|“There is my heart, and then
there is you, and I'm not sure there is a
Well, a little late but here are the Valentine's
vignettes for this year. I only did two this time
and they're pretty drabble-y. After the intensity
of "The Messiah" that ended up carrying over into the
Christmas story, I was pretty much ready to just write
about people eating and making googly eyes. So
that's what I did!
Tuesday, February 11th, 2020
Hearing what she thought sounded like alarm in her
godfather's voice, JenniAnn abandoned the sandwiches
she'd been preparing and ran towards the source of the
voice: the ballroom. To her dismay, she entered
the room to find Vincent, Raheem, and Eliot in a huddle
around Andrew who was sprawled on the floor.
"Maybe you should go to a doctor," Eliot suggested.
"We could call Portia," Vincent offered.
"What happened?" JenniAnn cried as she knelt beside
Forcing a smile, the angel gripped one of her hands.
"I'm getting old, Laja," he jested.
"Andrew..." JenniAnn caressed his face.
"What happened really?"
"He threw out his back," Raheem replied.
Andrew shook his head to protest but the effort made him
"We should get you into bed," Eliot insisted.
"Laying on this hard floor can't be helping."
"I... I still don't know what happened..." JenniAnn
Vincent patted her back.
"Back strain, Psyche. While I'm sure our Andrew
here is quite uncomfortable, it's most likely not
serious. Still..." Vincent eyed Andrew and
"I shouldn't have tried to lift that many stones on my
own..." Andrew lamented. "Lesson learned."
"Andrew... You're in human form now," JenniAnn
gently admonished. "You can't push yourself
"I know... I know..."
When Andrew winced again, JenniAnn's eyes filled with
Noticing, Vincent looked to the other two men.
"Let's get him moved. Then Eliot or I can go Below
and send word to Portia. There's no reason not to
get an expert opinion," he added when the angel of death
began to protest.
"You're right," Andrew admitted. "And...
thanks. I do think just laying down for a while
will..." He grimaced in pain.
"Do you have any ice packs?" Raheem checked with
"Hmm? Oh. Yeah."
"Good. Okay..." Raheem sighed as he eyed
Andrew. "It'll probably hurt when we get you onto
your feet. Maybe a stretcher... Do you
"I don't need a stretcher," Andrew insisted.
"Just... a boost."
"Got it." Eliot grabbed his left arm while Raheem
took his right. Vincent moved behind Andrew to
"Count of three," Vincent directed. "One... two...
JenniAnn gasped in the same instant that Andrew groaned
as he was lifted to his feet.
"Okay, here we go. Let's head to the elevator,"
"I'm okay on my own now," Andrew assured. "Thank
JenniAnn opened her mouth to protest but, before she
could, Andrew clasped her hand. He obviously
didn't intend to exclude her.
Vincent looked on protectively.
"All right... but yell if you need anything. You,
too, Psyche. We'll stick around for a while yet."
"Thank you," Andrew replied, his voice strained.
"Thanks, Vincent. I'd almost finished with your
sandwiches so once I get Andrew settled, I..."
"We'll take care of them," Raheem interrupted.
"Don't worry. We'll bring a tray up for you both."
JenniAnn smiled at the trio and nodded.
Slowly, she and Andrew made their way to the elevator.
"You... you look pale," JenniAnn lamented.
"Turns out I'm a wimp."
"Andrew, no..." JenniAnn chastised him. "I've
heard throwing out your back is really, really
painful. Once you're settled, I'll get some pain
relievers. I... I'm not even sure which ones are
best for you. Adam handled all of that when you
came back from Afghanistan. I could call him."
Andrew didn't relish the idea of his friend showing up
and teasing him about his clearly advancing age... but
he also didn't need JenniAnn to know that he wasn't a
stranger to pain relievers since he'd taken on human
form. He kept a bottle in his workshop.
"Ibuprofen is fine. Pretty standard."
They stepped off the elevator and headed to their room.
"Do you want to change into your pajamas before you lay
down? Might be easier than having to get back up
"Yeah, please. Good idea."
JenniAnn fetched Andrew's pajamas. He changed into
the top easily enough but it soon became apparent that
removing his boots and changing into the pajama bottoms
would be an ordeal.
"Can you maybe sit on the edge of the bed?" JenniAnn
suggested. "I can get your boots off."
"Yeah, okay," Andrew agreed, his cheeks coloring with
embarrassment. He sat down only to be hit by a
wave of pain.
As JenniAnn worked on his boots, Andrew contemplated his
jeans. He could push them down then step out of
them. But how to get the pajama bottoms up?
If he bent down, he was afraid he wouldn't be able to
straighten himself out without screaming... which would
only further alarm JenniAnn.
"You know, maybe I'll just stick with my jeans.
They're comfortable enough," he decided
JenniAnn frowned. The jeans were too tight.
That's why Andrew had worn them... it wouldn't matter if
they got dusty or torn while he was working. He
didn't wear them out anymore. They had to be
"Andrew... We've been together in some capacity or
another for twenty years. I really think it would
be okay if I helped you with this. Besides, you're
wearing boxers, aren't you? Not like I'm gonna see
anything. And this is still way less weird than
putting make-up on Joshua while he was only wearing
briefs and a loincloth."
Andrew chuckled. He had to admit she had a
point... and the pajamas bottoms would be much more
As gently as possible, JenniAnn helped Andrew out of his
jeans... wincing every time his face contorted in
pain. Getting the pajama bottoms on was much
easier and they both sighed with relief when it was
"I'll go downstairs and get some ice packs," JenniAnn
offered as Andrew laid down.
The angel of death shook his head.
"No... Maybe in a little bit. For right
now... I will take some meds but then..." He
patted her side of the bed. "Please?"
