"The more I think it over, the
more I feel that there is nothing more truly
artistic than to love people."
~~Vincent van Gogh
Happy belated Valentine's Day!!!
Per tradition, below are three vignettes. The first
exists because I'm clearly still not over some elements
of TBAA. The third was written just because I thought
the idea was cute. And the second... well, it really
has nothing to do with Valentine's Day or romantic love but
it's the setup for the introduction of a character who will
eventually have a pretty romantic (at least in my opinion)
character arc. They're in this order purely because
it's chronological. I hope you enjoy!
JenniAnn awoke to a strange sound. It had been so
many months since she'd last heard it that it took her a
few groggy moments to recognize it. When she did,
she snapped to attention.
Andrew had rolled away from her and was twitching as he
made short, gasping sounds.
JenniAnn stroked his back and spoke softly.
"It's all right, Andrew. You're safe. Open
your eyes, love."
The angel groaned softly.
"C'mon, my love."
When his shoulder stopped seizing, JenniAnn kissed it.
Andrew let out a deep breath and squeezed one of
JenniAnn's hands. After a few more moments, he sat
"Sorry. I..." He dragged a hand through his
hair and rubbed at his eyes.
JenniAnn watched his gaze drift to the balcony.
"It's supposed to be a mild night. Would you like
to go sit out there for a while?"
The angel of death nodded.
"Okay. Maybe some tea would do us good.
JenniAnn kissed Andrew's forehead then made her way to
Once there, she started the water boiling and prepared
two cups then closed her eyes and prayed.
"Oh, Joshua... It's happening again. Every
time, I hope and pray it's the last time but..."
JenniAnn swiped at a tear. "Not yet, I
guess. It... it just doesn't seem fair.
He... he's so good and..." She bowed her
head. "But... but I guess you were even better and
still... still got hurt. Badly."
JenniAnn sighed. She reached for Joshua's
gold-colored mug and cradled it in her hands.
"I wish you were here."
Joshua did not appear.
JenniAnn replaced the mug.
"I know you're always here. But... you know what I
mean. And I guess... I know you have your reasons
for when you come and when you don't and I suppose right
The kettle began to sing.
"This is on me," JenniAnn finished as she poured the
boiling water into the mugs.
With one final, longing glance at Joshua's mug, JenniAnn
left the kitchen and headed back to her bedroom.
On the balcony, she found Andrew settled amongst a pile
of cushions and pillows, Avi's baby monitor at his
side. His eyes were closed, his head was tilted up
towards the moon, and a soft breeze played with his
It was one of those moments when JenniAnn found it
nearly impossible to believe that he was any older than
she was. He looked so young and vulnerable.
JenniAnn set the mugs down on a bistro table.
Hearing the tap of ceramic against metal, the angel of
death opened his eyes.
The huskiness in his voice made JenniAnn feel
"Andrew," she replied as she knelt beside him.
He embraced her tightly, burying his face in her hair.
"Was... was it Afghanistan again?" JenniAnn quietly
asked though she already knew the answer. Andrew
had witnessed and experienced an unimaginable amount of
trauma in his life... but the pain of what he'd
experienced there was etched into his body and brain.
"I'm so sorry."
"Thank you for waking me up."
When Andrew released her, JenniAnn handed him his cup of
"Do you want to talk about it?" she asked as he sipped.
Andrew peered out at the stars as he spoke.
"It's starting to blur. It was just... the
darkness. Not knowing what would come next.
Not knowing if I'd be able to keep protecting Max.
And... and the... pain."
JenniAnn bowed her head. Andrew seldom talked
about the abuse he'd been personally subjected to.
Comments from Max, the consultations with Dr. Talson,
and the wounds that had still been visible upon Andrew's
return had helped JenniAnn glean some information... but
none of it could account for the three and a half months
Andrew had been held captive. Their shared dreams
during that time had offered few hints... God had only
allowed her to see Andrew as she expected him to
be. JenniAnn had long believed He'd done that to
spare her. But after meeting Joshua... she felt it
was just as likely He'd done it to spare Andrew.
Joshua knew the shame and grief of loved ones seeing Him
so abused. And if Joshua had kept that information
away from her out of respect for Andrew and his pride...
she had no right to pry.
"I'm so sorry. You... you know that I'm here to
Andrew nodded then wrapped an arm around the woman.
"I know, Laja. I do. I just... I don't think
it would help."
"Okay. Is there anything I can do that would
"Just what you're doing now."
JenniAnn grabbed her own cup of tea and began to
drink. As she did, Andrew studied her.
Though little about her had physically changed since
2012, there were some telling alterations.
The angel smiled as her ring caught the moonlight.
He had put that ring there... in the hospital after
she'd woken from her coma. And the mother's
birthstone cross around her neck... newly altered to
include little Avi. And then there was the simple
fact that they were sitting on their balcony
outside their bedroom.
Andrew sighed when JenniAnn rested her head on his
"What are you thinking about?" he inquired, gently
patting her knee.
JenniAnn interlaced her fingers with his.
"Actually... I was remembering that night that... that
you had the panic attack. And I stayed in your
room. And Adam chaperoned... and I was thinking
that... as much as I love Adam... I'm very glad he's not
doing that any more."
"I'm glad for that, too. Although... you know he
was only there to protect you in case I..."
