Due to some of the content here, I've decided to put
some trigger warnings which I haven't done much of in the
past. However, since they're also spoilers, I've
hidden them. If you want to see them, please highlight
the black line below.
Trigger warnings for: mental health issues,
self-harm, depression, suicide attempt, sexual abuse
(briefly), child abuse, spiritual abuse.
You'll Never Walk Alone
Sins of the
Father Walk On
Tuesday, September 8th, 2020
Takoda paced his attic room in Willowveil. His
hands shook as he held the note. They shook with rage and
terror and heartache.
Her note... Her last note?
I loved you, my friend. Please know that. I hope
I see you in Heaven. I just can't stay here.
There's nothing you could have done, sweet Takoda. I
wish I had loved you better.
The last words tore into him. He hated that she'd felt
regret... maybe even guilt... over him. Hated that what
could be her last moments had been filled with those thoughts.
He hated that the damned plague had separated them for so
long. Maybe he would have seen the signs...
He hated him.
He wanted to find him and pummel him... a blow for every drop of
blood that had spilled from his Joccy.
Maybe he could go... Find the traitorous fiend and make
him hurt as badly as he did. Andrew would be angry.
Andrew could be angry. He didn't care.
Except he did.
Andrew was good to him. And Takoda loved him and
JenniAnn. If he left, he couldn't come back. He
couldn't risk JenniAnn's health. And he didn't want Andrew
to feel what he did in that moment.
There was a light knock on Takoda's door.
Takoda only stared, unsure what to do.
After a few moments, Marty poked his head in.
The angel's eyes grew wide.
Marty shook his head.
"I know nothing more than what Portia shared with us. The
doctors are still working on her. Would... you like
someone to sit with you?"
Takoda found himself nodding.
Old Metatron sunk onto the couch beside the young angel and
gently patted his back.
"Would you like me to pray?"
Takoda nodded again.
"'God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in
trouble,'" Marty recited, his voice soft and calming.
"'Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the
mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar
and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.
Selah. There is a river whose streams make glad the city
of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells. God is
within her, she will not fall; God will help her at break of
"'God will help her at break of day,'" Takoda echoed, his voice
sounding distant to him.
He was sleepy... so sleepy... wearied to the depth of his
Takoda's head sunk against a throw pillow. His eyes
He fell asleep and began to dream about how it had all begun.
Wednesday, March 13th, 2019
"So... We're going to start Bible Study with all the
Friends shortly. Would you want to..."
Takoda, tearing his gaze away from the cluttered and fascinating
walls of Willowveil, interrupted JenniAnn's question with a
shake of his head.
"I'd rather not... if that's okay... ma'am."
JenniAnn bowed her head and smirked.
"JenniAnn's okay. Really... sir."
"Got it. If it's okay with you... JenniAnn... I'd rather
not attend. But I'd like to do something to make it up to
you and Andrew for putting me up. So if you have any
chores or anything that I could help with..."
JenniAnn studied the angel. He was so pleasant! She
struggled to believe he'd struck out at Joshua. But
then... she could understand how pain and grief changed a
"There's no need to pay us back. But... if you're bored...
maybe you could help Jocelyn... Joccy... with the kids? Do
you like kids? Belle sure seems to like you but if you'd
rather not be surrounded by them..."
Takoda shook his head.
"No, no. I love kids. They're more... honest."
"Sometimes painfully so. All right then!" She led
the angel up another floor to the rec room. "They usually
hang out here. Another adult or two will always be
around. We rotate in and out. Joccy usually has a
story time and a craft that she prepares. They can be
biblically themed so if..."
"I'm sure that'll be fine," Takoda assured. He was not
opposed to hearing about God... he just didn't want to hear a
bunch of people, many of them older than him, wax philosophic
about the Problem of Evil or the nature of redemption.
The two turned around to see Joccy entering. She glanced
curiously at Takoda.
Looking at the newcomer, Takoda could feel himself
blushing. And there was an odd twist in his stomach that
he couldn't account for.
"Hey, Joccy!" JenniAnn approached and hugged the
girl. "Come meet Takoda! He's offered to help with
the kids this evening."
"Oh great!" Joccy smiled brightly at Takoda and held out
her hand. "Hi, my name's Jocelyn. But I mostly go by
Takoda took her hand in his and stared. She looked... like
him. More beautiful, of course. Her features were
finer. But the same dark eyes, black hair down to her
mid-back. Her skin was lighter than his... but he still
wondered. But then he couldn't very well ask for her
"I... I'm Takoda," he stuttered. "I'm a caseworker.
My supervisor is Wahkan, the principality of the Sioux Nation."
"That's so cool! My great-grandpa was full-blooded
Algonquin. I never met him, of course. But my
grandpa used to tell us stories... take us to All Nations
Takoda saw the girl's face cloud for a moment.
"Anyway... It's a pleasure to meet you," Joccy
recovered. "If you want... I could use some help cutting
out shapes for a craft later."
Takoda nodded and smiled agreeably.
"Then I'll leave you to that. I'll be in the kitchen with
Andrew if you need anything," JenniAnn informed.
After looking back at the two for a final time, JenniAnn left
the room wearing an amused smile.
That was a meet-cute if she'd ever seen one!
March 20th, 2019
a week, Takoda and Joccy had become nearly inseparable.
They'd had such a good time with the kids that first week that
they'd planned something more elaborate for the following
week... a slightly belated lesson on St. Patrick.
"I feel... goofy," Takoda declared as he stepped out from
behind a room divider.
Joccy giggled as she took in his long, flowing green
"I look nothing like Patrick..."
Joccy settled a stole around the angel's shoulders.
"Oh, hush. White actors have been playing characters of
colors for ages. There's nothing wrong with a bit of the
"True... But I don't feel very... saintly."
The young woman handed him a staff, wrapped in foil in lieu of
gold. A Celtic cross was attached to the top.
"Not really... but I appreciate the effort."
Joccy snapped a photo with her camera.
"I think you look cute!"
"Now... Let's practice, okay?"
Joccy threw a rubber snake onto the ground.
Trying not to laugh, Takoda/Patrick stared at the serpent.
"In the name of Christ, be gone ye foul creature!" he
Joccy yanked the invisible thread she'd tied around the snake
and it disappeared beneath a strategically placed rug.
"Yay! You banished it!" she cheered.
"I feel kind of bad... I mean it was just a little
garden snake... It wasn't hurting anything."
Joccy hugged him.
"It was also rubber... pretend."
Joccy's embrace tightened.
"I love that you care about the snake."
Takoda felt his pulse quicken. She was so close...
No human had ever been so close to him. None, at least,
except Joshua. The thought of his estranged Creator
caused the angel to tear up.
Takoda squeezed his eyes shut against the memory of his last
encounter with Joshua... how he'd yelled, how he'd accused
Joshua of not doing enough to protect Robin and Daniel, how
he'd run away from him.
"Takoda?" Joccy pulled away and peered into his face
with concern. She reached up and brushed a tear from his
The angel responded with a ragged sigh.
Joccy took his hand and led him to a nearby couch.
"Will you... tell me why you're here? I know Adam is
working with you. And it's not an AOD thing. Which
means... it's the other thing. The therapy thing.
So... something happened. And... and if it would help
you to talk about it... I'd like to listen," she
offered, her voice gentle and soothing.
Takoda shook his head. He stared at the cross around
Joccy's neck. She loved Joshua. And she would hate
him once she heard what he'd said and done. The Friends
longed for Joshua... always hoping for him to return.
What would she make of him? Willingly leaving Joshua?
It all came pouring out. The night out at the pub, the
false accusations against Daniel, the car chase, the crash,
his black-out, Daniel... shot and killed, Robin... raped and
killed, and then their bodies and the car going up in flames,
waking up in Heaven, his harsh words, his rejection of
Joccy said nothing.
But she held him as he wept. She never let go... even
when he spoke of ignoring Wahkan and cursing Joshua.
"I'm sorry..." Takoda's hoarse voice spoke after several
moments of silence.
"He knows... And I... I'm sorry you had to go through
that, Takoda. Truly." Joccy stroked his back.
Takoda sighed and pulled away from her.
"We have about half an hour. How about you go wash your
face and I'll make you some tea?"
"You... you aren't mad at me?" Takoda implored. "What I
said to Joshua..."
"I get the sense Joshua Himself isn't mad. He
understands. How could I be mad if he's not?"
"I hope you're right... and thank you."
Joccy smiled gently and cupped the angel's chin.
"You're welcome. Thank you for trusting me with
that. And now... JenniAnn always keeps the tea
well-stocked. So what would you like?"
"Chamomile it is. I'll be right back."
Takoda watched her leave the room.
If he were completely honest with himself, that day with
Joshua... he'd worried he would fall. And now he felt
like he was falling... but this was a very different sort of
Takoda and Joccy were stretched across a blanket in Willowveil's
backyard, laying on their backs and scanning the sky.
"He looked really good... Joshua, I mean."
Takoda rolled over to face Joccy.
"Glad you clarified. I had no idea who you were talking
about," Takoda teased. They had been talking about nothing
but Joshua since leaving the hospital.
Joccy rolled to her side and stuck out her tongue. Then
her face softened and she snuggled against the angel.
"Thank you for staying by me... during all of this. It...
it was so hard to... to see him like that... hurt... emotionally
and physically... in ways we... we couldn't fix."
Takoda lightly brushed his lips against Joccy's hair.
"I needed you just as much, Joc." He sighed
raggedly. "Even though we... we'd made our peace... it
still hurt to think that so recently I... I'd been so... harsh
"He understands, Koda."
"Yeah..." Takoda gasped. "Look up, Joc."
Joccy rolled onto her back and smiled as she caught a glimpse of
a falling star.
There was silence for a few moments... a silence Takoda knew
well. It was loaded with pain and sadness.
"Joc..." He gripped her hand.
"My dad told me once that falling stars were angels falling
because they didn't listen to God."
Takoda propped himself up on an elbow and peered down at his
"Joccy... That... that's nonsense. They're...
hydrogen and helium. I think? I'm not good with
elements. And I wasn't around to make any. But...
they are beautiful. And it was wrong of your dad to try to
tarnish something God meant for you to admire."
"He was pretty good at tarnishing things..." Joccy muttered.
Takoda let out a shaky breath. He knew what Derek Lowery
had done to Emma.
"He never... hurt... you, did he?"
Joccy's eyes went wide.
"No... no. I mean... not physically. And I didn't...
I don't mean he tarnished Emma or anything like that.
That's nonsense. But... he tarnished our reputation back
home... He tarnished what I had with Emma. And...
and, yes, we've built our bond up. Stronger than
ever. But... I... I would have really liked to have had
her around when I was growing up."
"I know... I know... I'm so sorry."
"He tarnished my ability to trust men. I mean... I trust
the Friends. I trust Joshua, of course. But... men
my own age?" Joccy shook her head. "I don't want to
end up like my mom." She noticed the hurt in Takoda's eyes
and she cupped his chin. "I trust you. So
much. I just... I meant humans."
Joccy's voice drifted off.
But Takoda knew how she wanted to end that sentence.
"I wish you were human."
And, with her, he wished it, too... as much as he loved being an
Joccy flinched then sat up.
"Text," she announced, pulling her phone from her pocket.
Her eyes lit up. "Jayden. Aww... I'd mentioned
that I was worried about a friend who had been shot and he's
just checking in. Sending 'good vibes.'"
Takoda struggled to keep a calm smile on his face as Joccy
replied. What were 'good vibes,' really? But then he
realized he was inclined to find fault in whatever this Jayden
said. He'd known about Jayden from the start... In
that first week they'd been trying to get to know each other,
Joccy had mentioned him several times. But then he'd
seemed like just a boy in one of her classes, a crush... an
unreciprocated one. Two weeks ago, that had changed.
They'd been paired up for a class project. And Joccy had
begun to talk more about him again... and now what she said was
grounded in reality. She was beginning to truly know her
crush... and her feelings were only deepening. Her trust
issues... and probably also Joshua's reappearance... had
prevented anything deeper from developing but with a sinking
feeling, Takoda knew it was only a matter of time.
"Maybe one day they could meet..."
Takoda roused from his melancholy musings.
"Jayden and Joshua. Maybe they can meet sometime."
Takoda smiled and nodded.
Joccy cocked her head and gently gripped Takoda's chin.
"You're my friend, Takoda. My best friend, even... after
Joshua, of course. That won't change even if..."
"I... I know." Takoda attempted a bright, breezy smile.
Joccy hugged him.
"I promise," she vowed.
"I promise, too," Takoda echoed.
Joccy beamed at him.
"Now... back to the stars."
"Back to the stars..."
As they settled back down onto their blanket, Takoda tried to
remain in the moment... to not think ahead... For now,
Joccy was at his side and all was well.
January 8th, 2020
She was almost constantly texting him these days. Not when
they were in charge of the kids, of course... But during
their prep meetings, Jayden had become an invisible presence.
He'd asked her to ring in the new year with him. She had.
And Takoda had noticed something disturbing... Over night,
all the photos of him and Joccy had disappeared from her
Facebook page. He wanted to ask why... but he also wasn't
sure he wanted to know the answer. His suspicion was that
Jayden had expressed some disapproval... jealousy even... and
Joccy had been quick to relent. And so the photos were
She'd also stopped wearing the necklace he'd given her.
She'd worn it every day in the week between Christmas and New
Year's and then it was gone.
Takoda longed to go back to that week. For that week,
things had been like they had been in the beginning. Joccy
smiled at him and sometimes held his hand. They'd gone
sledding and sipped cocoa in Central Park. Jayden had only
been a distant presence... the very occasional text.
But with the dawning of 2020, everything changed.
Takoda glanced over at Joccy as he cut out glittery shapes for
the kids to make crowns with in honor of the just passed
Epiphany. She was smiling in a dreamy way.
Takoda sucked in a deep breath and slowly let it out.
She was happy. That was all that mattered. He loved
her and he wanted her to be happy.
All would be well... all would be well... all would be well...
Takoda repeated the phrase in his mind, willing for it to be
true, willing the queasiness in his belly to go away.
He loved the sound...
She was happy.
All would be well.
March 13th, 2020
All was NOT well.
The world was locking down.
The Friends were separated.
Takoda was separated from Joccy... for now.
He stared expectantly at the Zoom screen... and then she
"Joccy... How are you?" Takoda asked.
"Umm..." Joccy contemplated the question. "Freaked out?"
Takoda smiled sympathetically.
"Understandable... Have you talked to your mom and
"Yeah... They're staying in Connecticut."
"Have you thought about where you're staying? I
mean... I think Andrew and JenniAnn would let you stay
here if... It's just with not being able to go
Topside... If you stayed here you could still go
outside..." Takoda rambled, trying to keep from sounding too
Joccy smiled sadly at the screen.
"I'm staying here, Koda. In the Tunnels. I want to
be with the kids. And... I want to be in the same city as
"But... you... you're not going to... to see him, surely?"
"Of course not! Vincent's been very clear and I'm not
about to go up against him. I know it's the right
thing. I do. But... even if we can't see each
other... I just... I want to be in the same city with Jayden,
Fighting back tears, Takoda nodded.
Joccy's own eyes filled.
"Koda, I love you. I... I hope you know that. So
much. But I just..." She bowed her head. "I...
I'm not JenniAnn. Or Arthur. I... I want... I want
to get married. And have babies. I want..."
Her voice broke.
"I... I understand," Takoda assured. As much as his heart
was breaking, it hurt worse to think Joccy was suffering for his
"You... you don't," Joccy replied, her eyes filling.
The video froze.
"No!" the angel shouted as he pointlessly tapped the sides of
"Am I back?" Joccy asked.
Takoda nodded, calming down.
"You are. The last thing I heard was that... that I don't
She was so quiet that Takoda could barely hear her.
"It... it's okay. Whatever it is, it's okay. I was
embarrassed, too... when we first met... about how I acted
towards Joshua... but you listened. I'll listen now," he
Joccy nodded and stared down at her hands.
"I... I slept with him... with Jayden. After... after my
birthday party last month. And... and a couple times
Takoda said nothing. He struggled to keep his expression
"And... I liked it. I... I told Joshua I was sorry.
I know we should have waited. But... he's the one,
Koda. And I know... I can feel... it's only a matter of
time. We'll get married. Maybe... maybe after this
is all... behind us."
Takoda prayed for the app to again freeze... to give him some
time to steady himself... but the Internet didn't
cooperate. So he forced a smile, feeling his lips shake,
hoping she couldn't see.
"Joccy... I... I hope that works out exactly as you want
it to. I'm happy for you," he managed.
Joccy's face lit up.
"Oh, Koda... Thank you. I... I haven't told anyone
else. It's... I dunno... But thank you. That
means a lot. And I am sorry that I can't come join you."
"No... no. I understand completely. You're right to
stay where you are."
Joccy nodded then lifted her hand to the screen.
"I will miss you... more than I can say."
Takoda rested his hand over hers.
"Me too... so much."
"But we'll keep talking," Joccy assured. "I've already
been thinking of ways to keep the kids' Bible study going."
"I'll look forward to hearing your ideas."
Someone called Joccy's name.
"Oh. It's Catherine. I better go." Joccy
smiled sadly. "Take care, my friend. I love you,
"You too. I love you, Joc," Takoda replied with another
"I'll be in touch!"
Then, with a final wave, Joccy disappeared.
Takoda stared at where she had been and began to weep.
It was done. She had made her choice. There was no
going back... not because he wouldn't want her back. He
wanted her back so badly it hurt, the pain radiating out from
his chest to the tips of his fingers. But he couldn't give
her what she wanted. And he just wanted her to be happy,
fulfilled. No matter what.
There was a knock on the door.
"Takoda, we're having ice cream. Do you want to join us?"
Takoda tried to choke out a response but only a strangled noise
Alarmed, Andrew peeked into the room then hurried to the younger
"Joc..." Takoda shook his head. He wouldn't say
anything more... wouldn't betray her.
Andrew sighed and pulled up a chair beside Takoda's. He
rested an arm around his shoulders. He knew this was more
than pain over an unexpected separation.
"I'm sorry, Takoda."
"How... how do I make it stop hurting?" he begged.
Andrew's eyes filled. He rallied against a sudden flash of
Eliot and JenniAnn in the gazebo.
"Time. Only time, I'm afraid. And focusing on the
love around you. The love from Him."
"Also... ice cream. Lots and lots of ice cream. I
remember that part really well," Andrew continued.
In spite of his agony, Takoda chuckled.
"Ice cream sounds good," he agreed.
After quickly wiping at his face, Takoda joined Andrew and the
others... and downed three whole bowls of ice cream.
Monday, September 7th, 2020
To Takoda's great surprise and relief, quarantine hadn't been
awful. He and Joccy exchanged letters every week and kept
up with their Zoom calls. He still missed seeing her in
person every week and he had to fight a cringe every time she
brought up Jayden... but they were both reasonably happy.
And even though not with the regularity he'd been accustomed to
pre-The Year That Everyone Hated, Takoda had seen Joccy a few
times. About once a month, she came to Dyeland for fresh
Shortly after Easter, Portia, Vincent, Andrew, and JenniAnn had
jointly decided that the minimal risk of COVID exposure was less
than the psychological and physiological toll a complete lack of
sunshine was taking on the Tunnel folks. Thus, the portal
between Dyeland and the Tunnels was opened. The two
communities could mix freely amongst each other. And with
Andrew being the only one to regularly leave Dyeland and no one
leaving the Tunnels, they all stayed safe.
The only struggle Takoda truly faced was a biweekly Zoom call
with some of the younger Friends... and Jayden. When he'd
remained a presence in Joccy's life, Ivy and Sy had suggested
adding him to their call. After all, it only made sense
that they begin to get to know him. Joccy had leaped at
this... and so every two weeks Takoda found himself face to
virtual face with his rival.
And then one day, a half hour before their scheduled call,
Takoda got a text from Sy.
"Hey there. Ivy and I hoped to talk to you.
Alone. Can you come over? Or we could pop over
there... but here might be better."
"Yeah. Sure. Be right over," Takoda texted back,
wondering what was going on. He wasted no time in going to
"Hey. Thanks for coming so quickly," Sy greeted as he
opened the door. "We would have come over but... this is
kind of delicate and... less chance of being overheard
here. Leo, Esau, and T'Challa aren't likely to tell
"I would guess not! But... you have me a little
worried. Are you and Ivy..."
"We're fine. Just... we need to show you something."
Sy led Takoda to the kitchen where Ivy was setup with her
laptop. She looked up to the angel, a slightly guilty
expression on her face.
"I swear I wasn't snooping!"
"It's just... I'm Facebook friends with this girl from
Fordham and she posted a few photos of herself in Central Park
with her cousin and... someone else."
Ivy patted the chair next to hers.
Curious, Takoda sat down and looked at the screen.
"That's my friend." Ivy pointed to a girl taking a
selfie. "And that... is her cousin. And that..."
"Jayden..." Takoda muttered.
"That's what we thought," Sy agreed. "A little hard to
tell with the mask but... same hair. And I swear I've seen
him wear that shirt in one of our calls."
"It's him," Takoda confirmed. "Look."
He pointed to the man's forearm which bore a tattoo of a compass
"So... Here's the thing... Different friend groups
are different... but the only girl I'd be handling like that
would be my wife," Sy insisted.
Takoda continued to stare. He was inclined to agree.
Jayden was standing behind the girl, pressed against her, his
arms wrapped around her waist. It seemed more romantic
than simply friendly.
"So... so what do we do?" Ivy questioned. "I hope Joccy
doesn't see this... It'll break her heart."
"Well, I know one thing for sure. After today, we change
the Zoom password and that dude's banned," Sy fumed.
"Sy, we can't do that... Not until we know how Joccy
feels," Ivy reasoned. "What if it is a
misunderstanding? Or... what if it was a temporary
indiscretion and she forgives him? We don't want to make
Joccy feel isolated... or like she needs to choose between us
Takoda's head rolled back and he stared at the ceiling, asking
God to calm the rage he was feeling. After a few moments,
he looked at the computer again.
"We proceed with the call as normal. Then we ask Jayden to
meet with us. And we confront him. Just the three of
us. Then we decide what we need to tell Joccy," he
Ivy and Sy both nodded.
But their plan would turn out to be unnecessary...
Jayden showed up to the call five minutes late but that wasn't
unexpected. He tended to be late.
Joccy's face lit up when he appeared.
"Hey, Jayden! How are you?" she chirped.
"Fine... sleepy. What a lame Labor Day," he replied.
"How's everyone else?"
"Good!" Violeta answered. "I was just telling everyone
about my sheep. They learned a new trick!"
"It's so cute!" Shelby averred. "And then we were
The teenager's voice drifted off.
Takoda stared at his monitor, wondering if he should go in the
other room and check on Shel.
And then he saw her.
And he saw Joccy seeing her.
A few feet behind Jayden, there was a woman. She was
stepping out of another room, pulling up a strap of her
Suddenly, the meeting ended.
Takoda's phone vibrated and he saw it was Sy calling.
"Sorry! I panicked! Did you see..."
"I didn't know if Joccy had seen so... so I ended the call in
case she hadn't," Sy explained.
Ivy's voice took over.
"We need to check on Joccy, though."
"Yeah... yeah. I'll go," Takoda volunteered without
"No... I just... Oh maybe... I don't know..."
"I'm going," Takoda insisted. "I'll talk to you later."
After ending the call, Takoda raced down the stairs where he
nearly collided with Shelby and Violeta.