Unable to resist his request, JenniAnn nodded. She
squeezed his hand then went to the bathroom, returning
with some pills and a glass of water.
After Andrew had taken the medication, JenniAnn settled
onto her side and gently stroked his face.
"My poor love..." Her eyes welled. "It...
it's hard to think that... that you're only feeling this
right now because..."
"Laja... no." Andrew squeezed her hand. "But
if your mind must go there... please also think about
all the positive things I've felt only because I decided
to grow old with you. Because I'm quite confident
that list is way longer. I'd offer you specifics
but, in my current state, it's too cruel to think
JenniAnn giggled when he waggled his eye brows.
"Maybe just one..." Andrew continued. "The way
your hair feels against my chest when we cuddle."
"Okay, two. Your lips against mine..."
"That one I think I can still pull off."
Careful so as not to put any pressure on Andrew's upper
body, JenniAnn kissed him.
"I think you can actually count that move as a push-up,"
he teased once they'd broken apart.
"My sweet Laja..." He brought her hand to his
lips. "There's nothing I wouldn't have gone
through for these past several years. They...
they've given me the happiest moments I've ever had
outside of Heaven."
JenniAnn smiled through her tears.
"Even happier than when you'd visit Paris?"
Andrew stroked her face.
"Still... Next time Joshua comes around, I'm gonna
ask him about that. Even if I can't go with you
cause of the kids... I think you deserve a few days
there. I mean to not have let you go since the
Andrew's face colored.
"No. Don't ask Joshua about it. It's
Hating the idea that something related to him could
damage JenniAnn's relationship with Joshua... even in so
minor a way... Andrew realized he needed to reveal a
secret he'd held for several years.
"Laja... God was going to let me go to Paris a few
years ago. He was totally on board... had
everything arranged. *I* decided not to go."
"What?" JenniAnn exclaimed. "Why?"
"When it came time, I... no longer wanted to go."
"When was this?"
"But that..." JenniAnn cocked her head. "I
don't remember you saying anything about Paris...
I mean... that would have been at the tail-end of things
with Eliot or right after so maybe I was a little
distracted. But it still seems like you would have
mentioned an impending trip to Paris even though..."
JenniAnn went ashen.
"Laja..." Momentarily forgetting his back, Andrew
moved to hold her but a shot of pain kept him from it.
"Did you not go because of me?" JenniAnn
persisted. "Because I'd just broken up with
Eliot? Did you... skip it so you could babysit
"No! No... It wasn't that at all.
Laja... I stayed because..." The angel
paused, rallying himself. Everything had to come
out. Now. "Laja, I stayed because I'd asked
God to let me go to Paris because I thought I needed to
get away from Dyeland for a while... because I... Eliot
had given you a promise ring, Laja. And... and I
thought an engagement ring was next. Probably on
Valentine's Day. And I... I didn't want to watch
you plan your wedding."
"So when that didn't happen... and when you ended up
breaking up with him instead... I was... happy. I
mean... I felt for you and Eliot. I did.
But... I... I hadn't lost you. And I... just
wanted to stay. With you." Andrew squeezed
JenniAnn's hand. "I chose to stay. For me,
JenniAnn let out a ragged sigh.
"I... I missed you. And if... if there was any
chance of... of us getting back our dances... our
hugs... our quiet, late night talks... I didn't want to
miss that. Not for champagne or the Siene or... or
even freshly baked croissants," Andrew continued.
In spite of the tumult of emotions she was feeling,
JenniAnn laughed. Then, as carefully as possible,
she nestled against the angel.
"I wish I'd known then."
"And I probably should have been more honest but...
we've had this discussion before, Laja. We needed
to go slow. What would you have done if you'd
"Definitely would have heaped lots more affection on
"And then I would have wondered if I'd been
unintentionally manipulative somehow... or even just
that you'd felt like you had to make my decision worth
"I... I think I would have felt that," JenniAnn
confessed. "Doesn't mean I wouldn't have enjoyed
whatever happened, though..."
"I'm sure I would have, too. But... I know I
enjoyed how things really unfolded. And I wouldn't
change any of it... when you kissed my hair at your
"The first time we slept together... non-colloquially
speaking... and with Adam as chaperone."
"I first time we slept together... non-colloquially
speaking... without a chaperone."
"When you pulled me onto your lap for the first time..."
"Our first 'real kiss' in the Fields of Gold..."
"Our first baby..."
"When you moved in..."
JenniAnn delicately kissed the angel.
Andrew buried his hand in her hair as her face hovered
"I wouldn't change any of it," he repeated.
"Not even the part where I said we should expand the
ballroom and you ended up throwing your back out?"
"Not even that..."
JenniAnn settled back down beside him.
"Sometimes, though... Of all the women you've
met... Of all the men, for that matter... So
many, many crazily impressive people... why...
"Why not you?" Andrew countered. "You were kind to
me. You weren't afraid of me. You listened
to me. You fought for me. And, no, you
weren't the only one to do that. But... there was
something different. Something I didn't understand
then... a connection that went so deep... soul deep."
JenniAnn sighed dreamily.
"What did God say when you told Him you weren't
going? To Paris, I mean."
"Well... Joshua showed up at Serendipity with my
hotel information, a little spending money, etc."
"But wouldn't he have known you'd changed your mind?"
Andrew smiled and nodded.
"But you know how he is. He wanted the experience
of me telling him, face-to-face, why I wasn't
going. He just smiled the whole time I
rambled. Then he said 'Good decision. Paris
isn't going anywhere any time soon. And maybe when
you do end up going... you won't be going solo.'"
"So... one day... I do want to go to Paris. With
you. When the kids are a little older and we'll
feel better about leaving them for a bit."
"I'd like that..." She sighed. "Still really
sucks to think of you back then... feeling like you'd
need to escape."
