As she sunk back into the cushions of the couch in her
office at Willowveil, JenniAnn clicked through a folder of
photographs from the past year. Beside her, Andrew had
his own laptop and was playing snippets of songs. He
was on the hunt for the perfect ones to use for their annual
JenniAnn giggled to herself. The angel's musical
sensibilities had never made much sense to her. There
was Bruce Springsteen and Simon and Garfunkel, selections
from Jesus Christ Superstar, Les Miserables, and
Peter Pan, chants by Hildegard of Bingen, gospel,
country, waltzes, tangos, Celtic ballads, jazz, swing, and
equal parts the early and later work of some shock rocker
Andrew had once had an assignment with. When he
stumbled upon one particular song, JenniAnn sighed.
"Oh... I've always loved this one," she whispered.
Andrew watched as JenniAnn's eyes misted while Joni Mitchell
seasons they go round and round
the painted ponies go up and down.
captive on the carousel of time."
angel grew sentimental himself. The following month
it would be fourteen years since he had met
JenniAnn. They had seen over fifty seasons "go round
and round" in that time. So many people had come
into their lives during those seasons, some remaining and
some not. But always the two of them had
stayed. If they were captives, well, then at least
they were captive by choice!
"The song's fitting," he decided. "I think we should
use it. But first..." Andrew stood and smiled
down at JenniAnn, holding out his hand. "I've had
enough of clicking and dragging for the night. Dance
Beaming, JenniAnn took his hand. Around his
shoulder, she noticed her clock. "It's already after
8. You have to leave soon, don't you?"
Andrew nodded. "8:37."
"Which means 8:32 in Andrew time."
The angel of death smiled. "Yeah. But I should
be back in the morning. Early."
"Kay." JenniAnn rested her head against his
shoulder. It was pleasant to know Andrew would be
back soon and yet... For so many years she had
rejoiced whenever she knew his absence would be
abbreviated. But in the past year so much had
changed between them... No. Not changed.
Grown, repaired. Those were better words to describe
it. JenniAnn recognized now that what, to her, had
meant having her beloved Andrew near could mean something
else entirely to him... could feel differently to
him. Short assignments could mean many things.
He could be going to take an elderly person who was ready
Home. If that was so then he would come back to her
all smiles and warmth and laughter. But it could be
something sudden and violent. JenniAnn realized now
that those cases were often the most difficult for
Andrew. With his assignments that involved
caseworking, he often had time to help someone see reason
and find compassion and forestall tragedy. Barring
that, he at least would have time to bond with and prepare
the one whose life would be lost. But too often the
short assignments left the angel with time only to dry
tears and say a few words and take his assignment
Home. Then he would come back still smiling,
heartened by memories of rejoicing in Heaven, but at odd
moments she would find him staring off... seemingly
staring back into time and what had happened.
Neither she nor any of her friends would be able to fully
dispel that shadow until he had time to grieve in his own
quiet, selfless way. She prayed the morning would
find him happy and at peace.
Andrew, too, was deep in thought. He knew that as
soon as he left Dyeland, he would go to a hospital in
Tulsa where he would sit with a woman name Lydia.
Though she was unconscious, God knew she longed to leave
the world hearing His Word. Thus Andrew would sit
beside her and read the Bible, holding her hand as he
did. He sighed as he thought of the assignment that
would follow: a young man who had apparently never taken
to heart the fact that he was, indeed, a mortal.
Shortly after midnight, unless his guardian angel's
counsel against speed and alcohol prevailed, he would wrap
his car around a tree and Andrew would take him Home,
too. And then there was the third
assignment... Of that Andrew only knew the
location. An alley in Manhattan. He assumed
the Father would tell him more once he was there. Or
perhaps Joshua would. The separation that would come
when their assignment together started wasn't yet
complete. The not knowing made Andrew uneasy but he
trusted there was a reason for it. God would be with
him no matter what came and by morning he'd be on his own
time again, free to go Home or curl up on his couch with
Lulu and a book or visit with friends.
"Laja," he murmured.
"Hmm?" JenniAnn looked up at him.
"Can we meet for breakfast?"
"Well, sure. Should I invite the others?"
"Maybe wait until the morning. I'll come find you."
JenniAnn nodded, understanding that Andrew didn't know
what sort of state he'd be in. "Is Violeta going
with you tonight?"
Andrew shook his head and smiled. "She's with
Monica. God sent them back to the Philippines so
they could visit some of their former patients. He
thought it would do them both good. I'm sure it
will. She'll be back sometime tomorrow, too."
Though happy for Monica and Violeta, JenniAnn wished the
latter was going with Andrew and could keep him
company. Still, there had to be a reason for his
going alone. She just wished she could shake the
feeling that something was going to befall Andrew that
They had danced through Joni Mitchell and another ballad
but suddenly "Master of the House" erupted from Andrew's
JenniAnn laughed and stopped moving. "I'm sorry but
I am not dancing with you to this."
Andrew smiled even as he blushed and scrambled to turn the
song off. "Sorry. I must have burned the whole
CD by accident."
"It's all right. But..." She looked at the
clock again. "It's 8:30."
Andrew pulled out his pocket watch and confirmed this was
so. "Hopefully tomorrow we'll have more time to prep
for the video."
JenniAnn hugged him. "Yes. I'll pray all goes
well for you and your assignments tonight, Andrew."
She stood on tiptoe to kiss his cheek. "G'night."
The angel warmly returned the hug and kissed her
hair. "Thank you and good night." He moved
towards the hall, knowing it sometimes unnerved JenniAnn
to see him fade away.
"Andrew?" she called just before he'd crossed the
He turned back and smiled at her. "Yeah?"
"I love you."
Andrew's smile grew. "I love you, too. Don't
wait up for me. I'll see you for breakfast."
JenniAnn nodded and sighed when she sensed the hallway was
Andrew shook his head as he saw the ambulance lights
drawing nearer. It was too late and he prayed that
the EMTs wouldn't take it too hard when they were unable
to revive the man behind the wheel. The angel of
death still wished that Marcus had made a different
decision but he was safe now... no one could hurt him in
Heaven, himself included.
Withdrawing his watch, Andrew saw that it was nearly 1:00
AM... time for his mysterious assignment. He tucked
the watch back into his pocket and looked up at the
stars. "Lead me, Father," he prayed.
Andrew surfaced in a dimly lit, frigid, rundown
alley. Snow was falling around him. The area
seemed vaguely familiar but he couldn't say why.
Then again, he was in Manhattan... a place he'd roamed so
often both while on assignment and when among
friends. Many places were familiar. But that
didn't tell him why he was there. Then he heard
it. First some rustling. Then a cry. A
Frantic, Andrew ran towards the sound. He let out a
soft moan when he saw a rustling garbage bag.
Immediately, he withdrew the naked, shivering baby it
contained. She was a newborn, her umbilical cord
still attached. And she was his assignment...
The angel of death sat down and placed the child in his
lap then pulled his scarf off. "Hello, sweet girl,"
Andrew murmured as he swaddled her in the thick, soft
material. She was so tiny that the scarf wrapped
around her several times. After undoing the buttons
of his coat, Andrew rested the baby against his chest then
rebuttoned so as to cocoon her between his sweater and the
fleece lining of his coat. Though she continued to
kick and flail, her crying ceased and he peeked down at
her perfect, tiny face. "Oh baby," he cooed.
"Where's your mama?" He looked around, desperately
hoping. "Hello?" he called. "Is anyone
here? Please, I need help." Being in angelic
form, Andrew knew no one would hear him audibly. But
if their spirits were open to hearing... maybe.
"There's a little one over here who needs help!" he
Rocking, both from anxiety and to stave off the chill,
Andrew waited. No one. He looked up to the
stars. Maybe the Father would let him take the baby
to safety. Maybe even let him... Andrew
couldn't finish the thought. Not unless he knew it
was possible. He couldn't bear it if not.
"What am I supposed to do?" he asked.
"Keep the baby warm, Andrew."
Joshua's voice. The angel of death relaxed... but
only a little.
"I... I'm doing my best to."
"I know. Thank you."
"Joshua, is she going to..." Tears filled Andrew's
eyes as he again peered at the baby. The breath left
him as their eyes locked. His arms tightened around
his coat and her. It wasn't enough. He could
comfort her, yes, but protect her... Andrew shook
his head. "I... I can't."
"Pray, Andrew. Pray that her mother will come for
her. Her mother must come for her. Love knows
no distance, Andrew. Just because no one heard your
calls earlier doesn't mean someone else won't hear you."
"A-and if her mother doesn't come? Then what?
And someone else? I... I don't know what you mean,
Joshua. What do you mean? Please tell me!" the
There was only silence.
But Andrew knew. If the baby's mother didn't come
then she would freeze to death. He bowed to kiss the
shock of black hair. Oblivious to the danger she was
in, the baby calmed. Despite his heartache, Andrew
smiled at her. "I'm not going anywhere, little one,"
he vowed. Then he began to sing "Tender Shepherd" as
he resumed rocking. In between rounds, Andrew
shouted for help and hoped that was what Joshua had meant
for him to do.
After being content for several minutes, the baby let out
a cry. Andrew again tightened his embrace. But
his coat was cold and no longer offered the baby as much
warmth. "I... I'm sorry," Andrew cried. "I
wish I could take you home... take you to Laja. She
would love you so much." His heart ached, the grief
mingling with his anger. JenniAnn so badly wanted a
child and someone had cast this tiny girl aside. It
wasn't fair. This baby should have had a good,
loving mother. She deserved that. All babies
deserved to be loved!
Andrew sighed raggedly. He couldn't give the baby
life but he could give her love. Even if she only
lived a few hours more, he would ensure she knew she was
loved. Andrew felt the newborn wriggle beneath his
coat, resting her cheek against his heart. "God
loves you. I love you," he whispered. They
were the most important words and he would be sure the
little one heard them over and over in whatever time they
Unbidden, the memory returned to Andrew of JenniAnn in her
office only hours before, calling him back just to tell
him she loved him. Then his memory lurched forward,
to Joshua's words.
"Love knows no distance,
Andrew gaped for a moment before letting out a sheepish
laugh. Joshua had answered him! He just hadn't
realized it. There was someone else whose love for
him didn't know distance! In her bedroom in Dyeland,
JenniAnn had once heard him cry out from a cave in
Afghanistan. Even before that she had seen him with
Cora when he was in Manhattan and she in Dyeland.
Laja would hear him just as she had before!
Andrew smiled down at the baby. "I'm getting us some
help." He closed his eyes, praying that he would
succeed. Opening his eyes, the angel stared at his
ring then looked around him, hoping JenniAnn would see
what he did and know where to go... would know wherever
"here" was. He could see no street signs, nothing of
note but maybe to her it would be familiar. He
didn't like the idea of his friend out in the dark of
night, alone, but then she wouldn't really be alone.
God wouldn't have led him to do this only to lead her into
danger. Andrew knew he had to try. Then, his
voice shaking, he called to her. "Laja, come.
Come find me. Please. Come find us."
The plea made, Andrew resumed his prayers and his lullaby
Snow was falling all around her, so thickly that JenniAnn
couldn't see anything until a form appeared. Her
view remained obscured but she knew it was him.
"Andrew!" she shrieked as she tried to reach him.
"Laja, come. Come find me. Please. Come
Snow blew up around him, making him disappear, and
JenniAnn screamed. Then her chest felt heavy and...
JenniAnn's eyes burst open. The first thing she saw
was a black snout. Lulu was on top of her and
The woman gasped and cuddled the dog to her. "Oh
Lulu... what's wrong?" She gently prodded her,
feeling for a wound or ache, and prayed. The basset
hound was getting quite old but she'd given no indication
of being sick.
Lulu pulled away and began to howl, setting Fawn off, too.
"Lulu, come..." JenniAnn's voice broke off as the
dream returned to her.
Andrew. Andrew had asked her to find him... them?
JenniAnn jumped off the bed and hastily threw on some
clothes, grateful that she'd worn leggings and a T-shirt
to bed and could simply pull jeans and a sweater over
them. Catching a glimpse of herself in the mirror,
It had only been a dream. This was crazy. And
Andrew could be anywhere in the world or in Heaven or God
only knew where else and she had no hope of finding
him. And yet...
Something in his voice... And simply the way she
felt. It reminded her of the night she had awoken
from their last shared dream, when she had heard him
scream for Badriya. She had felt so compelled to do
something. Crazy or not, she felt it again.
She grabbed her purse and then her cloak. She tied
it on then yanked up the hood. Next came her
boots. Then her scarf. She couldn't find her
gloves. She would go without. But where?
She clamped her eyes shut and prayed for guidance.
The alley. In her mind's eye, she saw it as it had
been that afternoon. The police.
Catherine. The dead body and flashes of silver and
the spirit and then... Andrew. Her Cupid.
That was the answer. She had to go back. Back
to where she'd first seen him. To the alley.
But which alley? She had never found it again,
didn't know what street it was on. And Manhattan had
countless alleys! She shook her head, dismissing the
distressing thought. She'd find him even if she had
to check every alley.
JenniAnn fled her room and ran as fast as she could to the
willow tree. Once through the portal, she began to
tear through streets and alleys. As she ran, she
fretted over what might be happening. What if Eben
had returned? What if he was hurting Andrew?
Or what if it was worse? What if Satan...
No. Andrew would never call to her in that
case. He'd do anything he could to keep her and the
others as far from them as possible. He certainly
wouldn't bid her to come face to face with demons!
Maybe he was injured... maybe it was like the time on the
soap opera set. Or worse... like when he was
homeless. Like Afghanistan...
The worries for Andrew distracted her for several minutes
before she realized the precariousness of her own
situation. She was running around, unarmed, in
Manhattan in the middle of the night. And she'd
never been strong. If someone came at her...
At that moment she saw someone... a man... a large man...
headed towards her. She began to grow panicked.
"Jesus!" the man shouted while still several yards
JenniAnn was so surprised by the outburst and the tremor
in the man's voice that she halted.
Unbelievably, the man was holding his hands in the
air. "Don't want any trouble!" he shouted.
"You just go on your way, man, and I go on mine."
Confused, JenniAnn nodded and resumed her running.
The man's reaction was mystifying but she didn't have time
to ponder it. Somewhere, her beloved was in trouble
and only finding him mattered.
A man came running into a vacant lot, and approached a
group of homeless men huddled around a trash can
fire. "He's back! The savior is back!"
A bulky man with hair and a beard that matched the fire's
flames snorted. "What are you talking about,
Samson drew closer and warmed his hands. He opened
his mouth then closed it when he noticed a stranger was
among them. "Who are you?"
"A friend of Sean's." The newcomer answered with a
smile as he looked from the red-haired man to Samson.
Sean chuckled. "As of this afternoon. This
here is Josh. He's trying to convince us to give
that new shelter a try. But that can wait.
"Don't know about the legend?" Samson asked.
Another man laughed and rolled his eyes. "Legend is
exactly what it is."
"What is this legend?" Joshua asked though he already
"Some of the old timers tell of a creature who roamed the
streets, ridding the city of murderers and rapists and
scumbags of other sorts. They say he had the face of
a lion and a mane to match. He had the strength of a
hundred men. And he wore a dark cloak... and
jeans. The jeans always got me. What's got
people going about that again?"
Samson grinned. "He's been spotted tonight,
Dice. On the prowl. Cloak and jeans and gold
mane a'flying and everything. Some people say he's
the Lion of Judah. You know, like in the Bible."
Joshua quietly let out a sigh and nodded. He smiled
at Samson then closed his eyes briefly to offer a silent
blessing. He was grateful that remembrances of
Vincent had kept his godchild safe and unmolested as she'd
run from block to block. Cloaked and thickly maned
with her own blonde hair, JenniAnn was a ringer so long as
no one got close enough to notice how petite and
non-leonine she was. Joshua smiled again. No
one would get close enough until...
"That's ridic..." Sean's voice cut off when he heard
The four men looked towards the sound.
"That... that..." Samson sputtered, his hand shaking as he
pointed to the cloaked figure who had come running into
"Is a chick," Dice finished as JenniAnn's hood fell back
when she stared up at the stars to plead. "Dude,
your big, tough savior is a chick. And she don't
look like no lion to me."
"She needs help. I'll be back soon." Joshua
pulled up the hood of his sweatshirt and approached the
weeping woman. "Miss, why are you crying?" He
held his hands out so he could help JenniAnn to her feet.
JenniAnn struggled to speak. The cold air had burned
her lungs as she'd run, searching for Andrew.
Finally, she pushed the words out. "My... my
friend... he... he's in trouble, sir. And I... I
don't know where he is." She stared at her helper
whose face was obscured by her tears and his hood.
Even at that, she felt calmed as she looked at him.
She noticed his hands were outstretched and she took them,
letting him help her to her feet.
For the briefest moment, Joshua allowed himself to hold
her. Then, when he was sure she was steady, he
stepped back. "It's going to be all right," he
assured her. "Follow me. I know where your
JenniAnn was surprised that her legs no longer felt wobbly
and her lungs no longer ached. But there was no time
to ponder it. She nodded and, content to have him
continue to hold her right hand, JenniAnn mutely followed
As they made the short journey, Joshua revisited Andrew's
and JenniAnn's shared past. He saw the alley as it
had been in 1987 when, for a brief but important moment in
time, it had held a four year old girl and an angel of
death. Joshua thought of that first meeting in the
Fields of Gold. The first hug. The first
dance. The first "I love yous." The first chaste kiss. The introductions of mutual friends.
The farewells. The shared dreams. The long
talks. This was the life he had willed for
them. Their lives together had begun in that alley
and now, with both of them there again, Annabelle's life
would be spared.
Joshua turned one final corner and squeezed JenniAnn's
hand. Though she couldn't see, he smiled at
She stared at him, trying to see more beyond his hood.
Gently, Joshua pushed her into the alley.
JenniAnn gasped. Andrew was huddled on the
ground! And he was cradling something.
Something moving beneath his coat. He had a
baby! She ran towards them and fell to her
knees. "My love!" she cried. "Wh-what..."
Grateful tears poured down Andrew's cheeks. "I... I
found her a-and... and He said her mother had to come for
her or... or..." His eyes grew wide. He was no
longer glowing. JenniAnn wasn't merely there to
help. She had ended his assignment. Awed,
Andrew noted how JenniAnn was gazing at the child with
such love... caressing her downy head. Joshua had
said the girl's mother must come or else... The
angel of death felt dizzy and giddy and spent all at
once. Her mother had come! JenniAnn had
come! The vision. The Christmas tree
ornament. This little girl was JenniAnn's
baby! Shaking with relief, Andrew unbuttoned his
coat and handed the baby to JenniAnn. "Take
her. I'll flag down a cab. We need to get her
checked out at a hospital."
Fresh tears welled in JenniAnn's eyes as she snuggled the
baby against her own chest. "It's okay, sweetheart,"
she cooed. "We're gonna get you warm and fed
a-and... and everything's gonna be all right."
Andrew ran out of the alley, pausing when he saw
When their eyes met, both sets were brimming. "Go
get the cab, Andrew. I'll meet you in the hospital
chapel. You'll know when. But go now.
I... I'll watch them until you're back."
Andrew hugged him then darted off.
Joshua watched as JenniAnn swayed back and forth while she
quietly sang the first song that popped into her
head. "'And the seasons, they go round and round and
the painted ponies they go up and down...'"
He sang along so softly that she didn't hear him.
The arrival at the hospital was a blur. Once the
baby had been whisked away for an exam and tests, Andrew
tried to explain to a social worker as best he could,
without revealing too much, how he'd found her.
JenniAnn took up the story, simply saying that Andrew had
called her for help... that he'd done so without the aid
of a phone was immaterial.
"I see. Well, we'll, of course, check with the
police to see if anyone has reported a missing baby.
Although I think all three of us know that this is likely
a case of abandonment. We'll get her into the system
as soon as possible. I'll start calling foster
Andrew pulled JenniAnn against him when he saw her begin
to teeter as all remaining color drained from her
face. He buried his face in her hair as she began to
"Laja... it... it'll be okay," he consoled. Tears
welled in his own eyes when she turned into his shoulder
and began to cry. She had held the baby all during
the cab ride, staring down at her with utter love and
devotion and awe. Already he believed the baby had
to be hers, Joshua's words could mean nothing else, but
what trials might come before that... Andrew didn't know.
"So if you'll excuse..."
"There you are, Talia!" a voice interrupted.
The social worker spun around. "Oh! Hi,
Kelly. I didn't know you were working tonight...
this morning, I mean."
Andrew's head shot up. He saw the newcomer and
beamed. He knew this Kelly very well.
"Oh, yes. So I'll take over here. Besides,
there's no need to call foster parents. I happen to
know Andrew is licensed as a foster parent and I have a
feeling that, given he's already bonded with the little
one as has his friend, we won't have any trouble placing
her." Kelly smiled at the angel of death who was in
too much of a stupor to respond beyond
"Well, great. I could use a coffee break.
Thanks!" Talia smiled gratefully at Kelly then
turned back to Andrew and JenniAnn. "All the best to
"Th-thank you," Andrew choked out.
"Kelly..." JenniAnn murmured, reaching for the angel's
hand once Talia was gone.
Kelly warmly squeezed her hand then tilted her head
towards an empty consultation room. "Let's the three
of us go somewhere a little more private so we can discuss
Still clinging to each other, Andrew and JenniAnn
Once all three of them were inside, Kelly waved to a couch
and closed the door behind them. "There's a lot I
need to go over with you both but, first, Andrew you need
to explain to JenniAnn everything that happened."
The angel of death nodded. He turned to JenniAnn and
took her hands in his. "I didn't know much about
this assignment when it started, Laja. All I really
knew was that I needed to go to an alley in
Manhattan. So... so I did. And I heard... her
crying. She... she'd been left amid some trash in...
in a garbage bag... so I picked her up and..." A
tear streaked down Andrew's cheek as he remembered the
baby's woeful sobs.
"You wrapped her up in your scarf and tucked her into your
coat," JenniAnn finished, gently stroking his back.
"Yes. I called out to see if anyone was nearby...
hoping for the mother but... no one. So I asked God
what I was supposed to do and He told me to keep the baby
warm. A-and to pray that her mother would come
because she had to come or otherwise..."
JenniAnn let out a sob.
Andrew squeezed her hand. "Then He said that... love
knows no distance and that even though no one had heard my
cries... or hers... yet... someone else would."
JenniAnn's head shot up. "I... I did. I had a
dream. And you said to come find you. So... so
Andrew beamed at her. "Yeah... you did."
"The... the homeless man! I wouldn't have found you
both without him... I-I don't even know how he knew it was
you I was looking for and I didn't even... I should have
given him some money for... for food at least..." JenniAnn
Andrew and Kelly exchanged knowing looks. Andrew
knew JenniAnn would agonize over this but he couldn't tell
her she'd been helped by God Himself.
"I... I couldn't see very well," JenniAnn continued.
"He was wearing some old jeans. The knees were worn
out. And a white hoodie. That and the dark
and... and me crying... made his face hard to see but I
know he had really dark hair and a short beard and he
looked like he had a darker skin tone. His hands...
he had good hands. But he could be any where and..."
"Andrew will go looking for him later," Kelly
Relieved, JenniAnn reached into her purse. She
frowned. "I don't carry much cash anymore but... but
here's what I have. Could you please give it to
him?" She held a twenty and a ten out to Andrew.
The angel took it, blinking back further tears.
