“I am grateful for what I am and have. My Thanksgiving is perpetual.” ~~Henry David Thoreau

Hi all,

Today is the last day I'm giving myself to fully focus on cleaning before I shift to finishing this story and moving onto the Christmas one... and just generally enjoying and celebrating the season, of course!  So rather than spend time writing something else, I'm just doing another excerpt.  Apologies in advance for the horrible cliffhanger!

God bless,
Jenni



If you plan on reading this but haven't read the first part, please start here: http://www.newsletters.onthisside.net/jabb609story.html


A Second Excerpt from "A Thousand Years"
(title may still change... not 100% happy with it)

Friday, October 1st, 2021


“And here’s that journal Jamie recommended for you.  Do you need a pen?  We have some fancy ones!”  Vonnie flourished a decorative box filled with handcrafted pens.  


The angel.. Gertrude, a caseworker… smiled in amusement.


“I mean I won’t turn a good pen down…”


Vonnie smiled as the angel dug through the box and selected a wooden pen painted midnight blue with faint stars.


“Now, as she told you, Jamie’s headed to America for a month so we can schedule an appointment while she’s there or…”


Gertrude shook her head.


“I think I’ll be good for a month.  Thank you, though.  Are you going with her?”


Vonnie grinned and nodded.


“I’m still not really sure what we’re doing there but my advisor at school met with Jamie and signed off on me doing an independent study with her.  And I’ve always wanted to visit America!”


Gertrude patted Vonnie’s hand.


“I hope you have a wonderful time, dear.  I’ll see you both when you’re back in town.”


“Take care until then!”


“And you, as well, Vonnie.”


The angel gave Vonnie a hug and one more smile then disappeared.


Vonnie sat back down at her computer and made a note on her calendar to contact Gertrude a week before she and Jamie returned to Wales to see if she’d need an appointment.  Then she dutifully placed Gertrude’s file in its rightful spot and made her way to Jamie’s office.  She knocked on the door before entering.  In the months she’d been working with Jamie, she’d learned that the angel sometimes needed her alone time.


Jamie opened the door and smiled at her assistant.


“Got everything squared away with Gertie?”


Vonnie nodded.


“Journal and pen.  Made a note to contact her before we return in case she wants an appointment ASAP.  Everything’s filed.”


Jamie sighed with relief.


“Not sure how I kept everything in order before you came along!”


Vonnie laughed.


“Well… you didn’t.”


Jamie chuckled and nodded.


“True.  So are you ready for our next adventure?”


“As ready as I can be when everything’s mysterious.  But when an angel’s leading the way, I know everything will be fine.”


“Glad you feel that way.  Because I was hoping you might run an errand of sorts with me before you head back to campus.”


“Of course.  Gotta grab some necessities before we head stateside?”


Jamie shook her head.


“No.  Actually managed that last weekend.  All on my own!  This…  It’s unofficially my second job.”


“God makes you work two jobs?”  Vonnie frowned.


“Unofficial, like I said.  It’s at Cynefin.”


Vonnie blinked.


“You have a job… at a gay bar?  Are you a bartender?”


Jamie nodded.


“I help out.  But, really, it’s more of the counseling thing.”


“I see…”  Vonnie’s face flushed.


Jamie rested a hand on her arm.


“You all right there?”


Vonnie nodded.


“Yeah… yeah…  It’s just…  The bus passes there and so many times I’ve wanted to get off and check it out because… cause…”  Vonnie’s cheeks burned again.  “I’ve only ever been with a boy.  The one boy.  The baby’s father.”


Jamie nodded.  


“But for a while I’ve been kind of feeling… well, thinking maybe… maybe I’m bi,” Vonnie related.  She took in and let out a deep breath.  “I’ve actually not said that out loud before.”


Jamie hugged the young woman.  In the months since Vonnie had started helping her out, Jamie had harbored suspicions but, out of respect for the girl’s privacy, said nothing.


“Well, I’m glad and grateful that ya felt you could tell me.  And it’s okay to be unsure.  I think Cynefin will be good for you.  No one’s pushy.  They’re all very welcoming.  Good with people who are questioning.”