"I'd shrug if I could," Andrew responded. "I mean,
yeah, it hurt at the time... but it definitely makes me
more grateful for now. And... it did make me
realize... while it was still hard for me to put my
finger on what it was I felt for you... there was
definitely a physical component. When you were
with Eliot... it wasn't like the times when Monica and
Tess were sort of... distant. It wasn't like when
some of the other girls moved on with their lives.
Those times hurt... but with you... I... I couldn't bear
it in the same way. It hurt that I couldn't run up
to you and hug you and hold you close and bury my face
in your hair and... I was jealous that Eliot
could." He paused and yawned. "Sorry..."
With tears in her eyes, JenniAnn shook her head.
"No... it's okay. If you can rest, I think that
would be good. We can pick this up later."
JenniAnn looked on protectively as Andrew closed his
eyes and tried to sleep. She softly hummed and
stroked his arm until his breathing changed and she knew
he was asleep.
After waiting a few minutes more, JenniAnn carefully
moved away and went to the door. She started when
she found Eliot, just about to knock and with a tray
balanced on his hip.
"Hey... Just bringing lunch. How is
JenniAnn stepped into the hallway and closed the door
"He's sleeping. I... I don't want to wake him even
though he should probably eat."
Eliot frowned at JenniAnn.
"But everything's okay otherwise? You look
JenniAnn began to sniffle.
"He... he didn't go to Paris because of me."
Eliot looked at JenniAnn with confusion.
"Huh? Was he supposed to have an assignment in
JenniAnn took the tray from Eliot and headed to the
"No... He's been wanting to go to Paris on
vacation for a really long time. One time, it got
derailed by an assignment. But then..."
Once both she and Eliot were seated in the library,
JenniAnn let the whole story spill out.
"Wow..." Eliot exclaimed when she was finished.
"We did a number on him..."
JenniAnn burst into tears.
"Sorry! Sorry! Shouldn't have said that,"
Eliot hurriedly apologized. "I only meant..."
"But we did!" JenniAnn wailed. "I did... You
didn't really know how Andrew and I were... I
Eliot pushed a plate towards JenniAnn.
"Please eat. And, no, I didn't know the extent of
things. But you clearly didn't either. This
wouldn't have come as a shock to you... which it clearly
is... if you had."
JenniAnn looked to Eliot, recognizing the wisdom in his
"And you didn't know because Andrew chose to keep that
from you. That was his decision, Psyche. I
have to wonder why he told you this now... Maybe
the pain meds..."
JenniAnn shook her head.
"No. I... I said I was going to ask Joshua to let
him go to Paris because I couldn't understand why he
hadn't. So... I'm sure Andrew felt like he had to
tell me that Joshua had, in fact, intended for him to
go. But Andrew chose to stay because of me."
JenniAnn sighed and took a bite of her sandwich before
continuing. "He didn't want me to be even a little
bit upset with Joshua for his sake."
"Okay, that makes more sense. He wouldn't want
Joshua blamed for something that was his own
doing." Eliot shook his head in wonder. "You
know, sometimes it feels like it couldn't possibly have
been us dating. The idea just feels so... foreign
even though I have those memories. I can't imagine
being with anyone other than Brittony... can't imagine
having kids other than Galen, Edison, and Eleanor.
But... something feels almost... this is going to sound
weird... but... cosmically wrong with you being with
anyone other than Andrew. Like... we were a weird
dream that popped up in the middle of your and Andrew's
story. I mean... maybe things still would have
turned out more or less the same some other way.
But... I mean... if Andrew was that upset... maybe,
eventually, he would have left Dyeland entirely.
And then would we have been at all involved with
JCS? Would we have met Joshua?"
"I... I don't know." JenniAnn shuddered and
clasped the cross around her neck. "Maybe not."
Eliot smiled softly.
"I was hurt when you gave me back the ring. Cried
a lot. Read some soppy poetry. May have
written some..." He chuckled. "But wow... if
you hadn't..." He shook his head then peered at the
family tree that stood in the center of the room.
Rising, he moved and caressed the birds that represented
his wife and children. Then he, too, wrapped his
fingers around his cross.
"I just hate the idea that he saw us dance... hug...
kiss even. I can only imagine what it would have
felt like to see him with another woman. Like...
daggers in my gut... my heart..." JenniAnn guessed.
"But those same feelings are probably what kept him
present once we did break up, Psyche. He knew he
didn't want to face that again. And, yeah, his
gentlemanly nature forced him to be open to the
possibility of you finding someone else. But I can
remember you saying he told you it was okay if you found
someone while he was in Afghanistan. You
challenged him and he dropped it pretty quickly, didn't
"I think we were all very naive back then... and I'm
including Andrew in that," Eliot opined. "Naive
and, at least in some very specific areas,
immature. None of us knew what it really felt like
to be in love. So it was easy for the two of us to
trick ourselves into thinking that's what we were
feeling. And it was easy for Andrew to convince
himself that the connection between the two of you
wasn't true love. We all needed that weird, messed
up period so when we allowed ourselves to truly embrace
true love... we'd know it for what it was. So
don't beat yourself up over it, Psyche. Be
grateful for it. I am."
JenniAnn brushed at her tears and smiled.
"I'm glad I'm not with you... but I'm glad my first
boyfriend was and remains smart as all get-out," she
"I'm glad I'm not with you, too... but I'm glad you're
my friend, Psyche. And you're very smart,
too. You just sometimes over-think. That's
all. I, for one, am glad that my first girlfriend
knew and knows good sense when she hears it. Thank
God you listened to Mick all those years ago!"
"Yes... Thank God," JenniAnn agreed. "And
thank you for bringing up some lunch. Hopefully
Andrew will be up soon and can enjoy his. Did you
all get to eat?"