Thirty pieces of silver then thirty dimes and now thirty
dollars for the King of Kings. "He... he'll
appreciate this very much, Laja. I will find him as
soon as I can."
JenniAnn hugged him.
Kelly gave them a moment then cleared her throat.
"JenniAnn, you need to really think about what Andrew just
told you. If the baby's mother hadn't come, Andrew
was going to take the baby Home," she reiterated.
"So... so the baby's still in danger of... of...?"
Andrew adamantly shook his head. "Laja, no."
He smiled lovingly. "You were so focused on helping
me with the little one that you didn't notice I stopped
glowing as soon as you arrived."
JenniAnn stared, trying to make sense of this.
Kelly knelt down in front of them and reached for
JenniAnn's hand. "Her mother came, JenniAnn.
You came." She stroked her hair. "May you
treasure the blessings of motherhood."
More tears welling in her eyes, JenniAnn looked to Andrew
for confirmation. He beamed at her and nodded.
"I'll leave you both for... for a few minutes," Kelly
excused herself, blinking back tears.
Andrew looked up to her, concerned she might be upset but
she smiled before exiting the room. He sighed.
Speechless, she brought his right hand to her lips before
beginning to sob. When finally she could speak, she
peered into his eyes. "A... a daughter."
Andrew's face glowed with happiness. "Yes."
"Thank you," JenniAnn murmured, kissing his right
cheek. "I love you." She kissed his left cheek
then beamed. A moment later, her face fell.
"I... I don't even have a name for her! I stopped
even thinking about it when... when I realized it probably
wouldn't... happen." She smiled again. Oh she
of little faith... But this was serious. They
couldn't keep calling the baby... her daughter... simply
"the baby"! "The last name I ever considered was...
was AnnaDru a-and I would like to honor you with her name
but that seems a little..."
Andrew chuckled. "Please don't call her
AnnaDru." He bowed his head. It was very close
to Annabelle, though...
"Well..." She paused, thinking back to that first
glimpse she'd had of them. From that moment up until
the baby had been taken by a nurse, Andrew had looked so
tenderly and lovingly at her. There was no question
in JenniAnn's mind that the baby was Andrew's, too.
"What would you like to name her?"
Andrew gave a small smile. "Laja, she's yours.
And yours to name."
JenniAnn shook her head. "You're going to be her
foster father. And then... then I imagine I'll be
able to adopt her?"
The angel nodded.
"And she will be my daughter in name and on paper a-and in
my heart and all ways that truly matter. B-but you
loved her even... even before I did. She was in your
arms first. In your heart first. I could see
it, Andrew. I still can. If... if I hadn't
come... if we'd never met... you would have asked Him...
Andrew closed his eyes when JenniAnn caressed his damp
cheek. He would have missed his work, especially
training Violeta. He would have desperately missed
going Home often. But he would have given it all up
had that been the only way to save the baby and God had
allowed it. But it hadn't been the only way...
Though Andrew hadn't responded, his answer was writ across
his face. JenniAnn sighed. "So... so now we
have this opportunity... this blessing together. And
I... I know it might be complicated if... if you were to
be known as her father. I can only imagine the
conclusions made if ever we were near for an assignment
and she called you 'Daddy.'"
Andrew looked to her with a slight smile. "Yes, that
could get complicated." He left off telling her that
they'd be on an assignment together very soon. His
assignments were in for enough of a shock when they
discovered they were sharing a stage with Jesus! If
any of them found out he was an angel of death and thought
he'd fathered a child... too much!
The angel's enigmatic smile brought a tender one to
JenniAnn's face. "B-but couldn't you be her uncle in
name but love her and... and care for her as a
father? Lotsa people have their kids call family
friends and such 'aunt' and 'uncle' so no one would
necessarily assume you were blood a-and... she doesn't
look like you so that would maybe prevent that
misunderstanding even more."
Andrew knew this was true. The baby was deeply tan
and had ebony hair. Her dark eyes had so startled
him because they seemed to be identical to
JenniAnn gripped his hand. "Andrew, we... we've
welcomed our friends together. We've seen them off
to lives elsewhere together. We've nurtured Shelby
and Max together. Heck, we've even given some
variation on The Talk to Violeta together."
Andrew laughed. "Awkwardly... but yes, we have."
"And so much more." JenniAnn let out a ragged sigh
when he stroked her hair. "The most important things
in my life, I've done with you. And I... I haven't
done so well when I've tried to do big life things with...
without you. And what could be bigger than
parenthood? I know... I understand... that you'll be
away as much as you usually are. I do. And I
will... I can... financially support her. Catherine
and Vincent have always been more generous than I'm due
a-and so that won't be a problem. But... I... I
can't be her father. You can... if you want.
A-and you do want. I know you do. And, Andrew,
I want to do this together. As... as
The angel of death bowed his head and recalled his
unfinished thought after he'd found the girl.
JenniAnn was right. In spite of the sacrifices, he'd
longed to take the little one home, to settle her into
Willowveil or Serendipity and build her a cradle and then
a whole life. But he did want the baby to be
Laja's. He would have smiled and cheered when it
came time to transfer custody to his friend. But
Kelly's appearance and her story made it impossible for
Andrew to ignore his own yearnings to claim the baby as
his own. Could it really be so simple that JenniAnn
wanted the same? He remembered what he'd said to her
on Christmas morning: Is anything too difficult for the
Not knowing what to make of the expression on Andrew's
face, JenniAnn sighed. "'Where you go...'"
"'I will go,'" he finished. "Your kid will be my
kid." Andrew smiled. "I want to do this
JenniAnn shrieked with happiness and threw her arms around
his neck. "We have a baby!"
"Yeah. We do." Andrew nuzzled her hair and
sighed. "And she still doesn't have a name," he
reminded as he both laughed and cried.
"You have a name. I can tell. What is it?"
Andrew nodded, taking both her hands in his and staring
down at them. "Laja, I... I saw something.
This past Christmas."
"What do you mean 'saw something'?"
The angel looked up to meet her gaze. "Like... like
JenniAnn studied his face. "Like a vision from
God? Was it a good vision?"
Andrew nodded again. "Very good. I... I saw
you with a baby. A-and you were standing in front of
my Christmas tree. I didn't tell you because I... I
didn't want to get your hopes up if the baby was only a
cousin or friend's baby or... or something but... but I
really did feel like she was yours. And there was an
ornament. It was dated 2014 and..."
"And you believed it was a true vision?"
JenniAnn remembered how happy he'd been at
Christmas. Now she suspected she knew why. "Oh
love..." She hugged him again.
"There was a name on the ornament, Laja."
JenniAnn pulled back. "What was the name?"
Andrew smiled fondly. "Annabelle." He
blushed. "Actually, I've thought for a few years
that if you had a little girl, she should be named
Annabelle. It means 'favored grace.'"
"Annabelle..." JenniAnn murmured.
"It's got the An- sound from... from both our names and
then has a nice Beauty and the Beast vibe."
"You don't have to convince me. Her... her name is
Annabelle. I... I love it. I love her."
JenniAnn smiled tenderly, longing to hold Annabelle... her
daughter... their baby... again.
Andrew rested his forehead against hers. "And I love
Before any more could be said, someone tapped lightly on
the door. A moment later, Kelly poked her head
in. She smiled. "The doctor would like to see
Andrew and JenniAnn scrambled to their feet and moved to
the hall. The latter threw herself at the doctor
when she saw her.
Portia laughed as she returned the hug. "Well, it's
good to see you, too, Psyche." She beamed at
Andrew. "And you. When I saw the names Andrew
and JenniAnn on the little one's papers I really hoped it
was you two and then when I saw Kelly..."
"How... how is she?" JenniAnn asked.
"She's good. A little smaller than we'd like but she
was enjoying a bottle when I left her so I think that's
temporary! No signs of frostbite. She's
getting really close to maintaining a 98 degree
temp. Hip alignment is perfect. Strong heart
beat. Good ears. She, umm..."
Andrew felt JenniAnn tense and marveled at how quickly
that maternal hyper-attentiveness developed.
"She's trembling some. It could just be the
strangeness of it all and I'm sure she's wanting to be
back with you both. But there's a chance it's a
symptom of drug withdrawal." Portia set a reassuring
hand on her friend's arm. "Please don't worry too
much about it. We won't have results back on drug
testing for a bit yet and even if they come back positive
the best treatment may turn out to be simply rocking her
and keeping her wrapped up and feeling secure."
"O-okay." JenniAnn nodded resolutely. "How...
how long do you think she was out there?"
"Based on the condition of her umbilical cord and the lack
of frostbite, I'd say she was left not long at all before
Andrew found her."
"So... so she was born just today... or late yesterday?"
"No doubt about that. That baby's only a few hours
Andrew and JenniAnn let out ragged sighs in unison.
Neither could understand how someone could abandon a baby
like that. Everything in her warring against the
idea, JenniAnn tried to convince herself that perhaps it
was all a misunderstanding... like with Cora and
Vincent. But, no. Cora had wrapped her son in
a soft blanket... not rolled him up in a garbage bag.
Kelly set a hand on each of their arms. "Right now
you need to focus on the fact that she has her whole life
ahead of her with a mother and..."
"Fatherly uncle," JenniAnn interrupted, casting an
admiring glance at Andrew.
Kelly beamed. "Fatherly uncle who love her."
Portia nodded. "Would you like some time with her?"
"Y-yes, please," JenniAnn answered.
Andrew took her hand. She looked so tired but he
knew better than to ask if she wanted to rest.
"Thank you, Portia." He smiled at the doctor before
turning to Kelly. "Are you coming?"
The angel shook her head. "I'll be around
later. Right now this is time for the three of you."
"Thank you, Kelly." JenniAnn smiled and waved to her
as Portia led them down a hallway.
"Thankfully, we have a few of our maternity rooms free so
I'll get you set up in one of those."
"That's okay? I don't want to get you in trouble,"
"You won't. Besides, your girl's going to need a
room when not in the nursery. These days, we try to
keep the babies there as seldom as possible. And
even if anyone was opposed, they won't push it. I'm
only here because another doctor had to leave town for the
week very suddenly so I'm doing them a favor taking over
her schedule at the last minute. Although..." Portia
turned to them and grinned. "Maybe it wasn't really
the only reason." Away from the eyes of her
colleagues, Portia began to jump up and down then pulled
JenniAnn into a hug, forcing her to jump, too. "I'm
so happy for you! And Vincent and Catherine are
going to freak out! A cousin for Jacob! And
Persephone will be a wonderful babysitter in time!
And Owen is going to flip and insist on painting the
nursery! And your parents! All your
friends! And Max! And Violeta! And
Shelby! A new baby for your, uh... unique
brood. A-and..." The woman's gaze shifted from
JenniAnn to Andrew. He had stood by her friend
through so much, had given her so much and asked for so
little. Portia hugged him. "This little one
will be so blessed to have you in her life, Andrew.
Just as... as we all have been."
JenniAnn began to cry, sure it was for the millionth time
in the past couple of hours.
"Th-thank you," Andrew managed, warmly returning the hug.
With a happy sigh, Portia pulled away and opened the door
of the nearest empty room. "Go in and make
yourselves comfy. Lie down if you want. I'm
sure you're both exhausted. And, really, don't worry
about it. We're not even close to max
capacity. This room would just sit here empty,
otherwise. I'll get your little one in here as soon
as possible. Have you decided on a name, by chance?"
"Annabelle," Andrew and JenniAnn responded together.
Portia smiled. "I love it and so will she. Be
Alone again, Andrew and JenniAnn gaped at each other for a
moment. Then they began to laugh at the wonderful
whirlwind of absurdity.
Andrew noticed when JenniAnn began to teeter and he
grabbed her, leading her to the bed. "I know you
won't sleep yet... and I don't blame you. But you
should at least get off your feet. How... how long
were you running? And how far?"
JenniAnn shrugged. She honestly didn't know.
It had seemed an eternity that she had worried she might
not find him. But it had been worth it... so worth
it. Sighing happily, she settled onto the bed and
only a few moments later, Portia returned with a
"Here she is!" she cheered, lifting the baby and handing
her to Andrew.
Awed, Andrew sat down on the edge of the bed.
Silently, Portia left the room and closed the door behind
"Look at her, Laja..."
JenniAnn rested her cheek against his shoulder and peered
at her daughter.
"You want to hold her?" Andrew offered.
She did but right then she wanted even more to see Andrew
holding her and feeling such happiness. He'd looked
so distraught when she'd first glimpsed him. Now he
looked blissful. "In a lil bit. Look... look
at her tiny hands."
"They're perfect. She's perfect." Andrew bent
to kiss Annabelle's hair.
"We love you so much, Annabelle," JenniAnn murmured.
JenniAnn smiled. "She still needs a middle
name. I don't suppose that was on the ornament?"
Andrew chuckled. "No such luck."
"I have an idea."
"Well, I actually... for a moment I almost dismissed the
dream. But I felt so like when... when I heard you
cry out for Badriya in Afghanistan. I knew I
couldn't ignore it. That I had to do something
tonight just as I'd had to do something then. If not
for her... would I have come? Back when... when you
first told us about Badriya, I looked up the meaning of
her name. Because I thought it was beautiful.
It means 'full moon.' So... so I'd like to name our
girl Annabelle Luna because that means moon, too.
And though she may not have known it, Badriya was partly
responsible for bringing you back to us a-and for... for
bringing the three of us here."
Andrew settled Annabelle into the crook of his left arm
and pulled JenniAnn into an embrace with his right.
He softly kissed her temple. "I... I think that
would mean a lot to Badriya. I know it means a lot
Before any more could be said, there was another knock on
the door. Portia poked her head in, wincing.
"Sorry! Sorry! I really will leave you alone
but I got to thinking and... Catherine will kill me, and
probably your mom would help, if I don't get a photo of
your first night with her."
JenniAnn smiled. She would have been disappointed
herself later on if they'd had no such photo.
The angel nodded, beaming at Portia and the camera.
"Now one with her mama holding her."
JenniAnn sighed as Andrew returned Annabelle to her
arms. She smiled then thanked Portia as she, once
Softly, JenniAnn began to sing. "'Then the child
moved ten times round the seasons, skated over ten clear
frozen streams. Words like "when you're older must"
appease him... her. And promises of someday make her
Pausing in her song, JenniAnn's gaze traversed back and
forth from Annabelle and Andrew before finally settling on
the baby. "No matter what the future brings,
Annabelle, don't ever forget that sometimes the... the
promises of someday really are more than... than
dreams. Sometimes they're fulfilled. Like...
like for us with you."
For the first time, JenniAnn kissed her daughter and sang
her to sleep as Andrew held them both. As he did, he
noted the joy and the peace that shone in his friend's
eyes... eyes made even brighter than those in his
vision. The angel closed his own eyes and thanked
God for that moment and every other one that had led to
Finally, JenniAnn had agreed to return the sleeping
Annabelle to her bassinet and go to bed herself. Now
she was sleeping, curled towards the baby.
Andrew was settled on a nearby couch, watching over them
both. He could barely contain the joy and relief and
love he felt. Soon he realized that he couldn't
contain it at all! That's when he knew he had to go
to the chapel. Before leaving the room, the angel
kissed JenniAnn's hair and Annabelle's cheek. He
paused at the door to gaze at them and smiled before
stepping into the hall.
"Everything all right?" Portia called, seeing him as she
stepped out of another room.
Andrew nodded. "Everything's... perfect. I
just need to visit the chapel for a little bit. I'll
be back soon. They're both sleeping but if JenniAnn
wakes and asks..."
"I'll tell her. Go. I trust you know where
it's at?" Portia was confident there wasn't a hospital in
New York that Andrew wasn't familiar with.
"I do." He hugged her. "I'm really glad you're
"Back at you. And just so you know... I haven't told
anyone. But if you and JenniAnn could make some
calls before I leave at 2:00..."
Andrew chuckled. "We will. We won't put you in
the position of having to keep quiet about this back
"Thank you! See you in a bit."
Andrew grinned all the way to the chapel. He was
unsurprised when he found it empty save one man... a man
in worn jeans and a white hoodie.
"Joshua," the angel greeted.
Joshua rose from the pew he'd been sitting in and
smiled. "Andrew. Well done!" He held his
arms aloft, closing them when Andrew stepped into his
As the enormity of it all hit him, Andrew began to
sob. "I... I was so upset when it started and I... I
thought she... would die and I couldn't underst-stand why
you... sent me when you knew..."
Joshua's embrace tightened. "I knew it pained you
that JenniAnn didn't have a child. And I knew that
the cases involving children have always been among the
most difficult for you but it had to be you this time,
Andrew." He sighed and led the angel to a pew before
taking a seat beside him. "There's a lot I want to
tell you but I would prefer to tell you and JenniAnn
together, in time, assuming..."
Wiping at some tears, Andrew glanced over at Joshua.
"Assuming she believes you're you? She will,
Joshua. I know she will. It just... it may
take some time. You know how it is. Sometimes
people want to believe something so much that... that when
it comes they can't because they know it'll break their
hearts if it turns out not to be." He smiled.
"Like me tonight. But she'll see, Joshua."
Joshua smiled, hugging Andrew's shoulders. "I
believe she will. But for now I want you to know
this and tell her this. The woman who gave birth to
Annabelle was in a great deal of emotional turmoil.
She didn't know she was pregnant and she didn't want to
be. She doesn't know who the father is. She
didn't..." He shook his head. "She doesn't
want Annabelle. After she gave birth, she abandoned
the little one to die. She didn't want to be a
mother and so... she's not. JenniAnn is Annabelle's
Andrew nodded. All at once he felt sympathy for
someone who could be so confused but also anger that she'd
allowed her pain to harm an innocent. He exhaled
slowly. But God had, once again, turned chaos into
beauty. Annabelle was safe and loved and desperately
Joshua continued, his voice becoming softer. "Dad
and I sent you because you alone among all the angels of
death could call to Annabelle's mother, to JenniAnn, and
bring her to you both. That will be important to
Annabelle in time. When she grows older and
questions why... why her birth mother abandoned her... why
she... rejected her... why she didn't love her... you will
tell Annabelle that love brought her true mother to
her. And that you saw, the moment she laid eyes on
her, that JenniAnn loved her utterly and completely.
And..." Joshua chuckled. "When nights are long
and sleep elusive because Annabelle is fussy... when she
looks at you both with that scowl that only teenagers can
pull off... and JenniAnn frets that she doesn't know what
to do and you're at a loss yourself... remember this first
night. I didn't outright tell you to call for
JenniAnn because this way she will always cherish that you
thought of her, that you chose to call to her because you
cherished those earlier memories of when she heard
you. The love you have for each other broke across
worlds to save Annabelle. If it can do that, it can
definitely conquer colic and teen angst."
Andrew laughed. "I will remember. We will
remember." He sighed, reaching for Joshua's
hand. "So... JenniAnn will definitely get the
baby... uncontested?" Andrew couldn't bear for her
to deal with a custody dispute.
"Yes. Even if the birth father knew about her, he
would be... uninterested."
The angel of death bowed his head when he saw anger
briefly flash across Joshua's face.
"There will be legal proceedings that will take time as
usual but, yes, JenniAnn will get permanent custody,"
Joshua assured. "No one else will try to adopt
Annabelle. The only other person who would have any
reason to make a claim on her is her foster father and I
have a feeling he won't be an issue." He looked
slyly over at Andrew, playfully punching him in the arm to
try to rouse him out of his giddy daze. "Kelly will
fill you in on more details about that but in short:
Annabelle will stay here for a few days for
observation. They'll want to keep her
until..." Joshua frowned, squeezing Andrew's
The angel set his other hand over Joshua's and
sighed. "When... when she shivers sometimes... it's
not because she's cold or upset... is it?"
Joshua shook his head. "Portia's suspicions are
accurate. Withdrawals. Heroin. Annabelle
will need lots of cuddling and care. Keep her
swaddled. Trust me, it's comforting." He
smiled over at Andrew, glad when the angel returned the
smile. "We both know it's not an ideal way to start
a life but... Annabelle has two loving parents to help her
"So... so it's okay to be that? Her... 'fatherly
uncle' as Laja put it?"
Joshua laughed. "Of course. Every baby
deserves to have someone to be father and mother. If
one or the other doesn't happen to be the 'actual'
parent... well, I've heard that works sometimes. I
mean... I grew up okay, didn't I?" he teased.
"'In wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and
man.' But I'm no Yosef!" Andrew replied with a
"No, you're Andrew. And that's good, too."
Andrew let the words sink in. "Thank you. And
on behalf of Laja, too."
Joshua smiled. "I've heard her gratitude."
Andrew jolted. "I almost forgot." He reached
into his pocket. "She wishes she'd thought of it
back in the alley but..."
"She was pretty intent on her daughter and her Andrew,"
Joshua finished knowingly.
Andrew grinned. "Yeah. But she wanted you to
have this." He handed the money to Joshua. "I
know you don't really need it but... but if she ever puts
this all together and I think she will... it would be
better if she knew she'd at least done this for you."
Joshua nodded, accepting the money. "Please tell her
that I'll take the guys out to breakfast with this and
that I thank her a-and pray for her and for your family."
"I will," Andrew vowed. "I thought the thirty was
"Yes." Tears pricked Joshua's eyes as he thought of
the baggie of thirty dimes tied with a hot pink ribbon and
left on the altar of a little girl's church.
Andrew hugged him. "Soon, right?"
Joshua smiled. "Yeah."
They both sat in silence for a few moments.
"I... if you're willing... I want to make the
change. Now. When... when Annabelle does
struggle with... with what her birth mother did, I will
tell her about Laja. But I also want her to know,
that while I had an abundance of reasons, the... the final
one was... was her."
Joshua rose and, turning from Andrew, began to examine the
woodwork on a lectern. He didn't want to sway the
angel with his own reaction. The final choice had to
be Andrew's. "You don't want to wait until
Valentine's Day as you planned?"
Andrew shook his head. "No. I feel like...
like you planned for today."
A proud smile spread across Joshua's face and his eyes
shone as he turned back to face his angel. "Yes, I
"And I'm ready." Andrew knelt in front of his
Creator and bowed his head. "Thy will be done."
Setting his hands on Andrew's hair, Joshua began to speak
in the language he had used to speak all that was and is
and will be into existence. As he did, the chapel
became drenched in light.
Andrew felt as if every cell in his human form was on fire
but it was a warm, comfortable blaze. As it spread
through him, flashes of memories... the past fourteen
years as Joshua had seen them... flitted through his
mind. As the memories progressed, Andrew knew in his
spirit and in his soul that every moment had led to this
one and he thanked God. Then, gradually, the feeling
lessened as did the light. The angel peered up at
Joshua with absolute love and took his hands.
Just as he had when Andrew had been ready to take his
first steps, Joshua gently tugged him up onto his
feet. He beamed at the angel and kissed his right
cheek and then his left cheek.
Outside Andrew's bedroom window at Serendipity, a light
wind rose up. It pushed the window open, allowing
for a pure white dove to enter the home. The dove
flew throughout the rooms and then, finally, made its way
to the main hallway.
The bird alighted ever so softly on Andrew's rose and
cooed. As it did, the last of the petals turned from
white to red.
Back at the chapel, Joshua continued to smile. "And
so it starts. I'm so proud of you, Andrew, and I
love you so much. Enjoy this chapter of your
life." He hugged the angel again.
"I love you, too, and... I will. Thank you for
writing it," Andrew warmly replied, returning the embrace.
"You're welcome. Go back to them now.
