed. "Hey, being nerdy can
be good. And so can being verbivorous
"Then I shall indulge in being nerdy and
verbivorous for a couple minutes by looking
through this batch." JenniAnn smiled
and began to read through her old word
choices for Andrew.
The angel directed his attention to a piece
of beige letterhead with "From the desk of
Henry" emblazoned across the top.
"'Hey there, Andrew. Lady Beth and
I were just framing some photos from the
4th of July. I got to wondering how
you were doing when we got to the one of
you reciting the Emancipation Proclamation
for the kids. I hope you're doing
well. Adam said something about you
having an assignment at a prison. I
know how difficult those can be.
Felt compelled to let you know your
friendship means a lot to me. I hope
you know I'm here for you if you ever need
to talk. I'm glad we can talk over
Andrew smiled. Well versed as he
was in helping humans to cope in the face of
loss, it had taken a toll to see five
friends grieve losses over the course of
less than a year. But as he'd juggled
his assignments and keeping tabs on Josef,
Raquel, Eli, JenniAnn, and Vincent; there'd
been a surge in letters much like
Henry's. There was no particular
reason for them. But the encouraging
words had found their way to him just when
he most needed them. The Lord truly
moved in mysterious ways.
Below Henry's letter was a turquoise
envelope. The letter inside remained a
true mystery to Andrew but one he
cherished. Unlike every other letter
in his stacks, this one was penned by a
woman named Cindy who the angel had never
have helped me a lot,'" Andrew
read. "When I've had to deal with
the loss of people I've loved, I thought
of you as being the one to take them Home.
I've thought how comforting it must be to
have an angel with your wisdom,
gentleness, compassion, and love.'"
He blushed as he read of her wish to
have him as her angel of death when her time
came. But the part that meant the most
to him was near the end of Cindy's letter:
importantly you have reminded me to keep
God first, and to put my hope in Him. And
He loves me. I am glad that He is using
you to help instill that hope.'"
The angel smiled. It felt good to know
that he was helping people he hadn't even
met to remember the single most important
thing: they were loved by God.
Andrew was carefully returning Cindy's
letter to its envelope when he heard
JenniAnn sniffle. "Hey... Laja, what's
wrong?" He looked intently at her and
took her hand in his when he noticed tears
were welling in her eyes.
"The end of 2009 was
really, really hard."
nodded. "I know. But we got
through it. That's the most important
"S-sometimes when I
think about it. I'm still so... so
normal. I am sometimes, too."
Andrew knew that there were several letters,
notes, and journal entries dated from when
he'd been on an assignment in New York
during a rash of violent attacks on the
homeless... with himself being the last
victim. Two of his assignments, a
young man and woman who he had stayed with
while on the streets, had been
murdered. Though the angel of death
knew they were at peace and their attackers
jailed, he had spoken truthfully to
JenniAnn. The attackers' cruelty still
enraged him. He didn't want to upset
JenniAnn whose memories of that time period
also included a panicked stint in the
hospital chapel as she pleaded with God to
heal him. He gathered the related
missives, hers and his, and ordered and
filed them on his own. Once finished,
he picked up a red envelope and handed it to
her. "The very end of 2009 wasn't so
With a wan smile,
JenniAnn opened a New Year's newsletter she
had written on behalf of the group.
Printed on to the bottom was a photograph of
their friends and family in front of the
tree on Christmas Eve. Andrew was
wearing a cast on his arm... every inch of
it covered in messages from those who loved
him... but he was undeniably happy.
JenniAnn's smile brightened. "Yeah, it
wasn't so bad."
2010! And let's see..." Andrew
burst out laughing when he opened a greeting
card. "Okay, I know you didn't write
this but it's not really personal and I
think you need to see it. You could use a
JenniAnn took the
card which featured the famous photograph of
Albert Einstein sticking his tongue
out. She read Rose's message
inside. "'Dear Andrew, way cool
about your deciding to get old with
us. I think it'll be awesome.
We can play shuffleboard together. I
hope you're better at that than
hopscotch. I also hope your hair is
as cool as Einstein's by then.'"
The woman laughed. "Well, I'm glad you
had a nice counterpoint to my high angst
reaction to your big decision.
Although I don't know that your hair will be
that sticky out-y."
Andrew laughed and
dragged his hand through his mane.
"No? Maybe with some creative
"Uh no... But
interrupted by a loud clap of thunder.
A buzzing sound followed quickly afterwards
and then all the lights went out.
bleated. "I don't think this is
good... What if something exploded and
started a fire?"