"Raheem and I did. Vincent went in search of
Portia. I'm sure he'll either eat in the Tunnels
or grab something when he's back."
"I hope Raheem isn't working alone. The last thing
we need is another person injured!"
Eliot shook his head.
"That's what we decided. He's going to hang around
for a little while, see what Portia says, if you two
need anything. Then we'll both head out."
JenniAnn hugged him.
"Thank you. I really appreciate it. I'm sure
I'm over-reacting but..."
"But this is the first time Andrew's decision had real,
physical consequences. I get it. I know it's
not exactly the same but I hated seeing how much pain
Brittony was in while giving birth to the twins. I
knew, of course, that she'd made the decision with me to
try for kids. But I still felt responsible."
"Yeah... Like that. I can't believe he's
gonna be 42 on his next birthday. I mean... not
really, of course. But... physically."
"I can't believe we're getting so close to
forty..." Eliot shook his head and grimaced
"You'll get there almost a year before I do," JenniAnn
"And a year and a half before Brittony. I'm sure
she'll make the most of those months... teasing me about
having a trophy wife in her thirties."
"Knock, knock," a female voice chimed from the hallway.
JenniAnn and Eliot turned to see Portia and Vincent.
"Well... where's our patient?" the doctor asked.
JenniAnn rose and hugged the two.
"Sleeping still, I think. I can wake him if..."
Portia shook her head.
"Today's been relatively quiet. I can wait.
Although..." She eyed JenniAnn's plate.
"That looks really good. Chicken salad?"
Laughing, JenniAnn nodded.
"Yup. Let's get you both fed. Maybe then
Andrew will be up."
"Good plan!" Portia agreed.
Before heading downstairs, JenniAnn quickly checked on
Andrew. He was still sleeping, seemingly
Vincent rested a hand on JenniAnn's shoulder.
"He's fine, Psyche. In a couple of days, it will
be as if nothing happened."
"Yeah..." JenniAnn patted his hand then let out a
little sigh before heading to the kitchen with the
Later that afternoon, Portia examined Andrew and, with
JenniAnn present, made her prognosis.
"So... I really do think we're just looking at a
bad case of back strain. If the pain persists for
more than three or four days, then we'll have to run
some tests just to be sure there's not something more
serious going on. I highly doubt it'll come to
that. But you, Mister..." She shot Andrew a
look. "Should start taking precautions. Get
thee a back brace! And when you feel pain... stop
and rest. Did you feel any pain beforehand?"
Andrew bowed his head, sheepish.
"And you pushed yourself?"
"I thought I'd just slept wrong..."
"Well, even if it was just sleeping wrong, you should
have rested or at least focused on lighter tasks,"
"There's no reason to hurry, love," JenniAnn
stressed. "We don't need the ballroom fixed up til
"I know..." Andrew chuckled. "But you know I
can be a little..."
"Perfectionist. Hard-working to a fault. Not
one to ask for help," JenniAnn filled in.
Andrew only smiled at her and squeezed her hand.
He couldn't argue.
"Well, sounds like you're going to be learning some new
skills then. I'm not ordering strict bed
rest. In fact, you should move a bit as you
can. But... no working," Portia insisted in a
no-nonsense tone. "Not for a few days. Keep
icing your back, take the ibuprofen as directed, and I
brought some pillows that might help you get
"Massages?" JenniAnn asked.
"If it feels good... sure. But, if not, no.
And don't do anything too deep... just on the off-chance
there is some more significant damage which, again, I
think is unlikely. I think this is a classic case
of a stubborn man pushing himself and not asking for
help," Portia teased.
"Guilty..." Andrew admitted. "And, thank you,
Portia. Hopefully this is the last time you see me
under these circumstances."
"I sure hope so! But now... I'll leave you,
knowing you have the very best nurse you could possible
have. Call if you have any questions or problems,
"Okay!" JenniAnn agreed. "Thanks, Portia!
I'll see you out." She turned to Andrew.
"And then I'll be back to ice your back."
"No hurry, Laja. I'm really feeling okay," Andrew
The strain in his smile told JenniAnn otherwise but she
"Okay. Well, won't be long, in any case."
JenniAnn kissed his temple then left the room with
"And now... you. Hold are you holding up?" the
doctor inquired with concern.
"Got pretty maudlin earlier but Eliot talked me
down. He was just finishing up when you arrived,
actually. It's just... ya know... This is on
me kinda. I wanted the bigger ballroom. But
more than that..."
"He aged for you. I get it. But, really, if
you think about it... Andrew's really no different than
anyone else. We all give each other gray hairs and
stress and sleepless nights and wrinkles. Love
changes our bodies. Persephone left me with
stretch marks. Heck, you have Andrew's name inked
onto your body. And Avi... well... he changed
you." Portia giggled when JenniAnn glanced down at
"He did," JenniAnn agreed with a laugh that ended in a
melancholy sigh as her mood rapidly shifted. "And
Andrew already... I mean... everything that
happened in Afghanistan... the brain injury..."
"And I imagine you wouldn't let Max fixate on that,
would you?" Portia challenged.
"Just like Joshua won't let us fixate on what he went
through for us... remember it, honor it... yes, of
course! But if we focus too much on that and lose
sight of the here and now of our relationship with
him... not good!"
"Not good at all," JenniAnn agreed.
The two women reached the entryway where Vincent waited
with Eliot and Raheem.
"How's he doing, doc?" Eliot asked.
"I expect Andrew to make a full recovery... if he
follows my orders and rests."
"I'll make sure he does," JenniAnn vowed. "Thank
you all for your help. We really appreciate it!"
"It's always good to be here, JenniAnn. Don't
think any more about it," Raheem urged. "Call if
you need anything?"