"He did trust us to not... get up to anything we
shouldn't." The angel smirked.
"Not sure Tess felt the same," JenniAnn recalled with a
With a laugh, Andrew shrugged.
"I'm not sure about that, either." He shook his
head in wonder. "I always admired how you stood up
to her... more than I ever could."
"Well, when a person's wrong they're wrong. I
don't care if they're an angel. But..."
JenniAnn sighed. "I probably also wasn't as
compassionate with her as I should have been. I
think I understand her better now as a parent. You
were... and are... her Angel Boy. She loves and
adores you. And here comes this little girl who
insists she knows just what you need and there's no
telling her differently."
"Except... you often did know."
"Kind of. But I was pushier than I should have
been. Took me longer than it should have to
realize that you didn't need to tell me everything."
"But you knew I needed someone there... someone checking
up on me."
"I just... I never understood why Tess and Monica didn't
check up on you more. Sometimes I still struggle
with that," JenniAnn confessed.
Andrew took another sip of his tea then shrugged.
"We all have blind spots... things we don't want to
see. I was as guilty of it as they were."
"How so?" JenniAnn challenged.
"Your hypothesis is that Monica liked seeing me as the
strong, protective, unshakable older brother,
right? And Tess saw me as the easy, less dramatic
"Yeah. In a lot of ways, at least."
"Well, I saw you as the sweet, innocent, naive girl who
had a crush on me... a crush she would definitely
outgrow. I saw what I wanted to see. I know
that hurt you at times."
"Hate to break it to you but... I don't think that's the
same thing at all, Andrew," JenniAnn countered.
"How is it not?"
"Well, for starters, I can appreciate now... in a way I
couldn't as a teenager... how totally awkward that must
have been for you. I mean... you looked basically
like you do now."
"Give or take some gray hairs and fine lines," Andrew
JenniAnn stroked his temples where there was, indeed,
some gray hair.
"Barely. And I was a seventeen year old who
sometimes still got asked what grade school I went
to. To put it in perspective, Kendra is two years
older than I was when we met. How thrilled do you
think Zeke and Diana would be if she turned up with a
thirty five year old man?"
Andrew's nose scrunched up.
"That's just... no..." He shook his head.
"And yet I seemed to think everyone... you especially...
should be totally cool with the same. I mean, yes,
you're an angel so that makes everything different...
but it's not like everyone knew that. So even if
you had known there was more to it... you really think
you would have acted any differently? You think
you woulda been like 'Sure, Laja, let me tell you all
about my day in an oncology ward followed by a brief
stint on death row. Just finish your homework
first!' No. Because that would have been
insane. Further... you continued to act like it
was all a crush well past the point when it would have
benefited you to believe and behave otherwise.
Because you wanted to give me my best chance... every
opportunity to live a 'normal life.' You even
tried to give me a free pass before... before you left
"Which I took back!" Andrew interjected.
"You did... But only after I told you that was an
awful idea. But it just goes to show that your
motivation was anything but self-serving. You were
afraid I would get lonely... but you had to know that you
would get lonely."
"So... all this just to say that your perception of me
was much less about protecting yourself and much more
about protecting me. Hence... not the same as
Monica and Tess. Then. I think they just
didn't quite get you then. I think now... with so
much more out in the open... they'd drop everything to
check in on you if you needed it. I know that...
when the time comes... I can count on them to do that
when I can't."
"Laja..." Andrew pulled her close and kissed her
hair. "I know you can, too. But not for a
long, long time."
JenniAnn nuzzled his shoulder and nodded.
"I get to be your main check in on-er for years to
Andrew chuckled and let out a contented sigh.
"And I am very, very grateful for that."
"Good." JenniAnn lifted her head from his shoulder
and met the angel's gaze. "Feeling better?"
"Much better." Andrew cupped her chin.
"Thanks for that, Laja."
JenniAnn stretched up to kiss him.
"Welcome. You're... not mad about what I said
about Monica and Tess, are you?"
Andrew shook his head.
"No. It was the truth. I know it and they
know it. And they've both apologized to me
since. But it's like I told them... I think
God used it so... so I'd be more grateful when someone
came along who wanted to check in on me."
Andrew smiled tenderly at JenniAnn and brought her hand
to his lips.
"Love..." she cooed.
"Now... you've helped me through another bad
night. What can I do for you?" Andrew asked.
"I don't need..."
"I want to do something for you."
"All right..." JenniAnn thought and, as she looked
around, she spied the colors beginning to form at the
horizon. "Watch the sunrise with me?" she
As they watched the dawn breaking from the comfort of
their embrace, Andrew and JenniAnn both prayed.
She prayed that her beloved would be spared further
nightmarish returns to Afghanistan... but, if that
wasn't possible, she asked that she would always be
there to comfort him in the aftermath.
Andrew's was a prayer of thanksgiving... thanking God
for seeing them through the tumultuous start of their
relationship, for keeping them together even during
those dark days of 2012, for using that time to bring
their son, their Max, into their lives, and for blessing
them so richly since.
The glow of the sunrise's vibrant colors shone through
the curtains in Avi's nursery, waking the
six-month-old. He began to struggle, wanting to
better see the magnificent display. Thankfully,
two strong arms lifted him from his crib before he could
cry out, taking his parents out of their shared reverie.