"Then hopefully the
rain will put it out. But it could
have just as easily been a branch hitting a
power line and knocking it off the
house. I'll get some light in here in
just a second. Could you, I dunno,
have a crisis of faith or something so I can
start glowing? It'd really help me
appreciating the ease of tension.
"Don't ya think candles might be easier?"
dramatically. "I suppose..." He
chuckled. "Don't move. I don't
want to step on you or run into you as I
make my way over to the candles."
JenniAnn waited patiently until she saw a
flicker of flame near Andrew's coffee
table. Soon a pleasant glow emanated
from the assortment of candles there.
better. Why don't we move closer to
Finding the idea
highly agreeable, JenniAnn picked up her
stacks and followed Andrew.
"It'll be all right,
Laja," he assured when he saw a flicker of
fear on her face when another boom of
thunder sounded. "Just remember...
tool belt and plaid."
it!" JenniAnn drew in a deep
breath. "So back to 2010 and... our
There hadn't been
any sort of secrecy with the post cards that
had been written to Andrew in June
2010. For a few wonderful days that
month, the gang had set sail on a Caribbean
cruise so they could be with Raquel as she
married the ship captain's. As it was
common practice for them to send postcards
to each other when they traveled, they'd
opted to keep the tradition alive.
Over the course of the week, the friends had
written each other several times and stuck
the postcards under their cabin doors.
JenniAnn recited, "'the cruise is
going splendidly. I'm soooo glad we
didn't trip going down the aisle during
the wedding! Didn't Raquel look
gorgeous? I'm so happy for
them!'" She sighed. "I'm
still so happy for Raquel and Nico.
Where are they now?"
Vallarta. Listen to this.
'Dear buddy, I don't think Tess has
forgiven us yet for the dreadlocks and the
tattoo prank. She just threatened to
throw me over board to the iguanas when we
pass by St. Thomas again. Do you
think iguanas would get along with
chuckled. "Poor Adam. Tess
really did not like those dreads of ours!"
JenniAnn smiled at
the memory of Tess fuming at the boys on the
beach. "No she didn't. But
she'll always love her Angel Boys. I'm
really glad we got to spend time with her
during that. And reconnect as a group
and, of course, things got better with
The angel of death
smiled. "Yeah, they really did."
"And I was so glad
of that come October."
sobered. "Me too. I think West
Hollow was the toughest assignment... at
least one of the most emotionally
complicated... that I'd had in years."
JenniAnn bowed her
head. "It sometimes seems like... and
maybe it's just cause I know more now about
what you do... but sometimes I feel like
since you met us a lot of your assignments
have become more difficult than they might
once have been. And you were so
nervous and concerned about us being
The angel hugged
her. "Laja, there's no denying that
having all of you in my life... well... it's
made some cases more personal, more
relatable than they might have been at one
time. And I never want to put any of
you in harm's way. I just..." He
shook his head. "No. But the
support I have now... the support and love
you all give me, well, it's more than made
up for that. And I know you've all
made me better at what I do.
Like..." He reached for a pastel pink
envelope. "Erica wrote me this after
we left West Hollow. Do you remember
when she first approached you?"
nodded. "It was after she'd run away
from the ER before you and Jonah could
question her. She saw you, Yva, and me
together during church. And when she
saw how comfortable we were with you... how
much we loved you... she felt safe about
giving you her report of her rape."
"Right. And in
this letter she thanked me for making sure
he was found and prosecuted. Jonah got
one, too. But if you'd all not been
there..." Andrew smiled
sheepishly. "Sometimes I need to do a
better job of trusting the Father when it
comes to all of you. He loved you
first and He loves you best, you know."
"I've heard but I
never tire of hearing it again." She
kissed his hand. "You really were
wonderful during that assignment. So
much to juggle. So much sadness and
anger and fear all around. But you...
you gave us all hope that even if something
terrible... something we couldn't imagine
living through... happened... you'd help us
her. "I'd do everything I could for
you. You're my friends and, ya know, I
kinda love you all."
smiled. She'd known Andrew would try
to make her laugh. Already, a few
envelopes down, she saw a letter dated
Andrew saw it,
too. "That was... another really
difficult time." His embrace tightened
and he sighed. "We got through with
each other and with gratitude for a life
well and beautifully lived."
"It was so healing
to be together that Valentine's after
though, wasn't it? Here, look at this
Valentine from Shel. I assume you've
already seen it. She told me she made
it in your class."