Annabelle's going to wake in a moment, wanting her
bottle. You should be there for that."
Andrew nodded. As much as he loved being in Joshua's
physical presence, he did want to return to Annabelle and
JenniAnn. "Will I see you again soon?"
"You really think I could stay away when you're going to
get started on a cradle?"
The angel laughed. "No. I'll see you then."
"How do you feel?"
Andrew grinned. "As Violeta has recently taken to
saying... everything is awesome sauce!"
Joshua laughed. "Good. Give them both a hug
"Of course... until you can yourself."
Joshua nodded, hoping and praying that would come to pass.
With a final smile and wave, Andrew exited the chapel and
made his way back to their room. Annabelle began to
fuss just as he stepped in.
"Don't get up," Andrew urged when JenniAnn bolted up into
a sitting position. "I'll hand her to you.
She's hungry. I'll go ask someone for her formula."
Shaking off her sleepiness, JenniAnn nodded then began to
coo and sing once she had Annabelle in her arms.
After finding a nurse, Andrew returned with her. She
gave them a few pointers on feeding then, once again, it
was just the three of them.
JenniAnn giggled as Annabelle eagerly began sucking down
the liquid. "Look at her little cheeks! And
those eyes... She has the most beautiful eyes.
Well, her and..." She halted when Andrew made eye
contact with her. There was something in his eyes...
a different sort of weariness than any she'd ever seen in
those soft green orbs she loved so much. But the
weariness was coupled with such excitement! She didn't need to
ask. She knew that, if it were possible for her
to go back to Dyeland right then, she would find a fully
red rose in Andrew's hallway. "My... my love..."
Andrew wrapped his arms around her. "Where you will
go, I will go... eventually with gray hair and wrinkles."
JenniAnn nodded. "And I will love each one for...
for being part of you. But... when... where?"
"The chapel. Just now. In time, I want her to
know that of all the reasons leading up to my choice...
she was the final one."
"Andrew..." JenniAnn was so moved she didn't know what
more to say.
Andrew smiled and kissed her hair. "As it happens,
your guide was there. I gave him the thirty
dollars. He said to thank you and that he's taking
the guys he was with out for breakfast. And he's
praying for us, for our family."
"So kind. I wish there was more... Did he look
"He did," Andrew assured.
"What are the odds he'd be in the chapel right when you
were? Well, coincidence is when God chooses to
remain anonymous, after all!"
Andrew buried his face in her hair when his eyes
welled. If only she knew how accurate she was.
"Yes." He took in a deep breath then peered down at
Annabelle. "I think it's time for her first story."
"And you have a story in mind?"
JenniAnn beamed, sure she knew which story he meant to
tell. "Then we will both listen avidly."
"Once upon a time, there was an angel of death. Now,
it's really, really important to know, Annabelle, that
angels of death aren't bad or scary. Although maybe
this one could sometimes have a bit of excess pride and be
a little too..."
Andrew chuckled. "Exactly. So one day this
angel of death was walking in a field. The people
who lived there called it the Fields of Gold because
during the spring and summer the sun shines so beautifully
there and golden grasses rise high and wild. The
angel was admiring the beauty of the place when he heard a
song... a song your mama had written for him... for me."
JenniAnn listened happily as Andrew told their story
which, for the first time, contained a chapter she had
Shortly after 8:00 AM, Andrew and JenniAnn began the task
of making calls, mindful of the promise to Portia and
eager to share their news. After gushing along with
Robert and Allison, Andrew had left the room to give
JenniAnn some time to speak with her parents alone.
He made his way to the empty waiting room and sunk onto a
couch, pondering it all over in his mind.
"Hey," a voice called after a few minutes.
Andrew looked up to see he was no longer alone. A
young man who appeared to be in his mid to late twenties
had taken a seat on the couch across from him. He
smiled. "Hi. How are you?"
The man grinned. "Really good. My wife had a
baby last night. A son." He proudly held out
his cell phone to display a photograph.
"Looks like you got a strong boy there," Andrew
praised. "Firstborn?" he guessed.
"Yeah. How about you?"
Andrew hesitated. Should he say he'd just welcomed
his niece or his daughter? When he noticed the man
was beginning to grow wary, he settled on his
answer. "A little girl."
"Congratulations!" The man held out his hand.
"Andrew. Congratulations to you and your wife!"
"Thank you. I hope they both wake up soon. I'm
only out here because I was afraid I wouldn't be able to
keep myself from waking them. Hey, so do you think
this is okay?" Carlos held a small box out to Andrew
and opened it to reveal a string of pearls.
"They're, uh, very pretty."
Carlos laughed at the angel's confused look. "Well,
thanks. So what did you get for your wife?"
Andrew blushed and shook his head. "Oh, I'm not
Carlos shrugged. "Okay but, man, surely you got your
girl something, right?"
Andrew blinked. "Is that... customary?"
"Yes! Ooh boy... you better get yourself down to
that gift shop or you'll be on the couch."
Andrew deemed it not worthwhile to explain that he was
likely to wind up on the couch, anyway. But it did
seem appropriate to get JenniAnn some token of his
gratitude and his love and the hope he carried for their
lives and Annabelle's going forward. He stood.
"I'll do that. Thank you, Carlos."
"Good luck, man!" Carlos called.
"Thanks! I hope you can see your wife and son
soon." Andrew smiled again then made a beeline to
the elevator and rode it down to the lobby. He'd
almost reached the gift shop when it occurred to him that
he should have told JenniAnn, Kelly, or Portia that he'd
stepped away. But surely it wouldn't take
long. He hurried into the shop and approached a
"Can I help you with anything, sir?"
Andrew gulped. He'd never done this before.
He'd never expected to. "My, uh..."
The saleslady noticed his spit-up stained shirt and mussed
hair. "New baby?"
"Looking for a mother's gift?"
"Well, maybe start with her birthstone. Or the
Andrew nodded. That made sense. But his brow
furrowed and he frowned as he surveyed the options.
Most were too expensive and didn't suit JenniAnn,
anyway. There was some affordable costume jewelry
but he knew she'd find it too gaudy. Besides, he
wanted something she could have for everyday... not
something she'd put away and only bring out for special
occasions. He surveyed the rest of the shop then
wandered towards some baby items. And then he saw
it... something JenniAnn and Annabelle could share.
Smiling, he picked up his selection and brought it to the
"I'd like this, please."
"Is that... all?" the woman asked with a disapproving
Andrew grabbed some batteries then nodded.
Once he'd paid, Andrew cheerily accepted the bag and
wished the clerk a good day before heading back to the
maternity ward. He knocked lightly on the door and
entered when JenniAnn called for him. He was pleased
to find her feeding Annabelle again.
"So when can we expect your parents?" he inquired with a
"Well... they're coming to town this afternoon and heading
to Cora's to stay at Vincent's request. They said
they'll call again when they're settled in. They'd
like to come up this evening to meet Annabelle.
Catherine, too. And Vincent..." JenniAnn
frowned. It pained her to think he'd have to wait
possibly days to meet his granddaughter. She
brightened when Andrew stroked her hair. "Well,
we'll see him when we leave. Oh and I did get a call
from Monica. She and Arthur are coming with
overnight bags for us. I said one or the other of us
would meet them for lunch in the cafeteria.
Violeta's coming, too. I hope that's okay. If
Annabelle happens to be sleeping, maybe we can both go."
Andrew caressed the baby's hair and nodded. "That
JenniAnn noticed the bag. "Where did ya go?"
Andrew sat beside them on the couch. "The gift
shop. There was a new father in the waiting room who
got on my case for not getting a mother's gift."
"Oh, Andrew. That's really not..." JenniAnn
kissed Annabelle. "Having you both happy and safe is
"I... I know but when I saw this... well, I thought it was
the perfect mother and baby gift." Because JenniAnn
arms were full, Andrew removed the present for her.
"Andrew..." JenniAnn's face lit up. "It... it's
"It plays music and projects a bunch of stars and, well,
it's a frog!" The angel busied himself stripping
away the packaging and popping the batteries in.
Soon he had the frog working.
Annabelle's eyes opened and she stared at the stars.
"Look, sweetheart. Uncle Andrew brought us the
stars," JenniAnn cooed.
A lump formed in Andrew's throat. Uncle
Andrew. He loved the sound of it... he loved being
it. He settled more comfortably into the cushions
Careful not to disturb Annabelle, JenniAnn shifted just
enough to kiss Andrew's cheek. "Thank you. It
really is perfect. And very soothing." She
smiled. "And maybe not just for Annabelle."
Andrew himself looked like he could doze off at any
moment. "Rest now," JenniAnn urged. "You...
you've been through a lot in the past few hours."
"All worth it," Andrew murmured.
JenniAnn smiled tenderly at him as his eyes drifted closed
and he fell asleep.
Nearly an hour later, Andrew
was awoken by a high-pitched wail. His eyes shot
open and he saw JenniAnn pacing around the room, holding
Annabelle close to her.
"She... she just started shaking really bad and feels
clammy and hot a-and... I don't think she's just being
fussy. I was just about to call..." Tears slid
down JenniAnn's cheeks as she tried to soothe Annabelle.
The angel of death hurried towards the door. "I'll
go get help."
Only a few moments later, Andrew returned with Portia and
a nurse in tow.
JenniAnn handed the baby to the physician.
"Oh now... Poor dear..." Portia hummed a
lullaby as she examined the flailing infant.
Andrew moved to stand behind JenniAnn and wrapped his arms
around her shoulders, resting his chin on her hair.
"L-look. She's all sweaty a-and... oh Annabelle,"
JenniAnn moaned, reaching out to her.
Portia let JenniAnn stroke her daughter's hair and cheek
then handed the still crying infant to the nurse with
whispered instructions. She turned back to Andrew
and JenniAnn who gasped when the nurse left. "She's
just taking her to the nursery for a little bit. I
promise you that you'll see your girl later," Portia
consoled. "Psyche, I know this is terrible to see
but I have to be honest with you. It's not terribly
unexpected. I, umm, I just called the lab. The
test came back positive for heroin." She patted
JenniAnn's hand. "That TLC from the two of you will
go a long, long way in pulling your baby out of
this. But sometimes medical intervention is
necessary and I think we're at that point with
Annabelle. I'm going to start her on some morphine."
"D-does that mean she's in a lot of pain?"
Andrew twisted JenniAnn around to face him and caressed
her cheek. "Laja, I'm sure Annabelle's not very
comfortable right now but the morphine will help with
that. She just needs a little help getting through
these initial withdrawal symptoms."
"Was I holding her wrong that I... I hurt her?"
Tears rolled down Andrew's cheeks. "Laja, no..."
Brushing at her own tears, Portia tapped her friend's
shoulder so she'd turn around. "Psyche, please don't
think I'm minimizing this but... but I know you and I know
your lifestyle. So..." She forced a
smile. "Think about those times when you miss your
tea and coffee. All of a sudden your head feels like
someone has it in a vice grip. You could be
perfectly content at the time. You could even be
dancing with this guy." Her smile growing more
sincere, the doctor looked to Andrew who returned the
smile. "But right then your body decides it's
missing something and you feel it. It's not because
someone did or didn't do something and it hurt you.
It just happens. Trust me, Annabelle felt completely
content in her mama's arms before the withdrawal attack
hit. It's not your fault, not even one tiny
bit. Got it?"
JenniAnn nodded. "When can we have her back?"
"After lunch. Which you should really both spend
away from this room, anyway. It'll do you
good. Then you can have time with Annabelle this
afternoon although I do think observing her for a night in
the nursery would be good. It'd give you a chance to
catch up on sleep, too." Portia knew this wouldn't
soften the blow but it was true. Both of them looked
Andrew and JenniAnn frowned but trusted Portia's judgment.
"What about my parents coming this evening with
Catherine?" JenniAnn asked.
"I don't see any problem with that. I'm sure the
grands don't have any intention of blaring music or
jumping around with Annabelle."
JenniAnn smiled slightly and shook her head.
Andrew glanced over at the frog and pointed. "You
don't think that was too much stimulation, do you?" he
"I'm assuming she didn't seem upset when you used it?"
"She just stared up at the stars..." JenniAnn murmured,
remembering how content Annabelle had seemed.
"Then keep using it." Portia squeezed Andrew's
hand. "Your instincts are good. You've had
millennia to hone them after all."
The angel of death smiled. "Thanks. For
"You're welcome. It's just nice to know..."
Portia's voice drifted off.
"What is it?" JenniAnn prodded gently.
"I don't always know that the babies leaving here are
going to get the care and attention they need. It's
nice to know in this case that Annabelle will."
Portia hugged JenniAnn. "Things will get
better. I can feel it. And my instincts are
pretty good, too."
"You're welcome. Now, I'm going to go check in with
Miss Annabelle. I'll see you both later. You
take care of yourselves. She's going to need you
both strong and healthy."
Andrew and JenniAnn nodded. Once Portia had left,
they hugged each other tightly.
both joining us!" Monica cheered when she saw Andrew and
JenniAnn approaching the hospital's main lobby at a
quarter after 11, their agreed upon meeting time.
"But how did Andrew and Psyche have a
baby? Psyche said angels can't get married."
"Yeah. And why didn't Psyche's tummy get fat
like my mom's did when she had my brother?"
Owen turned away from the class and stifled some
laughter before facing Vincent. Word traveled
fast in the Tunnels... and not always accurately,
especially among the children. "This is all
yours to sort out. Your progeny, after
all. And I think Simone would be really pleased
by Leda's commentary on her tummy, don't you?"
Vincent mock scowled at his protege then turned to
their students. "Children come into families in
many ways. Andrew and Psyche did not have
Annabelle in the way your parents had you and your
brother, Leda. And you are right, Millie.
Angels don't marry."
"Annabelle is adopted. Like me and like Papa!"
Vincent beamed at his son. "This is exactly
right. Annabelle grew in another woman's belly
but she's unable to take care of her and so Andrew and
Psyche will. And I know they love her just as
much as if she had grown in Psyche's belly just as
Catherine and I love Jacob so."
"Now, as happy as Andrew and Psyche are to welcome
little Annabelle, she has come as a surprise. So
Owen and I are going to Willowveil to help prepare
Annabelle's nursery. Mary, Brittony, and Eliot
have graciously agreed to help you with any of your
studies or... you may make gifts or cards for
At their teacher's words, the children leapt from
their desks and dove for the art supplies.
Vincent smiled. He had known there would be no
studying that day.
The man crouched down to Shelby's height. "Yes?"
"When will we be able to see the baby? And is
she... I heard someone say she's sick."
Vincent pulled the girl into a hug. "She is
unwell but Portia tells me we have every hope of a
recovery. You know how well Andrew and Psyche
have cared for you when you've stayed at Willowveil
"Well, they'll pour lots of care and love onto
Annabelle, too. I don't know when we'll see her
but I know we will."
"Can I make her a yarn doll like Psyche taught me?"
"I am sure she would love that."
Smiling, Shelby ran off to join the others.
"You have your phone on if Catherine tries to reach
you? Or Psyche?" Mary checked with Owen.
"Do you have any idea what colors Psyche might prefer
for Annabelle? Myself and the other ladies in
the quilting circle would like to make something for
"Psyche had told me she wanted to paint the office
robin egg blue. I think we'll stick with that
even though she wasn't thinking of a nursery at the
time! If we want it aired out by the time it's
needed, we really can't wait. So there's that
and you know Psyche and her bright colors..."
Owen smiled. "She'll treasure whatever you make,
Noticing he was growing restless, Mary hugged
him. "Well, be off! We'll handle things
here." She stretched up to kiss Vincent's
cheek. "Soon, dear."
"Yes..." Vincent smiled. As difficult as
it was for him to be apart from his godchild, he knew
he would see her and his new granddaughter soon.
In the meantime, there was much to do. He and
Owen needed to get the office turned nursery in order
before Catherine arrived with the results of her
shopping spree. He followed the younger man
towards the portal and then to Willowveil.
"We're supposed to call the others when we're
ready. Max is chomping at the bit and driving
Rose crazy. Do you want..." Owen paused when he
saw Vincent holding a photograph of JenniAnn and
"I can remember one day, when she was very little, it
was just the two of us in my chamber," Vincent
mused. "I was planning lessons and she was
playing with her dolls. I couldn't help but
listen to her merry conversation among them.
Telling one or the other to stop teasing their sister
because 'I'm mommy and I say so.'" He
chuckled. "Miniature-Allison. I would
watch her cradle those babies of hers and coo and sing
them lullabies. Even then I thought she would,
on a day I was in no hurry to see yet wished for,
become a doting mother. So when Andrew entered
her life..." He shook his head.
Owen approached and set a hand on his shoulder.
"Andrew's told me that he never thought ill of you for
your reluctance. He understood."
"I should have never been so pessimistic, Owen.
While I grew to love Andrew, I fretted about Psyche's
childlessness even after God granted Jacob to
Catherine and I. Even after I had proof of so
miraculous a thing..."
"I'm sure God understands, Vincent. I'm not the
scholar Psyche is but even I know the Bible is filled
with stories of God giving people children long after
they'd given up hope. That's what twelve years
of Catholic school gets you!" Owen
grinned. "Maybe He cares more about the fact
that they clung to Him even when that hope was gone."
Vincent considered the words.
"What we know for sure is that Andrew and Psyche have
been gifted with a child and you, Robert, Allison, and
Catherine with a granddaughter. Be happy,
Grandpa! And help me move this desk."
"Grandpa..." Vincent murmured. Then he smiled
and helped Owen move furniture away from the walls so
the painting could begin.
Arthur rose from the bench he'd been occupying while
Violeta set off at a sprint. The man chuckled when
Andrew staggered after his trainee lunged at him.
"Were you like that when you were her age?" he playfully
"No, no. I was much less dignified," the caseworker
teased. "I nearly bowled over Moses a time or two."
Monica giggled. "I'm kidding." She grabbed
JenniAnn's suitcase then grinned at Arthur as she rolled
it away. "Moses wasn't even born yet."
"Right..." Shaking his head, Arthur slung Andrew's
bag over his shoulder. As they drew nearer and he
got a better look at the new parents, he reached for
Monica's hand. Andrew and JenniAnn looked wearied
and Violeta was visibly deflated.
"Oh Father..." Monica murmured. She hastened her
steps, Arthur hurrying along with her. "What is it?"
she asked once they reached the other three.
Andrew and JenniAnn took turns hugging their visitors and
then the former spoke. "Annabelle's going through
heroin withdrawals. We're confident she'll be
fine. So is Portia. But this morning was rough
to see." He squeezed JenniAnn's hand. "She's
in the best place she can be, though. Getting cared
for by a doctor who's also a friend. And JenniAnn
and I will get to spend more time with her after lunch."
"Do you think..."
JenniAnn smiled at Violeta and reached for her hand when
her voice tapered off. "You can come with us to see
her before we head to lunch. But she's getting
treated right now so we're just gonna look, okay?
We'll all have a... a lot of time to hold her later on."
The young angel nodded solemnly.
Monica drew in a deep breath and tried for her most
comforting smile. "I'm looking forward to that very
much but for right now... JenniAnn, you're coming back to
your room with Violeta and me. Andrew, you're going
with Arthur. We've brought you both a few changes of
clothes. I hope we chose well."
Though not particularly keen to separate, both Andrew and
JenniAnn relished the opportunity to change and clean
"I'm sure you chose just fine. Thank you."
JenniAnn smiled wearily then hugged Andrew and kissed his
cheek. "When and where will we meet up?"
"I'm just taking Andrew to my place. We can easily
be back in half an hour. But how about we make it
noon, right here?" Arthur suggested.
"Sounds like a plan." Andrew returned JenniAnn's
hug. "You'll be all right?" he whispered.
She nodded. "See you in a lil bit."
Once Andrew had released JenniAnn, Monica set her arm
around her shoulders and led her towards the
elevator. Violeta hugged her supervisor tightly then
followed. Andrew and Arthur watched them go, waving
when they stepped into the elevator, then departed the
Andrew stepped out of the bathroom, still wiping at his
hair with a towel. He sighed, glad to be in clean
"Sorry I don't have a hair dryer to offer you."
Arthur pointed to his own short hair. "This never
The angel smiled. "It's okay. I usually let it
dry on its own, anyway. Besides, you've already done
enough. I feel a lot better."
"Good. So I wasn't sure what to get you... a cigar
didn't seem appropriate."
Andrew chuckled. "You didn't have to get me
The man shrugged. "Hey, it's not every day a friend
becomes a... so are you Annabelle's father or uncle?"
"Uncle... with paternal responsibilities. JenniAnn
wants to do this as equals."
"And that's what you want?"
Andrew smiled. "Very much."
"Well, then... congratulations on becoming an uncle with
paternal responsibilities. I did get us a drink to
toast with." Arthur beamed and produced two bottles
of ginger ale from his refrigerator. He tapped his
bottle against Andrew's once he'd taken it. "To you
and to JenniAnn and to Annabelle. I know she'll come
through this and then everything is going to be
wonderful. And please know that you have a lot of
support. Monica and I stopped into the Cafe before
coming here and we saw Rose and Max and Fr. Mike's parents
and Kemara and several others who are absolutely thrilled
for you both."
"Th-thank you," Andrew smiled and took a sip of the
soda. It tasted wonderful after all the stale
Arthur tasted his ginger ale then looked back to Andrew
who was staring at nothing in particular. The man
bit his lip, trying to think of something to fill the
silence. "So, uh, I thought about trying to get some
of the other guys to come along but Monica wasn't sure...
we didn't want to overdo it. But maybe... I probably
should have brought someone you have a little more of a
history with," Arthur apologized. He admired Andrew
and liked him very much but they'd yet to have much of a
chance to talk just the two of them. Surely the
angel would have drawn more comfort from Max or Adam.
Andrew looked into the man's caring, compassionate gaze
and shook his head. "No. I'm really glad to be
spending this time with you, Arthur. I've wanted to
get to know you better. God's given us the
chance." He beamed. "So how's everything going
"Oh... well, the True Light shelter is taking up a lot of
my time but I love it. And it's good to be back
home. Especially after Monica made it a little
Andrew laughed. He was confident Arthur could have
done without the lace doilies on the coffee table and
several other decorative touches that betrayed Monica's
hand. But he could well understand how their
presence comforted him. He imagined it was similar
to how he felt about his friends' additions to his house:
evidence that they were woven into his life and he into
"And things with Monica are..." Arthur stared down
into his bottle, a goofy grin stretched across his
The angel of death smiled. "I'm very glad to hear
"Thanks." Arthur studied Andrew for a moment.
"How you doing? This has to be a little...
Andrew nodded. Even with his vision, he hadn't truly
been prepared for this. "It is. But... but
she's so precious and I'm so grateful to God for... for
our Annabelle." His throat suddenly feeling dry, he
took another sip.
"And JenniAnn? How's she holding up?"
Wet-eyed, Andrew smiled. "Really well. She
loves that little girl so much a-and..." The angel
cleared his throat.
Arthur realized why it had fallen to him to be with Andrew
in this moment. Henry and Eli were away on
angel would have put on a stoic front for Max, not wanting
to alarm the young man. Arthur hadn't gotten a
really good feel for Adam but sensed that he sometimes
struggled with showing his emotions and Andrew may very
well have mirrored that. But with him... there was
nothing to lose. "Andrew, it's okay," he assured,
holding out a tissue.
Tears rolled down Andrew's cheeks. "It was very...
very hard seeing Annabelle flail around a-and in some ways
it... it was even worse seeing Laja seeing that.