Joshua returned the boy's smile with one of his
own. He pulled the curtain back and held the baby
so he could take in the sunrise. As Avi admired,
Joshua listened to his parents' prayers.
No, it wouldn't be the last of Andrew's
nightmares. But, yes, Joshua would ensure that
JenniAnn was always there when the angel most needed
her. And there would be many, many more
Joshua took a sip of his coffee and smiled as he
envisioned the next blessed moment to arrive.
JenniAnn would return to the kitchen, planning to refill
her and Andrew's mugs with coffee. She would
notice the half-filled pot resting on the coffeemaker
and the missing gold mug. She would dash up the
stairs, headed for Joshua's bedroom. But she would
be stopped by the sound of Andrew chuckling and Belle
screeching from the direction of Avi's nursery.
And then they would be together... the perfect start to
Valentine's week. Friends would stop in, cookies
would be baked, valentines would be delivered to wounded
warriors. And JenniAnn would watch Andrew,
visiting and laughing and listening solemnly to those he
met at the veterans' hospital. And she would
reflect on how far he had come since Afghanistan... how
far they had come together. And Joshua would
squeeze her hand and smile proudly, silently reminding
her that they made a good team and that they would never
leave Andrew to face his troubles alone.
Tuesday, March 5th, 2019
(A story in which I optimistically pretend
that my hometown is going to have beautiful
weather come early March... and not look like a
When Raquel and Nico had offered to babysit Avi so
Andrew and JenniAnn could spend some alone time with
Belle, it had taken the little girl approximately
two seconds to decide where she wanted to go: the
Omaha Zoo. And so, armed with bottles of water
and their membership card, the trio had set off to
see the lions, elephants, penguins, and more.
Unfortunately, for JenniAnn the excursion had been
less relaxing and amusing and more...
anxiety-inducing. Nearly from the moment
they'd entered the gates, JenniAnn had repeatedly
spotted the same man, seeming to follow them.
He was there even when they visited the less popular
exhibits. Always a few feet off... always
The children's adventure area was the final
straw. Prior to that, JenniAnn could have
explained away the various sightings of the man as
coincidence. After all, the Omaha Zoo was open
to the public and who wouldn't want to see the
meerkats, sharks, orangutans, and so on? But a
lone, grown man in the children's area? For
years now, JenniAnn had worked with Reuel, Portia,
and Andrew to reign in her lingering paranoia and
thought she'd done so with success. Today was
the first day she'd felt it return with its old,
immediately post-Rex fervor.
After glancing over to where Andrew was pointing out
monkeys to Belle, JenniAnn turned back towards the
man. She wasn't going to look away. So
what if he caught her staring? He deserved it
for trailing her family around the zoo for two
hours! She crossed her arms over her chest and
But in that moment, he wasn't looking at them.
Instead, he was staring at some prairie dogs.
JenniAnn was caught off-guard when she thought she
saw his eyes well. This evidence of humanity
startled her out of her paranoia and she found
herself studying the stranger with more
compassion. Native American, she
thought. He was old, that much was evidenced
by his wrinkles and chest-length gray hair which
hung loose. It might even have been correct to
call him elderly but, somehow, that seemed
rude. There was nothing feeble about this
man... and that's what had frightened her.
There was an aura of restrained power surrounding
him. JenniAnn's gaze turned to his
clothing. Slim jeans which seemed aged despite
the lack of frays and tears, a blue and gray plaid
shirt that wouldn't have looked out of place in
Andrew's closet, and brown, nondescript boots.
Something hung around his neck. Oblivious to
the irony, JenniAnn withdrew her phone and used the
zoom function of her camera in hopes of determining
what the charm was. She was just starting to
focus in when the man abruptly moved. JenniAnn
looked up to see that he was looking at her... her
with her phone still angled directly at him.
Alarmed, she dropped the phone and the crash of it
hitting the pavement drew Andrew's attention.
He swooped Belle up and headed towards JenniAnn.
Andrew halted as he approached, noticing the other
man headed towards his anam cara from the opposite
direction. His face softened.
"Wahkan!" he cried.
After picking up her phone, JenniAnn twirled around
to follow Andrew's gaze. The stranger was only
a foot or so behind her now.
"Wahkan?" she repeated, trying to puzzle out why the
word sounded vaguely familiar.
"Andrew," the man greeted with a smile without
drawing any closer.
Stepping to the side, JenniAnn looked back and forth
between Andrew, with Belle on his hip, and the man.
"Umm... so..." she mumbled.
Belle began to squirm in her father's arms.
"Pretty! Like Reuel's!"
Andrew set the little girl down. As the
stranger chuckled, JenniAnn stared in shock as Belle
ambled up to him and clamored for his necklace.
Obliging, Wahkan crouched down.
"You've seen this before, haven't you, little one?"
Belle grinned and nodded.
"Reuel has one."
"Yes, Reuel does. Almost identical except for
this right here." Wahkan pointed to a stone at
the center of the medal.
"Reuel has a brownish red one, too. But it's
"That's right. His is jacinth. Mine is
JenniAnn continued to gawk.
"A principality..." she murmured.
"Of the Sioux Nation."
JenniAnn's face colored.
