“It isn’t enough to talk
about peace. One must believe in it. And it isn’t
enough to believe in it. One must work at it.”
I'm currently out of town so had to prepare this in
advance. Hopefully, this will be the last story excerpt
before I finish the whole thing and can share it all!
Yet another excerpt from "The Messiah" (working title), previous
installment can be found here (http://www.newsletters.onthisside.net/jabb546.html
"Ah, Joshua, there you..." Ibrahim cocked his head and
looked curiously at the man kneeling beside Joshua, planting
flowers around the mosque's sign.
Joshua rose to his feet, pulled off his gloves, and motioned for
Takoda to stand.
"Ibrahim, this is my friend, Takoda. He asked to tag along
today. I figured I could use some help with the planting
so... I hope you don't mind."
"Not at all!" Ibrahim held his hand out to the
newcomer. "Welcome, Takoda! Are you with Symphonia?"
Takoda shook the imam's hand and shrugged.
"Sort of, I guess. I'm sort of a... professional
volunteer. I pop up where I'm needed."
"Well, we definitely need the extra help around here!
So... how is it that you manage to survive in the city as a
'professional volunteer,' if you don't mind my asking?
Manhattan isn't cheap!"
"My Father provides for my needs," Takoda replied, sneaking a
smile at Joshua.
"Must be nice! Well, I applaud you for doing something
with your life instead of lounging around on a couch playing
games on your phone... a very tempting fate, I must admit."
"I don't think my Father would allow for that."
"He would not," Joshua asserted with a grin.
The imam chuckled. "Your father's a good man. Well,
I won't keep you fellows. Just wanted to check the
mail." Ibrahim turned to a box and pulled the contents
out. "I'm expecting a wedding announcement from my brother
and..." He cocked his head and plucked an envelope out of
the small stack. "No return address on this one."
Takoda shot Joshua a worried look.
"Wonderful..." the imam muttered. "Well, I'll be in my
"I'll go with you," Joshua offered.
Ibrahim forced a smile.
"If this is what I think it is, I don't think you'd approve of
the language I'll be apt to use. I've noticed you pound
your thumb a time or two. You never cuss."
"I can take it." Joshua set a hand on the man's arm.
"I've been on the receiving end of hateful messages
before. My friends were with me, supporting me, through it
"When you played Isa, peace be upon him? I think I recall
Yakov mentioning that."
"All right... I wouldn't mind the company."
"I'll be right with you," Joshua promised before turning to
Takoda. He withdrew his wallet and handed the angel a
couple of bills. "Could you run and get lunch please?"
"Sure. Where? And what?"
Joshua seized the receipt from the plants and wrote on the back.
"This is the address for a halal restaurant. I'm writing
down what to order for Ibraham, Liyana, and me. You can
order whatever you..."
"I've never eaten halal. I don't know what I'll like."
Joshua smiled and resumed writing.
"You'll like this. Thank you. They'll need some
Takoda frowned and raised an eye brow.
Joshua only nodded and patted the angel's arm.
"Thanks again. I'm glad you're here, Takoda."
"Me... me too... Joshua..." Takoda's brow furrowed
"It's all right. Everything's all right," Joshua
soothed. "I'll see you soon."
As Ibrahim escorted Joshua back towards the mosque, Takoda
headed in the direction of the restaurant that Joshua had
chosen. Just before turning the corner, he looked back and
prayed for the imam. He didn't want to witness another
community brought low by hatred.
Inside Ibrahim's office, Joshua took the typed letter from his
"I'm calling the police. I could take it when they went
after to me. But to speak so vilely of my wife!" the imam
Joshua's eyes filled as he read the disgusting missive. It
was far worse than anything Beatrice or her brethren had sent to
him before their conversion. Invoking Christchurch...
threatening to violate Liyana... If it wasn't so horrible,
it would be laughable that the letter writer referred to Ibrahim
as a terrorist. *This* was terrorism.
"I think you should. If you don't have luck with 911, let
me know. I have some connections. Actually..."
Joshua scribbled a phone number on a nearby piece of paper and
handed it to Ibrahim. "This is the direct line for a
friend, detective Matthew Bratton. He and another friend,
a beat cop named Tyron Billings, responded when St. G's got
tagged with graffiti while I was there. I think you should
start with them."
"Thanks, Joshua. You are well connected!"
Joshua only smiled as the imam dialed.
While Ibrahim spoke with Matthew, Joshua resumed studying the
letter. He tried to determine who had written it.
Certainly there was more than one Islamophobe in the city.
He lifted his gaze, asking his Father for more information.
It wasn't time for him to confront the letter writer.