"He's cheating! Stupid Jayden is cheating!" Violeta
"Violeta... Shhhh...." Shelby whispered.
"I'm sorry but..." Wide-eyed, Violeta grabbed Takoda's
arm. "Are you gonna go check on her?"
The older angel nodded.
"Yeah. I think she saw... but I'm not sure. I
just... I need to go."
Nodding furiously, Violeta released him.
"Don't tell anyone else! It's her business," Takoda
shouted as he ran down the next flight of stairs.
Takoda saw Andrew, JenniAnn, Max, and Rose in the ballroom as he
flew past. He knew they'd seen him, too, but he didn't
linger to offer any sort of explanation. Shelby could make
something up. Instead, he ran out the front door and made
a beeline to the gazebo. Once through the portal, the
angel rushed through Tunnels until he came to the door he
He could hear her.
"Who is she?" Joccy demanded as she glared at Jayden on her
"Baby, she's... she's just an old friend. I... I'm
sorry. I just ran into her last night..."
Takoda gritted his teeth. That was a lie. The photos
Ivy had found had been dated five days ago. And it was the
same woman. He was sure of that. Not wanting to
eavesdrop, Takoda stepped into Joccy's chamber.
Joccy stared at the angel.
Takoda waited for her to wave him away but she didn't.
And so he spoke.
"That's a lie, Jayden."
"Who is that?" Jayden questioned.
"It's me. Takoda." He stepped into view of the
webcam. "And I know that's a lie. Another friend of
mine found photos this morning. From five days ago.
You and that same girl in the park. You didn't just run
into her last night."
Joccy gave a little cry.
"We were going to give you a chance to explain yourself," Takoda
continued. "But I think what just happened explained it
"Joccy, don't listen to him. He's been against me this
whole time," Jayden insisted. "I've seen how he looks at
"Who is she really, Jayden?" Joccy repeated. "The
"She's my ex, okay? We broke up about a week before you
and I hooked up."
Takoda flinched. He knew it had been more than a hook up
"I mean... six months is a long time to be separated from you,
baby. I... I got lonely."
Suddenly, there was a woman shouting in the background.
Jayden jumped up from his chair.
Joccy and Takoda stared at the screen which now depicted only
Jayden's chair and a hallway. But they could still hear.
"You told me you broke up with her when quarantine started!" the
woman bellowed. "What the hell have you been up to,
"We haven't seen each other for six months! I've only been
with you!" Jayden replied.
Then he muttered an expletive and the call died.
Takoda looked over at Joccy who was shaking.
"He... he cheated. He's... he's been cheating.
Nearly this whole time... maybe this... this whole time," she
Joccy crumpled to the ground and began to sob.
"Joc..." Takoda repeated tenderly as he sunk to his knees beside
"He... he never love-loved me... Not... not really..."
Takoda didn't know what to say so he simply wrapped his arms
around the quaking woman.
"But I... I loved him... I... I really loved him..."
"I'm so sorry, Joc. I'm so, so sorry..." Takoda
gently swayed with her.
Joccy continued to sob for several minutes until she was
exhausted and practically limp in the angel's arms.
"What can I do?" Takoda asked. "Anything at all."
Joccy reached up and stroked his face.
"I... I'm so tired, Koda."
"Understandable. I'll help you to bed."
He did so then waited at her bedside.
Joccy reached for his right hand and squeezed.
"Can you..." Her face flushed.
"Anything," Takoda promised again.
"Can you just... hold me until I fall asleep? Please?"
Takoda sighed and nodded.
"Of course, Joc. Happily."
He settled into the bed and wrapped his arms tightly around her,
gently tucking her head under his chin.
"Thank you..." Joccy whispered.
"It's nothing. Just rest, Joc. Things... they'll be
better after some rest," Takoda encouraged.
Joccy snuggled against him and said nothing more before she
drifted to sleep.
Takoda couldn't smile... not when his beloved Joccy was so
wounded. But he also couldn't deny the contentment he felt
with Joccy in his arms.
He would protect her now, no matter what came their way.
September 8th, 2020
Takoda roused from his sleep. He was stretched out on his
couch... Marty must have moved him.
Takoda searched for the scribe but the room was empty.
Next, he clamored for his phone and read all the text
messages. Amidst all the prayers, he zeroed in on one from
"She's out of surgery. Breathing on her own which is
great. Hasn't regained consciousness."
Takoda let out a shaky breath then rose. He ambled into
the hall and headed towards Marty's room. To his relief,
he found the door open.
"Come in, Takoda," Marty invited.
"Thanks. I... I don't suppose you have any news?"
Marty shook his head.
"No more than what Graham's shared."
"But... You've probably recorded similar situations many,
many times. How... how likely is she to..."
Marty cut Takoda off with a wave of his hand.
"Takoda, I don't know. Each case is different. Each
person is different. She lost a lot of blood. But
I've seen others came through worse. And..."
"You've seen others die from less?" Takoda finished.
Takoda began to cry.
"If only I hadn't fallen asleep..."
"Takoda... You couldn't have known..."
"She'd just found out..." He cut himself off, not wanting
to betray Joccy.
"Of... of course... I... I'm not thinking straight."
"And that's understandable. But others also knew what
Joccy had discovered. And none of them assumed she'd do
this. Are you going to blame them, too?"
Takoda stared down at his hands and shook his head.
"Then you shouldn't blame yourself..."
Marty gently patted the young angel's back.
Takoda gasped as the image of Joccy... sprawled, lifeless and
bleeding, on the floor of the Tunnel chapel... returned to him.
That couldn't be his last memory of her... It just
September 8th, 2020
Frightened, Joccy wandered the strange house she'd found herself
in. It wasn't truly a house... It was massive.
More like a mansion or a castle.
And it wasn't the sort of mansion or castle she'd expected to
find herself in.
This one was dark and filled with shadows. There were
drafts that made her shudder and strange noises behind the
myriad doors that surrounded her.
She kept walking down the hall, searching for an escape.
Exits... or at least staircases leading to exits... were usually
at the ends of halls or maybe in the middle of them... like at
Willowveil. But she couldn't find an end or a
middle. Finally, screwing up her courage, Joccy reached
for one of the doors and opened it.
Inside, her father had Emma pressed up against a wall. His
hand was beneath her shirt.
"Not... not right now... Joccy... she's not feeling
well. I need... Derek, I need to check on her."
"She can wait. Just a cold."
Joccy watched her father grab Emma and push her onto the bed.
Then, just as she had as a child, Joccy hurried away from the
door, tears streaming down her cheeks.
She ran and she ran, still desperately searching for a way
out. Finally, reluctantly, she had to try another
door. This one led into the bedroom of her childhood.
Joccy wandered inside. She settled onto her bed and
grabbed a plush horse her grandpa had given her. She
snuggled it close and buried her head in its mane.
Suddenly, the door flew open and her father appeared.
"What is this?" he demanded, throwing a piece of paper at her.
"I... I don't know," Joccy found herself replying, her voice
suddenly sounding like it had when she was thirteen. She
grasped for the paper and began to read it. It was a love
letter from one of the boys at her school. It was sweet
and innocent... but he'd made the horrible mistake of mailing it
to her home.
"What did you do with this boy?" Derek bellowed, snatching the
"I... I didn't do... do anything, Dad. I... I
promise. I had no..."
"Your mother's taking you to the doctor."
Joccy shook her head, confused.
"But... but I'm not sick."
"We'll see about that," Derek grumbled before leaving the room.
Suddenly, Joccy was back in the hallway. Her cheeks were
burning. She remembered that day. And now she
understood better what her father had wanted... She'd been
so naive back then. She recalled the doctor listening as
her mother meekly told her that she wanted Joccy's hymen
checked. It was only when the woman, with barely
suppressed rage, had adamantly refused and informed Jodi that
the state of a hymen was not proof of virginity or lack
thereof that Joccy had understood even a little.
Then her mother had been removed from the room and the doctor
had gently asked her if she felt safe at home. And she'd
said she had... because her father never hurt her. Not
physically. And if they were removed... maybe she'd be
separated from Zoe.
Joccy continued stumbling down the hallway, occasionally opening
doors. Thankfully, the scenes they portrayed were gentler.
Joshua was holding her close after she'd, at last, confronted
her father. He was telling her how much he loved her and
There she was reuniting with Emma.
Moving into the Tunnels, finally feeling at home.
Meeting Takoda for the first time.
Helping the little ones with their crafts.
And then, once again, the rooms became more somber.
Joccy was filled with shame when she found herself with
Jayden... getting into bed with him... losing her virginity to
him... thinking he loved her... planning to marry him...
Their relationship unfolded across several rooms... and then it
imploded in another with the tell-tale Zoom call.
Then Takoda was there, holding her close and yet so gently.
And Joccy realized how much she had missed him. Even when
Dyeland and the Tunnels had opened back up, it hadn't been the
same as in the early days. She'd kept her distance.
But not then. She snuggled beside her angel and fell
When Joccy woke up, Takoda had fallen asleep. And she
stared at him... pure, innocent Takoda. He loved
her. He would do anything for her. And she knew
that. And she'd turned away from him. And she'd
loved a boy... slept with a boy who had cheated on her... had
likely been cheating on her the whole time. But maybe she
deserved that. She could have had true, pure love.
But she'd rejected it... rejected him. And she had no
right to draw comfort from him now. She had no right to be
in his arms.
She was broken and dirty and depressed. In spite of it
all, she loved Jayden still. But he didn't love her.
Feeling a flash of hope, she checked her phone. But there
was nothing. No "We need to talk more" or "I'm so sorry"
or "I still love you, baby." Nothing.
Joccy felt sick and sad. She'd loved him... He
hadn't loved her. Maybe never.
There was only one person she knew who could make her whole
again... only one man she truly trusted.
With tears streaming down her face, Joccy peered at
He deserved better. He didn't deserve to be shackled to
her... which now he would be. Because she was weak and
pathetic and he'd feel compelled to build her back up.
Maybe... maybe they could be together in Heaven where she'd be
fixed. And he wouldn't have to take care of her.
They could be equals. She would be better.
Joccy shook her head, trying to pull herself out of her
thoughts. Her sister... Emma... her mother... all of the
Friends... She couldn't hurt them like that. She
couldn't leave them to wonder what else they could have done to
But if she stayed... she'd have to deal with all of them knowing
about her humiliation. Even if those in the Zoom call kept
it quiet, someone would eventually ask about Jayden. And
Takoda would have to live with all of them knowing that she had
turned from him for a man who had cheated on her... a man she
had slept with even though she'd known she shouldn't.
Joccy couldn't bear it.
And she needed Joshua.
Joshua could fix her.
She needed to get to Joshua.
Joccy carefully extricated herself from Takoda's embrace.
She went to her desk and withdrew two pieces of paper from her
organizer. She wrote two notes: one to Takoda and another
to everyone else she loved.
Then, quietly, she returned to the bed and placed a soft kiss on
Takoda's forehead before leaving her chamber.
The Tunnels were hushed. It was just after midnight, after
Joccy crept towards Eliot's workshop. She felt guilty for
stealing... but it was better than her other idea of raiding
Portia's supply of medicine. People might need those
Joccy studied the various carving knives that were laid
out. She selected one... small and sharp.
Feeling calmer now, Joccy made her way to the chapel. She
wanted to see Owen's painting of Joshua as she waited for the
real Joshua. She sat in front of the painting and did what
she needed to do.
And then she waited.
Suddenly, Joccy was outside of her body. She watched and
waited, praying for Joshua to come. But when someone
finally entered the chapel, it wasn't Joshua.
"No!" Takoda screamed. "No!"
Joccy watched in horror as Takoda tore at his shirt, winding
strips around her wrists.
He screamed again, something guttural and wild that wasn't even
Vincent appeared, along with Catherine. Then Portia... who
wept as she checked for signs of life. Vincent grabbed
Takoda who had begun pushing pews and chairs over, howling like
Then, from behind her, Joccy felt a great warmth. She
whirled around, expecting to see Joshua... finally.
But, to her surprise, she found Jemima.
"Hey, Joccy..." Jemima reached for the girl's hands and
squeezed them affectionately.
"Jemima... Are... are you here to... to bring me
Home? I... I know I... I shouldn't have done that but...
but..." Joccy began to sob. Somehow it hadn't
occurred to her that maybe she wouldn't get to go to
Heaven. They said suicide was a sin, after all...
Jemima pulled Joccy close.
"It's not time for that, sweetheart. There's so much left
for you to do here."
"He... he won't let me into Heaven. He... he doesn't want
me, either," Joccy moaned.
"Shh.. shh... No. You know better than that.
Joshua loves you. So much. But... he has his
plans. And this..." Jemima sighed as she looked at
the chaos behind Joccy. "This isn't it."
"So... so I'm going to wake up?" Joccy asked.
"But..." Joccy turned back to the others. She fell
to her knees when she saw Takoda on the ground, rocking and
pulling at his hair while Catherine and Vincent fought to stop
him. What had she done?! She stared at her body and
began shaking her head. What had she been thinking?
What had she done to those she loved so much? What had she
done to herself... to her life?
"Joccy... look at me," Jemima requested. "Please."
When Joccy obeyed, she saw Jemima was no longer alone. A
beautiful woman with jet black hair down to her waist was
standing behind Jemima, a hand on her shoulder. She was
smiling tenderly at Joccy.
"Joccy, this is my mother," Jemima introduced. "Mary of
Magdala and Bethany."
"Mary..." Joccy repeated in a daze.
Mary nodded and smiled.
"Hello, Joccy. I'm so pleased to meet you. Jemima
told me about how kind you were to Yeshua when he was in the
hospital... how kind and loving you always are to him."
"I... I wanted to... to see him. I just wanted to see
him. But I..." Joccy began to sob. "I... I
made a terrible mistake. I'm so... so sorry."
"He understands, little one," Mary assured. "And he
forgives you. And we'll have plenty of time to talk that
over... so you really and truly believe it. But right
now... Right now you need to focus on healing your
body. We'll work on the rest later. I promise.
I'll be there when you need me."
"O-okay..." Joccy yawned. She peered at Jemima and
Mary who were beginning to grow hazy.
"Rest now, sweet Joccy," Mary urged.
And then everything went black.
September 9th, 2020
Joccy awoke to the sound of beeping and voices from another
At first, it hurt to open her eyes but, eventually, she managed
it. She realized she was in a hospital room... and a
familiar one. She recognized the view.
This had once been Joshua's room at New York Presbyterian
As she realized where she was, the events of the past few hours
came back to Joccy and she began to weep: both with gratitude
that she'd survived and sorrow for what she'd experienced and
for the pain she'd caused others.
Maybe that was why no one was at her bedside... Maybe they
were all angry at her.
But then Joccy remembered that it was a pandemic and visitor
policies were strict... if they were allowed at all.
Joccy looked around, hoping to locate her cell phone. But
then maybe it was still in her chamber... She hadn't
brought it to the chapel. She hadn't intended to ever need
"Oh good! You're up! Good morning, sweetheart!"
Joccy turned to find a smiling Jemima standing in her
doorway. Seeing her, Joccy's dream... or whatever it had
been... came back to her.
"Jemima... Your mom..."
Jemima approached and gently brushed some hair from Joccy's
"That was real," she affirmed. "I'm going to be here until
they release you."
Joccy began to relax, comforted by the idea... but not for long.
"When they release me..." she started.
Jemima briefly peered out the window, looking to the rising sun,
then directed her attention back to Joccy.
"Yeshu knew you'd be uncertain where to go."
Joccy nodded as tears welled in her eyes.
"I... I can't go Below. I can't face them after... after
they saw... I can't face my mom or... or sister.
Or... anyone. Not yet."
"I know. So... as it happens... my Ama and Abi have been
staying in town since last Christmas." Jemima beamed.
Jemima nodded happily.
"Lucius. You know the story, right?"
"Yeah... But... didn't he die before you were born?"
"Yep. But we've grown close since and since he's my Ama's
anam cara... He's my Abi."
In spite of the troubling situation she found herself in, Joccy
"So a Roman centurion and Mary of Magdala have been living in
New York City since Christmas?"
"I mean it does sound kind of ridiculous... but yeah. I
think Yeshua just wanted them to have some fun for a couple
months but then..."
"Yeah... Ama was working in a mental health crisis center
for a while. Abi... since we can't get it, you know... has
been doing grocery runs and such for people. He's turned
into a really wonderful house-husband of sorts."
"But so... what's your Ama doing here now? You said she
Jemima sobered and nodded again.
"Is... is she still here just because... of me?"
Jemima squeezed Joccy's shoulder.
"She wants to be. She understands."
Quietly, Joccy pondered what she knew of Mary's story... she,
too, had been rejected by someone she'd deeply loved.
"That's... a lot," Joccy murmured.
"I know... But it was her choice. Don't second guess
it. She doesn't like that. She's a very determined
lady. I would know."
Joccy returned Jemima's smile.
"Yeah... you would. I... I'm grateful. Truly.
But right now... Do you have a phone?"
"Actually..." Jemima withdrew Joccy's own phone from her
pocket. "Catherine sent it with you... hoping. I've
It was when she moved to take the phone that Joccy became aware
of the myriad bandages on her wrists and hands.
"Please try to keep them as still as you can. We don't
want you to re-open any stitches. There... there are a
Joccy stared at the bandages.
"But I... I don't feel any pain."
"You're on a lot of medication, sweetheart. You will
eventually feel it, I'm afraid."
"I could call someone for you? Hold the phone for you?"
"Who would you like me to call first?"
"I..." Joccy felt like she should call her mom
first. Then she could talk to Zoe, too. But...
She remembered Takoda, breaking down in the chapel.
"Takoda... Please call Takoda," she answered.
Joccy watched, anxiously, as Jemima dialed.
Takoda had moved outside. He needed the fresh
air. But he was mindful of the watchful eyes peering out
of the Willowveil ballroom. He knew Andrew, JenniAnn,
Marty, and Max were taking turns watching over him. He
couldn't blame them. He didn't know what Vincent had told
them but even if he'd said little, Takoda was sure his
appearance when Vincent had escorted him home had told them
enough to be worried about leaving him alone for long.
Takoda flopped onto the crisp grass and stared up at the sky.
The same prayer he'd been praying for hours ran through his
"Please, don't let her die. Don't let her die. Don't
let her die. Don't..."
Takoda's cell phone came to life.
you walk through a storm,
hold your head up high,
And don't be afraid of the dark."
Takoda scrambled to answer.
"Joc... Joc..." he choked out.
He received only a sob in reply.
A moment later, a different voice took over.
"Takoda, this is Jemima. I'm with Joccy. She's awake
and okay. Just needs a few moments to collect herself,
"She... she's okay..." Takoda repeated.
"Yes. Okay. She wants to talk now."
"O-okay. I'm here." Tears rolled down Takoda's
cheeks as he listened, silently thanking God.
"Koda... I... I'm so sorry, Koda...."
"Joc... Joccy... It... it's okay. I'm just... so
glad..." In spite of his best efforts, Takoda broke down.
"I... I messed up... so bad..."
"No... Joc, just... we need you to focus on... on getting
better. I... I need you..." The angel sobbed
again. "I... love you."
"I love you, too, Koda. I..."
Jemima came back on the line.
"I think that's all she can do for right now. She's going
to try and call her mom and sister and Emma now."
Takoda heard Joccy faintly. And then Jemima answering her.
"Okay, sweetheart. Will do. Takoda?"
"Can you start to get word out that Joccy's woken up?
She'd appreciate that."
Takoda nodded then, realizing they couldn't see his response,
"Yeah... yeah. Happily."
"Thank you. We'll talk to you soon."
"Good bye, Jemima. Bye... bye, Joc."
Once the call ended, Takoda stared at his phone for a few
moments. Then he leaped to his feet and ran towards
Willowveil's front door, excited and relieved to share the
September 12th, 2020
Over the next three days, Joccy endured several mental health
evaluations, physical examinations of the stitches on her
wrists, and overall checks to ensure there was no lasting damage
from her extreme blood loss. With a reluctance pushed
aside only due to COVID, she was released on Saturday morning.
"And you have somewhere to go? Somewhere you feel safe?"
Nina, the charge nurse, pressed.
"I'm, um, staying with... a family friend. She's a mental
The nurse's demeanor changed.
"That actually... that's good. That makes me feel
better. So... you take care of yourself, missy. I do
NOT want to see you back here, okay?"
Joccy nodded eagerly.
"I will. I promise."
"Okay... Then I'm going to let Jemima here wheel you out."
"Thank you, Nina. I won't forget you and all the care you
gave to me." Joccy smiled fondly at the woman and waved to
her then simply smiled when she realized waving hurt.
"Good bye, Jocelyn, dear." Nina returned Joccy's wave then
moved onto the next of many patients.
Once they were on their way, Jemima squeezed Joccy's shoulders.
"Ama and Abi have a room all prepared for you! It's super
cute and sunny. And you already have some things waiting
there for you!"
"Things?" Joccy questioned.
"Catherine sent up some of your clothes and such. But also
gifts. From the Friends."
"But I... I told them not to send anything because I was afraid
it would get contaminated in the hospital."
"So... they didn't send to the hospital," Jemima replied with a
"Oh..." Joccy's eyes welled.
"Just think of it this way. Now, for the duration, they
have Ama's address. I'm sure they're using the opportunity
to write to her."
Joccy smiled. That was definitely true.
"There's something else... Well, a couple of things."
Jemima steered them into an elevator. Once the door
closed, she resumed speaking.
"Ama and Abi are both sticklers about COVID. Or rather...
they will be with you. They've just... seen too much in
their lifetimes. And since. So once you're there...
you're there. But... they didn't want you to be completely
isolated. And Yeshua didn't want that, either. So...
Kelly's moved into the apartment next to theirs. And...
she has a guest bedroom. So they've decided that you can
pick someone to stay there. But then they're in lockdown,
too. Except going back and forth between the two
apartments. Unless they're an angel, of course. Or a
"Is... is Joshua..."
Jemima hugged Joccy.
"Not Yeshu. He... he'll be with you. And you will
see him. In time. But... well, my Ama will talk to
you more about that. Anyway, you don't have to pick anyone
right now. Just something to think on. You don't
even have to pick anyone. They just wanted you to know
that was an option."
"Oh... okay. I'll think about it. Will you be
"I'll drop in now and again," Jemima assured.
"Your Ama seems really nice... That was real, wasn't
it? When I met her, I mean. I think I asked before
"It was very real. And no worries. Your mind's bound
to be a bit fuzzy."
Joccy sighed. Now weaned off of her pain medication, her
head was clearer now... as were her memories.
"Everything? The way Takoda..."
Joccy softly wept, dampening her mask.
The elevator door opened.
"They should be waiting just outside... And there they
are!" Jemima waved enthusiastically at her parents.
Joccy simply gawked. Mary was just as beautiful as she
remembered. And if she had to pick anyone to play Lucius,
George Clooney would have been a solid choice. But beyond
their good looks, Joccy was struck anew with the realization
that she was going to stay with Mary of Magdala.
As Joccy and Jemima approached, Mary's and Lucius' warm smiles
were evident even with their masks.
"Hello there!" Lucius greeted. "So pleased to meet you,
Joccy smiled as he very gently took one of her hands in both of
"Joccy, please. And... it's so amazing to meet you
both. I... I just can't believe..." Fresh tears
welled in Joccy's eyes when she looked into Mary's warm,
"We're so looking forward to hosting you, Joccy. I think
we'll have a very good time together. So... shall we?"
