Ibrahim beamed at
"And now I know... It was God Himself who
held me during my panic attack and, I now suspect,
helped it to end."
"A little," Joshua confirmed. "I could have
stopped it entirely but..."
"It needed to happen," Ibrahim finished. "I
understand. It was my wake-up call. I
realized how much of my life was being lived for
other people... and not in a good way. I
became an imam because my mom wanted me to.
I was going to the courthouse every day because I
thought I needed to make a stand. And those
weren't bad things... but they weren't meant for
me. I don't have it in me to be a public
figure... at least not right now. Right
now... I just want to be a husband and a father
and a friend."
"And you're doing a wonderful job with those,"
"Thank you, my love. I... I want to model
healthy behaviors for Judah. I want him to
find what he's really passionate about and pursue
that... even if he's in his thirties and still
trying to figure it out. Speaking
of..." Ibrahim looked to Joshua who smiled
encouragingly at him. "I think I might have
a lead there. I realized that while I really
miss talking to our congregation one-on-one, I'm
probably not at a sturdy enough mental place yet
where I could do any sort of counseling like
that. But I'd still like to do something to
give back. So... Arthur offered me a
job at True Light and I've decided to take it."
The others cheered and congratulated Ibrahim as he
"Thank you. I'll be working a lot with the
logistics... ordering supplies, keeping inventory,
etc. But I'll be part of the community and
that's what I really want."
"I'm so happy for you!" Joshua gushed, hugging the
"Thank you... And thank you
for getting me to this place in my life,
Josh." Ibrahim returned Joshua's hug then
beamed at his wife and child. "And thanks to
my beautiful wife for her unending support... and
to this little guy for being so absolutely
adorable that I can't help but smile."
Liyana squeezed her husband's hand.
"We're both very, very blessed to have you in our
lives, Ibrahim. I... I couldn't have picked
a better father for our son."
Yosef smiled tenderly as he took in the touching
scene. He clasped Maryam's hand then gazed
"Children are truly among God's greatest gifts,"
"They are..." Maryam agreed, also looking to her
Yosef's eyes misted as he thought of one of his
most recent experiences with Yeshua.
Seeing the look on his Abi's face, Joshua guessed
at his thoughts and remembered.
Monday, November 18th, 2019
"Right this way, please, to the visitors' room,"
the corrections officer directed Joshua and Yosef.
The two men followed their host into a nondescript
room with little more than two couches and a clock
on the wall. Cracked and scuffed tile
covered the floor and most of the walls were taken
up by large windows.
"He'll be in soon. An officer will be with
you at all times."
"I understand. Thank you." Joshua
smiled calmly at their host.
"Right... Well, have a good visit. I
hope you get whatever it is you're looking for."
"Thank you. Me, too."
peered at Joshua, shook his head slightly, and
Once they were left alone, Yosef studied his son
whose head was bowed. Over two thousand
years had passed but the carpenter remained in awe
of his boy... God and man. He had seen
Yeshua enthroned, overseeing the affairs of his
many, many worlds. He'd witnessed him
command legions of angels. He'd seen him
confront Satan himself... and seen the latter
But, somehow, these quieter, smaller moments shook
Yosef even more. The Great I Am was sitting
in a jail visitation room... preparing to meet
with the man... his own child... who had tried to
"Abi? You okay?"
Yosef stirred, wiped at his eyes, and squeezed
"Yes, yes. Only... thinking." He
brought Joshua's hand to his lips. "I love
Joshua embraced Yosef.
"I love you, too, Abi."
"How... do you think it is going to go?"
Joshua sighed and dragged a hand through his hair.
"I'm not sure. I just know I have to try."
Some movement caught Joshua's eye. He looked
out a window and saw Cameron approaching, flanked
by two guards.
"Here we go..." he murmured.
Yosef nodded and patted Joshua's shoulder.
As they'd discussed, neither stood as Cameron
wheeled himself into the room. Joshua hadn't
wanted to loom over him.
"We'll be watching," a guard barked at
Cameron. "So don't try anything."
"I'm not stupid. Like this, even the old man
could take me out," Cameron retorted.
The guard rolled his eyes then looked to
"We're going to leave you alone... per the D.A.'s
request. But we'll be watching from just
Joshua could tell the man didn't approve of this
change in protocol so he smiled sympathetically.
"I understand. Thank you very much."
He stood and held his hand out.
Taken aback, first one guard and then the other
shook his hand.
"So... just right out here..." The second
guard motioned to a window. "Yell if you
need anything... sir."
Yosef smiled to himself. Sometimes people
found themselves awed by Joshua without really
"Absolutely will do," Joshua assured.
"Again, thank you." He smiled at them both
then sat back down.
After nodding in reply, the two guards moved into
the hallway and closed the door behind them.
Joshua gave his full attention to the young man.
"Hello, Cameron. How are you doing?"
"How do you think?"
Joshua ignored the question.
"This is my father, Yosef."
Cameron looked at the man and, for just a moment,
his color faded.
Confused, Yosef reached up towards his neck then
"Ah, yes. A friend's little girl made it for
Joshua beamed as he thought of how proud Daisy had
been of her handiwork, created especially for her
"It's... a Jesus fish," Cameron balked.
"So it is."
Confused, Cameron looked back and forth between
the two men.
"So you're not Jews?"
Joshua flinched at the hateful inflection on the
"We are," he affirmed.
"So then you shouldn't have that," Cameron spat
out at Yosef.
Yosef's face hardened as he clasped the
"He has every right to wear that," Joshua
insisted. "He believes that Jesus...
Yeshua... is and was the Son of God... God
Himself. But even if he didn't, it's not
your job to police other people's jewelry.
Do you think Jesus would be upset if someone just
happened to like the 'Jesus fish'?"
Cameron smirked at Joshua.
"I don't know. Why don't you tell us...
"He would not be," Joshua replied without
hesitation. "He'd find it infinitely more
troubling when someone professes to be Christian
and yet embraces hatred."
For the second time, Cameron blanched but the
reaction was only momentary.
He muttered something under his breath.
"What was that?" Joshua questioned.
With a wicked gleam in his eyes, Cameron grinned
"Just saying that I wish my aim had been a little
higher... right through the heart."
Yosef jolted and moved to stand.
Joshua held his arm out in front of his Abi.
He didn't take his gaze off of Cameron as he
"Do you think that would have made you feel
better? Would you have felt like you'd
"I don't care what you believe. You're still
a dirty Jew who made friends with
terrorists." Cameron spat at Joshua.
Unflinching, Joshua continued to stare as he
casually brushed the spittle away as if it were
nothing more than a bit of lint.
As horrified as he was, Yosef had to stifle a
laugh. His son had swagger...
"Says the man who shot at innocent people while he
hid... You couldn't even face us?"
Cameron's face flushed red.
"I think you were scared to face us," Joshua
continued. "I think, deep down, you knew
what you were doing was wrong. And if you
heard so much as a tiny, humanizing snippet of
conversation, you knew you'd lose your
nerve. So you had to hide."
Cameron gripped the arms of his wheelchair
"If you saw the wedding ring on Raheem's finger...
or the locket around Salma's neck... if you looked
into my eyes..." Joshua sighed then smiled
softly. "You know, thanks to you, I've
reunited with a young man I met while playing
Jesus. He's been a blessing to me and to my
friends in the wake of your violence. But
there's something only you and I and the Father
know. Isn't there, Cameron?"
Surprised, Yosef peered at Joshua, hanging on his
"I've actually reunited with two young men who I
met at St. Genesius'. Haven't I?"
"Him?!" Yosef cried out.
"How... how do you remember?" Cameron
demanded. "You must have met hundreds, if
"I remember everyone," Joshua replied, his voice
gentle. "I remember that your grandparents
brought you. But you didn't want to
go. You'd already started reading and
watching all that hateful, awful stuff on the
Internet. You hated the changes we'd
made. The Shema... Joseph and Nicodemus...
Kaddish... Because you didn't want to
remember that Jesus was Jewish. And you
didn't want to remember that he was brown,
"How do you..." Cameron repeated before Joshua
"You mumbled a hello to me when your grandma
prompted you. And I commented that I liked
your shirt... and I did. I'd been to that
Hard Rock Cafe. Good times! That's
when you finally met my gaze. And, for just
a moment, you softened. The hatred started
to melt away. You saw me as a real, live,
human being with feelings. And on the day of
the shooting... you couldn't risk letting that
happen again. So you hid."
"Shut up! Shut up! Shut up!" Cameron
The guards moved to the door but when Joshua held
his hand up, they stopped.
Yosef calmly and proudly looked on.
"How do you know this?" the young man seethed.
"I know you, Cameron." Joshua's eyes
welled. "I just wish you knew me... really
knew me... like you used to."
"I don't know what you're talking about!" Cameron
shouted. "I think you're crazy!"
"My son is not crazy," Yosef defended.
Joshua briefly smiled at his Abi then turned back
"Your grandma had a nativity set that was a family
heirloom. She loved it. One Christmas,
she unpacked it and the baby Jesus was
missing. She was devastated."