I... I'm used to this. I should be used to this
Arthur patted his shoulder. "It's different when
it's your family."
Andrew nodded. He set his ginger ale down and buried
his face in his hands. "I know God will get us
through this. I do. But right now... I wish I
could fix it."
Arthur sighed. "Yeah..." How often he'd wished
he could just snap his fingers and make crumpled buildings
rise and wounded children walk and the dead live
again. But he couldn't. Neither could
Andrew. "But here's what you can do. You can
give JenniAnn memories of getting through this thing
together so when there are other trials, she can look back
on this and know the both of you made it through.
And you can give Annabelle the beginning of a story about
two people who love her so much that they stuck by her
even when it hurt."
Andrew straightened up and rubbed at his eyes.
Arthur called to mind Joshua's words from earlier.
Their past would strengthen them in their future.
"You're right." He drew in a deep breath and let it
out slowly. "Definitely right." He
beamed. "You know, I'm really glad Gloria needed
Arthur laughed. "You and me both."
"We really do need to find a time to talk more. And
we will," Andrew vowed.
"Definitely. You need some company during those 3 AM
feedings, just give me a call."
Andrew's face lit up. While he knew his tune might
change eventually, having to get up for 3 AM feedings
sounded heavenly at the moment. "I'll do that."
"ESPN is still on at 3:00, isn't it? Or does it go
Andrew chuckled. "I'm not sure but I guess I'll be
finding that out soon."
Arthur smiled. "You will."
They finished their drinks while casually visiting and
then set off for the hospital.
Back on the maternity floor, JenniAnn was struggling with
some knots in her newly washed hair when Violeta grabbed
the brush from her.
"My turn to return the favor. Sit down."
"I'm doing it," the angel declared.
JenniAnn smiled and perched on the edge of the bed, her
back to Violeta.
"Sometimes I wish I was blonde..." Violeta mused as she
"And sometimes I wish I had dark hair. I think it's
one of those grass is always greener things."
JenniAnn smiled at Monica. "Sometimes I wish I had
Monica's hair color. I'd look more Irish that way."
Monica turned away from the bureau where she was putting
away JenniAnn's things and returned the smile. "You
both have lovely hair as it is."
"Thank you," the other two responded together.
JenniAnn sighed, snuggling her face into her fluffy
robe. Of everything Monica had brought, she was most
happy to have it... well, that and some of her hair sticks
that Violeta had tucked away. They made her happy
for reasons she couldn't quite explain. "Thank you
both for... for bringing us our stuff a-and just being
here. I'm sure you would have liked some down time
after being away."
"Being here for you, Andrew, and Annabelle is much better
than down time," Monica insisted.
Violeta readily nodded. "He's my supervisor and
you're both my friends. I had to be here."
"Do you... I mean... I made it pretty clear to Andrew that
I wanted him to... to consider Annabelle as his own but
that was before... I... I didn't mean to add more to
the... the responsibilities he feels for..."
The caseworker moved to stand in front of JenniAnn who had
begun to cry again. "JenniAnn, you know better than
that. Even if you'd found Annabelle yourself, you
know Andrew would be right here with you. He would
have chosen that. And he has chosen that.
Think of Max. No one forced him to stay with him as
he did. That was all Andrew. The Father would
have been perfectly happy with him remaining in angelic
form through it all. And now... now the Father would
have been perfectly happy for Andrew to play doting friend
to your wee one. But that's not what Andrew
wanted... he wanted more and the Father is very happy for
JenniAnn sighed and smiled dreamily. That was Andrew
all the way. "You're right. Of course.
I... I'm just..."
Violeta handed her a tissue.
Monica patted her hair. "You're tired and stressed
and sleep deprived and you've been drinking truly terrible
JenniAnn laughed as Monica wrinkled her nose at an
Violeta giggled then set down the brush and hugged
JenniAnn. "Do you remember when you told me about
that case you all worked with Andrew in that town in
Iowa? Remember how it helped Andrew to do all that
weird stuff with the sports equipment so he could feel
like he was protecting you and Rose and the others?"
"Well, I... I've worked some cases now with Andrew when...
when children were hurt. He's just so sad when that
happens. Now he can do some version of the sports
thing again. That's how he'll cope with those
assignments... by protecting his Annabelle, your
The woman swiveled around and smiled proudly at
Violeta. "I... I think you're right. And
you've learned so much, Violeta. One day you're
going to be an absolutely wonderful angel of death."
"I still have a lot to learn!" Violeta insisted.
JenniAnn nodded, knowing the teenager was none too eager
to be out from under Andrew's wing. "Yes and I'm
glad of that, too, hon." She patted her cheek then
drew in a deep breath and let it out. "We'll be
fine. God is with us."
"He is," Violeta asserted as she slid a hair stick into
JenniAnn's hair. If only she knew how close He
"It's getting close to noon. I best get dressed and
then..." JenniAnn smiled. "We'll go see Annabelle
Monica and Violeta both beamed.
When noon rolled around, the five made their way to the
nursery. Portia waved from behind the glass and then
beamed down at Annabelle.
"Oh..." Monica murmured.
"She's so cute!" Violeta cried.
"Look at all that hair already!" Arthur exclaimed.
"Good thing she's going home with people who have a good
handle on long hair care."
Andrew chuckled, amused by the comment and heartened by
the way JenniAnn was beaming.
"She's so lovely." Monica pulled Andrew and JenniAnn
into a hug. "Absolutely beautiful."
"She is..." JenniAnn cooed.
Portia held up a finger, said a few things to a nurse, and
stepped into the hall.
"How's our girl doing?" Andrew asked as calmly as he could
"The morphine seems to have done the trick for now.
She took another bottle no problem and that's a big, good
thing. Had a rather unpleasant diaper shortly
thereafter but I'm not concerned. Persephone had
some doozies." Portia turned to the visitors.
"Monica, Violeta, Arthur... good to see you! Are you
making sure these two get some lunch?"
"Yep. Soon." Violeta nodded then turned back
to the window. "What's her temperature?"
"She has a little fever but not much," Portia
assured. She hugged the young angel, imagining she
felt something akin to a big sister being denied her
sororal rights. "I think after tonight we'll have a
better feel for when she'll be ready for her parade of
visitors." She grinned. "Once she's home, I
imagine you'll have multiple opportunities to help feed
her and bathe her and change her diapers."
Far from put off, Violeta beamed and moved into Andrew's
JenniAnn smiled at them. As if she needed any
further proof of what sort of father figure Andrew would
be... "You're leaving at 2:00?" she questioned after
turning back to Portia.
"I plan to but if you'd rather..."
JenniAnn shook her head. "No, no. Persephone
needs her mommy time and you need to rest, too. But
we'll be back no later than 1:30 so... if you still think
Portia nodded. "I'll bring her to you in your
room. And I'll be sure to tell Dr. Madison to have
her stay with you as much as possible today. Then
I'll be back tonight. Okay?"
JenniAnn nodded and hugged her friend.
"Now I better get back in there to make some notes and you
need to go and enjoy your lunch or else I'm tattling on
you to Vincent."
Andrew chuckled. "Well, I don't need anymore warning
than that." He gazed once more at Annabelle.
"See you soon, little one," he promised, blinking back
tears. She was so difficult to leave...
"We love you," JenniAnn murmured before hugging Andrew's
arm and allowing Arthur to lead the way to the cafeteria.
Portia watched them go, praying God would help them to
"They'll be fine. Violeta will keep them
laughing. She has many, many questions... as
Portia turned to find Kelly. "This is all really
going to turn out fine?" she asked, needing a little
"More than fine. It's difficult to see her
struggle." Kelly smiled gently at Annabelle.
"But she's very blessed. So many people to love
her." She turned back to Portia. "I'll meet
with Andrew and JenniAnn later to discuss custody. I
know it may not be for a few days but I think planning for
it will help them focus on the light at the end of the
tunnel." She lowered her voice. "Light shining
right on into the Tunnels, perhaps?"
Portia beamed. "I'm sure they'll go there
first. From what Owen's texted, Vincent's already
anxious to meet his granddaughter. And Grandma
Catherine is only slightly more subdued since she's coming
up here tonight."
"It's a miracle, isn't it?" Kelly murmured. "Only
hours ago, Annabelle had no one but God. Now she has
bunches of people in four different worlds. This
one, Dyeland, the Tunnels, and Andrew has a bunch of
people pulling for him and his own back Home." She
sighed and gazed at Annabelle. "Keep fighting,
darling, because you have a bunch of people fighting for
Portia and Kelly both laughed when a tiny fist pumped into
It was nearing 3:00 when Kelly knocked on the door and
entered the hospital room to find Andrew and JenniAnn
seated on the couch, their heads together as they peered
down at Annabelle. She was asleep in Andrew's arms.
"How is she?" Kelly asked.
"Still shaking at times but peaceful. Her cry when
she was hungry wasn't as... as sad. And her diaper
was just normally gross." JenniAnn grinned.
Kelly laughed. "You'll be surprised by some of the
things that bring you joy as a parent."
Andrew looked up at his fellow angel, wondering once again
if this was difficult for her. He was relieved to
find her smiling. "Have you been here the whole
She nodded. "The Father lets me spend a great deal
of time in maternity wards. Schools.
CPS." Sighing, Kelly pulled a chair in front of
them. "I should have asked Him. I know that
now. I'm sure He would have let me keep Jesse if I
had asked... I... I would have enjoyed raising Jesse
with Him." She smiled at Andrew and rested her hand
on his. "I'm glad you did ask. And that's why
I'm here. As Andrew well knows and as you've no
doubt gathered, JenniAnn, God likes to work within human
laws and processes whenever possible. That's why
Annabelle will enter foster care and this adoption will
proceed as normal. However... that doesn't mean God
won't help things along. He sent me to be your
social worker because He wants you to, from the moment you
leave this hospital, live your lives with your girl as
normally as possible... whether that means going Below or
to Dyeland or staying somewhere in the city."
JenniAnn's eyes welled. She recognized what a
blessing this was.
Andrew's own eyes shut as he silently prayed in
"I'll need to document some home visits and I'll just go
to wherever home happens to be that day. I think it
goes without saying that my reports will be
glowing." Kelly's eyes lit up with her smile.
"Andrew will have sole custody since he's the only one
registered as a foster parent. However, you can bet
I'll be sure to document your involvement, JenniAnn, from
the get-go. No judge will question your adopting
Annabelle. So... do either of you have any
JenniAnn bit her lip.
"Laja, speak up. It's okay," Andrew encouraged when
he noticed her unease.
"I just... I don't like the idea of... of the transfer of
custody," she confessed. "I mean... I want... would
welcome... having custody of Annabelle but..."
Using his free arm, Andrew hugged her. "My
Laja... I promise you, I won't feel like Annabelle's
any less mine just because you'll take over legal
custody. Family is more than whose name is on a
piece of paper." He smiled and kissed her
hair. "I think we've already proven that. And
do you feel any less like her mother because right now I
JenniAnn smiled. "No..."
"Then there you go."
Kelly knelt in front of them, drawing closer to
Annabelle. "Sounds like we have it all worked out,
kiddo." She caressed her hair.
"Would you like to hold her?" Andrew offered.
"No, no. I won't take her from..." Kelly's
eyes drifted back to the baby.
Andrew chuckled. "That's not very convincing,
Kel." He rose to transfer the baby to her.
"Oh... I've missed this..." she cooed. "She's so
Annabelle awoke but kept calm, peering into Kelly's eyes.
"Hello there!" The angel laughed when Annabelle's
face contorted in a yawn. Then she became
serious. "May God bless you and your mother and your
uncle with many, many years together. May you have
much more laughter than tears. May you always know
how loved you are: by humans, by angels, by God. May
you... you find His beauty in... rocks and clouds and
trees and flowers and animals and His compassion in your
friends and in your family. God will be with you
always, Annabelle Luna." She kissed her forehead
then handed her to JenniAnn.
JenniAnn swiped at a tear and squeezed Kelly's hand.
"Thank you for the beautiful blessing."
"You're welcome. Oh! I nearly forgot."
Kelly reached into her bag. "I picked this up for
Annabelle. It was one of my favorites to read to
Jesse. And I know you have a soft spot for bats."
"Stellaluna!" JenniAnn cried. "Annabelle's
first book... Thank you so much!"
"Thank you, Kel," Andrew echoed, accepting the book and
hugging his fellow angel.
"I'll leave you three to enjoy it together. I have
to get Home for some time with my own not-so-little one
but I'll be back later."
"Say hi to Jesse!" Andrew called.
Once Kelly had left, the angel of death settled back down
beside JenniAnn and Annabelle and began to read.
"'There once lived a mother fruit bat and her new
baby. Oh, how Mother Bat loved her baby.'"
Annabelle squirmed in her blankets, ceasing when she had a
hold of one of Andrew's fingers.
Andrew sighed happily and continued his recitation.
Shortly after 7:00 that evening, the Chandlers arrived at
the hospital. Andrew went to meet them in the lobby
of the hospital, smiling wearily when they noticed him.
"Andrew!" Allison practically shrieked before she
enveloped him in a fierce hug. "How are you?
How are our girls?"
The angel of death waved to some couches. "Let's go
sit down for just a few moments. Please."
"But..." Allison began to protest.
Robert studied Andrew's face then linked his arm through
his wife's and squeezed Catherine's hand. "Just for
a little bit, dear. Andrew here could do with a rest
before we hike up there. Bet you haven't done much
sleeping, have you?"
Andrew smiled gratefully. "I got an hour in."
"Good thing you're an... who you are," Allison covered.
Catherine bit her lip, opting not to point out that given
Andrew was in human form, an hour of sleep was likely not
sufficient. Further, a few dreamy utterances from
her cousin about "everything Andrew's done for us... all
he's sacrificed..." during an earlier phone call had made
Catherine suspect the change they'd known was coming for
three years had taken place, making the angel even more
vulnerable to fatigue. She hurried into a chair,
anxious for Andrew to take a seat, too.
"So what's going on?" Robert asked once they were all
"Annabelle is with JenniAnn in the room for now. I'm
going to take you all up to see them. A-and you can
hold Annabelle and spend a little time with her so long
as..." Tears welled in Andrew's eyes. "So long
as she doesn't need to go to the nursery."
Catherine gripped his hand. "The symptoms have
Andrew nodded. "She'll be fine. She
will. I know she will. This is just... it's a
rough patch. A-and it can be hard to see. So I
just... we wanted you to be prepared. She's been
shaking quite a bit a-and she took a bottle really well
earlier this afternoon but when we've tried a couple times
since..." He shook his head. "JenniAnn was
trying again when I left so I'm hoping we'll get up there
a-and find Annabelle feeding."
"I hope so, too. H-how's JenniAnn?" Allison
Andrew smiled proudly. "She's been amazing.
It's taken its toll. She's very tired a-and
Catherine moved to sit beside Andrew and hugged him.
He might as well have been talking about himself.
He smiled gratefully. "But she's happy. We...
we're both happy. This won't last. In time,
we'll go home a-and so will Annabelle." Andrew
sighed and dragged his hand through his hair. "We're
all gonna get through this. And now I'll take you to
meet your granddaughter!"
His optimism heartened the other three and they eagerly
followed him to the elevator and then to the room.
Andrew felt some anxiety as he reached for the door
handle. It was so quiet. He hoped that meant
Annabelle had been lulled and not that she'd been whisked
away to the nursery. Praying, he opened the
door. His face lit up when he saw JenniAnn seated in
the recliner, rocking Annabelle as she took her bottle.
JenniAnn looked up, beaming. "Hi Mom and Dad.
Hi Catherine." Her gaze grew more tender as they
settled on her cousin. "Hi Vincent."
Catherine's eyes welled. Though her husband couldn't
be with them physically, he was there through their
Andrew approached, kissed JenniAnn's hair, then perched on
the arm of the chair. "How's the shaking?"
"Not as bad. Maybe it's just wishful thinking but
I... I feel like the twitches are more spread out... less
frequent." JenniAnn looked back up at her
family. "Well, come see!"
Andrew moved so Robert and Allison could be on either side
of their daughter while Catherine stood behind the
chair. All three gaped. The photographs that
had been flying from cell phone to cell phone since the
morning hadn't prepared them for the reality of how tiny
and precious the newborn was.
Robert kissed his daughter's temple.
"Congratulations, my girl." He squeezed Andrew's
hand. "Congratulations... and thank you."
Choked up, Andrew could only nod.
"Baby..." Allison smoothed some of JenniAnn's stray
hair behind her ear. "You... you're both going to be
wonderful parents. And you..." She peered down
at her granddaughter. "You are going to be
wonderful. I... I can tell."
"She... she is. As soon as she's done eating, you
can take turns holding her," JenniAnn offered.
Allison nodded. "Can I touch her?"
"Of course, Mama."
"I love you, Annabelle Luna," Allison cooed as she stroked
"Prettiest baby I ever saw... well, tied for prettiest
baby," Robert gushed, a tear rolling down his cheek as he
Catherine laughed. "Oh, little one, you are going to
get spoiled rotten."
Andrew cherished the image of the three welcoming their
grandchild. Like JenniAnn, he wished Vincent could
be there. But there was another person Andrew longed
to have there. As JenniAnn's family got to know
Annabelle, the angel wished that Joshua could join
in. He knew he was. He always was. But
the hugs and kisses and murmured benedictions would have
JenniAnn's eyes locked with Andrew's, silently questioning
him. He smiled back at her. Soon. There
would be time for all of that soon.
Portia returned to the floor a little
before 10:00. After reading Annabelle's chart
from the day, she went to check in with Andrew and
JenniAnn. She frowned when she entered the room
and found that Annabelle was once again letting loose
with her alarming cry.
"She was fine while she ate," Andrew explained as he
cradled her and gently swayed.
"But once the morphine starts to... to wear
off..." JenniAnn shook her head as she stroked
Annabelle's hair. "Dr. Madison said her temp is
down so... so we were just saying good night and
Portia hugged her. "I'll be with her
tonight. I'll watch over her and rock her and
feed her. Both of you can rest and then
tomorrow... tomorrow will be better." She prayed
this would be so. "Getting her temp stabilized
again will help immensely."
"We... we kept her swaddled."
Andrew sighed, hating that JenniAnn kept blaming
"I know you did," Portia assured. "And Annabelle
knows, too. This... it's beyond that,
Sullen, JenniAnn nodded. Throughout the day,
doctors and nurses had given her pamphlets to read and
Andrew had tried his best to help her
understand. Still, she struggled to accept how
helpless she truly was.
Andrew winced and his eyes caught the doctor's.
Portia noticed that Annabelle's feet were
twitching. "Could I take her, please?" she asked
Andrew kissed Annabelle's forehead then held her so
JenniAnn could do the same.
"G'night, sweetheart," JenniAnn cooed.
"We love you. We'll see you very, very soon,"
Andrew added before handing her off to Portia who
gently laid her in her bassinet and began to examine
"You'll call for us if there's anything we can
do? Even if it's the middle of the night?"
"Of course, Psyche. Please try to rest.
You need to be there for Annabelle tomorrow.
Both of you. Good night." Portia gave her
most comforting smile then bundled Annabelle back
up. She hugged them both and then left.
Andrew sat back down on the couch and rested his head
in his hands for a few moments then looked up to find
that JenniAnn hadn't moved. He rose and pulled
her into a tight hug.
JenniAnn nuzzled her face into his sweater.
"I... I'm praying. But I can't help b-but
"I know, Laja. And God... He understands.
But He has a will for this baby, for our
Annabelle. And that will is for her to live and
to thrive." Gently, Andrew tugged her towards
the couch and continued to hold her there. "Do
you know why He sent me to Annabelle?"
"Because you are so gentle and loving a-and..."
JenniAnn stroked his face, her lips trembling into the
start of a smile as she felt the stubble there.
He'd forgotten to shave.
"Thank you. But so are Eli and Adam and
Henry. So many others. But He sent me
because He knew you would hear me when I cried
out. He knew, with me there, Annabelle's mother
would come... you could come. And then we could
save her together. And it's His will, too, that
we raise her together. She will grow up,
Laja. I promise you."
JenniAnn kissed his cheeks as she wept. Then,
drawing back the curtain, she peered up at the
stars. "Thank You," she whispered.
Andrew peeked his head out, too, and looked in the
direction of Joshua's apartment. "Thank You," he
With JenniAnn gazing at the stars and Andrew looking
out at the skyline, they continued to pray for
Annabelle's healing and to be the parents she would
need them to be.
February 6th, 2014
Hours later, Andrew lay on the
couch and stared at the ceiling. He felt tired but
he couldn't sleep. His arms ached though he could
think of no reason why. Annabelle certainly wasn't
heavy enough to have caused such pain.
Except she had, he realized a moment later.
Tears welled in the angel's eyes when he recognized that
he only hurt because his arms were empty. He knew,
when the time came, he would easily and even happily
entrust Annabelle to her mother's care. He smiled
when he thought of how, after his assignments, he'd return
to Dyeland and scoop the baby up and cover her with kisses
as he got the daily report from JenniAnn. But this
separation was different. Though no doubt cared for
diligently, Annabelle was in a plastic bassinet in a
nursery that wasn't even her own with morphine gliding
through her tiny veins. He longed to hold her.
And then there was JenniAnn, curled up on the bed.
Andrew stared at her back. She was curled towards
where Annabelle's bassinet should have been. He was
glad she had finally gone to sleep. She needed to
sleep. But as much as he wanted to be near
Annabelle, he also wished they were back in Dyeland.
He was sure that, if they were, JenniAnn would be at his
side and they would help each other through the dark night
that lay before them. He wanted to hold her,
too. He beseeched God to help him give them both all
the care and support they needed.
Andrew was roused from his prayer by the sound of JenniAnn
sniffling. He saw her shift to reach for a
tissue. She was awake... and she was crying.
He slid off the couch and sat beside her on the bed.
She immediately moved into his arms and buried her face in
"I... I had a ni-nightmare that Annabelle was crying a-and
I could hear her b-but not find her. And then she
stopped crying. And that was even worse."
"Laja..." Andrew glided his hand up and down her
back, trying to sooth her.
"I am grateful to God. I... I am. But the
anger at... at... How... how could she do this?"
JenniAnn questioned. "A-and where's the dad?"
The angel rocked her gently and kissed her hair. "I
don't know, Laja. Maybe she..." He remembered
Joshua's words. "She was probably in a lot of pain
and looking for escape. It's no excuse. But I
don't think she intended for this. She just... she
didn't take care of herself and so... so she didn't take
care of Annabelle. And the father... maybe he didn't
know and maybe it's because she knew he wouldn't
care." Andrew sighed. In all his years, he
could never and would never understand it. How could
he possibly help JenniAnn to?
"It... it feels so... so awful to have her cry so much and
n-nothing we do..."
"I know." For so many years Andrew had stood by as
some humans allowed others to suffer... sometimes even
caused their suffering. It never became easier to
"I just look into her... her eyes and I feel like she's
asking me w-why I won't make it stop b-but I can't and..."
Fresh tears pooled in Andrew's eyes. "Laja,
no... Don't think like that. Don't do that to
"I... I miss her."
Andrew smiled sadly. "Me too. Very much.
My... my arms..."
"Yes. But maybe after tonight, after they've had a
full night to monitor her, she'll be able to be back with
us tomorrow and stay here through the night."