Mary gestured to the car door that Lucius was holding open.
"Thank you." Blushing at the attention, Joccy stepped into
the car. "Thank you," she repeated when Lucius set the few
belongings she'd had at the hospital beside her.
"I'll stop by in a day or two!" Jemima promised. "Have
"Thank you, Jemima. I... I really appreciated having you
near and all of your help during these past few days."
Joccy smiled tearfully. "Means a lot."
"You're very welcome. Have a good time! Make sure my
Abi makes you lots of sweets!"
"He doesn't need any encouragement in that department," she
joked. "We'll save some for you, Yemmy."
"See you soon, Dulcis," Lucius called to Jemima as she headed
back into the hospital.
"Thanks. And definitely!" Jemima yelled back.
Then Mary and Lucius joined Joccy in the car.
"You ready?" Lucius checked.
Mary reached back and gently patted Joccy's knee and then they
As they were nearing the apartment building, Mary angled around
to look at Joccy.
"We have a couple of friends who came over to help rearrange
things. But they're going to stay out of the way until you
get settled. You'll have your own bathroom. Let me
know if there's anything you need. And, always, help
yourself to whatever you find in the kitchen."
"Thank you... so much. This is... unbelievable.
Jemima already mentioned about not going out... which I didn't
plan to... but... do you have any other house rules?" Joccy
"Not really rules... We do stick to a schedule of
sorts. We have a grab and go sort of breakfast.
Lucius does his grocery and errand runs in the morning. So
I thought you and I could visit then. Maybe around
"Either one sounds good to me."
"Let's plan on 10:00. Then I try to have lunch ready for
when Lucius comes home. If it's nice, I like to spend as
much of the afternoon as possible on the balcony. Reading,
praying, visiting." Mary smiled with fondness.
"Watching the birds and other little critters. You'd be
welcome to join us any time."
"I start dinner preparations around 4:30 then we typically eat
around 6:00," Lucius continued.
"I thought, if you want, we could talk more then," Mary
suggested. "Lucius is a wonderful cook... but not the best
at delegating. I try to stay out of his way."
"Understood. Then I will, too."
"And... here we are." Lucius pulled into a parking spot.
The three donned their masks again then made their way up to the
"Home, sweet home," Lucius announced as he unlocked the front
door and waved the two women in first.
Joccy smiled shyly at the men seated on the couch. They
returned her smile and waved.
"Boys, we'll get back to you," Mary promised. "So, Joccy,
as you can see, we have the kitchen and living room here.
Then just down this hallway... there's Lucius' and my
bedroom. And this way..." Mary thrust open a
door. "Is your room."
"Oh..." Joccy surveyed the room. As Jemima had
promised, it was cute and sunny. The walls were painted a
beautiful robin's egg blue and the furniture was mostly
white. There was a comfortable-looking bed, a dresser, a
rocking chair, a bed stand, and a few book shelves. Plush
toys and potted plants were situated on the shelves.
"Those are all yours. Sent by your friends."
Joccy's eyes glittered.
"They... they're so kind."
"Very much so." Mary opened another door. "And
here's your bathroom. If you'd like, I can leave you to
"I would like to do that but..." Joccy stared down at her
hands. "I have to put waterproof coverings over my
bandages. Could you... help... please?"
"Of course, dear! I imagine the coverings are in your
"Found them!" Mary held them up with a smile then
carefully unwrapped them. "Just wrap it around?"
Joccy's face flushed slightly. She couldn't believe a
saint was helping her like this...
"You're going to have to get over that, you know."
"Me, I guess."
Joccy smiled and bowed her head.
"Yeah... I guess I'm just in awe. Which... is
weird. Because... cause I don't feel... awkward like this
with... with..." She sighed.
Mary squeezed her shoulder.
"It's just the novelty. And... Yeshua has a way of putting
people at ease. But, trust me, things will be better by
tomorrow morning... if not before. One look at me in my
flannel pajamas and my hair sticking every which way as I
scramble for coffee... it kills the aura of sainthood pretty
quickly, I think."
Joccy laughed, truly and deeply laughed.
"Thanks. And... I'm more pleasant after my coffee, too."
"Noted." She tucked a final bit of plastic covering.
"I think you're set."
"Thank you. I appreciate it... all of it."
"It's our pleasure, truly. We'll see you in a bit but if
you decide you just need some time for yourself, that's fine,
"I think I'm up for visiting," Joccy assured.
"Wonderful! We'll have some tea and cookies waiting for
you." Mary smiled again then closed the door.
Joccy looked around the room once more, feeling immensely
grateful and blessed, then stepped into the bathroom. All
of her toiletries were already laid out. The only thing
missing was her razor which she couldn't blame either Catherine
or Mary for keeping away.
It took her longer than normal to shower and washing her hair
was quite the task. But Joccy felt much better when she
was finished and she was grateful that there were no signs of
blood peeking around her bandages. Brushing her hair,
however, proved too taxing. She was debating what to do...
throw a scarf over her hair? stay in her room? just go out there
with her hair a mess of tangles?... when there was a knock on
"Joccy, it's me. Just got to thinking that you may need
help with your hair," Mary called. "If you want me to..."
Joccy opened the door and nodded.
"Please. I was just trying to figure that out."
"I was hoping you'd let me. I used to love brushing out
Yemmy's hair and styling it."
Mary waved to the bed and sat down behind Joccy.
"Is that why some people say you were a hair stylist?" Joccy
"Hmm... Maybe so! I did enjoy it. But never as
a profession. I just found it very soothing... and a good
opportunity to catch up with Yemmy... sometimes my only
opportunity as she got older and we spent more and more time
"I love Jemima. She's been so helpful and kind and... it
made not having visitors so much easier," Joccy admitted.
"Not that they didn't offer to come. It's just... thinking
someone coulda been exposed because of me... I couldn't
take that stress on top of..."
Mary squeezed Joccy's shoulders when she drifted off.
"I hope Emma gets to meet you at some point," Joccy
resumed. "It would mean a lot to her."
"It would mean a lot to me, too! She does such a wonderful
job of bringing me to life... even if it's not exactly me."
"Yeah... I imagine Lucius would have some thoughts on 'I
Don't Know How to Love Him.'"
"I have some thoughts on it! It's a beautiful song but..."
Joccy smiled when a nearby mirror revealed Mary wrinkling her
"I love Yeshua. More than I love anyone. But... not
like that. He was... and is... more like a big brother
than anything. He was so much older. Although...
Lucius was older, too. But... I didn't grow up seeing him
as much older."
"Takoda is eleven years older than me." Joccy blushed when
she realized her saying that made it sound like they were the
equivalent of Mary and Lucius.
"True. But I count their ages differently. The
angels' ages, I mean. Think about Violeta. She's
twenty three but..."
Joccy giggled. Violeta definitely didn't seem twenty
"I happen to know that Takoda has only been visiting the mortal
realms since 2000," Mary continued.
"That's the year I was born."
"So... we're basically the same age. I mean... he does
feel like a peer."
"Because he is, dear."
Joccy silently contemplated this. If she were completely
honest with herself, part of why she'd pulled away from Takoda
was because she couldn't understand why someone like him would
care about her. He was an angel... stronger, wiser, more
capable. But then... hadn't she known from the beginning
that he was fallible? That his emotions sometimes took
control of him just as hers did? They'd only met because
he'd run away from Joshua, from Heaven. And she'd tried to
run towards him, towards Heaven. They'd both been wrong in
opposite and yet similar ways.
"I... I miss him."
"And I... I don't just mean since... since it happened.
I've missed him since January when... when... I started to get
more distant because... cause of... of Jayden."
Mary placed a final ribbon then was finished styling Joccy's
hair into a braided, partial ponytail.
"Do you think..."
"Hmm?" Mary encouraged.
"Do you think Takoda would... could... if Kelly's still up for
it... Jemima mentioned..."
Mary hugged Joccy.
"Kelly is still willing to have someone stay with her.
And, yes, I think Takoda would be happy to do so. But...
let's give it a day. See how you feel tomorrow.
After some sleep, hmm?"
Joccy nodded. That was a good idea. She needed a
good night's sleep in a comfortable, quiet bed... no beeping, no
nurses whispering. If she asked Takoda now, he would come
immediately. And she felt too raw and tired for that.
"Would you still like to come chat?" Mary checked. "It's
okay if not..."
"No... I would. Please."
"Then let's go meet the fellows!"
Mary took Joccy's arm and helped her from the bed. They
were at the end of the hall when Joccy abruptly stopped.
"Should I wear a mask? I feel fine but if I caught it in
The man nearest to them rose from the couch and smiled, shaking
"No need to worry about that, miss. We're dead."
"Dead to the world... alive in Christ," the other corrected.
"What he said."
Joccy smiled as she studied them. She was instantly
intrigued. They appeared to be in their thirties, both
tanned but more like Lucius than Mary or Joshua. Both were
brunettes but one had hair a few shades lighter than the
other. The darker one was wearing jeans and a T-shirt
emblazoned with a rainbow cross and the words "Love is
Love." The lighter haired man was also donning jeans but,
to Joccy's delight, had on a Crocetti's Cucina T-shirt.
"I know them!" Joccy exclaimed. "The Crocettis, I
mean. Isolde and Marco."
"Great food! I hope I get to meet them some day,
too. I've heard... very interesting and inspiring things
about them. I'm Bacchus, by the way. Bach to my
friends." The man winked. "I like you. You can
call me Bach. And this is my anam cara, Sergius."
The other man held out his hand.
"Joccy. And... it's so good to meet you both."
"Sit, everyone. Eat up," Lucius directed as he set a plate
of cookies down on a coffee table that already bore a teapot and
"How do you take your tea, dear?" Mary asked.
"It's Earl Grey."
"One of my favorites! Cream and sugar then, please," Joccy
"Coming right up!" Mary smiled as she prepared the
cup. "That's the way I take mine, too."
"Gentlemen?" Lucius checked.
"Just black," Serge replied. "Please."
"Two sugars, please?" Bach requested.
As Mary and Lucius prepared the tea, Joccy continued to study
the two men, trying to place them.
"I... well, I'm afraid I don't know who you are," she
admitted. "Were you friends with Lucius?"
Serge shook his head.
"Not til Heaven. We missed him by a few centuries.
Born in the late 3rd century and died in the 4th century A.D."
"Are you... martyrs?" Joccy asked gently.
"We were soldiers in the Roman Army... and covert
Christians. When we were outed... in more ways than one...
I was tortured to death and Serge here was beheaded."
"I'm so sorry..."
"Didn't take." He rolled his head and chuckled.
"I just... I grew up in the Catholic Church and attended
Catholic schools. I don't remember either of you.
"Not your fault," Bach assured, carefully patting Joccy's right
hand. "Erasure happens."
"Yeah... So... did other Christians of your time know
about you two? I mean about... your being anam caras?"
Joccy inquired, emboldened by the relaxed nature of the two.
"Not in those words. But yes. There... well, there
are a lot of differences between the Christianity we grew up
with and the Christianity you grew up with, I'm afraid," Bach
opined. "We definitely had values when it came to
relationships. But this purity culture nonsense..."
Joccy's face flushed.
"That's exactly what it is. Nonsense," Serge agreed as
Mary and Lucius nodded. "I'm not saying it all comes from
an evil place. Many people mean well. But..."
"Some are a little too fond of the Madonna/whore complex."
Mary sipped her tea. "So Serge and Bach are erased and I
don't get any nuance. Even Maryam doesn't get any
nuance. She was in love with Yosef. Always.
Whatever happened between them obviously honored God but... the
rest of us don't need to be privy to it."
Joccy peered intently and with admiration at the four. Her
father would have flipped out by now. But there was no way
he knew more than three centuries old saints.
"To be fair, Christianity doesn't hold a monopoly on dubious
beliefs about sexuality and women," Lucius offered. "I
spent my early years worshiping gods with a mythology dotted
with numerous rapes of young women. Not to mention the
goings on with some of those caesars..."
Mary squeezed his hand.
"And yet... you turned out very well."
"Thanks to Abigail. She was my wet nurse... mother,
really. She was Jewish," he explained to Joccy who nodded
with vague recollection.
"A rebel in her own way," Mary added. "It's not as if
Judaism had it all right."
"No..." Lucius patted her back.
"Anyway..." Mary smiled at Joccy. "Is everything in
your room okay? Because the guys can move things around if
Joccy shook her head.
"No, no. It's perfect. I really appreciate it... all
"It was fun for us. Imagine our surprise when we woke up
one day and our one-bedroom had become a two-bedroom."
"Really. Although I'm pretty confident that if we were to
look at a blueprint, it's still a one-bedroom. Miracles
and all." Lucius glanced at the ceiling.
Joccy smiled as she nibbled on a cookie.
"So, Mary and Lucius, how about you tell us how you've been
keeping busy down here?" Serge suggested. "It's been quite
After the couple exchanged smiles, they took turns regaling the
other three with their adventures... and misadventures with
Joccy took it all in, growing more and more comfortable around
the others and enjoying the break from her current reality.
Sunday, September 13th, 2020
On Sunday morning, Mary led a brief service after
breakfast. Joccy closed her eyes and sang along to
familiar hymns like "In the Garden" and "Abide With Me."
Her favorite part was when Mary sung a hymn in Aramaic.
She'd glanced over at Lucius and been touched to see him
smiling so proudly.
Afterwards, Lucius headed out on his errands, leaving the two
women to visit alone.
"So... have you thought more about inviting Takoda?" Mary
asked as she refilled Joccy's cup of coffee.
"Thank you... and yes. I... I want to ask him but... I
feel like when I ask him, he'll say yes whether he wants to or
"Maybe so. But it would still be his decision. In
spite of what I said yesterday, he is an adult, capable of
making his own decisions whatever the reasons behind
them. And since he is an angel... he wouldn't be as
limited. He could still go back to Dyeland when he
wants... after enjoying Andrew's shower, of course."
"You know about that?"
Mary laughed and nodded.
"Andrew and JenniAnn are... well... I mean it's not like we
ever invade their privacy. That would be wrong.
But some of us peek down every once in a while. They're
Giggling, Joccy nodded.
"They are. So... Do I ask Kelly first or..."
"You don't really have to ask. She's expecting
someone. But might be good to tell her. Shall I
call her over?"
"If you think she's available."
Joccy watched, expecting Mary to call.
Instead, there was a knock on the door and then Kelly's voice.
"Heard you call. Headed in."
Mary laughed at Joccy's amazement.
"Good morning, Mary! And Joccy... sweetheart..."
Joccy rose and moved into the angel's waiting arms.
"How are you doing?" Kelly asked softly.
"I... I'm good. Glad to see you. Glad... to be
Kelly lightly ran her hands over Joccy's hair.
"I'm glad you're here, too. And... I understand you've
found a roommate for me? I'm glad! Getting a bit
too quiet over there."
"I... well... I thought I... I would ask Koda... Takoda,"
Joccy shared as the two sat back down.
"Thanks, Mary." Kelly accepted a mug from the saint then
turned back to Joccy. "I think that's a wonderful idea
and it would mean so much to him. And I'd be delighted
to have him join me. He... well, he reminds me a little
of my son, my Jesse."
Joccy smiled sympathetically and squeezed Kelly's hand then
looked to Mary.
"So... do you do the thing you just did with Kelly or..."
Mary shook her head.
"I think it would mean more to him if you asked him directly."
"Yeah... yeah. That makes sense." Joccy nodded but
Ever patient, Mary simply continued the conversation, allowing
"So what did you think of Serge and Bach?"
"I loved them! I'm just sorry more people don't know
about them. I... well... I had no idea there were gay
saints. I mean... they are gay, right? I guess
anam caras aren't necessarily..."
"Were gay. We're all asexual now.
Although..." Mary tilted her head. "The romance
doesn't really go away. Not when it was real.
So... maybe? Labels don't matter much in Heaven.
We're all just... who we are."
"I like that..." Joccy answered, her voice soft. "I
think... I think I'd like to call Takoda now. When can
"Whenever he wants. I'm ready."
"Maybe we could have dinner together? All five of
us? Might be a nice Sunday tradition?" Mary ventured.
"I like that idea a lot." Joccy hugged Mary and then
Kelly. "Thank you. Both of you. I'm just
gonna step into my room and... and call him."
"Take your time," Mary urged.
Joccy's hands began to shake when she reached her room.
She wasn't even sure what she wanted to say... But she
knew that if she thought too much about it, she'd talk herself
out of it. And she needed to see him. So she
"Joc... I'm here," he answered on the first ring.
Tears welled in Joccy's eyes.
"Hi... Hi, Joc. I... I've missed you."
"I miss you, too, Koda. And... and... Kelly's
here. She moved in next door."
"And... she has an extra bedroom. And she said... well,
that I could ask someone to... to stay there."
There was silence on the other end.
"So... would... you?" Joccy squeaked out.
"When can I come?" Takoda answered without hesitation.
Joccy breathed a sigh of relief.
"Whenever you want."
"I'll start packing now. Won't take long!"
"Do you need the address?"
"No. I have it from... from when I sent..."
Joccy looked over her shoulder to where a peace lily sat on
"The lily... Thank you for that. Everyone...
they've been so good. I especially love the lily."
"I'm glad. Is there anything else I can bring you?"
"Actually... could you ask JenniAnn if I could have some paper
and markers? I'd like to make and send some thank you
"I'm sure she'll agree. It... it'll be nice to do crafts
"It... it really will."
"If there's nothing else... I'd like to start packing," Takoda
said after a few moments of awkward silence. "Unless...
I could keep you on speaker phone while I do?"
"No... nothing else. And that's okay. I should go
tell Mary and Kelly you're on your way. You do... you
don't feel pressured to come, do you? It's okay to say
if..." Joccy stared down at her bandages, fighting
Takoda's voice shook when he replied.
"Joc... I need... I want to see you. I... I feel
so grateful that Kelly's doing this. That you asked
me... There's no pressure. I promise. I want
to come. Badly. Okay?"
"O-okay... Thank you."
"Thank you for asking. I'll be there soon. Within
an hour. Good?"
"Until then... I love you, Joc."
"I... I love you, too, Koda. Good bye."
"Good bye, Joc."
Joccy let out a shaky breath.
In less than an hour... Takoda would be with her.
It took Takoda ten minutes to pack. Another five were
spent helping JenniAnn throw a bunch of craft supplies into a
box. She was determined to give Joccy not only all the
paper and markers she needed but an assortment of yarn,
pom-poms, beads, paint, crayons, coloring books, and more to
keep her busy and content. Then there was a twenty
minute subway commute from a portal to Mary's and Lucius'
apartment building. Takoda stopped at Kelly's apartment
first where she hustled him towards the shower... just in
case. And then, ten minutes later, he was knocking on
the couple's door.
"Takoda, welcome!" Lucius stuck his hand out. "I'm
Lucius. But I know you're not here for me and we can get
to know each other later. Down that hall and to the
"Th-thanks." Takoda smiled at the man and followed his
direction. He stood for a few moments in front of
Joccy's door. "Please... please don't let me say or do
anything stupid or... or that could hurt her, however
unintentionally," he prayed.
Joccy's door opened and Mary stepped out.
"Takoda! Hello! So glad you're here!"
"Am I... interrupting anything?" he asked. "I... I can come
back in a few..."
Mary shook her head.
"Oh no! I was just helping Joccy with her hair.
All done! She's ready for you. Go right in."
Mary smiled, patted the angel on the back, and then headed
towards the living room and Lucius.
Takoda entered Joccy's room and his breath caught in his
She was standing near a window, tending to one of her
plants. With the sunlight, she appeared to be glowing.
Joccy turned towards Takoda and, for a few moments, only
stared. Then she gasped and ran towards him.
Takoda wrapped his arms around her.
"I... I'm so sorry. So sorry I... I did that a-and that
you had... had to see... and... my mind... it... it was all...
all darkness. And..." Joccy's voice was swallowed
by a sob.
"It's okay... it's okay..." Takoda kissed her hair and
steered them to the edge of the bed. Once they were
seated, he wrapped an arm around Joccy while she rested her
head on his shoulder. The angel's breath again caught in
his throat when Joccy settled her hands in her lap and he saw
the carefully wrapped bandages covering her wrists.
Something Andrew had said during their hasty good bye came to
"Scars mean that she stayed. Remember that."
Takoda let out the breath he'd been holding.
Joccy was here. In his arms. There was a lot to
talk about. She needed a lot of help. But she was
alive and she was safe.
"I love you. So much. I... I should have told
you... sooner... more often. I'm... I'm sorry," Takoda
Joccy shook her head and cupped his chin, ignoring the pain in
"I... I knew, Koda. I knew. And you did tell
me. I never, ever doubted that you loved me.
Please... please don't think that I... I did what I did
because... cause I didn't feel loved. I... I knew I was
loved. But I just... I felt horribly, completely broken
and... and unworthy a-and dirty."
Takoda shook his head.
"No..." he protested.
"But it's what I felt and..." Joccy sighed and buried
her face in the angel's shoulder.
"You... you can't still feel..."
"In some ways..."
"I know I shouldn't! I do. But it... it's like
there are two voices in... in my head. And, usually, the
one I hear best... it... it sounds like Joshua. And he
tells me that he loves me and he forgives me and that I'm
worth dying for. But... but sometimes... sometimes
another voice gets louder. And it tells me that I have
to be a... a certain way to be loved, to be worthy... and that
I'm not. I... I've done too many bad things..."
"That voice is wrong, Joc..."
"But... but I did do bad things... with... with Jayden," Joccy
"We all fall short of... of perfection, Joc. But... you
weren't cruel. You didn't hurt anyone."
"I... I hurt you."
Takoda let out a ragged sigh.
"Loving someone means risking getting hurt somehow. I
took that risk. Willingly. You... you loved
Jayden. You were with him because of that. Not
because you wanted to hurt me. Joc... I can't fault you
Joccy stood up and stared out the window.
"Then... I fault myself. I should have known
better. I knew it... it wasn't what Joshua wanted and
I... I still..." She shook her head.
"Hormones and... and urges... They can be difficult to
ignore. You're human, Joc. Joshua understands
that... better than I even can. And I... I think I
understand in some way. And think of where you are right
now, Joc. Lucius and Mary... they were never married,"
Takoda pointed out.
Joccy turned around and looked at Takoda. She'd known
that. It just hadn't entirely clicked.
"The first person Joshua appeared to after the Resurrection
was to a woman who had sex outside of wedlock. The first
real Christian, the first to spread the good news... 'He is
risen.'" Takoda drew closer and lightly stroked Joccy's
hair. "She understands. You can tell her anything
and she'll understand. She'll help you in ways I
can't. Just... promise me you'll give Mary that chance,
Joc. You... you hold stuff back with me. And I
don't blame you for that. But, please... don't with
her. So... so you can feel better a-and heal.
Because I... I don't ever want..." Tears slid down his
cheeks and his breath quickened as he remembered the
chapel. "Don't ever want to... to see you like... like
Joccy hurried towards the angel and hugged him.
"I will... I will, Koda. I promise."
Joccy gave him a trembling smile.
"I'm so glad you're here, Koda."
"I... I'm glad you are, too, Joc."
Takoda returned her smile then the two went quiet, focusing
only on the warmth and closeness of the other.
Sermonizing a Bit
Monday, September 14th, 2020
Joccy awoke with a smile on her face. The previous
evening had been dream-like. Dinner had been a delicious
pot pie with a side of macaroni and cheese. Then Lucius
had proudly brought forth a spice cake that had melted in
Joccy's mouth. And then there had been the
conversation... Kelly reminiscing about creating stars...