The color began to drain from Cameron's face.
"She called your mom in a panic. You
overheard her side of the conversation and,
immediately, burst into tears. You went into
your room and retrieved the figure... which you'd
taken after the previous Christmas. You'd
been five and you didn't want Jesus to be stuck in
a box for eleven months. It didn't even
occur to you that, by taking it, you'd hurt your
"My... my mom must have told you," Cameron
Joshua shook his head.
"Your grandma talks about it often, though."
"But... she died two years ago."
Joshua's only reply was a tender gaze.
The three were silent for several moments.
"I... I'm tired," Cameron declared, his voice weak
"We'll head out then. I'll be praying for
you, Cameron," Joshua promised.
"And I will, as well," Yosef added.
Cameron made no reply as the two stood up and
walked to the door.
The nearest guard opened the door for Joshua and
"Everything go okay? Looked a little
"It went fine, thank you. My father and I
will be on our way now. Thank you so much
for your time and cooperation."
Yosef smiled. The guards were beaming as
they shook Joshua's hand and then his own.
The first officer reappeared and, after Joshua
looked once more at Cameron through the glass, he
escorted them out of the jail.
Cameron remained in the visitation room, staring
down at his hands.
"Burke, let's go," one of the guards shouted.
Cameron flinched and wheeled himself out of the
"I love that guy. Just something about him,"
a guard mused as they made their way back to
"His family cracks me up. So he's Joshua...
and then his dad is Yosef... and I read that his
mom is named Maryam. So that's Jesus,
Joseph, and Mary. And then their last name:
Davidson. Like Son of David... get
it?" The second guard chuckled to himself.
Cameron felt tears welling in his eyes. He
said nothing as he wheeled himself into his cell
and the door was shut and locked behind him.
Once alone, Cameron moved towards his cot.
With some difficulty, he got onto it and laid
down. As he stared up at the ceiling, he
began to feel chilled. When he stuck his
hands into his sweatshirt pockets, his right made
contact with something. Shocked, he withdrew
With a mixture of delight, awe, and horror;
Cameron studied the object in his hands.
It was a tiny baby Jesus, exactly like his
grandma's in shape and size. But this one
had dark skin and black hair... like Joshua.
"'Jesus, Joseph, and Mary... Like Son of
David... get it?'"
Cameron began to quake as the guard's words came
back to him along with the memory of Joshua's soft
gaze and all the things he had known about
him. He was overcome as the enormity of it
He had tried to kill God... and those who God
"'I don't care what you believe. You're
still a dirty Jew who made friends with
"'I wish my
aim had been a little higher... right through the
as his own words returned to him. His own
heart ached as he wept bitter, sorrowful tears.
"I'm sorry... I'm sorry..." he cried
out. As he thrashed, he toppled off the bed
and landed on the cement floor.
Joshua was gone. He'd had a chance to
apologize but he hadn't taken it.
After an attempt to lift himself, Cameron gave up,
collapsed, and continued to weep into the
"He can still hear you."
Startled, Cameron lifted his head. He was
surprised to see sandalled feet only a few inches
"Let me help you there."
The mysterious man grabbed Cameron around his
chest and hefted him onto the cot.
Cameron gaped as he got a full view of the
man. He wore a red robe over a light blue
"Who... who..." Cameron lifted his hand to
"Made yourself hoarse from crying it seems.
I know the feeling." The man smiled.
"You and I have more in common than I'd like to
admit, young man. But we'll have plenty of
time to talk about that. For now..."
He held his hand out. "My name is
Paul. Paul of Tarsus."
Cameron's eyes grew wide.
Paul chuckled and sat down beside Cameron.
He nodded resolutely.
"I think this will be fun. Nice place you
got here, by the way. Oh, don't look at me
like that! You should have seen some of the
places I found myself in."
Paul laughed again then clapped Cameron on the
"So, my dear Cameron, in the name of God our
Father and our Lord Yeshua, the Messiah... let's
Outside the jail, Joshua hugged his Abi
"Thank you for coming. It made it easier...
having you there."
Yosef patted his son on the back.
"You are most welcome, my boy. It means so
much to me when you include me... I know you do
not need your old Abi any more."
"Don't need, no. But want? Very
much." Joshua beamed at Yosef.
His eyes filling, Yosef squeezed Joshua's hand.
"And now... what will happen to him?"
"That's up to him. We'll see how well he
listens to his new tutor."
"Tutor? Is he seeking a degree?"
"What did you do?"
"I may have gotten a little tired of a certain
someone begging to come back down here so... I put
him to work."
"No. He still has to be patient."
"She's waiting, too. Think... very
Grinning, Joshua nodded.
"Yeshu, I mean this with all respect but... I
think I feel a little sorry for Cameron."
Laughing, Joshua slung an arm around his Abi's
"I do, too, Abi. I do, too..."
Joshua smiled to himself.
Paul was still meeting with Cameron every
evening... and progress was definitely being
made. He hoped, one day very soon, to
receive a phone call from the jail,
requesting a visit.
"Joshua, the kids brought something up on
the way here," Hura began.
"And what was that?" Joshua inquired,
smiling at Amala, Christopher, and Iz who,
with Ichabod, had joined them.
"Do you all celebrate Chanukah?" Amala
asked. "Like... do you light a
Joshua looked to Andrew.
"We do actually..."
The angel of death stood and stepped into
the storage room. He returned soon
after carrying a silver menorah and a box of
"An assignment gave this menorah to me many,
many years ago. I've lit it every year
and, when I moved here, JenniAnn agreed that
we should keep the tradition going.
It's going to be especially meaningful this
year, having Joshua and his family present."
"Do you think we could come tomorrow night?"
Christopher prompted with an eager
smile. "I've never actually celebrated
"Sure!" JenniAnn agreed. "I figure
people will be hanging around, anyway.
We don't do the whole traditional
thing, I'm afraid. I'm still not
entirely sure how dreidels work but..."
"Ooh! I can teach you!" John offered.
JenniAnn laughed at his boyish excitement.
"But, it seems, John will give
lessons. Thank you, John."
"And maybe we could make latkes and jelly
doughnuts?" Andrew suggested with a hopeful,
"I would be more than happy to do that,"
Maryam agreed with a laugh. "I'm sure
Yemimah will help me. It'll be good to
do something for our hosts."
"Aww. You know you don't have to do
anything," JenniAnn reminded.
"But... doughnuts..." Ibrahim murmured.
He sounded and looked so crestfallen that
the rest of the group erupted in laughter.
Joshua patted Ibrahim on the back.
"No worries, my friend. We'll make
absolutely sure you get some
doughnuts. Although I do wonder if
we'll be so eager come tomorrow after we've
eaten our weight in cookies..."
Everyone looked to where Joshua had
gestured. The Albany clan was
approaching... with a half-dozen trays of
"Ho! Ho! Ho!" Caleb greeted as
he and Lacey entered the ballroom.
"We come bearing lots and lots of cookies,"
"So I can see!" Smiling, Joshua rose
and embraced them once they'd set the
"Well... Kylie's gone into nesting mode and
Dot eagerly jumped in. So they've been
baking up a storm. I'm afraid all
Caleb and I managed was a couple dozen
no-bake cookies." Lacey smiled at her
husband. "Half of which he's eaten."
Joshua laughed and clapped Caleb on the
"I don't blame you!"
Randall was the next to enter with Felix
wriggling in his arms.
"Dow! Dow!" the little boy begged.
"Down," Randall repeated, stressing the last
syllable. "And all right! You
would have run right into a snow drift if
I'd put you down earlier and you know it, ya
The toddler only grinned and, once down,
made a beeline for Ichabod whose tail wagged
wildly as he realized yet another person was
going to pay attention to him.
Edward and Clay hurried in to deposit the
"Hi all! Be right back. Have a
squalling baby to help free from her winter
clothes," Edward announced in a rush.
"And I have a very pregnant wife to help out
of her boots," Clay added.
Smiling, Joshua followed the two out into
the entryway where Adam was helping
Ada-Marie to remove her coat, mittens,
scarf, and cap while Dot hovered over Kylie
as she lowered herself into a waiting
"Oof. Sorry, Ky. Can't say I
miss that," Zadie commented, wincing over
the other woman's discomfort.
"Oh, I'm fine. Just get winded so
easily. But only another week or two!"
Kylie cheered as Clay replaced her boots
with comfortable slippers. "And then
we get to see this little one." She
patted her belly.
"I can't wait," Dot cooed. "Another
little one to cuddle and spoil!"
"You and Randall are definitely good at
Dot turned to Ada-Marie whose lower lip
"What is it, baby?"
"Oh, it did get a bit mussed didn't
it... Here, let me fix that for you,
As Dot tended to Ada-Marie, Kylie's eyes
filled. She peered up at Joshua,
silently thanking him for bringing the
Romanos, and Dot especially, into her life.
Joshua smiled back and gently squeezed
"What's wrong, my dear?" Clay quietly asked
his wife as he thumbed away some tears.
Kylie laughed and shook her head.
"Oh, it's just me being emotional.