JenniAnn nodded. "I hope so." She peered up at
him. "What if she... this could follow her all her
"Whether it does or doesn't, she'll have us to help her
through life and so many aunts and uncles and
grandparents! If that means being extra patient or
getting a tutor or whatever then we'll do it.
Together." He rested his forehead against
hers. "I'm so glad you're here. For so many
JenniAnn replied with a trembling smile. "I'm glad
you're here, too. I... I couldn't do this
alone. Once... once for a brief moment, when you
were homeless and I... I just couldn't handle it all, I
thought I could maybe leave. A-and adopt on my
own. But I know now that I couldn't have. I
mean I know God would be here b-but I... I need you, my
Andrew kissed her hands. "Laja, I'm here. I
won't go anywhere during this. I... I couldn't."
"Good cause right now... I just..." She
blushed. "I just need to be... held tonight."
Andrew sighed. "And I... I think I... I need that,
too. But first..." Andrew got up and turned on
the frog's lights and music.
JenniAnn smiled as she sunk back against the
pillows. "Thank you. It really is
soothing." Beyond its intended features, its very
presence reminded her that soon they would take it to
Annabelle's nursery... with Annabelle.
Andrew beamed as he walked back to the bed then settled
beside JenniAnn. They both stared up at the
stars. "So you're okay with the nursery being in
your office?" he asked. Throughout the afternoon and
evening, they'd received text messages from friends with
updates on the hurried redecorating effort. It had
helped to ease some of the more painful moments and Andrew
hoped thinking of it would calm JenniAnn again.
"Well... I thought maybe I'd just keep her in my
room. But you won't come into my room without asking
so..." JenniAnn smiled and brought his hand to her
lips. "I'm glad to hear my office is being
redone. You can come and go as you please. And
I'll leave my door open so I can hear her."
The angel smiled. "I like that plan a lot."
JenniAnn yawned. "It really is so... so lovely that
everyone is going to so much trouble to get the
necessities in there."
"We have amazing friends," Andrew agreed.
"Yep. Owen said they'll leave some of the smaller
decorating tasks for us. So what colors do you think
for the decor?"
"Bright ones. Lots of them."
"Do you think... I mean is it okay with you if we
baptize her Catholic? If you'd rather not then I..."
"I think Fr. Mike should have the honors and I'd be very
surprised if he baptized her anything else."
JenniAnn giggled, feeling herself lighten.
"Yeah... So when will she be old enough to date?"
Andrew chuckled. "Maybe eventually... What do
you think Fawn and Lulu will think?"
"I hope they love her. I miss them... but I'm glad
they're with Rose and Max."
"I miss em, too. And I'm sure they will love her...
especially when she gets to cereal dropping age."
Andrew felt JenniAnn's body relaxing. "I can't wait
for all the firsts. First Easter... a tiny little,
frilly dress and matching hat..." He paused.
"I mean unless you were thinking maybe we should try the
gender neutral parenting, umm, thing..."
"She's getting a frilly dress."
Andrew chuckled. "Sounds good. Then for her
first Christmas... we'll... we'll make her that ornament."
He sighed when she rested her head on his shoulder and her
hand settled over his heart. Smiling softly, he
enclosed her in his embrace. "You'll teach her to
knit and to do all sorts of crafty things. I'll
teach her to throw a ball and fix a leaky faucet.
And we'll help her learn to read and write
JenniAnn smiled as she closed her eyes.
"And every night... whether we're both there or not...
we'll tell her that we love her and that God loves her and
nothing... nothing will ever change that."
JenniAnn snuggled nearer. "Yes..." she whispered
before sighing contently. After another few moments,
she drifted to sleep.
Andrew buried his face in her hair briefly then looked
back up at the projected stars. "Thank You," he
prayed silently. "For all of this. For
her. For Annabelle. For our friends and family
and their generosity and love. For Kelly's support
and guidance. Thank You for Portia and for all the
dedicated and caring nurses and doctors here. Please
bless all the other families welcoming their little
ones. I hope... I hope Annabelle's birth mother
finds peace and wellness and recognizes that she is Your
child a-and You want better for her. Please, heal
Annabelle and, if a complete healing isn't Your will, give
us the strength and the means and the knowledge to help
her cope with the rest. And may she always know how
loved she is. I love You. Amen."
With the prayer said, Andrew followed JenniAnn into a
deep, calming sleep.
"'Now, brothers and sisters, about
times and dates we do not need to write to you, for
you know very well that the day of the Lord will come
like a thief in the night,'" Fr. Mike quoted as he
kept an eye out for visitors. His appearance
with a "stranger" outside Willowveil Castle at 4:30 AM
would take some explaining if noticed. "I have
to say, I never thought that actually meant you'd
start behaving like a thief in the night. And
I'd just like to go on record as saying that you are
absolutely the only person I would ever engage in
breaking and entering with. Are you sure I can't
Joshua grinned. "No. Just keep
watching. I'll find it. And we're not
breaking and entering... we're just entering... and
then fixing. Besides, I have a standing
invitation. So do you."
The priest laughed. "Of course."
"Found it!" Joshua declared in a hushed
tone. He got to his feet, showing off a
rock. He slid a panel out of the bottom and
grabbed the key inside. A few moments later, he
had the front door of the castle open.
Once inside, Fr. Mike took a good, long look at Joshua
as he wiped his feet on the rug.
Joshua noticed and smiled. "If JenniAnn does
figure everything out, I don't want her to get annoyed
with me for tracking mud."
"I think, given it's you, she'd let it slide.
But... it's just... I guess it's still hard for me to
grasp that you're having to use keys and doors."
"Incarnation is fun like that."
"Yeah... I guess." Fr. Mike sincerely hoped
they'd be foregoing many of the elements of Joshua's
Joshua clapped the man on the back. "Don't
worry. I'm a hardy sort."
Fr. Mike smiled. He couldn't argue with
that. "True. So... what are we doing
Joshua made a beeline for the kitchen. Once
there, he set his tool box near the table and knelt by
one of its legs. "There's a jagged bit
here. I'm going to sand it down. It's
eye-level for a toddler.... or thigh level for a sleep
deprived parent trying to get a bottle ready."
"Wow. Good call. What can I do?"
"That knob on the drawer by the refrigerator is
loose. The screw's been stripped." Joshua
fished a screw out of his box and handed it to the
priest along with a screwdriver. "Could you
please replace it?"
As Fr. Mike fixed the drawer, he kept stealing glances
at Joshua as he meticulously worked. It was
touching and sad all at once. After taking his
homeless friends out for breakfast and successfully
convincing them to pay a visit to Arthur's shelter,
Joshua had shown up at the rectory. Only a few
minutes later, Fr. Mike had gotten JenniAnn's call
about Annabelle. As soon as he'd gotten the gist
of her words, he'd put the phone on speaker so his
visitor could hear. Fr. Mike knew he would never
forget the way Joshua's face had shone with pride as
After that, Fr. Mike had spent the day relaying
information to Joshua as it came in. Always
Joshua had remained calm but the priest could tell it
was hard for him to know so much activity was swirling
around Annabelle's homecoming and he couldn't join
in. The appearance of an unknown man in Dyeland
would have caused a panic and no one needed that on
top of their concerns for the baby, JenniAnn, and
Andrew. Finally, after they'd sat down for
dinner, Joshua had announced that he was going to
Willowveil in the early hours of the morning when he
knew no one would be there. The priest had been
relieved when Joshua had agreed to let him tag
along. It wasn't that Fr. Mike worried over
Joshua really. He knew Joshua didn't need the
moral support. Yet, somehow, it seemed best for
him to have it.
"Need versus want," Joshua called.
The priest jolted. "Huh?"
Joshua grinned. "I'm not totally cut off
yet. What you're pondering, that's the answer:
need versus want. It's not that I needed
company. If you weren't here, I'd still fix what
I came to fix. But I wanted company. So
I'm glad you came, Mike. It is better having you
here. And now... this table is better."
After sweeping up some sawdust, he stood.
"There's a newel on the main stairs that keeps losing
Smiling, Fr. Mike finished his task and joined
Joshua. It amused him to watch the carpenter
move from room to room, zeroing in on items that
needed fixing The priest wondered how people
would feel if they knew Joshua knew their homes with
Just after 6:00, they finished. Joshua locked
the castle back up, stowed the key rock, and hurried
with Fr. Mike back to the willow tree. They
headed towards the rectory from the alley portal.
"So... what am I supposed to say if JenniAnn openly
ponders, while I'm near, how those things got fixed?"
the priest queried.
Joshua smiled. "It'll take her a while to notice
most and maybe by then..."
"She'll have her answer," Fr. Mike finished. "In
the meantime, if she does notice something?"
"She'll probably assume Vincent or Eliot or someone
did it. It's for the best. Besides, she'll
have a lot on her mind with Annabelle. Maybe
there will be more photos today."
"I hope so. And I hope..." He frowned,
thinking of the poor baby struggling with an addiction
not of her choosing.
Joshua halted and set a hand on the priest's
shoulder. He smiled reassuringly. "Today's
going to be a good day for Annabelle."
Fr. Mike smiled back at Joshua. He would know.
Portia stuck her head inside Andrew's and JenniAnn's room
to see if they were up. She quickly closed the door
and stepped back into the hall. It wasn't remotely
professional but the doctor couldn't help but
giggle. She well knew that what she had seen was
perfectly innocent... and perfectly adorable. Still,
she didn't want to embarrass either of her friends.
Collecting herself, she turned back to the door and
"It's me," she called. "I wanted to give you both a
Andrew's eyes shot open. "Just a minute!"
His answer woke JenniAnn who sat up. "Portia?"
Andrew nodded. "Yeah. She has a report."
He jumped to his feet and opened the door. JenniAnn
turned and stared expectantly at the doctor.
"Good morning, Portia. Sorry. We overslept a
little," the angel explained. "But we'd definitely
like to hear that report."
"Oversleeping is good. You both needed it."
Portia let out a relieved sigh. "I have good
news! Annabelle's temp got back up to normal around
midnight and has remained there. She struggled with
her midnight feeding, though, but then drained her bottles
at 2:30 and 5:00. We were just about to give her
another bottle but I thought I'd check first to see if you
might like the honors."
Andrew and JenniAnn exchanged eager glances.
"You think that's okay? I mean... what if her temp
drops again with being out of the nursery?" JenniAnn
"Then we'll get it raised again. I think it's more
than okay, Psyche. And... I think your little girl
wants to see you both."
Andrew smiled, too, as he squeezed her hand. "Then
we'd like to see her," he answered.
"Great! Be right
back!" Beaming, Portia left the room.
Andrew and JenniAnn hugged each other.
"Maybe the worst really is past," she hoped.
Andrew nodded. "I really hope so. I have a
good, good feeling about today."
That feeling only grew when Portia brought Annabelle to
them and they took turns holding her as she hungrily
sucked on her bottle.
Another night in the hospital... but how different!
Andrew smiled as he lay, sprawled across the couch,
watching Annabelle and JenniAnn. He laughed when the
latter wrinkled her nose as she changed the baby's diaper.
"You laugh now but you're up next," JenniAnn teased.
"I know. I don't mind. Do you know how many
diapers I've changed in my life?"
"Probly a staggering amount given your extreme old age."
"Ouch!" Andrew jested.
JenniAnn washed her hands then scooped Annabelle out of
her bassinet and brought her to the angel.
Sitting up, Andrew took her and snuggled her close as
JenniAnn kissed his cheek.
"You wear it well," she added then sighed. "You will
always wear it well. Besides, I've never loved you
more than... than here recently when we were disheveled
and had bloodshot eyes and were covered in spit-up and
Andrew brought her hand to his lips. "Then we have
that in common."
JenniAnn peered down at her daughter. "Do you..."
Andrew replaced the pacifier that had fallen out of
Annabelle's mouth then met his friend's eyes. "What
"Do you think we'll have a while until... til she realizes
we aren't exactly... the norm? I mean I know we'd
never be exactly... common. Castles and Tunnels and
"Angels?" Andrew added with a grin.
JenniAnn blushed but smiled as she nodded. "But we
all have that in common between us. I mean Jacob
deals with that. And Shelby and all the other Tunnel
kids. And if Max and Rose have children then they
will, too. But I mean... the two of us."
Andrew beamed at Annabelle and then JenniAnn. "I
think she will notice from very early on that she's being
raised by two people who love her very much, who love each
other very much, and who love their family and their God
very much. And the rest... it won't matter so
much. I hope it gives her a better understanding of
all the diversity in life. Not all love looks the
same so not all families look the same. And that's
JenniAnn's smile grew. "It is... it's
wonderful." She bent to kiss Annabelle. "Our
family may not look like, well, any other family...
ever. But I can't wait for you to meet them, my
"And they can't wait to meet you," Andrew added.
"Her eyes are getting droopy. Lullaby time.
The angel chuckled. "I think, given we'll be doing
this a lot, it's time for me to become a little less
predictable. Remember that song we ended the last
Valentine's video with?"
"I think that should be one of her lullabies."
"I... I think so, too."
Annabelle let out a tiny sigh as her uncle sang for her
and her mother.
"It's only for a moment you are mine to
The plans that heaven has for you
Will all too soon unfold
So many different prayers I'll pray
For all that you might do
But most of all I'll want to know
You're walking in the truth."
February 7th, 2014
JenniAnn awoke at 3:00 AM and
immediately looked to Annabelle's bassinet. It
"Over here, Laja," Andrew whispered.
Relieved, JenniAnn turned to find Andrew in the
recliner with the baby. "Is she okay?"
"Just needed a diaper change then drifted back to
sleep but I haven't felt like putting her back."
Andrew smiled down at the girl.
JenniAnn noticed when his smile changed to a pensive
frown. She rose and, after pulling on her robe,
perched on the arm of the chair. "What ya
Andrew took a few moments to consider what he could
tell her. The truth was he didn't know what to
think. He was confused by his own thoughts and
feelings! When he looked at Annabelle... when he
held her... he felt such love and devotion. But
there was something else, too. A feeling he'd
struggled with and thought he was done with. But
now here it was again. He sighed and peered up
at his friend. "I feel... such... pride,
Laja. But I didn't do anything to deserve to
JenniAnn crossed her arms over her chest. "I beg
to differ, sir."
Andrew chuckled quietly. "On what grounds,
"I think most parents feel pride when they hold their
newborn... even though they haven't really started the
hard work of parenting. Maybe it's because
they're holding this perfect little baby who is
evidence of how much and how completely they loved
someone else." She brushed some stray hair from
his forehead. "I love many people. But I
don't hear them call out to me in my dreams. I
did with you. Funny thing about being raised
Christian... it makes you feel awfully close to the
sort who give up Paradise just to walk the Earth with
you." JenniAnn rested her forehead against his
hair. "I know... I've always known... that you
can't tell me whether Jesus is God or not. And
I'm fine with that. But I know you love Him
because of how you get when people try to use Him for
bad purposes. So know this: I have never met
anyone who reminds me so much of Him as you do."
Tears welling in his eyes, Andrew shook his
head. Joshua never struggled with pride.
Joshua never lost his way. Joshua had never
alienated his friends with his own stubborn refusal to
JenniAnn continued. "I know you're not perfect
and I don't expect you to be. You weren't
created to be. You've stumbled at times... I
know that. But so few times when compared to all
the times you gave of yourself so completely even
when... when it hurt your spirit and your soul and
your body. You never stopped loving me even
when... when I thought I stopped loving you and even
when I... I couldn't recognize that you were just
trying to protect me and the others when you wouldn't
be more open. After all that... you really don't
think you've done anything to deserve to feel
pride? Cause I do. And even more than
that... I believe with all my heart that Jesus is
proud of you. And if He can feel pride... then
some pride has to be good."
"Thank you," Andrew choked out. He rested his
head against her shoulder and played her words over in
his mind, letting them mingle with Joshua's own
words. He had said he was proud of
him. Yes, good pride definitely
existed. As Andrew allowed himself to feel it,
he also felt humbled and awed that God had given him
such a life to lead. He sighed deeply.
"You know, it never really seemed like much of a
sacrifice to me. I... I just felt blessed that
God gave me two places to call home and so... so many
people to love and be loved by. Laja..."
He kissed her hand and softly stroked Annabelle's
tufts of hair, thanking God that they were both safe
The morning dawned on an even more optimistic
twosome. Annabelle had eagerly eaten on schedule
all through the night. While waking up at 2 and
3 hour intervals on top of their middle of the night
heart-to-heart had made both Andrew and JenniAnn
weary, they were too happy and relieved to
notice. The afternoon brought further
distraction. Heartened by Annabelle's progress,
Portia had consented to visitors.
Shortly before noon, Andrew grinned when the door to
their room opened and three very recognizable faces
peeked around its edge. He'd been looking
forward to showing Annabelle off to three of his
closest friends and now the time had come!
"Greetings," Adam solemnly began. "We are three
AODs who have traveled from the East, bearing gifts
"That utterly adorable baby, her lovely mother, and
that grungy looking fellow," Eli continued.
"And by the East, we mean the East Village," Henry
explained. "We have brought chai for your
sleepless nights." He held a bag out to Andrew
who shook with laughter as he took it.
"Scented candles to combat olfactory assaults brought
on by your new bundle of smelly joy." Adam
handed over a box.
"And this for the little one." Eli produced a
tie-dyed plush dog. "We've named him Jimi
because the fellow who sold him to us bore an uncanny
resemblance to Mr. Hendrix but you can change the
JenniAnn giggled and tilted Annabelle so she could see
the three angels of death. "Thank you.
You're all lovely. And I happen to like Jimi."
Andrew hugged them all. "Thanks. This
is... it's so great to see you all and..." He waved
them all in. "May I present Annabelle Luna
"Look at those eyes!" Adam gushed, drawing
Andrew beamed. "Aren't they beautiful?
Everything about her is perfect."
"She's so tiny!" Henry laughed when Annabelle
stuck out her tongue. "Already a clown!
She'll fit right in."
Entirely sober, Eli knelt in front of the recliner
where JenniAnn sat. "Kiddo..." he murmured,
resting his hand on her arm. He looked up to
where Andrew stood behind the chair and back to
JenniAnn then down to Annabelle, his eyes
filling. "Sophia is so... so proud," he
"I... I'm so glad. Eli, would you like to hold
her?" JenniAnn offered. "You can all have
Adam set a hand on Eli's shoulder. "Go
ahead. You go first. After all, you held
her mother." He smiled at JenniAnn then handed
her a tissue once she'd transferred Annabelle to Eli.
"She is perfect..." he murmured. Sighing, Eli
looked back up at Andrew and JenniAnn.
"Everyone's so happy for you!" Henry rose and
again hugged Andrew. "Willowveil's been overrun
with people helping. When I left, Owen and Max
had just finished painting. Vincent and
JenniAnn looked away from Eli and Annabelle with
surprise. "Devin's around?"
Adam nodded. "He made travel arrangements as
soon as he heard. He's been keeping his brother
JenniAnn slid behind the chair, hugging Andrew.
"How is Vincent? I talked to him on the phone
yesterday but he can be so hard to judge just by
voice. I... I do wish..." She peered over
"Vincent is well. He felt all the joy Catherine
did when she was here. He's anxious to meet his
granddaughter but he's content to wait until she's
well." Adam smiled gently. "He said to
tell you that he's moved the family crib to your
Andrew embraced JenniAnn more securely. "It
won't be long now, Laja."
"What's Portia thinking as far as when she can leave?"
JenniAnn's face glowed with happiness.
"Annabelle did so well yesterday that, actually, they
began tapering off the morphine this morning.
A-and look at her. I mean she still shakes
sometimes. Portia said that could last for
days. But if you had seen her even on Wednesday
night..." She approached Eli and kissed the
baby. "You're such a strong little girl," she
Eli returned Annabelle to her mother who, after
cuddling her for a few moments, passed her to
Henry. The angel of death was immediately
Henry peered into Annabelle's eyes. "Whatever
you may think in the future, remember this," he
whispered. "You were born of dreams and
prayers. You were always wanted."
Sniffling, Andrew reached over to squeeze his buddy's
Adam's turn came next. Once Annabelle was in his
arms, he could find nothing to say. No charming
words of praise. No self-deprecating joke.
No sarcasm. He sat on the couch and continued to
stare at the baby, his eyes welling. Memories of
over a year ago were still fresh in his mind. A
bruised and battered Andrew. A bereft and
forlorn JenniAnn. Now they looked so
happy. Now they were parents to this beautiful
JenniAnn squeezed Andrew's hand and looked at him with
"Adam, you okay?" Andrew checked.
"'I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord,
plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a
future and a hope,'" he recited before kissing the
baby's forehead. Adam smiled. Already, as
he'd knelt with JenniAnn on the floor of Willy's
factory and later when he'd first spied Andrew
sprawled on the floor of that awful cave, God had
known Annabelle was coming to them. She was
their future and their hope and they were hers.
Adam sighed then smiled at Andrew and JenniAnn.
"I love this part of His plan." He returned
Annabelle to Andrew. "You know, if you two ever
need some time to yourselves to dance or rearrange
your sock drawers or whatever it is you do... I'm a
highly qualified babysitter. I once babysat for
the twelve tribes." He winked.
JenniAnn laughed. "Likely story. And given
what happened there... not really sure it's grounds
for bragging rights. One of your charges wound
up sold into slavery by ten of the others."
Adam chuckled. "Good point. And I was
kidding about that part but... I wouldn't mind
"I could help," Henry offered.
"Me too!" Eli agreed.
Andrew grinned. "I don't know... Three
AODs and a baby... Kinda sounds like the plot to
a wacky comedy."
"And that's a bad thing? Maybe Annabelle likes
wacky comedies." Eli made a funny face at the
baby who stared unblinkingly at him. "Tough
JenniAnn giggled then looked tenderly at her
daughter. "I can't wait to hear her laugh!"
"Hear her first word..." Andrew added.
"See her first steps... and then panicking when you
realize it means she can get into anything... and
will," Henry jested.
Andrew smiled, snuggling Annabelle closer. "I
The three other angels smiled upon their friends,
deeply grateful to God for what He had worked in their
"And we'll make awesome ice cream sundaes and watch
movies late into the night and make our own jewelry."
Andrew opened a weary eye and smiled as Violeta rocked
Annabelle and made plans, unaware that he was
awake. Monica had taken JenniAnn out for coffee,
leaving him alone with the baby and his protege.
Noting her supervisor's red eyes, Violeta had insisted
she could care for Annabelle while he rested.
After her work in the Philippines, Andrew was
confident this was true and had drifted to
sleep. He was glad he'd woken up in time to hear
Violeta beamed down at Annabelle. Her heart had
soared when she and Monica had returned to the
hospital and learned that they could hold the
baby. She hadn't let go since JenniAnn had
placed Annabelle in her arms.
"And I know I look a lot older than you but I'm really
not. Only sixteen years older. Which means
I'm still a kid by most human's counts. Like
you. So I hope I can be like a big sister to
you. I want to be." Violeta lowered her
voice. "Some angels probably wouldn't like me
saying that but our group... we're a little
different. A little more... a lot more...
meshed. But good different and good
meshed! And it makes sense. I mean we all
have the same Father, after all. Do you remember
Him, I wonder?"
Annabelle trembled but refrained from crying.
Violeta's smile turned sad. "I'm sorry your
first couple days here have been hard,
Annabelle. But it really is a good world.
Bad things happen in it and sometimes you might feel
like there's more bad than good but there's really
not. And you'll always have lots of people
around to help you through the bad times. I'm
glad I'm an angel but if I had to be human, I'd pick
your parents to be mine. I love them. And
I know you will, too."