"Thank you... thank you so much... I truly appreciate
that. Yes. We'll be here. Thank you,
detect... Matthew. See you soon. Good
bye." Ibrahim heaved a sigh of relief as he ended the
call. "Tyron isn't available but Matthew is on his way
over. Thank you. I don't think I would have gotten
anyone over here so soon if not for your help, Joshua."
"Matthew's a good guy. He'll do whatever he can."
Joshua paused briefly to ask his Father to send word to
Takoda... they'd need another lunch.
"How am I going to tell Liyana..." the imam mused aloud.
Joshua stared back down at the letter resting on the table.
"I think you need to let her read it."
Ibrahim snatched up the letter and gave an adamant shake of his
"You should at least ask her if she wants to," Joshua
counseled. "Liyana was standing next to you when you gave
your statement after the Christchurch shooting, wasn't she?"
With a pained sigh, Ibrahim nodded.
"I didn't want her to be... but she insisted. She wanted
us to face whatever came together."
Joshua said nothing.
Ibrahim glanced at his phone.
"You're right... of course you're right. She should be
starting her lunch break soon. I'll... ask her
then." After settling into his desk chair, the imam
cradled his head in his hands. "She's so good...
Better than me. More faithful than me... She
encouraged me to become an imam but... it should have been
her. And so to have someone speak so cruelly...
Liyana would give this man... woman... whatever... her last
penny if they needed it and this..." He gestured angrily
towards the letter and muttered curses under his breath.
Joshua approached and rested a hand on the man's shoulder.
"I know. People like the letter's writer... they're so
filled with hatred and fear that they're blinded to everything
else, including the humanity of those they target with their
"Violence..." Ibrahim interrupted, his tone icy.
Joshua gave a reluctant nod.
"The Jewish people are certainly no strangers to
persecution. Was that why they came after you at St. G's,
"In part. Also because I'm Middle-Eastern."
"I get that. The irony is I'm as American as they
come. Born in Wisconsin, lived in Manhattan since my dad
was transferred here when I was ten. My grandparents were
born in Iran but I've never been. How about you... where
were you born... if you don't mind my asking?"
"Well... I was actually born in Bethlehem."
"Like... Bethlehem, Bethlehem or Pennsylvania?"
"No kidding! And I suppose your parents are named Mary and
Joseph?" the imam teased.
"Close. Maryam and Yosef." Joshua grinned.
Ibrahim cocked his head.
With a laugh, Joshua shook his head.
"I'm really not. You can ask any of my friends.
They've met my folks."
"I believe you but... wow. Your name is even...
Jesus, Yeshua, Isa... Joshua... same name."
"But your last name isn't Christ, at least."
"Nope. Last name's definitely not Christ." Joshua
smiled, declining to point out that Christ was a title, not a
"Well... I wouldn't be the least bit surprised to find out
Isa, peace be upon him, is very much like you, Josh. You
have such a calming presence about you. I mean the fact
that you got me laughing after... that." He pointed to the
letter. "And yet..."
"And yet?" Joshua prompted.
"I have a feeling that I would not like to cross you....
It's not that I think you're some sort of rage-aholic under the
surface or anything," Ibrahim hastily added. "I just... I
"No one wants to imagine themselves at odds with their friends,"
The man jolted when his cell phone vibrated. He steadied
himself then checked it.
"Liyana is on her way over from the daycare."
"I don't want her to see..."
Joshua patted the imam's hand.
"I asked Takoda to bring us some lunch. We can all
enjoy it together and support Liyana... and you."
Ibrahim's eyes welled.
"That's very kind of you, Joshua. You didn't have to..."
"I wanted to."
"You're welcome, Ibrahim. It's my pleasure. Truly."
Ibrahim gazed into the handyman's gentle eyes and saw it was
"Well... now that I have a bit in my stomach... I want to read
the letter," Liyana announced after enjoying half of her lunch.
"Dear... It's very ugly... I don't know if..."
Liyana thrust her hand out.
Ibrahim heaved a sigh.
"All right then..."
His hand shaking, the imam handed the missive to his wife.
Just as Liyana began to read, Ibrahim's phone buzzed, causing
her to jump.
With an arm around his wife's shoulders, Ibrahim checked his
"Matthew. He's at the front door."
"I'll go get it," Joshua offered.
"I could. If you want to stay," Takoda countered.
Joshua smiled at the angel and shook his head.
"Thank you. But I'd like to have a word with
Matthew." He rested a hand on Liyana's shoulder.
"I'm so sorry for that. I'll be back as soon as I can."
Liyana set down the letter, patted Joshua's hand, and gave him a
"Thank you, Joshua. I'm glad you're here. And your
Joshua nodded in reply then left the room to retrieve Matthew.