"I'm so... so sorry," she blurted out.
Wahkan rose and shook his head.
"No. I should apologize. I didn't
realize you'd seen me until..." The angel
waved to JenniAnn's phone. "I hope it's not
"No, no. It's fine. The cover protected
it," JenniAnn assured.
"Good. Well... I was hoping to visit,
briefly, with you, Andrew. I'd been looking
for an opportunity to catch you alone... to not
interrupt your time with Belle and JenniAnn. A
bathroom break, perhaps. But, alas..."
Wahkan lowed his voice. "Your human form's
bladder didn't cooperate."
"Sorry. But maybe..." He looked around
for a secluded spot.
"The sea lion tank is being worked on," JenniAnn
reported, pointing a few feet away. "There may
be some construction noise but no crowds.
We're about due for some snacks, anyway.
Belle, let's go get some food while Daddy and his
friend talk, okay?"
Belle looked reluctantly from Wahkan and her father
to her mother.
The principality again crouched down.
"I'll still be here when you come back, little
one. I'd love to talk with the famous Miss
"Okay! Do you like nachos?"
"Then nachos it is. C'mon, Belle."
Belle took her mother's hand and walked away with
her, chattering about their new friend.
"She's precious," Wahkan complimented. "They
both are." He clapped Andrew on the
back. "You've done well, Andrew."
Blushing, Andrew smiled.
"Thanks, Wahkan. It's... amazing.
Sometimes I can't believe..." He shook his
head in wonder as he began to lead the other angel
to where JenniAnn had directed.
"When last we met, you'd just finished working with
Monica, Tess, and Gloria."
Andrew nodded, recalling his stint on a reservation
"You were... troubled. I'm glad to see you so
happy now." The elder angel smiled at the
"Very. And how about you, Wahkan?"
Wahkan waved towards a bench and, when they'd both
taken a seat, he spoke.
"I'm well. But... I did have a reason in
coming to see you." He sighed and stared into
Andrew rested a hand on his fellow angel's arm.
"What is it? If there's anything I can help
you with, you know I will."
Wahkan nodded and smiled at Andrew.
"I do. I have a protege... Takoda. He...
experienced something very traumatic."
Wahkan went silent when a construction worker walked
"Maybe you can come back to Asteriana with us and
save the details until then?" Andrew suggested.
"Thank you. I would like that. In
short... he's refusing to go Home. He's on a
reservation currently... but I don't think that's an
ideal place for him to begin to heal."
"I was hoping... I've never had the honor of
meeting Adam but I know he's a friend of
yours. I know Joshua gave him a mission in
addition to his AOD work. A sort of...
recreational therapy program for angels that he
operates out of Asteriana?"
The angel of death nodded eagerly.
"Yes! I mean sometimes they go to El-Chanan or
some friends' farm or some of our friends' shelters,
etc. But, yes, it's mostly out of Asteriana."
"Perhaps he would take Takoda under his wing?"
Wahkan asked hopefully. "I would still check
up on him, of course."
"I think Adam would be more than willing to do
that. And, I'll double-check with JenniAnn,
but I can't imagine she'd object to us hosting
Takoda at the castle. We have several guest
bedrooms that, outside of Christmas, just sit.
Does he like kids?"
"Very much. And even if he didn't... I think
your Belle would convert him."
"She's a charmer, all right."
"And you have... four other children?" Wahkan
Andrew was still explaining his unique family
situation when JenniAnn and Belle returned carrying
nachos and pretzels. They settled onto a
nearby picnic table where the two men joined them.
"All right, dig in! Family-style," JenniAnn
Wahkan squeezed her hand.
Touched, JenniAnn returned his smile.
"Our pleasure. We're always happy to meet new
friends. Especially from..." She lifted
her gaze to the clouds. "And I'm always eager
to know people who can give me dirt on Andrew."
"We'll talk later," he promised with a
"Very funny, Laja. Just remember... I'm
invited to all of your family gatherings," Andrew
Belle giggled, not quite understanding but
"You coming back home with us?" she asked Wahkan in
between mouthfuls of pretzel.
"I hope you will," JenniAnn added.
The principality nodded.
"I'd like that very much, thank you."
"Laja, Wahkan has a protege that he'd like to have
join Adam's program," Andrew shared. "I
thought maybe we could host him."
"Someone's gonna stay with us?" Belle excitedly
"Sure! It'd be nice to have someone new
around," JenniAnn agreed. "Will you be
staying, too, Wahkan? You'd be more than
The principality shook his head.
"I appreciate the hospitality but I don't think
so. At least... not often. I have a lot
of communities... and proteges... who I need to
check in on but it'll be nice to know I have a place
to rest my head if I need it."
"We'll be there," JenniAnn assured.
"What does Wahkan mean?" Belle questioned. "My
name means beautiful."
Wahkan beamed at the child.
"And it's very fitting. My name means
"Also fitting," Andrew opined.
"It's like holy, Belle," JenniAnn explained.
"Joshua is holy," Belle informed.
"Very holy," Wahkan agreed.
As the four continued their meal, an unseen Joshua
looked on. He was glad that Wahkan had made
contact. Unbeknownst to them, it wasn't only
Takoda's fate that hung in the balance.