Takoda had been right about them... Mary telling stories about
growing up under the watchful and loving gazes of her siblings
and Yeshua and his family...
But Lucius' story had been the best.
Joccy snuggled her face into her pillow as she recalled it.
"And, suddenly, a bright light shone in Sheol. People
began to rejoice. But I was confused... and
scared. Their Messiah had come... theirs. Not
mine. Then Cyrus and Eucharis, Mary's parents, grabbed
my hands and started pulling me towards the light. And I
saw there was a man in the midst of it. He... well,
there was nothing special about his appearance. And
yet... I felt a reverence that I'd never felt... not for
any caesar, any ruler. And... a recognition, a
familiarity, too. As if I had known him... long, long
ago. And then I saw his wrists... The
wounds... Wounds my people had inflicted... I
began to shrink away... in horror, in embarrassment, in
guilt. Suddenly, he was right there beside me. And
he said 'Lucius Caelius, son of Romulus, beloved of Mary bat
Cyrus... it will be written "Greater love has no one than
this: to lay down one's life for one's friends." But you
didn't lay down your life for a friend... you lost your life
trying to save two strangers... because you saw goodness and
worth in them when so many did not. And that... is God's
love. Just as you showed immense love, so shall it be
shown to you.' And then the little boy... the one I
couldn't save... he was there, clinging to the man and smiling
up at him. And I wept at the sheer beauty of it... of
the love that poured out from him... from Yeshua. And I
longed to be like that boy. Yeshua held his hand out to
me and... and I took it. And then I was Home... with
Joccy lingered on the vision of Joshua that Lucius' words had
conjured... the tender look in his eyes... the gentle but
strong way he would have held the Roman's hand... his scars...
Sitting up, Joccy stared at her own wrists. Carefully,
she undid the bandages.
Joshua's scars were beautiful. Hers were not. He
had gotten his saving the world. She had gotten hers
from a poisoned mind... and all it had brought about was
pain... for herself, yes, but more for those she loved.
She screwed her eyes shut as memories of Takoda, thrashing
around the chapel, returned to her.
A knock on her door saved Joccy from further torture.
"Come... come in," she called.
Mary poked her head in.
"Good morning, dear. Just wanted to check on you."
She frowned and stepped into the room. "Joccy..."
Joccy realized Mary was looking to her wrists.
"I... I just wanted to... to see what they looked like this
morning. No change."
"I see. Well, since the bandages are off, why don't we
wash the wounds and change into fresh bandages?"
"Okay. Thank you. What time is it?"
"I had no idea... I'm sorry. We're supposed to
meet at 10:00!"
"No worries at all. You obviously needed some
sleep." Mary stepped into the bathroom and returned with
a basin and washcloth. "After we finish with this, I'll
bring you some breakfast. A lie-in would be good for
you, I think. We can talk here just as well as in the
living room or balcony, hmm?"
"Yes. Thank you... I'm just..."
"You're fine," Mary assured. "Okay, ready?"
Though Mary was exceedingly gentle and careful, Joccy still
winced slightly as she cleaned the scars.
"I'm so sorry," Mary apologized.
"No... no. It... it can't be helped." Joccy
smiled. "It actually hurts less now than when I do it."
Mary returned her smile.
"Well, then, let's plan that I'll do it going forward, okay?"
"I... I can tell you were a good mommy," she murmured.
"Thank you. Yemmy was constantly getting into
scrapes. If there was a tree, she was going to climb
it. If there was a pond, she was going to jump into
it. If there was an animal, she was going to pet
it... whether or not it wanted to be pet."
"Kept me on my toes! And Martha..." Mary
snorted. "She was just beside herself. All that
dirt... But she loved Yemmy. And she was the apple
of Lazar's eye. Kept them young, I think."
"It's hard for me to imagine having a brother and sister who
were so much older," Joccy mused.
"It was odd, I suppose. But it's all I ever knew.
I did sometimes think it would have been nice to have another
sister my own age. Like you and Zoe."
"Yeah..." Joccy sniffled. "I miss her..."
"Maybe later you could try a Zoom call?"
"Maybe..." Joccy stared at her hands. She had
talked to Zoe and her mother on the phone. But she
hadn't let them see her yet.
Mary finished washing and began to bandage Joccy's wrists.
"I think it would do all three of you good," she
"Yeah... I just... Then... they'll see."
"Yes... but seeing might help. People tend to imagine
things as worse than they are."
"True... Has Lucius already left?" Joccy asked to change
"About an hour ago. He had a lot of deliveries.
Did you need anything? I can contact him if..."
"Oh no. Just curious."
"I sometimes think a few of his clients are stocking up beyond
what they truly need just so they have reason to see
him. The little old ladies adore him."
"I can see that. He is very handsome and
personable. You have good tastes."
"Thank you. I think so." Mary smiled
"I loved the story he told last night... about Joshua."
Mary's smile softened.
"I do, too. He's told it so many, many times... and
always his eyes get misty."
A quietness settled into the room, Joccy replaying Lucius'
memory over and over in her mind and Mary focusing on tending
"All set," Mary announced when she was finished. "I'll
give you a few minutes to yourself now while I get some
breakfast and coffee for us. Then we'll chat."
Joccy rested a hand on Mary's arm.
"You're most welcome."
After Mary left, Joccy spent some time making herself more
presentable. As she was selecting some clothes, she
noticed a thin box settled amongst the items Catherine had
packed for her. Joccy removed it and opened the lid,
running her fingers over the turquoise and coral.
"Cool necklace. Part of your heritage?"
"Yeah! The design is Algonquin. That was my
"So it's an heirloom?"
"No. My friend Takoda got it for me for Christmas."
"It's just... feels a little weird for my girlfriend to be
wearing a necklace from some other guy."
"Oh... Yeah. I guess so. Sorry."
Hot tears filled Joccy's eyes. For all she knew,
Jayden had been two-timing her even then. She'd given up
her necklace because she'd wanted to be a good
girlfriend. And all for a crappy boyfriend...
Defiantly, Joccy fastened the necklace around her neck.
When Mary reappeared with a tray of fruit, scones, and coffee,
she said nothing about the necklace, only smiled.
"Here we go. Eat up!" She set the tray on Joccy's
bed then pulled up the rocking chair. "So... if it's all
right with you... I'd like to talk about your childhood."
Mary patted her arm.
"I know how things we hear or were taught as kids can follow
us through our whole lives... even when, deep down, we know
"And I think some of those things you were taught helped bring
about what happened on Tuesday. So... you focus on your
breakfast and allow me to sermonize a bit... pipe up whenever
"Okay..." Joccy took a bite of a scone. The
cinnamon-y goodness of it eased her nerves.
"For all the years between us, I think you and I grew up in
environments that were quite similar in some ways. Women
were valued for their 'purity,' their virginity, and, later,
their fertility. One big difference is I heard those
messages consistently from Martha... with silent acquiescence
from Lazar. They weren't unfeeling... never that.
And... there were things about my brother that I wouldn't
learn until I was in Heaven."
Joccy looked curiously at Mary who sighed sadly.
"Something not everyone thinks about in regards to
misogyny... It hurts men, too. It hurts
everyone. Have you ever wondered why Lazar and Martha
"Yes... actually. I mean... I figured it wasn't our
business but... I did find it curious."
"Lots of people did. Soooo much whispering... They
expected something sordid... but really it was just sad.
Lazar had been in love once. A girl from
Jerusalem. He wanted to marry her but... she was raped
and when she was found to be with child..."
"Her parents married her off to the man who had done it... to
save face. To be fair, it was just as much for her to
save face as their family. But still... It was
awful. Something broke in Lazar. After that, I
think Yeshu... and Yosef before he died... were the only men
Lazar trusted. If Yeshu had asked for Martha's hand...
Lazar probably would have consented. But he never did,
of course. And Martha... well, Lazar let her have her
way in nearly all things." Mary smiled fondly.
"She wasn't about to give that up and risk marrying a
controlling husband. And she had a baby to raise...
me. She was content. And she was determined to
protect me. So... I was taught to be demure, to be
faithful, to be chaste... just as you were. The big
difference was you also had the wider culture selling you
other messages... Messages about how to snag a man, how
to keep a man, how to be sexy, what to buy to obtain the same,
and so on."
"Yeah..." Joccy agreed in between sips of her coffee.
"The thing is... neither is completely wrong. Sex...
it's meant to be sacred. It's meant to be shared by two
people who love each other. It's not evil. It's a
commitment... or should be. But you were taught to fear
Joccy nodded, remembering the aborted virginity test.
"With your father and Emma... You saw how sex could be
used to control someone, to demean them. And when Emma
was cast out... when your father reacted so negatively to a
simple act of pure, child-like admiration... when he made it
clear that you would be diminished in his eyes if you lost
your virginity... that fear increased. So... It's
no wonder to me that when someone offered you a different way
of seeing it... of experiencing it... with someone you
loved... you yearned for that. I understand that hunger,
that need, Joccy. My ex-husband, Yakan, had left me
feeling so... worthless, so used. So when
Lucius... Well... truth be told... I'm the one who came
into his bedroom. I'm the one who asked to stay."
Mary bowed her head and smiled, lost in memories for a few
Joccy sighed. There was something extraordinary in
Mary's expression, something she longed for.
"Anyway... After Yeshu healed me... even though I knew
he was the Messiah... I told him that I was sorry that Lucius
and I hadn't been married and I was sorry that we had
sinned... but I wasn't sorry for loving him. And do you
know what he said?"
Joccy shook her head.
"He said I shouldn't be sorry for loving him. Even
though he knew that love had led me to sin, he
understood. And he forgave me. Later, when we were
both Home, he explained it like this: stealing is wrong.
It's a sin. But... imagine if you'd baked a loaf of
bread and then saw it had been stolen. You might be
angry. But then imagine you track the culprit down...
and you find a starving child. How angry would you be?"
"I... I wouldn't be."
"Of course not. And if you feel that... imagine how God
feels when it's His own children."
Joccy thought on this.
"But... Lucius... he's a good man. Jayden..." She
shook her head. "He... he was... not good. At
least... not with me."
"But you didn't know that, dear. Not at the time.
So why would God hold his behavior against you?"
"I..." Joccy halted and thought. "I guess he
"Correct!" Mary confirmed with a smile.
Joccy laughed quietly.
"It's just... a lot."
"I know, dear. But you have plenty of time to think on
"Yeah..." Joccy took another bite of scone. "Did
Lucius bake these? Delicious..."
"He sure seems to make a lot of food. Is it, like,
Mary shook her head and laughed.
"He doesn't get stressed any more. More like...
stress-sympathy-baking. I'm so glad I no longer have a
mortal's metabolism. I'm sure I'd be having some health
issues by now... He's learned to bake scones, crumpets,
fruit pies, cream pies..."
Joccy continued to indulge in her breakfast and listened with
amusement as Mary ran through the list of her beloved's many,
many culinary adventures.
Next door, Takoda and Kelly were also enjoying some of the
scones their neighbors had sent over... and engaging in a
counseling session of their own.
"Do you think I came on too strong? Like... maybe I
should have kept my feelings to myself," Takoda
pondered. "I mean... she would have still felt
badly. Cheating hurts. But... I... I think she
felt guilty, too. She wouldn't have if..."
"I think if you had kept your feelings to yourself, we'd be
having a conversation about how things might have turned out
differently if you'd been more open," Kelly interrupted.
Takoda gave her a slight smile. He had thought such
things since Tuesday...
"I think..." Kelly reached across the table and patted
her fellow angel's hand. "I think there was a lot going
on under the surface with Joccy. And nothing you could
have done... or not done... would have kept it from eventually
"So then... Joshua... why didn't he... I only mean... in the
times he's visited her couldn't he have... fixed her?" Takoda
"Because nothing fixes the scars leftover from an overbearing
father figure like an even more important father figure just
taking control and... POOF... fixing everything," Kelly
countered. "Joshua wants a living, breathing, dynamic
child... not a toy to tinker with."
"Takoda, there's no use in continuing down this path of 'if
only...' Tuesday happened. We can't change that."
"I know..." Takoda rubbed at his temples. "I just
keep thinking there's something I missed... and if I learn
what it was... then I can keep this from happening again."
"That's something you have to entrust to Joccy. She made
a decision. It's a decision she now regrets... but she
made it. What you need to do is focus on helping her,
supporting her in making good choices... not taking choices
away from her."
Takoda nodded as tears filled his eyes.
"I... I just can't get the images out of my head...
Finding her... all... all the blood and she was so... so
Kelly moved and wrapped her arms around him.
"I know, honey. I know how hard it can be to let those
images go. Trust me... I know. But they'll lessen
with time. And they'll be replaced by more and more good
images. It just... it takes time."
"And time... time is what you have now," Kelly assured.
Takoda inhaled and let it out slowly.
"Yeah... I do."
The two proceeded with their breakfast, the younger angel
feeling somewhat calmer.
After lunch, Joccy settled herself onto the living room couch
with her laptop. She was going to call her mom and
sister... with Lucius and Mary looking over her from the
kitchen in case intervention was needed.
She initiated the Zoom call and, to her relief, found Zoe
alone was waiting.
"Zoe..." she murmured.
Zoe looked up from her phone and peered at the computer
"Joccy... I... I..."
Joccy's heart sank when her sister began to cry.
"I'm so glad to... to see you," Zoe managed. "You
Joccy smiled through her own tears.
"Mary and Lucius take really good care of me. I feel
"I'm so glad, Joccy. Really I am."
"Thanks. So... how are you?"
"Well... relieved, of course. I just... I wish... I wish
you would have... talked to some of us before..."
Joccy bowed her head and nodded.
"I know. I should have. I can't even entirely
explain it. I just... I went to a very dark place and...
and it felt like talking wouldn't help... only... only Joshua
"But... sometimes he helps through others, through us," Zoe
"I know... I see that so clearly now but... I'm
sorry, Zoe. So sorry..."
"Joccy... I... I didn't mean to make you feel bad.
I just... it was... really, really bad."
"I know... And I understand."
"Promise me you won't ever, ever do that again?"
"No matter what?"
"No matter what," Joccy vowed.
"Good. Thank you."
"Welcome. So... where's Mom?"
Zoe's face flushed.
"Well... I actually told her you said the call was at
1:15. I just... I wanted a little time just for the two
Joccy returned her sister's smile.
"I'm glad. How... how's she doing?"
"She's... kind of a mess. Been talking about how much
her and our father screwed up... The thing is... she's
not wrong. I mean, yeah, it was mostly him. But...
she could have protected us more."
"I'm sorry you're having to deal with that.
Really. If there's anything I can do..."
Zoe shook her head.
"You need to focus on you right now. I can handle
Mom. And... I have Amber-Marie on speed dial. She
"Aww. That's good."
"Are you... in any pain?" Zoe asked.
"Not much. Every so often when I'm not thinking and
twist my wrist. Mary's been helping me brush my hair
since that's been the hardest thing."
"It looks really pretty!"
Joccy touched the elaborate braid Mary had put in that
"So... Takoda's there?"
Joccy blushed and nodded.
"Next door. Staying with Kelly. I... I thought
about asking you, Zoe. I really did. But... I
thought... it's safer where you are. And Takoda isn't
as... as boxed in as you'd be. Plus..."
Zoe shook her head.
"Joccy... stop. I wasn't fishing for an
explanation. I'm really glad he's there. He's your
best friend. He should be there. And I do like
having a yard to roam... So does Peri."
Joccy smiled with relief.
"So what have you and Mary been talking about... if you want
to share, I mean?" Zoe inquired.
"Well... this morning we talked about how some of the messages
we got as kids... especially from dad... were messed up."
"Umm... yeah. But you more than me, Joccy. I had
you to shield me and explain things to me. You had... no
"I... I tried, Zoe. But... just... be careful.
That doesn't mean those ideas aren't still lurking... waiting
to attack at a vulnerable time."
"I'll be careful. I promise. I'm... I'm sorry they
"Me too... But I'm learning to ignore them."
Zoe looked over her shoulder and then whispered.
Jodi appeared on Joccy's screen, her eyes red and puffy.
"I... I wish I was there to hug you."
"I know, Mom... I wish you were, too. But... I
want everyone to stay safe."
"How are you feeling? I really hope you didn't catch it
in the hospital."
"I'm good. I take my temperature every morning and
evening. It's been normal, thankfully."
"And... and how are you doing otherwise?"
"I... well, I'm feeling a lot better, Mom. Mary and
Lucius are just..." Joccy turned around and beamed at
the couple. "So wonderful. And being here... it's
helping a lot."
"I just... I can't forgive myself. If you'd had a normal
childhood..." Jodi began to weep.
"Mom, stop," Zoe whispered. "You can't put that on Joccy
"I... I'm sorry," Joccy offered. "I... You..." She
wanted to say that there was nothing her mom could have
done... but that wasn't exactly true.
Jodi pulled herself together.
"I love you so much, Joccy. Please know that."
"I... I do, Mom. I really do," Joccy insisted.
"It's not that I felt unloved. It... it really
wasn't. I was just... confused a-and upset. But...
now I'm getting better. I will get better."
Joccy bristled. She didn't want to be called that any
more. But she also didn't want to get into it right now.
Suddenly, Mary was beside her.
"Hi, Zoe! Hi, Jodi! I'm Mary."
Zoe grinned. Jodi gaped.
"Hi Mary! Oh my gosh! You're so pretty!" Zoe
enthused. "I mean... not that I expected you wouldn't
be. It's just..." She giggled. "Sorry.
"Hi, sweetheart. It's so good to meet you. And
you, too, Jodi. And, you know, I'm a mom. And if
my girl was staying with someone, I'd want to meet them.
So... Lucius, please come over here."
Lucius ducked behind Joccy and smiled and waved.
"Hello! Greetings from New York!"
Joccy suppressed a giggle when she saw her mother's face
flush. She was clearly impressed by the handsome Roman.
Mary winked at Joccy.
"Lucius, why don't you tell Jodi and Zoe some of the meals you
have planned for Joccy's stay with us," Mary encouraged.
"Oh... okay. Happily!"
And Lucius was off... rambling about caprese salad and fish
tacos and coconut shrimp and more.
Mary gently stroked Joccy's back, soothing her.
And all was well for the rest of the call.
That afternoon, as Lucius prepared dinner and Mary tended to
some letters, Joccy and Takoda sat in the former's room,
working on making thank you notes.
"So how did your chat with your mom and Zoe go?" Takoda asked
as he traced a design onto a piece of cardstock.
"Pretty good. I was so glad to catch up with Zoe and...
I hope... assure her that I'm doing better. And it was
good to see my mom just... more tense."
Takoda only nodded, not wanting to pry.
"I dunno... I feel bad for her cause she was a victim of
my dad in her own right. But... she was also an
adult. Sometimes I wonder why we didn't move in with my
grandparents earlier... it's what ended up happening,
anyway. And it... it woulda been nice to have those
years with my grandpa before he died."
"I can understand being frustrated like that."
"I guess she was trapped... in a way. Divorce being
frowned upon by the Church... but that ended up happening
anyway, too. And... I know Emma's forgiven her.
But... I'm not sure I have. I mean... Emma was
even younger than I am now. To just let a young woman...
no, a girl... carry that shame... even to add onto
it..." Joccy shook her head.
"I think the big difference is Emma doesn't really have to
deal with your mom. She sees her once or twice a year...
they exchange pleasantries... that's about it. But she's
"So your feelings are completely valid."
Joccy set down her marker and stared at the angel.
"Can you please stop?" she asked.
Takoda met her eyes and blinked.
Joccy bowed her head.
"I'm sorry. That came out more sharply than I meant."
Takoda squeezed her shoulder.
"It's okay. But... stop what?"
"It's just... You keep replying with... I dunno...
therapy-speake. And you seem so... toned down. And
it makes me feel bad. Like... like you can't be yourself
around me anymore," Joccy confessed.
Takoda moved to sit beside her. When she rested her head
on his shoulder, he wrapped an arm around her and gently took
one of her hands in his.
"I'm sorry. That's not what I wanted at all, Joc.
I guess I just... I don't want to upset you any more than...
than you are."
"I know... But it's upsetting to... to not..."
Joccy shook her head. "I'm not sure how to say it.
But... but like maybe one bright spot to come out of this
could be us... going back to how it was in the
beginning. But when we can't be open and honest...
But then maybe I'm a hypocrite. I keep a lot to
myself. I dunno... I'm so confused, Koda.
"Oh, Joc... It's okay. I... I'm confused,
too. I'm worried that I'll say something and make things
worse... but then I'm also worried that not saying something
will make things worse. And I just... I want you to be
happy. More than anything. But I know I can't
magically make that happen... but to think I actually
contributed to... to hurting you... I can't."
"I know... So... so let's just agree to be honest.
And if it's too much for the other, we call a time-out and
change the subject or go talk with other people. Do you
think that would work?" Joccy asked.
Takoda smiled and nodded.
"So... anything you'd like to say?"
"Yeah... I guess just that... that I can't help being
angry at your mom. Definitely, definitely angry at your
father. But he's out of the picture. So... it
becomes easier to focus on your mom. But... I wasn't
there. I don't know how things were. I just know
that growing up like you did... it hurt you. And that
makes me angry," Takoda admitted. "And I guess...
It's just that when you've talked about your grandparents...
they sound great. They sound like they were independent
thinkers... like your grandma still is. And I have to
imagine they raised your mom to be one. So I just don't
understand... why did she put up with him? If it had
just been her... not our business what happens between two
people. But it wasn't just her. She had two little
"It... actually helps to hear you say that. Because
sometimes I feel bad. Anti-feminist or something.
Because it was my father who cheated... my father who hurt
Emma so badly. And I don't like when women are blamed
for men's bad behavior. But... I do blame her. She
was supposed to protect us... not play along. And I
think I'd understand it more if my grandparents had been
diehard Catholics like my dad and his family. But they
weren't. So it's not like she was brainwashed from a
young age. They were just... normal Catholics.
But... love makes us do things we might not otherwise, I
guess..." Joccy frowned.
"I guess," Takoda agreed. "But..." He gave her an
affectionate squeeze. "Please tell me you're not
equating what happened between you and Jayden with the way
your mom enabled your father with you girls."
"It's not the same. What happened between you and
Jayden... that impacted the two of you. What happened
with your parents... that impacted impressionable children."
"What happened with me and Jayden also impacted you..."
"But I'm not a child, Joccy."
Takoda kissed her hair.
"Listen, I've known from the start that my feelings... they
were maybe going to be unrequited. It was the same for
Andrew, for Monica, for so many others who we probably don't
even know about. I could have asked to go
elsewhere. But I chose not to. Because whatever
else... you're my friend, Joc. And I would have missed
you. I'm not a victim. A sap, maybe. But not
Joccy laughed and patted the angel's hand.
"Nothing wrong with being a sap. I like saps.
And... you're right. It's just... I remember when I used
to just have a crush on Jayden, before he really noticed
me. And sometimes it was fun. But a lot of
times... it hurt. It kept me up at night. I... I
don't like thinking I'm the source of the same sort of...
angst, I guess... for you."
"I know the feeling..." Takoda murmured.
Joccy said nothing.
"I... Joccy, I can't shake the feeling that... that I'm part
of why... Tuesday happened how it did."
"Oh, Koda..." Joccy moved to wipe away his tears then,
self-conscious, lowered her hands.