“Yeah?”


“Yeah,” Jamie promised.  “I wouldn’t lie to you.  I can’t actually.”


Vonnie laughed.


“True…  It does… well, it feels good to know an angel is okay with it.  If I am bi, I mean.”


“God is okay with it.  How could I not be?” Jamie questioned.


“Not everyone believes that,” Vonnie murmured.


Jamie nodded.  Vonnie didn’t often speak of her parents.  When she did, it was with affection.  But even someone who hadn’t spent centuries as a counselor could have guessed that a woman with abundantly accepting parents wouldn’t have hid an entire pregnancy.  


But at least they weren’t in the position to force her into marriage with a man…


Vonnie squeezed Jamie’s hand.


“You okay?”


“Hmm?  Yeah.  Why?”


Vonnie shrugged.


“Just… your face.  You looked… angry and sad and… far away.”


Jamie shook her head.


“Sorry.  It just… it makes me upset when people claim to speak for God as so many do.  But let’s not focus on that.  We should make our way to Cynefin.  They have the best Oggies but they only make so many a night and once they’re gone… they’re gone!”


Vonnie chuckled.


“Then I agree we should hurry!”


Jamie smiled and then the two donned their jackets and headed to the nearby pub.


*~*~*


Vonnie sat at a table near a window at the pub, enjoying the last of her Oggie and a hard cider.  She studied Jamie who was behind the bar, handing out drinks and chatting.  It was obvious that everyone knew and loved Jamie.  And yet… Vonnie wondered if they knew who and what Jamie was.  Would she have been sent along if Jamie already had numerous friends who might have been able to help her out?


Suddenly, a young woman plopped down across from Vonnie.


“You’re new here,” she declared.


Vonnie blushed and nodded.


“Jamie invited me.”


“Yup.  You’re her assistant, right?”


“I am, yes.  I was sent from Jesus College.  Psychology and Behavioral Sciences,” Vonnie explained.


The other woman flashed a grin.


“So are you studying our behavior?  Maybe for a paper entitled ‘The Mating Rituals of Welsh Queer Youths’?”  


Recognizing that the woman’s teasing was good-natured, Vonnie laughed and shook her head.


“No.  Although… tempting.  I was actually, well…  I was studying Jamie more than anyone, I suppose.  As much time as I’ve spent with her, I feel like I know so little about her.”


“But you know…”  The woman shook her head.  “Sorry.  I should introduce myself first.”  She stuck out her hand.  “Rhiannon Davies.  Feel free to sing a few bars of the Fleetwood Mac song.  Everyone does.”


After a chuckle, Vonnie obliged.  


“‘Rhiannon rings like a bell through the night and wouldn't you love to love her?  Takes to the sky like a bird in flight and who will be her lover?’”  She wrinkled her nose.  “Did people sing that to you even as a kid?”


Rhiannon nodded.


“Yep.  My parents had to explain to a two-year-old what a lover was which I’m sure was fun for them.”


“Oh dear…”


Rhiannon shrugged.


“Their fault for picking that name though I love it.”  Rhiannon lowered her voice.  “Anyway, you know what Jamie… is?  Right?”


“An angel?”


Rhiannon nodded.


“But don’t go around saying it.  Myself and my parents are the only ones who know.  Other than you now.  Though I think some suspect.  Every twenty or so years, she’ll disappear.  And then she’ll come back, passing herself off as her own child.  I mean she never outright says that.  But people say it and she doesn’t correct them.”


“How did you find out… if you don’t mind my asking?”


“I’ve always known.  My parents found out in the 80s.  My uncle… mom’s brother, dad’s best friend… was gay and died of AIDS.”  Rhiannon gestured to a photo on the wall, two sconces on either side.


“I’m so sorry!”


“Thanks.  I wish I’d known him.  Jamie was his friend and when she’d visit him in the hospital… when he’d started to get delirious… he kept saying ‘Angel… angel…’  Last thing he ever said, actually.  Jamie was there when he died… my parents, too.  And that’s when they swore they also saw her glowing.”