Joshua's eyes filled as he thought of Takoda, his
angel, paralyzed with grief and anger after his
assignment had been brutally murdered in a hate
crime. He called out his love, again and
again, but still Takoda would not come Home.
But now he would find a second home, an opportunity
to soothe his spirit.
Joshua's heart was also filled with compassion for
his little Joccy... Now she was happy and in
love. But he knew what awaited her, he knew
what desperate decision she would make. But
from that darkness, she would come into the light
again, into love.
They both would.
And they would never walk alone.
Saturday, February 11th, 2023
JenniAnn was plating cookies in
Willowveil's kitchen when Violeta entered.
"JenniAnn... they did it again. Rose found them in the
storage room. They were hiding behind a crate of
Frowning, JenniAnn looked up from the treats.
"And what did they say when Rose told them to come back out
with the others?"
"Well, Evie was all sniffly and weepy so she didn't say
anything. Avi said..." Violeta bit her lip.
"Go on," JenniAnn encouraged.
"He said... the voices were too loud."
JenniAnn sighed and fought back tears. She desperately
wished that Andrew wasn't currently away on an
assignment. Something seemed to be very wrong with
their four-year-old and she wanted him there with her as she
faced it. But this couldn't wait any longer.
"Okay. I'll talk to him," she responded.
"Mallory took Evie back to the Tunnels," Violeta
reported. "Avi got upset and wanted to go to his
room. Max is with him."
"Okay. Thanks. Can you please bring these
cookies to the other kids?"
Violeta hugged JenniAnn.
"Maybe it's just a game. I mean they are really little
with really big imaginations."
JenniAnn kissed the angel's hair.
"Maybe... I just don't know what sort of game would
consistently leave Evie in tears."
Violeta let out her own sigh and picked up the platter.
"If you want to talk about it afterwards, I'll be sticking
around the playroom."
"Thanks, sweetie. Will do."
After the two had parted and JenniAnn was headed to her
little boy's room, a thousand scenarios filled her head...
again. They'd first started nagging at her a few
months before following the first incident. During a
Bible study play-date, Avi and Evie had snuck off.
Emma had found them sitting quietly in a closet... alone,
Evie's head resting in Avi's lap. It had been cute
then. There'd been joking about it foretelling teenage
And then, two weeks later, it had happened again. That
time, when the pint-size couple had been found, Evie had
been softly crying. When questioned, she'd remained
mute. Avi had only said "It was too loud, Mama."
Now he was talking about actual voices...
In the weeks that had followed, the strange behavior had
become the topic of JenniAnn's and Andrew's pre-bedtime
talk. Andrew was more optimistic and mundane in his
reasoning. They were probably playing a game that only
the two of them understood. After all, they'd
practically been raised as twins. Twins made stuff up
for themselves all the time. Or maybe they just wanted
time alone. After all, they'd seemed strangely bound
up to each other since shortly after Evie's birth.
Or... maybe Avi had super-sensitive hearing. Maybe
Evie did. Maybe they just needed longer naptimes.
JenniAnn's mind went more towards the possibility of a folie
à deux... a shared delusion. Or... worse still...
maybe one of the children was schizophrenic. Or both
were. Or maybe... JenniAnn brushed away a tear
as she thought of it. Maybe Avi was hurting
Evie. She'd known nothing of sweetness and gentleness
from her little boy. But it was hard to explain why
Evie was often crying when the two were found out. Of
course, that would have made it hard to explain why the
little girl would run to Avi and cling to him whenever she
came to Willowveil or Avi came Below...
Reaching Avi's door, JenniAnn paused outside for a few
moments and listened.
"So why do you and Evie keep sneaking off, bub?" his Uncle
"It's okay, Avi. I'm not mad. Just... curious."
More silence and then, finally, a soft, sad voice.
"It hurts her."
"What hurts her?"
JenniAnn stepped into the room.
Avi spotted his mother and ran towards her, throwing his
arms around her knees.
"Hey there, sweet boy."
Max approached and set a hand on his mother's arm.
"I'll let you two talk. Avi, I'm gonna go back to the
Valentine's party. I'll save you some cookies, okay?"
"Okay. Thanks, Uncle Max."
Max ruffled the boy's hair.
JenniAnn scooped Avi up and kissed his brow.
"What's going on, Avi? Aunt Violeta told me that Aunt
Rose found you and Evie in the storage room. You know
you're not supposed to go in there, baby. You could
break something and hurt yourself."
"It was the closest."
"The closest what?"
Avi bit his lip and thought.
"The closest alone place."
JenniAnn grimaced. Avi's language skills were well
above those of other children his age. He'd gone from
baby-speake to full-on, perfectly enunciated sentences at an
alarming rate. But sometimes his turns of phrase took
a little guessing.
"An alone place?"
"Do you mean a place to go to be alone?"
"Uh huh. Alone with Evie."
JenniAnn settled into a rocking chair and rested Avi on her
lap, facing her.
"Sweetie, why do you always want to be alone with Evie?"
JenniAnn smiled. Avi could be very literal. His
speech was so precise that he seemed confused when others'
"I'm sorry. Not always. I meant often. Why
do you often want to be alone with Evie when the other kids
are around? I thought you wanted everyone to come over
for a Valentine's party?"
"I did. I do! I love the other kids. And
Belle loves parties."