Just watching Dot with Ada-Marie... such a
good grandma. I... I'm so grateful the
kids have you and Randall, Dot. And so
do Clay and I. And this little one
will be so blessed, too..."
"Oh, Kylie..." Dot hugged her
tightly. "You've all been such a
blessing to us."
"And it's been a delight seeing all of you
grow closer," Joshua complimented. "I
can't wait to keep watching your journey
"And I think I speak for all of us when I
say, we can't wait to continue this
journey," Edward replied as the others
"But for now... let's focus on getting you
comfortable." Clay carefully helped
Kylie to her feet and the group joined the
others in the ballroom.
"The more people who show up, the less
guilty I feel about arriving so early."
With a chuckle, Andrew shook his head.
"No one needs to feel guilty. JenniAnn
and I understand that when Joshua's here,
people could drop in at all hours and that's
more than fine with us."
"Absolutely," JenniAnn agreed. "But
since we have some time... Any body
have more stories for Ibrahim?"
"Ooh! I can watch the littles,"
Violeta called from the doorway.
"Hey there!" JenniAnn rose and hugged the
young angel. "I didn't hear the door."
Ivy approached with Sy at her side.
"We came through the basement. I was
feeling wimpy and didn't want to brave the
"And I definitely wasn't fighting her on
that. I just wish I could have
tunneled from the portal to their place," Sy
jested, shivering dramatically.
"Hmm... Maybe we can work on that
sometime. But for now... Good
morning to you all! Violeta, if you're
sure, I think we'll take you up on
that. Raquel and Nico are already in
the library with Belle and Avi, reading
stories, but could probably use a hand once
more kids start showing up."
"I'll go with you," Jemima offered before
turning to the others. "Not that I
don't want to hear the stories but... I love
spending time with the little ones."
"We'll make sure you're filled in later,
Jemmy," Joshua promised.
With promises of stories to hear, toys to
play with, and more pets to visit, Ada-Marie
and Felix were easily persuaded to go with
Violeta and Jemima. Baby Etta was less
agreeable and so remained in Zadie's arms.
"Iz, maybe you should..." Hura began.
"There aren't any kids my age here yet," Iz
interrupted. "Can I stay?"
Joshua looked to Kylie, knowing she wanted
to speak. She nodded back to him.
"Iz, you can stay. But if you have
questions, speak up," Joshua encouraged.
"Well... There was something I got to
thinking would be good for you to know
about, Ibrahim. I think it really
drives home how Joshua has really perfect
timing," Kylie begun.
"So I'm learning." Ibrahim smiled at
Joshua and then at Kylie. "I'd love to
hear your story."
"Great! So this actually happened the
day before the Archbishop's party for
Tuesday, April 30th,
Kylie fought back tears as she pinned some
laundry onto the clothes line.
She felt selfish for feeling as she
did. If things had gone just a little
differently, she could be at a funeral right
now... Joshua's funeral.
The mere thought sent shivers down her spine
and more tears welled and began to trail
down her cheeks.
Startled, Kylie turned to the source of the
voice. A very concerned looking Dot
was standing nearby.
"Sweetie... you're crying!"
Without waiting for a response, Dot pulled
the younger woman into her arms.
The tenderness of the gesture broke what
remained of Kylie's reserve and she began to
"Come on, baby girl... Let's sit down
and talk. The laundry can wait."
Dot guided Kylie back into the house and sat
her down at the kitchen table. The two
visited each other so often that Dot easily
found some tea and started a kettle boiling.
"I... I'm sorry. I'm really
okay. This week... it... it was
just... a... a lot and..."
Dot stroked Kylie's hair.
"It really was. I imagine it'll take a
while for all of us to move past this...
even though Joshua's doing so well.
It's still..." Dot shook her
hair. "So awful to think about..."
"It is but... I mean I do think that's
probably a lot why I'm so... out of control
"Kylie... crying doesn't mean you're out of
"I know... but just that... I can't stop
it. I... I need to go check on Felix,"
she announced abruptly.
Kylie left the kitchen and checked on
Felix. To her relief, he was still
napping peacefully. Kylie whispered a
prayer of gratitude that Adam had taken
Ada-Marie to the zoo for the day. She
wasn't there to witness her mother's
After stepping into the bathroom to scrub
her face, Kylie returned to the kitchen
where Dot was pouring tea.
"Sorry. He's still napping."
"Good. Now... tell me what's going
Kylie took a sip of tea then inhaled and
exhaled deeply before meeting Dot's gaze.
"I... haven't exactly been feeling
well. It started shortly before Joshua
showed back up. I... I was going to
make an appointment but then everything
happened so... I decided to look into the
most obvious possibility myself and... I'm
pregnant. I took a test this morning
after Clay left for work."
Dot's face lit up and she moved to jump to
her feet and celebrate but then thought
better of it.
"And... that upset you?" she asked
"I... I mean... I'd love to have another
baby. So much. And... and I know
Clay wants more children but... so
soon? We... we're doing okay.
But money is tight and..."
"You know Randall and I would help however
"I do." Kylie reached over to squeeze
her friend's hand. "I really do.
But Clay wouldn't like that. We'll
find a way. We have to. I just
don't want to stress him out more and...
that made me feel guilty... guilty that my
reaction wasn't pure joy. Because...
cause something awful happened... something
that... that could have... have killed
Joshua or... or Salma or Raheem or the imam
or... or... all of them. And here's
this little life that God's trusted us
with. I... I should be celebrating."
"Oh, Kylie..." Dot moved her chair
closer and hugged her, giving her a shoulder
to cry on which Kylie readily took.
"God understands. Life can be so
complicated. He knows that you're just
concerned... but that you love and want this
"I... I do..."
"So we'll pray on it and I'm sure you and
Clay will find a way."
"Yeah..." Kylie nodded against Dot's
"And... I suspect, because I know it's true
for myself, that you've not been sleeping
very well since the shooting."
"No... not really," Kylie confirmed.
"Everything seems much more drastic when
you're sleep deprived. So... I think
you need to take a nap, little mama.
I'll stay here and listen for Felix."
"Are you sure?"
"Absolutely," Dot confirmed. "I'd love
to spend time with my grandson when he's up
Kylie hugged Dot.
"Thank you. I... I'm so glad that we
have you and Randall to be there for the
kids since Clay's parents are so far away
and my mom... well... Thank you.
And I'll take you up on that."
Dot followed Kylie to her room and tucked
her into bed.
Kylie smiled as Dot kissed her forehead.
"Night, night, sleep tight, Ky."
"Thank you..." Kylie smiled at Dot
then snuggled into her pillow.
Within a few moments, she had drifted off to
Later that afternoon, Dot was sitting on the
porch, rocking Felix, when she saw Clay
approaching. There was a spring to his
step that made her smile.
"Hey there, Dot!" Clay greeted. "Is
"Yep. She's laying down for a nap."
"A nap..." Clay frowned as he stroked
Felix's wisps of hair. "Is she okay?"
"Just a little rundown by everything going
on. You should go see if she's up,"
Still concerned, Clay wasted no time in
making his way to his and Kylie's
bedroom. To his relief, he found his
wife sitting up in bed, reading her Bible.
"Hey, Ky. How are you doing?" Clay
asked softly as he perched on the edge of
the bed and rested a hand on Kylie's
Smiling, Kylie took his hand and brought it
to her lips.
"I'm fine. Just got tired and Dot
kindly offered to watch Felix while I
"Yeah. I saw them when I came
in. You're sure nothing else is going
Kylie bowed her head.
"Well... actually, I... I have some news."
"Good news?" Clay asked hopefully.
"I... I think so."
"Great! Because I have some good news,
too! We need some good news after last
week... Do you want to go first or..."
"Maybe I should go first."
"Okay, go for it."
"Well... I just haven't been feeling very
"That doesn't sound like good news,
"No... But... but maybe the reason
Once again, Kylie clasped Clay's hand.
This time, she rested it over her abdomen.
Clay's eyes widened.
"You... you're pregnant!" he exclaimed.
"Damn... we're fertile!"
Giggling, Kylie nodded again.
"Apparently... I didn't think it was
likely since I'm still breastfeeding.
Clay hugged his wife.
"That's wonderful news! I mean... it
"It's only... money's already tight
and..." Kylie sniffled.
Clay lifted her chin and grinned.
"Well... I think that's where my good news
comes in. Ol' Reggie told me today
that he's retiring. And... he put in
my name to take over as head coach. We
met with the principal and there are still
details to iron out but... it'll be a fairly
substantial pay hike. The only
downside is it will mean more time spent at
the school... away from you and the
kids. So I said I had to talk to you
about it but..."
Kylie could tell how much the offer meant to
Clay. His eyes were gleaming.
The basketball team had given him a sense of
camaraderie that she knew he missed from the
army. The boys were in awe of him and
quick to his defense whenever a rival made a
crack about his face.
"You really want this," Kylie finished for
him. "And... I think you should
definitely accept the offer."
"Really?" Clay double-checked.
"Really," Kylie stressed before kissing
him. "The kids and I can get used to
eating hotdogs and pretzels for dinner so we
can be with you at games.