"Will do." The two exchanged a hug and then
JenniAnn directed her attention to the trio from the
Tunnels. "Thanks for taking care of Andrew... and
me. Vincent, I'll stop by to get the kids
Vincent shook his head.
"Catherine and I will keep them tonight. I'll
bring them by to say good night. I think you're
going to have your hands full as is, Psyche.
Besides, they haven't spent the night with us in a good
"If you're sure..."
"Absolutely. You need to get rest when you can
without worrying about them."
JenniAnn hugged her godfather then Portia and Eliot.
"Give Andrew our best, please!" Eliot requested.
"And tell him I'll come yell at him if he's a bad
patient!" Portia added.
Laughing, JenniAnn nodded.
"Will do on both counts. Thank you all,
again. Have a good evening!"
"Take care, Psyche!"
"Be well, Psyche."
"Remember to call..."
With final waves, the four left.
JenniAnn took in and let out a deep breath then went to
go see to her charge.
Wednesday, February 12th,
That night, Andrew roused from a fitful sleep. He
was immediately conscious of the pain in his back and
shoulders but he knew that wasn't the reason for his
insomnia. He looked over to the side of the bed
where JenniAnn was sleeping on her stomach with her face
turned away from him. Reaching out, he gently
stroked her hair.
He had reason to believe she'd spent much of her life
sleeping like that. Her parents and Vincent had
mentioned it a time or two... generally blaming
themselves. Following the since-discredited advice
of the time, they'd put baby JenniAnn to sleep on her
stomach. And so she had remained for over thirty
But she didn't sleep like that any more...
usually. She slept on her right side, her cheek
settled against Andrew's chest, her left hand often
resting over his heart.
And even though she was only a few inches away, Andrew
missed his Laja. He had no doubt she'd chosen to
sleep that way lest she jostle him or put additional
pressure on his back. But it still felt... wrong.
Andrew shook his head in both wonder and
bemusement. For eons, when he'd had occasion to
sleep, the idea of anyone sleeping beside him had been
bizarre... something the humans did. He sometimes
wondered how they managed to not constantly wake each
other up. And how did they not get hot?
And then Andrew discovered that, with JenniAnn nestled
against him, he felt calmer. On the rare occasion
when they didn't sleep in such a way due to restlessness
or the odd ache or pain or illness, Andrew felt...
off. And right then he felt downright
melancholic. He knew it was probably just that he
was in pain and frustrated with himself over his own
foolhardiness. But the distance felt... wrong.
Wincing, Andrew shifted closer to JenniAnn. He
thought about their earlier conversation about Paris...
the City of Love. He smiled, considering that he
had found his own "city of love" in Dyeland City.
Outside of Heaven, it was there he'd felt most loved and
It was also where he'd become a better angel.
Andrew knew others saw him as empathetic... and he'd
always tried to be. But it was different
now. When he stood beside death beds and rested a
comforting hand on the bereaved spouse, he knew
something of their thoughts and feelings. How
would they ever sleep again... alone?
At odd moments, Andrew already asked himself that
question. Eons of solitariness had been undone by
a few years of... her.
And then there was the not-sleeping...
Andrew knew his younger self would have been surprised
by the knowledge that he now struggled to sleep
alone. But he would have been outright shocked...
maybe even mortified... if he knew the extent of his and
JenniAnn's physical relationship.
JenniAnn sighed in her sleep and Andrew smiled, for a
moment wondering if she could sense his thoughts.
He still sometimes struggled to make sense of what he
felt when they laid together, skin against skin.
It wasn't arousal... thankfully. But it felt
exhilarating... in a gentle, soft way. It made him
feel loved, obviously. But something else...
So often, those humans who knew or sensed who he was
shrinked away. They wanted to escape him. It
wasn't personal, of course. He knew that.
But it still hurt.
But JenniAnn would rest in his arms, vulnerable and yet
completely without fear. She saw him as
beautiful. And it was personal.
She sighed again... but this time it sounded
different. Shaky. She flinched.
"Laja..." Andrew murmured.
JenniAnn let out a short, gasping sound.
"Laja!" Andrew repeated.
Ignoring the pain in his back, he pulled her towards
JenniAnn roused, pressing her face against Andrew's
"Laja... were you having a nightmare?" Andrew murmured.
He felt her nod.
"I'm sorry..." He kissed her hair and gently
stroked her back.
JenniAnn's head yanked up and she pulled away.
"Your... your back!"
Andrew smiled sheepishly and reached up to caress her
"It's all right. I, umm, couldn't sleep with
you... over there. I'd rather deal with a little
pain than that."
JenniAnn's eyes filled.
Carefully, she settled into the crook of his arm,
snuggled against him but putting no weight on his upper
"Better..." Andrew kissed her hair. "Do you
want to talk about your nightmare?"
"Oh... It was just... Joshua... the mosque... the
shooting. Like I was there." JenniAnn
"I'm sorry... No wonder you were shaking."
"Yeah... But I'm okay now. Joshua's
okay. All is well..." She let out a shaky
breath. "So... you really couldn't sleep? I
mean... I was only a few inches away."
"I know... But... I missed you being right beside
me. I know it's goofy but..."
"It's not goofy. It's sweet. And... I missed
Carefully, JenniAnn hovered over Andrew and kissed him
before reclaiming her spot.
Andrew heard her yawn.
"We should try to get more sleep," he suggested.
"But I'm afraid I'll roll and hurt you," JenniAnn
Andrew squeezed her hand.
"I'm sure you won't."
"Okay... But first, do you need more pills or ice
Andrew shook his head.
"I'm fine, Laja. Just rest."
As Andrew gently stroked her hair, JenniAnn tried to
fall asleep. But sleep didn't come.
"Do you... do you think Joshua gets upset by how much I
Andrew thought for a few moments.