JenniAnn chuckled. Her daughter was quite the
"Yeah, she does. Were you having fun at the party?"
Avi gave an enthusiastic nod.
"Good! I'm glad. Was Evie?"
Avi's face fell.
"She was til it got too loud."
"The kids got too loud?"
Avi tilted his head, deep in thought.
"Not really. The other voices."
"The... the other voices?" JenniAnn repeated with a lump in
her throat. "You hear... other voices?"
Avi shook his head.
"No. Evie hears them."
JenniAnn felt relief wash over her... immediately followed
by guilt. This didn't sound good for Evie... or
"Does she tell you what the voices are like, Avi?"
The boy nodded.
"Are they... scary sounding?" A new thought had
occurred to JenniAnn... demons.
"Not scary. Sometimes sad."
JenniAnn looked around. Ghosts... maybe they had
"Does Evie tell you what the voices say?"
"They don't... say. They feel."
JenniAnn was baffled. What did that mean?! She
decided to try a different tactic.
"When you and Evie go off alone, what do you do?"
"Sit with her. Hug her. She can hear me."
"Because you talk to her?"
"Sometimes. But she can hear my feelings, too.
And I can hear hers."
The child smiled proudly.
JenniAnn tried to mask the torrent of emotions those words
brought up for her. It wasn't as if the idea had never
occurred to her. It seemed only logical that Avi might
have something of the empathetic connection that both Lor
and Vincent had. But he was just a baby... Lor
and Vincent had been grown men... It was hard enough
going through adolescence with one's own feelings... would
her boy go through it experiencing Evie's, too? And
"Can... can you hear other people's feelings, Avi?"
"Just Evie's. Can you hear Daddy's?"
"No. Not usually."
"Can he hear yours?"
"No. Maybe a few times. But not usually."
JenniAnn was sorry that this seemed to disappoint her son.
"But that doesn't mean we don't sometimes know what the
other is feeling. We just don't... hear it. But
lots of times Daddy knows when I'm sad even if I don't say
it. And I'll know when he's sad. Or
excited. Or anxious."
"Oh. Okay!" Avi smiled.
JenniAnn returned his smile but then resumed her questions.
"So... what happens right before you and Evie go to an alone
Avi studied his fingers.
"Do you not want to tell Mama?"
"I do. But... Maybe it's not for me to tell?"
JenniAnn gulped. Sometimes, when talking to Avi, she
felt like she was talking to an old man. The kid had
more emotional intelligence at age four than she'd had at
twenty four... prying into Andrew's psyche!
"I see. I'm only asking because if Evie is suffering,
maybe there's something us grown-ups can do to make things
easier for her. But we can ask Evie if you think that
would be better?"
Avi considered this option. He glanced over at a photo
of himself and the little girl then looked back to his
"You'll help her?"
"I will do everything I can to help her," JenniAnn vowed.
Avi let out a deep breath then confided in her.
"The feelings get very loud. There's so many of
them! Some are happy but some are sad and some are
anxious. Sometimes they're angry but not
usually. Evie starts to feel..." Avi put a hand
on either side of his head and grimaced as he pushed.
"Like she has a headache?"
"I don't think so. She said it feels like... like when
someone pushes you in line at the park to take your spot."
Baffled, JenniAnn considered Avi's words. Then she had
a sudden flash of inspiration. She thought of the days
after Andrew had returned from Afghanistan. Sometimes
his pain and turmoil had been so immense that she'd felt as
if every other thought and concern had been driven from her
mind. There was only an all-consuming desire to fix
"Do you think when Evie is around a lot of people, their
feelings come into her mind and push her feelings and
Avi's eyes lit up.
"Yes! That's it, Mama! So we go to an alone
place so she can only hear her feelings and mine."
JenniAnn shook her head in astonishment. She had been
so focused on what she saw as Avi's inevitable development
of a empathetic connection with his one true love that she
had completely missed that Evie was a true empath. But
it made perfect sense. The poor girl's earliest days
had been filled with crying and fussiness... at a time when
Mallory had been dealing with abandonment and post-partem
depression. If Evie had been picking up on that, how
could she have been anything but distraught? Even
then, Avi had been able to calm her. He'd had such a
serenity to him even as an infant. And that had stuck
with him through toddlerhood and now as a
pre-schooler. As for Evie, all of this had started
when she'd begun to be treated as less of a baby and more of
a kid. Prior to that, both she and Avi had been kept
with their parents during Bible study. Perhaps there
had been an element of protection in that. And then
once they were dropped off with the other children during
Bible study... Poor Evie had been overwhelmed.
As much as she loved the other children... they were simply
And her little boy had been the only one who knew.
"Why does Evie cry when people find you, Avi?" JenniAnn
inquired, still feeling a bit anxious.
"Because I can't protect her when people separate us."
Avi's lower lip trembled.
"Oh baby..." JenniAnn snuggled her son close and
stroked and kissed his shoulder-length mop of hair.
She felt tremendously guilty. All of the adults had
been so baffled that, for months, her son had been left
alone, managing Evie all by himself and then watching
helplessly as she was pulled away from him. "I'm so
sorry, Avi. We didn't know. We should have asked
"It's okay, Mama. Can you help Evie now?" Avi
sat up and looked into his mother's eyes, imploring her.