"Your note... you sounded like... like you felt guilty.
A-and maybe that guilt..." The angel shook his head as
the tears became too much to control. "I'm sorry..."
"Koda... Sweet Koda..." Joccy cooed as she set aside her
discomfort and wiped at his face with a handkerchief.
"I... I did feel some guilt. But it's not anything
you... put on me. I just... I felt bad. Because I
knew you loved me... and I loved you. Love you.
And... I felt like... and in some ways I did... turn away from
that for... for something that ended up not being real."
"Your feelings were real Joc... There's no shame in
that," Takoda stressed. "Whatever Jayden felt... you
shouldn't feel guilty for... for loving someone."
Joccy smiled softly.
"Exactly. You shouldn't feel guilty for loving
someone... no matter what they did."
In spite of his lingering tears, Takoda smiled.
"You trapped me with my own words."
"Mmm hmm." Joccy gently stroked some hair from his face.
They peered into each other's eyes for several moments.
Then Takoda spoke.
Joccy looked down and fingered the beads.
"I missed it. I'm sorry I stopped wearing it.
He... didn't like that I was wearing something from...
you. Maybe... maybe I should have realized then that
something was up. Like he was jealous and worried I'd
cheat... because he knew he was cheating."
"You couldn't have known."
"Have you... heard from him?" Takoda asked with some
"I'm so sorry, Joc," Takoda apologized, sincerely.
"I... you know, I'm kinda not. It hurts... don't get me
wrong. But it also... it makes things clearer. He
didn't really care. I... I still have feelings for
him. But... I think I'm realizing that... that I loved
someone who wasn't really there. Not like I thought he
"Yeah..." Joccy sniffled. "I just wish..."
She shook her head, not wanting to go further.
Takoda patted her shoulder.
"Maybe we should get back to your thank you notes?" he
Joccy smiled and nodded.
"Yeah. Let's do that. Thank you for helping."
"It's my pleasure. Is it... helping? I hope."
"It is. I mean... it felt awkward at first. It's
weird to thank people for sending you something because you
tried to kill yourself... But I am grateful. And
it feels good to express that. Plus I missed my crafting
Joccy returned his smile and the two settled back down to
Tuesday, September 15th, 2020
Joccy and Mary were settled on the patio with some
iced tea and jam and goat cheese sandwiches.
"Such a beautiful day!" Mary praised.
Joccy smiled and nodded in agreement.
"I'm not sure how much longer we'll be able to enjoy mornings
on the patio without at least jackets... but I'm going to take
what I can get," Mary continued.
"I love the fall. I hope we don't hurry into winter like
some years. And... I hope the COVID rates don't explode
when people can't mingle outdoors."
"Me too..." Mary lifted her eyes in a brief prayer then
returned her attention to Joccy. "So you mentioned that
you and Takoda talked some about your mom yesterday?"
"I... I guess I'm coming to terms with how I'm kinda still mad
at her. I mean... after my father went away and we moved
to Connecticut, we went into family counseling. And I
thought I was over it. But... I was still pretty young
then. I didn't really realize the impact my past was
going to have on me with relationships."
"No, you wouldn't have. Resuming family counseling might
be something to consider... even if it has to be done
remotely... later on. In the meantime, were there
specific things you had in mind? Specific incidences?"
"Well... yeah. But first... Right after I... I
lost consciousness, I went... somewhere. It was a huge
house with so many doors. And each door led to a
different memory. Where was that?"
"It wasn't really anywhere. At least, not anywhere
physical. That was your mind trying to make sense of
things, trying to work through what had brought you to that
"That makes sense. Well... there was a 'room'... a
memory... that... that I hadn't really thought about in a long
time. When... when my mom took me to the doctor."
Mary nodded in recognition.
"She could have put her foot down. I doubt he would have
taken me himself. And even if she felt she had to take
me... she could have talked to me. Explained. I
was so confused... and then so embarrassed. And the
message I took away from it is they would both reject me if...
if I didn't wait until I was married."
"That was wrong," Mary confirmed. "And I'm not sure why
your mom acted like she did. But I think sometimes
people... well, they make one concession that they shouldn't
have... and then another... and another... and then they lose
"Yeah... maybe that was it. I didn't tell her... that
I'd had sex with Jayden, I mean," Joccy admitted.
"You're a grown woman. You don't need to."
"But... I feel like... like if you'd been my mother, I would
have told you." Joccy gave Mary a wan smile. "I
feel like I should be able to tell her... but... I
can't. Because just cause my father's out of the
picture... I don't know what she really believes."
"And you couldn't know... not unless she told you. And
it sounds like communication is a big problem."
"Did you tell anyone?"
"Just Takoda... and eventually Emma."
"How did they respond?"
"Takoda was... he was so kind. I know it hurt him but he
just said that he hoped it would work out for me. And
Emma... She just wanted to make sure I was okay.
And she told me to let her know if I had any questions or
anything I wanted to talk about."
"And did you talk about it any more?" Mary asked.
"Not really. It... I mean it only happened three
times. And he used protection. And then lockdown
started and... it just wasn't an issue any more."
"Is there anything you want to talk about now?"
Mary reached over and patted her arm.
"I'm over 2,000 years old, dear. I've seen and heard a
lot... experienced some things, too."
"Well, it's just... The first time was kind of
weird. Kind of uncomfortable. But not bad.
And the second and third times... it felt... good.
And... I almost wish that... that I hadn't liked it."
"Why?" Mary gently questioned.
"Because... cause then... then I would know I could give it
"Why would you give it up?"
Joccy looked in the direction of Kelly's apartment.
"Because of Takoda?" Mary guessed.
The young woman nodded.
"It's not impossible," Mary assured. "But... it has to
be what you want. It can't be something you give up
because you think it's expected of you."
Joccy stared down at her hands and bit her lip.
"Out with it," Mary encouraged. "I can tell you want to
Joccy looked up and smiled shyly.
"It's just... you were happy with Lucius, right? When
you were... intimate?"
"But... after he'd died... after you started following
Joshua... did you... was there anyone else? I'm sorry if
that's too..." Joccy cringed.
"It's not. It's relevant. And no. There was
no one else."
"So... you lived for quite a while without..."
"Was that hard?"
"Sometimes. It got easier when time went on. But
sometimes... I'd have a dream about Lucius and I'd wake up
wanting him but..." Mary looked up at the sky. "It
wouldn't have been the same with someone else."
Joccy thought of what she'd seen of the two. They
clearly loved each other very much... and she suspected they
were downplaying their affection out of respect for her
wounded heart. But still that love had shone through.
"The thing to remember is you have time, Joccy. Even if
you were to decide you wanted to spend your life with
Takoda... you're twenty. Look at Andrew and
JenniAnn. They've known each other since she was
seventeen. But she was in her early thirties before they
moved in together and everything," Mary reminded.
"Not saying you have to take things that slow... but you
certainly could and that would be just fine. That's part
of what's so wonderful about this time and place. You're
not rushed into marriage when you're so young."
"That's definitely a good thing," Joccy agreed.
Mary waved at the sandwiches.
"Try to eat a little?" she encouraged.
Joccy nodded, selected a sandwich, and took a bite.
Joccy took a few more bites then looked over at Mary.
"Can I ask you something else... about you and Lucius?"
"When you were with him... did you wish that... that he'd been
Mary contemplated the question.
"I suppose in a way. Because my ex-husband... he wasn't
caring or gentle. Lucius was. It might have been
nice to only remember him but..." Mary shrugged. "Can't
change the past. And who's to say I would have met
Lucius if I hadn't been kicked out of Yakan's house?"
"True... Did you get the impression that... that Lucius
"No. And he knew I was divorced. Certainly there
were men who would have cared... still are. But many
"And... what if he'd been an angel? Takoda acts like he
doesn't care but..." Joccy frowned.
"That might be a better question for an angel. Like...
maybe Andrew?" Mary suggested.
"But... JenniAnn was... is... a virgin."
"I know. But... I still think it would help."
"I like Andrew. Sure. Is this like the Kelly
thing? Is he waiting on Zoom right now?" she questioned.
Mary grinned and nodded.
"But... He's also fine to reschedule if you'd rather."
Laughing, Joccy shook her head.
"No. I'd like to talk to him. And I won't keep an
angel of death and father of five waiting..."
"Good! You keep eating. I'll grab your laptop."
Mary jumped up and left Joccy for a few moments.
When she returned, Joccy opened up her laptop and then the
Zoom app. She smiled when she saw a meeting had already
been scheduled. When she opened it, Andrew was there
with Avi sleeping in his arms.
"Oh... So precious..." Joccy cooed.
Andrew smiled at the screen.
"Hey, Joccy. It's so good to see you! So good!"
"Thanks, Andrew. It's really good to see you, too.
And lil Avi... How's everyone there?"
"Doing well. So happy that you're doing better."
"I... I really am. Thank you and JenniAnn for the cute
little roses... did you make that planter?"
"I did," Andrew confirmed.
"It's so beautiful. And please give my thanks to
JenniAnn for the craft supplies. I'm working on getting
thank you notes out."
"I will do that. But you take your time."
"I will," Joccy promised.
"So there was something you wanted to ask me?" Andrew
"I... well, yeah... I just... I mean I know she
didn't but... supposing JenniAnn would have... slept with
someone before you two got together... I mean would you
have... cared?" Joccy asked.
Andrew's expression softened.
"I would have cared if she'd cared. I wouldn't have
wanted her to feel like she couldn't talk about it... like we
were just going to ignore it. But if you're asking me if
I would have felt differently about Laja... No. I
wouldn't have. I loved her. I love her still... so
much. She still would have been Laja.
"And?" Joccy prompted when the angel stopped speaking.
"I'm not sure... This is just me, Joccy. Remember
that. I can't speak for every angel but... I don't think
I could have stopped loving her. No matter what.
And I don't mean... it's not like I don't have a choice.
I do. I choose to love her. But I also... I don't
think I have it in me to choose to stop. I love her more
and more every day... never less. So even if... if she
left me for someone else tomorrow... which I know she won't
but supposing she did... if she came back... I'd want her
back. No matter what happened."
Joccy began to softly cry.
"I... I'm sorry if... if I said something wrong," Andrew
Joccy smiled at him and shook her head.
"No... Not at all, Andrew. That... it was
beautiful. And it helped. Thank you."
Andrew, his own eyes misty, returned Joccy's smile.
"I'm glad. If there's anything else I can do... I'm only
a call away."
"I'll remember. Thank you, Andrew."
"You bet, Joccy."
"G'bye, kiddo. Take care!"
When Joccy ended the call, she turned towards Mary.
"Angels can't lie," the saint reminded.
"No... they can't."
Joccy peered at where Andrew had been. He was
right. He couldn't speak for all angels... but she
suspected he was a lot like the one who meant the most to her.
Wednesday, September 16th, 2020
Joccy was quiet at breakfast the following
Both Mary and Lucius sensed she was troubled but, not
wishing to force himself into her confidence, the latter
offered commentary about the previous day's errands.
He hoped it would lighten the girl's mood.
"Marisol is very keen on setting me up with her daughter
once this is all over. So... I have options," he
"Do you now?" she asked, her tone casual.
"No... not really. Saw her photo. Not my
Mary peered at him.
"And what does that mean?"
"Well... she's not you."
A smile flickered on Joccy's lips.
Mary rolled her eyes but her face flushed with pleasure
when Lucius clasped her hand.
"Slight trouble with Delia, I'm afraid," Lucius
continued. "Her refrigerator died."
"She can't afford another one. And she's not much
for taking charity. She always insists on tipping
me. I stopped trying to dissuade her when I saw it
was hurting her feelings. I'm sure I could get Serge
and Bach to help me move one in but... how do I get her to
Mary considered the question. Her family had been
relatively wealthy as had Lucius'. She could
remember a couple of times when her brother had tried to
help Yosef out, only to feel bad for accidentally
insulting the carpenter. Eventually, he'd discovered
the best way to help was to periodically hire Yosef, and
later Yeshu, for assorted jobs.
"What skills does she have?" Mary asked.
"Umm... Well, she used to be a costume designer at
one of the theatres."
"So she can likely sew. Find a refurbished
refrigerator... a new one will make her feel awkward...
and barter for services. I'm sure we can find a
shelter or school or something that needs masks. You
can even give her the materials. Say you had them
but found yourself to be all thumbs."
"Definitely NOT a lie," Lucius insisted.
Joccy giggled when Lucius winked at her. The
previous evening he'd tried to help her make cards... only
to end up a gluey mess.
Lucius sighed happily.
"So it's settled. Thank you, Mary."
"I'm glad Delia and all the others have you looking out
for them." Mary smiled tenderly at her man.
"It's been a pleasure." Lucius returned her smile
then finished his breakfast. "I should head out... I
have a fridge to find, after all. I wish you ladies
a productive and healing morning. Anything I can get
for either of you?"
"Nothing for me. Joccy?" Mary checked.
Joccy shook her head.
"No... I'm fine. Thank you, though."
"You bet. I will see you ladies later!"
"Good bye, Lucius!"
"Have a good morning, my love."
With a final wave and smile, Lucius grabbed his backpack
and headed out.
Once he was gone, Mary turned her attention to Joccy.
"Are you all right, dear? You seem upset."
Joccy stared down at her lap and shrugged.
"Maybe after we finish eating, we can move to the balcony
and talk. A little sunshine might..."
Joccy shook her head.
"I... well, maybe later. I just... if Takoda should
also come onto the balcony... I... don't want him to
"Oh! Of course. I could ask that he stay
inside. But we can also talk here."
"Here is fine. It's... goofy maybe.
But... I... I had a dream last night."
"A bad one?"
"No... Just..." Joccy gulped. "Inappropriate."
Mary cocked her head.
"Unless you were lucid dreaming, I'm not sure how that
could be. You can't help what your dreaming mind
comes up with."
"Maybe not... But... I..." Joccy
blushed. "I... I had a dream about Takoda. And
me. Together... like... in bed. And I... I
know he can't..."
Mary gently rested her hand over Joccy's.
"That's not weird, Joccy. It makes a lot of sense to
me. Your first time having sex... it can be a very
emotional, very impactful thing. I know it was for
me. And when later you look back on it with regret
because the other person hurt you... badly... it's only
natural for your mind to want to fix it," Mary
reasoned. "To trick you into believing it was
someone else, someone who really cares about you.
And Takoda really cares about you."
"It's also natural for most humans... our asexual friends
being the exception... to crave the touch that comes with
having sex. And especially now when people aren't
getting the hugs and caresses they usually would."
"But... I have been with Takoda. And with you,"
Joccy countered. "And it's not like I was totally
cut-off from contact in the Tunnels."
"No, you weren't. But it was still less than what
you were used to. When was the last time you hugged
Tears pricked Joccy's eyes.
"It's been over six months."
"Still... Angels aren't meant to... to be viewed
like that. They're holy and..."
"Sex can be holy."
"But not with them!"
"No," Mary agreed. "Because they weren't created for
that. But no one... God included... expects your
unconscious mind to have perfect theology."
The comment made Joccy smile.
"And it's not like they're completely banned from romantic
touch. It's not wrong to want that. If it was
wrong... pretty sure Joshua would have done something with
Andrew and JenniAnn... something other than completely
enabling them," Mary continued.
"It is. And I think we both know you would never,
ever push Takoda into something that made him
"No... never," Joccy agreed, clasping her necklace.
"At least... not purposefully... But... I'm
not JenniAnn. She could never even accidentally push
Andrew too far because... well... she's not made like
that. But I... I am."
"So is Arthur. But he and Monica have been together
for what? Almost six years?"
"It works for them. And it could work for you if you
wanted. There'd just need to be lots of
"But?" Joccy prompted.
"I also think all of this with Takoda... valid as it all
is... serves as a bit of a distraction."
Joccy bit her lip and said nothing.
"What happened... it didn't happen because you weren't
with Takoda," Mary continued, her voice soft and
tender. "And even if you were to go over there right
now and declare your eternal love... it wouldn't fix the
underlying reasons for why you made the choice you did."
A tear trickled down Joccy's cheek followed by
another. She should have known Mary was too wise and
too compassionate to not catch on.
"But... but what if... if we dig deeper a-and... I don't
like what I see?" she whispered.
Mary moved to sit beside Joccy and wrapped her arms around
"You have to be brave, dear. And remember that
whatever you see... God loves you. Joshua died for
you. Even if you'd been the only person in the world
in need of a savior... he still would have died for you
and only you. Because he loves you that much."
"Then... then why isn't he here?" Joccy whined.
"Because his being here... as wonderful as it would be...
wouldn't help you in the way you need to be helped.
Sweet Joccy... Your trust has been shattered time
and again. And, through it all, you've continued to
trust and love Joshua. And that's a beautiful,
wonderful thing. But... He put you on this
earth to trust and love others, too... to be trusted and
loved by others. We need to work on rebuilding your
trust in your brothers and sisters. Okay?"
Joccy rested her cheek against Mary's shoulder and nodded.
Mary softly swayed and hummed for several minutes until
Joccy was calmed.
When Joccy finally pulled away, she smiled at Mary.
"I think I'm ready to move to the balcony when you are."
Mary returned her smile.
"So... what are you most afraid of?" Mary asked as she sat
across from Joccy at a bistro table on the balcony.
"I... well... I guess... I mean I'm afraid of my mom
finding out about Jayden. But even more than
that... I'm afraid of the Friends finding out.
I mean... It's not like I think anyone's gonna rat
me out. But... It's kinda common sense.
Girl loses her virginity to a boy, he cheats on her, she
falls apart... It's a cliche for a reason. And
I... I think I might be the first one to... to... well, to
have had sex outside of wedlock since Joshua came.
They might be mad. Or even just disappointed."
"Do you think you're the first of them to sin since Joshua
"Well... no. Of course not. I mean we really
try but... going six years without sinning at all?"
She shook her head. She wasn't sure even the angels
could have managed that.
"But you seem to think that, even knowing they've all
sinned, for some reason they would be especially hard on
you?" Mary challenged.
"Well... I mean... I guess when you put it that
"Also... let's take a moment to remember that they all
rallied around someone who stole money from Yeshua's
ministry and then betrayed him to the religious
authorities. Not to be harsh to my old friend who I
am very glad to have back but... I think even Yehuda would
agree you have nothing on him, Joccy. And we can
look even more recently," Mary suggested. "Cameron
shot Joshua... actually tried to kill him. And
Ibrahim and Raheem. And now practically every day he
gets a letter from one Friend or another. He gets
more letters than entire blocks in that prison do.
So... I hope that gives you a little perspective,
Joccy smiled and nodded.
"It does actually. I just... I never thought about
it like that, I guess."
"Well, in your defense, thinking a lot about the sins of
others isn't a good thing. But I think, every now
and again, it can be helpful to remember that we're all
"True... I heard a saying once: 'Saints are only
sinners who fall down and get up.'"
"It's very true!" Mary confirmed. "And I know a lot
Joccy laughed then sighed, feeling some of the tension
she'd been feeling ease up.
"I think... maybe... I should... I mean I don't want to
make it a big thing... But maybe it would help if...
if I told someone. Maybe a few people. About
what happened. Someone other than Takoda and
Emma. Do you think Emma told Peter?"
"I think that if you told Emma in confidence, she kept
"Yeah... Probably. I think... I would like for
him to know. He's been so good to me... Do you
think... could I try to call them now? Before I lose
"I'll step inside to give you some privacy."
Mary patted Joccy's shoulder then stepped into the
After drawing in and letting out a deep breath, Joccy
pulled up FaceTime and called Peter's cell phone.
"Joccy!" Peter cried happily when he accepted the
Joccy smiled and waved.
"Joccy... so glad to see you. Can Emma get on the
Peter settled onto a couch and Emma plopped down beside
him, eagerly studying his phone screen.
"Joccy... It's so good to see you, sweetie.
How are you doing?" Emma asked.
"I'm... good, actually. Mary is so amazing.
And Lucius is really cool, too. And I saw Jemima
again and met a couple of their friends, Serge and
Bach. I really hope everyone can meet them all
"That sounds awesome, Joccy. And Mary's counseling
you?" Peter checked.
"She's really good. She, umm... I've kinda
been... distracting myself with issues that aren't really
pressing. And she knew."
"I'm glad she's helping you. Is there anything we
Joccy peered at her former babysitter and Peter.
Both had taken her under their wings. It would be
incredibly hard if Peter rejected her... but she had to
find out. She nodded to Emma.
"Yeah, actually. Did you, umm, did you tell Peter
about... about what happened with Jayden and me before the
Emma shook her head.
"Joccy, that's your business."
Peter's face froze.
"What happened with Jayden?" he asked, his voice tense.
"I, umm... I..." Joccy fumbled.
"Sweetie, you don't have to say if..."
"I do. I... I slept with him."
Peter visibly relaxed... but not entirely.
"Was he... a gentleman?" he delicately asked.
"Then? Yeah. He treated me well."
"Okay..." Peter slowly let out a breath. "I
just... I was worried. I thought maybe..."
"It was consensual," Joccy affirmed.
"Oh good. So... you're okay?" Peter checked.
"Because if not... I mean Emma bought me a drone
last Christmas and I still haven't really figured it out
but, if you want, I can work on that and... I dunno...
have it drop rotten eggs outside his apartment or
Joccy laughed and shook her head.
"No! I mean... he did turn out to be cheating on
"Oh, sweetie... I'm so sorry," Emma apologized.
"Getting the drone!" Peter shouted.
Joccy surprised herself when she laughed... a lot.
"No! No drones! We don't need the headline
'Local Jesus Arrested After Using Drone to Egg College
Student," she teased.
Peter smiled softly.
"All right then. I'm really sorry, Joccy.
Truly. That's rough."
"Thanks. And yeah... I... I'm feeling better
about it. It just... I'm realizing it brought a lot
up for me. But... you're not disappointed in me...
or angry at me?"
Peter's gaze softened even more when he realized Joccy was
speaking to him specifically.
Beside him, Emma bowed her head. She realized that,
in some way, Peter was now standing in for Joccy's father.
"No... Joccy, no. Little chica... I'm
disappointed in Jayden... disappointed and angry that he
hurt you. And I'm sorry that you're hurting."
"It was a sin, though..." Joccy murmured.
"It's one many, many of us have committed, Joccy. I
mean..." Peter looked to his wife.
"It's not like we were each others' firsts, sweetie," Emma
"Jaz wasn't even my first time, Joccy," Peter added.
"We've all done things we shouldn't have. But Joshua
has forgiven us. And he wants us to move forward,
living life fully... not fixated on our past mistakes."
"Yeah..." Joccy sniffled.
"It hurts so badly when your heart is broken," Peter
continued. "But it gets better. I promise."
Joccy nodded. Peter would know. He'd lost his
first wife... and then been put through the emotional
ringer with Emma.
"It does," Emma agreed. "And Joccy... I think
I know exactly the sort of thoughts that are running
through your head. The... the thoughts that must
have been running through your head that... that
night." Her eyes filled. "Sweetie, do
everything you can to move past those voices. They
aren't speaking the truth. You are so valuable and
so precious. You... you're not broken or... or dirty
or used. You're so lovable... so worthy of being
loved! And you are loved. So much. I
"We both love you," Peter added.
"I love you both, too," Joccy replied, wiping at her
eyes. "And... I'm trying, Emma. I'm really,
"I'm so glad, sweetie. So glad."
Joccy blew the couple a kiss and smiled when they
responded in kind.