Vonnie wiped at a tear.


“That had to be so comforting to them.”


“It was.  Shortly thereafter, they got engaged… grief unites people, ya know?  Then married and then they opened this place.”


Vonnie looked at Rhiannon with shock.


“Your family owns Cynefin?”


Rhiannon nodded.


“I learned to walk behind the bar.  And it turned out the apple didn’t fall from the tree… even if not quite directly.  I’m a lesbian.  A queer kid can’t do much better than growing up in a gay bar!”


Vonnie shook her head in amazement.


“That’s…  It’s remarkable.  To turn their grief into this.”  She waved around them then returned her attention to Rhiannon.  “Do you have siblings?”


“Nope.  Took ten years just to get me.  And I’m enough of a handful,” she joked.  “You?”


“A brother.  Younger.  Luke.”


“Are you close to your family?”


Vonnie nodded.


“Yeah.  I mean I talk to them a lot.  And I lived with them until I went to college.”


“Ireland, right?  I can tell by your voice.”


“Yeah.  So I go home on breaks but… I’m also not really that open with them about… things.  They’re very loving and it’s not like they’re uber-conservative or anything but…  Kind of one of those situations where they taught us to be kind and welcoming of everyone but I always felt like they’d be pretty disappointed if it turned out we weren’t quite what they expected.  I actually…”  Vonnie’s face flushed.  “I got pregnant when I was nineteen.  Hid the entire pregnancy from them.”


The shock was evident on Rhiannon’s face.


“But… what did you do when the baby was born?”


Vonnie heaved a sigh.  She wasn’t sure she wanted to tell a virtual stranger about that.  But…  She had so few people she could talk to about Avi.  And Jamie had said the folks at Cynefin were welcoming and understanding.  And Rhiannon… somehow it felt like she knew her.  She gave a resolute nod then proceeded,


“I… I’m not really proud of it but… I left the baby on the doorstep of a cabin of someone I knew would take care of him.  And… and he did.  And then he got him to his adoptive parents who… actually…”  Vonnie looked over at Jamie.  “His dad is an angel, too.”


“Whoa…”


“Yeah.  And he’s great, of course.  And the little man’s mom is a really lovely woman.”


“Wait… what?  So this couple is… an angel and a woman?  That seems very… scary.  I mean I’m not the most devout person but I’ve read Genesis.”


Vonnie laughed.


“I know, right?  I was weirded out when I first heard about it.  But I guess it’s a thing.  They’re called anam caras.”


“I know that term!  Soul friend.”


“Yeah.  Anyway, they don’t have sex, I guess, so the whole Genesis thing is apparently unrelated.   I still don’t really know what that sons of God and daughters of Eve thing is all about but it’s not this.  And he’s so happy… Avi.  I’m so glad he’s with them.”


Rhiannon reached across the table and squeezed Vonnie’s hand.


“That’s wonderful!  I’m happy for you and Avi and his family.  But… anam caras…” Rhiannon repeated.  She swiveled around to look at Jamie who was oblivious as she doled out pints.  


“What ya thinking?” 


“It’s just… have you ever had moments when it seems like Jamie is, well, not entirely there?  Like she goes somewhere else in her mind?”


Vonnie gave a vigorous nod.


“Just before we came here, actually!  I, well, I told her that I thought I was bi… and she was very accepting, of course.  But it seemed to trigger… something.”


Rhiannon lowered her voice even more.


“I’ve always suspected there was something tragic in Jamie’s past.  Maybe she had an anam cara, too.  And any time you get an immortal with a mortal… tragic.”


“That would be heartbreaking…  But assumedly they can visit Heaven, right?”


“I would sure hope so!  But I bet it’s not the same when they come back here.”


“No…”


“You’re going to America with her, right?”


“I am, yeah.  Still not entirely sure why… or how with the travel ban.  But Jamie said not to worry about it.  All I know is that she has to help someone there and, well, I’ve never been so… I wasn’t missing a chance when she asked!  And I do like working with Jamie.”