Peering back into her son's beautiful golden brown eyes, all
the nightmare scenarios evaporated from JenniAnn's
mind. In their place were potential solutions.
She'd read about tents being used to calm autistic children
with sensory problems. Maybe Evie would benefit from
that? Or maybe simply letting Avi know that he could
alert an adult and they'd find a safe "alone place" for him
and Evie? Maybe they could teach Evie some basic
"We'll help Evie," JenniAnn promised. "I already have
some ideas that I'll talk to Mallory about, okay?"
Smiling, Avi nodded his head eagerly.
"Oh Avi..." JenniAnn hugged him. "You've been
such a good boy. I'm so proud of you and Daddy will
be, too. But I want you to know... if something like
this ever happens again, you can tell us. I know it
can be hard because you don't want to tell anyone's
secrets. But it's okay to tell if that person is
"But what, peanut?"
"But it's my job to help Evie."
"Avi, you're a little boy. Little boys and girls
shouldn't have jobs."
Avi gave his mother a skeptical look.
"But isn't it your job to take care of Daddy? And his
job to take care of you?"
"Well, yes but..." JenniAnn felt the color drain from
"Can I tell you a secret? My secret?"
Avi leaned in and whispered.
"Evie and I are gonna get married, Mama."
The boy beamed.
And JenniAnn knew it was true. In his revelation about
Evie, Avi had very casually revealed that he could feel
Evie's feelings. She was his Cora, his Catherine.
In spite of her unease, JenniAnn smiled.
"That's wonderful, sweetie. And I will dance with you
on your wedding day... feeling so, so proud of my boy.
But I think both you and Evie have some growing up to do
Avi giggled as JenniAnn tickled him.
"Okay," he agreed.
"Now... how about we go downstairs and get some of those
cookies that Uncle Max saved?" JenniAnn tantalized.
"Yes, please! Can we bring some to Evie?"
Avi slid off his mother's lap then held his hand out to her.
Smiling, JenniAnn let him "help" her up.
"Such a little gentleman!" she praised.
Still beaming, Avi led his mother out of his room and back
to the waiting party.
That evening, after they'd settled into bed, JenniAnn told
"And it was so sweet. I swear I caught Avi brushing
milk and crumbs off of Evie's face as they sat in Mallory's
chamber... sharing cookies. It was like watching a
little, old couple... but they're four."
"I'm just glad you got to the bottom of their disappearing
"I feel bad that, for a few moments, I suspected that...
that maybe Avi had hurt Evie. I didn't think he would
intentionally but... but maybe he'd hug her too tight or...
or scratch her."
Andrew wrapped an arm around JenniAnn's shoulders and gave
her a squeeze.
"You know too well what Vincent went through... how he
struggled with his own strength and his emotions. But
Avi has it so much easier. I don't think things like
that will happen to him."
"No... probably not."
"And... it really did seem pretty eerie. I was trying
to think up the most hopeful scenarios but even I..."
Andrew dragged his hand through his hair. "I can't say
mental illness didn't occur to me. On one or even both
sides. And we would have dealt with that. I know
we would have. But... I'm glad that's not the case."
JenniAnn rested her head on Andrew's shoulder and sighed.
"But we are going to have to help Evie. Did you and
Mallory talk about that?"
JenniAnn sat up and nodded.
"We did. I ended up ordering a tent to keep here since
here seems to be where a lot of the problems arise.
We'll test it out and, if it works, Mallory will get one for
JenniAnn was silent for several moments.
Andrew gave her a peck on the cheek and squeezed her hand.
"What is it? Something else is on your mind."
"Well... yeah... A couple things, I suppose. I
feel badly that, for months, our poor Avi-Boy was dealing
with all that alone. That's some big stuff that
Catherine struggled with... in her thirties!"
"It does seem like a big deal to us... but it also seems to
be the only thing Avi's ever known. Taking care of
Evie is second nature to him. And, yes, that seems
like a huge responsibility. But we also have no reason
to believe that it's one he's looking to hand over,
Laja. Did he seem overwhelmed?"
JenniAnn cocked her head as she mentally replayed the
"No. More... proud."
"Then let him feel that. He should be proud.
And... he wasn't dealing with it alone, Laja. You know
that," Andrew reminded, a finger brushing against the cross
pendant laying on her chest.
"Yeah... True. They probably even talked about
it at Christmas."
"I do wish Joshua had mentioned it..."
"To me, the fact that he didn't pretty much reassures us
that Avi was managing quite well, thank you very much.
Ya know... the phrase 'like mother, like son' is coming to
mind for me."
JenniAnn looked at Andrew in surprise.
For a moment, a distant look came into the angel of death's
eyes but it evaporated when he met JenniAnn's.
"When I was in Afghanistan... our shared dreams... if you
could have handed that gift off to one of the other girls,
would you have?"
JenniAnn thought back. The dreams... especially the
last one... had been painful. But, no, she couldn't
have given them up. They'd been her only chance to see
Andrew, to be with him.
Andrew hugged her and kissed her hair.
"Good. I'm glad. But just like that's become an
important part of our history... something we find meaning
in... these past few months could be that for Avi and
Evie. Something they remember, years from now, when
they have rough patches. Proof that they were always
meant to be."