The detective gaped when Joshua opened the door.
"Hey there! Thanks for coming, Matthew."
The two men embraced.
"Of course! I guess I shouldn't be surprised to find you
here. Ibrahim mentioned that you'd given him my number but
I didn't put together that you were actually here right
now. I'm glad you are!"
"I've been here since around 9:00. Takoda and I were here
when Ibrahim found the letter."
"I don't suppose you could give me any leads on the sender?"
"Afraid not. Dad hasn't told me and..."
"I imagine there are numerous possibilities."
Joshua looked down at his hands and nodded.
Matthew patted his back.
"I'm sorry, Josh. I can't begin to imagine what that's
like for you. But we'll figure it out. There...
wasn't anything about you in the letter, was there?"
"No. I'm a contracted employee, not listed on the mosque's
web site so... I doubt they'd even know my name."
Matthew let out the breath he'd been holding.
"Good. Well, let's go see to the Azizis. How are
they holding up?"
"As well as can be expected. Liyana had only just started
to read the letter when you arrived."
"A very strong lady... but I know this will rattle her.
Much less rattled me."
"I remember..." Matthew clasped Joshua's shoulder and
shook his head as he recalled the graffiti at St. G's.
Joshua led the way to Ibrahim's office. Once they'd
stepped inside, they found a helpless looking Takoda playing
with his food and Ibrahim swaying with Liyana in his arms,
murmuring to her.
"Sit," Joshua whispered to Matthew, waving to an empty seat.
The detective's gaze traveled from the distraught couple to
Joshua who handed him a plate of food.
"Oh, thanks. I didn't expect..."
"You eat hotdogs in your car too often," Joshua gently
With a slight blush, Matthew smiled and squeezed Joshua's hand.
Liyana sighed and pulled away from her husband. She
brushed at her eyes and gave the newcomer a wan smile.
"Detective Bratton, I presume?"
Matthew rose and shook her hand.
"Matthew, please. It's a pleasure to meet you. I'm
sorry for the circumstances, though."
"I am, as well." Ibrahim held his hand out. "Thank
you, again, for taking my call, Matthew."
"It's my job, Ibrahim. And, well, when Joshua gives out my
number... I know it's important. I trust his
judgement. So... could I see the letter?"
"Perhaps you should eat first," Liyana suggested.
"I agree," Joshua added.
"All right. Well..." Matthew reclaimed his
seat. "Maybe you could tell me about the other incidents
leading up to this. And if you don't mind..." He
placed his phone on the table. "Can I record this?"
"Of course. As you can imagine, the mosque... like most...
has always received random phone calls from crackpots. We
report them... but nothing ever comes of them... thank
Allah." Ibrahim bowed his head for a moment before
continuing. "But after I appeared on the news following
the Christchurch tragedy... the threats amped up. More
calls... letters... emails... And that..." He waved
to the letter. "Is a new low."
"The lowest of lows," Takoda muttered.
"Have you seen anyone suspicious around the mosque?"
"This is Manhattan. We see everything."
"Good point. But nothing in particular that got your
Ibrahim and Liyana both shook their heads.
"And Joshua and Takoda... you didn't see anyone approach the
mailbox while you were working?"
"Just the delivery person," the angel replied.
"Same as usual," Joshua added.
"It can't be Murray... our mailman," Ibrahim hastened to
defend. "I've spoken to him many, many times. He's a
good, kind man. He wrote me the kindest note after the
"It's not Murray," Joshua agreed, looking pointedly as Matthew.
"Good... That's good. And, of course, a
non-postmarked letter couldn't have gotten into the bundle...
unless someone at the sorting facility did it."
"I suppose. But I think it's more likely that someone put
it in the box... perhaps in the dead of night. It could
have been sitting there for hours, only noticed when Ibrahim
collected the usual mail."
Matthew thoughtfully chewed some bread.
"I agree that's more likely. There are some surveillance
cameras nearby. I could look at those. Of course..."
"Unless the person is as stupid as they are hateful, they
probably knew better than to make themselves conspicuous.
The footage likely won't show a clear face," the imam concluded.
"No... probably not. But it's worth a shot."
"Of course," Liyana agreed. "And we thank you in advance
for looking into all options."
"It's no problem. I want to find this guy... and it
probably is a guy. Although..." Matthew drifted off,
not wanting to bring up Beatrice.
"Anything is possible," Joshua finished for him.
Matthew took a few more bites of salad then looked to Joshua.
"Well, can I read the letter now?"
Joshua turned to Liyana who nodded and handed it over to the
As he read, Matthew's face grew red with anger.