The woman's mood
rallied when she saw the brightly colored
heart. At the top, in her own hand,
was "I love ___________ because..."
Shelby had scrawled Andrew's name into the
blank spot then covered the heart in reasons
why she loved him. JenniAnn smiled as
she read a list that contained "He reads to
me" and "He gives good piggyback rides" and
"His hugs make me feel safe." The last
item especially tugged at JenniAnn's
heart. She felt exactly the same way
about the angel's hugs.
Andrew took the Valentine back, thinking
fondly of the little girl. When he
filed it away, he noticed that the
correspondence yet to be sorted had become
only a short stack. Though we'd had
many eventful assignments in 2011, it really
had seemed as if the Father had given him
more time in Dyeland that year.
Letters were not nearly as good as quiet
nature walks, visits over coffee,
contemplative and companionable tours of art
museums, and all the other every day
activities that had come to mean so
much. Happily, their once small circle
of friends had grown and solidified.
One bit of evidence for that came in the
form of another celebratory greeting
card. Inside, all of his friends had
wished him well and voiced their certainty
that he would be a loving and inspiring
supervisor for Violeta. Just below it
in the stack was a note from his protegee
"'I've never been lacking in
confidence,'" she'd written very
truthfully, "'but I am daunted
now. I'm not sure I have what it
takes to be an angel of death. It
seems so immense. Angels of death
are the last point of contact humans have
when they leave Earth... sometimes
frightened, sometimes angry. That's
a massive responsibility. Then I see
you crouch down to comfort a grieving
child or you gently hold the hand of
someone spending their last night on
earth. I see those things and I know
that as long as I have you on my side,
Andrew, I can do whatever the Father asks
That final phrase jumped out at
Andrew. Then he heard his Father's
voice, asking him to trust Him. "I can
do whatever you ask of me," he responded
JenniAnn was smiling at Mick's and Beth's
wedding announcement when she looked
up. Andrew had an enigmatic look on
his face. He seemed to be listening to
a voice she couldn't hear and she knew well
enough whose Voice it was. She didn't
feel like Andrew hearing from the Father
should make her nervous but it did so she
looked away. A few moments later she
jumped when Andrew set his hand on
"The worst of the storm is over, Laja.
Just some rain now. Let's go outside
and take a look." He smiled
encouragingly at her, stood, and reached
down to help her up.
JenniAnn wanted to ask Andrew what had just
happened but somehow knew it wouldn't be
right. Instead she quietly held his
hand and followed him upstairs with the
dogs, newly awoken, at their heals.
Andrew opened the door and stepped onto the
porch. He noted a downed awning and
quickly verified that, yes, power lines had
been torn from his house. But
something else... something much more
important was there.
A double rainbow stretched across the sky.
"Laja, promise me something?" Andrew asked
after several moments, still gazing at the
"Anything," JenniAnn's awed voice murmured.
"Don't ever lose hope. Not even if
circumstances seem insurmountable or... or
people you love go away. There's still
hope. And sometimes... sometimes the
Father still uses rainbows to remind us of
that." There were tears in his eyes as
Andrew smiled at his friend.
JenniAnn hugged the angel. "I
Andrew sighed contentedly as they continued
to admire the rainbows. All would be
well, thanks be to God.
So I don't usually interrupt my stories
but I didn't feel right just springing
this next part on people. I have
really been struggling with how to
proceed with these following John's
death. For a while, I just kept
them light and fluffy and cuddly.
But TBAA dealt with real issues, John
cared about real issues, and I care
about real issues. So after a
while that just seemed phony and
unfulfilling. But the fact is that
serious scenes involving Andrew...
especially when it involves someone
being upset over his absence... simply
have taken on a different tone since
John's passing. I can all but
guarantee that I would have written the
following scene just as it is were John
still here on earth with us. But
it's become a much sadder scene since he
is not. So I find myself with a
choice: write a scene in the way that
seems right to me and emotionally honest
or write a scene in a way that's more
comfortable and less, well, haunted by
real life. And I just keep
thinking that continuously doing the
latter is cowardly and an affront to
what John taught us. I can't go
around saying he helped me to learn to
cope with grief and then run away from
all depictions of grief. That
being said, I totally understand if it's
too difficult and people want to bail on
the scene below and the story it
eventually leads into.
few weeks later... Early August
unfortunately, it took me a while to
really decide where I was going with this
story. I actually have a much bigger
(and I think better) story in the works
that's going to test Andrew and Co. in
ways they've never been tested
before. So once I had that idea, I
decided to use the story above to sorta
say "This is the life these people have
lived together. And that's why the
stakes and the emotions are so high
when..." But before that I had
intended on just doing a light "Letters to
Andrew" story. During that phase,
Cindy kindly penned a letter to
Andrew. In the story's eventual
evolution (with only short excerpts of
writing tied to specific events), I
couldn't figure out how to incorporate it
all. But it's really lovely and so
I'm putting the entire thing here.