"I... I don't think I'm ready to see everyone at Bible
study tonight. But... could you please tell everyone
that I'm doing better and so, so grateful for their
prayers and kindness and support and everything?" she
"Absolutely. And I can imagine that big of a group
would be overwhelming. Everyone will understand,"
"Thanks. I think maybe I'll contact people in
smaller groups... see how that goes," Joccy suggested.
"That sounds like a really good idea, Joccy," Emma
Emma turned away from the phone and laughed.
"Looks like Mr. Sawyer is up from his nap. Come
here, sweet boy. Say hi to Aunt Joccy."
Joccy checked to be sure her sleeves covered her bandages
then looked expectantly at her phone. After a few
seconds, Sawyer grabbed his father's phone.
"Aunt Doccy!" the little boy cried.
Joccy fought to keep some tears from falling.
"Hey there, Sawyer! How's it going?"
"I maked pancakes this mornin'," he reported.
"Did you! Were they yummy?"
Sawyer nodded with enthusiasm.
"When come see me, Aunt Doccy?"
"Oh, Sawyer... I wish I could come right now."
Peter grabbed the little boy and plopped him onto his
"We'll see Aunt Joccy as soon as we can, bud. But
remember how we need to stay inside for a while to keep
safe and well?"
Emma smiled sadly and tousled the boy's hair.
"Sawyer?" Joccy called.
The boy stared at her and smiled.
"I'll talk to Takoda and... and maybe soon we can start
Bible lessons back up on the computer. That would be
fun, wouldn't it?"
"Then we'll do that."
Sawyer clapped then turned to his mother.
"Tummy hungry, mommy."
"All right. Snack time it is. Joccy..."
"Definitely go. His tummy is hungry." Joccy
smiled. "Thank you for this. Both of
you. All three of you!"
"Any time. Call any time, Joccy," Peter urged.
"Will do. Talk soon. Love you all."
"Love you!" the trio shouted back before Joccy ended the
She sighed happily and replayed Emma's and Peter's words
in her mind.
Just before noon, Lucius returned to the apartment... but
he wasn't alone. Serge and Bach, having helped to
move in Delia's new refrigerator, had tagged along for
lunch. And there was yet another guest: an orange
Joccy came out of her room just in time to overhear Mary
meeting the cat.
"Lucius... Where did he or she come from?"
"She. And... The place I got the refrigerator
from was next door to an animal shelter. They were
so full that they were just giving cats away!"
"You never mentioned wanting a cat..."
"I don't really. But Joccy had a cat.
Peri. We saw her on the call, remember? Maybe
it would help her to have a cat now."
Bach was the first to see Joccy lurking in the hallway
and, with a smile, waved her out.
Joccy entered the living room, feeling a bit shy.
Noticing, Mary smiled.
"Come closer, dear. Lucius got a friend for
you. If you don't want her, we can find her another
home but... she's awfully sweet."
Beaming, Joccy approached a small cat carrier.
"I can't believe you got me a cat," she murmured to Lucius
who seemed quite proud of himself.
"I saw her and just knew she was the one for you."
Gently, Joccy scooped the cat out of the carrier. To
her relief, she snuggled against her and meowed.
"Oh... she is sweet."
"They told me she was the cuddliest one they had," Lucius
shared. "I think we got everything you need for
Joccy tore her gaze away from the cat long enough to look
at Serge and Bach who were doing their best Vanna White
impressions as they showed off a bed, scratching post,
litter and box, food, and an assortment of toys.
"Thank you..." Joccy murmured. "I love her."
She carefully readjusted the cat so she had one arm free
to hug Lucius.
"You're very welcome." Lucius sniffled. "Glad
you like her."
As Joccy nuzzled the cat, Mary patted Lucius' shoulder.
"You did good."
"Thank you." Beaming, Lucius kissed Mary's hair.
"What are you going to name her, Joccy?" Serge asked.
"Hmm..." Joccy studied the cat. "I think...
I'm going to name her Lucy. After her
rescuer." She smiled up at Lucius.
"Well... I'm honored." Lucius gave a little
bow. "And she looks like a Lucy with her orange
Mary laughed and nodded.
"She does! He loves I Love Lucy," she
informed the others.
"The one with the chocolate assembly line... Comic
perfection!" Lucius opined. "So much better than
those odd and demoralizing 'reality' shows that are on so
many of the stations."
"All right. Well, I'm going to put the finishing
touches on lunch. Maybe you all could get Lucy's
things settled into Joccy's room?" Mary suggested.
"Happily!" Bach agreed as he and the other two men grabbed
various of Lucy's belongings.
The three Romans very quickly had Lucy setup in Joccy's
"Not sure she'll even need this," Lucius ventured as he
set Lucy's bed down near Joccy's. "Seems like she's
a cuddler and will prefer your bed... but just in
case. Sometimes it's nice to have one's own spot."
"Definitely. Thank you again!" Joccy hugged
Lucius first then Serge and Bach. "It does help to
have someone to care for and cuddle." She nuzzled
"I think you'll make a great pair!" Serge
encouraged. "And I look forward to hearing about all
the shenanigans Miss Lucy gets into."
The cat purred as he stroked her.
"I hope not too many... I don't want her to cause
any trouble." Joccy looked around... wondering if
she should move things off shelves.
"She'll be fine," Bach assured. "She doesn't seem
like the most energetic of cats."
Joccy laughed as she sat Lucy down on her bed. The
cat looked around with interest then simply curled into a
ball. She purred in satisfaction as Lucius pet her.
"She may perk up a bit after she adjusts. But don't
you worry. We'll manage." Lucius patted Joccy
on the back.
"We'll leave you two to get acquainted and knock when
lunch is ready," Lucius promised.
"Lunch..." Bach replied hungrily. "Cooked by
"Come on... I'm glad you're not having to
participate in drills any more." Serge playfully
patted Bach's slight paunch.
Lucius laughed and ushered the two into the hallway.
Amused, Joccy continued to listen.
"Hey, I could still keep up with the best of them!" Bach
"Prove it. Drop and give me twenty."
"Only if you do it, too."
"Happily. Lucius, you count."
"Yeshu... help me," Mary prayed, amused annoyance in her
Giggling, Joccy closed her door as Lucius began to
count. She returned to her bed and snuggled beside
"You are precious," she murmured. Tears welled in
Joccy's eyes as she remembered Emma's words which she
began to repeat for her cat. "You are
valuable. You are lovable. You are loved."
Joccy smiled and sighed happily as the cat moved and
curled up on her chest, leaving them both content and
It was love at first sight... at least on one side.
After a laugh-filled lunch with Mary and "the boys," Joccy
had asked Takoda to come over to meet Lucy.
When Takoda entered Joccy's room, Lucy was curled up in
the woman's lap as she sat on her bed. Lucy lazily
opened one eye then, suddenly, launched herself at Takoda.
Joccy was just about to shriek, worried the cat was
attacking the angel, when Takoda laughed.
Lucy was dancing around his feet, pausing to rub against
each side of his shins.
"What's that mean?" Takoda asked.
Joccy began to laugh, too.
"She's... well, she's marking you."
Takoda's nose scrunched.
"Is she going to pee on me?"
Still laughing, Joccy shook her head.
"No. They just rub. She's transferring her
scent to you... claiming you as hers."
"Maybe you remind her of someone she used to know and
love. Or... she senses where you came from."
"Did she do this to the others? To you?"
Joccy cocked her head, thinking.
"No actually... I mean she's been very cuddly.
But... not that."
Lucy had now stopped rubbing and was peering up at Takoda.
The angel stooped and picked up the cat who began rubbing
her face against his chest.
"You're not my cat. You're her cat," Takoda
With a giggle, Joccy shook her head. She grabbed her
phone and snapped a photo.
"It's okay! I'm not jealous. It's pretty
Joccy patted a spot on her bed and, once Takoda sat down,
Lucy slid from his arms and returned to Joccy's lap.
"Could be that she realizes you came from elsewhere and
she'd like for you to stay. She knows Mary, Lucius,
and I live here."
"Makes sense. She's very pretty. Good thinking
of Lucius' part."
Joccy beamed as she stroked the cat.
"She is very pretty... Yes, you are... My
pretty Lucy Girl..."
After a few moments fixated on her pet, Joccy returned her
attention to Takoda.
"How much do you think Lucius spent?" she quietly
asked. "Should I try to repay him?"
Takoda adamantly shook his head.
"No. Definitely not. Just write him one of
"Planned to but..."
"I mean... It's not like it put him out. He
doesn't have to worry about money."
"I've never really understood that... But it always
felt rude to ask. How does money work with all of
"Well... Firstly, when we're working assignments,
God always provides us with what we'll need to complete
those assignments. So rent, money for food, a little
discretionary income for fun... or coffee if you're
"Then you gotta figure that lots of times our assignments
involve some kind of job. So that brings in
income. A lot of that ends up getting donated.
But some is saved to fund other assignments."
"Okay... But what about, like, Andrew and
Monica? They don't work as many assignments as they
used to. At least not right now."
"No. But think about how many centuries... eons
really... they've been working. Compare them to,
say, Josef. He's loaded. If they'd been saving
the money they'd earned, they'd be even wealthier than he
"But... they're not," Joccy interjected.
"Do either Andrew or Monica strike you as the sort of
people who want to live in the lap of luxury?"
"Right. And even Josef lives modestly these
days. They're happy living as they are. But
still... You'd expect God to behave as ethically as
any employer, even more so, right?"
"So given they've worked for him for thousands of years...
He's not going to let them be destitute. They
shouldn't have to suffer because they've been working for
God and not, say, Apple or Target. They have their
own problems... all human companies do... but if an
employee had to step down to take care of their family,
Apple and Target aren't going to be like 'Well, fine
then. But we're taking all the money you ever earned
while working for us.' So God definitely
wouldn't. He makes sure they have enough to get
by. And with Andrew, He kicks in more when Marty and
I are around so much. They shouldn't have to pay for
"What?" Takoda pressed.
"So... you're saying God basically pays Andrew and
JenniAnn child support for you and Marty?"
Takoda laughed and shrugged.
"I guess so. Yeah. Anyway... All this is
just to say that Mary and Lucius are being provided
for. You shouldn't feel like you need to pay Lucius
back for his gift. He'd be hurt if you tried."
"Got it. But..."
Takoda patted Joccy's arm.
"It's okay. Ask me anything."
"So... when Andrew buys JenniAnn something... like for
their anniversary or something... Is God just...
handing him the money?"
"Oh!" Takoda adamantly shook his head, trying not to
look at Joccy's necklace. "No. I... I didn't
mean to suggest there's never any... I mean...
No. Andrew probably squirrels away some money from
his carpentry orders. Or eats cheaply when on
assignments and saves some of that discretionary
money. I didn't mean to suggest he doesn't provide
for his family at all. He does. So does
JenniAnn with what she gets from teaching. Same with
Arthur and Monica. I just mean... God's not
going to let them be homeless or hungry. Everything
beyond that, that's on them."
"Oh..." Joccy's fingers slid over the beads of her
Joccy wondered how many foregone coffees or desserts and
extra shifts with random assignment-related jobs had gone
into obtaining her necklace.
"Anyway... enough about money. How was your
Joccy welcomed the change of subject.
"Really, really good. I talked with Emma and
Peter. Even Sawyer for a little bit. I...
well, I told Peter about what happened between Jayden and
"He was wonderful. Threatened to egg Jayden's
apartment via drone but... wonderful."
"I knew I liked him..."
"Me too. It just... it helped. I know he's not
my dad. But... I dunno... And maybe part
of it is because he plays Joshua but... I felt
something inside me start to... untangle?" Joccy
shook her head. "I dunno. It's hard to say
what I mean. But it helped. A lot. And
so did talking with Emma. She told me I... I wasn't
broken or dirty."
"You're not," Takoda murmured.
"And I was loved."
'Thank you. Mary thinks that maybe, next, I should
do a call with everyone who was there... you know, Ivy,
Sy, Shelby, and Violeta. And you. Would you
sit with me? Here?"
Takoda rested a hand on her arm.
"Maybe tomorrow afternoon? If it works for them?"
"Sounds good. Would you like me to set it up?"
"If you want."
Lucy yawned and stretched then curled into Joccy's lap
Takoda smiled as he pet her. Lucy leaned into his
"She loves her Daddy."
Joccy cringed as soon as she'd finished speaking.
"I... I mean... Or... I don't mean..."
"It's okay," Takoda assured.
Joccy's embarrassment increased as scenes from the
previous night's dream returned to her.
"It's okay," Takoda repeated as he gently stroked her
back. "I know you didn't mean it like that."
"We're... we're not a couple."
Takoda tried to glean meaning from Joccy's tone. Was
it disappointment? Relief? Simple statement of
fact? It didn't matter in that moment.
"No," he agreed. "But we're friends. Friends
can raise a cat together, hmm? I doubt Lucy will be
permanently scarred by a non-traditional family. She
doesn't strike me as overwhelmingly conservative.
Joccy laughed when Takoda cocked his head at her, daring
her to guess at the political and moral leanings of her
"No... she doesn't," Joccy agreed. She let out a
shaky breath. "Thanks."
"It's nothing. I will look forward to learning how
to be a cat-dad." Takoda grinned at Joccy then pet
Lucy. After a few moments, the cat moved and plopped
into his lap.
Joccy relaxed further and watched Takoda and Lucy.
As she watched, her heart began to ache... but not as it
had when she'd discovered Jayden's betrayal.
No... This was the cleaner, gentler ache of when
she'd first started to develop feelings for Jayden.
But it was gentler even than that. Because, back
then, Jayden hadn't even known her name. Takoda knew
that and so much more. And still he was there.
"She just let me boop her on the nose!"
"Not sure there's much you could do that would bother
"Boop!" Takoda gently tapped the cat's nose again.
Lucy pounced happily on the bed.
Joccy grabbed one of the feather toys Lucius had brought
and handed it to Takoda.
She watched, happily, as the two played... and she
wondered if Lucius had had an ulterior motive in getting
Lucy for her.
September 17th, 2020
following afternoon, Joccy and Takoda got comfortable on
Mary's and Lucius' balcony. A laptop computer was
setup in front of them. Lucy was asleep in Joccy's
"So your talk with Mary this morning went okay?" the angel
checked as they waited.
"Yeah. We just kinda talked through what I wanted to
say to everyone." She glanced at the computer.
"And how I might feel a little anxiety since, well, it
could bring back powerful memories of the last time."
Takoda squeezed her hand.
Joccy smiled at him.
"But unlike last time, you're here beside me. And so
"And we won't leave. Well, I won't leave.
Can't speak for Lucy. Although she doesn't look
inclined to leave."
"She does not!" Joccy agreed with a laugh. "You
don't think there's anything wrong with her, do you?
She's awfully... lazy."
"No. And I wouldn't be surprised if you start to see
a different side of her. She'd probably been on high
stress mode for the entire time she was in the
shelter. Now she's crashing because she realizes
it's safe to let her guard down. Didn't Lucius say
they'd given her a health exam?"
"He did. And you're right. I can remember Peri
being like this when we first got her. It was just
so long ago that I kinda forgot. Might not be able
to take her out on the balcony once she gets more active."
"Yeah... So how are you liking being at Kelly's?"
"I really do," Takoda assured. "I mean I loved
staying at Willowveil... hearing Andrew's stories about
cases he's worked. And hearing JenniAnn's
perspective on being with him during some
assignments. But it's been nice to get another
take. And Kelly's just a great person to be around."
"Good. I'm glad." Joccy looked at the
screen. "1:27. We should probably hop on."
"Sure." Takoda pulled up the Zoom meeting.
When it opened, Ivy and Sy were already there.
"Joccy! Takoda! So good to see you both!" Ivy
greeted. "Oh, Joccy... You look so good."
Joccy smiled shyly.
"Thanks. I'm being very well taken care of."
"Good!" Sy cheered. "And it looks like it's nice
"In the seventies so yeah," Joccy verified. "How
"About the same. Might get a little rain later," Ivy
Another box appeared showing Shelby and Violeta.
"Hey girls!" Sy welcomed.
"Hi!" Shelby replied.
"Hi." Violeta peered intently at the screen.
Joccy saw her relax.
"Hi, Joccy," she murmured.
"Hi, Violeta. Hi, Shelby. Thank you so much
for coming. All of you. This... it means a
lot." Joccy smiled tearfully at her friends.
"Of course. We're here for you," Sy stressed as Ivy
nodded beside him.
"How are you feeling?" Shelby checked.
"Ya know... I'm feeling really good. The, umm,
cuts have stopped hurting. More onto itching
now. Which I can't do cause I don't want them to get
infected so... still all covered up."
"That's really good, Joccy. I'm so glad." Ivy
smiled gently at her friend.
"Yeah... And..." Joccy squeezed Takoda's
shoulders. "Really helps having Koda here."
"So glad to be here," he replied, beaming.
"And I have a new friend."
"The photos were so cute!" Violeta enthused. "Is
Lucy there now?"
"Yeah. She's curled up in my lap, asleep. I'd
show you but... we think she's still sleeping off the
stress from being in the shelter so..."
"Definitely let her sleep," Sy agreed. "They get a
little... touchy... when you disturb them. At least
"Oh, definitely," Joccy agreed.
An awkward silence settled over the group.
Takoda gently stroked Joccy's back. After a few deep
breaths, she spoke.
"So... I... I just wanted to talk a little about what
happened. And... firstly... I just... I want
everyone here... and everyone really... to know that...
that there wasn't anything you... you could have
done. I'm still trying to work out... with Mary...
why... why I did something so... rash. And so...
potentially final. If you'd told me on that Monday
morning that... that I would try to kill myself within 24
hours..." Joccy shook her head. "Wouldn't
have... have believed you. So... so please don't
think things like 'We should have seen the signs.'"
Takoda bowed his head. He had thought that.
"Would... would it have helped if we'd all come to the
Tunnels to... to see you?" Shelby asked.
Joccy adamantly shook her head.
"No. I... I think... I was embarrassed.
I think that would have only made me more
embarrassed. I... well, I'm partly glad Takoda
came." Joccy rested a hand on his arm. "But...
but that also meant he saw... saw what I'd done.
And... I can't bear thinking of all of you..." A few
tears slid down her cheeks.
"Joccy, I... we all, I'm sure... hope you know that no
matter what happens... no matter what you ever do...
you're our friend," Sy affirmed. "We love you.
And we always, always will."
Joccy smiled. He looked and sounded so much like his
dad. And she also picked up on the subtext. Sy
and Ivy had undoubtedly guessed that she'd slept with
Jayden. And they were still looking at her with the
same kind, understanding friendship they always had.
The others murmured their agreement.
"Thank you. Anyway... I just... I wanted to
tell you all that. And thank all of you for being
amazing friends. And to say that I'm sorry for...
for what I put you through," Joccy apologized.
"We're all just so glad you're getting better, Joccy," Ivy
responded. "Continuing to take care of yourself is
the absolute best way of thanking us... because we need
you here, with us."
"Yeah..." Joccy smiled. "I... I need to be
here. But... that's enough about me. What's
going on with all of you?"
The conversation lightened and the group laughed with each
other as they exchanged tales of sibling rivalry between
Leo, Esau, and T'Challa, Belle's latest antics,
school-related Zoom snafus, and more. By the time
the hour-long call had ended, all six of them were feeling
more at peace.
"How you doing?" Takoda asked as he closed the laptop.
"I'm good," Joccy assured. "Really good. I...
I was afraid it would be really awkward. And it
was. But just for a little bit. And then...
then it was like it's always been."
Takoda hugged her.
"You're still the same Joccy."
The tender words and the way in which Takoda said them
made Joccy melt into his embrace. She allowed
herself to enjoy the hug for a few moments then,
reluctantly, pulled away.
"I... There's something I... I feel like I should
probably tell you," she began, her cheeks flushed.
Takoda looked at his friend with concern.
"I... I had a dream the night before last. About...
Takoda frowned when Joccy wouldn't meet his gaze.
"A... bad dream?" he asked.
Joccy shook her head.
"No... I... I enjoyed it... at the time."
"Well... That's good, right?"
"It was... Not G-rated. More like... an R."
"I'm sorry, Koda."
Joccy finally looked up at him.
"Because... that's weird. You can't..."
"I also can't drive a race car. But I dreamed I was
a few nights ago."
"Kinda not the same..."
"How is it not the same?"
"Koda... There's nothing morally wrong with driving
a race car. I mean... not if you're being
responsible and honest about it."
"In this dream, were we two randos who just bumped into
each other and then we were off?"
"No... We were us. We knew each other.
"Okay. Did you talk about this with Mary?"
"Good. What did she say?"
"That having sex for the first time can be emotional and
when one looks back at it with regret, it's natural for
one's mind to want to fix it... swap in someone who really
loves you," Joccy reported. "And also the whole not
being able to be around people and hug them and everything
as usual. Touched-starved I think they call it."
"That makes a lot of sense," Takoda asserted. "First
time this has happened?"
"I mean... I'm not upset, Joc. I can't fully
understand how that might feel to you. But... just
know I'm not upset." Takoda gently lifted Joccy's
Joccy managed a smile.
"Okay. I'm glad."
"I mean really... While it's sometimes very
inconvenient, I'm sure, it wouldn't be good if humans
stopped having sexual desire en masse. Humans would
die out. And I highly, highly doubt you're the first
person this has happened to. I mean... we're kinda a
sexy bunch. Adam's got that silver fox thing
going. Monica's gorgeous. Andrew... I
mean the dude had an entourage of enamored women."
"Marty's voice... I kid you not, we went out to
lunch once and a woman actually asked him to read the menu
to her because she forgot her glasses."
"I mean maybe she had..."
"She recorded it on her phone. I totally saw her do
it! And her eyes got all glazed over..."
Joccy couldn't stop laughing.
"Even Wahkan... One time we met up at a bar to catch
up and a woman started getting particularly pushy with her
flirting so I pretended to get a call on my cell and told
Wahkan it was his wife... Got a mild talking to
about not lying... but it did the trick! She
shuffled on back to her booth. And in those cases...
they didn't even know them. Their weird behavior was
based solely on lust. They couldn't have loved
them. They didn't know them! Marty and Wahkan
coulda been serial killers for all they knew! In
contrast, I'm inclined to believe that whatever happened
in your dream..." Takoda's voice trailed off.
Though she was blushing, Joccy didn't look away from
Takoda. She rested a hand against his cheek.
"There was love," she finished for him.
Takoda's eyes filled.
"If... if I could just turn that part of myself off..."
"No..." Takoda shook his head. "No.
Don't wish any part of yourself away. I... I love
all of you."
"I love you, too, Koda."
Joccy closed her eyes as he rested his forehead against
hers. She wanted to scoop Lucy up and move the both
of them into Takoda's lap. But she knew she wasn't
ready for that. And she couldn't bear him thinking
he was simply her rebound.
"We'll figure it all out," Takoda reassured. "We
"Yes... we have time," Joccy repeated.
The two... three counting Lucy... sat quietly for several
minutes, simply enjoying being together.
Friday, September 18th,
The next morning, as they nibbled on fruit and cheese,
Joccy and Mary continued their counseling sessions on the
"I just... I'm having a hard time understanding
now... why I did it? And even further back... why
did I sleep with Jayden?" Joccy implored.