Joshua reached over to set a calming hand on the man's shoulder.
Seeing this, a thought crept into the imam's mind and a shiver
went through his body.
Perhaps the sender of the letter was in the room with them...
April 24th, 2019
Liyana sighed dramatically before sitting up in bed
and turning on her lamp.
"Would you please either settle down or go into the other room
and leave me in peace?" she pointedly asked her restless
Ibrahim playfully bumped his wife's shoulder.
"I'm sorry. It's just..."
"The letter. I know. But both of us losing sleep
won't help anything! In fact, it'll just makes things
worse. We need to be alert... not sleep-deprived."
Softening, Liyana wrapped her arms around her husband.
"I'm sorry that you can't sleep. But please... try to put
it out of your mind. At least for a few hours. We
"Yes... We should pray. It's just... it is about the
letter. But less about the awful contents and more
about... a thought that came to me. About the sender."
"Oh? Do you think you know who it is?"
"I hope not..." the imam muttered.
Liyana frowned. She plumped up her pillow and sat up,
knowing sleep wasn't going to be happening any time soon.
"It's just... Think about it. Joshua showed up so
soon after I gave my press conference."
"Because we only put out a call for a handyman a couple of days
"Yes... But... I was thinking... It would have
been very easy for him to have slipped the letter into the
mailbox. He and Takoda were working out there all
Liyana glared at her husband.
"You had a shock today. We both did. And no wonder
it's made you paranoid. But to turn on a man who has been
nothing but kind and insinuate he's... what?! A terrorist
and a would-be rapist? Ibrahim!"
The man gripped his wife's arm when he feared she was going to
flee their bed.
"No... I mean... Not exactly. But what if...
what if he's sick? You read stories about that.
People who invent crises just so they can swoop in and offer
comfort or garner attention. I mean... he was right there
when I received the letter. He offered to come into the
office with me when I read it. Then he all but insisted
that I let you read it."
"Because I'm your wife and the letter was about me! Of
course I needed to read it! You actually think Joshua drew
some sort of sick pleasure from seeing me weep today?" Liyana
"Yes... maybe... or not... probably not pleasure. But..."
"This is insane, Ibrahim!"
"Maybe! Maybe so. But I would feel better if we had
someone watching him."
"You've got to be kidding..."
"I thought I would ask Raheem. The health fair is coming
up. There's lots to do. We'll just tell Joshua that
we thought he and Takoda could use some extra help. And
it'll keep Raheem busy. You told me yourself that Hura
said he's been depressed since the layoff. This could keep
his mind off..."
"Because nothing cures depression like telling someone to spy on
a friend! Raheem seems very fond of Joshua and I do not
want you poisoning him against..." Liyana noticed that her
husband's head was bowed.
She reached across him and snatched his phone, rifling through
the text messages.
"You already said all this to him! I can't believe..."
"I needed to tell someone, Yana. I just..."
"So you could have told me first! You could have told your
wife first!" Liyana stood up and angrily tied on
her robe as she continued to berate her husband. "So I
could have told you that you were being ridiculous!
Because you are, Ibrahim! You've said so yourself! I
have very good intuition and I know Joshua is a good man!
Do you think he's conned Rabbi Yakov? Fr. Mike?
JenniAnn? They've known him for years.
Matthew! You think he would purposefully draw a detective
into this if he had something to hide?"
Ibrahim bowed his head. He should have thought of
that... But now it was too late. He'd passed his
suspicion onto Raheem.
"And now Raheem will tell Hura! And you know how jaded she
can be! And she doesn't keep quiet, either! Soon the
whole mosque will turn against poor Joshua who has done nothing
"I... I'm sorry, Yana," Ibrahim interrupted. "I...
Where are you going?"
"To pray to Allah that my husband's good senses return.
And that he hasn't ruined a good man. Don't follow me!"
"But... but we've never spent a night apart in all our five
Liyana spun around.
"You've never been so careless in all our five years of
With those words, the woman left.
Ibrahim collapsed onto their bed.
He was too distraught for prayers. All he could do was
clutch his wife's pillow and weep.
Liyana wept as she stumbled into the mosque. Finding her
usual spot, she knelt and began to pray.
"Allah... help my husband... Free him from the
doubts and fears that... that have caused him to behave so
rashly and... and so cruelly. Please, Allah...
Please don't let Joshua suffer for what a cruel man has written
or... or for what my foolish husband has insinuated. Guard
As the distraught woman pleaded, a figure settled beside her and
set a gentle hand on Liyana's back.