"And congratulations, mama!" Clay
again rested his hand on her belly. "I
can't wait to meet you, little one."
"Me neither! Oh, Clay... I'm so
relieved!" Kylie hugged him and kissed
"I... I just... Sometimes I think
about where I was only a few years
ago... Desolate in a hospital
bed. And now... here I am with my
beautiful wife and a third kid on the way
and a dream job and..." Clay sighed
happily. "So many friends and
"We are very, very blessed," Kylie murmured.
"We are..." Clay rested his forehead
against hers and they prayed in thanksgiving
for the life God had gifted them.
"Now... His answers aren't always that
quick... and sometimes they don't look like
what you're expecting or even wanting but...
they do come," Kylie affirmed.
"So I'm learning anew," Ibrahim
agreed. "You know, shortly before
Joshua arrived, I'd been praying to Allah
for a renewed sense of clarity in my
mission. Things just felt...
off. I definitely wasn't expecting to
find myself as a Christian with a new job
but... here I am. And I feel better...
"And we're all very glad for that."
Raheem beamed at his cousin then turned to
Clay and Kylie. "And glad for your
newest bundle of joy."
"Have you chosen any names, Clay and Kylie?"
"Well... sort of," Clay replied. "We
could abandon them once we see the
baby. But we're thinking Oliver for a
"And Maisy for a girl," Kylie added.
"Aww! I love them both," Emma, who
along with Peter and Sawyer had arrived
mid-story, complimented. "And Maisy
would go so cute with Mercy if..." Her
face flushed and her voice trailed off.
"Mercy?" Zadie questioned.
"If?" Caleb echoed.
Peter laughed and stroked Emma's back.
"I'm afraid the cat's out of the bag, my
dear. Might as well tell them."
"Guess so!" Emma laughed then smiled
at the others. "Peter and I have
decided to start trying for baby number
two. Sawyer's still so little that we
thought about waiting but..."
"But I'll be pushing forty soon so...
No time like the present." Peter
squeezed Emma's hand.
"That's so exciting!" JenniAnn gushed.
"And, yes, Mercy and Maisy do sound
super-cute together. So I'm guessing
you've picked Mercy for a girl?"
"Of course, we'd be very happy with another
boy." She smiled at Joshua.
"But... it is fun to think along the lines
of girl stuff. Although..." Her
Raheem noticed that Hura was peering at the
other woman, her gaze especially gentle.
"It's kind of difficult, too," Emma
finished. "I know bad things can
happen to boys... do happen to boys... but I
guess because of what I went through, girls
just seem so much more vulnerable."
Protectively, Zadie snuggled Etta closer.
"If we do have a girl, I'm afraid I'm going
to be very, very over-protective of her and
stifle her," Emma admitted. "And I
don't want to do that."
"I'll be there to help you," Peter vowed.
"And the rest of us can speak up if we feel
we need to," Dot promised.
"I... I know..." Emma smiled
again. "That helps. It really
does." She caught Hura's gaze.
"There's just a lot to think about."
Joshua looked back and forth between the two
women, knowing they were each thinking of an
afternoon some weeks before.
As Emma lay on her exam table, Hura gently
traced a few of the scars on the woman's
"Are they ever painful or itchy?" the doctor
Emma shook her head.
"No. They're just... there."
"Okay. Good. You can lower your
shirt and sit up now."
Emma did so then looked expectantly at Hura
who settled onto a stool.
"So I think I can definitely help," Hura
assured. "I can't say they'll
disappear completely but... they could
fade. But before we talk about
treatment options, I think we need to talk
about goals. Would you be happy if
they were simply faded?"
"I think so. It would be nice if they
weren't so obvious. But..."
"But?" Hura prompted gently.
"Am... am I vain for even thinking about
"No! Trust me, I see plenty of vain
people in here... please don't repeat that."
"Like it or not, so much is tied up with the
way we look... self-esteem, chiefly."
"Now... I'm asking this as a friend and not
as a doctor. Because as a doctor, I
believe you should have total autonomy over
your body. But... have you talked to
Peter about this?"
"He knows I'm here," Emma replied.
"He's supportive. He said the scars
have never bothered him but, if they bother
me, then it's worth exploring options."
"Good man. I'm glad you're not feeling
"Oh no! Definitely not. I...
well, I've actually been thinking about it
since Sawyer was born. I... I was so
happy that Peter and I were going to have a
baby but..." Emma peered down at her
hands. "A few times, I saw nurses
whispering with each other and... I felt
like it was probably about my scars."
"I mean... I get it. They don't know
how far I've come. They were probably
a little scared about a woman who cuts
herself having a baby."
"You're more charitable than I am,
apparently. Whispering around a
patient like that is very unprofessional."
"I suppose... Anyway, Peter and I have
started talking about trying for another
baby in the new year and... and I really,
really want a girl this time. I mean
I'd love the baby no matter what. But
I... I suppose I want a chance to do better
for my baby girl than my mom did for
me. And, yes, maybe it's a little bit
about the superficial stuff like tiny
dresses and big hair bows and those itty
bitty patent leather shoes." Emma
smiled dreamily as she imagined it all.
Hura also smiled, her eyes misting as she
thought of her baby girl, now almost a
"Those shoes are adorable," she agreed.
"Uh huh... And I've found myself
reading articles about raising girls in
today's world and one was about how, if
you're comfortable with it, you should
sometimes let your daughter see you get
dressed so she can see a 'real' woman's body
and not just have visions of impossible
super models in her head. And that
seemed like a really good idea to me.
And I remembered Diana saying she did that
with her girls and Hailey and Kendra are so
healthy and well-adjusted. But... what
would my daughter think when... when she saw
me?" Emma implored with tears in her
Hura clasped Emma's hand.
"Emma, she would see that her mother is a
strong woman who has overcome a lot in her
life... That's what I see. I
know that's what Peter sees."
Hura went to Emma's coat which was hanging
on the door and retrieved a handkerchief
from the pocket.
"How did you know that was there?" Emma
asked as she gratefully accepted it.
"Don't we all have them?"
Emma returned her smile and nodded.
"Yeah... Maryam's so good to us."
"She is. Speaking of... have you
talked to Joshua about this?"
"A little. I kinda casually mentioned
that I had an appointment with you.
I... I suppose I thought I needed to give
him a chance to stop me. Maybe he
wants me to keep the scars as... as penance
"Emma... That doesn't sound like
Joshua," Hura gently countered.
Emma heaved a sigh.
"So what did he say?"
"He said he thought it was a really good
"If you asked... maybe he could heal them?"
"I'd feel weird about that... And he
didn't offer. But... maybe he'd help
whatever treatment plan you have in mind
along. I mean... this isn't like the
time Randall was dying. I don't need
to be scar-free to live."
Hura shook her head in wonder.
"I heard that story... Randall told it to
Raheem and me after he heard about what
Joshua did for Raheem. Amazing.
And you're right. And, in my
experience, sometimes the process of healing
scars is very therapeutic emotionally.
It might not be the same if, poof, suddenly
they were all gone."
"Especially since I put them there," Emma
replied. "And, yes, the penance angle
was wrong. But I just mean... I chose
to cut myself over several years. I
feel like I need to choose treatment,
too. Even if it also takes
years. It doesn't feel right to just
have Joshua wave them away."
"I understand that. But I don't think
we're looking at years. But probably
months. And since I think laser
treatment would be the most effective, we'd
stop if and when you get pregnant.
And, like I said, it might not be
full-proof. But I think we could get
noticeable improvement," Hura informed.
Emma nodded resolutely.
"I want to go for it. And... I'm glad
I'll be going through this with a
friend." She clasped Hura's hand.
Hura gave her hand a squeeze back.
"Absolutely. All your sessions will be
with me, I promise."
"Good." Emma beamed at Hura. "Oh
and... please don't mention the baby thing
just yet. I don't want people to be on
a 'bump watch.'"
"I promise I won't. I know how that
is. I was the first of my siblings to
get married and my mother hounded Raheem and
me. She stopped just short of
measuring my waist circumference every time
The two women laughed and exchanged more
banter before settling into more serious
discussion of the treatment options that
would help Emma.
Joshua smiled appreciatively at Hura before
turning his attention to Emma and Peter.
"The baby you do get will be blessed to have
you as parents," Joshua encouraged.
"And to have Sawyer as a big brother."
"Did you ever wish you had a big brother,
Joshua?" Iz asked.
"Nope. Because he had a fantastic
older cousin," John replied with a grin.
Joshua smiled and rolled his eyes at John
before giving Iz his full attention.
"Sometimes when I was little.
Especially when other kids could be kind of
mean. My Abi and Ama always stood up
for me." He smiled at them. "But
I thought it would be nice to have a big
brother. And then I sort of did.
After an aunt and uncle died, my parents
adopted my cousins. Two of them, Yosef
and Yaqob were older than me, although not
"That's cool. I sometimes wish I had
an older brother," Iz confessed.
"Sorry, bud," Raheem apologized. "But
your mom and I did give you a pretty great
older sister, huh?"