“Don’t blame you.  Can I give you my number?  Maybe…  It’s just…  I care about Jamie.  She’s like an aunt to me.  So if you figure anything out… maybe you could keep me posted?” Rhiannon asked hopefully.


“Sure!”  Vonnie withdrew her cell phone.  The mystery of Jamie aside, she welcomed the chance to get to know Rhiannon better.  


The two young women exchanged phone numbers.


“And, ya know, if you just need someone to talk to, that’s cool, too,” Rhiannon offered.  “I know it can be hard to carry these big secrets and not have many people to talk it over with.”


“Thanks, I really appreciate that.  It is sometimes a lot.”


“Sure thing.”  Rhiannon noted Vonnie’s empty glass.  “Need another cider?  Was thinking of getting myself one.”


“Sure!  Thanks!”  


“Be right back.”  


“‘Kay.”


Vonnie stared at her phone and the new entry in her contacts  as she waited for Rhiannon to return.  While she couldn’t deny she felt something of a flutter in her chest, especially when Rhiannon had squeezed her hand, simply having a friend who she could be honest with would be enough.


“And here we are.  Mom sent out some apple cider cookies, too.  I’ll introduce you later if you’d like.”


“I’d love that!” Vonnie agreed.  


“Awesome.  So tell me about your classes?  Maybe you’ll make me rethink not going to college.”


Vonnie laughed.


“Not sure about that!  But sure.”


The two chatted away, merrily enjoying their cider and cookies.


Unbeknownst to them, Jamie occasionally glanced over and grinned.


Since Cynefin’s founding, she had been responsible for 27 happy couples.  If it became 28… well, she certainly wouldn’t complain.


*~*~*

Saturday, October 2nd, 2021


Andrew watched with appreciation as JenniAnn finished applying her eye make-up.  


“Okay, done,” she announced.  “I’m surprised I didn’t forget how to put it on.”


Andrew smiled and shook his head.


“You look beautiful… as always.  But it has been a long time since we had a night out in NYC.”


“February 2020.”


“Yup.”


Andrew embraced JenniAnn and kissed her hair.


“You ready to head out?”


JenniAnn nodded.


“A little nervous… but yeah.”


Andrew gave her another squeeze.


“We’re eating outside.  It’ll be safe.”


“I know.  I think I’m actually more nervous about just getting… I dunno… over-stimulated on the crowded sidewalks or something.  It’s been so long since I’ve been around a lot of strangers!” JenniAnn explained.


Andrew nodded.


“I can understand that, Laja.  I really can.  But…”  He kissed her forehead.  “I’ll be there to protect you.”


JenniAnn beamed.


“I know you will.  And… it will be nice to have a proper double-date with Aziraphale and Crowley.  Haven’t really had a chance to see them out and about in public.”


Andrew chuckled.


“That will be interesting.  Now…  Let’s go say good night to the kids and head out, hmm?  Maybe if we get back early enough, we could squeeze in a little dancing before bed?”


JenniAnn beamed and nodded.


“I’d like that.”


Hand-in-hand, the two left their room.  To their surprise; Belle, Shelby, and Violeta were waiting in the hallway.


“Ooh!  You’re so pretty, Mama!” Belle chirped as Violeta took a photo.


“Thank you, baby!”  JenniAnn stooped to kiss Belle’s hair.  


“What’s all this about?” Andrew asked, waving to Violeta.


“It’s your first date… well, first date outside Dyeland… since COVID began,” Violeta explained.


“We thought it was worth documenting,” Shelby added.


“See!”  Violeta showed off her photo.  “You look so cute and happy!”


“Well, thank you.”  Andrew kissed her temple.  “Anything you need before we head out?”


“Nope!  Max has the pizza and fixings in the kitchen.  We’ll get everyone fed.  Then some Hide-and-Seek.”


“Yay!” Belle cheered.


“And then to bed,” Violeta continued.


“Boo!” Belle pouted.


Andrew ruffled her hair.