"Peace be upon you, sweet girl... and upon your husband... and
upon the baby in your womb," Maryam murmured with a soft
smile. "And do not fear for my own son. What the
Enemy meant for evil... the Father will use for good."
Feeling suddenly calmed, Liyana sat up and peered around
her. She felt as if she wasn't alone... but the feeling
brought serenity, not fear. She rested her hand on her
still flat belly.
She'd intended to tell Ibrahim in the morning, over
breakfast. But, in spite of the sense of calm, anger still
rankled in her heart. She didn't want it wrapped up with
her joyful news.
She would wait... and trust in Allah to guide her husband.
Hura smiled as she packed her lunch... and one for her husband,
too. For the first time in weeks, he was whistling as he
trimmed his beard. She had considered asking Ibrahim to
find a job for Raheem... but she also knew her husband would
feel ashamed if her cousin-in-law simply handed him a job.
A third-generation dock worker, Raheem's strong work ethic was
rivaled by only two things: his faith and his love for his wife
and children. Still... somehow Ibrahim had found a way to
get Raheem to accept a job and, for that, Hura was
Inside the bathroom, Raheem tilted his head first one way and
then the next. He had, admittedly, let his beard grow
scraggly since he'd been laid off. But now... now he
thought he looked rather good... respectable even.
He would be the sane cousin, he thought ruefully.
Poor Ibrahim... The letter had done a number on him.
Raheem was sure that his cousin-in-law was now regretting his
frantic texts. He still couldn't believe that the usually
stoic, peaceful imam had invented such a deranged theory about
Joshua. Raheem had only met the man three times... first
at a dinner hosted by Liyana and Ibrahim shortly after they'd
hired Joshua then when he had attended a service at the mosque
and, most recently, on Monday when they had spoken following the
man's visit with Liyana's mother. Each time, Raheem's
esteem for the handyman had only grown. There was
something about him... something that reminded Raheem of his
long gone but much loved father. A wisdom and dignity tied
up with gentleness and compassion. If trailing Joshua
would get Ibrahim to lay off then Raheem would do it...
happily. And perhaps he would learn a thing or two.
Maybe his next job would involve landscaping or
carpentry... The era of Khalid men toiling on the docks
seemed to be over.
It was time to make a new start.
"And here you go..."
JenniAnn handed a paper sack to Takoda and hugged him.
"And here you go..."
Joshua smiled as she kissed his cheek.
"Thank you, JenniAnn. I'm sure whatever you've packed for
us, it'll be delicious."
"Hope so! No peeking."
"I promise we won't peek, eh, Takoda?"
The angel crossed his heart.
"Good! Just make sure it gets in a fridge. And let
us know if you'll be any later than 5:30 or so. We can
delay Bible Study if..."
Joshua shook his head.
"I'm confident we'll be back in plenty of time to wash up and
"Good. And please give Liyana a hug for me. I'll see
her tomorrow at the sewing party but... I just want her to
know I'm thinking of her."
Joshua embraced JenniAnn.
"I'll do that. Give my best to everyone in the
Tunnels. I'll make sure to come visit."
"They'll love that. Thanks!"
"Have a good day, JenniAnn. Thanks for lunch. I,
umm, maybe I'll attend tonight," Takoda suggested.
JenniAnn beamed. It would be the first time the angel had
attended Bible Study and not hid out with the kids.
"We'd love that, Takoda. See you both this evening!
"Love you this much!" Joshua spread his arms out and
JenniAnn chased after the retreating men and hugged Joshua again
while Takoda chuckled and shook his head.
"Save one of those for me, Laja?" Andrew teased as he entered
Joshua patted JenniAnn on the back and stepped away so he could
"Lots," he assured. "She's very touchy feely. Gets
it from me."
JenniAnn giggled then wrapped her arms around Andrew's middle as
they watched the two depart.
"I really do love having him here..."
Andrew kissed his anam cara's hair.
"I know. Me too."
"Miraculously... Still asleep."
"Uh huh..." Andrew waggled his eyes brows then bowed
deeply. "Would the lady care for a pre-breakfast waltz
around the ballroom? I'm no Joshua but..."
"But you're pretty awesome, too." JenniAnn stretched up to
kiss him. "And the lady accepts. Gladly."
As JenniAnn shrieked happily, Andrew scooped her up and carried
her to the ballroom so their dancing could commence.
"I'm sorry, Yana... for last night... for Joshua... for not
coming to you first... Please... come out so we can talk
about it. I... I missed you last night," Ibrahim's muffled
voice pleaded through the door.
Liyana, leaning on the sink as the nausea passed, glanced into
Poor Ibrahim thought she was hiding from him. What a time
for morning sickness to start...
"I'll be out soon," she replied.