"I think he feels for you. He wishes you
didn't. But I don't think he's angry. He
knows that the human brain can play tricks. And...
even angels aren't immune from worry. I think...
well, it just happens when you're part of the
world. There's so much out there that's so... sad,
troubling, devastating even. That doesn't mean we
shouldn't work on worrying less. But it means God
has compassion for when we do."
"What do you worry about?"
"Trust me. I can be just as much of a premature
worrier as any human. A couple days ago, I found
myself worrying that, as she gets older, Belle is going
to look more and more like Badriya. And I'm going
to become overly protective because of that and Belle is
going to rebel or develop some sort of complex
or... And on and on. I talked myself
down. Pounding my worries into a table is very
helpful! But I really had myself going for a few
"I... I could see that."
Briefly, the two went silent.
JenniAnn sat up and peered down at him.
Andrew noticed a flush to JenniAnn's cheeks and reached
up to caress them.
"If... if she had lived... It's just... the way
you spoke about her... I... I sometimes wonder if... if
maybe she... if given the time... if maybe you and
Andrew's eye brow crooked up.
"I mean... she's so beautiful and kind and... and I know
you wanted to bring her here..."
JenniAnn twisted her claddagh ring.
The angel's eyes went wide.
"Laja, no!" He squeezed her hand tightly then
brought it to his lips. "I did... and do... care
about Badriya very much. But in a way very similar
to how I feel about Monica or Kemara or Emma or any of
the other ladies. Like a brother. I did want
to bring her back here because I knew she'd love
spending time with all of you. I... I loved
imagining all that we would expose her to: theatre,
museums, books, movies. All the freedom she would
have! And it still... it breaks my heart that
she... she had to die to find that freedom. But I
didn't feel about her the way I do about you. Had
she lived, I firmly believe we'd still be exactly as we
are right now."
JenniAnn was quiet save some sniffling.
"How long have you been carrying that?" Andrew gently
"I mean... it's not like it was top of mind. Just
randomly the thought would come to me..."
"Well, you can put it aside forever now."
It was Andrew's turn to sigh.
"I'd really love a dance right about now..."
"Maybe tomorrow? Or the day after?"
"Maybe... I'm afraid I definitely won't be dipping
"I would hope not!" JenniAnn replied with a giggle.
"We should sleep, anyway."
JenniAnn snuggled back down beside Andrew.
"Better," he murmured.
"Love you, too..."
A few minutes later, both were asleep and dreaming of
Three nights later, Andrew's eyes fluttered open.
Once again, JenniAnn was sleeping at some
distance. But this time with good reason.
The angel smiled at the sight of his anam cara dozing
with little Avi tucked up against her. The little
fellow had suffered a rare fussy night and refused to
sleep in his crib.
His father understood all too well.
Andrew was just about to drift back to sleep when a
noise caught his attention... someone walking in the
Takoda and Marty didn't often come down to their floor
which left only two possibilities: Belle or Shelby, who
was staying over.
Grateful that his back was almost entirely healed,
Andrew turned to look at his phone. It was 3:17
Sighing wearily, Andrew got to his feet, slid into his
slippers, donned his robe, and moved into the
hallway. It was empty but he could hear the stairs
creaking. Moving forward, he saw Shelby dismount
the stairs and head towards the kitchen.
Curious, Andrew followed.
He was surprised when he entered the kitchen to find
Shelby filling a cereal bowl, completely
oblivious. Then he realized she had her earbuds
Not wanting to startle her, Andrew waved.
Shelby jumped when she caught the motion but then looked
up and smiled before pulling the earbuds out.
"Hi," she greeted. "I couldn't sleep. Froot
"They are your Froot Loops, after all. Yours and
JenniAnn's," Shelby pointed out with a grin.
Andrew patted her back.
"You're welcome to them, Shel. You know that."
Andrew flicked on the light above the sink and, with its
glow, got a better view of the fifteen-year-old.
Alarmed, he gently cupped her chin and raised her head.
"Sweetie, have you been crying?"
Shelby bit her lip and shook her head. But the
tears welling in her eyes betrayed her.
"Go sit down. I'll get our cereal, okay?" Andrew
Andrew prepared the two bowls then brought them to the
table where Shelby was waiting.
"Do you wanna talk about it?" he offered.
Shelby took a bite and thoughtfully chewed.
Andrew studied her. Fifteen years old...
Sometimes he could hardly believe it. Their little
Shelby was only two years younger than JenniAnn was when
"Psyche was seventeen when you two met, wasn't she?"
Surprised by the uncannily timed question, Andrew only
"Do... do you think she loved you... like really loved
you... then?" the girl pressed.
Andrew carefully considered his response.
"I think maybe, on some deep level, she knew that we
were meant to be together. I think I did, too, for
that matter. But it was just too much for either
of us to consider at the time. So I think it was
more like a crush than real, deep, true love. We
needed to grow into that. Does that make sense?"
"I don't want to diminish what JenniAnn felt. But
there was definitely something more playful and goofy
between us back then. It felt different...
"Well... I mean... she was only seventeen,
Shel. That's very, very young to be thinking about
a lifetime... eternal... commitment. Not to
mention... it just would have looked... wrong."
"I guess. So... so when... when you were really in
love or... or whatever... what did that feel like for
both of you?"
Andrew began to feel queasy. Maybe Shelby was in
love. He wasn't ready for this... But he
needed to put those feelings aside and help her.
"I think it was different for each of us, Shel. I
don't want to speak for JenniAnn. I think you
should probably have this conversation with her, too, if
you really want to know but based on what she's told
me... there were butterflies when I was around."