"Well... Let's tackle the second question
first. As I said a few days ago, you grew up in a
very repressed household where sex was treated as
something scary, something that threatened your place in
your home, in your family. I don't think it's
unreasonable that when Jayden offered a more tender,
appealing version of sex, you wanted that," Mary
"Yeah... But... He didn't love me," Joccy
"But you didn't know that at the time, dear. You're
projecting knowledge you have now, back onto several
months ago. And... you don't even really know
that. He didn't love you well. He didn't love
you like you deserve to be loved. But he might have
loved you in his imperfect way."
"True... He... he did seem to love me then.
I... I guess... I'm just having a hard time..."
Joccy closed her eyes briefly and drew in a few calming
"Take your time," Mary urged. "We're in no hurry."
"Thank you. It's just... I can't say my
feelings for Jayden have completely gone away.
There's still... some sort of connection there.
But... I dreamed about Takoda again last night,"
Joccy admitted. "It wasn't like the last time.
It was... sweeter, more innocent. Romantic,
though." She bowed her head and smiled, briefly
reliving the dream.
Mary smiled gently.
"It sounds nice."
"It was," Joccy confirmed. "And even when I'm
awake... I feel... more... for him. More than
I used to. But I don't... I mean I've heard of
people being on the rebound. I just... I don't trust
my own thoughts and feelings any more. It... it
seemed so clear to me, in the moment, that killing myself
was the best option. Now... it sounds insane.
So... so how do I know that anything I think is sane?"
Mary rested a hand on Joccy's arm as she began to cry.
"Who... who even am I?" Joccy bleated.
Mary moved closer and wrapped the girl in her arms.
"You're Joccy, a wonderful daughter, sister, and
friend. You're a beloved child of God... who knows
you even when you feel like you don't know yourself.
And... I think I know you. I was the woman hiding
away, feeling completely lost to myself. I scared
children. I ignored Abigail. I was cruel to
Yeshua. But I came back from that... with his help,
with the help of my family and friends... and I learned to
trust myself again. You will, too, Joccy. I
"Yeah. And let's start to untangle this Takoda
business. It would be one thing if you'd just met
him a week ago. But you've known each for a year and
a half. You've had feelings for him... yes, mostly
of a strictly friend variety... for nearly as long.
I think you can trust that your feelings for him are based
in reality. It's only natural that, after a trauma,
you'd be drawn even more to him, Joccy. That's not
weird. It doesn't mean he's your 'rebound guy'...
any more than Lucius was my rebound guy."
Joccy straightened up.
"Oh... I'd forgotten how quickly you and Lucius met
after... after your divorce."
"We're talking days!" Mary reminded. "But that
didn't make it less real. And I'm not suggesting
that you and Takoda are now destined to spend eternity
together... only that forming or deepening attachments
with someone in the wake of trauma isn't odd or fake."
"I just... I wish I would have felt this way back in
January. I wish that I would have stayed with
Takoda. I could have saved myself and every one
Mary squeezed Joccy's shoulder and shook her head.
"Joccy... I don't think that's true. And now I
think we should move onto your first question. Why
did you try to kill yourself? The obvious answer is
because you'd discovered Jayden was cheating on you and,
because of your upbringing, you looked down on yourself
for sleeping with someone who was now not going to be your
"And everything was just fine before Jayden?" Mary
Joccy stared down at her hands. After a few moments,
she shook her head.
"You want to tell me about it?" Mary inquired as she
stroked the young woman's back.
"I... I have nightmares sometimes," Joccy admitted.
"Do you want to talk about them?"
"About... Emma and my father." Joccy's voice shook
as she spoke. "About... what I know he did to
her. A-and... what I only think he did. And
how... how I knew and... and did nothing."
"Joccy... You were just a little girl."
"I... I coulda told someone."
"You were scared, I'm sure. Scared that he would
hurt you... or Emma."
Joccy stood up and began to pace the length of the
"I still could have tried..."
"Have you told Emma about these feelings?"
"And what did she say?"
"Same as you."
Mary watched Joccy continue to pace like a caged
animal. She looked up at the skyline. It was
beautiful in its own way. But it could also make a
person feel trapped. An idea began to
formulate. She closed her eyes and listened, smiling
when the answer came from her Yeshu.
"How would you like to get out of the city for a bit?"
"But... where would we go?" Joccy implored.
"There's a cabin in the middle of nowhere that I think
would do nicely," Mary replied.
"Can we drive? I... I don't know about flying..."
Joccy fretted. "Especially since I'm still not
fourteen days out from the hospital."
"No need for either." Mary beamed. "Yeshua
will give us access to a portal. I think some time
in nature would do you good."
In spite of her agitation, Joccy smiled.
"That does sound really good. Would Takoda..."
"Takoda and Kelly would come. And, no doubt, we'll
have Yemmy, Serge, and Bach dropping in... especially if
we make s'mores around a campfire. I think it would
be nice for Lucy, too. And Lucius for that matter."
"Will his clients be upset?"
"He can still pop back here as needed," Mary
assured. "So... shall I ask Yeshua?"
Joccy stopped herself from asking if he would be there,
too. She didn't want her hopes dashed if not.
"All right then..."
Joccy watched intently as Mary closed her eyes and prayed
Then, just to the right of the fruit and cheese tray, a
small object appeared.
Mary opened her eyes and smiled as she picked up the
"Very on brand..." she commented.
"I recognize that, I think... It's a mezuzah, isn't
"When we're ready, we'll hang it on one of the door posts
inside, touch it, and then... we'll be off."
"Do you think he made it? Carved it, I mean?"
Mary examined it.
"Looks like his work. Would you like to look?"
"I... I won't go poof?"
Mary laughed and shook her head.
"No. He said it had to be hanging on a door post to
work. Right now, it's just a normal mezuzah."
"Then yes, please."
Joccy studied the piece once Mary handed it to her.
It was beautiful olive wood with a green vine and branches
of myriad colors carved into it.
"I'm sure you can keep it after we're done. It'll be
deactivated. And then, one day, you can hang it in
your own home," Mary suggested.
Mary hugged Joccy and kissed her hair.
"A beautiful creation from a master carpenter... just like
Tears welled in Joccy's eyes.
"Just telling the truth, dear."
That afternoon, once Lucius had returned, Takoda and Kelly
came over with their bags.
"So any idea where we're off to?" Kelly asked.
"The middle of no where," Mary replied.
"Well, that clears things up."
Mary winked at him.
"I figured he would know which 'middle of no where' would
"Definitely!" Lucius agreed. "And whichever one it
is... I'm looking forward to going for a run... hiking..."
"I was told there would be s'mores," Joccy brought up with
"Oh, lots and lots of s'mores!" Mary confirmed.
Takoda sighed contentedly.
"I think I can already smell the bonfire..."
Joccy beamed at him.
Lucius nailed the mezuzah in place then looked to Mary.
"Looks good!" She reached up... and disappeared.
One by one, they each followed suit until only Joccy,
Lucy, and Lucius were left.
"I hope she doesn't freak out..." Joccy worried.
"She'll be fine. Don't your friends bring their pets
through the Dyeland portal sometimes?"
"Yeah... You're right. Okay..."
Joccy touched the mezuzah and suddenly found herself
standing with the others outside a cabin... a cabin that
was much larger than what she'd imagined. It
reminded her of the cabin the Friends had stayed in when
they'd visited North Carolina.
"It's so beautiful..." she praised before turning around
in a circle to see the most beautiful autumnal
forest. "All of it..."
"And there's a fire pit already built," Takoda pointed
Lucius appeared with the last of their bags.
"Wow..." His face lit up with admiration.
Mary smiled proudly.
"He really outdid himself..." She sucked in the
fresh air then pulled a key from her pocket. "So...
let's look inside, shall we?"
The others nodded eagerly.
Mary opened the door and stepped into a large open plan
kitchen/living area. The entire interior was knotty
pine and furnished with cozy, rustic decor.
"I'm never leaving," Kelly commented with a grin as she
ran a hand over a beautifully carved rocking chair.
"Definitely a little piece of heaven on earth," Mary
agreed. "And we can all admire it properly after we
get settled. Bedrooms are on the second floor.
Joccy, dear, why don't you pick first?"
"Oh... Okay. Thanks!" Joccy smiled at
Mary then, carrying Lucy, made her way up the
stairs. She examined each room, six in all.
They were all beautiful and very similarly sized.
The main difference was that each had accents in a
particular color. And so Joccy chose the turquoise
Takoda chose next and, heedless of the colors, selected
the room next to Joccy's.
Kelly followed, taking the last room on that side of the
Once Mary had chosen the purple room for herself and
Lucius, the five gathered in the hallway.
"So I'm guessing the other rooms are for Jemima and then
for Serge and Bach?" Joccy questioned, trying to keep the
disappointment out of her voice. That left no room
"Probably so. But we'll see," Mary replied.
"They might dine and dash on us."
Lucius laughed then stretched his arms out.
"I think I could go for a hike. Any of you are
welcome to join me but I also understand if you want more
time to get settled. We can go again tomorrow."
"I think I'll stay here with Lucy, let her explore the
cabin a bit and get comfortable. But thanks!" Joccy
"I'll stay, too," Takoda added without hesitation.
"I think I might break in one of those rocking chairs on
the porch," Kelly replied. "Do a little reading
Mary squeezed Lucius.
"I'd love to go with you."
Lucius beamed at her.
Joccy smiled, glad the two were getting some alone
"We'll be back in time to start dinner," Mary
promised. "I was told the kitchen should be
well-stocked so help yourself to snacks if you're hungry."
"Will do. Have fun!" Joccy hugged the
"Back in a bit." Lucius waved at the trio then
departed with Mary.
Joccy's smile grew when she heard Mary giggle from the
main floor, right before the door closed.
Kelly turned to Joccy and Takoda.
"You two good on your own?"
"Great! I think I'll make myself a cup of tea, grab
a book, and be on the back porch. Let me know if you
"Will do," Takoda promised.
"Well... I guess I'll try to coax Lucy off the
bed." Joccy frowned at the cat who was curled up on
"If she doesn't budge, maybe we can sit with her for a
little bit," Takoda suggested. "So she knows we're
staying with her."
"Good idea. I didn't even think about how she might
be rattled by coming here so soon after getting adopted,"
Joccy fretted. "I hope this doesn't set her
back." She stroked the cat's back, drawing out a
"She'll be fine. It's the people that matter
most. Not the place."
"Yeah..." Joccy sat down on the bed and indicated
for Takoda to do the same. "Thanks for coming, by
"Of course! I've missed being outdoors. I mean
the balconies are great but... not the same."
"You should have gone hiking with Mary and Lucius.
You could still catch up. Lucy and I will be fine,"
"We have plenty of time. I doubt Joshua will rush us
out of here. Besides, I think they should have a
little time to themselves."
Takoda looked around the room.
"This place is beautiful. I wonder if Joshua built
"Do you think so? I didn't know if that was a thing
he'd do... buy land and all."
"He might. I'm sure there are lots of uses for it."
"Have you ever read The Shack?" Joccy asked.
"I found it in the library at Willowveil. JenniAnn
said it was worth a read. Maybe this is like that
Lucy stretched then hopped off the bed.
Joccy and Takoda watched patiently as she began to explore
the room, occasionally stopping to rub up against
things. After a couple of minutes, she walked out of
the room. Joccy and Takoda jumped to their feet and
trailed her. They watched with amusement as Lucy
went from room to room, exploring. Once she'd
checked all the bedrooms, she headed to the main
Lucy surveyed the kitchen and then the living area.
Then she turned a corner.
"We didn't even see what was in the back half of this
floor," Takoda realized as they followed.
"It's beautiful..." Joccy spun around as they
entered a sunroom. She laughed when Lucy jumped onto
a bench in front of a large window and curled up.
"Looks like she found a cozy spot." Takoda smiled
and stroked the cat between the ears.
Joccy stepped into another hallway to find a bathroom...
and a closed door. Seeing no reason not to enter,
she turned the knob. Peering inside, her heart began
"Takoda!" she called.
The angel hurried to join her.
They stepped into the room which was half workshop, half
Lucy pushed past their legs and bounded into the
Joccy spotted a flannel shirt hanging from a hook, grabbed
it, and buried her face in it... sandalwood, sawdust, a
vague hint of roses.
"He... he was here!" she exclaimed. "Maybe... maybe
he'll come back while we're here!"
Takoda rested a hand on Joccy's shoulder.
"I really hope so."
He had to believe it. This was an awfully big tease
if not. And Joshua was never cruel.
Joccy gave her friend a teary smile.
"I'm okay," she assured. "It... it's not like I'm
expecting him tonight. Or even tomorrow.
But... I feel like... like he wouldn't let me find this
if... if he wasn't going to show up at all." She
returned the shirt to its hook then began to examine the
tools. Her smile faded as she picked up a carving
Takoda watched her closely.
"I still haven't apologized to Eliot. He... he did
nothing wrong. But... it probably upset him to
realize I'd used one of his knives..." Joccy set the
"You can text him if you want," Takoda suggested.
"I'm sure that's enough for now."
"Yeah... I should probably talk to Catherine and
Vincent and Portia at some point, too."
Takoda stared at his feet, thinking he probably should, as
well. He thought of Vincent fighting to subdue him.
Joccy approached and wrapped her arms around the angel.
Takoda smiled, his arms circling around her.
"Sorry... I didn't mean to bring things down," Joccy
apologized. "Especially not here." She waved
around the room.
"You're fine," Takoda reassured. "We're fine."
Joccy stared into his eyes.
"What is it?" Takoda asked with concern.
Joccy shook her head.
"Nothing... just... this feels good."
"It does," he agreed.
They remained in each other's embrace until Lucy exited
the room and reclaimed her spot in the sunroom.
Joccy and Takoda followed, basking in the sun and
Just as Mary had predicted, Jemima, Serge, and Bach all
showed up just before dinner. After dining on some
fish and assorted sides, most of the group moved into the
yard where Lucius started a bonfire. Inside the
cabin, Joccy and Jemima prepared the ingredients for
"Chocolate..." Jemima murmured with adoration as she
opened a package.
Joccy giggled when she snuck a bite and offered her a
"Welcome! This place is gorgeous! Ama's and
Abi's apartment is super cute but I'm glad you all got
out. You don't see stars like this in NYC."
Jemima stared out the window and up at the heavens.
"I'm glad, too. And I'm glad you came. And
Serge and Bach, too. Are you staying over?"
"Not sure about the boys. I am." Jemima began
to break up graham crackers. "So how has everything
"Good. Your mom's the best. It's really helped
talking to her. And Lucius... I'm so glad he
got me Lucy." Joccy glanced out the window where her
cat was curled up on Takoda's lap.
"He's awesome. Ama thinks he'd have totally spoiled
me. She's probably right. Could you grab a
Joccy handed Jemima a bowl and watched as she poured
large, fluffy marshmallows into it.
"Better check to make sure they're fresh." With a
grin, Jemima popped one in her mouth and motioned for
Joccy to do the same.
"Mmm... Yummy. Definitely fresh," Joccy
"Yup. I hope the guys found sticks. Cause I
want a s'more pronto."
The two left the kitchen carrying the bowl of marshmallows
and a tray covered with crackers and chocolate bars.
"Here we go!" Bach enthused. "S'mores time!"
"Do you all not have s'mores in Heaven?" Joccy asked as
Serge handed her a stick.
"Yeah. But even with all of eternity, you can never
have too many s'mores," Bach replied.
"Plus, it's just the experience of it. Watching the
marshmallow start to get all crisp around the
edges..." Jemima added.
The little group all gathered around the fire, toasting
their marshmallows. Soon, there were a series of
contented sighs as s'mores were constructed and consumed.
Joccy smiled as she gazed around her. She marveled
at what a difference a few days could make and she dreamed
of the days to come... hoping they would add one more to
Saturday, September 19th, 2020
the change in location, Mary and Joccy stuck to their
schedule. While the four men went hiking with Jemima
and Kelly returned to her book, they met in the
sunroom. Nearby, Lucy sunned.
"So do you feel better being here?" Mary checked.
Joccy nodded with enthusiasm.
"I mean I love your apartment. It's so homey and
comfortable. But... I have missed being
outside, being in the wilderness. I probably should
have visited Dyeland more than I did once the portal was
opened back up."
"Why do you think you didn't?"
With a frown, Joccy shrugged.
"I dunno... I guess... I felt a little
awkward. Especially with..."
"Yeah... I mean... It definitely wasn't
anything he said or did. I think in some
ways..." Joccy shook her head. "Ironically
enough... I felt a little like I was cheating when I
did go. I couldn't touch Jayden. Couldn't see
Jayden face-to-face. But I could do those things
with Takoda. And... I wanted to. I wanted to
hug him, squeeze his hand. And there were a few
"Take your time."
"Thanks... It's just... There were a few times
I... I wished I'd made a different choice. But that
wasn't coming from a good place. I felt that way
because, with the lockdown, I could have more with Takoda
than... than with Jayden. And that felt wrong...
selfish. Like... like I picked Jayden because I want
to have kids someday. And, presumably, I could have
with him. Not with Takoda. And then once I
could hug Takoda but not touch Jayden at all...
Well, it was just easier to mostly stay away from Takoda,
too. So I didn't hurt either of them. But now
it seems like Jayden wasn't abstaining for my sake... so I
feel stupid that I did for him. But even as I say
that... It still makes it sound like... like I
wanted to use Takoda."
"Joccy... Just because you want affection from
someone, it doesn't mean you're using them. Not if
it's consensual and they're enjoying it, too. A lot
of people were re-evaluating relationships during the
pandemic... still are. Tell me, how were things with
you and Jayden otherwise? Like were you talking
"Uh huh. Almost every day. And it was
good. I mean... Sometimes he could be a
little... He's not really big on Christianity.
So he would tease me a little when I said I had to prepare
for the kids' Bible study or whatever."
"How did that make you feel?"
"I dunno... I mean... I didn't like it.
But there are so many stories of saints converting their
spouses. Like St. Monica."
"And, I mean, Lucius even started the process to convert,
"He did," Mary confirmed. "But he'd also never
really felt at home with pagan worship. I was pretty
weak in my own faith at the time. I wasn't trying to
"And I wasn't trying to convert Jayden, either. I
just thought maybe if he could see how happy I
was... Or even if he could meet Joshua..."
Joccy sighed. "I just wanted him to accept that it
was important to me. But it felt like he was just
humoring me." Her hand went to her necklace.
"He probably shouldn't have suggested I stop wearing my
necklace, should he?"
"I don't think so. I suppose I could understand it
to an extent. I'm not sure I would have been
thrilled with Lucius regularly wearing a gift from another
woman but... if it had been important to him and if I had
no other evidence of impropriety... I think I would have
accepted it. I think Jayden should have been more
accepting of it. Especially given he knew it had
cultural significance to you."
"I don't think he meant it this way but... it felt a
little like when my father said we couldn't go to pow-wows
"I could see that."
"Like... he wanted to erase part of me... if not my
heritage then at least my friendship with Takoda.
And the two... they're kinda bound up. Cause...
Takoda had been helping me reclaim that part of
myself. I... I probably should have broken up with
Jayden. If I had... We wouldn't have slept
"You were in love. You wanted it to work out."
Mary smiled sympathetically. "No one can fault you
for that. I missed so many signs with Yakan...
But he was my first love and... I just wanted so badly for
him to be who I thought he was."
"Yeah... That's it exactly. And... I wanted
the happiness that... that I always wished I'd grown up
Mary reached over and patted Joccy's hand.
"I can understand that."
"He may have messed up a little with the necklace.
But... he was a feminist. At least... I thought he
was. So I figured when we had kids... he'd be happy
to have daughters. I... I know my father wishes Zoe
and I were boys. Me especially. I didn't want
my daughter to grow up like that."
"Of course not."
Joccy stared out a window, admiring the sunshine on the
brightly colored leaves.
"But I also wouldn't want my children to grow up under the
shadow of infidelity. Because that... that's
miserable, too," she murmured.
"I'm sure it is. And you were incredibly strong to
make it through that, to protect your sister as best as
you could. Have you ever really talked to someone
about how that made you feel?"
"No... Not really. I did a little when we did
family counseling. But... Not
everything. Because Mom and Zoe were there."
"So how did it make you feel?" Mary asked, her voice soft
Joccy let out a shaky breath.
"Like... like I was living on ice. And, any moment,
it could break and I'd fall into the freezing water with
Zoe." Joccy began to cry. "I... I think
sometimes that's why I didn't tell... about Emma.
Because... what if they decided neither of our parents was
fit? Would we be split up? And... even if we
weren't... would I be able to protect Zoe? And when
I got older... I never trusted either of my parents.
I knew my dad was terrible... but he kind of turned my mom
terrible, too. She should have helped Emma... not
piled on. So... how could I know that she'd help me
if... if my dad ever really hurt me?"
"He did really hurt you, Joccy. Emotional and
spiritual abuse just leaves a different sort of scarring,"
Mary counseled. "I think sometimes you minimize what
you went through just because it wasn't physical."
"Yeah... That's probably true." Joccy dabbed
at her eyes. "It was also... I mean...
How... how was I supposed to really believe that I had
value when... when Emma was such a kind, good person and
everyone... my parents... people at my church...
start-started saying she was trash? I was
little. But I still understood. If... if
someone hurts you then... then you're trash. It...
it wasn't until Joshua came that someone I really trusted
made me see otherwise."
"I can't imagine how much strain that put you under,
Joccy. I'm so, so sorry, dear. No child should
ever, ever have to feel that way." Mary embraced
Joccy as she wept. "But you know that all of those
people... they have nothing on Joshua. Joshua speaks
the truth. He is the truth. And he knows that
Emma isn't trash. And he knows that you have never
been and will never be trash. You're precious and
wonderful. And he loves you."
Mary's own eyes filled as Joccy clung to her. She
felt like they'd had a major breakthrough. And
yet... something still nagged at her. But there
would be time to discuss that later on. She could
see the four men and her daughter returning. Takoda
was staring at the house, no doubt searching for some sign
"Joccy... The guys have come back. Maybe after
lunch, you and Takoda could go for a walk?" she suggested.
Joccy sat up and peered out the window. She nodded.
"That'd be good. As long as he's not tired out."
"I think he'd be up for it. There's a waterfall not
far from here. Not even a quarter of a mile.
I'm sure he can make it. He's a strong fellow."
"Yeah. He is. That sounds nice."
"Actually... We were just going to have
sandwiches. Maybe you could have a picnic?
Lucius and I can watch Lucy."
"It would be nice to get outside..." Joccy rubbed at
her eyes and took a few deep breaths. "Yeah.
I'll go ask him. Thanks. This talk... it
"You're very welcome. I'm so glad."
They heard the front door open and the five enter.
"Ama! Ama!" Jemima cried.
Mary laughed and entered the living room with Joccy.
Mary looked at the newly returned men and her very
"I beat both Serge and Bach in a race. I'm faster
than two soldiers!"
"Turns out drilling with the Roman army maybe isn't as
much of a work-out as being a little ragamuffin with a
neat freak aunt," he jested.
Mary laughed loudly.
"She did spend an awful lot of time running from Martha
and a clean rag..." she recalled, hugging Jemima.
Joccy approached Takoda.
"Did you race?" she asked.
He shook his head.
"More fun to watch. Besides, I wanted to save some
energy. We passed a waterfall that I'd like to show
"Mary had just suggested we have a picnic lunch there,
"Good plan." Takoda returned Joccy's smile and the
two awaited their adventure with excitement.