Iz smiled at his sister and nodded.
Then his gaze traveled to Christopher who
was seated beside Amala.
"Could you be my big brother?"
Christopher blinked in surprise and stared
at the little boy with his wide, expectant
eyes. He blinked again to ward off
Amala squeezed her boyfriend's hand.
"I... I'd like that a lot, Iz. I
always wished I'd had a younger
brother." Christopher beamed at the
boy then happily accepted his hug.
"Aww!" Hura exclaimed, wiping at her eyes.
"And to think you didn't want Amala going
out with him," Raheem whispered, giving her
"Oh hush!" Hura playfully swatted at
her husband who chuckled.
"Very good!" Joshua cheered. "And
now... I think the onslaught has begun."
He gestured to the window beyond which
several more of the Friends were making
their way from the portal to Willowveil's
Soon, the ballroom was brimming with people,
all excitedly chatting and checking out the
many, many cookies and other treats awaiting
In the midst of the gaiety, only JenniAnn
frowned as she and Andrew stood in the
Noticing, Andrew squeezed her shoulder.
"What's wrong, Laja?"
"Oh... just noticing how packed in we
are. I think in a few years, we'll
have outgrown the ballroom... and it's the
biggest room any of us have access to.
Well, except the auditorium at St. G's and
that's not ideal with all the bolted down
Andrew looked around, deciding she was
"Hmm... Well, maybe we could knock
down that wall and expand into the living
room. We hardly ever use the
parlor. We could make that the new
"Good idea. But... can you do
that? It's a bit more than building
chairs and tables and carving."
The angel of death smiled.
"I've done construction and remodeling
before. Maybe, given it's for a good
cause, Joshua could be persuaded to return
those skills to me... need to know basis and
all. Because you're right. We're
going to need more space."
"It's a good problem to have," JenniAnn
Andrew wrapped an arm around her waist and
"That it is, Laja. And we'll figure it
out. But for now..." he raised his
voice. "Let's get this caroling party
Hearing Andrew, the others cheered.
"Everyone, get what snacks and drinks you
want and then find a seat," JenniAnn
The group happily obeyed and within fifteen
minutes, they were sprawled around the
ballroom, facing the makeshift stage.
"So I guess I got volunteered to emcee this
thing," Eli announced. "So here's how
this is going to work: if you want to
perform a particular song, grab one of the
scraps of paper scattered around and write
down your name/names and the song.
We'll pass a bowl around to collect
them. Don't worry about
duplicating. We can all listen to the
same song more than once if it comes down to
it. After we get through those, we'll
do some group singing. Everyone say hi
to Logan at the computer. He's going
to be projecting lyrics for us."
Logan stood and bowed dramatically to cheers
"And, of course, to Tess who will be
accompanying our singers on the piano when
appropriate," Eli continued.
"Hey, babies!" Tess cried, momentarily
rising from the bench.
"Now to start us off and give you time to
fill out those cards, we have Emma and Kylie
with Faith Hill's 'A Baby Changes
Everything,'" Eli announced.
While the others cheered, Joshua made his
way to his mother's side and sat beside her.
Maryam's eyes welled as the song began and
she rested her head on her Yeshu's shoulder.
"Teenage girl, much too young, unprepared
for what's to come... A baby changes
everything," Emma sang.
"'Not a ring on her hand, all her dreams and
all her plans... A baby changes
everything. A baby changes
everything...'" Kylie followed.
"'The man she loves, she's never
touched. How will she keep his
trust?'" Emma implored.
Yosef sighed and clasped Maryam's left hand
in both of his, grateful as always that he'd
followed his heart and God's will.
"'A baby changes everything...'"
"'A baby changes everything...'" Kylie
"'And she cries... ooh, she cries,'" they
belted out together.
In the crowd, Liyana peered down at her
sweet, sleeping baby. She looked
across the room at the Davidsons and tried
to imagine Joshua so small in Maryam's
arms. Her heart ached as she thought
of Maryam having some idea of what was to
come for her little one.
Guessing his wife's thoughts, because they
were also his own, Ibrahim stroked her back
and let tears trickle down his cheeks.
His tears increased as the song neared its
"'My whole life has turned around... I
was lost but now I'm found. A baby
changes everything. A baby changes
When Kylie and Emma finished, Ibrahim rested
his forehead against his wife's.
"I... I feel like it's doubly true for
me. Joshua... and Judah," he
murmured. "They changed everything."
"I know the feeling, my love." Liyana
kissed his cheek then stroked Judah's
Both parents smiled when Judah emitted a
"Thank you, ladies! Beautiful!
Maryam, good thing you gave everyone
handkerchiefs," Eli jested. He looked
down at his note. "And you may not
want to put those away yet, ladies and
gents, because next we have a choral number
especially dedicated to someone in this room
who is not Joshua."
As the group chuckled, a number of the men
rose to their feet and moved to the
stage. By the time they were all
assembled, the group included Fr. Mike,
Rabbi Yakov, Kyle, Mason, Zeke, Sy, Peter,
Adam, Henry, Andrew, Max, Shane, Eric,
Edward, Caleb, Arthur, Eliot, Jeff, Tyson,
Tim, and Owen. Eli remained with them
"So many of you probably realize that, up
here, we have most of the male cast and crew
of our first production of Jesus Christ
Superstar plus a few others. We
wanted to get together to honor someone who
many of those up here on stage met for the
first time during those days. I think
Fr. Mike found the perfect song for us to
sing," he explained.
The audience listened curiously as they
"'The great forerunner of the morn, the
herald of the Word, is born. And
faithful hearts shall never fail, with
thanks and praise his light to hail.'"
Grinning proudly, Joshua craned his neck to
look at his cousin who was gaping at the
"'With heavenly message Gabriel came, that
John should be that herald’s name. And
with prophetic utterance told, his actions
great and manifold. John, still
unborn, yet gave aright, his witness to the
coming Light; and Christ, the Sun of all the
earth, fulfilled that witness at His
"Aww..." Seated beside John, Jemima
noticed he was moved to tears and wrapped
her arms around him.
Still smiling, Joshua rested his hands over
his heart then waved them to his cousin,
sending his love.
Still stunned, John mimed the message back
"They're singing a... a song for me..." he
"Of course they are you big, beautiful lug,"
"'But why should mortal voices raise, the
hymn of John the Baptist's praise, of whom,
before his course was run, the Father said
unto the Son: "Behold my herald who
shall go, before your face, your way to
show, and shine, as with the Day-star's
gleam, before your own eternal beam.'"
The next lyrics flashed onto the screen and,
together, the group sang the final verse.
"'All praise to God the Father be. All
praise, eternal Son, to Thee, Whom with the
Spirit we adore, forever and forevermore!'"
As soon as the song was over, the crowd
erupted in cheers. John made his way
to the front of the room, receiving several
pats on the back along the way, and began to
hug each one of the men.
Jemima made her way to Joshua's side.
"Did you know about that?" she asked.
"Fr. Mike visited with me about it.
There are always songs for me, of
course. And usually a handful for Ama
and Abi. And John, good sport that he
is, just smiles and listens and sings
along. It was about time he get some
love during one of these. They thought
about performing it at St. G's but decided
this was better... more personal."
"Well... he was definitely verklempt,"
They smiled up at John, along with Maryam
When everyone had settled down, Eli stood
alone on the stage, holding a bowl.
"Well, I for one loved that! Oh
geez... John, watch where
you're..." Eli cringed as the baptizer
stumbled on his way back to his seat.
"Sorry! I'm okay! Just a little
misty eyed still," John reported, beaming.
"Good. I was just about to check your
egg nog," Eli joked. "So now... I'm
going to draw a name out of the bowl to see
who goes next..." He reached in,
plucked out a piece of paper, and unfolded
it. "And... we have Takoda with 'The
Huron Carol.' And he has a special
Takoda took the microphone and smiled out at
"So, umm, this song is very special to
me. It was written by Jean de Brébeuf,
a Jesuit missionary who worked among the
Huron people in Canada in the 1600s.
It sounds really beautiful in the Wyandot
language which, regrettably, I can't
speak. So... I asked my supervisor to
be here." He pointed to Wahkan who had
snuck into the room.
Wahkan smiled and made his way to the stage,
first stopping to embrace Joshua.
Once he had joined Takoda and hugged him,
Wahkan spoke to the crowd.
"It's my honor to be here with you. I
wish to extend my gratitude to all of you
for befriending Takoda and helping him to
heal. As a small token of our
appreciation, Takoda and I would like to
share this song with you. It was
taught to me by Acona, the principality of
the Wyandotte Nation," Wahkan
introduced. "We would love it if you
would sing the chorus along with us.
Takoda will sing it once for you... don't
worry. It's in English... well, with a
tiny bit of Latin," he added with a grin.
The crowd listened, transfixed, as Wahkan's
deep, clear voice sang out.
"'Estenniayon de tsonwe Iesous ahatonnia
onn' awatewa nd' oki n' onyouandaskwaentak
n'onyouandiyonrachatha Iesous ahatonnia,
ahatonnia. Iesous ahatonnia...'"