He rested a hand over his stomach. "And sadness
when I wasn't. And there are still both of those
things but they're more... Well, when two people
have been together for a while, those extremes kinda...
mellow. They have to. Because you still have
to get on with the business of life. As for me...
it was like... like I was always carrying this little
JenniAnn around with me." He chuckled. "Like
the old cartoons with the angel and the demon on
someone's shoulders, you know?"
Shelby smiled and nodded.
"I'd wander how she'd react to something. Or even
what she'd tell me to do. I mean not like with my
assignments. Usually. But like 'Andrew, you
need to take a few moments for yourself now.
You're starting to crack up.'"
"And, eventually, I realized that I was imagining that
because... well, because I wanted to be with her.
I felt comfortable with her... accepted by her... in a
way I hadn't with anyone else except God. And,
what's more, I trusted her, too. We... we had some
rocky patches, Shel. Things weren't always
perfect. I wasn't always as open as I should have
been. And sometimes that's still a struggle.
But when I realized I could be open and she wouldn't
flee... that's when I allowed myself to love her...
"I... I love that. But... I mean... what... what
does it feel like in... in your body?" Shelby
questioned, her face flushed.
Andrew, too, blushed.
"Sweetie, since I'm an angel, I... I don't feel things
like... like humans do."
"But... but do you ever get butterflies?"
An image popped into Andrew's mind: JenniAnn coming
towards him, radiant in her silver and green gown, after
he'd returned from Sheol. He'd felt butterflies
then. And it was far from the only time.
"So... so it's normal to get butterflies? Even...
even for you?"
Something in Shelby's intense, vulnerable gaze made
another memory of JenniAnn resurface for Andrew.
if you actually were a bird but didn't feel like a
The queasiness that Andrew had begun to feel dissipated
and was replaced by compassion and concern for
Shelby. This conversation wasn't about her dealing
with romantic or sexual feelings... it was quite the
Andrew reached across the table and took one of Shelby's
hands in both of his.
"Shel, honey, listen to me, okay? Like so much,
sexuality and romantic inclination exist on a
spectrum. Like... chocolate." He squeezed
her hand and released it. "Over here..." He
extended his right arm. "You have people who
absolutely love chocolate." He held out his left
arm. "And, over here, you have people who wouldn't
care if they never had a bite of chocolate in their
whole life. And then there are lots and lots of
people spread all over the middle. Got it?"
"So... you might have people who feel sexual or romantic
yearning very, very strongly. And those two aren't
the same, by the way. Like, for example, neither
JenniAnn nor I feel sexual longing. But we do feel
a longing... sometimes very strongly... to be romantic
with each other. Okay?"
Shelby gave another nod.
"And sometimes the world can make a person feel very,
very weird if they don't feel strong romantic or sexual
impulses. But that doesn't mean they are
weird. Not at all."
Shelby let out a shaky breath and sniffled.
"I... I don't think I... I feel either," she
murmured. "And... and all my friends are starting
to get all... all lovey-dovey with each other.
And... and Valentine's Day was just weird. And...
Asher's engaged now and even Violeta keeps talking about
some boy from her classes and... and I... I feel so...
so weird. Even... even Belle... Whenever we
play dolls, she always wants the prince and princess to
Andrew smiled gently.
"Shel, Belle is still so young. She's just
mimicking what she sees around her. And as for
Violeta..." He sighed and dragged his hand through
his hair. "Honestly, I'm not even sure what to
make of that right now. But none of that means
there's anything wrong with you. If 99% of the
population thought red was the best color and you were
among the 1% who thought blue was better... you wouldn't
be weird. Just different. And there's
nothing wrong with being different. Ya know who
was... and still is... really different?"
Shelby smiled and nodded.
"Joshua. And, ya know... I really wish JenniAnn
was up to talk with you. I know she often felt
very out of place as an asexual. But so many of us
love her just as she is, huh?"
"Very much," Shelby agreed. "But... I... I'm
happy for you and Psyche. It... it makes me
feel... secure... when I see you two together... acting
all, well, lovey-dovey."
"That's good. Because I'm not sure we could really
Shelby grinned at him.
"I wouldn't want you to. But... I don't think I
even want that. So... so what's the word for
that? Is there?"
The angel nodded.
"There is. It's called aromantic and, you know,
most angels are asexual and aromantic. So you're
in good company. But even among humans, it's a
normal thing. Rare. But normal."
Shelby let out a soft sigh of relief.
"And... and you won't be disappointed if I never get
married or... or have kids?" she asked with some
"Oh Shelby... No. We wouldn't be
disappointed in you! We just want you to be
happy. What would really bother us is if you made
decisions based on what you thought other people wanted
or expected. Because that can be very, very
"Yeah... Like... like if Psyche had married
Shelby rose and hugged Andrew.
"I'm glad she didn't."
Andrew returned the hug and kissed Shelby's temple.
"Me too, Shel. Me too."
Shelby reclaimed her seat and resumed enjoying her
cereal. Andrew followed suit. The
companionable silence was interrupted when JenniAnn
shuffled into the kitchen.
"I thought the light was on... and I wondered where you
were, Andrew. What are you two doing up?
Andrew, is your back..."
"Just fine," he assured, rising and pulling out a chair
for JenniAnn. "We just needed a little snack."
Shelby smiled at him then turned her attention to
"What are you doing up, Psyche?"
"Avi woke back up and nursed for a bit. That
seemed to calm him and he's back in his crib now.
But then I realized I was thirsty."
"What would you like? I'll get it for you," Andrew
offered, jumping to his feet.
"Thanks, love. Umm... milk, I think."
"Milk it is."
While Andrew got that, JenniAnn studied Shelby and
"Is everything okay? Your eyes look a lil puffy,
Shelby bowed her head.
"Oh... I... Yeah. I was upset. But
Andrew and I talked and..." She peered over at
JenniAnn. "Psyche, I... I think I'm asexual.