Andrew rubbed at his face, brushing away the tear that
was trailing down his cheek.
"You're up!" Violeta cried. "I was hoping you'd
sleep longer. You need it and..." She
looked to Annabelle.
Andrew sat up and smiled, recognizing that Violeta was
reluctant to hand over the baby. "You can keep
"Kay!" Violeta moved to the couch and sat by
Andrew. She rested her head on his shoulder but
kept her eyes on Annabelle. "I... I'm really
glad you were sent to her a-and that you and JenniAnn
saved her. It feels like she was always supposed
to be with all of us."
Andrew hugged her. "She was. And so were
you, Violeta. I'm so proud of you and I know
Annabelle is going to enjoy those sundaes and movies."
Violeta laughed. "Eavesdropper..."
Andrew blushed. "Sorry. I almost spoke up
but... it was just too sweet to interrupt. I
love you, too, and I know JenniAnn does. And
having you with us these past couple of years is part
of what made us feel confident that we could do
this... raise Annabelle together."
"Really. But now don't go thinking that now that
we have Annabelle, we won't still be there for
you. We will. For you and Shelby and Max
and everyone else." Andrew kissed her
hair. "You're my first protege. Nothing
will ever change that."
Violeta sighed happily. Even when they were in
the midst of heartbreaking assignments, having Andrew
near always made her feel safe. Only one other
person made her feel even safer. "When will
Joshua come? Have you heard from him
lately? JenniAnn mentioned the homeless
guy. Was that him?"
Andrew nodded. "Yeah. But JenniAnn doesn't
know, of course. Later that morning, I went to
the chapel here and talked with Joshua. I had to
request something of him and he... he gave what I
requested. Violeta, I..."
The younger angel squeezed his hand. "Arthur saw
the rose and told Monica and I overheard... Then
Max stopped in to get more food for Lulu and told Rose
and... Well, everyone knows."
Andrew frowned. He'd hoped to be there when
people found out. "And how did everyone react?"
"Wistful. But mostly happy. Adam made a
crack about how one day you'll be even more gray and
wrinkly than him and still manage to be better
The angel of death chuckled. "I don't know about
"Tess got on his case because she says he doesn't even
have wrinkles. And he really doesn't much.
"Is Tess, uh..."
"She wants to come visit but figured she'd wait until
tomorrow. She didn't wanna overwhelm
Annabelle. She knows Rose and Max are coming
later and figured that was probably enough visitors
Andrew smiled softly, touched that the usually brash
Tess was being so patient.
"So... back to Joshua. What ya think?"
Before Andrew could answer, someone tapped on the
door. He got to his feet to see who it was and
grinned at the visitor.
"Fr. Mike! I'm glad you're here. But I
wish JenniAnn was so she could be here when..."
Andrew waved the priest in. "You meet our
A wide smile spread across Fr. Mike's face.
"Andrew... she's..." Tears slid down his
cheeks. He'd never told anyone and would never
tell anyone but for the past year, JenniAnn had been
coming to him for counseling. She hadn't been
able to reconcile how she could feel so much gratitude
for the unique lifestyle and family she'd been led to
with her ongoing frustrations and sadness over the
fact that she and Andrew could never have
children. Fr. Mike had never been happier to
discover a friend had been so utterly wrong.
"Wanna hold her?" Violeta offered.
The priest nodded. "She's so precious... such a
miracle," he murmured once he had Annabelle.
Andrew beamed. "She is. We'd love for you
to bless her and JenniAnn and I have some other things
we'd like to discuss with you. She should be
back in about ten minutes. Can you wait?"
"Sure. But that means I better get to why I came
"Joshua?" Violeta asked eagerly.
Fr. Mike smiled and nodded. "Yes. He would
have come himself but he's volunteering at a senior
living center and, well, Bingo ran long."
The angels both laughed.
"How is he?" Violeta questioned nervously.
Andrew hugged his protege. Her youth hadn't
prepared her for Joshua's occasional long-term
sojourns in mortal form.
Fr. Mike patted her hand. "He's good. A
little... not anxious exactly but..." He bit his
lip, searching for the best word.
"Expectant. He's looking forward to your visit
Violeta smiled. Ever since Joshua's arrival, she
and Andrew had been making a point to stop by his
apartment when they could. She relished the time
"And he'll be by your place when he can, Andrew.
But for now he wants you to know that you're on leave
until the 17th when you'll go to the theatre. He
says you know which one."
Andrew nodded eagerly. The previous week, Joshua
had walked with him and Violeta to the St. Genesius'
Theatre and explained more about the assignment.
"That will be your only assignment for the duration
which he says should give you a good amount of time
with Annabelle and everyone."
"I'm very grateful for that."
"He knew you would be." Fr. Mike turned back to
the young angel. "And you, Violeta, are on leave
until the last week of February. You're to stick
around JenniAnn and this little cuddlebug, helping
out, until Andrew needs back-up at the theatre."
Violeta had to keep from shrieking with glee, knowing
that could upset the baby. "He's awesome
Fr. Mike laughed. "He is. It's been a
privilege to spend this time with him and I... I can't
wait until... JenniAnn and Kemara and
Owen... I'm excited for everyone to meet him but
knowing something of how those three feel about him...
it'll be a joy to see them together." He turned
to Andrew, marveling. "How have you kept this to
yourself for so long!?" he queried.
Andrew chuckled. "The initial shock lasted me
for a while. And then it was knowing that it
would all come out in his time. And that would
be best. But sometimes... sometimes it was
hard. But I remembered, too, that it's always
fallen to Joshua to be patient, to wait for people to
find him and love him. So by comparison... how
could I complain about holding onto this secret for a
Fr. Mike nodded solemnly. The reckless love of
God had never seemed more real nor more complete to
him since Joshua's arrival on Christmas Day.
Andrew squeezed the man's shoulder. "I'm glad
you're around, Fr. Mike, and that you know. That
means a lot to Joshua."
"It means a lot to me. Sometimes I wonder what I
did to deserve..."
"You loved him," Violeta interrupted. "Everyone
who loves him meets him in time. It just
happened earlier than usual for you." She
The priest returned the smile and snuggled Annabelle
"Fr. Mike!" JenniAnn cried when she entered the room
with Monica. "I'm so glad you're here!"
She hugged him, mindful of Annabelle.
"JenniAnn... she's amazing. I'm so happy for you
and for Andrew and for everyone... a new addition to
your tribe. And a very cute one at that."
JenniAnn's eyes locked with his and they exchanged a
meaningful look, both remembering the hours she'd
spent pacing his office at the rectory. "She...
Fr. Mike returned the baby to her mother. "Would
you like me to bless her?"
Andrew rested his arm around JenniAnn's shoulders as
Monica and Violeta drew near.
Fr. Mike raised his hands above Annabelle and began to
pray. "In the name of the Father and of the Son
and of the Holy Spirit, we pray that Annabelle Luna
Chandler grows strong in body, spirit, and mind.
We pray that she rejoices in Your love and in the love
of her family and friends. Bless her with
wisdom, understanding, counsel, courage, knowledge,
piety, and respect and obedience to You.
Annabelle, may you always know that you are loved by a
God who created you, died for you, and longs to hold
you close. May you come to know Him and glory in
His love. Amen."
"Amen," the others echoed.
"Thank you, Fr. Mike," Andrew said as JenniAnn hugged
"My pleasure. Truly."
While Monica and JenniAnn fussed over the baby and
checked her diaper, the other three exchanged knowing
glances. Annabelle surely would come to be held
by the One who created her.
It was a quarter until 6:00 and Andrew was softly
prancing around the room with Annabelle who was
crying. JenniAnn scrambled to prepare a bottle,
smiling giddily as she did. For the first time,
Annabelle's wail sounded like that of a healthy but
hungry infant. As soon as she had the bottle
ready, Andrew settled into the recliner. The two
grown-ups laughed as the baby greedily sucked down the
"It never ceases to surprise me how big a noise such a
tiny person can make," JenniAnn mused.
"Wait til Tess hears her. She's going to be sure
she has a singer to train up." Andrew stroked
Annabelle's cheek. "You got yourself some pipes,
"And some more visitors," JenniAnn noted when someone
tapped on the door. "I think I know who that
is..." She leapt up to let Rose and Max in.
The couple entered silently then, noticing that
Annabelle was awake, began to talk at once.
"Can I hold her when she's done eating?"
"Her eyes are so huge and adorable! Oh my
gosh! I want one!"
"She's totally a Gryffindor! Wait... do you
really want a baby li-like..."
"No! I mean yes! But not now!"
Andrew chuckled. "Yes, you can hold her after
she's done eating. The rest of that conversation
you're going to have to figure out between the two of
Max and Rose both blushed, smiling as they did.
"You can get closer. C'mon." JenniAnn took
their hands and brought them nearer. The two
stood in awe then snapped back to attention.
"Maja! Andrew!" Max cried before hugging them
Rose followed with her own hugs. "Everyone is so
psyched back home. I wish you could see her
nursery. I wanted to bring photos but Owen nixed
that. He said it was better to see it in
reality. It's really beautiful. I will say
JenniAnn's eyes welled up. "It means so much
that... that everyone..."
Max hugged her. "The way I hear it, everyone
with myself included has stories about you both
dropping everything to help them out. It's been
nice to drop everything and do something for you
both... and for Annabelle." He looked tenderly
at the baby. "Is she... would she be like...
like my sister or my niece?"
Rose giggled. "In most families, it would be
really disconcerting that you need to ask that.
But in ours... totally reasonable."
Andrew smiled. He and JenniAnn had already
discussed it. "Everyone else who has been in
seems to have taken to being Aunt or Uncle so-and-so."
"Aunt Rose... I like the sound of that," Rose
murmured, caressing Annabelle's hair as she perched on
the arm of the chair.
Max's breath caught in his throat as he took in the
sight. "Uncle Max sounds pretty good, too."
JenniAnn squeezed his hand. "Then Aunt Rose and
Uncle Max it is. We can explain the particulars
to her as she grows up." She knelt in front of
Andrew to smooth Annabelle's blanket.
Max nodded, still gazing at Rose and Annabelle.
Noticing, Andrew's heart swelled with pride and
happiness. Every day he thanked God for letting
him help to get Max back to safety and to a place he
could call home. Now the young man would be
there to help them welcome and then raise Annabelle...
hopefully one day raising his own children with
Rose. For eons Andrew had consoled his
assignments with the truth that God can bring joy out
of the most wretched of heartbreaks. Annabelle
and Max were evidence of this and helped the angel of
death to believe the words even more deeply. He
leaned down to kiss Annabelle's brow then reached for
Max's hand. With the three adults clustered
around him and Annabelle content in his arms, the
angel prayed that they and their friends would always
remain so close.
Later that evening, following
another visit from her parents and Catherine, JenniAnn
held her breath as a nurse began to gently wash
"There, she likes it!" the woman cheered as she wiped
behind the baby's ears and neck. She dipped the
sponge in warm water then wrung it out some before holding
it out to JenniAnn. "You can do it," she
Andrew stepped nearer, affectionately squeezing JenniAnn
Life in the Tunnels, at Catherine's shelter, and in her
mom's in-home daycare had given JenniAnn multiple
opportunities to care for newborns. Still, each new
task with Annabelle made her nervous. She'd never
felt so responsible for another person in her whole life.
Andrew lowered his head, whispering directly into her
ear. "She's right. You can do this.
You're her mother."
Calming, JenniAnn nodded. Everything her parents,
Catherine, and Vincent had taught her came back to
mind. She bathed Annabelle gently and quickly,
waiting to wash her hair until nearly the end and removing
her diaper last.
Andrew watched JenniAnn's hands move so gently and
expertly. He realized with a start how truly new
this all was for him. For all but the last fourteen
years, his friends had mostly been angels and humans in
Heaven. He'd never been there as a friend, as
someone he loved so much, became a mother. That
didn't mean he hadn't thought of it. He had dreams
for all his friends, JenniAnn included. He blushed
as he remembered the first years with her and how,
sometimes, he'd wondered what it would be like for them
when she got married and had children. Always he had
envisioned himself as looking in from outside of her
family but now...
"Love, could you please grab a diaper and some clothes?"
JenniAnn requested as she patted Annabelle dry.
Snapping back to attention, the angel nodded. When
he had the diaper and a sleeper, he looked on with
admiration as JenniAnn cuddled their little one.
The nurse laughed softly when Annabelle set her hand on
JenniAnn's and let out a tiny sigh. "You did very
well, Mom. Look how content she is."
JenniAnn smiled kindly but could only nod. She was
overcome. Each new "first" made her feel more and
more like she was something beyond just being
JenniAnn. She was Annabelle's mother.
"I'll be on my way then. Let us know if you need
Andrew smiled appreciatively. "Will do. Thank
Once the nurse was gone, Andrew stroked JenniAnn's
hair. "You wanna get her dressed?"
"Yeah." JenniAnn set Annabelle back in her bassinet
and unbundled her. While Andrew put the diaper on,
she caressed the shamrock-laden sleeper that Kemara had
sent along with Monica and Violeta. When Andrew was
ready, they got Annabelle into it and swaddled her.
"Today has.... it's been like a dream," JenniAnn whispered
as she picked Annabelle up.
"Yes. But a real dream," Andrew assured.
"And... and far better than any dream I've ever had."
JenniAnn snuggled against his shoulder.
Andrew rested his chin on her hair and wrapped his arms
around both of them. "Laja, I heard from God
earlier. I'm on leave until the 17th."
JenniAnn smiled. "I'm glad He believes in paternity
The angel chuckled. "Also apparently sorority
leave... if that's a thing. Violeta's going to stick
around until the end of the month. And even after
the 17th, I'll be near. I have an assignment in
Manhattan for several weeks."
A tear slid down JenniAnn's cheeks. "He's really
watching out for us. I know He always is, of
course. But to have it be so obvious..." She
looked to the ceiling. "Thank You."
Andrew kissed her forehead. "You're tired," he
JenniAnn nodded. "I don't wanna lay her down... but
I would love a shower."
"I'll take her... happily."
JenniAnn smiled. "Knew you would." She
transferred Annabelle to Andrew then admired the sight of
them for a few moments before gathering her things.
She kissed them both then stepped into the bathroom.
Once Andrew heard the water start, he sunk into the
recliner and gazed down at Annabelle. Sucking away
at her pacifier, she stared back up at him. The
"Annabelle," Andrew cooed.
The baby latched onto one of his fingers.
Andrew's eyes filled. "You know, I... I wanted this
so badly that at... at first I couldn't even say it.
Not even to God. Because if you went away..."
He shook his head. "From the first moment I held
you, I wanted you to be mine, baby girl. And I know
your mama feels the same. We are so blessed.
And I want you to hold onto something. Even when
you're older and it might be hard to believe. But
you have to hold onto this, Annabelle. We will
always love you. No matter what. Even if you
think we'll be angry... even if we are angry... we'll
still love you. Nothing will change that.
Ever. I... I meet a lot of people who don't realize
how loved they are. I pray you'll never be like
that. La... Your mama and I will do everything
we can to make sure you always know this." He kissed
her hair. "You are God's beloved child... and ours,
Annabelle's face scrunched up.
Andrew laughed when a pungent aroma filled the air.
"I guess I was getting a little too serious." He
kissed her hair again then got up to change her diaper.
Once she was cleaned up, they
settled back into the recliner. Andrew rocked and
sang. "'Tell me why the stars do shine. Tell
me why the ivy twines. Because God made the skies so
blue. Because God made you, that's why I love you.'"
As she drifted to sleep, Uncle Andrew prayed for a
peaceful, pain-free night for his Annabelle.
With much of the work done, a smaller
group had gathered in Annabelle's nursery to see to
finishing touches. Owen stood in the center of
the room, reading from his phone. "'Annabelle's
temperature remained stable throughout the
night. She only fussed when she was hungry or
needed her diaper changed. Portia is thrilled
with her progress and says that unless something
changes in the next 24 hours, our girl's getting
released! Hope to see some of you today. A
request from JenniAnn: please bring real coffee.'"
Kemara laughed. "I will most certainly do that."
Owen smiled and continued. "'We can't wait to
get to the Tunnels and then home. Thank you for
everything you're doing. We... we thank God for
you and love you all very... very much. Always,
Andrew and JenniAnn and Annabelle.'" He put the
phone down and surveyed the room. There wasn't
much more that any of them could do. The walls
were painted and the furniture pushed back into
place. Vincent had brought a bed from the
Tunnels' surplus and he and Devin had set it up, both
suspecting Andrew wouldn't roam far. Though much
of the decorating had been left alone, everyone had
added their own touches to welcome Annabelle.
Vincent set a hand on Owen's shoulder. "I think
you should visit them today."
Owen shook his head. He wanted to meet his
closest friend's daughter very much but he felt badly
doing so before his mentor and her grandfather could.
"Go for me. Please," Vincent requested. "I
would like you to bring her this." He pressed a
soft object into Owen's hands. "Psyche mentioned
on the phone that Kelly brought them Stellaluna.
I made one like this for Psyche when she was
small. I want Annabelle to have one, too."
Owen looked down to find he was holding a hand-sewn
plush bat. He'd seen JenniAnn's before. In
fact, he knew she sometimes still slept with it.
"I... I will," he promised. "So who else is
visiting today other than Kemara and me? We
should probably work out some sort of schedule
again. The way I hear it, that room's not that
big. Any more than four at a time and we might
be tripping over each other."
Monica raised her hand. "Arthur and I have
already been... me twice. But Arthur hasn't
since Annabelle got out of the nursery. I'd like
to take him up this evening, after his shift ends, if
"I have an assignment this evening but I would love to
meet that sweet girl. And I... I have some
things I would like to say to her parents." Tess
bowed her head for a moment.
Adam rested a hand on her shoulder. The night
before, Tess had confessed that she wished she'd been
a little less harsh with both Andrew and JenniAnn at
"Tess, you can go with Kemara and me," Owen
offered. "We can step out for a snack or
something... coffee refills maybe... while you talk."
"Mick? Beth?" Owen called.
Mick shook his head. "Thank you but I,
uh... Not so good with hospitals. A lot of
Beth laced her fingers through his, knowing this was
only a half-truth. Mick could stomach hospitals
well enough. The wall-to-wall reminders of his
infertility were harder to confront. "We'll wait
to come see them all when they're Below."
Despite his own regrets, Mick smiled. "I am
looking forward to seeing them with her. They
deserve this after years of patching so many of our
Beth nodded. "We might not even be married if
not for them. Maybe not... not even speaking."
Mick wrapped his arms around her waist.
"God only knows where I'd be," Owen mused. "Or
if I'd be... in this sphere of existence, at
least." He looked to Vincent with a wavering
smile. "I loved the Tunnels from the start but
it wasn't until the two of them hauled me off to a
production of A Man of No Importance that I
realized that... that I really would be not just
tolerated but loved."
Kemara nodded. "They helped me to realize that,
too. I got to know JenniAnn the most. At
first. I actually... I thought she and Andrew
were dating." She looked over at Adam, Monica,
and Tess. "Sorry!"
Adam laughed. "Don't be. We're used to
misunderstandings like that."
"Good. Well, I mean... okay. I was shocked
when I found out the truth: that Andrew was an angel
of death. And that he chose to spend so much
time here... with us humans." Kemara shook her
head in amazement. "I spent so many years being
rejected and taunted by kids at school and here was
this angel who could have spent time in Heaven...
choosing to meet a friend and me for coffee.
Then there was everything with Ivy and that was
healing, too. I wouldn't have had that...
wouldn't have met her or any of you without them."
Monica hugged the woman. "We're very glad we
could meet you... and that you stuck around, Kemara."
The others murmured agreement.
"Psyche always gave me hope," Devin added. He
turned to his brother. "For you."
Vincent look curiously at him.
"You were different with her. You were so
reserved even with Catherine, for a while... a long
while," Devin teased. "But with Psyche... with
her you were a natural." He chuckled. "I
can still remember one time she came toddling into
your room, interrupting a very intent conversation we
were having about Othello. She had
managed to drench herself in blue paint and was
hysterical. It was like whatever part of you
agonized about your hands and your face and your
instincts finally shut up and shutdown. You
cleaned her up, washed her hair, got her changed, and
brushed out her hair... all while continuing to
lambast the Moor!"
Vincent laughed at the memory.
"Blue's a good color for Psyche. You should have
left her," Owen joked.
Kemara shook her head. "JenniAnn is not a
Devin smiled. "No. She's not. She's
a human. And when I saw you with her... I knew
that eventually you'd realize you were, too, and let
all that other nonsense go."
Vincent nodded, brushing at a tear.
Kemara squeezed his hand. "And JenniAnn and
Andrew both have mentioned to me how you and Catherine
helped them to see the value in what they shared...
and to stick with each other even when that didn't
resemble anything they'd once planned for themselves."
Monica smiled wistfully. "And I... I still look
to them when I wonder if the future... with Arthur...
is really possible. They help me to believe it
Tess hugged her. "It's amazing how connected
each life can be to another. Isn't it, babies?"
The others nodded.
Adam sighed and leaned his head back, staring up at
the ceiling which Owen had painted to resemble the sky
shifting from sunrise to sunset. "Now we have
one more life to be connected to."
The others all smiled then looked over at the crib,
imagining the day Annabelle would come home to it.
"She... is... a... doll!" Owen gushed as he held
Annabelle shortly after arriving at the
"That she is..." Tess cooed. She laughed when
the baby spit out her pacifier and gave a big
"Can I paint her when you get back home?" Owen
Andrew smiled and replaced the pacifier when Annabelle
seemed to be missing it. "Of course."
"I have a feeling Annabelle will get a whole
series. She is so sweet," Kemara agreed.
"How light does she feel?"
"See for yourself," Owen offered.
Kemara smiled when she had Annabelle. Andrew and
JenniAnn had left her unswaddled for a bit so she
kicked her legs. "Maybe she'll be a dancer!"
JenniAnn beamed. "I hope so. Of some sort,
at least." She glanced over at Andrew,
daydreaming about Annabelle learning to dance by
putting her feet on his, just as she had once with
Beside her, Andrew was imagining the same and grinning
at the idea. Then his mind drifted ahead.
School dances. Boys... What if one broke
her heart? He caught himself and shook his
head. Annabelle wasn't even a week old!
Not even a week old and she already had him so wound
around her tiny finger that he was mentally lecturing
imaginary teenage boys. He chuckled.
After letting out a dreamy sigh, JenniAnn hugged
Owen. "I've heard others gushing about the
nursery. Thank you... and Vincent... for heading
that up. And you, Kemara and Tess, and everyone
Owen returned the hug. "My pleasure. And
everyone's been a pleasure to work with. It's
been really nice to spend so much time with
everyone. Despite having a pretty quick turn
around time, no one was stressed or
short-tempered. It was all very pleasant... or
maybe it was just the paint fumes making everyone very
mellow," he teased.
Kemara laughed. "I think it was everyone being
so happy." She gently squeezed Annabelle then
turned her over to Tess who had quietly but anxiously
been awaiting her turn. Once the angel had the
baby, Kemara looked over at Owen who nodded.
"Hey, Kemara and I are going to go peruse the
cafeteria then we'll be right back," Owen announced.
Andrew's eye brow raised. "You actually want to
eat hospital food?"
"They have like eight flavors of Jello! How is
that not awesome?" Owen defended.