Wahkan began to beat on a drum as Takoda
took over the song.
"'Twas in the moon of wintertime, when all
the birds had fled, that mighty Gitchi
Manitou sent angel choirs instead.
Before their light the stars grew dim
and wandering hunters heard the hymn...
'Jesus your King is born, Jesus is born...
in excelsis gloria...'"
Seated among the children, Joccy looked in
awe at Takoda. She began to sway along
to the beat of Wahkan's drum.
"'Within a lodge of broken bark, the tender
Babe was found. A ragged robe of
rabbit skin enwrapp'd His beauty
round. And as the hunter braves drew
nigh, the angel song rang loud and
high.'" Takoda raised his hand.
"'Jesus your King is born, Jesus is born...
in excelsis gloria...'" the group sang
Intensely moved, Joshua peered around
him. His gaze settled on Joccy briefly
then traveled to Takoda. Briefly, he
closed his eyes and prayed as Takoda
continued to sing.
"'O children of the forest free, o sons of
Manitou, the Holy Child of earth and heaven
is born today for you. Come kneel
before the radiant Boy Who brings you
beauty, peace and joy...'"
"'Jesus your King is born,
Jesus is born... in excelsis
gloria... in excelsis gloria... in excelsis gloria.'"
ahatonnia... Iesous ahatonnia...'" Wahkan finished.
holding out on
That was even
when you sang
at the prayer
protege on the
back as he
onto the stage
Please tell me
"I do have to
get back to an
but I think I
And I do have
a soft spot
asserted as he
to slip off
"Make sure you
see me before
"Go on now."
"Can you call
a quick break,
I want to
Eli turned on
gonna take a
wander too far
I know I've
I think Sarah
should try out
for the next
show St. G's
"Oh, I don't
"Well, I think
"Maybe. We'll see. I'm just glad
you liked it."
"Definitely! I really wanted to take
video to show Jayden. I think he would
have loved it. He loves world
music. But I didn't want him to ask
where I was."
Takoda's smile faltered at the mention of
the boy Joccy had befriended... or possibly
more... at college but he recovered quickly.
"Yeah, well, umm, maybe I can sing it at St.
G's next year where we don't need to be so
"I hope you do!" Joccy hugged the
angel. "It really was beautiful.
Anyway... I'm gonna go get more
cookies. Could you watch the kids?"
As Takoda sat down amongst the children, he
felt a strong hand rest on his shoulder.
Turning around, he saw Nick.
"Oh, hey, Nick."
"Have hope," the saint whispered. "I
don't see this Jayden thing lasting."
Takoda laughed uneasily.
"Oh, I... I'm not..." He shook his
"I may be dead, technically speaking, but
I'm not blind, young fellow," Nick informed
with a wink and cheeky grin.
For just a moment, Takoda thought he truly
looked like Santa...
After the break, the children delighted the
adults with a rendition of "Away in the
Manger." It didn't matter to Joshua
that they were highly off-key and that some
of the littlest ones had spent the number
silently gaping at their beaming
parents. He knew they loved him and,
after they were finished, they crowded
around him, vying for a knee to sit on or a
hand to hold. They settled for Maryam,
Yosef, and Nick, rotating every few minutes,
so each had time with Joshua.
After a few more numbers, Eli pulled the
last card from the bowl. He smiled
"It seems we have a first time solo
singer. Raheem would like to perform
'The Glorious Impossible' for us,
accompanied by Amala on piano," he
As the group clapped eagerly, Tess vacated
the piano bench and hugged Amala who
Blushing, Raheem took the microphone from
"Thank you, Eli. I wanted to, umm, to
perform a song for Joshua... who has given
us so much. And given this is my first
real Christmas, I eagerly listened to many,
many songs that were new to me. I
loved so many but 'The Glorious Impossible'
stood out to me because I feel like so much
of these past few months was impossible...
at least based on human imagination and
ability. And yet... here I am.
Healthy and whole, surrounded by my family
and more friends than I ever thought I would
have. And with a new faith... and with
a greater appreciation for the immense and
unending love of God. So..."
Raheem drew in and let out a deep breath,
peered lovingly at Joshua, and began.
"'See the Virgin is delivered, in a cold and
crowded stall. Mirror of the Father's
glory, lies beside her in the straw.
He is Mercy's incarnation. Marvel at
this miracle! For the Virgin gently
holds the Glorious Impossible...'"
Joshua rested his chin gently on Omar's
hair, his eyes full of love and joyful
"'Love has come to walk on water, turn the
water into wine, touch the leper, bless the
children. Love both human and
divine. Praise the wisdom of the
Father, Who has spoken through His
Son. Speaking still, He calls us to
the Glorious Impossible.
Hallelujah... Glorious Impossible!'"
Hura sat, with her arms around Iz, and tears
streaming down her face. She had heard
her husband practicing often enough to know
what came next. Her enamored gaze
shifted from Raheem to the carpenter... the
king... the messiah.
"'He was bruised for our transgressions and
He bears eternal scars. He was raised
for our salvation and His righteousness is
ours. Praise, oh praise Him, praise
the glory of this lavish grace so
full. Lift your souls now and receive
the Glorious Impossible!'"
With a wave from Raheem, the others joined
in for the closing.
When the song
was over, Amala
raced to her
dad's side and
hugged him as he
by the song.
Thank you both
squeaked out as
"I... I'd do it
"I... I know you
don't think our
and, once again,
pulled the two
to end this
segment on," Eli
"But now... I'm
ready for my
save for Tess
who returned to
the piano and,
with a few
"Angels We Have
Heard on High"
appeared and the
"'Angels we have heard on high,
sweetly singing o'er the plains.
And the mountains in reply,
echoing their joyous strains!'"
After the caroling, as many of
the Friends got into their winter wear and
prepared to head home, Takoda met with Wahkan in
"Well, here it is." The elder angel held a
flat, rectangular box out to his protege.
Eagerly, Takoda accepted it and opened the box.
"Does it meet with your approval?" Wahkan
Eying the piece, Takoda nodded. He ran his
fingers over the turquoise and coral beads and
rubbed the smooth, cool pendant at the
"I thought so. I would like to have a word
with you, though, Takoda."
Tearing his gaze away from the necklace, Takoda
looked up at his supervisor.
"I can't help but be concerned. What
exactly are your intentions when it comes to
Takoda felt his cheeks burning.
"I... nothing. She's my friend."
"Good. I only... I want you to be
careful. You've seen the very best of
angel/human relations. Andrew and JenniAnn
are a fine, inspiring couple. I wouldn't
have asked Andrew to take you in if I felt
otherwise. But... JenniAnn is an
anomaly. Most women... humans in general,
actually... wouldn't make the sacrifices she's
made and continues to make. I don't want
you getting your heart set on a future that...
that may be impossible, Takoda."
Bowing his head, Takoda nodded. He did
admire Andrew and JenniAnn and, sometimes, he
"I just... I want to protect Joccy," he
admitted. "Do you know about her father?"
"Yes. She's had a difficult life.
She deserves... kindness," Takoda insisted.
Wahkan sighed. He'd seen the result of
Takoda getting too wrapped up in the lives of
humans. And this felt different...
stronger even... than his friendship with Daniel
"She does," he agreed finally. "But now...
I better get back to work. I hope she
loves the necklace. I'm sure she
will. Merry Christmas, Takoda."
"Merry Christmas, Wahkan." Takoda hugged
his supervisor. "And thanks for fetching
this for me." He held the necklace up.
"Not every day I find myself in a jewelry
store... even a native one. I enjoyed the
novelty of it. Let me know how it goes."
"Be well, Takoda."
With a final wave, Wahkan began to glow and then
Once his supervisor was gone, Takoda beamed at
It was truly beautiful. He could just
imagine it with a black, flowy dress that Joccy
was fond of. But it would look just as
nice with a sweater and jeans. He imagined
her eyes glistening as she opened it. Then
looking at him...
Takoda startled when someone knocked on his
door. Hastily, he closed the box and
stashed it beneath his bed before opening the
"Hey there!" Joccy greeted. "Vincent's
reading Little Santa for his grandkids
in the library. Wanna come listen?"
"To a kids' book?"
"He's a good reader."
Takoda smiled and nodded.
"Yeah, sure. I'll come."
"Good!" Joccy laughed, clasped his hand,
and then dashed to the library.
Takoda felt a surge of warmth in his heart at
her touch and, no longer carrying about the
juvenile nature of the book, happily proceeded
to the library.
cookies on the
road to True
Phoenix Inn, the
V.A., and Olivia
many of the
to Willowveil to
first night of
"You should say
encouraged as he
and Joshua moved
a table onto the
stage so, from
anywhere in the
could be seen.
"No... this is
You should say
He did like
at him when he
"How about I
knowing by the
pink tinge to
the angel's face
his thoughts had
That would be
Best of both
him on the
been wanting to
talk to you
how crowded the
been. So I
maybe we could
knock out the
wall there and
make the living
room and back
hallway part of
So we'd have
But we can't
"Could I maybe
rested a hand of
was buzzing with
so many ideas
"leave it until
We can go over
plans before I
his plans away,
out into the
entryway when we
Joshua grabbed a
draped it over
the menorah on
top of it.