“Sleep’s important, little elf.  It gives you energy.  If you’re good for Violeta and Max tonight, we’ll have donuts for breakfast.  How about that?”


“Yum!”


Andrew lifted her up and kissed her brow.


“Then it’s a plan!  Go tell Avi, okay?”


“Okay!”


Once Belle had run off, Violeta continued.


“And… once we’re sure they’re asleep, Shel and Max and Rose and I are gonna watch Midnight Mass.”


Andrew frowned.


“Is that the one by the Hill House people?”


“And Bly Manor!” Shelby replied.


“Well, okay…  Just… don’t get too scared,” Andrew warned.


“Or too philosophical,” JenniAnn teased.


Violeta laughed.


“We won’t.  Well…  We’ll try not to.”


Andrew and JenniAnn hugged both girls.  


“Call if anything comes up,” JenniAnn reminded.  “We’ll both have our cell phones.”


“We know!” Shelby assured.  “But I’m sure everything will be fine.  This is your night.  Don’t worry about us.”


“I’ll try not to,” JenniAnn promised before smiling back at Andrew. 


The angel took her hand again then the four headed to the kitchen where Andrew and JenniAnn checked on Avi, Max, Rose, and their grandkids before heading to the portal to begin their big night in the city.


*~*~*


“That crème brûlée…  Perfection!   One of the best I’ve ever tasted!” Aziraphale gushed as he, Crowley, Andrew, and JenniAnn walked away from the restaurant where they’d just enjoyed dinner and dessert.


“The black forest torte was amazing, too.”  JenniAnn licked her lips at the memory.  


“I think we could have saved ourselves some cash, Andrew.  Seems like they only wanted dessert,” Crowley jested.


JenniAnn laughed.


“I mean it was the highlight… but the squash ravioli was delicious, too.  And you tease us but you finished your apple crumb cake before any of the rest of us finished our desserts.”


Crowley only smiled.


Andrew, too, remained silent.  He was simply enjoying the banter and seeing JenniAnn so happy.  Despite her concerns, she’d weathered the crowds well and seemed newly enchanted by Manhattan.


Aziraphale took a few steps back and halted.


“Ooh…  I’ve never noticed that book shop.  And it’s still open.  Could we?”


Andrew looked to JenniAnn.


“I’d just as soon get back home… get to our dancing,” she offered.


Andrew smiled and nodded.


“Me too.”  He turned back to their friends.  “You two go ahead but we’re gonna head home.  It’s been a wonderful evening.  Thank you for joining us!”


“An absolute delight!” Aziraphale agreed as the four exchanged hugs.


“Let me know if you have any more assignments that could use a green thumb, Andrew,” Crowley reminded.


“Absolutely.”


“And JenniAnn… we still on for Tuesday?” Aziraphale checked.  


JenniAnn gave an eager nod.


“Yup!  Azrael wanted to check in.  Not sure yet if anyone else is coming.”


“I shall look forward to it!”  Aziraphale grinned then offered his arm to Crowley who happily took it.


Andrew and JenniAnn smiled after the two as they entered the book shop then continued on, their own arms linked.


“They really are lovely,” JenniAnn mused.  “I’m so glad we were able to help bring them properly together.  Imagine… 6,000 years of will-they-or-won’t-they.  I wasn’t sure I could handle much more than a decade!”


“We did have our moments…” Andrew recalled.  “But all the angst was worth it in the end.  I’m sure they feel the same way.”


“I know I do.”  JenniAnn beamed at Andrew.


The two continued in companionable silence, enjoying the sights and sounds of the city, until they’d reached the alley where the portal waited.


Andrew turned to JenniAnn and took both of her hands in his.


“I’m really glad we did this, Laja.”


“Me too, my love.  I had a great time.  It was so wonderful to be back here.  So… freeing.  But… spending time with you was the best part.”


“Laja…” Andrew moved closer and brushed his lips against JenniAnn’s forehead.  When she stretched upwards, Andrew kissed her waiting lips.


“Disgusting…” a cold, cruel voice sneered.