Liyana could just make out a sigh of relief.
"Good... I'm glad. Meet me in the study?"
"Thank you, my love."
Liyana dampened a cloth and pressed it against her face.
In spite of her physical discomfort, she still felt something of
the peace that had enveloped her during the night. And she
had missed her husband...
After checking herself in the mirror, Liyana peered down at her
"Shall we go hear your Daddy out? See if Allah has knocked
some sense into him?" she asked.
The mother-to-be smiled. It would have been something if
the baby had kicked just then. Of course, maybe he or she
had. It was simply too soon to know.
When he heard the office door open, Ibrahim hastily finished his
prayer then turned to his wife.
"I'm sorry," he reiterated. "About last night... about
"Good," Liyana replied. "You should be sorry."
Ibrahim's face fell.
"But... I should be sorry, too," his wife added. "I... I
could have been more understanding. The letter was a
shock. And, I suppose, your Joshua theory... terrible as
it was... probably comforted you."
"It... it did. Because I don't believe Joshua could ever
actually do anything so vile... so hurtful... So if it was
him... All we had to worry about was a deranged man
with... well... maybe with a savior complex."
"A savior complex?" Liyana crossed her arms over her
chest. "A bit on the nose, don't you think? I mean
he did play Isa. I think his friends would have noticed if
it was a cry for help."
"Yes... of course."
"And don't you think... if Joshua were so mentally unstable...
we would have seen some hint of it?"
"Probably so... It is... It's just odd. Do you
know he told me that his parents are named Yosef and Maryam
and... he was born in Bethlehem."
Liyana cocked her head in interest.
"Uh huh. I mean it could make a person a little... off."
"It could. But it could also just make a person very
good. He has a lot to live up to. I mean imagine all
the jokes made at his expense. Joshua of Bethlehem... son
of Maryam. His friends probably ask him to turn their
water into wine on the regular."
Ibrahim laughed and nodded, grateful that Liyana was moving
"I feel like if you were right... well, Joshua would be making
more of a point of ingratiating himself with us," Liyana
continued. "But he's not. He's very kind when he's
here. He was wonderful with Mom. And I did
appreciate having him here when... when I read the letter and
his staying with us while Matthew interviewed us. But then
he went about his business and he and Takoda left."
"Another good point... I regret everything. I'm sure
Joshua is completely innocent."
"Good. I'm very, very glad, Ibrahim. And all that
being said... maybe I did overreact. I've just... I
suppose I've been a little... hormonal of late."
"You don't need to make any excuses, love. I was out of
line and..." Ibrahim moved to close the distance and held
a hand out to his wife.
"I... I have reason. To be hormonal, I mean."
Noting the tears in his wife's eyes, the imam felt a wave of
panic. But then she smiled.
"Ibrahim... I... we..." Liyana patted her
belly. "Pregnant," she choked out.
Ibrahim clasped her hand and gawked.
"A... a baby?"
"I certainly hope so! I don't know what else it could be!"
"A baby..." Ibrahim repeated as tears began to streak down his
face. "Yana... My Yana..."
Embracing her husband, Liyana sighed as she nuzzled his
"It's still very early. Let's keep this to ourselves,
okay? At least for another month or so? If we
can... I had some morning sickness today so... people may
"Yes... yes, of course. Whatever you want. Yana..."
Liyana beamed as her husband kissed her. She was grateful
for his sweet, excited reaction to her news... and that his good
sense had been restored to him. But there was still one
more issue to be tackled.
"I... I'm so happy," she gushed before growing more
serious. "Truly. But back to Joshua... What
you told Raheem... You have to take it back. But in
a way that makes him still feel necessary. Hura texted me
to say how happy he seemed with a job to do. We can't take
that away... but you can't leave Joshua's reputation with him
besmirched. Raheem seems very fond of him."
"Of course... I'll figure something out.
Maybe..." Ibrahim looked around the room, desperate for a
solution. "Shelves! Look at how many books are piled
around! I could use more shelves. And since that
wasn't in Joshua's initial work order, I'll just say that I
thought I'd better provide more help. Surely Raheem can
help with some shelves?"
"I hope so. Joshua's a good teacher from what I
hear. JenniAnn told me he trained Andrew."
"Then there we go. Raheem has something to do, I'll tell
him I was being ridiculous and to disregard everything, Joshua
won't suspect anything, and I get some shelves! And we
could use another person to disperse health fair fliers on
"Good thinking... this time."
Ibrahim smiled ruefully.
"Going forward, I should always consult my wife first, huh?"
"I think that's a wonderful idea."
"I'll remember that. Can I..."