JenniAnn let out a ragged sigh.
"Good points... Avi did inform me that they're getting
"He didn't happen to give you a date, did he?"
JenniAnn, too, laughed.
"No... thank God. Hopefully we can put them off for a
"Hopefully. Try not to worry too much about it,
Laja. But if you must... just remember that Vincent
and Tess and your parents worried about us," Andrew reminded
with a rakish smile as he traced the tattoo of his name on
her shoulder. "And I think we turned out okay."
"Do you now?" JenniAnn teased.
He kissed her forehead and then her lips.
"Don't you agree?" Andrew asked.
JenniAnn buried a hand in his hair and peered up at him.
"Very much so," she murmured.
They were just about to kiss for a second time when childish
wailing interrupted them. A moment later, Belle came
running into their bedroom.
"I... I threw up!" the nine-year-old bellowed.
"Oh, poor baby!" JenniAnn exclaimed as she pulled her
daughter to her, noticing too late that the vomit on Belle's
nightgown was now on her own.
"It... it got on Mr. Bobo!" Belle shrieked.
"How do you feel now, baby girl?" Andrew asked as he rested
a hand on her forehead.
"O-okay but... it's gross!"
Over Belle's head, JenniAnn shot Andrew a crooked smile.
"Probably just had one too many Valentine's cookies,"
JenniAnn consoled. "C'mon. I'll help ya get cleaned
up... and Mr. Bobo, too. Trust me, this isn't the
first time Mr. Bobo's been thrown up on... and worse.
He'll be fine, sweetheart."
"Do you need help?" Andrew offered.
Belle's face was buried in her mother's shoulder but
JenniAnn shook her head.
"I think we're fine. You were out and about all
day. Get some rest. I'll be back soon."
Andrew kissed Belle's hair.
"I'm sorry you're feeling bad, my Belle. I'm sure
you'll feel all better once Mama gets you all fixed up."
"Uh huh... Night, night, Daddy."
"Night, night, Belle."
JenniAnn led the forlorn little girl back to her room.
Only a few moments later, just as he was settling back into
bed, Andrew had another visitor.
"Is Belle sick?" Avi asked as he poked his head into the
Andrew smiled at his son and beckoned for him.
"Just a tummy ache. Probably from too many
cookies. Mama's getting her settled back in."
Andrew masked a sigh. At least it wasn't actually
Valentine's Day... He and Laja would make up for their
interrupted evening then.
"You doing okay, bud?" Andrew checked, patting the spot
Avi hopped onto his parents' bed and snuggled against his
"Yeah. How are you, Daddy? Did you have a good
Andrew wondered when exactly Avi had stopped saying
'sigh-ment.' Tears pricked his eyes as he realized
anew that his baby was four years old.
"I'm doing good. And, yes, I had a very nice
assignment. Thank you for asking."
"You're welcome. Daddy?"
"Mama said you're getting a tent for Evie and me."
"That's right. We thought it might help Evie when the
feelings get too loud. What do you think?"
"I think it's a very good idea. Daddy?"
"You and Mama can use it when Evie doesn't need it."
Andrew looked with surprise at the little boy.
"So you can be alone," Avi explained.
Andrew chuckled, realizing that Avi must have picked up on
his or JenniAnn's frustration. He tousled the boy's
"Thank you very much, my boy. And I'll keep that in
mind. But Mama and I don't ever want to miss out on
taking care of you or Belle or Shelby or Aunt Violeta or
Uncle Max. We'll make sure we have alone time when we
need it. Don't you worry about that. Okay?"
Avi bit his lip.
Andrew figured it must have been an emotional day for his
son. He wouldn't have blamed the little fellow if he
was feeling a bit out of sorts.
"Do you want to stay with Mama and Daddy tonight?" Andrew
Avi smiled and nodded.
"All right then. Let's get you tucked in properly."
"Thank you, Daddy."
Andrew rubbed his nose against Avi's and beamed.
"You're very welcome. Do you want a story or..."
"Your song," Andrew agreed with a nod before beginning to
sing. "'Close your eyes. Have no fear! The
monster's gone. He's on the run and your daddy's
here... Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful, beautiful
When JenniAnn returned, she found Andrew peering at their
little boy who was peacefully sleeping in the center of
"Is he okay?" JenniAnn whispered.
Andrew looked up and nodded.
"Just fine. I think he just didn't want to be
"Out cold. And Mr. Bobo will live to light up another
day. I really do think it was just an excess of
"I'm just going to change into some clean jammies and
then... join two of my favorite boys." JenniAnn smiled
fondly at the pair before grabbing a pair of pajamas and
disappearing into the bathroom.
When she'd returned and was settling back into bed, JenniAnn
let out a contented sigh. She gently stroked Avi's
back and drank in the scent of his freshly washed
hair. Tucked into their big bed, he looked a little
like the baby they'd first loved.
"We are so blessed," she whispered, squeezing Andrew's hand.
"Beyond my wildest imaginings," he agreed.
As she smiled tenderly at Avi, JenniAnn prayed that one day
he... and his Evie... would feel all the pride and love that
she and Andrew did. ("Beautiful Boy" was written by John Lennon)
This newsletter is dedicated to John Dye
for bringing so much heart and dedication to the role of
Portal JABB TOC JABB
(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.)