And aromantic. But... but that doesn't mean I'm
against either! I... I mean when I write, some of
my characters... most of them... they have boyfriends
and girlfriends and spouses and everything. I
just... I don't want that."
"Aww, Shel..." JenniAnn squeezed her hands.
"I know that can be hard. I... I can remember how
off I sometimes felt. Almost... like a different
Shelby nodded in ready agreement.
"But I think you're so mature to be able to talk about
this now! I was several years older than you when
I finally did... with Andrew, actually. And then I
couldn't even bring myself to say 'asexual' at first."
Andrew set a glass of milk down in front of JenniAnn
then sat back down.
"But you're not alone, sweet girl," JenniAnn
continued. "And while I'm not aromantic..."
She snuck a look at Andrew who grinned happily, causing
Shelby to giggle. "I think I can still understand
some of what it feels like. So I'm always, always
here if you need to talk. I did kinda wonder..."
Shelby's eyes lit up.
"You did? I mean... you wondered if I was
"When Frozen 2 was announced, you were so
anxious that Elsa was going to get a boyfriend or
girlfriend. And the truth was... I was, too.
I liked the idea that a Disney princess... no... a
Disney queen might be one of us! So, at
first, I thought maybe I was just projecting that onto
"I'm just so glad that you knew you could tell us.
But... why were you upset? Were you worried about
how we'd react?"
"I guess I was a little worried you'd be
disappointed. I know how much you love being
grandparents and I don't think I'll have kids but... I
also thought you'd be pretty cool about it. I
mean... it would be pretty hypocritical not to be."
"Definitely," JenniAnn agreed.
"But it is sometimes hard... I mean just because I
don't want a boyfriend or girlfriend doesn't mean I feel
great about being basically the only one of my friends
to not be pairing off or dreaming about pairing
off. It's kinda lonely."
"I know, sweetie..." JenniAnn patted Shelby's
hand. "I remember that. Is that why you've
been spending more time here?"
"When I'm here... it feels basically like it's always
felt. I don't feel different."
"Well, you can spend as much time here as you want,"
Andrew promised. "And if you want us to make up a
room for you then..."
Shelby shook her head.
"No. I really like staying with Belle. It's
hard to get too moody around her."
"I really do feel like Elsa to her Anna," Shelby
continued. "But I'm not letting a Hans ever, ever
get close to her!"
"I'm right with you there!" Andrew agreed. "Hate
JenniAnn raised an eye brow.
"Not sure I've ever heard you say you hated anyone,
The angel shrugged.
"He's a fictional character. Fair game."
"I see..." JenniAnn smiled and took his
Shelby looked back and forth between the two and
"Belle will know to hang in there and wait for a good
guy," she opined. "She knows what real love looks
like. And even though I don't want that for
myself... I... I'm so glad I grew up around it. Do
you remember when you caught me spying on you dancing?"
Andrew chuckled and nodded.
JenniAnn smirked and nodded.
Blushing, Shelby continued to smile.
"It still makes me happy when I see you two dance... at
parties, I mean. I don't spy any more!"
"Well, that's good!"
"Why's everyone down here?"
Startled by the voice, the trio turned around to find
Belle standing in the doorway to the kitchen.
"Hey, cuddle bug! What are you doing up?" JenniAnn
asked, going to pick up her little girl.
Belle wrapped her arms around her mother's neck.
"Not sleepy," she replied.
"It seems to be going around," Andrew observed.
"So... speaking of dancing... what say you to this: I'm
going to go check on Avi and then if he's still
sleeping, maybe the four of us night owls could have a
little dance party in the ballroom?" he suggested.
"Just... ignore the mess by the back wall."
The two girls cheered while JenniAnn gave Andrew a
dreamy look and nodded.
"All right then... I'll meet you in there.
If Little Bud has woken up, I'll bring him with me."
"See you in a bit, love."
Andrew smiled at the three before going to check on his
son. Upstairs, he found Avi contentedly snoozing
in his crib. Andrew kissed his hand then softly
rested it against the baby's brow before tip-toeing from
the room. In the ballroom, he found Shelby and
Belle already dancing to a song that Andrew instantly
knew they must have chosen.
"'She wears high heels, I wear sneakers. She's
cheer captain and I'm on the bleachers. Dreaming
about the day when you wake up and find that what you're
looking for has been here the whole time...'"
JenniAnn smiled and shrugged as he approached.
"Their pick. But, hey, I guess it kinda
works. I was in high school when we met..."
Andrew chuckled and nodded.
"So you were..."
He wrapped his arms around JenniAnn's waist and her
hands clasped behind his neck.
"Finally..." Andrew murmured into her ear.
"Mmm... hmm..." JenniAnn beamed up at him as
Taylor Swift sung her heart out.
"'If you can see that I'm the one who understands
you... Been here all along so why can't you see...
you belong with me?'"
The two smiled as Shelby and Belle sang along, the
latter sometimes garbling the words.
"'Standing by and waiting at your back door... All this
time, how could you not know?'"
Andrew rested his forehead against JenniAnn's and
thought back to another Valentine's weekend ten years
before... the weekend when JenniAnn had first learned
about his intention of aging along with her, the day
when she had come out to him... his bird who didn't feel
like a bird. He remembered standing outside her
door... their door now... just wanting to be let in.
"'You belong with me... Have you ever thought just
maybe... You belong with me... You belong with
me...'" he sang.
JenniAnn stretched up to kiss him as the final notes
"Every day," she whispered.
Andrew smiled and returned her kiss. Then they
laughed as a sassier, more rocking Swift song started
and Belle and Shelby went into hyperdrive.
Together, they watched their girls dance and thanked God
for the nest they had made for their own little birds.