Liyana took Ibrahim's hand and rested it on her belly.
"It's too early to feel anything. But I think he or she
will know you're there."
"I hope so..."
When he reported to Ibrahim's office at 9 AM, Raheem was
prepared to launch into a point-by-point take down of his
cousin's horrid theory.
What he did not expect was to find the imam nearly giddy as he
"Raheem! Glad you're here! I wanted to talk to you
before Joshua..." Ibrahim raised his hand when the man
opened his mouth. "Please... just hear me out first.
I want to apologize for last night's texts... for the whole
thing. As Liyana helped me to see... I was very, very
wrong. I was speaking from a place of fear. I
suppose in some horrible way I wanted Joshua to have been the
one to write the letter. Because... I know him. And
a known problem is less scary than an unknown one.
But... That still didn't give me a right to try to poison
you against him... or suggest you spy on him. I'm
convinced he's completely innocent. Forgive me?"
Surprised, Raheem nodded.
"Of course. And I'm glad you've come to your senses,
Ibrahim. I was more worried for you than over
Joshua. I may have only met the man three times but... I
couldn't believe he'd harm anyone."
"I never thought he'd harm us, either. I just thought...
you know, like, maybe he gets something out of creating drama
and then comforting people."
"The fear you and Liyana... the wider community even... has been
experiencing is still harm, Ibrahim. No good man would
cause such dread."
"Yes... I know. I see that now."
"Very good. So..." Raheem's face fell. "I
suppose I'm no longer needed then?"
"On the contrary, my friend! Now you're truly needed...
for a good purpose. While there's no excuse for my
behavior last night, it has occurred to me that maybe I'd be
less rattled if my office... my oasis... wasn't such a pig
sty. So I'm going to ask Joshua to install some shelving
and since it's additional work without necessarily additional
time and because he may have another job lined up after
us, I thought it only fair that I provide additional help.
So if you're still willing... It would really help me out,
Raheem. And... it might help in assuaging my guilt."
"You told Joshua about your suspicions?" Raheem asked, aghast.
"No! Absolutely not! The idea is...
mortifying. But I feel guilty even thinking about him
coming here... facing him... knowing what I did. He enjoys
your company, Raheem. He's told me as much and so... if I
can make his experience here more pleasant... I would feel
"I get that. And I'd certainly like to help Joshua out
but... I don't know anything about installing shelving. I
almost had a stroke when Hura brought a table home from Ikea and
asked me to put it together. I fear I'd be more of a
hindrance than a help."
"Only one way to find out. Besides, one of Liyana's
friends... JenniAnn, you may have seen her here on Monday...
told her that Joshua taught her husband, Andrew,
carpentry. He's very successful now so, who knows, this
could be a good opportunity for you."
"Well... then I won't turn it down. You're absolutely
sure, though, that this isn't a charity..."
"Positive. You either take the job or I hire someone
"Then... I'll take the job." Raheem smiled and shook his
cousin's hand. "And, for what it's worth, Joshua strikes
me as an understanding guy. I think he'd forgive you in a
"I'm sure. But..." The imam shook his head. "I
just can't tell him."
"I won't say a word," Raheem vowed before embracing his cousin
and offering a silent prayer of thanksgiving to Allah.
After a morning filled with learning new things and trying his
hand at assorted tasks, Raheem was grateful when Joshua declared
it was time for lunch. It was a mild afternoon and so,
after gathering their lunches from the refrigerator, Joshua,
Raheem, and Takoda settled beneath a tree in the mosque's
courtyard. Once they'd said their blessings, Joshua
reached into his lunch sack and pulled out a note from JenniAnn.
"Have fun today! I'm sure whatever you do, it'll be
beautiful! It always is. Love and hugs,
Raheem looked curiously at the carpenter.
"Someone special pack your lunch?"
Joshua beamed and nodded.
"JenniAnn. Takoda and I have been staying with her and
Andrew and their kids."
"Andrew... the carpenter you trained? JenniAnn's husband?"
"Yes and no. I did train Andrew. He's not JenniAnn's
"Really! That'd be news to Ibrahim. I mean not that
it's any of our business but... I think both he and Liyana
assumed they were married."
Joshua shook his head.
"But they're very much committed to each other and, I assure
you, nothing untoward is going on."
"It's kind of more of a... spiritual union. Kinda," Takoda
tried. "I just made it sound weirder, didn't I?
They're not weird."
Joshua laughed and patted the angel's back.
"It's okay. And, no, they're not weird."
"Intriguing... In any case, JenniAnn must care a lot about
you. Hura definitely doesn't write me lunch notes!"
"But I'm sure she shows her love in other ways, huh?" Joshua
Raheem smiled and nodded.