He glanced out
pulled open the
Soon, the room
was filled with
Friends and the
Once the sun had
set, Joshua and
to the stage
along with Yosef
As the others
sat in hushed
smiled at his
"Ama and Abi,
could you please
tell us the
Smiling as they
many, many times
their little boy
had begged for
the stories of
his people, the
Yeshu was born,
there was a king
He was not, as
to worship the
very wrong for
the Jews because
it would mean
'You shall have
no other gods
who would want
to worship them,
That Zeus was a
Well, many of
the Jews decided
to fight back
One brave man,
the leader of
Despite being at
they drove the
enemies out of
king and his
And so the Jews
had to clean it
wanted to light
the menorah but
found they had
only oil enough
for one day and
the oil lasted
for eight days
them as they
of God's love
And so, at
victory of the
God's miracle of
"Thank you, Ama
Joshua smiled at
them both then
rested a hand on
"And now we're
going to light
there will be
He touched the
is the shamash,
We'll use it to
light the other
And now... the
recite them in
Hebrew and I'll
his yarmulke was
lit the shamash
You, Our God,
Ruler of the
made us holy
commanded us to
beamed at Andrew
as she swayed
You, Our God,
Ruler of the
days at this
Andrew lit the
You, Our God,
Ruler of the
has given us
sustained us and
enabled us to
Friends began to
meal, the first
for many of
After a few
and Jemima began
to learn how to
"So... what do
Joshua asked as
he sat down
had been so
eager to attend.
His face stuffed
stared at a
for a few
he replied with
"But, really, I
I think I'm
going to need to
get my own
"Well... as it
Andrew, Abi, and
I thought there
might be a run
"So we've carved
several in our
spare time over
the past few
They're in the
Why don't you go
pick one out?"
Go, see what you
hurried out into
He'd no sooner
"Hey, have you
seen Amala?" he
"She's in the
Andrew, Abi, and
I carved some
I told her she
could pick one
out for your
Well, I'm sure
she'll find a
and I'm sure she
but supposed he
With friends and
could he not be?
smiled when he
stepped into the
just to the side
of the menorah
and candle laden
When she heard
Joshua told you
menorahs, too, I
Amala waved the
boy over then
some sort of
it's not like
I've heard of
never knew what
so high up, I
"Well, it is
With all those
pets and kids,
want to take any
what I've been
a lot of
I don't think it
I can see them
going for it."
as he realized
Amala knew about
"I don't believe
But I do think
its place, ya
It was Amala's
turn to blush.
shy smiles, the
kissed for the
Ivy and Sy, who
were just about
to enter the
the two and
returned to the
They smiled at
"You think that
was the first?"
Sy asked in a
"Our first kiss
"It was..." Ivy
Sy cupped her
"Bodes well for
them, I think."
Ivy glanced at
ring and then
peered up at her
"I think so,
couple in the
don't come close
But... I think
that was one
"The best," she
drew apart, both
while it was
With a sigh, she
turned to the
Avi no longer
nursed at 4:00
her body forgot
After spending a
trying to get
back to sleep,
Careful not to
she got out of
the bed, donned
her robe, and
Her sweet baby
boy was fast
She brushed some
hair from Avi's
face... it had
begun to grow so
left the room.
smiled when she
saw that, at
Belle had left
her own bed and
snuggled up with
scene for a few
her way to the
settled on some
tea and started
up a tray and
headed to the
hoping the one
rose at such an
early hour was
"Come in," a
down at her
A moment later,
the door opened
He sniffed the
"It was calling
to me this
Would you like
Marty waved to a
to pull out a
"I hope I didn't
Marty shook his
that can wait."
Marty smiled at
JenniAnn as she
handed him a
So... what were
If you can say,
Marty glanced at
his book, picked
it up, and set
record of the
far. As I
was writing, I
so often when I
write about the
Friends, I use a
word I very
seldom do in my
Marty shook his
"I can't say
haven't come up
at the golden
The word is
"I'm a part of
things here," he
'I' only appears
because I was
actually a part
am very glad you
she saw a tear
trickle down the
but he quickly
brushed at his
you and Andrew
is the Master
"But it's no
it was during
one of Andrew's
with you at his
it's still your
around the room
"And to think I
only came here
because I was an
angsty teen who
wanted to live
from my parents
wouldn't be the
first time God
used a teen girl
to change the
were much, much
"It was one of
decisions I ever
"Yes, I would
say so," Marty
"I think you and
Andrew are more
You make the
whole anam cara
thing look very
rather too often
talking about a
boy from her
He has no idea
she's an angel
then her eyes
I know he and
"I was getting
that Joccy is
rather hung up
on a boy at her
"With all due
respect to your
gets a tangle in
her hair and
argue with it.
"Takoda is much
Reminds me of a
angel, come to
Andrew had said
nothing of his
was only much,
much later that
how truly he had
been hurt by the
didn't seem to
be happening yet
But it could if
And there was
"I love Takoda,"
"And maybe this
is a little rich
coming from me
given I was
seventeen when I
but... Joccy is
Takoda is nearly
"Not exactly a
Takoda has only
been in the
that he stayed
in Heaven for
the first ten."
"He was even in
for a while...
Very naive to
the ways of the
A sudden thought
Do you recall
when he first
came to Earth?"
Marty said no
"So what do we
"Not much more
we can do than
not owed Joccy's
just... I don't
want to see
either of them
into her tea
But I presume
knowing it got
you to where you
her ring and
"Then we have to
whatever God has
Takoda and Miss
take, they will
view it as
"You can go back
I'll bring the
at him. As
was, he was
adept at reading
see you later."
"I shall look
you for the
tea... and the
"Thank you for
very grateful to
With a final
smiles, the two
another sip of
tea then took up
his book again
Andrew stared at
come back or if
she had gotten
up for the day.
He was just
about to rise
when he heard
"Ah, you're up,"
whispered as she
Not up," Andrew
replied with a
to get up and
look for you...
or continue to
hope you'd come
back to our
when he winked
and held a hand
"I couldn't get
back to sleep so
made some tea
with Marty for a
"He, umm, he's
hoping Joccy is
his anam cara,"
The angel of
"I can't say the
was just hoping
wanting to get
married, have a
still have a
in a different
"I know but...
still need to be
then kissed it
as she softly
and Monica made
And... there's a
lot to be said
Andrew buried a
hand in her hair
Joccy feels the
It... it's not
The angel's mind
back to a time
when he thought
he had lost
to a time when
Joshua had given
to take a few
months off in
Paris because he
plan her wedding
and smiled at
just got all...
distant all of a
I didn't know
think you had
one of my
Andrew shook his
head as JenniAnn
He'd never told
and now didn't
seem like the
time given her
"Maybe we could
enjoy the here
and now for a
Andrew smiled at
They were still
in an embrace
see!" Max called
"Be right out,"
not taking his
as she brushed
They could hear
then him rushing
back to the room
he, Rose, and
murmured as she
slipped out of
know it was
worrying them a
bit that Landon
was still so
shaky on his
Andrew rose, he
both out of joy
but also the
the girl he had
lost was now
Once they were
their room, hand
in hand, and
went to shower
praise on their
smiled when she
saw him sitting
in his window
as he watched
the snow gently
and smiled at
Joccy held up
the carafe she
"I don't mean to
might need a
"I've had enough
"A refill would
He glanced back
at the window.
With a smile and
a nod, Joccy
then sat down
"Are you excited
for Zoe and your
mom to get
"And I know
to come see
"Zoe wants to
come to New York
It would be nice
to have her
closer... I mean
she and mom are
both just a few
steps away with
But there's just
living in the
same place as a
"Are you upset
with me?" Joccy
after a few
an arm around
the girl and
gave her an
would you think
I... I really
But... I don't
I tried to ask
him once but he
was all 'I
truth in all
have to follow
And, yes, many
resulted in the
even amongst the
Friends... and I
no, I'm not
want you to have
someone on your
side who you can
say you 'don't
tells me that,
you maybe let it
Joccy bowed her
head and nodded.
"But if it was
to you to ask,
you should get
And I know
that's hard for
know you grew up
being taught not
to rock the
boat, not to say
or ask anything
that might upset
But that wasn't
know that's one
of the many
reasons you love
the Friends and
No question is
they can speak
"I do love
"And you were
the first one
brave enough to
was no small
"I just couldn't
give up a chance
to spend time
what he did
to... to be with
"We'll have that
with you in this
Even when you
Joccy smiled at
rubbed her nose
just as she used
to do with her
now... now I
think the both
of us need to
Before she could
causing both her
and Joshua to
"Like I said..."
stood and held
out his hand to
clasp it as they
made their way
to the kitchen.
in the Tunnels,
several of the
as he held a
First sip of
bringing the cup
to his lips.
"We maybe should
have given him
"Once you've had
"The five bucks
stuff will never
do again," Owen
and patted him
on the back.