Andrew felt a chill run through him.  He sensed JenniAnn’s body going rigid.


And then he saw them… demons forming a tightening circle around them.


JenniAnn whimpered and clasped the cross around her neck.


“Laja, listen to me,” Andrew whispered.  “I’m gonna cover you and we’re gonna run towards the portal.  Do you have your key out?”


“Y-yeah.”


“Good.  One… two… three…”


Andrew hovered around JenniAnn as they dashed in the direction of the portal, swerving between two demons.


The angel of death yelped when one grabbed his hair but he ignored it and pressed on.  


But he didn’t see the demon hurtling towards them from the left… not until he’d made contact and caused Andrew to fall, JenniAnn coming with him.


Briefly, Andrew saw that the circle had closed… there was nowhere to run.


“God help us!” he cried before climbing on top of JenniAnn, shielding her.  “Laja… if you get a chance… run.  Don’t look back.  Just…”


JenniAnn shook her head.


“Seems dear old Daddy is too busy to help,” a demon taunted.  


Andrew ignored them.


“Laja, I mean it.  I… I love you and I need you to run.”


“No…  I… I…”  Tears poured down JenniAnn’s cheeks.  “Joshua!” she shouted.


“He’s not coming, either.  You should know by now that he’s a bit careless with his friends.  Crucified… beheaded… stabbed… stoned..” a second demon counted off.


“Get them away from each other!” the first demon screeched.  “Revolting things…  An angel of the Most High… defiling himself with a clay-bitch.”


Andrew squeezed one of JenniAnn’s hands.


“I love you so much…”


Suddenly, from both sides, the demons kicked Andrew.


JenniAnn let out a blood-curdling scream… one that was all too familiar to Andrew.


Andrew fought to keep JenniAnn shielded beneath him.  He saw her eyes go wide.


“Andrew!” she screamed, trying to get her hands out from beneath his body.


But she was too late.  A demon swung a rotted pipe, hitting Andrew in the head.  


Immediately, JenniAnn felt his body go slack.


“A-andrew!  Andrew!” she bellowed.


But there was no answer.


“Get him off her!” the first demon, the seeming leader shouted.


JenniAnn tried to cling to Andrew but they were too strong.  They pulled him away like a rag doll.  Before she could get up and go after them, the leader gripped her shoulders and shoved her back to the ground.


JenniAnn screamed when he straddled her waist and grabbed her chin, his jagged nails digging in.  He smiled wickedly at her.


“Don’t worry, JenniAnn.  You won’t mind much in a few minutes.  Not when you see who your beloved Andrew truly is…”


JenniAnn’s mind filled with darkness… and then scenes of vivid, horrific violence.  Andrew’s assignments.  And not just any assignments.  The worst of them.  The times he’d had to merely stand by… watching and waiting.  Rape and torture and child abuse…  


“And he did nothing…  Didn’t raise a single finger…  Didn’t make a sound.  Your Andrew let those things happen…”


It was his name… Andrew’s… that pulled JenniAnn back from the sea of pain and despair.  She opened her eyes and, past the demon’s head, saw the stars… and something else.


Two somethings.


Brilliant white and obsidian black against the night sky.


Closer and closer and then… the demon was yanked off of JenniAnn.


“Ah, Xerxian…  Good to see you again.”


The demon screamed when Crowley turned him around to face him.  


Seizing her opportunity, JenniAnn scrambled towards where Andrew lay, only vaguely aware of the demons evaporating around her.


“My… my love…” she murmured when she reached Andrew’s side.  Fresh tears fell from her eyes when she saw his mangled face.  “My love…” she repeated before she began to feel queasy and disoriented as her neurons misfired and a seizure overtook her.  With her last bit of strength, JenniAnn grabbed Andrew’s right hand and rested her head in the crook of his arm.


With a final utterance, JenniAnn gave into her exhaustion.


“Joshua…”

To be continued...



This newsletter is dedicated to John Dye for inspiring the Dyeland Christmas tree... which I hope to put up this week.

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