"She does. She's a bit of a... burnt marshmallow."
Takoda began to choke on his soda but a brush of Joshua's hand
"Sorry... Burnt marshmallow?" the angel inquired.
"Yeah. Tough and crusty on the outside... gooey and warm
on the inside. Don't tell her I said that but... as gruff
as she can be, she's a very sweet woman." Raheem gazed
down at his wedding ring. "She's been very good to me
since I was fired. A lot of my buddies... their wives have
been giving them a hard time for not finding something
sooner. And it's not for lack of trying. I lost
count of how many resumes I've submitted but our kind of jobs...
they're drying up as more and more companies go overseas... or
hire robots. And Hura... she's been very patient.
She hasn't pushed. It's just... hard. My father
worked so my mother could stay home with us kids. And even
though Hura has no interest in that... she loves her work...
just knowing that I couldn't give her that if she wanted...
putting all the pressure on her to provide for us..."
Raheem hastily batted at his eyes.
"I'm grateful Ibrahim asked me to help out here. I only
hope I'm not making things more difficult for you."
Joshua responded with an adamant shake of his head.
"Not at all! You're doing great for your first day!
And you have a really steady hand, Raheem. I think you'd
make a great carpenter... builder... mason... any and all of the
above if you put your mind to it."
"If you're willing to teach me... I'm eager to learn."
Takoda smiled proudly.
"Joshua's a great teacher. Taught me everything I know
and... and sometimes I forget that," the angel confessed.
"And I should tell you more often how grateful I am, Joshua."
Touched, Joshua squeezed Takoda's hand.
"I know, Takoda. I do."
Raheem watched the exchange with growing warmth. It made
Ibrahim's hair-brained theory even more ridiculous. Joshua
was simply kind and attentive to everyone. But there was
no point in focusing on that debacle any more.
"Now... let's see what this surprise lunch is JenniAnn packed
for us," Joshua suggested as he again reached into his
sack. He smiled proudly when he removed the
contents. "She figured it out! Look inside the wrap,
Takoda. It's falafel."
Chuckling, Takoda admired his lunch.
"Our friend Emma gave JenniAnn my Ama's recipe for falafel and
she's made several diligent attempts but... it takes some
practice and this time she got it," Joshua explained before
taking a bite.
Takoda snapped a photo as Joshua grinned contentedly.
"I'll send it to her so she knows you appreciated the effort."
"So you met all of them... the Symphonia people... at their
theatre, Joshua?" Raheem asked.
"Some. Others I'd met long before."
"And you were playing Isa... Jesus?"
"And that wasn't weird for you? I mean... aren't you
"Yep. Born and raised."
"So then... you don't believe Isa was the messiah?"
"Most Jewish people don't... but I do."
"Ah... Jews for Jesus then?"
Joshua shook his head.
"No... I... Well, I came to recognize the truth as I
"Do you believe that he's God?"
"And so... Do you believe that those who don't believe as
you do... that they're... we're... hellbound?" He couldn't
explain why but Raheem couldn't bear the idea that Joshua would
be comfortable with his being damned.
Joshua gazed tenderly at the man.
"I believe that Isa... Jesus... Yeshua... died to redeem
humanity and to open the gates of Heaven to them. But I
also believe he feels infinite love and compassion for all of
humanity. He knows that those who seek to follow
him... They don't always remember his admonishment not to
judge. They don't always consider that he wants people to
come to him freely, not through fear or force. They have
persecuted those who don't believe as they do. And who can
blame those people when they don't become Christians?
Takoda grabbed a napkin and blotted his eyes. If only
Raheem could know...
"I firmly believe that, at the end of your life if not before,
you'll come face to face with Yeshua. And he will hold his
hand out to you."
Joshua held his hand out to Raheem who, caught up in the moment,
"And he will say, 'Well done, Raheem, my good and faithful
servant. This is my kingdom... and I would love it if you
would live with me here for all Eternity. Will you?'
And you'll have a choice then, Raheem. Look upon him with
love and consent... and you'll be Home."
Joshua rested his other hand over Raheem's then released it.
"I... I don't know if you're right. But... it's a
beautiful idea." Feeling wistful, Raheem sighed.
Joshua simply smiled.
"You are a very intriguing man, my friend. I think I have
a lot to learn from you," Raheem complimented.
"Thank you, my friend. I think we'll have a very good time
together. The three of us." Joshua beamed at Takoda
and Raheem and then the conversation turned to much lighter
topics as they finished their lunch break.
This newsletter is dedicated to John Dye for being the
inspiration behind my first solo trip which, in turn, has led to
(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.)