Ibrahim gave an
trying some one
for right now...
the grape juice
glass to Joshua
who was holding
"I'm glad to
I'll make sure
you get some
once you're done
I'm glad you're
could get used
What is it they
glass of red
wine a day?"
"Men can have
A clanging sound
The group turned
to Catherine and
Vincent who were
at the front of
"as many of you
know, it was
twelve years ago
Catherine and I
honor of his
has made a
request of us
like to dance
And... he wants
birthday boy to
join him on a
at Joshua who
over to his Aunt
"Sounds like a
good time to
cheered as he
hugged a smiling
birthday to you,
"And happy early
birthday to you,
The two sat in
the chairs that
had been placed
in front of them
and, as the
started up, they
were lifted from
Joshua and Jacob
gave each other
high fives every
time they came
near each other.
his head this
way and that as
he watched video
of Joshua and
the Hora at the
Paul smiled at
the young man's
Slowly, over the
past month, he'd
Cameron in on
some of the
Once the dance
the tablet back
to the saint.
and Joshua would
have danced to
in your time?"
he asked with
"It's not unlike
dances we'd do
at weddings and
only came about
in the early
part of last
"I... I'm glad I
didn't take that
away from them."
"Do... do you
Joshua would be
willing to see
Paul sat down on
the cot so he
could be at eye
But he wanted
you to want him
his head and met
"I... I want to
"Then I'll let
him know," he
"But for now..."
"Onto the book
"Onto the book
of Hosea," Paul
"'The word of
the Lord that
came to Hosea
son of Beeri
of Judah, and
during the reign
of Jeroboam son
of Jehoash king
"'When the Lord
began to speak
the Lord said to
him, “Go, marry
woman and have
her, for like an
this land is
he married Gomer
Diblaim, and she
bore him a
praying that in
the tale of
would find a
love for him.
again made her
early in the
to spend a few
had arrived that
had asked to see
Not knowing what
would be like,
Joccy wanted to
along with fresh
memories of love
She was starting
a pot of coffee
when she heard
when she saw it
when she noticed
he was holding a
"I was just
Would you like
shook his head.
might be here
and... I got you
And I know you
probably want to
your mom and
Takoda held the
mean... I did
get you a little
too. And I
wish I had it on
me right now
Takoda shook his
"I'll bring your
present by later
but... should I
open this now?"
tore the paper
looked up at
Takoda, her eyes
when she saw the
stamped with the
name of a
"It... it's not
or... or pearls
With a nervous
She lifted the
lid and stared
at the box's
I just can't..."
wasn't going to
refuse the gift.
"I just can't
you got me
She looked into
her own brimming
And... and I
wanted you to...
remind you of
replied, his own
"Could I help
you put it on?"
hair to one
turned around to
"How do I look?"
It... it reminds
me of where I
And who I want
to be... where I
want to go."
"I... I hope I'm
there to see...
where you go,"
"I hope you are,
telling her how
he felt about
her... all that
His cheek felt
warm where she
him... and it
smiled at Joccy.
seat and watched
him get ready
for his visit to
Cameron in jail.
do you think I
should wear?" he
two out towards
Salma eyed the
cardigan and the
She reached out
and touched each
It's softer and
the sweater over
Salma rose to
tame a few curls
that the sweater
his smile and
"Are... are you
sure you don't
want me to go
with you?" she
"I am. I
won't tell you
that you can't
they do a pat
down at security
and even though
they try to keep
you away from
And... they can
don't want you
even with Joshua
at her side.
"You won't be
Joshua shook his
"Then... I think
I'll stay... and
won't be long,"
limits on how
eyes, and in the
safety of her
to recall that
awful day when
she had held him
in her arms and
watched the life
drain out of
she had to
forgive the man
who had shot
Salma drew in
and let out a
deep breath then
reached into the
pocket of her
please give this
to Cameron?" she
sisters and I
have been making
down at the
It was green...
had told Salma
that and she had
figured he could
use it as St.
"I'm sure that's
and cradled her
face in his
"I'll come back
here as soon as
I'm finished at
And then I'd
like to stop by
spend some time
we'll come back
here and make my
parents tell my
There was no
and Yosef tell
They loved to do
two made their
Ibrahim, who was
"Just give me a
call if the
up and you want
me to come get
"But I think
A round of hugs
soon, the three
men were in
"And praying all
"Joe said to
call him if you
need any help,"
Hura grabbed her
"Don't let him
out of your
urged in a
I'll either be
right with him
separated by a
bit of glass."
"I love you,
Salma gave his
hand a final,
"I love you,
Joshua smiled at
her then turned
to Raheem and
"Shall we be
The two nodded
Joshua out the
they were gone,
hurried to the
watched the trio
make their way
to the portal,
praying that all
would go well
for them on the
other side of
time!" a guard
turned to Paul
who was calmly
reading an essay
"Are... are you
going with me?"
Paul looked up
and shook his
Only one r."
is less of a
stranger than I
The door opened.
to wonder about
don't want to
his head and
Near as he and
Paul could tell,
the guards had
no idea who
that didn't stop
himself into the
Before the door
looked once more
at Paul who
But as they made
their way to the
passed along to
him began to
raced with all
he wanted to say
to Joshua... or
maybe he was
meant only to
And then there
were the other
two men... the
two men he had
Joshua had said
he was bringing
Cameron say to
room came into
just make out
He was standing
with the other
from Joshua and
joined two other
the door for
"In you go,
peered up at
his mouth to
then, seeing the
immense love and
bowed his head
and began to
rested a hand on
the young man's
his arms around
he choked out.
as tears trailed
down his cheeks.
I forgive you,
"I love you so
At last, Cameron
Through a blurry
haze, he met
"I... I love
Ibrahim wept in
their side, one
of the guards
began to pray.
watch Joshua and
At last, the
Joshua sat down
on the couch and
Cameron spoke to
a few moments,
knocked on the
in, please," he
eyes, Raheem and
Cameron, this is
Raheem in the
imam at the
"I was unhappy
as an imam," he
"Not because I
didn't see value
in Islam," he
did... and still
I can't be an
imam any more,
"Me too," Raheem
to Joshua in
then let out a
"What I meant
for evil... God
meant for good,"
"And he told us
how sorry he
was... how wrong
he now realizes
he was. We
forgave him, of
how could we
several of the
Friends who had
him and Ibrahim
"And you should
when Joshua gave
him a cross
Salma had made
"He asked Joshua
to find a way to
apologies to the
he'd get word to
asked me to tell
peered up at the
so much for
hurt in the
But it didn't
last. I am
was so sad
now he never has
he's in jail...
I suspect this
may very well be
"To be free of
all that hate...
and now to be
free of the
to come visit
He'd like to
person to you,
and nodded to
"Of course, I
will go," he
am so pleased
for the young
Joccy let out a
"And... and then
I imagine Joshua
will go back
said he'd stay
a little into
That's not long
he won't stay
"He loves you
all very, very
"Yeshu will come
Zoe hugged her
"And we'll fill
the time with
lots of fun
visits for me!"
"You want to
help me pick out
a prom dress?"
"Do you want to
help me make
And... we still
have at least a
"We do," Peter
tonight will be
very special as
smiled at Maryam
That evening, as
sky beyond the
and Joshua sat
closest to the
tell me the
story of when I
requested with a
"It all began
when I was
visited by an
came with the
news... a baby
was to be born
to me... a
son... my son...
the Son of God,"
"And that same
to me and told
me to not be
afraid and to
"And so I did."
"And we were
And then news
came that we had
to travel to
Bethlehem for a
And so, with
Yoktan, we set
had only just
my labor pains
look with love
mind filled with
the voices of so
time and space;
and future; who
had told his
"There was no
room for them in
any of the
around him in
Sheol as they
"So they were
shown to a
told the men
with him in
"And in the
wrapped him in
smiling at her
"And she laid
him in a
"At that same
time, there were
shepherds in the
Loukas spoke to
himself as he
"An angel of the
Lord appeared to
them and God's
around them and
whispered to the
baby in her
"But the angel
said to them..."
as she swayed
bring you good
news that will
bring joy to all
"'Today in the
town of David a
Savior has been
born to you; he
is the Messiah,
as she bounced
Peter on her
"And more angels
came," a sleep
murmured as he
"And they said
'Glory to God in
and on earth
peace to those
on whom his
"Then the angels
in search of the
And they found
him with his
in a manger,"
Yehuda told his
"They spread the
word... and all
who heard them
as he gazed out
at the lights of
treasured up all
these things and
pondered them in
her heart," Mary
moving to stand
beloved and take
happily as he
saw the couple
in the little
but filled with
had come... and
all would be
opened his eyes
and gazed across
the room to
where Joccy and
A final voice
came to him.
"'The shepherds returned,
for all the
had heard and
were just as
they had been
read to the
baby in his
out at the
starry sky and
smiled at his
glimpse of the
and to the
He smiled at
Judah in her
Salma sat with
at them and
For a few
had hung in
they had been
Now so had
time of trial
was coming for
packed into a
need to make a
good bye that
But then they
will be well."