The angel of death chuckled. "I guess it
"You'll come back?" JenniAnn checked.
"Definitely... with Jello," Kemara vowed before
following Owen out the door.
"Well, that seemed staged," Andrew noted.
Tess finally looked up from Annabelle's face. "I
asked for a few minutes with the two of you," she
"Tess..." Andrew murmured when he saw the tears in his
old friend's eyes. "What's wrong?" He
wrapped an arm around her shoulders and led her to the
couch, sitting at her right side while JenniAnn
settled to her left.
"Ever since Miss Wings told me the news, I... I've
been thinking. For a while now I've regretted
how harsh I sometimes was with you, Angel Boy."
Andrew shook his head. "Tess, that's in the
talked about this. Let it go. I have. You know
JenniAnn bowed her head. She hadn't let it
go. Not really.
Tess patted his cheek. "I know. It's your
way, baby." She smiled. "But I got to
thinking about it again because... Andrew, at least a
few of those times you got so upset because you were
trying to protect a child or... or a woman who had
been wronged. And I thought it was unbecoming of
an angel of death. But maybe those incidents
weren't meant to prepare you for your work as an angel
of death. Maybe they were meant to prepare you
for her." She stroked Annabelle's hair.
"And her." Tess turned to JenniAnn who set her
hand over hers. "And all the others who have
found their way to you. You acted in a way
becoming of a friend, of a father, of an uncle.
I'm very proud of you and I love you."
Andrew felt tears glide down his cheeks but let them
go. While he'd sometimes clung to the belief
that he'd been in the right despite Tess'
admonishments, he'd never thought of his behavior then
in that light. Now Tess' words seemed undeniably
true. He hugged her. "Thank you.
I... I love you, too, Tess."
The supervisor nodded then smiled at JenniAnn who was
also crying. Tess recognized that any slight she
had inflicted on Andrew had hurt her, too. She
was relieved to see forgiveness on JenniAnn's
face. "And you, baby... I should have
believed... should have trusted... I saw how much your
friendship meant to Andrew and I worried that one day
you'd move on and hurt him. But you never did."
"I... I wish that were true," JenniAnn lamented.
"We all have doubts sometimes. But yours never
lasted long. You never left. Not
really. You always came back and now...
Baby, you live in a castle connected to his house by a
tunnel. You aren't going anywhere."
JenniAnn laughed. "Nope."
"Would you sing something for Annabelle?" JenniAnn
"Her first Tess song..." Andrew mused.
"Of course, I will!" Tess kissed Annabelle then
began to sing, choosing not a lullaby but a song that
meant so much to her, to Andrew, to all of them.
Abide with me; fast falls the
The darkness deepens;
Lord, with me abide;
When other helpers
fail and comforts flee,
Help of the helpless,
oh, abide with me.
As Tess neared the end of the song, Owen and Kemara
returned. Both sensed that something healing had
occurred. They smiled... then passed out the
Andrew and JenniAnn watched anxiously as Portia
listened to Annabelle's heartbeat and took her
When the doctor turned back to them, her smile
stretched from ear to ear. "Everything's
normal. I see no reason to keep her here after
tonight. I think you better tell Vincent to be
ready to meet his granddaughter tomorrow morning."
JenniAnn threw her arms around Andrew's neck and wept
Andrew beamed. "Thank you, Portia. That's
wonderful, wonderful news!" Once JenniAnn had
released him, he scooped up Annabelle. "One more
night and then we're on our way home," he
"How long will you stay Below?" Portia questioned.
"We'll head home on the 13th," JenniAnn answered as
she smoothed Annabelle's hair. "Owen thinks it
best to wait a week with the fresh paint."
"Well, I'm glad about that." Portia smiled at
Annabelle. "I'll get to see you every day until
then! And you can meet my little girl."
"I'm so excited for Persephone and Shelby and all the
kids to meet her. Vincent said I could bring her
to classes whenever I want." JenniAnn
smiled. "Catherine said he'd prefer I always
do... so would I."
Andrew sighed happily. It would be easier for
him to leave when he had to, knowing Annabelle would
be with her mother all day.
"I would still like to give her a brief check every
day, at least until you leave the Tunnels. No
real reason. Just..."
Andrew squeezed her hand. He knew, like himself,
Portia carried the memories of cases that had gone
badly. If a few minutes with Annabelle was going
to stave those fears off, it was worth it.
"Absolutely," he agreed. "She's a blessed little
girl... her own personal physician."
Portia's eyes lit up. "Happily."
A knock sounded on the door and Kelly poked her head
in. "Look who I found!" She stepped inside
and ushered Arthur and Monica in.
JenniAnn enthusiastically hugged them both.
"We're leaving tomorrow morning!" she cheered.
"That's great!" Arthur gushed. "Vincent's beyond
excited. I thought he was going to wear a trail
in your carpet while waiting for word."
JenniAnn hurried to her purse and pulled out her
phone, promptly sending out a text. "Hopefully
that gives him some peace." She returned to
Andrew's side and kissed Annabelle. "Less then
24 hours and you can meet your Grandpa Vincent!"
Kelly smiled then let out a sigh. "I also come
for professional reasons." She held out a
folder. "Paperwork for you, Andrew.
"I'm good with paperwork. I've been an IRS agent
about two dozen times, after all." Andrew
grinned then turned to Arthur. "You want to hold
Annabelle since you haven't had a chance?"
Monica watched, feeling torn as Arthur cradled
Annabelle. All day long she had tried to prepare
herself for this moment. All at once she felt
such joy for her friends, a twinge of jealousy, and
the stirrings of an old longing.
"Monica, come sit with us, please," Arthur requested,
pulling her out of her thoughts.
JenniAnn squeezed the angel's hand and urged her
Letting out a deep breath, Monica joined Arthur on the
couch and rested her chin on his shoulder. "She
is so lovely," she cooed. "Aren't you, Annabelle
Andrew looked wistfully at the two then took the
papers and settled into the recliner, using the
briefcase Kelly offered as a desk. He
immediately burst out laughing. "All right,
whose idea was this?"
JenniAnn sat on the arm of the chair and peeked at the
papers, not understanding what had set Andrew off
until his finger slid under a line where his alleged
last name was typed. She laughed. "So let
me get this straight... I spent the summer with
Mr. Rochester and am apparently now raising a baby
with Mr. Darcy?"
Andrew grinned. "So it would seem.
Unfortunately, I don't have an English accent."
JenniAnn shrugged and hugged him. "I like your
accent better, anyway. I hope Annabelle picks it
up... Mr. Darcy."
Arthur smiled up at them then looked down to Annabelle
whose eye lids were drooping. "Umm, I think
she's about to fall asleep. Do one of
you..." He frowned, not in a particular hurry to
turn the baby over.
"Are you okay with keeping her?" JenniAnn asked.
The man nodded. "Definitely."
Andrew smiled. "Thank you."
"Would you sing to her?" Monica asked. While
they were working together in the Philippines, she had
overheard Arthur singing to some of the children and
been even more enchanted. Bittersweet as it was,
she longed to hear him sing again.
"Sure. My mom used to sing me to sleep with this
one." Arthur began to sing, the others joining
in on the brief chorus.
"Oh once I had a little dog, his
color it was brown.
I taught him for to
whistle, to sing and dance and run.
His legs they were
fourteen yards long, his ears so very wide.
Around the world in
half a day, upon him I could ride.
Sing Tarry-O Day, Sing,
Autumn to May."
Kelly studied Monica. Even as she sang along,
she prayed. Andrew and JenniAnn had received
their heart's desire and Kelly prayed that, somehow,
Monica would, too. Looking at Arthur, Kelly
suspected the longing was shared. After a few
moments, a peace settled over Kelly. She didn't
know what was coming but she heard the Father's
voice. This wouldn't be the last time she would
help this group welcome a child.
Andrew busied himself with the paperwork, piping up
when the song reached the chorus. He stole
glances at Monica, wondering what exactly she was
thinking. Even amidst his own happiness, he
hadn't lost sight of how emotional Annabelle's arrival
might be for some of their friends, especially Arthur
and Monica and Beth and Mick. However, he
couldn't feel sadness or angst. God's miracles
were unceasing and Andrew knew Annabelle would be far
from the last.
Fr. Mike admired all the hand-carved knick-knacks
stashed in Joshua's apartment. "So this is what
you do when you're actually here..." he mused.
"Do you ever sleep?"
Joshua set down his carving knife and smiled.
"When I'm like this, yes. Sometimes."
"So... Andrew and JenniAnn are thinking of
putting off Annabelle's baptism until Holy Week.
They're hoping their friend, Ivy, can come then since
she'll be on break. But I was thinking... that
gives you some time. Maybe by then... well,
surely you could be there."
Joshua nodded. "I hope so."
"Is that what all this is? For them?" The
priest's quick inventory of Joshua's collection took
in many items that reminded him of his friends.
He picked up two owls that, though separate pieces,
slid together. "For Max and Rose, I presume?"
"Yeah." Joshua approached.
Fr. Mike hugged him. "They'll all treasure
them. I know how much mine means to me."
He thought of the statue Joshua had made him depicting
himself as a baby with his Abi and Ama. Joshua
had given it to him after Yosef and Maryam had left
with promises to return. Fr. Mike kept it on his
bedside table where he saw it every morning and every
Joshua picked one item off the shelf. "Could you
please take this to them when you go to Annabelle's
Naming Ceremony Below? It'll likely be
Monday. They'll want to fit it in before Robert
and Allison need to head back on Tuesday."
Fr. Mike admired the piece. It was a beautiful
abstract statue of a man and a woman with a
baby. A white butterfly was perched on the
infant's hand. "Josh... They'll love
it." After Joshua had wrapped the figurine up in
tissue paper, the priest settled it into his
bag. Then he pulled two envelopes out. "I
have something for you. Not from me
personally. I'm just the messenger."
Joshua looked curiously at the envelopes. The
Father had not said anything to him about them.
"Who are they from?"
Fr. Mike handed him the envelopes. "When I
visited Andrew and JenniAnn to discuss their wishes
regarding the baptism, JenniAnn was... well, there may
have been some caffeine involvement but I suspect she
was just plain overjoyed."
Joshua smiled then sobered. "I'm losing their
words... I don't know exactly what they're doing or
thinking at every moment any more. But I did
"Well, she kept repeating the word 'blessed' over and
over. And Andrew..." Fr. Mike
chuckled. "I've heard that sometimes guys turns
into their fathers when they themselves become
fathers... but I think Andrew's taking it quite
literally. He's growing a beard."
Joshua chuckled. "JenniAnn is no doubt thrilled
by that, too."
"Very. I can't wait until you can see them
together! Josh, the way she looks at him and him
at her and both of them at Annabelle... And
maybe it's just in my head but I swear she looks more
at them than anyone else. She knows they're
The priest beamed. "Well, of course they won't
leave her for more than a few minutes at a time so
they're cooped up in that hospital room... not too
many ways to express that joy and energy. So I
suggested JenniAnn write a letter... to you. She
did. Andrew, too. He also tucked some
photos in his envelope of everyone's visits. He
thought you might want them."
Joshua nodded, his eyes welling.
"Andrew distracted JenniAnn while I grabbed her letter
for you. So... sit down, read, look, I'll
be back in a little bit." Fr. Mike hugged him
then hurried out the door.
Joshua sunk onto his bed and eagerly opened the
envelope from Andrew. He spent a few moments
with each photo then set them down in front of him and
admired the whole series, truly feeling the happiness
that each image captured. Then he moved onto the
letters. As he read Andrew's and JenniAnn's
words, they seemed as near as they'd always
been. He let each word comfort him and hung onto
the voice of his Father, reminding him that their
reunion would come soon.
The following morning, Andrew recorded as JenniAnn
dressed Annabelle. The angel chuckled as the
baby made a face when her mother slid a hat onto her
"You may have a lot of hair but it's not enough to
keep you warm out there, sweetheart!" JenniAnn
assured. She bent to kiss her forehead.
"You look so cute! Grandma's got good tastes,
huh?" She fingered the soft, fleece sleeper
covered in butterflies and daisies that her mother had
bought. She scooped Annabelle up and then
stepped towards the door and smiled and waved to
Andrew and the camera. "Could you please pan
around so we can see the whole room?"
"Good idea," Andrew agreed. He moved to the
center of the room and spun. "So this is where
we stayed for the first four days of your life,
"This is where you got told your first story,"
Andrew turned to the bed. "And we were right
over there when we gave you a bottle for the first
"And that window... that's where Uncle Andrew and I
would stand when we prayed for... for you."
Andrew filmed a few seconds of the view outside the
window then he panned around the room once more and
ended with Annabelle and JenniAnn. "And there
you are... almost time to go and meet your Grandpa
Vincent and so many other friends and then... then
we'll go home. We love you so much, Annabelle."
JenniAnn snuggled her closer. "Always."
His eyes misting, Andrew turned off the camera.
JenniAnn laid Annabelle back down in her
bassinet. "Let's wait til Portia's here to
escort us out before we put on her coat. I don't
want her to overheat."
Andrew smiled. "Good idea." He moved
beside her and sighed as they both gazed down at
"Were we this happy in your vision?" JenniAnn asked,
peering up at Andrew.
Andrew wrapped his arms around her and shook his
head. "We were happy but no. I... I don't
think God would have let me feel this... this
overwhelming joy until she... she was ours to
keep. I couldn't have spent a month and a half
not feeling this after I... I had."
JenniAnn's eyes welled and she reached up to kiss his
cheek. "I love you so much."
"I love you, too, my Laja." Andrew's heart
swelled as he held her and they resumed watching over
Annabelle together until Portia came to officially
release their girl.
Allison madly snapped photos as Andrew and JenniAnn
exited the hospital with the latter holding Annabelle
and Robert and Portia trailing them with their
bags. Once Andrew had displayed his car seat
acumen, Annabelle was officially released from the
hospital. Allison and JenniAnn hopped into the
backseat with the baby while Andrew settled into
driver's seat of the Jolly Green with Robert and
Portia in the passenger's seats. Once the door
was closed, the five adults silently stared at each
other for a moment. The day they'd waited for
had finally come and they needed a few moments for the
reality of that to sink in.
"So are... are we ready?" Andrew asked.
JenniAnn leaned forward and took his hand.
Andrew brought her hand to his lips then, once
everyone was buckled in, he pulled away from the curb
and headed to Cora's house from which they would make
their way to the Tunnels.
Annabelle was headed home.
Andrew beamed as he stepped into JenniAnn's chamber
and came face to face with Catherine, Vincent, and
Jacob. "There's more baby stuff than there is
baby," he noted wryly before setting the bags
down. "We'll deal with that later." He met
Vincent's expectant gaze. "She got waylaid by
well-wishers but it's you she most wants to see."
As Catherine hugged her husband's arm, she remembered
the past few nights. She had woken up many times
to find Vincent no longer in bed but instead pacing
the room. He had to see Annabelle and
JenniAnn... and soon. "Go. Declare
Vincent nodded, ready to do so but then JenniAnn
appeared, Annabelle swaddled in her arms.
Transfixed, Vincent could only stare at the two.
JenniAnn closed the distance. "Vincent, I... I
want you to meet your granddaughter. This is
Annabelle Luna. Annabelle, this is your Grandpa
Vincent pulled them both to him and kissed JenniAnn's
forehead. "Psyche..." He caressed her face
then gazed down at the infant. "She's..."
No photographs and no phone calls could have prepared
Vincent for the feelings that swelled up inside
him. He could scarcely believe this little one
was somehow his but she was and he adored her.
"Psyche... she's so beautiful."
"You want to hold her?"
Vincent eagerly accepted the baby.
"Annabelle..." he cooed. "Psyche, she's... so
precious. I am so... so very happy for you."
Andrew watched as JenniAnn rested her head on
Vincent's shoulder and took Catherine's hand in
hers. He smiled at her as she spoke the words
they both felt so strongly.
"Thank you both for teaching me that... that love's
always worth it. Even when the way is
difficult. I was so little when you two were
first... well, finding your way. But I was old
enough to realize it wasn't always easy. And
yet... you taught me to stick with the one I loved no
matter what and because of that... we have our
Andrew drew closer and set a hand on each of their
"Psyche..." Catherine kissed her cousin's hair
and reached back to pat Andrew's hand. "Thank
you. And I'm very, very glad we have this little
girl. And I call dibs after Vincent."
Annabelle's parents laughed.
JenniAnn nodded. "You got it."
Andrew grinned, moving to face them. "You can
probably also have her at 1 AM. Or 2:15...
4:30..." His smile became more tender and more
serious when he looked to Annabelle snuggled in her
grandpa's arms. "But you'll have to fight me for
Just as Andrew began to feel stricken by the memories
of how desperate Annabelle's situation had been in the
beginning, JenniAnn embraced him tightly. All
As all four of the adults basked in the beauty and
wondrousness of what had come to pass, a voice boomed
from the corridor.
"Delivery for Princess Psyche Dwynwen Chandler!"
Devin entered the room, his arms laden. After
setting down the largest package, he held some flowers
out to JenniAnn. "For mom." Next came a
brightly colored plush bear. "For baby."
"Thank you, Devin. They're beautiful."
JenniAnn hugged the man after admiring the
gifts. "And Annabelle will love the bear.
You want to meet her?"
Nodding, Devin stared at Vincent and Annabelle.
JenniAnn pulled him closer. "Devin, this is
Annabelle Luna. Annabelle, this is Devin.
Your... great uncle."
"God, kid... She's beautiful. Look at
those tiny hands!" Devin enthused.
Vincent beamed. "They're perfect."
Curious, he looked to the abandoned package.
"Devin, what is that you brought with you?"
"Oh that? That's for the rest of us. A
door." Devin looked to JenniAnn with a teasing
grin. "I love you, kid. And this little
one, too. But..."
"You got that to muffle the crying, didn't you?"
Catherine punched her brother-in-law in the arm as she
laughed and rolled her eyes. "Typical..."
Devin shrugged. "Well, now, it's also to give
the girls their privacy. Mommy and baby
Andrew smiled when Devin caught his eyes.
"Mommy and baby and uncle time is important without a
"Hello!" an aged but still booming voice called.
Father shuffled into the chamber with a small band of
other well-wishers trailing in behind him.
"Where is she? Let me see her."
Vincent made the most of his last few moments holding
Annabelle before others, his wife included, would want
Andrew watched, deeply moved, as he saw Vincent kiss
the baby then close his eyes. He pulled JenniAnn
to him. "Look," he whispered. "A
benediction from Grandpa."
JenniAnn's eyes welled, knowing that whatever words
Vincent was praying, they would be ones of pure love
and hope. Those feelings surrounded her as her
parents and many of their friends swarmed into the
Andrew rested his chin on his friend's hair.
"Whatever happens, whatever comes... Annabelle will
have no shortage of people to remind her that she is
JenniAnn beamed, recognizing that this knowledge was
among the greatest assurances any parent could
Though Andrew had been thankful to
find that a cot had been brought into JenniAnn's
room for his benefit, for the time being he was
content to remain with her and Annabelle on the
bed. The baby was dozing between the adults
and neither could take their eyes off her.
JenniAnn's cheeks flushed when she finally looked
away from Annabelle and met Andrew's gaze.
"Vincent said he and Devin put up a bed in her
nursery back home. Are you... I mean do you
want... to stay?"
Smiling dreamily, Andrew nodded. "Yes."
JenniAnn smiled. "Kay." She was
somewhat concerned about how she would adjust to
sleeping alone in a room but it would practically
be the same room so long as she kept the door
between the two open. She reached over and
rested her hand on his scruffy cheek.
"I should shave before the ceremony
tomorrow. Tess... nicely... said I look like
a ragamuffin. But it's true."
"I like ragamuffins."
"Okay then I won't."
JenniAnn laughed. "Well, I don't mean you
can't shave. I'm fine either way."
"I think I can think of better ways to spend that
chunk of time in the morning.
Besides..." Andrew caught himself before he
announced that he'd fit right in with
Joshua. "I like it myself," he covered.
Annabelle stirred and opened her mouth as if she
was ready to start crying then seemed to decide
she was too tired to bother.
Andrew chuckled. "Well then..."
JenniAnn gently patted her tummy.
"Why don't you sing to her?"
"You have a much better voice."
Andrew stroked her hair. "I like your
JenniAnn smiled softly and began to sing "Child of
Mine" until Annabelle drifted back to sleep.
February 10th, 2014
After Annabelle's Naming Ceremony was over, everyone
gathered for dinner together. A line of
well-wishers snaked through the dining hall, each
eager to greet Annabelle and congratulate Andrew and
JenniAnn. Shelby stood near the cradle, acting
every bit the protective big sister.
After several minutes, Fr. Mike found himself at the
head of the line. He hugged Andrew and
JenniAnn. "Beautiful ceremony! And
Annabelle was a perfect angel up there with all those
people staring at her."
JenniAnn beamed. "Let's hope her patience lasts
til Spring when you pour that water over her."
The priest laughed. "No worries even if she
fusses. Trust me. I've seen it all.
One time I baptized a toddler and he was so irritated
he kicked me in the shin. It was a truly holy
"That's mean!" Shelby exclaimed.
Fr. Mike ruffled her hair. "He was just confused
and didn't understand."
Andrew chuckled. "Well, I can assure you that
Annabelle won't be causing bruises."
"Annabelle will never hurt anyone," Shelby insisted as
she straightened the bow in the baby's hair.
Touched by her unquestioning devotion, Fr. Mike knelt
down. "I brought you something I thought maybe
you could share with Annabelle." He produced a
book from his bag.
"Frozen!" Shelby shrieked. Weeks before
Andrew, JenniAnn, Kemara, Rose, Max, Violeta, and Owen
had taken several of the children to see the movie and
Shelby had yet to get over it. "I can read it to
her! Can't I?" she implored.
"You bet," Andrew agreed.
"I think that's absolutely the perfect book for the
two of you to read together," JenniAnn added.
She squeezed Fr. Mike's hand appreciatively.
Not wanting to waste any time, Shelby plopped into a
chair by the cradle and began to read aloud.
"It's a hit, Fr. Mike. Thanks." Andrew
"I'm glad and you're welcome. I brought a couple
things." Fr. Mike handed a small box to
"Her first rosary..." She kissed Fr. Mike's
cheek. "Thank you, Fr. Mike. It's
beautiful and means so much coming from you."
"You're very welcome. Now this..." He held
up a bag. "I have to confess that I was so
excited for you both that I couldn't resist telling an
old friend. Don't worry. I didn't get into
specifics." Fr. Mike grinned. That didn't
mean the friend didn't know the specifics...
Andrew's eye brow crooked upward. It wasn't like
Fr. Mike to be at all indiscreet. Which meant he
likely knew the 'old friend' himself.
"He was so touched that he made this for you three and
asked me to bring it to you. He's a
woodcarver... among other things. A real
Andrew bowed his head. That settled it.
Joshua had sent a gift.
"Aww... how sweet!" JenniAnn accepted the bag,
pulled away the tissue paper, and removed the
statue. "Oh..." She sighed. "But
how..." She shook her head. The white
butterfly was surely just a coincidence. Or
Jesus had whispered of it to the woodcarver.
Andrew circled his arm around her waist. He knew
she was remembering the white butterfly in the
woods... just as he was. That night she had been
plagued by the sufferings of children. The
butterfly had given her hope in God's healing love...
now Annabelle had done the same. The sculpture
"It's beautiful," JenniAnn finally choked out.