It took only a few minutes for Joccy and Takoda to reach
"Oh... wow... It's so beautiful." Joccy spread
out the blanket she was carrying then withdrew her cell
phone from her pocket and snapped a few photos. She
smiled at Takoda. "Now one with you in it."
Takoda scrunched his nose.
Takoda set down the picnic basket then posed, smiling in
front of the waterfall.
Joccy snapped one photo and was prepping for a second when
a gust of wind blew through. She took a photo then
pulled it up.
"That bad?" Takoda questioned when she made a face.
"Mmm... No, no." Joccy showed him the first
photo. Then she swiped to the second. "You
Takoda peered at the image. The wind had caught him
off-guard and his eyes had sought out Joccy's as his hair
had whipped around him. It made for quite the
"Wild man!" he jested.
"I like it," Joccy murmured, her cheeks flushed.
"The other one looks like I'm posing for senior class
"It does, doesn't it? Ugh. I hated that.
So awkward. Be glad you were spared it."
"Made for some really lovely photos, though."
Joccy blushed again.
Takoda squeezed her elbow.
"C'mon, let's eat."
The two sat down on the blanket and unpacked the
basket. After saying grace, they dug in.
"This macaroni salad is really good," Joccy commented
after a few moments.
"Digging this sandwich. I love goat cheese.
Never thought to pair it with beets."
"It's yummy," Joccy agreed.
Takoda went in for another bite then grimaced when a
breeze went through again.
"I'd really rather not eat my hair."
Joccy giggled. She reached into her pocket and
pulled out a hair tie.
"Would you like me to braid it? Probably pretty
sloppily since I don't have a brush on me. But it'd
keep it out of your face."
Pleased, Takoda nodded.
Joccy moved behind the angel. She ran her fingers
through his hair a few times, eliminating tangles.
Joccy began to braid his hair, admiring it as she did.
"It's so beautiful," she complimented.
"We have basically the same hair," Takoda deflected.
"I know but... It just... it looks really good on
"Thank you. I... I love your hair, too."
Joccy continued to work. She was just putting the
hair band in place at the bottom of the braid when she
heard Takoda sniffle.
Joccy leaned forward and saw a few tears trickling down
the angel's face.
Takoda rubbed them away.
"It's fine... It's nothing."
"Doesn't look like nothing."
"I was... just... thinking."
Takoda shook his head.
"Please tell me," Joccy encouraged. "I... I can take
"It's just... This... feels so good. A-and it
popped into my head that... that things could have been
so... so different. If... if you hadn't come back."
"Koda..." Joccy gently pulled him back against her
chest and wrapped her arms around him. "I'm
here. And... I'm glad I'm here. With you."
Takoda closed his eyes as she kissed the top of his head.
"I love you, Joc."
"I love you, too, Koda."
Joccy kissed the angel's hair again and sighed
"They're holding hands!"
Serge pulled his anam cara away from the window of the
"Stop gawking, Bach! You'll make them
Mary smiled over her cup of tea.
"I truly hope everything works out for them," Lucius
wished. "They deserve a happy life... together or
Jemima hugged him.
"I hope so, too, Abi."
Kelly glanced out the window.
"She looks better... freer."
"She's been more open... honest. There's just still
something that's gnawing at me..."
Lucius moved to rest a hand over Mary's.
"You'll figure it out. I trust you. What's
more, He trusts you."
Mary brought Lucius' hand to her lips and nodded.
"Thank you, my love."
Lucy leaped from Mary's lap and headed to the door.
"Well, hello, sweet girl!" Joccy greeted as she scooped
the cat up. "I missed you!"
Takoda stroked the cat.
"I missed you, too. I suspect you spent most of the
time taking a nap, though, huh?"
Just as Lucy jumped from Joccy's arms and began to rub at
her and Takoda's shins, Mary entered the living room and
"That she did. She didn't leave my lap until just
now. How was lunch?"
Joccy beamed at Takoda.
"It was really nice."
He nodded in ready agreement.
Mary cocked her head.
"Takoda, was your hair braided before?"
With a grin, Takoda shook his head.
"No. There was a little wind. Joccy did this
so I wouldn't be biting into strands of hair with my
"It suits you. Isn't the waterfall beautiful?"
"Absolutely gorgeous. And I captured an awesome
photo of Koda..."
Mary smiled as Joccy cycled through the images.
There were several of both of them. Takoda had
clearly commandeered the phone at some point.
Takoda blushed as the two women looked.
"Very angelic," Mary declared. "Fiercely
angelic." She smiled at Takoda.
"Sorry. I think between the delicious lunch and the
walk, I might need a nap."
"That sounds like a good idea. And I'm sure Lucy
would be happy to accompany you," Mary encouraged.
Takoda took the blanket Joccy had been carrying from her.
"I'll get everything put away," he offered.
"Oh, I can help with that first. I'm not totally
zonked," Joccy protested.
Takoda squeezed her shoulder.
"It's fine. Really. I want to.
Besides..." The angel pointed at the cat on the
ground, staring expectantly up at Joccy.
Laughing, Joccy nodded and scooped Lucy up.
"In that case... thank you. For cleaning up but
also... I had a really nice time, Koda."
"I had a really nice time, too, Joc."
Joccy hugged him with her free arm then did the same with
"See you later."
"Sounds good!" Mary replied.
"Later," Takoda echoed, watching as Joccy climbed the
Once she disappeared, the angel sighed.
"I... I think... There's no coming back from this
for me," he whispered.
Mary hugged him tightly.
Sins of the
Mary awoke with a
dreamy smile. She was snuggled against
Lucius. When she saw he, too, was awake, she
gently dragged her fingers through the hair on his
chest. And then she noticed he seemed troubled.
September 20th, 2020
"Lucius... You look... Are you not happy
that we..." Mary hung her head. "Was it...
not... what you expected?"
"Mary..." The soldier gently cupped her
chin. "It... you... wonderful," he choked
out. "I... I only regret... There are
things... things I should have told you... before.
Things I meant to tell you... But... I did not
Tears welled in Lucius' eyes.
"Things about my family. About where I came from."
Mary hugged him fiercely.
"I do not care, Lucius. I love you. No
"Terrible things..." Lucius moaned.
"Tell me. Please." Mary pressed her lips to
his and waited.
And so he told her.
Mary awoke from her dream, her memory with a start.
That was it...
She gently shook Lucius.
"Hmm? Mary... what..." He blinked then sat up
straight. "What's going on? Has something
Mary shook her head and cradled her beloved's face in her
"No... no. I'm sorry. But something occurred
to me. And I just had to tell you.
Joccy. The thing I've not been able to put my finger
on. I'm not the one who is supposed to help her with
it. You are."
Lucius rested his hands over Mary's.
"It's something you can understand... Something I
can't. Not fully. Lucius... what you told me
the morning after we first laid together..."
"Why would I share something so dark with Joccy, sweet
"Because it's a darkness she already knows, my love."
"Oh..." Lucius bowed his head. "Of
course. Yes... I will talk to her."
Mary hugged him.
Lucius kissed her brow.
"Thank you... for helping me through."
Mary brought one of his hands to her lips.
"I had to. I loved you so... as I still do."
"I love you, too. So much."
The couple laid back down, entwined in each other's arms.
And they waited for sunrise.
Joccy rose with a shudder.
She'd dreamed of Takoda again.
It had not been pleasant.
She felt sick to her stomach as the images replayed in her
In the darkness, she felt for Lucy.
Once her hand landed on the cat's soft fur, she relaxed...
at least a little bit.
Waking, Lucy moved onto Joccy's chest.
"Lucy..." Joccy whispered. "Sweet Lucy..."
Joccy was glad the cat was a cuddler. She needed a
cuddler right then.
Lucy meowed happily as she nuzzled her head beneath
Joccy didn't return to sleep. She didn't want to go
back to the dream... nightmare. And so she began to
pray. The Our Father, Hail Mary, Angel of God.
The familiar words steadied her and kept the images at
Eventually, the sun rose. Joccy started to hear
movement in the hallway. Then further away... the
"Time to get up, Luce," she announced.
Joccy pulled on her robe then carried Lucy to the kitchen
where she found Lucius starting some coffee.
"Good morning!" the Roman greeted. His smile morphed
into a frown. "Joccy, are you okay? You
"Been awake for a while. Had a nightmare.
Couldn't get back to sleep." She snuggled the
"I'm so sorry to hear it. Do you want to talk about
it? Or... I could wake Mary? She'll be up
"I dunno... Definitely don't wake up Mary.
"You're definitely getting the first cup of coffee.
Should be brewed soon."
Lucius pulled out a stool so Joccy could sit down.
"There's, umm, something I think I should tell you,"
Joccy looked curiously at him.
"Yes. About... my past. My family's past."
"You don't have to if..."
"I... I think it might help. But first..."
Lucius handed Joccy a mug then a carafe of creamer and a
Lucius poured a cup for himself and took a sip before
settling onto a stool across from Joccy.
"My mother died when I was still quite young. I
remember her as being... melancholy. She seldom
smiled. I never knew why. I sometimes
thought... maybe it was me?"
Joccy reached over and rested a hand on Lucius' when tears
filled his eyes.
"And... in some ways... maybe it was," Lucius
continued. "I... was not a wanted child. At
least not wanted by her. And how could I expect her
to want me? She didn't want my father. But my
father wanted her and so... he took her."
Joccy's eyes went wide.
"My parents were married... but that doesn't change the
fact that I was conceived in rape."
"Does... does Mary know?"
"Yes. I told her shortly after our first time
together. I felt she deserved to know. I would
have told her before. But... I think we both
moved faster than we meant to."
"But... but that doesn't have anything to do with you,"
"That's what she told me."
"I'm so sorry, Lucius. Sorry for you. For your
"Thank you. Joccy, I've only told you this
because... you're right. My father's actions have no
bearing on who I am. And your father's actions have
no bearing on who you are," Lucius stressed. "You're
your own person, Joccy, capable of making your own
choices. And you've chosen to love."
Tears spilled down Joccy's cheeks, onto the cat in her
lap. But Lucy remained still and content.
"My... my nightmare... I dream... dreamed that...
that I pushed Takoda too... too far. That I just
got... carried away and... and hurt him... like my father
"I've had those nightmares, too. About Mary.
But they never happened, Joccy. They wouldn't happen
with you, either. I know it."
Joccy shook her head.
"When... when I tried to kill myself... it was because
I... I felt dirty a-and broken and unworthy. And I
did feel those thing when I... I realized what Jayden had
done. But... if I'm really honest... I've felt them
for... for a long time. Because... I am my father's
daughter. A-and I worried that... that whatever was
in him that made him so awful... it was in me, too.
But... but it's not."
"It's not," Lucius confirmed. "You are a truly good
Through her tears, Joccy beamed at Lucius.
"And you're a truly good person, too, Lucius."
Lucius returned her smile then hugged her tightly.
On the steps, Mary smiled through her tears. Just as
she'd suspected, it was Lucius, not her, who needed to
draw that last piece of truth out of Joccy. And he
had. Tenderly and lovingly.
Jemima approached and took a seat on the steps beside her
"What are we doing?" she whispered.
"Giving Lucius and Joccy a few moments to
themselves. He just helped her realize what she
needed to," Mary replied, her voice hushed.
"Aww... good. So things will be better for her now?"
"Thank God," Jemima echoed as she hugged her mother.
That afternoon, following a healing chat with Vincent,
Catherine, and Portia; Joccy and Takoda went for another
walk to the waterfall.
They settled against a tree and admired the beauty around
After a few minutes of companionable silence, Joccy took
Takoda's hand in hers.
"What would it look like if... if we tried... tried to
make this work?" she questioned.
Takoda peered into Joccy's eyes, hope and worry warring
inside of him.
"I... I'm not sure. I... I've never done this
before. But... I mean..."
"If... if you would even want to, I mean," Joccy
"Joccy... Of course I want to." Takoda
caressed her face. "Very much."
"I'm... well, I'm just... afraid that I'll hurt you.
What if... if, in time, I... I miss sex? Or... or my
biological clock starts really ticking or..."
"Then... then I would want you to pursue the life that
made you happy... with whomever made you happy, Joc."
"But... it would hurt," Joccy protested.
"I... I don't think anyone gets to love without
hurt." He smiled with fondness. "So... before
I left Willowveil, Andrew and JenniAnn were on this big
Simon and Garfunkel kick."
"How does that not surprise me?"
"Right... Anyway... there's this song that really
got to me. 'Flowers Never Bend with the Rainfall.'
And this part in particular: 'No matter if you're born to
play the king or pawn, for the line is thinly drawn 'tween
joy and sorrow.'"
"That's beautiful... and sad."
"And true. Choosing to love means choosing to get
your heart broken, somehow, at some point. We'd be
no different than anyone else who takes a chance...
knowing they could grow to want different things...
knowing it might not work."
"I... I suppose. But not everyone has to... to live
forever with heartbreak," Joccy reminded.
Takoda bowed his head and said nothing.
Joccy let out a shaky breath.
"It... it's too late to avoid that. Isn't it?"
"If... if we don't try, you'll live with that ache
forever. But if we do... there's a chance that...
that it will work. That we... we can live happily
ever after." Joccy smiled at the thought.
"Yes." Takoda returned her smile.
"Then let's... let's at least try? Please, Koda?"
The eagerness, the fondness in Joccy's eyes made Takoda's
heart race. Tears welled in his eyes.
"Yes... Let's try. Please."
Laughing, Joccy wrapped her arms around the angel's neck
and pulled him close.
"I love you, Koda," she murmured into his ear.
"I love you, too, Joc." Takoda rested his forehead
Joccy tilted her head and... so softly... brushed her lips
Then she pushed him forward and squeezed behind him.
Takoda relaxed against her, sighing with contentment as
her hands joined over his chest and she kissed his hair.
Outside of Heaven, he had never felt so at home.
"It's a girl!" the doctor cheered as the baby
squalled. "A healthy baby girl! Good lungs on
Jodi smiled wearily.
Her husband scowled.
After a quick examination, a nurse handed the baby to her
"Do you have a name picked out, Mama?" the nurse cheerily
Jodi nodded as she studied the tiny, perfect face.
"Jocelyn. Her name is Jocelyn." The mother
smiled at her baby. "Welcome to the world, Joccy."
In a park across from the hospital, two men...
seemingly... sat on a bench. The younger of the two
stared with curiosity at the building and all the activity
surrounding it. He saw ambulances unloading
stretchers, women with expansive bellies being wheeled
inside, harried parents rushing in with screaming
children, limbs bent at odd angles or ice packs held to
heads or knees.
"For many of them, their lives will begin and end
there. These buildings are filled with so much
life... and death," Wahkan informed. "You can learn
a lot about humans in a place like this. But we'll
come back... It's too much for your first
He rose and beckoned for his protege who followed without
"Where will my first assignment be?"
Wahkan waved to a school building.
"There. You'll be teaching history. There's a
student who is grieving the loss of a sibling.
You'll help them through, Takoda."
"What if... if I fail? If I can't reach them?"
Wahkan squeezed his shoulder.
"I'll drop in. Keep an eye on you. I have
confidence in you, my boy."
Takoda smiled shyly.
"You're welcome." Wahkan beamed. "Welcome to
the world, Takoda."
September 20th, 2020
Joccy and Takoda walked back to the cabin, joined hands
swinging between them, she smiled up at him.
"Would you sing, please?"
"Anything in particular?"
And Takoda did. Before the wedge had grown up
between them, Joccy had asked him to sing it several
"Okay... Here goes."
"'When you walk
through a storm,
hold your head up
And don't be afraid
of the dark.
At the end of a
there's a golden sky
and the sweet silver
song of a lark.'"
Joccy's eyes filled as she thought about all they'd
experienced together... of all the many ways Takoda had
helped her. And, she knew, she had helped him,
too. She'd hurt him... badly... but they'd made it
through. The storm was passing... had passed.
"'Walk on through
Walk on through the
Though your dreams
be tossed and blown,
walk on, walk on,
with hope in your
and you'll never
As they drew closer to the cabin, Joccy saw them... the
familiar black curls poking up over the top of one of the
chairs gathered around the fire pit. Unable to
speak, she could only point.
Then Takoda saw him, too. He clasped Joccy's hand
more tightly and they ran the rest of the way.
As they approached, Joshua rose from the chair and held
his arms aloft. He embraced both of them.
"Joccy... Takoda... my beloved ones," he whispered as he
held them close and kissed the tops of their heads.
Joccy sobbed into his shoulder, clutching desperately to
Takoda broke away first and watched, with a smile and
tears streaming down his face, as Joshua held his beloved
in a bear hug.
"My girl... my sweet girl," Joshua cooed.
"Josh- Joshua... Joshua..." Joccy kept
repeating his name.
"I'm here, I'm here," Joshua consoled.
They stood like that for a long time, Joshua holding his
little girl close to his heart.
Once Joccy had finally been able to release Joshua enough
for them to move, they'd only gone as far as the privacy
of his room.
"When I found this room... I... I hoped it meant you would
come. Soon," Joccy told him. "And especially
when I found this." She stroked the flannel
shirt. "It... it was like you'd just been here and
only stepped out for a little while."
"I had just been here. The place needed a few minor
repairs." He grabbed the shirt and settled it around
Joccy's shoulders. "Yours now."
"Thank you..." Joccy nuzzled the collar. Then
she sighed and bowed her head. "I'm sorry... for
what I did. I just... I felt so... so lost and
broken and... and like you were the only... only person
who... who could fix me. But... I see that wasn't
Joshua perched on his work bench and patted the spot next
to him. Joccy settled down beside him.
"It wasn't true," Joshua averred. "But I
understand. I do. And I forgive you...
Utterly, completely. Life... it's never been easy
for you, Joccy. These last few years?
Better. But they can't undo the pain of your
childhood. Trust... it's so easily broken and then
so very difficult to piece back together."
"I felt like you were the only man I could trust," Joccy
confessed. "Even... even the only man who truly
loved me. But... That's not true. You're
the most trustworthy. You love me the most.
But... I see now that... that others are worthy of
trust, others love me. Andrew and Peter and Sy and
Lucius and Serge and Bach and Vincent and... and Takoda
most of all." She rested her head on Joshua's
shoulder. "I wish I could have seen that... before I
put everyone through this."
"What's important is that you did learn, Joccy. And
now you won't forget."
"Yeah..." Joccy nodded. "You... you tried to
warn me about Jayden. Last Christmas."
"I... I never really did have that honest conversation
with him about beliefs. Maybe could have made all
the difference. Maybe would have stopped me from...
from sleeping with him."
Joshua gently patted her hand.
"Can't change the past, Joccy. Not even I do
that. But... I can remake it. I can take
what was wrong and turn it into the beginning of something
beautiful. I want to do that for you. If
you'll let me... and you took a big step today."
Joshua smiled proudly.
Joccy returned his smile and nodded.
"I... I do love him. Takoda. Always
have. If... if not for... I worry I can't make
"I know. And that's for you and him to figure out
over time. But I'll tell you this... sometimes even
the hardest sacrifices... they end up giving you more than
you ever dreamed of."
Joccy peered into Joshua's beautiful brown and gold eyes
and knew he spoke from experience. One life
sacrificed... innumerable ones saved and restored to him,
"Yes..." She smiled. "Thank you for sending me
Jemima and Mary and Lucius and Serge and Bach and Kelly
and... Takoda. Takoda most of all."
Joshua returned her smile.
"They had a good time... and they'll continue to have a
good time. We'll stick around here for another few
"We?" Joccy asked hopefully.
"Me too," he confirmed. "And as for Takoda...
He's your best friend. Of course he wanted to be
here... to be with the woman he loves."
Joccy's face colored.
"It's so hard to believe an angel cares for me like
that. I mean... I do believe it but... it's just...
"Not the first time... as you well know. Won't be
the last time. I kinda dig the angel/human anam cara
"I can tell."
She sighed with contentment.
Joshua kissed her hair.
"I love you so much, Joccy. Always have.
"I... I love you, too, Joshua. Al-always," Joccy
echoed, her voice shaking.
Then, once again, Joshua simply held his child close and
surrounded her with his love.
Several Months Later
Joccy and Takoda ambled around Central Park, hand in
hand. It felt good to, at last, roam around as they
used to... maskless, without worry.
And then Takoda spotted him.
"Joc..." He paused and squeezed her hand.
"Joc... Jayden's here."
Joccy's face colored.
"We could turn around before he..."
But it was too late. Jayden had spotted them.
He looked around nervously as if he wanted to flee but,
for some reason, couldn't.
"It's fine. I... I think I actually want to talk to
him," Joccy decided.
"Okay." Takoda gave Joccy an encouraging smile then
walked with her, still with hands linked, towards the
"Hey Jayden," she greeted.
"Hey... hey, Joccy. Takoda," he responded shakily.
"Long time no see," Joccy offered breezily, thinking of
how she hadn't heard a word from him since that fateful
Takoda only looked on, ready to jump in if need be.
"How... how've you been?" Jayden asked.
"Good... Really good." She released Takoda's
hand only to loop her arm around his waist.
Takoda bowed his head to hide a grin.
"So, uh, you two... You're together?" Jayden asked.
Joccy patted Takoda's side.
The angel met Jayden's gaze and smiled.
"Mmm hmm. Got together sometime after you... well,
Jayden's cheeks burned.
"Yeah... I... well, I'm sorry about that,
Joccy. It was just... the pandemic, you know?
Wasn't thinking straight."
Joccy couldn't see how the pandemic had precluded a simple
call or even a text to give her some sort of closure, some
consideration. But she found it also didn't matter
to her any more beyond the principle of it.
"I see. Well, I'm doing really well so... doesn't
matter. I just hope you won't do the same again to
someone else. It's hurtful."
Jayden stared at his feet and nodded.
"Yeah... I know that now."
And, with that, Joccy guessed at what had happened with
his other girlfriend.
"Good," she replied. "Well, nice seeing you.
We need to get going. We have a lunch
reservation." Joccy beamed at Takoda who smiled back
"Yeah. Of course. Won't keep you. Good
seeing you, too," Jayden mumbled.
"Take care, Jayden," Takoda wished, sincerely, as they
They'd made it a few steps before Joccy halted and turned
Joccy's eyes misted.
"God loves you. He really does. I... I hope
you really come to feel that someday."
Jayden only nodded.
Later, Joccy and Takoda would tell each other that they
both thought they saw tears welling in his eyes.
Right then, the couple resumed their walk.
"How do you feel?" Takoda asked.
"Actually... no different. I'd moved on a long time
ago. Moved onto someone better." She gave
Takoda an affectionate squeeze.
The angel smiled and kissed her hair.
"I love you, Koda."
"I love you, Joc."
They kissed then continued on their way, feeling light and
free and happy and filled with love.
So... I apparently didn't track these when I was writing as I
usually do. And then I *did* track them on my re-read
but that file got lost. So... hopefully this is
everything but, if not, please let me know if you notice
"You'll Never Walk Alone" by Rodgers and Hammerstein
Psalm 46:1-5- "God is our refuge..."
Jesus Christ Superstar
"In the Garden" by Charles A. Miles
"Abide With Me" composed by Henry F. Lyte and William H. Monk
Matthew 28:6- "He is risen"
John 15:13- greater love has no one than this
"We Fall Down" by Bob Carlisle- This is where I originally
heard the "Saints are only sinners..." line but it probably
has other origins, too.
I Love Lucy
Wheel of Fortune
The Shack by William P. Young
The Our Father
Angel of God
"Flowers Never Bend with the Rainfall" by Simon and Garfunkel
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