Thanks, Cindy! Adam
swung the front door open and ushered
JenniAnn in before him.
"I'm sure I can do this on my own if
you'd feel more comfortable just..."
JenniAnn shook her head before the angel
of death could finish. "No.
I need to do this."
"All right. I'll water the
upstairs plants, you take the main
floor?" When the woman nodded,
Adam smiled encouragingly at her and
squeezed her shoulder.
JenniAnn made her way to Andrew's
kitchen to fill a pitcher with
water. She tended to the two
plants there then moved to the living
room. She watered a fern in the
hallway then found herself staring at
the basement door. The evening of
the storm had been the last time she and
Andrew had spent more than a few minutes
alone together. Desperate to
relive their happiness then... when a
busted window and downed power lines
were the crisis du jour... she opened
the door and crept down the stairs.
She drank in the scent of the candles
which still stung in air. For a
moment she thought she saw Andrew bent
over them with the lighter but it was
only a trick of her mind. The
woman was about to abandon the room and
its ghosts of better times when a
brightly colored clump on the arm of the
couch caught her eye. It only took
another moment for it to dawn on
JenniAnn what it was. She began to
sob as she picked up four circlets made
of paper clips. A fifth... all in
Shelby's favorite colors of purple and
pink... lay unfinished.
When Adam returned to the main level, he
heard JenniAnn crying and sprinted down
the stairs. She looked up at him,
holding the rainbow chains up.
"He... he... when we were in the
basement d-during that storm... Andrew
made me one of these. And I told
him Yva, C.J., Lady Beth, and Rose
should each have one, too. Then
this... this must be for Shelby.
A-adam... he didn't have a chance to
give them to them b-before... Oh
God... My God..."
Adam pulled her into a hug before she
sunk to the floor. "He's with
Andrew, JenniAnn. And He will be
no matter what. And I believe with
all my heart that He *will* bring Andrew
back to us. I know Afghanistan
seems very far away and very
scary. But the Father knows every
rock, every blade of grass, every kernel
of sand. He knows where Andrew
is. He's not missing to Him."
The angel's assurances calmed JenniAnn
but it was another voice... one she
heard when she looked down at the
brilliant colors in the palm of her
hand... that unclouded her anxious
ever lose hope. Not even if
circumstances seem insurmountable or...
or people you love go away.
There's still hope. And
sometimes... sometimes the Father still
uses rainbows to remind us of that."
JenniAnn smiled through her tears.
"I promise, Andrew," she
whispered. Then drawing in a deep,
steadying breath, she looked up at
Adam. "Will you come with me to
Adam felt tears well in his own
eyes. "I'd be honored."
They left the house together to spread
the message their beloved Andrew felt so
never been one of your cases, you have
been an inspiration and an influence
to me. I'm especially grateful to
the one person who agreed to help tell of
God's love through you. Without him,
I wouldn't have known who you were, and
without you, I wouldn't have learned who
he was either. You know who I mean and you
know I love him and miss him very much.
You've both made a difference.
You have helped
me a lot. When I've had to deal with the
loss of people I've loved, I thought of
you as being the one to take them Home.
I've thought how comforting it must be to
have an angel with your wisdom,
gentleness, compassion, and love. And,
it's been a comfort to me to know I have
that to look forward to when it's my
time...even if you are not my AOD. I do
wish you could be, but, who ever mine is,
I won't be disappointed because you have
set the standard! You have shown me I have
the perfect angels assigned to me
throughout my life and I will have the
perfect AOD assigned to me when it's my
time. But, I will admit, I have put in a
request! Most importantly you
have reminded me to keep God first, and to
put my hope in Him. And He loves me. I am
glad that He is using you to help instill
continues. I am coming in contact often
now with other people who have become
aware of you. I look forward to each and
every one of those contacts. There are
people like me out there who truly have
been touched by an angel...that angel is
I love you.
I'd like to dedicate this
issue to John's ability to make me see the
world a little differently. From paper
clips to rainbows and beyond, the world has
become more meaningful to me and John's
influence has helped me to see the hand of
God even in the smallest of things.