"Please thank him. If we write him a note...
could you bring it to him?"
Fr. Mike nodded. "Of course."
For a few moments, JenniAnn buried her face in
Andrew's shoulder until she regained composure and
recommenced visiting with her friends.
As he prepared to go Above,
Andrew watched Allison and Robert fuss over
Annabelle. He hoped that stepping away
might have the added benefit of giving them more
quality time with their granddaughter.
"I wish we could stay longer," Robert
lamented. "But mother's not backing off
this visit with her cousins and I guess I don't
blame her with everyone getting so... old.
JenniAnn reached for her father's hand.
"You can come see her as soon as you get back,"
she reassured. "Just use the portal."
"But a week is an eternity!" Allison whined as
she kissed Annabelle's hair. "Isn't
it? Isn't it, sweetie?"
Andrew chuckled at the baby talk. He'd
always wondered why humans did that... until
he'd started doing it himself.
"Andrew, you'll be back before we leave?" Robert
Buttoning his coat, the angel turned around and
nodded effusively. "Oh yeah. I'll
only be an hour or two. Just need to do
Robert smiled. "Good."
JenniAnn approached Andrew and hugged him.
He'd seemed so happy all day and yet there was a
touch of sadness to him. "Everything all
right?" she whispered.
Andrew smiled gently. "Everything's
wonderful. I just..." He looked back
over at Allison and Robert.
JenniAnn noticed the wistfulness in his
gaze. She blushed, wishing she'd realized
what was going on earlier. Andrew had been
able to introduce many of his friends to
Annabelle but only she had been able to see her
own parents welcome their baby. "Are you
going to spend a lil time with your Dad?"
Touched that she'd gathered as much, Andrew
sighed and kissed her hair. "Yes."
"Good." JenniAnn turned back to Annabelle
and her grandparents. "They love and trust
you now more than ever," she murmured.
"I... I'm glad." Andrew had felt as much
but was relieved to have it verified.
While Allison and Robert had once regarded him
with a confused chill, they'd warmed to him long
ago... but enough to entrust their only
grandchild to him? He beamed. It
certainly seemed so.
JenniAnn grabbed his scarf and set it around his
neck. "Go. And please... tell Him
thank You for me a-and that I love Him."
Andrew brushed at the tear that slid down his
cheek. "I will, Laja."
"Thanks." JenniAnn sucked in a deep breath
and let it out. "Now go so you can be back
in time for coffee and cake!"
Andrew chuckled. "Definitely." He
hugged her then kissed Annabelle and bid the
After making his way to the nearest exit, Andrew
hurried along the now-familiar path to Joshua's
apartment. He trekked up the stairs,
smiling as he did. While still a work in
progress, they were improved since Joshua had
arrived. Much of the building was looking
When he reached room 333, Andrew knocked.
Joshua's face lit up when he opened the door and
found Andrew. He ushered him inside then
pulled him into a hug.
"Thank you," the angel murmured as he wept with
joy in his Creator's arms.
"You're very welcome. Come sit. You
look a little tired."
Andrew gratefully sunk into a chair. The
brisk walk might not have been the best idea
when he hadn't slept much...
"How is everyone?" Joshua questioned eagerly.
"Unbelievably happy. Well... Allison and
Robert wish they could stay longer but
otherwise... blissful. A-and JenniAnn
sends her love and thanks." Andrew smiled
when Joshua pressed a bottle of ginger ale into
his hand. "Thanks."
Andrew took a sip. "It's been wonderful
watching JenniAnn introduce Annabelle to her
grandparents. I feel such... amazing
happiness. But... It's made me miss
you and the Father even though I... I know
you're always there."
Touched, Joshua squeezed Andrew's hand.
"Yes. But human form sometimes makes it
harder to feel that." He sighed.
"But for now we have some time so... you want to
look at some cradle plans?"
His eyes brimming again, Andrew nodded.
"I'd love to." He smiled tenderly when
Joshua pulled a sketchbook off the table.
"So these are just a few ideas I had," Joshua
began as he flipped to the front of the pad.
"Roses..." Andrew reached out to touch the
Joshua smiled. "Yeah. I thought it
might be a nice touch to carve some in. Do
you think a rocking cradle or a swinging
one? Both would be safe but I think
JenniAnn might feel like a rocking one is more
solid. But since she knows it's coming
The angel of death soaked in Joshua's excitement
and happiness as he rattled off all the
possibilities for Annabelle's cradle. But
no single element was more important to Andrew
than knowing that Annabelle would drift to sleep
in a cradle made by his hands and those of the
One who had made them all.
February 13th, 2014
When Owen had decided the nursery
had been aired out enough, he and Vincent escorted
Andrew, JenniAnn, and Annabelle to
"You ready?" the artist asked as he excitedly
stood outside the closed door.
"Very," Andrew answered as JenniAnn nodded while
wiping some drool from her daughter's face.
As soon as the door was opened, Lulu and Fawn
rushed in to investigate the "new" room.
"Oh..." JenniAnn spun slowly as she stood in
the middle of the room. "Oh Annabelle look
what everyone did for you... The
ceiling... And... everything..."
"You know, if I'd known this all was coming, I
would have bought stock in Kleenex beforehand,"
Owen teased as he handed his friend a
JenniAnn laughed, hugging him with her free arm
then embracing her godfather. "It's so
Andrew hugged the two men. "It really
is." He gaped at the ceiling. "How did
you do that?"
"I sketched it out. Got help with the
painting. Vampires help when one's painting
JenniAnn smiled, remembering Logan's unusual
painting technique. "I don't know how we'll
begin to repay everyone for all this time and
"You won't," Vincent countered. "The time
was given freely and willingly and with
love. Your happiness and your continued love
is the only repayment any of us should desire."
"That we can handle," Andrew murmured. He
walked around the room with Annabelle and
JenniAnn, taking in all the personal
touches. The quilt from Mary and her circle,
books from JenniAnn's childhood that her parents
had brought along in addition to several of
Vincent's choosing, the dog from the angels of
death. Andrew laughed when he noticed the
scented candles were strategically placed near the
changing table. The coffee table was covered
in handmade gifts from JenniAnn's students.
In keeping with the room's theme, Owen had done
small paintings of friendly moons and stars and
suns and hung them on the walls. Andrew
approached the crib Catherine was lending them
until he could finish Annabelle's cradle.
JenniAnn sighed. "Just wait til you see what
Uncle Andrew is making you, Annabelle," she
Andrew smiled. The day before he'd presented
JenniAnn with the final plans from Joshua.
She'd sobbed for five minutes straight and then
clung to him for another five. As Andrew
thought of the time he and Joshua would spend on
the cradle, he fingered the beautiful mobile
hanging above the crib.
Vincent chuckled when Annabelle angled around to
find the source of the chiming noise. "From
Monica and Arthur. They purchased it from a
friend they made in the Philippines. It's
meant to be a wind chime but we thought it would
make for a good mobile."
"A very good one," Andrew agreed as Annabelle
"Open the dresser," Owen directed. "A gift
from Eliot and Brittony, by the way."
JenniAnn rested her fingers on the beautiful oaken
piece. "It's beautiful."
"That Celtic cross with the bedtime blessing on
top is from Kemara," Vincent explained. "And
the framed poem beside it is from Miss Lee."
"Aww... Kemara and Ivy..." JenniAnn snuggled
Annabelle. "We're very blessed, aren't we,
"Very." Andrew opened a drawer and
Owen and Vincent stepped nearer to explain the
origins of the pieces if needed.
JenniAnn laughed as Andrew held up a crimson and
gold jumper, tights, and shirt ensemble.
"Max and Rose?"
Owen grinned. "Obviously."
"A frilly dress!" JenniAnn exclaimed as Andrew
moved to the next piece.
"From Mick and Beth. There are matching
shoes, as well."
Next was a sleeper covered in rainbow music notes.
"Tess," Andrew correctly guessed. He laughed
when he pulled out a set of superhero
T-shirts. "Logan got into the baby clothes
"Very exuberantly... but then is there anything
Logan doesn't do with exuberance?"
JenniAnn smiled. "And that is why we love
Owen nodded. "That drawer below is filled
with clothes from Raquel. She wants so much
to be here but the ship doesn't dock until next
week... so I guess she decided to drown her
sorrows by buying out a boutique."
Andrew marveled at the generosity everyone had
shown. Soon Owen was waving a tissue at
him. Chuckling, he took it and wiped at his
Owen stooped down. "One more thing."
He opened the bottom drawer which contained one
JenniAnn gasped in admiration as Owen held it
up. She reached out to touch the immaculate
white baptismal gown.
Vincent took her other hand in his, smiling when
her fingers looped around one of his. "I
found some Irish lace when I was going through my
mother's things. Catherine and I kept
some... in hopes it may one day trim bridal
handkerchiefs. But as for the rest...
Catherine and your mother bought the gown and
Monica and Tess helped add the trim."
Teary-eyed, Andrew took Annabelle so JenniAnn
could focus on her godfather. She threw her
arms around him and sobbed into his sweater,
grateful and glad and humbled and uplifted all at
After nuzzling Annabelle's hair, Andrew looked up
to see that Owen was sniffling. He grabbed a
tissue and handed it to him with a knowing smile.
"Okay, fine. So I'm just as much a sap as
the rest of you." Owen grinned and let the
tears of happiness fall.
"It's so hard to decide how to dress her!
Everyone gave such cute stuff!"
Andrew made faces at Annabelle as JenniAnn looked
through her wardrobe. "We'll have plenty of
time to show it all off, Laja."
JenniAnn turned to face him and smiled.
"Yeah." Late in the night, she'd been seized
by the sudden panic that somehow everything would
fall through but Andrew's assurance and faith had
cured her of that. And maybe because of the
dreamy comfort she'd felt after that, Annabelle's
nickname had slipped from her lips. "Belle,
how do you feel about going Gryffindor today?"
Andrew stood up and sat the baby on her changing
table. "I don't know about Belle but it
sounds like a plan to me. Besides, crimson
is appropriate for Valentine's Day, right?"
Soon they had Belle cleaned up, dressed, fed, and
ready for her first visit to the Cafe.
"Should we bring the car seat?" JenniAnn asked.
Andrew chuckled. "You think there might
actually be a moment that someone's not holding
JenniAnn grinned. "No, guess not."
"So we ready?"
"Just let me..." JenniAnn dug through the
diaper bag, double-checking to make sure they had
everything they might need. "Yep, we're
"Then off we go! Your first Valentine's
party, Belle!" Andrew gushed as he headed to the
Andrew halted. "What is it?"
JenniAnn stood on tiptoe and kissed his
cheek. "Just wanted to say thank you.
And I love you."
Andrew returned the kiss. "You're welcome
and thank you and... I love you, too. Both
of you." He kissed Annabelle's cheek before
they set off on the quick walk to the Cafe.
Unsurprisingly, they were swarmed when they
stepped inside... and the first to reach them was
"I thought you couldn't get here until next week!"
Andrew cried as he hugged her.
Once he'd let her go, Raquel pulled JenniAnn to
her. "You'll both have to forgive Owen and
me for a small lie. Nico and I docked this
morning but we wanted to surprise you. He'll
be by later today. Now... let me see this
little girl I've heard so much about."
Andrew placed Belle in her arms.
"Oh sweet pea..." Raquel murmured.
Shelby ran up and tugged at JenniAnn's arm.
"Come sit by me! We saved you all a spot
towards the front."
JenniAnn obediently followed with Andrew and
After everyone had settled back down, Rose and Max
stood in front of the screen.
"So..." Rose began. "We hope this year's
video doesn't seem too thrown together but, for
obvious reasons, there was a last minute switch in
producers." She beamed at Andrew and
"Nonetheless, we hope we did justice to this
tradition that Andrew and JenniAnn have kept going
for a while. It meant a lot to Rose and me
to take this over because, well, we were just so
happy about Annabelle but also..." Max's
eyes flooded. "I know I haven't been here as
long as some of you but I... I couldn't love you
all more if... if I'd always been here. I
hope the way Rose and I feel about you... about
our family... comes through." He swiped at a
tear and smiled. "But whether it does or
doesn't, I think we can all agree that the video
has a really adorable finale."
With that, the couple sat down on the floor near
Andrew and JenniAnn and began the video.
As "The Circle Game" started up, childhood photos
of each human present morphed into current
photos. For the angels, Violeta and Eli had
smuggled old photographs out of Records. The
crowd laughed as, in many cases, sober tintypes
gave way to wacky digital photos.
"This is an adorable idea!" JenniAnn enthused,
squeezing Rose's and Max's shoulders.
They beamed as the video progressed, incorporating
clips from all their holidays and celebrations
together, their trip to Alaska, and all the other
adventures and mundane occurrences that had
comprised their shared lives during the previous
A lump caught in Andrew's throat as a photograph
Arthur had snapped before Christmas Mass glided
across the screen. He heard Violeta and
Monica both gasp nearby. Unknowingly, Arthur
had captured Joshua, Yosef, and Maryam, too.
"Love..." JenniAnn whispered, pressing a tissue
into his hand when she noticed he was crying.
Andrew squeezed her hand and smiled to reassure
her as another song began and photographs from the
last week cycled by. The sentiment of the
song couldn't have matched what he felt more
perfectly if he'd chosen it himself.
"Sometimes I sit on my front
just soaking up the
I think to myself,
I think to myself
this world is a
I have been
And I feel like I've
found my way."
Joshua stared at the laptop
screen as the video neared its end. He
didn't care that Mike was seeing him cry
so. He hadn't made "Jesus wept" the most
eye-catchingly short passage in the Bible for
thank God for all I've been given
at the end of every
I have been blessed
with so much more
than I deserve
to be here with the
ones that love me,
to love them so
much it hurts.
I have been
Fr. Mike hugged Joshua when the video ended.
"So... so thanks for that. We really have
Joshua nodded, returned the hug, and dried his
eyes. "Thank you for bringing me that."
"You're welcome. Andrew and Violeta packed
up some of the food for us, too." The priest
began to unload the cooler. "When you were
hungry... I gave you neon pink Valentine's cookies
and TLS sandwiches also shaped like hearts.
Oh and Violeta went through the conversation
hearts and handpicked the ones she thought were
appropriate for you to have," the priest joked,
hoping to make Joshua laugh.
"Good job on the photo-bomb, by the way."
Joshua laughed again. "I didn't even realize
we'd done that!"
"It's going to be lotsa of fun when they watch
that again after your time with them."
Joshua beamed, already imagining what that time
might be like.
"And you might want to get some ear plugs for when
JenniAnn finds out you made that statue. She
can shriek in decibels that I didn't even realize
existed. But I guess you did."
"Yes and I'll prepare myself."
After saying a blessing, Joshua dug into the
leftovers with Fr. Mike. "Hmm...
Actually, I think this is RBLS, not TLS.
Yeah, it is."
"Roast beef like substance. Adam's really
improving. It's delicious."
Fr. Mike shook his head in bemusement. "Only
Joshua smirked and glanced back at the
laptop. He sighed happily. St.
Patrick's Day was less than a month away... the
next holiday. And when it arrived, he would
be among them.
Andrew hugged Annabelle. "Belle, I'll see
you tonight, okay? I have to go meet my next
The baby voiced her disapproval by spitting up on
"After I change..." The angel wiped her face
then set her back down in the cradle that he had
presented to her and JenniAnn the previous
night. JenniAnn had clung to him for ten
minutes... at least five of which Andrew was sure
were owed to Joshua.
JenniAnn giggled. She yanked another sweater
off the top of the stack of laundry she was
folding then picked Annabelle up.
After hastily changing, Andrew grinned.
"Okay, now I'm off!" He kissed Annabelle's
hair and then her mother's. "Be back by
6:00. Call if you need me to pick anything
up. And I'll just be in Manhattan if..."
JenniAnn squeezed his hand. "We'll be just
fine. And Violeta's gonna be by within the
hour to help."
Andrew took in a deep breath and nodded.
"I'll text you photos if Belle does anything
The angel smiled. "Thank you." He
hugged her again then stepped into the hall,
surfacing in an alley near St. Genesius' Community
Theatre. He entered and, finding no one in
the lobby, followed the music into the theatre
"'I don't know how to love him. What to do,
how to move him? I've been changed, yes
really changed. ,'" a young woman on the stage
sang. She looked curiously at Andrew but
kept singing. "'In these past few days, when
I've seen myself, I seem like someone else.'"
"Feel it, sweetheart. You love this man and
you feel him slipping away... headed for something
Andrew's gaze traveled to a woman in the
audience. A shawl was wrapped tightly around
her thin shoulders and her head was wrapped in a
brightly colored scarf. Though she couldn't
see him, he smiled tenderly. Not wanting to
alarm the actress, the angel didn't come any
"'I don't know how to take this. I don't see
why he moves me. He's a man. He's just
a man,'" the woman intoned, her eyes filling with
"There it is!"
"Mary" struggled with the next line, her voice
growing shaky. "'And I've had s-so many men
before, in very many ways, he... he's just o-one
Andrew bowed his head. Though not perfect,
the rawness suited the song.
"Emma..." her listener murmured, moved.
"'Should I bring him down?'" The singer fell
to her knees, her hair hiding her face.
"'Should I scream and shout?'"
Andrew was enthralled through the rest of the
song. This woman would sing to Joshua night
When the song ended, the woman in the audience
gingerly stood and clapped. "Beautiful, Emma!
Brava! Now come down here, please."
Andrew took the opportunity to approach. His
steps alerted the woman to his presence. She
turned and smiled at him.
"You must be Andrew from the hospice!" she
greeted, sticking her hand out.
Andrew returned her smile and her handshake, he
noticed her cheeks were sallow and her skin pale
but her eyes flickered with life and joy.
Emma hopped off the stage and curiously approached
"I'm happy to meet you, Lucy. I..."
Andrew paused, not sure what Emma knew.
Lucy rested an arm around the younger woman's
shoulders. "Andrew, this is Emma. Our
Mary Magdalene. Emma, this is Andrew.
He's going to be helping me out until I shuffle
off this old mortal coil."
Though it caused Emma to wince, Andrew was pleased
by Lucy's fearless and matter-of-fact attitude.
"B-but not yet," Emma sputtered.
Lucy kissed her temple. "Now don't worry,
darling. I'm going to a good place."
Emma forced a smile for her and for Andrew.
"Pleased to meet you, Andrew."
Andrew shook her hand. "And I'm very pleased
to meet you. You have a beautiful voice."
Emma blushed. "Thank you."
"Emma is also helping my husband, Doug the
Director. You'll get to meet him soon.
Now, come along backstage, Andrew. I want
you to meet everyone."
Andrew swallowed the lump in his throat as Lucy
took his hand and led him away.
So it began.
Outside the theatre, a man walked down the street
and merrily hummed. After a while, he began
to sing quietly to himself and, upon discovering
no one paid him any mind, his volume increased.
"Pre-eeee-eee-pare ye the way of the Lord," he
chortled as he paused in front of a telephone pole
and tacked a flier up. He continued to sing
as he wandered into a restaurant, pausing his song
only to ask if he could post his flier on their
community bulletin board. After doing so, he
continued down the street.
"What do you think you're doing there, young
man?" a deep voice demanded.
The man with the fliers tensed then turned
around, his face breaking into a smile when he
saw the source of the question. "Yeshua!"
Joshua grinned back and, after setting down the
groceries he was carrying, pulled the man into a
hug. "Greetings, Yohannan!" He
glanced down at the papers. "Really, what
are you doing?"
Beaming Yohannan held the papers out for his
cousin to read.
Woodcarving. Good Rates. Honest
Work,'" Joshua read. "'Call Joshua
Davidson at...' Yohannan... what is this
number? I don't even have a phone."
Yohannan tilted his head towards an empty bus
stop and when Joshua had followed him inside, he
pulled a bright red cell phone from the pocket
of his jeans. "I do. I'll get word
to you when people call." He admired the
phone. "Such a small thing and yet so much
in it. If I had one of these back
then... I could have been a voice crying
out in the wilderness and on Twitter.
Although I do not care at all for the
limitations... only 140 letters?"
Joshua laughed. "It would have been a
trial for you... and for me for that
matter. So... you don't think I can get
work on my own?" he teased.
"Yes... but I've been reading files. That
Emma is not a very trusting sort. She'll
want to investigate you before you're
hired. So I put you on Yelp, too."
Joshua blinked. "You got on Yelp?"
Yohannan shrugged. "It's my job. I
prepare your way."
"Yeah, about that... You do realize that
song you were singing is not actually in the
musical I'm going to be in, right?" Joshua
hoped Yohannan wasn't setting himself up for
"Oh yes. But I was already dead when Jesus
Christ Superstar's plot begins so I don't
have a song in that one... It would have
been quite macabre, actually, if I had."
Yohannan wrinkled his nose.
Joshua was laughing so hard tears were
forming. Yohannan had always had a very
dark sense of humor... "Well, thank you
for your efforts. Good ideas all.
Yohannan's phone rang. "This is Yohannan,
personal assistant to Mr. Davidson.
Yes. I will tell him. I see..."
Joshua curiously waited for his cousin to hang
"Come on," Yohannan beckoned for Joshua to leave
the bus stop.
"Where are we going?"
"To your apartment. Our mothers have lunch
Joshua's face lit up. "Ama and Elizabeth!"
"Your friend Mike asked your Ama to come...
something about want versus need. We came,
Joshua smiled lovingly. The priest, who
had seen him struggle with being closer to
Andrew's family yet further away than ever, had
sensed he wanted his own family near. "I
am grateful." He slung his free arm around
his cousin's shoulders as they began to walk
Before they got too far, Joshua looked back once
more at St. Genesius', knowing Andrew would
effectively deal with everything that would
arise there until he returned... Soon.
Author's note: So... *that* was
surprising. For many years, I've planned for
Annabelle's arrival and the beginnings of "Uncle
Andrew." However, I didn't account for the
feelings I would have when push came to shove.
For a while now I've had this vision of Andrew finding
a baby and then wanting to bring her home to
JenniAnn. And there was that. But then I
also couldn't shake this feeling that, while Andrew
would never turn away from God as Kelly did, he would
probably harbor wishes to raise the baby himself after
sharing such an intense introduction. So I just
couldn't imagine it as cut and dried as "JenniAnn is
the parent, Andrew is the uncle" anymore. In
keeping with the Dyeland tradition of nothing making
sense on paper and yet somehow working... Annabelle
belongs equally to Andrew and JenniAnn. Happy
medium! I don't feel like LJA stole a baby from
Andrew and Andrew doesn't have to give up his job
which woulda really screwed some things up.
Before I get to the credits... This newsletter
is dedicated to John Dye for providing this single
girl with many years of quality Valentine's Day
fun. I've been writing a Valentine's story for
years now and, honestly, it's one of my favorite
holiday traditions. So thank you, John, for
that! Happy Valentine's Day!
"The Circle Game" by Joni Mitchell
Jesus Christ Superstar
Chants by Hildegard of Bingen
"Tender Shepherd" from Peter Pan
1 Timothy 6:15
Stellaluna by Janell Cannon
1 Thessalonians 5:1-2
"Find Your Wings" by Mark Harris
Three Men and a Baby
Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit
"Tell Me Why"
A Man of No Importance
Othello by William Shakespeare
"Abide with Me" composed by Henry F. Lyte and William
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
"Autumn to May" by Peter Yarrow and Noel (Paul)
"Child of Mine" by Carole King
"Blessed" by Martina McBride
(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.)